Friday, June 25, 2010

The Black Gryphon - Mercedes Lackey, Larry Dixon

Rated: D

The Black Gryphon (Mage Wars)

"This book is listed as part of the Heralds of Valdemar series, but it actually takes place about 1000 years before Valdemar even existed. Ma'ar and Urtho, the Mage of Silence, are at war with one another. Skandranon, one of Urtho's gryphons, is a spectacular aerial fighter. Amberdrake, Skan's human friend, heals the minds, hearts, and, sometimes, bodies of many of the soldiers and healers, but even he sometimes needs a shoulder to lean on. Winterhart might be someone Amberdrake could come to depend on, but first she has to get past the secret about herself that she's buried and her belief that the nonhumans in Urtho's army are little more than somewhat intelligent animals. Zhaneel, another gryphon, has suffered because the humans around her believed that, but, with help from friends, her stunted self-esteem blossoms. In the end, they must all try to survive the consequences of the Mage Wars."
Melissa Cookson, Resident Scholar


This book didn't really do it for me. I'm pretty picky about books that feature other species like gryphons, faeries, elves, etc. All of the races here acted very human. I understand that part of the point here was interracial cooperation (showed through the species) and that the other species are human equals, but I feel that emotionally they should be tinged with other qualities. The story line was kind of iffy too - it ended up being kind of like a fantasy romance novel. It was a very stereo-typical for this genre, which isn't necessarily always a bad thing, but in this case it was for me. I knew EVERYTHING about what was going to happen within the first three chapters. It kinda takes the fun out of it when you know who's going to hook up with who, who's going to die, who's actually a was too easy to see through! I'm the queen of looking up the ending of a book before I finish reading it, but the fun is in seeing how things get to that end.


A below-average book, but its good if you are in the mood for exactly what this book has to offer - no surprises, fantasy war and love.


Sci-fi/fantasy readers, romance readers who don't mind other species being featured in the novel.
Fantasy/Sci-Fi Readers who don't mind romance.

Aquamarine & Indigo - Alice Hoffman

Rated: 5 stars

Aquamarine And Indigo - Water Tales

Hailey and Claire are best friends and next-door neighbors. Throughout a long hot summer they spend their days at the Capri Beach Club, dreading the end of the season when Claire will move with her grandparents to Florida. The two girls are often the only ones using the Beach Club, which is in disrepair and will close at the end of the summer. After a violent storm that whips waves from the beach into the pool, they discover a mysterious presence at the bottom of the pool - a mermaid who has become separated from her kin and is in search of love on land. As they work together to help the mermaid survive and find her heart's desire, Hailey and Claire learn to accept their pending separation and appreciate the magic of each moment they spend together with Aquamarine.

The people of Oak Grove fear water because their town once endured a terrible flood, so they do everything to keep water out of the town. Martha Glimmer and her friends, Trevor and Eli McGill, feel different from others in the town. Martha's sadness is largely due to her mother's recent death. Her father has withdrawn into his own sorrow and allowed a neighbor, Hildy Swoon, to provide meals and tend their house, but Martha resents her presence bitterly. Trevor and Eli, nicknamed Trout and Eel by those who make fun of the webbing between their fingers, have had odd habits ever since they were brought to town by their adoptive parents. The boys like to add salt to their drinking water, prefer fish to any other food, and free the frogs from the science lab at school. Martha, Trout and Eel decide to leave home to find what each most desires, but their running is cut short by a storm that brings all characters in the story face to face with their own true nature.


I was really, really surprised when I started reading this book - it hadn't occurred to me that Alice Hoffman had ever written children's books or young adult novels. I just saw who the author was and added the book to my wishlist, as I usually enjoy Alice Hoffman novels. So imagine my surprise when I cracked open the book! It wasn't what I wanted to read, and as its a children's book, I don't have a whole lot to say. I would say its innovative as far as a children's book goes and that my 8 year old cousin would probably love it.


Cute little kid short stories - definitely for a younger audience


Children, probably aged 7-10. Younger if the child has the stamina for a simple chapter book.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Shoe Queen - Anna Davis

Rated: 9 stars

The Shoe Queen

1920s Paris. The ‘Crazy Years’. English society beauty Genevieve Shelby King parties till dawn with the artists and writers of bohemian Montparnasse. She has a rich husband, a glamorous apartment and an enormous shoe collection. But there is something hollow at the centre of Genevieve’s charmed life.

When she spots a pair of unique and exquisite shoes on the feet of her arch rival one night, her whole collection – indeed, everything she has – seems suddenly worthless. The exclusive designer Paolo Zachari, renowned for his fabulous shoes and his secretive life, hand-picks his clients according to whim. And Zachari has determined to say no to Genevieve.

As her desire for the pair of unobtainable shoes develops into an obsession with their elusive creator, Genevieve’s elaborately designed life comes under threat, and she is forced to confront the emptiness at its heart.


I first read Anna Davis in her novel Cheet, a novel about a woman who carries a different cell phone for each boy she's with. I was shocked when I found out The Shoe Queen is by the same woman! This is a complete change in genre, yet she doesn't fall short. This novel is filled with mystery - yet nothing that would not be found in any other woman's life in this time period. It's about the love versus duty. It is not - as the title implies some shopping crazed woman - Genevieve has great character depth. She's a real woman - which I love. Its hard to describe, but too often characters become mostly flawed, or mostly good. Genevieve does not have "flaws" or "good attributes" - she just is. I think Davis's approach to characters is my favourite thing about this novel. Everyone is real - its not separated into good or bad.

I also think she did a decent job depicting the bohemian life - although I can't say I have done much research in that area. All of the situations were plausible - in fact most of them were based on real events during that time.


A good read. Great character and plot development. A well researched book that feels very real - the way life really happens - no happy endings nor life shattering tragic endings.


Chick lit and historical fiction readers. Any one who understands the beauty of shoes.

Mozart's Sister - Rita Charbonnier


The fascinating life of Wolfgang’s older sister, Nannerl—whose talent may have equaled her brother’s

Maria Anna Walburga Ignatia Mozart, affectionately called Nannerl by her family, could play the piano with an otherworldly skill from the time she was a child. At the tender age of five, she gave her first public performance, amazing the assembled gentlemen and ladies with the beautiful music she created.

Yet it was her brother, Wolfgang, who carried their father’s dreams of glory. As the siblings matured, Nannerl’s prodigious talent was brushed aside. Instead of playing alongside her brother in the world’s great cities, she was forced to stop performing and become a provincial piano teacher to support Wolfgang’s career. Nannerl might have accepted this life in her brother’s shadow but for the appearance of a potential suitor who reawakened her passion for life, for love, for music—and who threatened to upset the delicate balance that kept the Mozart family in harmony.


I thought this book was fantastic! Mozart is a household name, yet little is known about h
is prodigy sister. The story was very compelling and I felt the heartbreak and frustration with the protagonist (Mozart's sister). The story is told through different mediums - various letters, although most of the tale is told following Nannerl's point of view. It follows her growth from a young girl full of promise, to a bitter young woman, and ends as she finds herself a mature, grown woman who creates her own happiness. I was pleased to find this book was well researched - Mozart's travels, Nannerl composing, the beliefs and actions of the time period - all of these things are true. The liberties taken during this story to make it a fiction of work are very believable - and probably not too far off from what could have happened.


I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. Full of truth, yet without the stagnancy of a history text, there is much to be learned from this novel. The prose was well-written, the plot well thought out - overall a very well put together book. It has a little bit of everything - romance, drama, and most of all, music.


Firstly, the music lovers - this would speak to you. Historical fiction lovers would also love this novel, as well as those who enjoy a strong female figure.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Hacking Harvard - Robin Wasserman

Rated: 8 stars

Hacking Harvard

It's the ultimate challenge: breaking into the Ivy League.
The hack:
To get one deadbeat, fully unqualified slacker into the most prestigious school in the country.

The crew:
Eric Roth -- the good guy, the voice of reason.
Max Kim -- the player who made the bet in the first place.
Schwartz -- the kid genius already on the inside...of Harvard, that is.
Lexi -- the beauty-queen valedictorian who insists on getting in the game.

The plan:
Use only the most undetectable schemes and techno-brilliant skills. Don't break the Hacker's Code. Don't get distracted. Don't get caught. Take down someone who deserves it.

The stakes:
A lot higher than they think.

They've got the players, the plot, and soon -- the prize.
It's go time.


This is a nice easy read that entertains well without being entire fluff. It takes on the biased admissions process in Ivy League Schools, while managing to keep the story line pretty light. While the ending isn't too hard to figure out, the novel manages to stay fresh with the characters' witty banter and the insight into the stress induced by such a warped admissions system. The story incorporates a couple of unforeseen twists, love, family, friendship, cool technology...basically a little bit of anything anyone would ever want.


A witty, easy read that manages to touch on social issues without become didactic. Well written with a good ending.


Young adult readers, chick lit readers, spy novel readers, computer geek readers - basically anyone from any genre that enjoys a little adrenaline rush.

Vivaldi's Virgins - Barbara Quick

alRated: 9 stars

Vivaldi's Virgins: A Novel


Barbara Quick re-creates eighteenth-century Venice at the height of its splendor and decadence. A story of longing and intrigue, half-told truths and toxic lies, Vivaldi's Virgins unfolds through the eyes of Anna Maria dal Violin, one of the elite musicians cloistered in the foundling home where Antonio Vivaldi—known as the Red Priest of Venice—is maestro and composer.

Fourteen-year-old Anna Maria, abandoned at the Ospedale della Pietà as an infant, is determined to find out who she is and where she came from. Her quest takes her beyond the cloister walls into the complex tapestry of Venetian society; from the impoverished alleyways of the Jewish Ghetto to a masked ball in the company of a king; from the passionate communal life of adolescent girls competing for their maestro's favor to the larger-than-life world of music and spectacle that kept the citizens of a dying republic in thrall. In this world, where for fully half the year the entire city is masked and cloaked in the anonymity of Carnival, nothing is as it appears to be.


You don't have to be a musician or history lover to be intrigued by this book. Narrated by a mostly fictional character, this protagonist gives us an insight into one of the most famous musicians of all time - Antonio Vivaldi. Set in an orphanage for young girls (really it was for illegitimate children), music was one of the few ways to become successful in these places. Vivaldi was a big part of that, composing, conducting, and teaching the students how to play.

This novel described 18th century Venice perfectly - with all of the usual scandal associated with it. Barbara Quick's protagonist had a strong voice, full of questions and yet maturity for a young 14 year old. Her story, and of course Vivaldi's story enrapture the audience through their pains and successes. I also applaud Quick's unique interpretation of Vivaldi's actions towards the end of his life.


A very interesting read. Music lovers will be interested in this of course, but the novel doesn't make Vivaldi a main character to the exclusion of Anna Maria's voice - she has mysteries and dreams of her own. This novel is about a young woman's struggle to find herself in a world where by birth she is excluded.


Music lovers, historical fiction lovers, young adult readers, mystery lovers - this book really gives itself a wide audience.