Monday, September 20, 2010

Review: Voices of Dragons by Carrie Vaughn

Voices of Dragons
by Carrie Vaughn
Fantasy, YA
309 pages
published: 2010
3 of 5 stars


On one side of the border lies the modern world: the internet, homecoming dances, cell phones. On the other side dwell the ancient monsters who spark humanity's deepest fears: dragons.

Seventeen-year-old Kay Wyatt knows she's breaking the law by rock climbing near the border, but she'd rather have an adventure than follow the rules. When the dragon Artegal unexpectedly saves her life, the rules are abruptly shattered, and a secret friendship grows between them.

But suspicion and terror are the legacy of human and dragon inter­actions, and the fragile truce that has maintained peace between the species is unraveling. As tensions mount and battles begin, Kay and Artegal are caught in the middle. Can their friendship change the course of a war?
- from Goodreads


I love dragons. Really I do. Even the bad ones. How could I resist this book? I couldn't. And I enjoyed it just fine. There were dragons, a dragon culture, a dragon history, flying with the dragon...enough to make me want more (as in wish they were more present in the book and to be happy to read further in the series) of Vaughn's dragons. The main human character was likable enough too. I liked her physical prowess at outdoor sports, her guts, and her loyalty to her friend. I also liked that she had two involved parents. I was even intrigued by the 'history' of the world (which is our current world, sorta) and the explanations of how everything got to the point of the story.

I did have some difficulties though. At first I felt the writing and tone suggested a book for a younger audience. It felt simple. I was all prepared to adjust my expectations to a that level, when a preoccupation with sex started to get too much 'screen' time. (Or more accurately, the lack of sex.) So no, there wasn't any 'mature' scenes, but there was discussions and the implication that the main character was weird because she didn't want to join the crowd. There did end up being a slight point to it all, but it was distracting and made the book unfit for youngers. Then I was just confused. What was the book trying to be? 

Thankfully, it hit it's stride about half way through when the conflict and action caught up to the other subject matters. Much better. It redeemed itself and I'm interested in reading the second, which seems like it might not have such a rocky beginning - considering it will have a kick start from the cliff hanger at the end of book one. 

Bottom line: This book is good for older teens who like fantasy, and particularly dragons. I don't think it is enough in itself to start a love of dragons, but that probably isn't anyone's goal. Except maybe mine.

Listful Mondays: Reasons to Step Out of Your Bookish Comfort Zone

Listful Mondays!! Hopefully everything will be back to the regularly scheduled program.

Saturday was the Utah Book Bloggers Summer Social. It is the fourth one, but the first that I have been to. My husband stayed home with the kids and I caught a ride with Suey (It's All About Books). Nervous to meet a park full of strangers? Yes.

Reasons to Step Out of Your Bookish Comfort Zone...
  1.  Book Bloggers are really nice and rather sedate.
  2. Cool new and not-so-new local authors to see.
  3. Getting to put my name in the new author's ARC so I can be on the blog tour.
  4. Bringing home 2 new books from the book swap, one from a different new local author.
  5. Getting out of the house without children. (A phenomenon so exciting is eclipsed the nerves. Mostly.)
  6. Putting faces with names and sites.
  7. Actually talking to some of the bloggers, and not just the ones I already knew.
  8. Having one blogger pause while passing me and my name tag (which we write out blog names on) and exclaim, "Ooh, I love your blog!"
  9. Not having anyone spoil Mockingjay.
  10. Listening to the conversations. Yes, listening. For a while I had an author conversation going on one side, and a book conversation going on the other. My attention swiveled from one side to the other.
  11. Comfy camp chairs and fresh air. (Ha! There was so much wind we almost blew away. I had to shower all the grit off when we got home. But it was fresh!)
  12. Knowing that the next time I will feel more comfortable and might even speak up a bit. (At least among book people, they don't look at you too strangely for your shyness/anti-social tendencies. They either empathize or are used to it.)
I have sat on this posts for weeks because I couldn't find the time or organization skills to put up all the links to all the bloggers who attended. I can't sit anymore, so I'm cheating. Please click over to It's All About Books (Linked you twice - ha Ha!) and see more (better) pictures and links to the awesome attendees. Phew. Now I can move on.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Review: The Fairy's Return and other Princess Tales by Gail Carson Levine

The Fairy's Return and other Princess Tales
by Gail Carson Levine
MG, Fairy Tale
400 pages
published: 2002
2 of 5 stars / 4 of 5 stars


What would you do if diamonds and rubies tumbled out of your mouth every time you spoke? Well, that's what happens to Rosella after a run-in with a misguided fairy in The Fairy's Mistake. If you were turned into a toad, would you pine after your prince as much as Parsley does in For Biddle's Sake?
The road to happily-ever-after is never easy, but the masterful touch of Newbery Honor author Gail Carson Levine will keep readers laughing their way through these fresh retellings of popular fairy tales. - from Goodreads

Just to be clear, this is a book of short stories. I recall being disappointed when that realization hit me after I had grabbed this book at the school book fair.


After the initial shock of having a volume of short stories subsided, I began to enjoy this little book. The stories where cute retellings with a sense of humor. I happily skipped my way through the first few, delighted and thinking about how pleasant these will be for Jadyn. They weren't very deep or earth-shattering, but sweet and moral and clever.

Around the half way point, I changed my mind. What had been charming and amusing, became repetitive and ridiculous. My momentum diminished and then died. I doubt I would have finished if I hadn't stuck it in a place where I could pick it up when boredom overcame my annoyance with the book. The stories became so repetitive, in fact, that now I can't separate them in my head. Help!

Yet, there is a silver lining. I gave this to Jadyn, the target audience, and she loved it. She devoured it in a matter of days. I don't think she noticed that every male character had two older (and awful) brothers. I'll even suggest this to be a great introduction type book for any princess or fairy loving little girl.

So, 2 stars from me for the sake of the early pleasure, and 4 stars for the middle grade club.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Review: The God of Animals by Aryn Kyle

The God of Animals
by Aryn Kyle
320 pages
published: 2007
3 of 5 stars


Twelve-year-old Alice Winston is growing up fast on her father's run-down horse ranch--coping with the death of a classmate and the absence of her older sister (who ran off with a rodeo cowboy), trying to understand her depressed and bedridden mother, and attempting to earn the love and admiration of her reticent, weary father. - from Goodreads


Let me first say that this book is about many things that either I don't find all that interesting or would just not generally seek out. Like horses. Training, riding, breeding horses. (I missed that girly boat apparently.) Mean fathers. Teacher infatuation. Preoccupation with death. Yet, and it's an important yet, I kept reading. Kyle somehow rendered all this that I don't much care for very  interesting. Especially the horses. 

That goodness in the book was the family dynamics. The sad, sick, oh-so-painfully-honest dysfunctional family dynamics. It was fascinating and heartbreaking to watch Alice try and survive the hand she was dealt. She pined for love. I ached for her. I cringed so many times at the characters decisions. I screamed what the characters should have said inside my head to no avail. This book had plenty of emotional pull. I'm still upset at one of my favorite characters for her ridiculousness at the end.

Another amazing thing was that I finished this book and realized there weren't any good guys. There were awful people who had bright (or bright - er moments) and okay people who turned out not so great. There were misunderstandings, forgiveness, and moments of dull beauty...but it was all sad and painful to me.

Though it is about a teenager, and many of the issues would be familiar to teens, I wouldn't classify it as YA because it had the feel of an adult looking back on childhood. 

If it was all so interesting and powerful, why didn't I rate it higher? Mostly because it left me feeling unhappy, and I doubt I'll ever read it again. (Though I don't regret reading it.) Will you feel this way? I have no idea. It is a moving, realistic, memorable, contemporary read, filled with flawed, oh-so-flawed, people and lots of horses. You could give it a try. Want my copy?