I hold fantasy to a very high standard, so I read very little of it and am always thrilled when I discover a new writer who meets my standards. That h...moreI hold fantasy to a very high standard, so I read very little of it and am always thrilled when I discover a new writer who meets my standards. That happened several years back when I read a review of Naomi Novik's first Temeraire novel. The premise -- what if the Napoleonic Wars had been fought with the addition of dragon air forces -- is an excellent catalyst for both exciting action and thoughtful rumination.
Blood of Tyrants, announced as the penultimate book in the series, opens with aviator Will Laurence cast ashore in Japan after a shipwreck, alone and partially amnesiac. In his mind he is still a naval officer with only the vaguest acquaintance with dragons. Rescued by a Japanese nobleman, he is then held prisoner -- for the Japanese do not want foreigners in their country and particularly distrust the British for their alliance with China. Meanwhile, back on the dragon transport, Temeraire, also injured, is consumed with anxiety for his beloved Captain Laurence.
As in the earlier books, Will and Temeraire cover a lot of ground in Blood of Tyrants, winding up in Russia as Napoleon invades Moscow. I happen also to be re-reading War and Peace right now, and I must say the military passages in Tolstoy would be a lot easier to get through if Lev Nikolaevich had had dragons.
Once again, Novik has delivered a fine mixture of history and fantasy mixed with ideas about friendship, freedom, and personal honor. I shall be sorry to see this series end. Highly recommended.(less)
Another fine time-travel romance from the author of Mariana. At first I was afraid this book would be a repeat of Mariana, since it begins with a simi...moreAnother fine time-travel romance from the author of Mariana. At first I was afraid this book would be a repeat of Mariana, since it begins with a similar premise -- woman comes to an old house and begins being transported back to another time. In this case, the house is in Cornwall and Eva, the heroine, is unpredictably set down from time to time in 1715, when smugglers and Jacobites were at odds with George I and the local constabulary. Eva becomes more and more involved with the people in the past, and just when the readers despairs of her resolving the situation, an intriguing plot twist wraps it all up. Kearsley is one of those authors one wishes were a bit more prolific -- happy to see she has a new book out. If you like Diana Gabaldon and would enjoy a similar tale, but one a bit milder in the sex and violence area and a lot shorter, I recommend Susanna Kearsley. (Note: I actually listened to this book on Audible; the reading was excellent as well.)(less)
I doubt that there will ever be ONE Great American Novel. America -- the land, the people, the idea -- is too big and too diverse to be represented by...moreI doubt that there will ever be ONE Great American Novel. America -- the land, the people, the idea -- is too big and too diverse to be represented by any one book. I do think there are several Great American Novels -- Huckleberry Finn, The Grapes of Wrath,My Antonia, and The Great Gatsby spring immediately to mind -- and I now have a new candidate for that group. Helene Wecker uses the tale of two supernatural beings who find themselves in turn-of-the-20th-century New York City to illuminate the urban immigrant experience. In addition, she explores themes of free will, personal responsibility, community and individualism -- all while telling a mesmerizing story that puts the reader squarely into the Lower East Side circa 1900.
I listened to this book on Audible, ably narrated by George Guidall. You may prefer to read it in print or e-book form. No matter which format you choose, get this book. You won't be sorry. Don't wait for the movie (I don't know that there will be one, but I suspect it) -- read it now. (less)
I read this as a child, and of course saw the movie many times, but have never been an Oz fanatic. I find L. Frank Baum a bit preachy. Still, it's a c...moreI read this as a child, and of course saw the movie many times, but have never been an Oz fanatic. I find L. Frank Baum a bit preachy. Still, it's a classic of American children's literature and kids still ought to read it or have it read to them.(less)
Casey Maldonado survived a flaming car crash. Now she's walking, with Death as her only companion. Yes, THAT Death. Were it not that a few other peopl...moreCasey Maldonado survived a flaming car crash. Now she's walking, with Death as her only companion. Yes, THAT Death. Were it not that a few other people -- mostly children -- can see and hear him too, I would have thought that Death was like Ian Rutledge's Hamish in the Charles Todd books - a figure who may or may not be in any sense "real." Death is not as helpful as Hamish, though; Casey really does her own investigating.
This is the first of a series, and there are still many unanswered questions about Casey herself at the end of the book. It appears she and Death fall under the trope, so prevalent in television, of companions on the road who stop occasionally to solve crimes and right wrongs -- think Route 66 or Highway to Heaven.
I enjoyed this book and it was a struggle not to go in search of the next in the series immediately, but my TBR pile is much too large right now. I'll save the rest of the series for later. Recommended.(less)
A collection of short stories, all with the theme of reimagined fairytales, some familiar and some more obscure. Each author chose his or her own tale...moreA collection of short stories, all with the theme of reimagined fairytales, some familiar and some more obscure. Each author chose his or her own tale to expand upon, so there are some stories which are interpreted by more than one writer. As often happens with such anthologies, there were some stories I enjoyed greatly and others that I didn't care to finish. But I think almost anyone would find several tales to enjoy in this book. There is also a fine bibliography for further reading. Recommended. ( I read this on my Kindle.)(less)
A Ripping Yarn! Part of a series (but the first of them I've read) which began with The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, The Stolen Lake finds plucky heroi...moreA Ripping Yarn! Part of a series (but the first of them I've read) which began with The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, The Stolen Lake finds plucky heroine Dido Twite aboard a British man'o'war headed for England. As they make their way across the Atlantic, a message arrives by carrier pigeon diverting the ship to New Cumbria. Where? Well, the series takes place in an alternate history where the Stuarts still rule Great Britain, with James III the King rather than Queen Victoria. New Cumbria (roughly Argentina, I think) is part of "Roman America," where Latin is spoken, and was settled by the remnant of the Arthurian Britons after their defeat by the Saxons in 577.
Dido and her companions have one adventure after another and encounter several characters out of Arthurian legend during their travels through New Cumbria and neighboring Lyonesse. Some of the adventures are quite hair=raising (human sacrifice, people eaten by piranhas, etc.) This is not a book for the faint- hearted child, but other reviewers testify that for the right person,of any age, it will become a favorite book. I recommend it and will be looking for the other books in the series as time permits. You don't need to have read the rest of the series to enjoy this book.(less)
A good story despite some latent racism. That's a good argument for continuing to read aloud to/with your children even after they can read chapter bo...moreA good story despite some latent racism. That's a good argument for continuing to read aloud to/with your children even after they can read chapter books on their own. (less)
I've finally done it -- I've read a Stephen King book all the way through. A time travel story can always draw me in, and this one had the novelty of...moreI've finally done it -- I've read a Stephen King book all the way through. A time travel story can always draw me in, and this one had the novelty of having the traveler back in time go to a time I lived through. Plus, the story begins in Lisbon Falls, Maine -- a neighboring town I've been visiting and passing through all my life. By now you can probably figure out the basic plot. Jake, a high school English teacher, is shown a time-portal by his dying friend Al and entrusted with a mission to prevent JFK's assassination. The portal always takes him to the same day in 1958; he makes a couple of practice trips, preventing other deaths, before he settles down to the business at hand. Time travel, like other fantasy, must have rules; the rule Jake is told from the outset is that each trip back resets history to the way it was before he meddled. It's difficult to say much more about the plot without spoliers. The book has most of the traits that have kept me from ever finishing one of King's books in the past. It's wordy, padded with brand names, and it's evident that no one bothers to edit of fact check King's books. (One scene that almost had me fling the book across the room: Jake is trying to locate a family in a strange town, but he only knows the last name. He goes to the library, in 1958, and asks to see the 1950 census. The librarian, instead of laughing at him, sends him to the town hall. Given that King was probably writing this book during or shortly after the 2010 census, one would think he would have known that census results are kept under wraps for 72 years.) Still, the book held my interest, although I found the ending disappointing. I enjoyed the time travel and suspense, but even more I liked that I felt King used this book as an exercise in personal time travel. Jake, the protagonist, is a high school English teacher who directs the school plays and lives in a small Maine town. He has ambitions to be a writer. In other words, his life (minus the time travel) could easily have been Stephen King's life if a few things had gone differently. Despite its flaws, this was a hard book to put down, and I'd recommend it especially to people who like time travel stories.(less)
I should have written this review earlier, just after reading the book. It was such a rich tale, sometimes confusing, that I'm no longer sure what to...moreI should have written this review earlier, just after reading the book. It was such a rich tale, sometimes confusing, that I'm no longer sure what to say about it. Gaiman was born in England but I believe lives in Wisconsin now, and has a good eye and ear for all our American foibles and contradictions. If you want a better analysis, read Jon's review. I do recommend this book to anyone who is not afraid of fantasy.(less)
Forget Left Behind -- if you want a really good story about the Apocalypse, Good Omens is your book, or perhaps even better, audiobook, as read by Mar...moreForget Left Behind -- if you want a really good story about the Apocalypse, Good Omens is your book, or perhaps even better, audiobook, as read by Martin Jarvis. The writing style is largely Pratchett's, but the darker characters and episodes seem to come from Neil Gaiman. It's a great collaboration. The lighter characters are a bit more Pratchettian,but all are thoroughly engaging.
As demon Crowley (as I listened, I'm not sure of spellings) and angel Azurophel -- who are really the best of friends -- stumble toward Armageddon, they realize that the Antichrist is not the child they thought he was, but another kid entirely, because of a hospital mixup. Witchfinder Private Newt Pulsifer is strangely attracted to witch Anathema Device, whose ancestor Agnes Nutter foretold everything in her book of Nice and Accurate Prophecies -- or did she? War, Famine, Death, and Pollution (he replaced Pestilence in the 1930s) ride motorcycles instead of black horses, but they are just as scary as ever if not more so. And this is just a sample of the lengthy but always entertaining goings on in Good Omens. Highly recommended.(less)
Sometimes it may be better not to read the synopsis or jacket blurb, but just to plunge right in to a book. I got stalled for a year or more on my New...moreSometimes it may be better not to read the synopsis or jacket blurb, but just to plunge right in to a book. I got stalled for a year or more on my Newbery project because I thought I didn't want to read this book, based on the information that it was about cloning and drug lords. Finally, it came up as a Kindle Daily Deal and I bought it. I was hooked from the first page of this suspenseful dystopian story. Farmer pulls no punches with either the "good guys" -- some of whom have horrendous pasts -- or the "bad guys" -- at least some of whom are more ambiguously "bad" than one might expect. Some adult situations as well as the general subject matter make this a book for the upper age range of the Newbery Awards' rules (say, 12-14 years old) and it can also be a great read for adults. There's a lot to think about in this story. Highly recommended.(less)