Saturday, May 31, 2008

Talking to Dragons

Title: Talking to Dragons
Author: Patricia C. Wrede

What it's about: So, one day a wizard shows up at the cottage where Daystar and his mother live on the edge of the Enchanted Forest. Daystar's mother sends him into the forest with a sword and orders to not come back until he knows why he had to leave. Although his mother trained him well, Daystar's still pretty confused, but he gets help along the way from various allies, including a lizard named Suz and a witch named Morwen. He also makes some new friends, including a fire-witch named Shiara and a young dragon.

What I thought: This is my favorite of all the books in The Enchanted Forest Chronicles. I like Daystar as a protagonist. While he knows enough stuff about dealing with the world of the Enchanted Forest, like not making foolish promises and being polite, he's also not such a know-it-all that he's unlikeable or that there's no challenge. And while it's usually annoying when the protagonist is sent off on a quest without being told much, in this case we find that there's actually a good reason for it. Daystar's sensible without being annoying, virtuous but not to the point of stupidity. Overall, a realistic, likable character. Shiara's good, too, with her rudeness actually having negative effects, even annoying Daystar. So this isn't a case of rudeness masquerading as spunkiness and annoying the reader. This book, I think, is just the most solid as its own adventure without having to rely on fairy tale parody out of the four books in this series.

Overall: Definitely worth reading up to this point.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Calling on Dragons

Title: Calling on Dragons
Author: Patricia C. Wrede

What it's about: Wizards are causing trouble in the Enchanted Forest again, and Morwen the witch is right in the middle of things. She's the one whose cats discover the six-foot rabbit, and when it's found that the king's sword, the blade that's linked to the magic of the Enchanted Forest, has gone missing, Morwen is in the search party to retrieve it, along with Cimorene, the Queen of the Enchanted Forest, Kazul, King of the Dragons, Telemain, a magician and magical theorist, a couple of cats, and the aforementioned rabbit.

What I thought: Morwen's an interesting narrator, so this was an enjoyable read. The various fairy tale spoofs were, as always, funny and interesting, and the main conflict of the story worked out nicely and logically. I suppose my main beef with this book is that it seemed more like a setup for the fourth book.

Overall: Not bad, but I wouldn't say this stands out as the best book of the series or anything.

With the previous review, I hit my monthly quota of twenty-five books. I may yet get another title read tomorrow, while we're still in May, so once June rolls around, I'll see about doing a monthly wrap-up post, maybe with the best and worst of the month (possibly including April's books, too), stuff like that. Until next time!

The Little Prince

Title: The Little Prince
Author: Antoine de Saint Exupéry

What it's about: An airman stranded in the desert meets a curious little person who claims to come from another planet. We learn, through the airman's narration, about the boy and his journeys from the little planet he'd lived on to various other planets and then to Earth, as well as about the lessons he'd learned, which he in turn imparted to the airman.

What I thought: I was puzzled about how to review this book because how do you really summarize and review the beauty of The Little Prince? This story about staying true to your inner child and learning the value of friendship imparts these lessons in a way that really can only be called beautiful. The illustrations only help augment the simple beauty of the text, the plain but profound language. Yes, I'm getting a little uncharacteristically poetic, but once you read this book, you'll understand why.

Overall: A must-read for all members of the human race.

Searching for Dragons

Title: Searching for Dragons
Author: Patricia C. Wrede

What it's about: Mendanbar is the king of the Enchanted Forest. While taking a walk through his domain, he comes across a patch of forest that's been turned into a wasteland. At first he suspects dragons, but a chat with Morwen, a sensible witch, sets him straight, and Mendanbar goes to visit the King of the Dragons. However, the Kazul, King of the Dragons has gone missing, so Mendanbar teams up with Cimorene, the King of the Dragon's princess, to go find Kazul and figure out what's been going on.

What I thought: Mendanbar is easier to identify with than Cimorene because he seems a bit more realistic, worry about stuff, getting things wrong, etc. Cimorene, too, isn't as perfect as she was in the previous book. Also, Searching seems to me to have a little more sense of danger to it than the first book, which was more of a funny fractured fairy tale. The supporting characters, like Willin, Telemain, Morwen, Jack, and the various other folks Mendanbar and Cimorene
meet on their journey are also interesting. This volume keeps the parodies of fairy tales going, but there's more to the story this time, which makes Searching for Dragons even more entertaining than its predecessor.

Overall: A fun read.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Dealing With Dragons

Title: Dealing With Dragons
Author: Patricia Wrede

What it's about: Cimorene isn't a traditional princess, and she doesn't like traditional princessy things. So she goes to live with a dragon, only instead of being kidnapped, she volunteers. Cimorene and the dragon, Kazul, get along just swimmingly, and they work to foil a plot by some evil wizards, poking fun at fairy tale and fantasy cliches along the way.

What I thought: Cimorene seems a little too on top of things, you know? I get that she's supposed to be different from the stereotypical damsel in distress, but I think this book has the flattest main character of any of Wrede's stories. Not that this book is by any means bad, however. It's delightful and funny, and it's really worth reading. At the least, give it a read so you can check out the next three books in the Enchanted Forest Chronicles.

Overall: Entertaining, but not a favorite.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Princess and the Pauper

Title: The Princess and the Pauper
Author: Kate Brian

What it's about: Princess Carina of Vineland hates being a princess. She wishes she had the freedom normal girls do. So when Carina has to go to Los Angeles as part of a goodwill tour, she and her friend Ingrid make plans to slip away from the delegation so Carina can meet her internet boyfriend and rock musician. Enter Julia Johnson. Julia's a normal girl who lives in LA with her mother. They're only barely able to make ends meet, and Julia can only afford to go to the classy high school she attends because of a scholarship. When Carina and Ingrid meet Julia, they notice Julia could pass for Carina with the right hair and makeup work. A plan is hatched for the two girls to switch places, and plenty of interesting stuff happens.

What I thought: Carina almost seems like she was written to be a cliche foil to Julia's more normal, realistic character. Not that Carina isn't interesting and doesn't get some development, but I think that Julia and Ingrid are much more dynamic. Um. The book's funny, and it doesn't seem unrealistic in the little ways which could make or break a story, and the bigger stuff doesn't seem too unrealistic, any more than a plot like this inherently is. Well, this is teen fiction for girls, definitely, but the romance stuff, while there, is definitely the B-plot of things. I also like how the mother-daughter relationships are played out.

Overall: Not everyone's gonna like this one, but it's not bad for its genre.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


Title: Matilda
Author: Roald Dahl

What it's about: Matilda, though only five years old, is a genius. She's reading and doing math better than kids years older than her. However, will all her smarts keep her from being terrorized by the Trunchbull, the fearsome headmistress of her school? In order to help herself and her teacher Miss Honey, Matilda has to make use of her special talents to get rid of the Trunchbull once and for all.

What I thought: I have to admit, I'm having a hard time thinking of something to say other than that this is a really good book. I mean, all the characters are well-drawn, from the titular protagonist to Miss Honey to Miss Trunchbull. Dahl shows some great imagination in Miss Trunchbull's villainy, and he pokes scorching fun at dopey parents and other things with his wit. Look, Dahl's a literary genius, read his books, and that's really all I should need to say.

Overall: Great story.

No More Dead Dogs

Title: No More Dead Dogs
Author: Gordon Korman

What it's about: Wallace Wallace, football star of Bedford Middle School, is on detention and off the team. When Wallace is assigned a book review for Old Shep, My Pal, he tells the truth and says that he hates it. The problem is, Wallace's English teacher Mr. Fogelman loves the book - in fact, he's adapted it into a play that the school's drama club will be performing. So until Wallace writes a book review that satisfies Mr. Fogelman, he has to sit in on the drama club's rehearsals. Wallace isn't the only one who's upset about this. Rachel Turner, a seventh grade girl and Serious Actress, finds Wallace's comments on the play to be disrespectful and irritating, and it doesn't help that her best friend Trudi fawns all over Wallace. Add to that the fact that a mysterious someone is sabotaging the play, and you've got a wild theatrical adventure.

What I thought: First of all, the characters in this story are good. There are four viewpoint characters, and they range from the Wallace the hero, to Rachel the long-suffering drama queen, to Trudi the ditz, to Mr. Fogelman the uptight teacher. But while you can assign stereotypes to these guys, and to quite a few other characters in the book, those labels aren't the whole of their characters. (Well, maybe for Trudi... But she's comic relief, anyway.) Also, a book that gives a good portrayal of drama geeks is always awesome. The plot is light and funny, things are over-the-top in a good way, and the characters have realistic development arcs. This is a solid read for a younger crowd (high school age).

Overall: A fun and funny book.

Monday, May 26, 2008


Title: The BFG
Author: Roald Dahl

What it's about: In the middle of the night, Sophie is captured by a giant. But she's not going to be eaten, because she's been taken by the Big Friendly Giant, the only giant who doesn't eat people. Sophie and the BFG both decide that something needs to be done to prevent the other nine giants from eating any more people, and they concoct a plan to stop them.

What I thought: Dahl really works some magic here. This book is extremely imaginative. From the discussion of the taste of human beans to the different dreams the BFG has collected, brilliant ideas just burst from this book. The queer way of speaking that all the giants have, along with the wondrous descriptions of things like what dreams are and the BFG's sense of hearing, also add a lovely sense of mystery to the book. Add to all that fun characters and a simple but enjoyable plot, and you have a great read.

Overall: With books like this one, it's not hard to see why Roald Dahl is such a classic children's author.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Best School Year Ever

Title: The Best School Year Ever
Author: Barbara Robinson

What it's about: Woodrow Wilson Elementary is a normal grade school except for one thing: the Herdmans go there. The Herdmans are six kids, one in each grade, and they're the rowdiest bunch of troublemakers you could ever imagine. This book chronicles their outrageous and hilarious antics, as related to us by narrator Beth Bradley.

What I thought: This book has a pretty low reading level, meant for grade school kids, but as I was reading this, I was continuously laughing out loud. Beth Bradley, despite being the most marginal narrator since that guy from The Great Gatsby, has style as she spins us the tales of the wild Herdmans in a very colloquial and matter-of-fact way. The Herdmans themselves are hilarious, especially Gladys and Imogene. The brazen way they commit their crimes and the way that they're bad enough that even the adults recognize it just adds to the absurdity of it all. Don't let the intended audience stop you from picking this one up even if you're an adult.

Overall: Great, hilarious book. Totally worth tracking down and reading.

Dairy Queen

Title: Dairy Queen
Author: Catherine Gilbert Murdoch

What it's about: D.J. Schwenk is fifteen, and she lives and works on her family's dairy farm in Wisconsin. Her summer has a twist thrown into it when a family friend who is also the coach of a rival community's football team sends one of his players to help at the farm in hopes of the player, Brian, learning something about hard work. Eventually, D.J. takes on the task of training Brian in football. D.J.'s well suited to the task, too, since two of her brother's play college ball and the Schwenks are a football family. This is a summer of issues being resolved for D.J. and her family, as she has to deal with the rift between her two older brothers and the rest of the family, her younger brother's propensity for silence, and the direction her own life is taking.

What I thought: The first-person narration here really works. D.J. is an engaging narrator whose voice really rings true to me. She has a lot of issues to deal with in this story, but it never felt like the author was just heaping on the misery to up the angst factor. Probably has to do with the sense of humor D.J. has. The story seemed pretty well paced to me, and though it's approaching three hundred pages, fairly long for a teen novel thing, it was a fairly quick read, just a couple of hours in the afternoon. I enjoyed it a lot, though, and I'll be picking up the sequel from the library soon as it comes in.

Overall: This is exemplary teen fiction.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Once Upon A Marigold

Title: Once Upon A Marigold
Author: Jean Ferris

What it's about: Christian runs away from home and is raised by a troll as his foster father for eleven years. He eventually starts a long-distance friendship with the princess in the castle across the river by sending messages with trained pigeons. Eventually, Chris realizes it's time to strike out on his own, so he goes to the castle for a job and ends up way over his head in trouble and all sorts of stuff like that.

What I thought: If there were to ever be a movie version of this story, I think it would be like a combination of the movie Stardust and the television series Pushing Daisies. Very whimsical feel to it. This is a hopeful, optimistic book. It's slightly cheesy, but not enough so that it really detracts. I mean, pragmatic ol' me sometimes was like, okay, guys, seriously, let's cut the power of love stuff here. This isn't an anime or bad fan fiction. But still, for a story that's so much about love and friendship and good guys coming out on top, this is really well-executed. There's very much a theme of coming of age to this book, too. I think the main thing I could say is that there's never really any suspense. Bad stuff happens, but the tone of the book just makes you feel like everything will be all right in the end, so you don't need to really worry.

Overall: A good, uplifting read. Give it a shot, I say.

Friday, May 23, 2008


Oh, man, you people. I must love you all a lot if, the day after getting a Wii and Brawl, I am here, writing a book review for this lovely blog. Okay, sure, it's a book aimed at grade school children, and it only took me, like, an hour to read, tops, but still. Also, I've already reviewed one of Clements' books for older readers. That was back in April, and it was Things Hoped For.

Title: Frindle
Author: Andrew Clements

What it's about: Nick is a creative kid who is always coming up with new ideas. When he enters the fifth grade, he is inspired by something his English teacher said and decides to make up a new word. He decides that he'll call pens "frindles". A simple idea soon spirals into something huge.

What I thought: This is simple but cleverly written. It's short, not cutesy, and gives a realistic portrayal of how something like this might actually go down.

Overall: A fun, easy read.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Dissociation of Suzumiya Haruhi

Title: The Dissociation of Suzumiya Haruhi
Author: Tanigawa Nagaru

What it's about: This volume throws us a lot of curveballs. A new school year has started, and the SOS Brigade is recruiting for new members. Haruhi has started generating sealed realities again. Kyon meets up with a friend from middle school, Sasaki, who is the girl who gave Kyon the reputation for liking weird girls. Kyon finds out that factions of rival aliens, espers, and time-travelers believe that Sasaki is the one who should really have Haruhi's powers, and they want Kyon's help to change things.

What I thought: Um, awesome much? Sasaki (who I keep wanting to call Sakaki, like the Azumanga Daioh character) is an interesting figure, both similar to and different from Haruhi. Also, her close relationship with Kyon may yet lead to some sort of romantic drama. Plus, it's a huge twist on everything we've thought so far about Haruhi and her nature. And, dude, new SOS Brigade members? Come on, that's such a neat thing to have possibly occur, and I'm pretty sure the one girl Kyon had his eye on will play a further role. However, come on! This book ends on a huge cliffhanger! Totally not fair!

Overall: Hugely interesting novel. How come the tenth book hasn't come out yet?!

The Indignation of Suzumiya Haruhi

Title: The Indignation of Suzumiya Haruhi
Author: Tanigawa Nagaru

What it's about: This book has two medium-length stories. The first has the student council finally take notice of the SOS Brigade's illegal occupation of the Literature Club clubroom. In order to keep the Literature Club going, the SOS Brigade has to publish a literary journal. Haruhi, as editor-in-chief, assigns each of her members a type of story to write. In the text of the story, we get to read the submissions of Nagato, Asahina-san, and, of course, Kyon, who are made to write fantasy-horror, a fairy tale, and a romance story, respectively. The second story is about the SOS Brigade getting its second client, a girl in Haruhi and Kyon's class named Sakanaka-san. Her dog, Rousseau, has been behaving strangely lately. Sakanaka-san thinks it might be spirits, and she's come to the SOS Brigade for help. Running throughout both stories is the theme of Haruhi starting to become more normal, and there's also some romantic subtext if you look for it.

What I thought: Both stories in The Indignation of Suzumiya Haruhi are really pretty interesting. The first story is a really entertaining one, and it's entertaining without its plot relying on the supernatural at all. The stories that Kyon and Yuki write also serve as good character development, as does Koizumi's speculations about Haruhi's mental state and why Kyon happened to pick the romance story. The second story in this book has some good mystery and sci-fi in it, as well as some good development for both Haruhi and Nagato. Plus, Kyon has some really funny observations going on, too. Along with the themes of Haruhi's developing normalcy and slight romantic subtext, there's also subtle build-up for a larger conflict which we saw begin with the mysterious time-traveler last volume, as well there being some talk about the more normal future of the SOS Brigade and its members as the school year approaches its end. Really, at eight books in, we're starting to really feel a larger plot building in the shadows now, and it's really exciting to contemplate.

Overall: Really, I think this is one of the better books in the series. It's totally worth reading this far!

Whew! I'm back into the swing of reviewing books! Having a short-term job combined with the internet heroin that is TV Tropes makes for not much free time. Heh! After I finish The Dissociation of Suzumiya Haruhi, I have a princess story book I bought last night, as well as the next two volumes of The Law of Ueki and Twilight coming in from the library. I've read Twilight before, and at the time I thought it was at best a beach read. Let's see if it manages to retain at least that good a rating during the second read-through. If any of you haven't heard of Twilight, it's a vampire romance book that is all the rage with teen girls with questionable taste. And I also mean to read Steppenwolf, The Westing Game, A Simple Path, and Dave Barry's History of the Millennium (So Far). The second and fourth are ones I am looking forward to; the first and third, not so much. But as far as the third goes, people keep giving me religious books 'cause I'm a Catholic, so I figure I might as well at least try reading one of them some time. But before that, more fiction! =D

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Intrigues of Suzumiya Haruhi

Title: The Intrigues of Suzumiya Haruhi
Author: Tanigawa Nagaru

What it's about: One afternoon when Kyon arrives at the clubroom early, he gets an unexpected visitor - a version of Asahina Mikuru from eight days in the future. She's been sent back in time by Kyon himself, and Kyon and this version of Asahina-san have to complete mysterious tasks for the next several days, all the while keeping this Asahina-san a secret from the rest of the SOS Brigade. To further complicate things, Haruhi's acting oddly, and Kyon's not sure why.

What I thought: This one has some really cool stuff in it. We get some more time travel fun, for one thing, and for another, all the brigade members, as well as Tsuruya-san, get some good character development. There's also some nice build-up of Haruhi's feelings for Kyon and vice versa, although that's pretty subtle stuff. The SOS Brigade also gets up to a lot of its normal activities, and it's always nice to see them interacting as a group. There are also some pretty funny parts. Plus, more Tsuruya-san is always a good thing.

Overall: An above-average entry in the series.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

The Law of Ueki

Title: The Law of Ueki (vol. 1)
Author: Tsubasa Fukuchi

What it's about: Ai Mori has noticed something odd about her classmate Kosuke Ueki. He has the power to turn trash into trees. She follows him around to learn more about his ability, and her teacher Mr. K decides to come along, too. She learns that Ueki has been given his talents by Mr. K, who hopes to enter Ueki as his contestant in a competition to become the next king of heaven. Whenever Ueki uses his powers to harm someone, he loses an ability, and if he were to lose them all, he'd simply vanish. Mori decides that since Ueki is kind of a space case, she's going to have to help him from losing his talents.

What I thought: This first manga volume is pretty weird and interesting. Ueki is the title character and chosen one, but it seems that Mori is the protagonist person who we're more supposed to identify with - sort of like Kyon in the Suzumiya Haruhi series. The concept is an odd one, but it led to some interesting occurrences within this first volume. So far it looks like this could be a fun read, so I hope to get my hands on the next volumes soon, or perhaps the anime.

Overall: Looks fun. My interest has certainly been captured.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

TV Tropes

I have spent about two hours now browsing TV Tropes, and I'm not seeing an end in sight any time soon. Seriously, this is like surfing Wikipedia, only a bajillion times more interesting. That's probably because those sticks in the mud at Wikipedia have that stupid "neutral point of view" thing going on. TV Tropes is all about "original research", and as far as "citations needed" goes, well, just asserting that a certain show, game, movie, book, or whatever fits a trope is good enough. Much better site and much more fun for casual browsing. So, yeah, this is a book blog, but TV Tropes talks a lot about tropes and cliches and other various aspects that show up in all forms of storytelling, books included. This site is a great place to waste hours of your time, and the best part is, you usually come away with either a new series to check out or at least a feeling that you're more knowledgeable than when you started.

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Wavering of Suzumiya Haruhi

Title: The Wavering of Suzumiya Haruhi
Author: Tanigawa Nagaru

What it's about: This is another volume of shorter stories. We start with "Live A Live," about North High's cultural festival and what Haruhi gets up to during that, and "Asahina Mikuru's Adventure Episode 00" is basically the movie the SOS Brigade filmed during The Sighs of Suzumiya Haruhi. "Charmed at First Sight LOVER" is an interesting one where one of Kyon's junior high friends gets a crush on Nagato. "Where Did The Cat Go?" picks up after last volume's "Snow Mountain Syndrome," and it's about the mystery detective game Koizumi arranged for. Finally, "The Melancholy of Asahina Mikuru" is about Asahina-san's time travel mission.

What I thought: For me, this novel was a mixed bag. "Live A Live" had some fun stuff and interesting character development for Haruhi, while "Asahina Mikuru's Adventure Episode 00" seemed to drag on because I was already familiar with most of its content from Sighs. "Charmed at First Sight LOVER" was good character development for Nagato, and Nakagawa was a pretty fun character. There was also some good humor when Haruhi finds the note Kyon tossed out the window. That's a scene I'd like to see make it into the anime. "Where Did The Cat Go?" was kind of a boring read, really, because there was no real suspense in this mystery story, and it didn't even seem like Koizumi's game would have been a fun one to play. "The Melancholy of Asahina Mikuru" was pretty good, though. For one thing, it again got into the time travel/sci-fi subplot of things, and for another, it gave Asahina-san some character development, which I think she and Koizumi don't really seem to get enough of.

Overall: A fun volume, but I can't call it a favorite in the series.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

The Rampage of Suzumiya Haruhi

Title: The Rampage of Suzumiya Haruhi
Author: Tanigawa Nagaru

What it's about: This is another volume with a couple of short stories. The first, "Endless Eight," is all about the last two weeks of summer vacation and how the SOS Brigade spends them. "The Day of Sagittarius" is a showdown between the Computer Research Society and the SOS Brigade. In order to win back the computer that Suzumiya Haruhi blackmailed them out of, the Computer Club's president challenges the SOS Brigade to a battle using a computer game he and his club members designed. "Snow Mountain Syndrome" is basically "Lone Island Syndrome Part II." The SOS Brigade goes to spend the last few days of December at Tsuruya-san's family's mountain lodge. While Tsuruya-san and Kyon's little sister stay behind to make snowmen, Haruhi leads her brigade out for skiing. However, they get caught in a mysterious blizzard and end up finding an empty mansion. From there, events become puzzling and even creepy.

What I thought: "Endless Eight" was a fun enough story, but the other two stories are the ones I really enjoyed. "The Day of Sagittarius" is a fun story with action and conflict. We get to see some character development for Nagato, and the Computer Research Society is just a fun foil for Haruhi and her brigade. "Snow Mountain Syndrome" is really a good story, though. It includes Tsuruya and Kyon's little sister, for one thing, and for another, it's got plenty of mystery and suspense to it. The abandoned mansion is chock-full of strange happenings, and you're bound to feel just as edgy as Kyon as events unfold. There's also some good development for Nagato and Haruhi in this one, too.

Overall: "Snow Mountain Syndrome" is one of my favorite stories in this series, so for that alone, I rank this novel pretty highly.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Book meme

Got this from a friend's LiveJournal. One of those meme things. Here's what it's about: "What we have here is the top 106 books most often marked as "unread" by LibraryThing’s users. As in, they sit on the shelf to make you look smart or well-rounded. Bold the ones you've read, underline the ones you read for school, italicize the ones you started but didn't finish. Here's the twist: add (*) beside the ones you liked and would (or did) read again or recommend. Even if you read 'em for school in the first place."

The Aeneid
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
American Gods
Anansi Boys
Angela’s Ashes : a memoir
Angels & Demons
Anna Karenina
Atlas Shrugged
The Blind Assassin
Brave New World
The Brothers Karamazov
The Canterbury Tales
The Catcher in the Rye
Catch-22 *
A Clockwork Orange
Cloud Atlas
Collapse : how societies choose to fail or succeed
A Confederacy of Dunces
The Confusion
The Corrections
The Count of Monte Cristo
Crime and Punishment
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
David Copperfield
Don Quixote
Eats, Shoots & Leaves *
Foucault’s Pendulum
The Fountainhead
Freakonomics : a rogue economist explores the hidden side of everything
The God of Small Things
The Grapes of Wrath
Gravity’s Rainbow
Great Expectations
Gulliver’s Travels
Guns, Germs, and Steel: the fates of human societies
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
The Historian : a novel
The Hobbit
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
The Iliad
In Cold Blood : a true account of a multiple murder and its consequences
The Inferno (and Purgatory and Paradise)
Jane Eyre
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
The Kite Runner
Les Misérables
Life of Pi : a novel
Love in the Time of Cholera
Madame Bovary
Mansfield Park
Memoirs of a Geisha
Mrs. Dalloway
The Mists of Avalon
Moby Dick
The Name of the Rose
Neverwhere *
Northanger Abbey
The Odyssey *
Oliver Twist
The Once and Future King
One Hundred Years of Solitude
On the Road
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
Oryx and Crake : a novel
A People’s History of the United States : 1492-present
The Picture of Dorian Gray
The Poisonwood Bible : a novel
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Pride and Prejudice
The Prince
Reading Lolita in Tehran : a memoir in books
The Satanic Verses
The Scarlet Letter
Sense and Sensibility
A Short History of Nearly Everything
The Silmarillion
The Sound and the Fury
A Tale of Two Cities
Tess of the D’Urbervilles
The Time Traveler’s Wife
To the Lighthouse
Treasure Island
The Three Musketeers
The Unbearable Lightness of Being
Vanity Fair
War and Peace
Watership Down
White Teeth
Wicked : the life and times of the wicked witch of the West
Wuthering Heights
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance : an inquiry into values

There we have it. A lot of those are ones that I think I'd like to read. I'll have to get around to some of them, like Vanity Fair and The Count of Monte Cristo.

The Disappearance of Suzumiya Haruhi

Title: The Disappearance of Suzumiya Haruhi
Author: Tanigawa Nagaru

What it's about: Christmas is approaching, and Suzumiya Haruhi wants to celebrate with the SOS Brigade. However, December 18th rolls around, and Kyon finds himself in a decidedly un-merry position. Nothing is as he remembers it. Haruhi and Koizumi no longer attend North High, Asahina-san has no recollection of him, and Nagato is a normal, shy bookworm. Now it's up to Kyon to figure out a way to restore the universe to how it was previously - if he even wants to.

What I thought: In contrast to The Boredom of Suzumiya Haruhi, this book is one full story, and it's a good one. It's got a mysterious feel to it, and it's pretty neat to see the SOS Brigade members in the other universe, acting how they would if Suzumiya Haruhi had never blown into their lives. Another neat thing is getting to see how Kyon's view of the SOS Brigade and its leader has changed since Haruhi first formed the club. There's also good personality development for Nagato, as well as development for the mysterious time-traveling events stemming from Tanabata three years ago.

Overall: As far as the Suzumiya Haruhi books go, this is an especially good one.

The Boredom of Suzumiya Haruhi

Title: The Boredom of Suzumiya Haruhi
Author: Tanigawa Nagaru

What it's about: Kyon, Haruhi, and the rest of the SOS Brigade return for more adventures. This book is set between Melancholy and Sighs, chronologically speaking. It's made up of four short stories. "The Boredom of Suzumiya Haruhi" is about the SOS Brigade entering a baseball tournament, which "Bamboo Leaf Rhapsody" is about the SOS Brigade celebrating Tanabata, a Japanese festival. "Mystérique Sign" is a short adventure wherein someone actually comes to the SOS Brigade for help with a problem, which turns out to be more than Kyon and the others bargained for. "Lone Island Syndrome" is a longer story. Haruhi decides that the SOS Brigade will go on a field trip over the summer break, and so Koizumi invites them to stay at a relative's mansion on an isolated island. While there, Haruhi's desire for murder mystery excitement takes a deadly turn.

What I thought: One interesting thing about this volume is that we start to see a little more of Haruhi's personality besides her crazy enthusiasm. "Bamboo Leaf Rhapsody" and "Lone Island Syndrome" both show a bit of her more vulnerable, melancholy side. We also get to see a bit of development for Nagato. Kyon notes a couple times that she seems lonely or that she might possibly be trying to make jokes. As far as Asahina-san goes, she gets a bit of character development, too, but more importantly, we get to see some plot-developing time travel. That's something important about this volume and "Bamboo Leaf Rhapsody" in particular, we get more development for the overarching plot of the series.

Overall: These stories are all very interesting. The Boredom of Suzumiya Haruhi is a good read.

Friday, May 9, 2008

The Sighs of Suzumiya Haruhi

Title: The Sighs of Suzumiya Haruhi
Author: Nagaru Tanigawa

What it's about: Suzumiya Haruhi gets the idea to make a movie for the school's cultural festival, and she drags Kyon and the others into it. Haruhi charges into the matter with her usual enthusiasm, and as she pushes for excellence, the lines between fiction and reality start blurring, much to the dismay of the four other Brigade members, especially Kyon, as Koizumi tells Kyon that he's responsible for making sure Haruhi doesn't cause any permanent damage to the world.

What I thought: This is where you really get a sense of Haruhi's powers and her craziness. Some of the things she comes up with are really just hysterical. More of the mystery surrounding Haruhi and her powers is discussed, too. I dunno, this book was never as interesting to me as some of the others. It's still very good, though, and it continues the story of Haruhi, Kyon, and the SOS Brigade.

Overall: If you liked The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi, continue on and read this book.

The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi

Title: The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi
Author: Nagaru Tanigawa

What it's about: Kyon is an ordinary Japanese high school student. He knows that aliens, time travelers, ghosts, sliders, espers, and the like don't exist. But on high first day of high school, the girl sitting behind him, Suzumiya Haruhi, declares she has no interest in normal humans but that if there are any aliens, time travelers, sliders, or espers, they should come find her. After this, Haruhi joins and quits every club in the school, proclaiming them all to be too boring. Kyon accidentally gives her the idea to create a club of her own to fill the void, and with that the SOS Brigade is born. Along with Kyon, Haruhi recruits Nagato Yuki, a quiet bookworm belonging to the literary club and whose clubroom the SOS Brigade takes over, Asahina Mikuru, a cute upperclassman, and Koizumi Itsuki, a charming transfer student. With these four as her subordinates, Haruhi intends to find mysteries and fun to relieve the boredom of normal life. However, what she doesn't know and what Kyon, our narrator, finds out is that the other three members of the SOS Brigade are more than they seem, as is Haruhi herself.

What I thought: First off, the narration style is quite unique. Kyon has a very interesting way of describing things, using lots of metaphors and references. Another oddity of this is that there are occasional lines of narration and internal monologue that seem to be heard by the other characters. It can be a little confusing at first, but it adds a level of interest once you realize that it's not a mistake. The characters themselves are great. Kyon is a good, normal straight man, and you sympathize for him whenever Haruhi drags him into some stupid situation. Haruhi herself is a really interesting character. Despite being the title character, we don't really get to see what she's thinking at all; we only see what Kyon observes and postulates about her. She's quite a larger-than-life character, though, with her wild stunts, eccentricities, and fancies. You can't help being taken with her for that reason. Asahina-san, Nagato, and Koizumi are also similarly well-developed characters, Asahina-san and Nagato especially. Another point to praise is the development of the plot through this book and the rest of the novels. Despite being mainly full of silliness, there is a surprisingly deep and entertaining plot involving a lot of science-fiction elements. The hidden agendas of Asahina-san, Nagato, and Koizumi are good illustrations of this.

Overall: This book, the rest of the Suzumiya Haruhi novels, and the anime series based on the books are all extremely excellent. Here is where you can find all the Suzumiya Haruhi novels online to read. They've not been translated to English in any official capacity, so fan translations online are all that English-reading fans have. However, the translations are pretty good quality.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

The Wizard Heir

Title: The Wizard Heir
Author: Cinda Williams Chima

What it's about: Seph McCauley is a wizard, and he's been having trouble controlling his powers. His guardians put him in a private school called the Havens, a place that's supposed to be good at reforming troubled boys. However, Seph learns that the headmaster is in fact looking for young wizards like Seph who can be bound to him for power. What follows next is a struggle against the headmaster and a larger conspiracy that ties in with the events of The Warrior Heir.

What I thought: The same general praise that went for The Warrior Heir can work for this book. Seph's a different sort of protagonist than Jack, and I didn't perhaps like him as much, but that's not to say that he's uninteresting or that his story doesn't hold one's interest. An interesting thing with this book was seeing Jack and the other characters from the first book in a more peripheral role. Gives a view of how other people would view them and fleshes out their characters more. In general, this book seemed to be a lot about building up for conflict in the third book that's coming out this summer. Still, it was good.

Overall: If you liked The Warrior Heir, then you'll like this book.

The Warrior Heir

Title: The Warrior Heir
Author: Cinda Williams Chima

What it's about: Jack Swift thinks he's a normal high school student living in Trinity, Ohio. One day, he forgets to take his heart medicine and accidentally blows a rival across the soccer field. It comes out that Jack is actually one of the Weir, a member of the five hidden magic guilds. Jack is a warrior, though he was born a wizard, and in the present day, warriors are very valuable. So begins Jack's training and the struggle to stay alive amidst the machinations of the two controlling houses of wizards.

What I thought: Well, first off, Jack's a pretty likable protagonist. His reaction to the strange situations he finds himself in is what any normal person's would be: scared, angry, but with a touch of "okay, this is kinda cool." The supporting characters are all very well-written, with nicely defined personalities, and they all serve purposes in the book. The whole magic system is laid out well, and you're not likely to get confused too much while reading it. Doesn't read too much like an info-dump, either; there are a couple points where you could think that, but for the most part, the necessary background info is integrated nicely into the text. This wasn't my first time reading this book, but I seem to remember puzzling out the twist at the end before it occurred. However, it's not blatantly obvious, so if you do figure it out, you won't feel let down about it.

Overall: This is fun and entertaining urban fantasy with a good mix of sword and sorcery stuff. The narrative is fresh and fun, making this a relatively quick and enjoyable read.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Sword of the Rightful King

Here we go, a nice quick update. =D 'Course, for the next few days there won't be anything since I have a retreat, but with any luck, I'll have several books to post about when I get back. Last year's retreat saw me polishing off about three Terry Pratchett books or something ridiculous. Anyway, here we go with Sword of the Rightful King. I picked it up 'cause I wanted something similar in spirit and quality to The High King's Tomb, and this old favorite didn't disappoint.

Title: Sword of the Rightful King
Author: Jane Yolen

What it's about: This is the story of the sword in the stone, but with plenty of twists. In order to unite all the people of Britain under Arthur's rule, Merlinnus conceives of a sword in a stone as a way of proving that Arthur is destined to be king. Arthur's kingship is opposed by Morgause, the North Witch, who wants the throne for one of her sons.

What I thought: You can tell a lot of research went into this book. Nods are made to the various Arthurian legends, and the historical stuff seems pretty accurate as far as I can tell. Certainly lent the book a good sense of atmosphere. We've got a nice bunch of viewpoint characters, too, and they're all interesting, distinctive, and developed. The plot is nicely developed and weaved together, with the ending being very satisfactory.

Overall: This is just solid, entertaining storytelling right here.

When I get back, we'll have at least The Warrior Heir up for review, if not more. Possibly either its sequel, The Wizard Heir, or one of the Suzumiya Haruhi light novels, 'cause I'm on a Haruhi kick at the moment.

The High King's Tomb

All right, folks, before we get to the actual review portion of the evening, I just want to warn for major spoilers here. Sorry, but I'm not going to be able to keep this entry anywhere near spoiler-free. The High King's Tomb is the third book in a series, and it's a series I love and want to gush about. So if you don't like spoilers, just go pick up Green Rider by Kristen Britain, which is the first book, and read that instead.

Okay, seriously, just go read the series. I mean it. Don't spoil yourself by reading this entry!

Title: The High King's Tomb
Author: Kristen Britain

What it's about: So Karigan G'ladheon is a Green Rider, a member of the Sacoridia's messenger corps. She's the sort of person who always winds up in troublesome situations, such as when she first encountered a dying Rider and vowed to take his message to the king, not knowing that this would lead to her narrowly escaping death several times, thwarting a coup, thwarting a disembodied evil, and plenty of other heroic things. When this book takes off, Karigan is a veteran Rider, and she's off on a message errand with trainee Rider Fergal in tow. They are looking for a book that will help them combat a mysterious group known as the Second Empire that wants to take over Sacoridia. Meanwhile, preparations for King Zachary's marriage are underway, but agents of the Second Empire have other ideas for the king's bride-to-be, Lady Estora. Plenty of things happen, concluding in a climactic encounter in, appropriately enough, the high king's tomb.

What I thought: Awright, so I haven't reviewed the first two books here yet, but I will eventually, but right now I'm gonna blather on about the third book and the series as a whole, pretty much. So first of all, the world of this story, especially the country of Sacoridia and its culture, is very well developed. The history of the provinces, from the Long War to the Clan Wars to the current era is sketched out and then filled in with more and more details as the books go on. I really like how magic is developed, and how Britain's not afraid to get dark with her story, such as the way the D'Yer Wall was created. The Riders' abilities are neat, and Karigan's ability is developed over the books, so what could be a pretty unbelievable turn of events in the third book is actually pretty easy to swallow. Similarly, Britain introduces concepts briefly in earlier books and then returns to them later, like, of course, the D'Yer Wall, the tombs of the kings and heroes, and the white space. Another thing that interested me was the technology level of Sacoridia, which has developed, among other things, the printing press, as well as the detail that goes into the fleshing out the culture. Coffeehouses in an arts district in Sacor City, the hot springs of Selium, Intrigue, and more all give the series a really detailed and real feel. Similarly, the characters are also well-developed. Even the bad guys are empathetic. Take Lord Mirwell in the first book. He was totally plotting the overthrowing of King Zachary and was shown as being a pretty ruthless fellow, but at the same time you could see where he was coming from, even if you didn't agree with him, and he was pretty admirable for his dedication to his clan, his tenacity, and his sheer cunning in all his plotting. Same goes for Grandmother, Mornhavon, and Hadriax. You could really get in their heads and understand where they were coming from. And of course, the good guys are developed even better. Laren, Estora, Zachary, Alton, the other viewpoint characters, and, of course, Karigan are all interesting and well-developed. And you really have to like Karigan. What really makes me like this series, besides all the other awesome things, is that Karigan has a sense of humor. Before this series, I'd equated high fantasy with dry, serious business epic quests. The stakes are still high in these books, but Karigan has a sense of humor and perspective, and that makes her all the more human and relatable. She's really a pretty fun protagonist. Spunky, but not to the extent of being stupid. Capable, with plenty of ability for saving the day, but not invincible. Take, for example, the scene in this book where Immerez is about to chop off her hand. I think that really hit home that Karigan's not invincible. She's combated all sorts of spirits and major evils, but here she's at the mercy of the captain and needs Amberhill's assistance to get out of the bind. And I think it's really neat that her romance with Zachary hasn't gone very easily and looks like it might not happen. Well, personally, I like the idea of Karigan and Alton better, but either way, Britain's really developing things to be difficult yet real. And Zachary and Estora is an interesting dynamic, too. Oh, and the whole thing with Karigan and Fergal on the message errand was good, too. There were a lot of places in the book where we were subtly shown that Karigan, for all her good traits, isn't perfect. Her impatience with Fergal and her reaction to learning about her father's trips to the brothel are two such examples. Seriously, you gotta love fantasy that shows so much depth and development.

Overall: Please. For your own good and enjoyment, get your hands on Green Rider, First Rider's Call, and The High King's Tomb.

Friday, May 2, 2008


Yes, it's been five days. No, this isn't dead. I suppose times like this are when the "(almost)" part of the title comes in. I finished my sophomore year of college on Wednesday, and I'm in the middle of a nice, long fantasy novel that I'm taking my time with. This is a busy weekend, so expect an update early next week. That's when you'll get to read me gushing over The High King's Tomb by Kristen Britain, the third book in her Green Rider series, one of my favorite series. Until then, folks!