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, February 27, 2011

Not To Be Missed!

Schindler's Ark    
by Thomas Keneally
and Tim Liang, illustrator
Folio Society, 2009
Hardcover, illustrated, 363 pages
Rated 4 stars of 5 possible

Schindler's Ark
is partly the biography of Oskar Schindler, partly a story of war and atrocity, and still partly a story of humanity. In the latter part of the book, there are some very graphic scenes, making this book not for everyone. While Oskar Schindler achieved fame during World War II for his humane treatment of Jewish prisoners who worked in his munitions factory, the early part of the story makes clear that Herr Schindler was not the respectable type person you might expect... Outside the UK, this book was published as Schindler's List and also filmed under that alternate title.

As one reads through the story, one encouters some rough spots that indicate the author is not very skilled, or perhaps not too knowledgable about his subject.  Those incidents are accounted for in the introduction of this Folio Society edition where Thomas Keneally says he was not best qualified to write this story because, although he is of northern European ancestry, he was raised far away from the sights and sounds of Hitler's regime. While I am on the topic of this Folio Society edition, I must also add that it has been beautifully produced, cloth bound and the cover blocked in gold with an illustration created by the same artist who has done a wonderful job on the frontispiece and eight other interior illustrations. The publisher has chosen to use black and white illustrations inside the book. I feel this adds to the drama and helps indicate that the events depicted in the story happened long ago. The endpaper maps included in this edition help the reader unfamiliar with the locality gain some understanding of the geographical area.

The Folio Society edition follows the text of the first edition, which was published by another firm with only minor emendations, so I can't lay much blame on the Folio Society for this book being a little over-long. Still, I am deducting one star because the author or the editor employed by the original publisher could have reduced some of the less interesting parts of the story to condense it to around 250 or 275 pages; it would, at that length, have made a much better story and flowed more smoothly... Still, Poldek Pfefferberg (one of the many Jewish people whose name was on Schindler's infamous list) was right. This story needed to be told. Thomas Keneally has done a credible job, and Hollywood has actually improved the story with their strategic cutting. The film is better than the book. That's something I don't often say, yet in this case, it's so true.

Recommended, with some reservations. If you prefer a text presentation, possibly including some illustrations, to an audio/video presentation and if you're not overly sensitive to violence but interested in historical accounts, then this book could be for you. On the other hand, if you prefer visuals, the film is a must see item. Either way, Schindler's Ark, aka Schindler's List is not a story you should miss.

This review has been simultaneously published on Dragonviews and LibraryThing.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

No Clear Nemesis, Neutral Characters

Elephant Milk
By Diane Sherry Case
Miraculous Books (2010),
Paperback, 164 pages
Rated 3 stars of 5 possible

Elephant Milk is a surreal, coming of age story that takes place in 1969, mostly in Mexico. Amid her experiments with sex, drugs and finding herself, 17-year-old Sean also has to deal with her dysfunctional family and her mother's obsession with being a famous movie star.  After finding some black clothes beside the road that are wet with blood, Sean makes the decision that the best way to deal with her problems is to run away to Mexico, after her boyfriend.  Once in Mexico, Sean needs a way to get around, so she joins a traveling Circus... and that's where the real fun begins.

I should preface my remarks about this book by saying I'm not the intended audience for this book. Still, I appreciated some of the events in the story and the characterization. Diane Sherry Case has created some interesting characters, and has caught the flavor of the time depicted.  So, with that said, why did I rate the book only 3 stars?  Admittedly, this story even had 4 star potential, but the good characters just weren't likable enough... in fact, with the exception of Sean and her circus master/boss, and his wife, Ana, I found all the characters to be fairly neutral. There also is not any clear nemesis in the story, which could have made the book more interesting, if a bit longer. I had such high hopes for that too, when Sean found the bloody black clothing.

There are points in the story that would make for good discussion group material and the intended audience may appreciate Sean and her confused time of self-enlightenment more than I could. Oh, and the cover art - absolutely wonderful. That's what drew me to this book in the first place.

This book was received free from the author in exchange for this review. This review has been simultaneously posted at Dragon Views, LibraryThing, and Amazon.com

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Role Reversal

My Sparkling Misfortune
Laura Lond
Dream Books LLC (2010)
Print length: 164 pages
Rated 5 stars of 5 possible

My Sparkling Misfortune is a novella-length story aimed at middle school kids who love fantasy, yet also appeals to any age reader. The well-crafted story is told from the point of view of a very unusal protagonist - a villain, who is quick to let us know he is a villain by trade, and that we shouldn't expect him to be going around doing good deeds.

In general, one isn't supposed to like a villain, but the protagonist of this novel starts collecting a fan club almost from the first page and through no fault of his own. The hero-villain role reversal that occurs in this novella makes for good discussion material as well as bringing a new point of interest into the story.  Kudos to the author for bringing a most entertaining and unusual story to readers of all ages. My Sparkling Misfortune is the first of a new series, which, if the following books are anything like this first one, should be a big hit with readers young and old alike.

I have to recommend this often humorous, always entertaining novella to those readers looking for a quick, fun read and laughs on almost every page. The PDF document format of My Sparkling Misfortune was received free from the author in exchange for this review.   

This review has been simultaneously posted on Dragonviews and LibraryThing.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Continuing Character; Loosely Connected

Long Lost
Harlan Coben
Dutton Adult (2009)
Hardcover, 384 pages
Rated 5 stars of 5 possible

Myron Bolitar is a continuing character created by Harlan Coben. While many books written before Long Lost have starred Detective Bolitar, they do not seem to be more than loosely connected so that, this book, for instance, can be a stand-alone as well as part of the series depicting this long-suffering detective.

Long Lost
is at once a family tragedy and a murder mystery that leads to a previously unsuspected terrorist plot with global implications. Author Harlan Coben skillfully tells the intricate tale in an addicting, page turning manner that will hook you from page one and not let you go until you have regretfully finished this stunning tale.

While this is the first novel of Coben's that I have read, it will not be the last. The suspense that builds from the beginning throughout this novel and the  professionally edited writing bring the reader to appreciate the intensity of the carefully dramatized story. The flawed and very human characters bring the story to life right in front of the reader.  That's the mark of an excellent writer, and Mr. Coben fits the bill nicely.

Recommended for readers of mysteries from 17 to 117...

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

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Not Consistently Interesting

Slumdog Millionaire
Vikas Swarup
Scribner (2008),
Paperback, 336 pages
Rated 3 stars of 5 possible

Slumdog Millionaire is a take-off on the famous quiz show, Who Wants to be a Millionaire. When an 18 year old waiter incredibly answers all 12 questions correctly, he is arrested and locked in jail while the company sponsoring the show tries to prove the waiter cheated so they won't have to pay him. Each chapter of the book is a chapter of the young waiter's life, and it illustrates how he knew the answers to the valuable questions.

The questions asked covered a variety of subjects. The possiblity that our protagonist could have enough knowledge of to answer the questions correctly, seemed like a long shot, yet each and every time, the young man was able to give the proper answer. As each question was asked, I was thinking, someone from that game show must have known the protagonist's life story to always be able to choose a question he could answer... yet this was never revealed in the book.

While I did find a few points of interest in this overly long tale, I did not find this novel consistently interesting. In fact some chapters were long enough to tempt me to skip some of the tale, which temptation I mostly resisted until the end, when I did skip some of the chapter just before the finale. I found that long chapter to be just too uninteresting. The ending itself was predictable, the book nothing I would recommend to most readers.

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

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Historical Fiction With A Circus Feel...

The Transformation of Bartholomew Fortuno
Ellen Bryson
Henry Holt and Co. (2010)
Paperback ARC, 350 pages
Rated 4 stars of 5 possible.

Well before he became associated with circuses, P.T. Barnum owned a museum in lower Manhattan, which he called Barnum's American Museum. Barnum specialized in amusements and oddities. He liked to seek out and employ those who were different than the norm.  Bearded ladies, fat ladies, thin men, strong men, Siamese twins, any and all who could boast of being or doing something unusual. This is the story of the thinnest man in the world, who proudly boasts that his unusual body is a gift. The story follows Fortuno as he becomes discontented with his life as a performer and his transformation from an oddity to a normal human being.

From the first page, The Transformation of Bartholomew Fortuno has the flavor of a circus sideshow, despite Fortuno and his colleagues making quite clear that working in Barnum's museum is (to their point of view) better than working in a circus. The reader is captured early on and does not escape from this page-turning adventure before the last page is done. Parts of the story are told through newspaper clippings and correspondence, included as illustrative material rather than merely described.  These epherma contribute a genuine historical feel to the novel, lending an air of authenticity which would otherwise be lacking.

Following the usual acknowledgements and about the author blurb at the back of the book, there is an essay about how the author came to write this novel. The essay is as interesting as the novel itself, and provides a bit of background that helps make the story come alive for the reader. I didn't find this essay until I had finished the main story, but some readers might like to read the short material first, others could view it as a spoiler, meant to be read last, if at all.

Recommended to readers of historical fiction, and even to those who just like a good story. This review has been simultaneously published on Dragon Views, LibraryThing and Amazon.com