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, June 27, 2010

Main Character Not Respectable

Nose Down, Eyes Up
Merrill Markoe
Villard (2008)
Hardcover, 320 pages
Rated 4 stars of 5 possible

What if you could really have a two-way conversation with your dog? No, I mean a REAL conversation, you know, where the dog can respond to you and you understand immediately what he's saying, without you having to spend hours figuring out what he means... Nose Down, Eyes Up by Merrill Markoe takes that premise and runs with it, straight into the funniest novel I've read this year.

When Gil discovers that he can understand what his dog is telling the other dogs, he tries to develop the dog, Jimmy, and his advice into a marketable commodity via the internet.

While the premise of this novel is good and the story pretty funny, there were also times I wanted to hit Gil on the head... He was pretty stupid to be getting involved with his ex-wife after she had gotten married to someone else, plus, the way he treated his girl friend kept me from being able to respect him as an honorable person... These things, along with the fact that some of Gil's personal life seemed to have little or nothing to contribute to the story kept me from giving this novel the full five stars.

Nevertheless, read this novel if you want some laughs, but only if you can tolerate some stupidity in the main character.  This review has simultaneously been posted on Dragon Views, LibraryThing and Amazon.com.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Engrossing Tale

Watermark: A Novel of the Middle Ages
By Vanitha Sankaran
Avon A (2010), Paperback, 368 pages
Rated 5 stars of 5 possible.

Watermark is the story of a young woman, Auda, who is different than others because she is albino and mute, and her struggle to survive in the middle ages. Ignorance and superstition are common place in Auda's time; she must combat these enemies, along with the Inquisition and society's senseless fear of anything that's different. I found the map of France, included in the front of the book, to be quite helpful.

I love the way this story unfolds, starting with the drama attendant upon Auda's birth and then, what seemingly passes for a normal life, until Auda has become a young adult. The true details of history and paper making included in the story as well as the carefully developed characters and their actions make this novel a page turner. There are both kinds of characters in this story; those you love and those you love to hate... still, I wasn't entirely prepared for the shocking ending... and, no, I'm not gonna tell... well, okay I'll just say this: it wasn't completely unexpected, but I did wish someone else had turned out to be Auda's betrayer.

In some books, the supporting addenda are almost as interesting as the main story.  This is especially true of Watermark. In addition to the great story, and the aforementioned map, my copy of Watermark contains:
  • An author's note that I recommend to readers finishing the book,
  • A glossary of words originating in five other languages which were used in the book and which may be unfamiliar to many readers,
  • A chronology of important events in the middle ages, and
  • A selected bibliography for readers who may wish to read more about the historical events and influences behind the novel...
and that's not all, but I'll leave the rest for you to discover on your own.

I highly recommend this intriguing novel to lovers of historical fiction, and to those looking for something different to read.  This review has been simultaneously published on Amazon.com, Dragon Views and LibraryThing.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Good Versus Evil - With A Twist

Burned: Volume 7 in the House of Night series
P. C. Cast and Kristin Cast
St. Martin's Griffin (2010),
Hardcover, 384 pages
Rated 4 stars of 5 possible
Burned House of Night P.C. and Kristin CastThe first thing I noticed about the novel, Burned, is the quiet elegance of the dust jacket design which you can see to your left, courtesy of the publisher. Pictures of the previous six novels grace the back cover.  Yes, once again I find myself reading a series but not starting with the first book. Since I'm new to the House of Night series, this will be a good test to see if this book can stand alone.  A well-written series book should be able to stand alone, but some series books other than this have failed the test.

The next thing I noticed: the inside of the dust jacket could double as a poster.  No doubt, some teens will love that feature. And even stripped of the dust jacket entirely, this is one very nice looking book. Front, back and spine boards are illustrated in a design that coordinates with, yet does not duplicate the design used for the dust jacket. That's a nice change from the plain, undecorated covers used on so many books these days.  So much for the impressive appearance... now to get at the contents.
Burned hooked me at once and has been an interesting read. The characters, for the most part, are well developed, and believable. However, at times, the teen-speak seems a bit too mature for the characters. While not entirely flawless, the writing is very well done. I'm fairly sure that fans of Stephenie Meyer's Twilight will probably love the House of Night series, while those who don't love Twilight aren't likely to love Burned either. As for me, I'm very interested in what contemporary writers are doing with vampires; this is quite different than the prototype, Count Dracula, and highly enjoyable. This book makes me want to round up the entire series so I can read them in order.

While the basic plot of Burned is good versus evil, which is probably the oldest plot in the universe, this mother-daughter team approaches the ancient battle from new directions and with intriguing characters. This easy to read, fairly fast-paced tale has it all; the good, the bad, the aggravating... right down to some scenes being a little too drawn-out. Now for that test I mentioned a few paragraphs back... While Burned doesn't entirely fail as a stand alone novel, some references to past events (probably described in one or another of the previous six novels) could do with a bit more explanation.

I highly recommed the House of Night series to fans of vampire literature and to those looking for something different to read. While starting with Burned is possible, it's not the best place to begin this series.  Instead, go back and read Marked first, followed by the other volumes of this series in order of publication (Betrayed, Chosen, Untamed, Hunted, Tempted), ending with Burned. That way, you won't get a lost feeling when some of the past events are mentioned.

The publisher has also graciously allowed me to post links to the video trailer, the song from the trailer, and first chapter of the book, all of which you will find below. A finished copy of the hardcover first edition of this book was provided to me free by the publisher in exchange for this review. The text of this review has simultaneously been published on Dragon Views and LibraryThing, including the links to the extra bonus material. I will probably also post the text of the review sans the good stuff on Amazon.com.

Trailer:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kmJjEDZJkYc

Song: http://www.houseofnightseries.com/pages/downloads.html#songs

First chapter: http://www.houseofnightseries.com/pages/burnedxrpt.html

House Of Night Website: http://www.houseofnightseries.com/index.html

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Not Entirely Unique

Run for Your Life
By James Patterson and
Michael Ledwidge
Little, Brown and Company (2009)
Hardcover, 384 pages
Rated 4 stars of 5 possible

A serial killer, who calls himself "The Teacher" is on the loose in NYC, targeting the powerful and the arrogant. The killer's targets seem random at first, but Detective Michael Bennett is on the trail. Raising his 10 adopted children has prepared Detective Bennett for a job that would overwhelm anyone else with the pressure of solving the high-profile case. Can Michael Bennett stop the Teacher's lessons?

While the basic plot of this novel isn't entirely unique, the authors handle this story in a fresh manner, enticing the reader to continue with this page-turner to see what happens next. There's a lot of "family stuff" in the book that didn't seem to add much to the story but serves to indoctrinate the reader, who may not have read the previous novel about Detective Bennett.

While I enjoyed this novel as an aside from reading my usual generes, I probably won't actively seek out the previous Michael Bennet novel, nor the future ones, as I have too many authors and series to follow at this time.  However, if other novels about this character find their way into my hands, I am likely to read them.

This review has been simultaneously published on LibraryThing and Dragon Views.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

A Picture of Nineteenth Century Life

Original Sins: A Novel of Slavery and Freedom
Peg Kingman
W. W. Norton & Company (2010)
Hardcover, 432 pages
Rated 4 stars of 5 possible

Original Sins is a novel of slavery and freedom, friendship and trust. Anibaddh is a runaway slave who has built a fortune in the East Indies as a silk merchant... but she feels that something is missing from her life. The maternal bond is enough to compel Anibaddh to risk her freedom, and that of her two sons by returning to Virginia to discover the fate of the child she left behind eighteen years previously.

A picture of nineteenth century life in America is beautifully evoked, giving the reader a sense of the prejudice and injustice and the basic unfairness and discrimination women of that time faced. For example, when a woman got married, all that was hers became the property of her husband, unless these possessions and monies were set aside in her name before marriage (the equivalent of today's pre-nuptual agreement.) Anibaddh's friend, Grace discovers this when she tries to emancipate an old slave that her uncle "purchased" with money set aside by Grace's mother in trust for Grace while she was a child.

The novel is steadily paced and consistently kept my interest from beginning to end. Much information about the Daguerroype process has been incorportated into the story, adding to the interest of the tale in a believable way. A few characters in the book are based on real-life individuals and the actions of these characters is fairly consistent with what is known about them. The story makes progress from beginning to end in a stately way, not too fast, but perhaps a little on the slow side, yet because the tale is so compelling, I didn't mind. The slower pace is sometimes better than a page-turning, breathless frenzy, because it gives the reader a chance to relax and enjoy the show.

Recommended for readers of historical fiction, and for those who are looking for a change of pace.  I rate this novel a high 4 stars, but it's just a little short of me being able to give it the full five-star rating.

This advance reading copy was sent to me free by the publisher in exchange for this review. This review has simultaneously been posted on Dragon Views, and LibraryThing.