Book Review: Ysabel by Kay (3.5 Stars)

Ysabel by Guy Gavriel Kay

3.5 out of 5 stars

Read in Nov/Dec 2013

Synopsis (excerpts from author’s website Bright Weavings):

Provence, in the south of France, is a part of the world that has been—and continues to be—called a paradise. But one of the lessons that history teaches is that paradise is coveted and fought over. Successive waves of invaders have claimed—or tried to claim—those vineyards, rivers, olive groves, and hills.

In Guy Gavriel Kay’s novel, Ysabel, this duality—of exquisite beauty and violent history—is explored in a work that marks a departure from Kay’s historical fantasies set in various analogues of the past.

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Book Review: The Book of Three by Alexander (4 stars)

The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander

4 out of 5 stars

Read in December 2008

This was published the same year I was, born that is.  How did I miss this delightful tale and only stumble upon it in my mid-40s?

Taran is a precocious bored boy with visions of heroes sword-fighting in his head. He dreams of leaving the small farm where he takes care of a prophetic pig named Hen Wen and lives with Coll and Dallben.

Something frightens the bees, the chickens and the pig so much that they all escape the farm and disappear into the surrounding forest.  Taran is sent to find the pig and return her home.  Predictably, he gets lost in the forest following the pig and spies a band of men lead by the terrifying Horned King.  Taran barely escapes and flees into the brush, eventually finding Gwydion, a prince and one of the heroes he daydreams about.

The danger and adventure are non-stop until the end of the book.  Along the way, Taran makes mistakes but learns from them and demonstrates he has the talent to be an inspiring and wise leader.  He meets several companions and legendary folk who aid him on his quest to reach Caer Dathyl to warn the Sons of Don about the Horned King and his army.

A fast fun read.

Book Review: The Dark is Rising by Cooper (3.5 Stars)

The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper

3.5 out of 5 stars

Read in September 2009

A good adventure quest tale. A bit lacking in character development, but there were some heart-pounding scenes that made up for it. Towards the end, I almost had a sense deja vu, like I was reading Moonheart by DeLint, which got me thinking this could be classified as early urban fantasy.

As with most Young Adult fiction, the lines of good and evil are clearly drawn. Only one or two characters traversed the grey, pulling and tugging against the inevitable tides of either side.

Some blurbs and reviews have compared this novel’s moral message to the likes of C.S. Lewis or Tolkien, but I think that’s a stretch. Cooper never once made me laugh or cry, although she did get my pulse racing a few times.

Perhaps had I read this as at the age of twelve or before, I might view it differently.

That being said, I still recommend it as a good coming-of-age quest adventure tale.

Book Review: The Hobbit by Tolkien (5 stars)

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

5 out of 5 stars

Read most recently in November 2009.

A delightful introduction to the world of Middle Earth. Follow the adventures (or misadventures) of a respectable hobbit turned burglar, a wizard and a baker’s dozen of dwarfs in their quest to slay the dragon, redeem the lost treasure and restore peace and prosperity among dwarfs, elves and men.

Along the way, the young audience will learn the pitfalls and consequences of greed, pride and arrogance, tempered with a hobbit’s good sense, good cheer, compassion and self-sacrifice.

Update April 2013:  I decided not to re-read the novel before watching the recently released movie of a similar name (click here for my review of said movie).  I did end up buying the ebook edition prior to viewing the movie so I would have it available to search and peruse before, during and after.  I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to be able to search through an ebook.  Compared to page turning and skimming, it’s better than sliced bread (well maybe not my sliced bread).

Book Review: Catching Fire by Collins (4 Stars)

CatchingFirecoverCatching Fire by Suzanne Collins

4 out of 5 stars

Read in October 2011

I read this in record time and surprised myself by liking it better than the first book, the Hunger Games. Katniss’ relationship with her family, friends and handlers evoked more emotions, believability and depth. The Victory Tour provided a glimpse of the wider world, showing me tantalizing bits of the various Districts and the ruins of civilization destroyed during the Dark Days seventy-years before.

I still find it hard to believe that fascism could survive so long. The unbearable inhumane conditions of the District ‘citizens’, the calculated cruelty of the Hunger Games, augmented in this novel by the Quarter Quell, a sadistic 25-year anniversary twist to the regular annual reaping of the rebel Districts’ youth. The cost in lives, and the sacrifices made, reflect a horror I hope we never forget from our own not-too-distant past.


Book Review: The Hunger Games by Collins (3.5 Stars)

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

3.5 out of 5 stars

Read in July 2009

I loved this book and yet at times I hated it. Several times it made me cry, nearly sobbing out loud. It never made me laugh and pricked me to anger often.

Katniss lives in District Twelve, an area devoted to coal mining in what was the Appalachian Mountains of North America. Her father died working in the mines and her mother suffered severe debilitating depression after his death. That left Katniss, at age twelve, to provide for her mother and her young sister, Prim. She sneaks out of the confines of District Twelve, underneath a tall electrified fence, to hunt and gather in the nearby woods, keeping them from starving – barely.

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