September 22, 2012
Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer
Artemis Fowl, a millionaire and a child prodigy, has been mostly left on his own since the dissappearance of his father, and by his depressed and bedridden mother. He uses this freedom to develop a diabolical plan to manipulate fairies for their gold by kidnapping Captain Holly Short of the LEPrecon Unit. (Lower Elements Police) Little does he know, that he’s not exactly dealing with Tinkerbell. This fairies are well-armed with both ancient magic and advanced technology and they do not take kindly to human meddling.
Describing the inner thoughts of the characters gave them a lot of depth, as well as explaining details of the fairy underworld without overloading the reader. My favorite characters were the gruff, cigar-chomping Commander Root, Foaly the techie centaur and Artemis Fowl himself. As he reacts to events, adjusting his plans, he sometimes has moral doubts and wonders at what point he is going too far. We can see that for all his precociousness and power, he is still a vulnerable and lonely boy.
This was a fun, page-turning adventure, kind of a parody of James Bond-type novels that take themselves too seriously. While there is a lot of comical zaniness in here, Colfer has created a sophisticated and well-thought out plot. This is a good “cross-over” book that would appeal to adventure, science fiction and fantasy readers alike.
Read in September 2012
September 14, 2012
The Dream-Maker’s Magic by Sharon Shinn
Safekeeper’s Trilogy: Bk 3
Another beautifully told coming-of-age fantasy from Sharon Shinn! Dream-Maker’s Magic focuses on the evolving friendship of two misfits- Kellen, whose mother insists she was born a boy, has been raised as such. She presents herself as either gender depending on her mood or the situation. Gryffin is a physically handicapped boy who is very smart and determined to succeed. The two go to school and then work together in an inn/restaurant. I like how the author depicts the change of the seasons and the seemingly simple yet multi-layered life of a small town. The plot ended up moving in ways I did not expect- so you may be in for some interesting surprises.
The exploration of both gender identity and disability was also very intelligently and sensitively done- it makes you think without being politically preachy.
This the 3rd in a trilogy of loosely connected books set in the same unnamed kingdom- the others being the Safe-keeper’s Secret and the Truth-Teller’s Tale. I thought this was the best of the three- I still recommend reading them in order though.
Read in March 2009
Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
(I wrote this in 2010, 5 years after I read it, so I didn’t remember too well, especially considering its complexity! But, here goes: Game of Thrones is the beginning of an epic saga, a Song of Ice and Fire. The throne has been usurped by Robert Baratheon, and after he dies with no children a struggle begins for the kingship. This is a long and complex story full of manipulation and betrayals. It’s gritty medieval realism is the exception in a often soft and romanticized genre. The story and characters were interesting, but it was so long it was a lot to slog through. He also switches characters perspectives in each chapter, but I didn’t find that hard to follow. All in all, I didn’t like it enough to continue reading the series, especially considering the length of the books.
Child of the May by Theresa Tomlinson, Sequel to Forestwife
Magda, the daughter of Little John and Emma (deceased) has grown up in Barnsdale Forest under the care of Marian, the Forestwife. At 15, she grows restless and longs to experience life outside the forest. She gets her chance when John & Marian allow her to accompany Robin & the Merry Men on a quest to rescue the noblewoman Matilda and her daughter Isabel. They have both been imprisoned by the sheriff until Matilda agrees to allow Isabel to marry FitzRanulf, the sheriff’s bloodthirsty mercenary chief. At first stubborn and petulant, Magda grows a lot as a character as the book progresses. She learns that life outside the forest isn’t as fun and glamorous as she thought. This was a short and easy to read book- about the level of 10-13 year olds or so. But I enjoyed it as a fun adventure, as well as a story with depth and historical realism. I think older teens and adults who like Robin Hood legends and stories set in the Middle Ages would like it.
Read March 2011
Sacred Mushrooms: Secrets of Eleusis by Carl A. P. Ruck
Thesis that psychotropic mushrooms were used in the Eleusinian Mysteries.
There is a more in depth version by same author called Road to Eleusis but I thought I’d get the main gist of it by reading shorter version since it ties in with Mysteries of Demeter: Rebirth of the Pagan Way
I thought that while Ruck made some interesting points about the role of mushrooms in ancient religions, he went too far. He incorporated everything that remotely resembled a mushroom including crosses. It just became ridiculous. The fact that the publisher seems to be focused on drug-related books (as advertised in the back of the book) did not add to his credulity. Obviously he was more motivated by the promotion of psychedelic drugs than the search for the truth about the role in ancient mystery religions.
I think the use of mushrooms or other entheogens in Eleusis may have been possible, but I would rather see this explored by a less biased and more academic source.
Falcondance by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes
The next book in the Kiesha’ra saga focuses on Nicias Silvermead, son of the falcons Kel & Andreios (the prince Sebastian) As both a falcon & a guard to the princess Oliza he is both an outsider and and a privileged member of the court. When his magic begins to emerge, Nicias must journey to Ahnmik, the island kingdom and ask his grandmother Araceli to bind his magic. However, when he arrives he realizes that things are much more complicated than they seem. Readers will finally get to learn more about the mysterious falcons and their magic. I have to agree with another reader that I’d like to see Oliza developed more as a character, she seemed more interesting than Nicias, but maybe we’ll see more of her in the next book, Wolfcry.
All together, I found it to be an engrossing read, but later on it was hard to follow the complex magic & politics of the falcons.
Read November 2009
Mysteries of Druidry by Brendan Myers
Brendan Myers has an original and insightful take on Druidry.
I’ve read a lot on Celtic religion- both ancient and modern and gotten rather jaded- it gets to be a lot of the same stuff. He does have a early chapter with introductory information, which makes it fairly beginner-friendly. His strength is the instructions for contemplative spiritual practices such as “peaceful abiding”
Overall the scholarship was quite good, and he included footnotes, though there were a few Victorian ideas like Lugh being a sun-god, and personal interpretations asserted as fact, like Maeve of Connacht being the same being as the Morrigan. I also disagreed with his opinion that one must have a college education to be a Druid, it’s rather elitist, and it is only one way to be educated.
This is a great resource for both beginners and more advanced practitioners and friendly to different traditions of Druidry.
Read Aug/Sept 2010
Jackaroo by Cynthia Voigt
In a time of poverty and famine, stories abound of Jackaroo, a highwayman who helps the poor. Gwyn, an innkeeper’s daughter thinks this is all nonsense. Yet her life begins to change after a Lord and his son ask her to accompany them on a map-making expedition. As Gwyn learns more about the world around her, she starts to wonder if Jackaroo is in fact a real person.
This book has a slow pace, but I enjoy the poetic descriptions.It’s refreshing to have a focus on ordinary peasant characters when so much of fantasy is focused on the upper class.
It seems rather light on magical elements, and the world, simply called “the Kingdom” is fairly generic. I liked seeing a different take on the Robin Hood concept, and Voigt challenges us to wonder about the origin of legends.
Read March 2010
Growing up, James McBride knew nothing of his mother’s past. His father was black & his mother was white, but she left her previous life behind her and refused to discuss it. Finally as an adult, he convince her (Ruth McBride) to tell her story, and share it in this memoir. She grew up the daughter of a Polish rabbi in Suffolk, Virginia, and fled to the North with her African-American lover. She married twice (both husbands died) and raised mostly by herself 12 children, defying the grim odds of poverty. I thought the Color of Water was quite well-written. The chapters alternate between James’ recollections of his childhood, and his mother’s narrative. She is (or was?) a strong, determined woman, and a stern but loving mother. I found it interesting, for one because in my generation, interracial relationships & families are seen as no big deal for the most part. But Ruth faced stares of puzzlement and hostility as she led around her children around New York City.
July 24, 2012
Death by Darjeeling by Laura Childs
I find it amusing how there are now so many really specific niches of mystery novels- mysteries for dog lovers, knitters, park rangers and yes now tea lovers. Theodosia Browning runs the Indigo Tea Shop in a peaceful, historic district of Charleston, NC. But on the night of the Lamplighter Tour, a annual event showcasing the stately homes of the area, a ruthless* real estate developer is found dead, with a cup of tea from her shop in is hand. When the police detective casts suspicion on her and her employees, she decides to take matters into her own hands and investigate. This proves difficult, as the developer is disliked by many in the community.
I would definitely say this is more of a book for tea-lovers who like mysteries, rather than mystery lovers who casually like tea.
That said, the story drew me in, Theodosia was a unique and appealing heroine
and the descriptions of the characters and the historic city of Charleston also added interest. This is a nice, light read, and while a murder mystery, it is still not gruesome or that creepy. So you can give it to your grandma the tea maven 🙂
(*So what does ruth-ful mean then?)