Wednesday, September 2, 2015
Tuesday, September 1, 2015
Posted by Nicole at Tuesday, September 01, 2015
Monday, August 31, 2015
Posted by Nicole at Monday, August 31, 2015
Saturday, August 22, 2015
Posted by Nicole at Saturday, August 22, 2015
Saturday, August 15, 2015
Pro: Definitely wasn't weary reading this!
Con: None now. At the time the third book wasn't even close to coming out.
The Bottom Line: Fun times all around. Now go get the next book.
If you haven’t read the first book, Into the Land of the Unicorns then shhh! Don’t read this part!!
When we left off with Cara, she had finished her journey to the unicorn Queen, Arabella Skydancer. With her were Lightfoot, the Squijum, the Dimblethum, and Thomas the Tinker. She had found out that the man after her and her grandmother was actually her father, Ian Hunter, and that Cara herself was actually a Hunter by blood as well. Cara also now had the gift of tongues from the dragon Firethroat and is able to speak to anyone and anything in Luster. And now, she must start on her journey back home to find her grandmother, Ivy Morris, who is also The Wanderer, and bring her back to Luster.
Ok, you’re good to go now.
Bruce Coville has done it again in Song of the Wanderer. At twenty-six chapters and 330 pages, this book is twice as long as the first. But that is not in any way a bad thing. On the contrary – many times thicker books mean more goodies for the reader!
Cara is once more setting off on a journey through the land of Luster in order to find a way back to Earth and to her grandmother. She leaves with a small glory of unicorns (a glory is the name for a group of unicorns – like a herd of cows, that sort of thing), Moonheart, who is Lightfoot’s gruff uncle, Finder, a unicorn who can find almost anything, and Belle, one of the Queen’s personal guard who enjoys a good battle. For reasons unknown to Cara, Lightfoot did not return to Summerhaven due to ill feelings between him and the other unicorns, and the Dimblethum simply feels unwelcome there. However, she does still have the Squijum and Thomas the Tinker to join her on their trek across Luster.
They must find the one called the Geomancer, who will tell Cara the exact place she must cross between worlds with the use of the amulet. They must avoid getting lost in an enchanted forest. They must fight against nasty delvers. Cara must resist the ever-persistent Beloved, who is somehow able to reach her, even across worlds. And still, so many questions plague Cara: where is her mother? Is her grandmother okay? How could her father be a hunter of unicorns? Will she see Lightfoot and the Dimblethum again? And just how will she get back to Earth?
Their trails take them into the underground caves of Grimwold, along the shores of River Silver, and to the desolate lands of Northern Waste. New friends will meet and join them on the way, such as Medafil and Jaques, who has a secret of his own, and others who are not so friendly, such as the unpredictable dragon Ebillan.
Through all this Cara’s past is unraveled, as is her grandmother’s. Many twists and turns reveal secrets long kept – and the end is the last thing anyone would have expected.
And yet there is still room for more.
Though this book is mostly one long travel book without many sudden turns (the turns that occur are subtle and not really unexpected, aside from a couple here and there), but it is still highly enjoyable. A lot of questions are answered and as things progress, they just get more and more “whoa” as you read. I read this book in two days (which adds up to just a matter of hours, really), so as you can see, it is hard to put down. I especially like the way Coville portrayed the gryphon and the words the gryphon used ("Gadfingled" comes to mind), I thought it was great and fit wonderfully.
If you were to look for this book in the bookstore, you would find it in the "young reader" section - suggested ages are 9-12 (wow, it's been so long since I've been a young reader). But then there are always kids out there at various ages that wouldn't have a problem with it. My little sister is actually in high school, but she's had the first one for a while and someone (me) finally made the effort to finish what was started. It's a smooth read and the only words kids might have trouble with might be a couple of the names (and very few at that), or the words the gryphon uses when he's fussing about something. Let's face it - if your kid has no problem reading Harry Potter, then this is a walk in the park.
At the time I originally wrote this review the year was 2005 and there was no third book and this one was copywritten in 1999. And there had to be one given the sort of ending that this book has. Luckily Bruce either never completely stopped on this series or went back to it because in 2008 Dark Whispers came out and the series wrapped up in 2010. I still haven't finished it (because I couldn't), but now that I'm going through these reviews, I think I'll have to revisit the land of Luster and finally discover the whole story. After all, I want to know what they’re going to do about Beloved.
That chick needs to go.
Originally published on Epinions.com
Posted by Nicole at Saturday, August 15, 2015
Saturday, August 8, 2015
Pros: Want to know about pirates from the view of someone who was there?
Cons: If you were hoping for something more story-like, this isn?t it.
The Bottom Line: Find out about the true pirates of the Caribbean!
After Wicked Charms, I figured I might as well post a piratey book, and since this review never made it to this blog during my time in college in which I took a historical course about pirates (that is not a joke - I really did), now is the best time.
Some say he was French. Others say he was Dutch. However, the fact remains that Alexander O. Exquemelin provides us with a handsome dish of pirate stories, many of which might make you think twice about all that Disney stuff.
A pirate’s life for me!
Yeah, screw that.
My copy is a translation by Alexis Brown, with an introduction from Jack Beeching. As most introductions go, the reader is given an overview of piracy and a bit of history of the times in which the chronicles by Exquemelin fall into. The introduction also gives a bit of history on Exquemelin himself – or at least what can be found about him. From there the book goes right into Exquemelin’s story, which is broken up into three main parts, and from there broken into chapters. Here, as is on the page itself, is what the three parts contain:
How the French came to Hispaniola; the nature of the country and life of the inhabitants.
The origin of the buccaneers; their rules and way of life; various attacks on the Spaniards.
The burning of Panama City by the English and French buccaneers, together with an account of a further voyage by the author.
Each part tells you exactly what is listed above – only in greater detail. In Part One Exquemelin describes how he came to the Caribbean, gives the reader a quick history lesson about the French vs. the Spanish when it comes to the island of Tortuga (yes, it was real), describes the island of Hispaniola, including its trees, fruits, animals, etc. (and I do mean describe), as well as the French hunters and planters that live there. The final few chapters give you everything you ever needed to know about buccaneers – who they were, how they began, and why they turned to piracy. You even get to find out where the word “buccaneer” came from! Now isn’t this interesting?
Though the first section can get a little boring from time to time, don’t worry too much because the second section gets into the actual piracy, dealing with captains and such. The reader is introduced to a French pirate by the name of Francois l’Olannais and all of his exploits, from raiding Spanish fleets to sacking and ransoming various towns. L’Olannais wasn’t a very nice guy by the way, and neither were his men, which makes for some interesting reading. After knowing l’Olannais’s fate, the next captain, Henry Morgan comes into play. Is this where the famous Captain Morgan comes from? Haha, who knows!
However, I will say that Morgan was a lot more successful than l’Olannais ever was. He had great pirating skills and managed to attack (with great success) several places – including one that might sound familiar to you…Panama anyone? Here is where you can read of the taking of a fort without firing a single shot, escaping Spanish warships, and see lists of the booty they managed to steal. Good times to be a pirate under Morgan’s leadership – and you’d probably be surprised at the number of men and ships he had following him at one point in time. Bet it’s something you’d never guess when it comes to pirates! I was certainly surprised! Much of this is mentioned in the second and then third sections, the break right between campaigns by Morgan.
The remainder of the third section, Exquemelin has broken off from Morgan’s group and set off with some others sailing from island to island and encountering various things, such as hostile natives, friendly natives, and manatees (which apparently taste like pork). The final chapter is a short account of the governor of Tortuga, who tries his hand at piracy and barely succeeds.
And that is where the book ends. Yes, it may seem abrupt, but one must remember, this wasn’t made to be a story with a plot – it is an account of a man’s life and the things he encountered and/or heard about during his time in the Caribbean. So does that make it suck? No! This is more historical than anything, and quite all right. It’s not like it leaves you on some kind of cliffhanger.
But, interesting though it may be, it can get a little tiresome with nothing but Exquemelin’s descriptions to go by. Are you an author who is confused about showing and telling? Well, this is a perfect example of telling. There is next to no dialogue and the battles aren’t quite as exciting as they have potential for. As I said though, it is more historical, though that whole concept might put some readers off. As for myself, it was a required book for a pirate class I’m taking (yes, they do offer those), and when compared to other text books one might have to read, this rocked.
Oh, and no one ever says “Arg!” in here either.
Originally published on Epinions.com.
Posted by Nicole at Saturday, August 08, 2015
Monday, August 3, 2015
Posted by Nicole at Monday, August 03, 2015
Saturday, June 13, 2015
Pros: An interesting and unique story
Cons: Difficult dialect to wade through; Adam's ramblings
The Bottom Line: If you want to read Richard Adams, go with Watership Down. This book is...eh...not bad, but not as good.
I first read Watership Down when I was in 7th grade. I thoroughly enjoyed it. When the library gave it away for free, I took it. I'd say with the exception of maybe 5 years (maybe a few more), I've read it every year.
I eventually discovered The Plague Dogs by Richard Adams, but as much as I was curious about it, I was reluctant to read it. The description and the cover kept me away. I mean, heck, the poor little terrier dog on the front has his little head all bandaged up from being a lab experiment. I loved Watership Down, but I was worried that A.) The Plague Dogs wouldn't live up to its counterpart and B.) it was going to be a sad make-me-want-to-cry story.
Turns out I was right on both counts.
Snitter, the little terrier, and Rowf, a big setter-like dog, are both experimentees at Animal Research, Scientific and Experimental (A.R.S.E. for short - and you can't tell me Adams didn't do that on purpose). Rowf is systematically drowned and revived, and has a terrible fear of the water. Snitter's had his brain operated on in order to confuse the objective and subjective mind. But both manage to escape one night and head out into the wild - the rough world of England's harsh crags and hardscrabble ground. They're forced to kill sheep and chickens to live, but even then without the help of the tod (a fox) they wouldn't make it. Meanwhile, rumors spiral out of control about them throughout the town and England - the dogs might be carrying the plague. Now not just the whitecoats are out to get them - it seems that the whole world just wants them dead.
I don't have any doubts that Adams was pushing some social commentary into this story. There's a lot of talk about men and how they're screwing up the world, a lot of comments are directed at animal research, a few at the government, and so forth. And while I don't mind social commentary, sometimes it's just an eensy bit heavy-handed and can get tiresome - especially if your reader already agrees with you.
While Watership Down had plenty of dialogue, action, adventure, and so forth, this book had a lot less of...all that. The tod's speech was very difficult to wade through, even if Adams does give American readers a little glossary in the front of words we'd never guess in a million years. I'm willing to bet that even some English readers had trouble with it though. The tod wasn't the only one with tough dialect - several of the humans that popped up who lived in the region also spoke that way.
The other downside was Adams's tendency to ramble and go off on tangents where I literally sat there thinking, "What the heck does this have to do with the story?" I'd start flipping ahead pages to see where he stopped and the actual story began again. This happened at least three times that I can remember because they went on for a decent sized chunk, though I know there were a few others that were paragraph or two sized. It was weird and I honestly don't know why those were there or what the point was. One of those moments where you wonder what the heck his editor was doing at that moment. Or his agent (if Adams had one) for that matter.
Another thing Adams does is sort of inject himself into the story in a weird way. Overall the book is done in third person in the view of Snitter, Rowf, or one of the many humans that pops up. Other times it's almost more omniscient. Still other times (particularly when he rambles), Adams includes "I" and speaks directly to the reader with "you" phrases. It jars you out of the story (if his tangent hasn't already) and is generally just odd and random.
The best parts about this book were Snitter and Rowf's story and the illustrations about their travels. I was never quite sure where they were going from and to - there were a lot, a lot of place names - but the illustrations were good all the same because it really helped me to visualize the kind of terrain these poor dogs were trekking over.
Snitter and Rowf each had their own distinct personalities, and I frequently found myself sad over their predicaments - particularly little Snitter because he used to have a master and was then sold (long story) to the lab guys. So he used to be happy and he still imagined he saw his master from time to time and it was just...sad. I don't often cry at books. I think in all the books I've ever read I've cried a grand total of three times. While I never actually cried at this book, I did get a bit teary from time to time just out of sheer empathy. I think I was probably more affected now because I actually own a little dog instead of a big one so somehow that translated over as well.
It does have a happy ending at least, so there's no worry there. The ending felt just a bit abrupt, but because of how it ended, I'm willing to let it go and be on its way. It's a good story, but with some cleaning up, could have been even better. It's worth a shot if you want something totally different from what you're used to. But I do have to recommend Watership Down over this one.
*I eventually learned that the original edition of the book did not end happily and an addendum was added to make a new ending. Good thing too, otherwise I would have been severely ticked off and felt my time had been wasted. I know life isn't fair and all that, but I read books to get away from real life, so I want happy endings dang it! (also the reason I'm not so sure I want to see the film adaptation anymore)
Originally posted on Epinions.com
Posted by Nicole at Saturday, June 13, 2015
Saturday, June 6, 2015
Pros: A fun interactive book with plenty of silliness
Cons: Needs a companion book!
The Bottom Line: Get kids' imaginations and creative minds going with this little nugget of joy.
Usually I’m not impressed with pop-up books. Sure, they look nifty, and I can appreciate the effort that’s gone into making them (I sure can’t do it!), but the more elaborate they are, the more prone to damage they can be. You look through them, admire them, and then move on. Other books similar to pop-ups, like lift-the-flap books, are more fun because kids are encouraged to pull things, push things, lift flaps, twist circles, and more. Interactive books are more fun.
Beautiful Oops is by Barney Saltzberg, the same author of Peekaboo Kisses. It’s a different sort of interactive pop-up type book. Instead of teaching kids about animals or telling stories, it inspires them to use their imaginations even when goof-ups happen. It’s kind of like the children’s version of Wreck This Journal.
Inside, there are flaps to lift and little things to peek at. The idea in this book is that little moments of “Oops!” can still be turned into something nifty. A torn piece of paper. Spilled paint. A crumpled paper ball. Even a coffee stain from a mug can become something else. All of them are transformed into something else – elephants, alligators, and more. These goof-ups can be turned into works of art – or just some silly scribbles. Kids are encouraged to use their imaginations and see beyond the oops itself. Sort of like how we spot shapes in clouds. The text in the book points all these things out.
I think my favorite thing about this book is the color. It’s a bright, colorful book with all sorts of mixes and mediums. It’s a small party in a book, and my other favorite part is the stretch out spiral that you pull out of the book and then put your eye to in order to look down. It’s a really nifty effect, and there’s a bit of text down in the center to read. There are plenty of colors and patterns that dance their way down the spiral as well.
The book is rather small in size, but that’s good because for young children that makes it easier to handle as opposed to some of the massive pop-ups on the shelves. I think it’s compact size may also help it to last a little bit longer in kids’ hands (but if they’re keen on pulling out the spiral or tearing off the flaps, then it really doesn’t matter what it’s size is).
The only way I think this could be even better is if there were some kind of companion book to go with it. While that’s not really necessary (what with the current number of activity books out there), I think it would be fun for kids to have an empty book where they were encouraged to let some kind of oops happen and then make something of it. As it stands right now, the best you could do is snap up something by Keri Smith.
Still, it’s a fun little book and definitely worth taking a look at the next time you’re in the bookstore and thinking of buying something cute for your child.
Originally posted on Epinions.com
Notes from the playlist: "Upright Piano" by Without Directive
Posted by Nicole at Saturday, June 06, 2015
Tuesday, May 26, 2015
Part 1 of this list featured coloring books that had gargantuan (or not so gargantuan) series or multiple books by an author. Part 2 featured the universe-chilling mandala, some with authors that had more than one book under his/her belt. Now we're into the single digits. These are coloring books that are one-hit wonders. Books all by their lonesome either published a while ago before the craze hit, or that will be published very soon in order to give people even more variety than before. So, any of these suit your fancy?
The Mindfulness Coloring Book will be out June 2nd and we already have some on order. It looks fun and simple, but I can't promise anything yet since I clearly haven't seen it.
A simple book of basic designs, I'm guessing Alexander Girard is some kind of designer given that the book is named after him - Alexander Girard Coloring Book. You can take a peek inside of this book online. If you're a little exhausted of all the super-intricate designs, despite how pretty they are, this book can provide a great escape for just adding in swaths of color. Of course, who says you can't do a bit of doodling while you're at it? There's plenty of whitespace and the images themselves almost invite a few extra fun lines. Or hey, just color. Whatever floats your boat.
Posted by Nicole at Tuesday, May 26, 2015
Sunday, May 24, 2015
Mandala coloring books have been around for a long time. They actually hang out in a few different places of the store depending upon a few factors, from spots in New Age to Meditation. The goal is what coloring books' current goal is - to relax. But more than that, mandalas are spiritual in nature that can be found in many cultures and religions. So it shouldn't really come as much of a surprise to learn that more coloring books are appearing that feature mandalas, while others that were previously out have ramped up production. Even better, not all of them stick with geometric designs and can get rather interesting. I'm leaving out any coloring books mentioned previously (i.e. Dover), so these will be all new for you!
Posted by Nicole at Sunday, May 24, 2015
Saturday, May 23, 2015
Coloring books are all the rage, and with their popularity you'll find dozens of lists out on the internet showcasing various books. Some you can get, others have been so popular entire warehouses have run out and publishers scramble to print more. At my store, we've put together a massive table full of nothing but coloring books and coloring utensils. We know our books - it's what we do. Yes, we've had help from the internet and friends as well. But in the end, here's the list of all the books we've chucked onto the table. So save yourself some Googling time and check it out. I am not exaggerating about this list - I have 9 printed pages of books, so buckle up. (And unlike other sites, I actually provide you with links.)
Posted by Nicole at Saturday, May 23, 2015