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, July 30, 2009

Clearly Written

An Introduction to Art and Drawing
By Linda Drewry
Paperback: 150 Pages
Publisher: Darnley Publishing Group
Rated: 4 stars of 5 possible

Two years ago next week, I started posting my book reviews on this blog. In that amount of time, I've reviewed several art instruction books... some are better than others.  An Introduction to Art and Drawing by Linda Drewry is one of the better instruction books I've attempted to use. Unfortunately, you can't just go out and buy it new at your favorite bookstore, and probably not used either. :(  I know I'm not letting go of my copy... The main purpose of the book is as a text book for the art class I'm currently taking via correspondence course from Stratford Career Institute, which also seems to be the only source for obtaining this excellent book.

Over the last four years, I've attempted via use of several different media, to learn how to draw.  Of all the different sources I have encountered, this book is the only one to actually explain perspective in a way that has helped me improve my skills. This improvement in skills is slowly beginning to allow my sketches to take on a more realistic look exactly as I wanted. The explanation of concepts is, for the most part, clearly written and illustrations are to the point as well as frequent enough within the text to bring out those concepts more clearly.

About one dozen practical exercises plus three full-fledged drawing projects is enough to give even a very raw beginner a pack of educational resources and  explanations on which to build his or her drawing skills. Recommended for art students of all ages from 14 and up... if you can find it.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Suspenseful and Surprising

by Hillary Jordan
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Windmill (January 1, 2008)
Rated 5 stars of 5 possible

Mudbound starts off in an ominous mood, with two brothers burying their father.  The weather in the Mississippi Delta has been rainy for the previous three days, but they have finally gotten the break in the weather they were looking for, so the brothers decide it's best if they complete the necessary digging as quickly as possible...  In a shifting, kaleidoscopic viewpoint, the story is told piece by piece, while suspense builds. Laura McAllan's voice holds the package together - she both begins at the true beginning and fills in some of the details left out of the other characters' chapters. We soon discover that the old man is both abusive and racist, and that even his own family despises him.

Being a resident of the real Mississippi Delta, I feel obligated to point out that the author has taken some liberty with her geography.  In reality, there is a Marietta, Mississippi - near which the story says the farm, Mudbound, is located - but Marietta is not as close to Greenville as Ms Jordan would have you believe.  I will forgive her that discrepancy for giving us this wonderful novel... a little slight of hand with the location of the towns mentioned doesn't harm the story...

Mudbound has the flavor of a historical novel blended with mystery and suspense all in the same tightly written package. The characters are fully fleshed and of both types, those you love and those you love to hate.  Long before the story ends, you'll figure out what's inevitably going to happen... yet there's still a compulsion to continue reading. A surprise is buried in the twisted ending which will leave you feeling both shocked and devastated, yet that ending is wholly appropriate to this compelling tale.

This isn't a YA book by any stretch of the imagination and is also not recommended for those sensitive to violence. Yet with that caviat in mind, I do recommend this book to the majority of readers looking for something that doesn't fit into the "light and fluffy" category

Thursday, July 16, 2009

In Search Of The Truth

The Daugher of Time
By Josephine Tey
Hardcover: 206 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster, Inc
Rated 5 stars of 5 possible.

Truth is the daugher of time - Old Proverb

While laid up with a broken leg, Inspector Alan Grant of Scotland Yard becomes interested in one of history's most famous and vicious crimes. Taking up his friend's suggestion that he do some academic investigation, Grant determines to find out whether Richard III killed his brother's children to secure his own claim to the crown or whether Richard could have been the victim of the usurpers of England's throne. Can Inspector Grant uncover the truth after all these centuries?  Josephine Tey (aka Elizabeth MacKintosh) weaves a compelling tale in which she defends Richard III against the horrible accusation posed in most history books.

The main character, Inspector Grant, strikes me as being a work-a-holic, never content to relax or to accept the status quo. I was fascinated by the information uncovered by Inspector Grant and would have liked to have seen a bibliography of sources used to provide the alternate view of history. Such sources would make possible my own research along the lines this character followed.  As it is, I now question whether historians have given us an accurate account of the happenings roughly 520 years past and do not lightly accept one author's view of history.  Perhaps that is enough...

Friday, July 10, 2009

Powerful and Deeply Moving

The Help
by Kathryn Stockett
Hardcover: 464 pages
Publisher: Putnam Adult (February 10, 2009)
Rated 5 stars of 5 possible

It is 1962 and the world is at a volitile stage.  Immediately prior to the beginning of the civil rights movement, a young college graduate - Miss Eugenia "Skeeter" Phelan - becomes interested in the plight of colored women working as maids to the elitist white women in Jackson Mississippi. "A deeply moving novel filled with poignancy, humor, and hope, The Help is a timeless and universal story about the lines we abide by, and the ones we don't." - (Stockett, 2009)

Ms Stockett does a good job of realistically portraying the characters, making the reader a part of the story from page one. Her antagonists (especially the hypocritical and pushy Hilly Holbrook) were so realistic I wanted to tell them where to go, just as I would do in real life with people bearing the same personalities... and I wanted to alternately hug and beat some sense into the annoyingly passive Elizabeth Leefolt. who does only what she's told instead of showing any of her own initiative.  Miss Skeeter, Aibileen and Minny are, of course, to be admired for their determination and courage and daring.

Important historical events such as the murder of Medgar Evers and the assinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy were accurately placed at the times where they belong. This helped give a realistic historical sense of the times depicted as well as enhancing the story. The liberties taken with history were minor - using a couple of songs prior to the time those tunes had actually been released - which actually helped the story progress rather than working against it as a major historical flaw would have done.

The Help is one of the best new novels I've read this year - quite possibly the best of the best.  It should not be missed.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Worthwhile, but Not For Everyone

The Little Giant of Aberdeen County
by Tiffany Baker
Hardcover: 341 pages
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing (January 8, 2009)
Rated 4 stars of 5 possible

The Little Giant of Aberdeen County explores the prejudices and discriminatory practices used against a girl born with a hormonal disorder that causes her to become enormous. How she deals with the townspeople makes an intriguing story, but some parts push the suspension of disbelief a little too far.

For instance, in one chapter, the main character talks about things that happen before she was born. She could not possibly know these things from personal experience, yet she speaks as if she were watching on the sidelines or directly involved. She does not say "I was told..." or any similar phrase to qualify her narration of these events. Fortunately, the chapters in this book are not extremely long and the author does not obviously continue this disturbing practice in later chapters.

In all, the novel is a nicely paced, smoothly narrated page turner that I found well worth reading. Most parts of the story are so realistically told that I had to keep reminding myself "this is fiction."  The author does a credible job of making the reader a part of the world of this story, which has an appropriately satisfying ending.  Recommended to readers age 14 and up who are looking for something very different to read and who can tolerate the bit of pushing on the suspension of disbelief envelope which happens early in the story.