Review: Stand Short and Proud

This review was written at the request of the author; however, the opinions expressed are my own.

Title: Stand Short and Proud (Chronicles of the Floating Continent, book 2)

Author: Billy Wong

Meg, together with a couple of friends, have set out as monster hunters. Their timing could not be worse. A truce on monsters has been declared and they’re left with no one to fight but bandits. Instead Meg and her partner Patrick enlist in the army. Meg’s sure their experience will make them valuable recruits, and it seems that she’s right. Despite her petite height, which she is VERY sensitive about, Meg gets right in the middle of a fight with what seems to be a reincarnation of an evil wizard. And if this guy comes back, the whole kingdom is in danger.

I really enjoyed this book. It reads like an adventure or a quest story, sort of a journey. Lots of training, marching, hanging about the camp, making new friends, that kind of thing. I was disappointed that there weren’t more women in the army. Their captain is a woman, but it would have been nice to have something approaching equal numbers. I also liked that this is not a romance. There’s no love interest in this at all. There’s friendship, camaraderie, and that’s it. Kind of a refreshing change.

I wish that the author had included a few paragraphs near the beginning to catch new readers (like me) up to speed with this series. I didn’t read the first one, and I was really lost at first. There was nothing in here about how Meg met her traveling companions, about the general, about this new truce with the monsters. Also a map would have been helpful, but then I always want a map!

Now for more serious criticism. While I liked the pacing of the story, I felt like the writing was a little choppy and the dialogue needed a little work. It didn’t flow as smoothly as it should have in places. Meg especially just couldn’t stop with the pithy remarks in the middle of a battle. Really? Maybe quit talking and just concentrate on fighting.

If you enjoy fantasy and action, I think you should give this one a try. I would definitely start with book 1, The Golden Dawn.

About the author:

Billy Wong is an avid fan of heroic fantasy, with a special love for strong female warriors. He draws inspiration from the epic legends of old, and is on a quest to bring over the top deeds and larger than life heroes back to prominence in today’s literary world.

Review: The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate

I’m running an encore review today as I have a family event all day today. I have several new reviews I want to post and a Mega Blitz post coming up for R & R Book Tours, but for today I hope you enjoy reading about this one.

Title: The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate

Author: Jacqueline Kelly

Calpurnia, known as Callie Vee to her 6 brothers, is not one of those quiet, homemaking type of girls. She likes being outdoors, studying nature. The hot summer of 1899 marked a big change in her life. That was the year that she made friends with her Granddaddy and became a naturalist.

But Calpurnia’s mother is not giving up her only daughter without a fight. She’s forced into piano lessons, needlework lessons, cooking lessons, and knitting lessons. Knitting isn’t so bad, at least when it’s a wet and rainy day, but they all make her feel completely inadequate. Is she doomed to be nothing but a wife and mother? And what’s the rush? She’s only 11!

This story was set in the dawning of a new era, with the coming of the first telephone – and first FEMALE telephone operator, the first automobile, and yet the ties to the past, with Granddaddy and his stories of service in the Civil War. Then the excitement of New Year’s Eve, and a new century!

When I started reading this one, it made me think back to my own summers in Texas, with the heat reaching over 100 for days in a row, when we would turn our bathtub into a little swimming pool, and the heat would turn everything into a dead brown landscape, make my nosebleed, and then bake the blood right onto the sidewalk. At least we could occasionally escape to my Grandma’s air conditioned living room. But Calpurnia has no escape except her private swimming hole.

I loved this book. I was a little disappointed by the end, which is why I took off half a star. I hope this is the first in a series; otherwise, Calpurnia is just sort of hanging at the end of the story. While I am very happy being a wife and mother, I understand her feeling of being trapped into a narrow role she has no way to fight. It’s a choice between her mother’s way, or some unknown way, and Calpurnia really has no idea what else is out there for her. I have to hope that the coming years will reveal some new possibilities to her and give her the strength to choose her own life. 4.5 stars

Book Review: Song of the Lark

Song of the Lark

by Willa Cather

Setting: Moonstone, Colorado late 19th – early 20th century

Source: book club book

Themes: the artist’s process, music, family, women’s roles

Story: Thea Kronberg is the odd one out in her close knit Swedish American family. Fortunately, she has enough support to get her the early musical training she needs to achieve her dreams. It takes a lot of work, but with helpful teachers she is able to achieve her dreams.

Pros: Cather has a gift for making her characters come to life. Thea especially well described – I felt like I would know her. I loved the way she described all the Kronbergs and their relationships. They just come to life.

Cons: This book, like most of Cather’s books, are character driven. That means the plots meander along their merry way, taking lots of side tracks to get to the point. Maybe it was partly because I started this when I wasn’t feeling well, but I didn’t exactly feel compelled to finish.

This is definitely not my favorite of Cather’s books, but I liked it well enough. For me, the best part was before Thea left town for Denver, when she was still figuring out what she wanted and how to get it.

I would cautiously recommend it. It’s an old-fashioned sort of feel, but I wish more people would read Cather. She is an important American female writer who broke new ground. I wouldn’t start here, but with O Pioneers! or My Antonia. 3.2 stars for this one.

 

Summer Cold Pt. 2

Children’s Series Picks

I’ve been having good luck with (most) of my books lately. Maybe I’ve been lucky, maybe it’s because they’re from authors I already enjoy, maybe it’s because I’ve been too sick to be critical. Anyway I’ve got several solid children’s books to review this time, and I enjoyed them all.

Immortal Fire (Cronos Chronicles by Anne Ursu)

The Cronos Chronicles are about a pair of cousins Charlotte and Zee (Zachary), one from a small town in the US and one outside London, who have stumbled into the truth that the Greek gods are real and not too happy with humanity. This is their third tangle with the gods. The first book was set in the Underworld, the second on Poseidon’s yacht, and this one takes up just after they escape the Mediterranean and return to Charlotte’s home. Mysterious storms and monsters are loose across the world and even Charlotte’s parents are beginning to suspect that something is going on. Zee and Charlotte must once again, save humanity, but this time, there’s a new kid in the mix. Who is he and whose side is he on?

I enjoyed this one a lot. It’s MG / younger teen, totally clean, and pretty funny. There’s lots of action, some violence, but none of it very graphic. I like that the kids don’t emerge from these big fights without a scratch, but it felt like they were really getting hammered a little too often. I also really liked that Charlotte and Zee genuinely cared about each other. Not in a romantic way, but in a family way, where the other person gets on your nerves sometimes, but the bond is solid. In fact, there isn’t much romance in these books, which makes a nice change.

This is the last book in the series, and I wouldn’t start here. You’d be lost. But I can recommend the series, as one that will appeal to any gender and to parents as well as kids. They’d also be fun to read aloud. 3.75 for the series, 3.5 for this book, as it got a little muddled in the middle.

The Forgotten Sisters (Princess Academy, book 3) by Shannon Hale

Miri from the Princess Academy is back. This time, the king makes her an offer – train his royal cousins in her own Princess Academy, and her little village at home can OWN their village, for good. It seems like too good a deal to pass up, so she agrees. The stakes are high. A royal marriage may be the only way to prevent a war. But the three sisters are no princesses- they can’t even read. Miri is in over her head. Literally. She falls in the swamp, gets a snake bite her first day, and faints just inside the door. Off to a great start.

Although I enjoyed this book, it’s nothing really new. If you liked the first books in this series, you’ll like this one. The new girls are appealing, and I liked the setting. But for me, the book didn’t really come alive until about halfway through. I’m glad I read it though. Again, I wouldn’t read this one unless you’d read the first two. I still recommend this series, but I think it appeals a little more to girls that boys, more to kids that adults. Another one that would be good read aloud. 3.25 for this book, between 3-4 for the series, depending. I think it just won’t appeal to some readers, but then there will be plenty of readers who *love* it. You won’t know until you try it.

Slaves of Socorro (The Brotherband Chronicles, book 4) by John Flanagan

Hal and the rest of the Brotherband fellows are sent off to Araluen to patrol the coast for the Jarl. They’re just settled in when a group of slavers hit the coast. Hal and the ranger Gilan know who they are and where they’re headed, so they crew decides to follow. To rescue the Araluens, they’ll have to infiltrate the slave market, and it won’t be easy.

I admit, I’m a sucker for this writer. I love his Ranger’s Apprentice series, and this one is just as much fun. Flanagan excels at portraying young men, just emerging from childhood all through the difficult process of becoming men. Hal’s emergence as a leader is so well done. I would definitely recommend this author and this series in particular to kids. Unlike the previous two books, I think you could start with this one, although it would be better to start with the first one, but if you find this one first, grab it and give it a try. Although it’s set about a Viking longboat (more or less), Flanagan includes a little glossary of sailing terms so drylanders like me won’t be confused. 4 stars for this one, solid 4, maybe higher for the series.