About This Blog

This blog was started as a place to post book reviews. The books reviewed here will be mixed. Science Fiction, Fantasy, Romance, General Fiction, NonFiction and more. Both positve and negative reviews will be posted, as well as reviews for books written for all ages and all reading levels.

Many of the books reviewed here are ones that I have purchased for my own reading pleasure. Some, I receive free in exchange for reviews. Beginning in December, 2009 you will know which are the free ones if you read the final paragraph of my reviews.

Also of note: I choose what I will read, attempting to avoid the books on which I would end up writing a negative review... but I have been known to make mistakes. Thus you see some one and two star reviews here. Since I don't enjoy writing negative reviews, I only write them if the review was promised, or if the book was so exceedingly bad, I just had to say so. Regardless of the percentage of positive to negative reviews on this blog, I give my honest opinion each and every time, and have never received financial compensation for posting my reviews.

Note that, except for fair use portions quoted from some of the books reviewed, all copyright in the content of the reviews belongs to Lady Dragoness.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Fantasy and Historical Romance

Queen of Dragons
by Shana Abé
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Bantam (December 26, 2007)
Rated 4 stars of 5 possible

While the publisher is selling this as a historical romance, there's more of fantasy than romance in it... and good fantasy too, I must say. I was thoroughly enchanted by the idea of a race of shape shifters who can take on human or dragon form at will - or turn to smoke on a whim - so that I could not lay this book aside for long. While Queen of Dragons is the third of The Drákon series, it is the first I've read by this author. Set in the late 18th century, this tale is a generous blend of fantasy, romance, suspense and adventure that leaves the reader feeling both satisfied and ready for more.

Readers who are strictly reading for the romance may not like this book much because of the scarcity of romantic scenes, yet those who enjoy other genres may like this for variety. Recommended to readers ages 17 and up who like or don't mind some romance in their fantasy.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Lunar Adventure

This Place Has No Atmosphere
Paula Danziger
Paperback: 156 pages
A Yearling Book/Bantam Doubleday Dell (July 1, 1989)
Rated 4 stars of 5 possible

Aurora is happy in her school and part of the "in" crowd. She has a best friend who is also a celebrity. An attractive boy has asked Aurora to Homecoming. She has (or so she thinks) everything she could want... but her life is about to change. Aurora's parents have accepted new jobs - on the moon! This means that Aurora and her younger sister will have to leave their old schools and their friends behind when they go with their parents to become part of the colony on the moon.

When Aurora complains that "this place has no atmosphere," while speaking of the lunar colony, to her friends back on Earth, she's not talking about the air... so of course I had to keep reading to find out if Aurora decides to change her mind. Paula Danziger does a good job capturing the teen voice of Aurora in this science fiction spoof. This fast-paced easy reading adventure covers some good points about being one's self wherever you happen to live. I found the story enjoyable yet thought provoking and recommend it to readers of all ages from 12 on up.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Retreat into Fantasy

Valdemar universe: The Mage Wars Trilogy
By Mercedes Lackey and Larry Dixon
Series Rating: 4 stars of 5 possible

Book 1: The Black Gryphon
Paperback: 464 pages
DAW (January 1, 1995)
Rated: 5 stars of 5 possible

Book 2: The White Gryphon
Paperback: 400 pages
DAW (March 1, 1996)
Rated: 4 stars of 5 possible

Book 3: The Silver Gryphon
Paperback: 400 pages
DAW (March 1, 1997)
Rated: 3 stars of 5 possible

Roughly 20 years ago, Mercedes Lackey imagined a universe which she called Valdemar, and began writing tales of that universe. Fast-forward about 10 years from the beginning publication of the Valdemar universe tales to the Mage Wars series. These three tales of Valdemar are most definitely not the first and might not even be the best; however, I did find them well worth reading.

The Black Gryphon, Skandranon, awed and amazed me both with his irreverent views of his situation and his irascible temper. Skan's sarcasm was both appropriate to the situation and also funny. At the same time, his brash and over-confident manner leads Skan both into and out of trouble. I found Skan's friend, Amberdrake intriguing... an enigma to most, since he reveals as little of himself as possible.

The White Gryphon takes up the story of Skandranon, Amberdrake and their people ten years after the cataclysm which destroyed the stronghold of the world's most powerful Mage, killing Urtho, creator of the gryphons, and sending his forces into exile. Having built a secure stronghold, the people of White Gryphon soon discover that they've erected their city on land claimed by the Black Kings, who suddenly appear in the harbor aboard a fleet of ships ready for battle. Travel to the homeland of the Black Kings and negotiations for a peaceful alliance account for most of the content of this book, which could have been better thought through... although a who-done-it mystery is included once the people of White Gryphon reach the court of the Black Kings.

The Silver Gryphon begins a dozen years after peace between the people of White Gryphon and the Black Kings has been negotiated. Amberdrake and Skandranon have settled into comfortable lives, but things are not so tranquil for their children. At first, I was disappointed that this third volume deals with the adventures of the next generation rather than directly with Amberdrake and Skandranon... until I realized that intervals between the events depicted in these novels would mean that the heroes of the first and second novels have aged quite a bit; time for someone else to take center stage. This novel does not seem to be as well thought out as the first two, yet it is worth reading.

I can recommend these to fantasy readers of all ages from 13 and up.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

American Revolution

April Morning
By Howard Fast
Hardcover: 184 Pages
Madison Park Press (2006)
Rated 4 stars of 5 possible

Well written and researched,April Morning is about the start of the revoutionary war. The story follows 15-year-old Adam Cooper who, though still months short of his 16th birthday, feels that he should be treated as a man. Adam's father has other ideas until that fateful April morning when Adam signs the muster book with the other men.

The events in this vividly described but short novel all happen either the day before or the morning after Paul Revere's famous midnight ride, and later that same day. Despite the short length of this novel, the character development is superb. While the story's main characters are fictional, the events portrayed are historically accurate without much "literary liberty" being taken with history for the sake of the novel.

Though I am usually not big on war stories, I must say that Howard Fast is a master story teller and that, without reservations, I enjoyed reading this novel. April Morning is easy to read and fast paced but I still only recommend it to readers of historical fiction ages 15 and up. The events depicted may be too graphic for younger readers.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Analysis and Symbolism

To Kill a Mockingbird
by Harper Lee
Hardcover: 296 pages
Publisher: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins (June 1960)
Rated: 5 stars of 5 possible
“...They don't eat up people's gardens, don't nest in corncribs, they don't do one thing but sing their hearts out for us." That's why it's a sin to kill a mockingbird.”
This brilliantly told story of two motherless children takes place during the great depression. Some of the events depicted in the story are based on real events of the time; the town and the characters are fictional. The lessons Jean Louise (Scout) Finch and her brother Jem learn are priceless lessons on courage, prejudice, honesty, justice, and injustice and more.

To Kill a Mockingbird grabbed my attention immediately. While this novel is entertaining, it is not a "fluffy" read. The story also bears deep analysis of the symbolism used by the author.  For instance, the mocking bird is symbolic of innocence.

While the story is told in first person by an adult Scout reminiscing about her childhood, she recounts a child's observations with an adult vocabulary. This perspective adds a depth to the story that would not be present if the vocabulary used was that of a child. Young Scout appears to be wise beyond her years (not quite nine at the end of the story); she is also a recipient of her father Atticus's unique parenting style. He believes that the instances of disobedience, the mistakes and errors in judgement made by his children, contain valuable lessons which can help them to better understand and deal with life if they can grasp these lessons.

Recommended to readers who like to read and analyze a story. There is much material for analysis here and many study guides available online and elsewhere for the reader who is so minded. Yet unlike many stories deep enough to withstand the extended analysis, I can also recommend this to readers who just want to be entertained.