Sunday, December 14, 2014


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.

View all my reviews

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Ghouljaw and Other Stories

Ghouljaw and Other StoriesGhouljaw and Other Stories by Clint Smith
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Great collection of wonderfully creepy stories! See my full review at Tangent Online:

The Awakening of Miss Prim

The Awakening of Miss Prim: A NovelThe Awakening of Miss Prim: A Novel by Natalia SanmartĂ­n Fenollera
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Oh dear. This was such a disappointment. I was hoping to read something that was rich with characters of depth, but instead I got a book full of caricatures. This book tries to be a modern Pride and Prejudice but the romance never blossoms, and the little spats that are meant to show us how these two characters are really meant for each other but can't see it, just make the main character seem sour. I also think this book has delusions of being something like The Alchemist (which I hated, by the way) - a philosophical treatise disguised as a novel - but it falls flat there, too. It wasn't quite as pretentious as The Alchemist, though, so I gave it two stars instead of one. But, this is not a very good novel. The villagers never seemed real, and Miss Prim's relationships with the people were wooden. Every interaction, every character was there to Make A Point - and it was obvious. I don't mind books with a moral or a purpose, but it should be inherent in the reading of the book, not broadcast on every page: "I'm making an important point here! Pay attention!" And the grand "awakening" that the title promises? It takes place off-screen, so to speak. We never see it happen!! One day she's leaving her employer, and the next she is in Italy, "fully awakened" and longing to go back to him. Leaving out the actual transformation really cheats the reader out of any sort of reward. I kept reading the book, because I wanted to see the "awakening" - and I guess I should have followed my instincts and stopped reading it. Life is too short to read bad fiction. And this is pretty bad. It tries to be a paean to classical learning, and "living the simple" life, but it just falls flat in all endeavors. Perhaps it would have been more enjoyable in its original language, as one always fears something is "lost in translation" as it were. But even were it not a translation, leaving out the "awakening" is still a rip-off of the reader. Don't waste your time on this book.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Year of Wonders

Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

For a book about the plague, this was surprisingly not depressing! For one thing, the story focuses on the characters, especially the main character, and their development as the year progresses. Since I found the protagonist to be likable and interesting, it helped me get through the harder parts of the book - and there were definitely hard parts!

The book is based on the true events of a village in England which is hit by the plague. They take the extraordinary step of cutting themselves off from all outside contact, so as to not spread the plague to their neighbors. What happens during their year of isolation is not noted in history, so this book attempts to depict their struggles. Some of the events are based on actual history, but others are the author's idea. Even so, the book is so well-researched that it seems like it must have happened that way.

As I said, above, the book is really about the journey of the protagonist, Anna. When we meet her, she is a simple housewife and mother of two boys. Her husband dies of a mining accident before the plague arrives. She takes in a boarder, a tailor, and unwittingly brings the plague into her home and village. Her journey, from illiterate housewife to a literate midwife and herbalist, is extraordinary, but quite plausible.

Many points in the book were horrific, as can be imagined. But the humanity of the characters, especially Anna, made it easier to get through. There is great loss - of life, of faith - but there is much that is gained, as well. Anna learns how strong she is, she learns medicine, she learns that she is a survivor, in every sense of the word.

And, please, dear author - give us a sequel of Anna's life after she leaves the village! We only get a brief summary of her journey and her new life - but I would like a whole book about it!