Sunday, December 14, 2014

Aerie

Aerie (Dragon Jousters, #4)Aerie by Mercedes Lackey
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is the 4th, and final, book in the Dragon Jousters series. It's also the weakest, in my opinion. Not that it was bad, per se, but it took a long time for anything to happen, and the ending was too quick.

In this book, we see the two former enemy nations, Alta and Tia, trying to learn to live together. However, this seemed to be given short shrift by the author, as the book mostly focused on a new character, Peri, who wants to become another female dragon jouster. The first half of the book was about her, and also somewhat about the main character of the books, Kiron, and his relationship with his girlfriend, Aket-ten. So not a lot happened during the first half of the book, other than lots of dialog and interaction among the characters. None of this was really critical to the story, other than further character development. Not that it wasn't interesting, it just didn't move the story forward much, other than Aket-ten's desire to create a wing of female jousters.

Once the action starts, however, it really goes! The mystery of the disappearing town, and who was behind, it was very well done. We get more insight into the religion and gods of this culture. And the climactic battle at the end was truly spectacular and exciting! But, the end of the book happened immediately after, with just a few paragraphs to tie up all the loose ends. I would have liked a bit more fleshing out of the final situation. The current ending felt rushed, and only sketchily done. I was glad to see the loose ends tied up, but it just happened a bit too fast.

Overall, this was a very good series! The dragons are very cool, the cultures nicely handled, and the characters are not cardboard cut-outs. It's not quite as good as Naomi Novik's Temeraire series, but it is still VERY good. If you are into dragons, you will enjoy this series immensely.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Fortunately, the Milk

Fortunately, the MilkFortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Like Gaiman's other recent release of Hansel and Gretel, this book is aimed at younger readers. It's not quite for the youngest, such as Chu's Day, but it's definitely for the younger set. It's an absolutely delightful adventure tale, with wondrously whimsical illustrations by Skottie Young. This is Gaiman at his most playful - he is definitely channeling his inner child!

The set up for the story is a mother going on a trip, leaving the dad to care for the two children (a boy and a girl). She reminds him that they need milk, but he forgets until it's time for breakfast cereal, and they have no milk. So the father runs down to the corner grocery store to get it. When he comes back, he tells the children of his many adventures while returning with the milk. These adventures involve pirates, a hot-air balloon piloting T-Rex, time travel, and aliens. The illustrations by Young are spot-on, and are well-integrated into the story, with the words flowing around them. I also especially liked the interjections by the kids, who seem disinclined to believe their dad.

Oh, the title comes from the story - during the retelling, after something horrendous has happened to the dad, he'll say something like, "There I was dangling from the balloon with one hand. Fortunately, the milk was in my pocket," or something similar. I can see kids really enjoying this little bit of repetition - Gaiman mixes the phraseology to keep it interesting.

I think I would have LOVED this book as a child! It's so inventive and fun. Even as an adult, I really enjoyed the tale. Gaiman never ceases to amaze me, with his inventiveness. A fun read for children of all ages, as they say.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Hansel and Gretel by Neil Gaiman

Hansel and GretelHansel and Gretel by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a lovely retelling of the classic fairy tale. It's targeted at young readers, but adults will enjoy it too, as Gaiman has a lovely way with words, and the stunning black and white illustrations (by Lorenzo Mettotti) add another dimension to the story.

Gaiman's take on the story differs a bit from the original. In this version, the father is quite reluctant to lose the children. We also see a bit of backstory, telling how the family came to be in such dire straights. And we also get a smidgen more information at the end than just the usual "and they lived happily ever after," which was a nice touch, I thought.

The witch is suitably scary, but probably not more so than in the original. The depiction of the children's captivity is quite well-done, showing just how desperate they are to get away. Hans' cunning and Gretel's bravery in executing their escape is fleshed out well. We also see the love the siblings have for one another.

Any fan of Gaiman's will want this for their collection, and any parents who like good stories for their children will also want this book. Gaiman's embellishments make for a much richer story than the original.



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