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.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

A Tale of Ancient Greece

Glory and the Lightning
Taylor Caldwell
Hardcover: 500 pages
Publisher: Doubleday and Co. Inc. (1974)
Rated 5 stars of 5 possible

Glory and the Lightning is based on the life of Aspasia, the beautiful and intelligent courtesan who eventually became the companion of Pericles, ruler of Athens. Rejected by her father, and hidden from him by her mother, Aspasia, when she is but a few days old, is given to and raised by a woman who runs a high-class school for courtesans. Aspasia receives an education well above what most women of her time are allowed.

Much research and imagination went into the creation of this marvelous tapestry of ancient Greece. While the culture has it's attractions, the barbaric treatment of most women at that time is likely to be repulsive to some. Still, I find the novel to be a page turner. The historical facts presented here are accurate enough to give the reader a clear picture of the early 5th century BC... and if the author took a few liberties with her facts... well, the book IS sold as fiction, not a book of history, after all.

I recommend this to readers interested in fiction that is laced with lots of imagination and has some interesting historical personages as the main characters, as well as some relevant historical information.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Bizarre Excuses

The Cat Ate My Gym Suit  
by Paula Danziger      
Format: Paperback, 148 pages  
Publisher: Yearling (1983)
Rated 3 stars of 5 possible

Marcy Lewis, a girl with a poor self-image and a slight weight problem hates gym class, so she gives her teacher some bizarre and untrue excuses why she can't particpate in the class activities. This book's title is just one of those excuses. Then, along comes Ms. Finney, a new English teacher who does not believe in saluting the flag and teaches her classes using controversial methods that make the more conservative members of the community - including Mr. Stone, the school principal - feel uncomfortable. Marcy's father is also opposed to the methods used by Ms. Finney. The thing is, Ms. Finney not only teaches good English and makes her classes interesting, she also teaches good commuication skills, thinking outside the box, and gives the students a new-found confidence in themselves.

The concept is good, the writing decent, but the humor falls flat all too often, so I'm downgrading the rating of this book to just three stars because I don't feel the story has the impact it could possibly have. Of the suporting cast of characters, Marcy's mother could be a little more aware that she's probably a big part of her daugher's weight problem by serving ice cream whenever Marcy comes home after a bad day at school - of which there are far too many... Mother, of course does realize her contribution to Marcy's excess weight but is rather slow to do anything about it; nor does Marcy ever seem to realize what she is doing to herself.

And then there's the little brother, Stuart. He loves Marcy with the innocence that only very young children seem to have, but he's far too cute and is not just a scene stealer but a complete show-stealer. Too much focus is on little brother. More focus should be on Marcy, since she is the main character and little Stuart only part of a large supporting cast.

Recommended for Paula Danziger fans... and might be usable as a discussion book in junior highschool English classes.  Regrettably, it's not for everyone.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Fantasy At Its Zaniest

Dark Lord of Derkholm
By Diana Wynne Jones
Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: Greenwillow; 1st edition (October 29, 1998)
Rated 5 stars of 5 possible

Derkholm is a fantasy world peopled with wizards and griffins and dragons and a variety of other interesting types of people, including some who are ordinary and some extraordinary.  It is also a tourist attraction for another world, but the people of Derkholm are fed up with the tyrannical Mr. Chesney and his pilgrim parties so they petition their High Chancellor to put a stop to these expeditions once and for all.

What follows is more fun than a barrel of monkeys when Wizard Derk is chosen to be this year's Dark Lord and his son Blade is chosen to be the Wizard Guide. Even the dragons and griffins have to get into the act... and then, of course, Murphy's Law intervenes. Dark Lord of Derkholm is fantasy at its zaniest. I haven't laughed so hard since I first read Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy many years ago.

Recommended to fantasy lovers age 12 and up who are not put off by some violence in the story, which, in this case is a necessary part of the plot.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Almost A Changeling

The Secret Garden
By Frances Hodgson Burnett
Hardcover: 375 pages
The Phillips Publishing Co (1910, 1911)
Rated 4 stars of 5 possible

Written nearly 100 years ago, The Secret Garden is one of many coming of age stories in existence. Mary Lennox, a very unpleasant young girl, is suddenly orphaned. She travels from India, where she was born and spent the first part of her life, to England so that she may be cared for by her only surviving relative, an old Uncle, who has a secret that he has kept for ten years.

The author had me intrigued first with Mary, then with her Uncle's secret... and after that, with Mary's progress as she becomes more civilized, changing from a half-wild and completely unlikable person into someone the reader can care about and who is important to other characters in the story...

Despite variances in the English language which have occurred within the last century, I found this refreshing and delightful tale was easily understandable and quite different from most of the YA novels of today. I recommend it to all readers from age 10 and up who are looking for something different. 

While this book can probably be found either used or in a new edition at many bookstores, the reader will also be able to download The Secret Garden free from Project Gutenberg. There are several different formats from which to choose at the first link, Or, if you prefer to listen, Project Gutenberg has several different audio formats available as well.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Madness and Mayhem

First Family
by David Baldacci
Hardcover: 464 pages
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing (April 21, 2009)
Rated 4 stars of 5 possible

A child's birthday party ends in a kidnapping. Murder, mayhem, and secrets are soon to be revealed. The First Family of the USA is clearly involved, but just how deep does their involvement go?  A former Secret Service agent turned PI is chasing her own demons, but puts her own concerns aside to follow up on the kidnapping along with her partner, another former Secret Service agent...

David Baldacci's thriller is gripping, non-stop action, slightly reminiscent of some of the early John Grisham novels but also clearly a different style of writing. Fast paced and very ingriguing, I found First Family very hard to put down. While this is the fourth book featuring the two former Secret Service agents, First Family stands on its own, it is quite readable as a stand-alone book.

Be warned, however, if you are looking for a book that's been carefully edited and free of typographical and grammatical errors, this isn't it. Without even looking for such errors, I found about five of them throughout the novel.  Unlike other reviewers, I didn't get bored reading First Family, nor do I believe it precisely fits into the old formulaic kids' detective story format. And oh yes, those annoying typos? The story was so gripping I didn't have time to be annoyed at the editing - or lack thereof - but I do think such sloppy editing reflects badly on the publisher and on the author...