Archive for May, 2014

Review of Dreams of Gods and Monsters, by Laini Taylor

Saturday, May 10th, 2014

Dreams of Gods and Monsters

by Laini Taylor

Little, Brown and Company, New York, 2014. 613 pages.

This is the culminating volume of the trilogy that began with Daughter of Smoke and Bone. I’ve been waiting impatiently for it since I finished Days of Blood and Starlight.

This book begins not as expected, with the Seraphim of Eretz coming to earth as a legion of angels, which happens in the second chapter. Instead, the first chapter introduces a new character, a graduate student named Eliza, who has horrible dreams of worlds being devoured, dreams involving gods and monsters.

We do get back to Akiva and Karou, still in love, but pulled apart by circumstances. Now they need to work together to save earth from Jael, the evil emperor of the Seraphim who has gone to earth, pretending to lead the heavenly hosts from earth’s religions, but actually planning to acquire weapons of mass destruction, to do away with the Chimerae once and for all.

Can the remaining Chimerae, led by Karou and the White Wolf, and the Misbegotten, the disillusioned Seraphim, led by Akiva, possibly form an alliance to overcome astronomical odds and defeat Jael? Can they overcome their hostility and generations of enmity for a greater good?

Let me say first off that this book does provide a satisfying, epic conclusion to the trilogy. We see both Akiva and Karou come into their own. And I especially like the way lowly humans Zuzana and Mik contribute their talents to saving the world.

I was surprised, however, by how long it took me to get through the book. More than just the length, I think the omniscient narrator and the epic scope meant there were many places where it was easy to put the book down. The tone was a little too self-aware in spots – it called my attention to the narrator.

This part was probably a good thing, overall, but I also got discouraged by the many setbacks our heroes faced. Now, they did manage to overcome almost all of them, but at times it looked too dark for me, which provided more points where I was willing to put the book down. And the author did throw in yet more plot threads that were only hinted at in the earlier books, or were entirely new, such as Eliza’s part in the bigger picture.

And this love at first sight thing? This idea of soulmates knowing each other instantly despite years of one’s people being enemies? This is perhaps overdone. It makes a nice story, and I’m especially happy for the characters involved, but I was a bit skeptical. Nice, though. I can’t help being happy for those who found this Destiny, even if there did seem to be an awful lot of them.

However, I do have to say that by the end of the book, the author had pulled together the various threads masterfully. She wrote an epic tale about the fate of worlds and wove it nicely with ancient religious tales. And she made us wonder: What if gods and monsters are simply souls like us, dressed in bodies that don’t necessarily express the hearts inside?

daughterofsmokeandbone.com
lainitaylor.com
lb-teens.com
bookish.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Teens/dreams_of_gods_and_monsters.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

Please use the comments if you’ve read the book and want to discuss spoilers!

Review of Jane, the Fox & Me, by Fanny Britt and Isabelle Arsenault

Friday, May 9th, 2014

Jane, the Fox & Me

by Fanny Britt and Isabelle Arsenault

translated by Christelle Morelli and Susan Ouriou

Groundwood Books/ House of Anansi Press, Toronto, 2013. First published in Montreal in 2012. 101 pages.
Starred Review

Hélène is a girl who’s relentlessly insulted. On the stall door of the second-floor washroom, on the blue staircase, in the schoolyard, on her locker door.

So Hélène is not happy when she learns their whole class is going to be going to Nature Camp. “Four nights, forty students. Our whole class.” She is not excited. She’s scared and nervous.

She goes with her mother to buy a bathing suit and looks like a sausage. On the bus, for comfort, she’s reading Jane Eyre. Jane has a terrible childhood, but grows up clever, slender, and wise. But even Jane Eyre needs a strategy. At camp, Hélène uses the strategy of pretending to look for something in her suitcase, and ends up in a tent with the Outcasts.

But some surprises happen at camp, including a close encounter with a fox. Things start to change for Hélène.

This graphic novel is a beautiful story of a sensitive and thoughtful girl going through relentless cruelty. And it ends well! Readers won’t be able to help but cheer for Hélène as things change for her.

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Fiction/jane_fox_me.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

Please use the comments if you’ve read the book and want to discuss spoilers!

Review of The Writer Who Stayed, by William Zinsser

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

The Writer Who Stayed

by William Zinsser

Paul Dry Books, Philadelphia, 2012. 175 pages.
Starred Review

This is a book of essays by a master of the form — indeed, the man who wrote the book on writing nonfiction (On Writing Well). It’s actually a collection of “columns” which were posted online. I would have called them blog posts, but The American Scholar, the magazine that posted them, calls them essays, and coming from William Zinsser, that’s completely appropriate.

I mostly read an essay per day, kind of like you’d read a blog. Each day I enjoyed having some insightful reading, and something to muse over for the day.

The essays are not long, and each word is used well. I want to give you some quotations, to show his wonderful use of language, but that doesn’t convey the completeness of each essay, the way he sets up something at the start that pays off by the end.

This is the ending of the essay “Content Management: In Praise of Long-Form Journalism”:

“As a journalist,” I tell my despairing students, “you are finally in the storytelling business.” We all are. It’s the oldest form of human communication, from the caveman to the crib, endlessly riveting. Goldilocks wakes up from her nap and sees three bears at the foot of her bed. What’s that all about? What happens next? We want to know and we always will.

Writers! Never forget to tell us what’s up with the bears. Manage that content.

Here’s another paragraph about writing, from the essay “Permission Givers: To Teach Is to Allow and to Encourage”:

Writers! You must give yourself permission, by a daily act of will, to believe in your remembered truth. Do not remain nameless to yourself. Only you can turn on the switch; nobody is going to do it for you. Nobody gave George Gershwin permission to write “Rhapsody in Blue” at the age of 25, when he had only written 32-bar popular songs. Nobody gave Frank Lloyd Wright permission to design a round museum.

The essays are by no means all about writing. Here’s the beginning of one that made me laugh:

Last week I got a letter from the man I once thought of as my broker, who now calls himself my investment counselor and would probably call himself my wealth management adviser if I had any “wealth” for him to manage. He was writing to tell me that Sandra, “the lead assistant assigned to your relationship, has decided to change careers and become a full-time mother of 10-month-old Brad.”

I didn’t even know I had a relationship with Sandra. She never mentioned it, probably because she already had a relationship — evidently quite a long one — with the father of 10-month-old Brad. But my investment counselor said he was “happy to announce” that Daniele had joined his office and would now be managing my relationship.

A few days later I went into my Citibank branch to get some cash and found a message on the ATM. It said, “Now you can have a dedicated relationship manager!” That got me wondering about Daniele. I knew she would be caring. But shouldn’t she also be dedicated?

This book contains good writing that will give you something to muse over. Definitely worth dipping into.

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/writer_who_stayed.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

Sonderling Sunday – Kapitel Siebzehn

Sunday, May 4th, 2014

It’s time — at last! — for Sonderling Sunday! That time of the week when I play with language by looking at the German translation of children’s books!

It’s been a *very* long time since I last posted. My blog had issues, and my life was busy, the most fun part of that being that I started dating someone! Juhu!

This week, it’s back to my standby, Der Orden der Seltsamen Sonderlinge, The Order of Odd-fish, by James Kennedy. We left off right at the halfway point, at the beginning of Chapter Seventeen.

I do enjoy starting with the opening sentence:

“Jo and Ian sat in a gloomy parlor, waiting for an old woman to speak.”
= Jo und Ian saßen in einem dämmrigen Salon und warteten darauf, dass die alte Frau sprach.

“dim and dreary” = dämmrig und trübselig

“ancient lace drapes strangled the sunlight” = alte Spitzenvorhänge hielten das Sonnenlicht fern
(“old lace curtains held the sunlight far”)

Here’s a useful sentence:
“Jo couldn’t stop her leg from jiggling.”
= Jo konnte nicht verhindern, dass ihr Bein wippte.

“the whole enterprise” = diese ganze Angelegenheit

“insulting” = beleidigend

“the last of his enthusiasm vanished” = der letzte Rest seiner ursprünglichen Begeisterung verpuffte
(“the last remnant of his original [ancient-sprung] enthusiasm evaporated [puffed out]”)

“She was a withered noodle of a woman.” = Sie war eine vertrocknete, dürre Frau
(“She was a dried-up, withered woman.” Pooh! Lost the metaphor there.)

“thick dark veils” = dichten, dunklen Schleier (That’s kind of fun to say.)

“incredulous disdain” = ungläubiger Verachtung

“icy silence” = eisiges Schweigen

“tightly controlled rage” = mühsam beherrschter Wut
(Google translates that as “tedious dominated rage.”)

“She hooted, gurgled, and shrieked” = Sie heulte, gurgelte, und kreischte

“Hoo nelly, that’s rich!” = Nie und nimmer, das ist ja köstlich!
(“No way [Not and never], that is expensive!”)

“Oh, you can’t make this stuff up!” = Oh, so etwas kann man sich nicht mal ausdenken!

“moldy cake” = muffigen Kuchen (Oo, can’t you just see the “muffigen” cake?)

“guided” = manövrierte

“a rattling cackle” = ein schrilles Keckern

“threatening letters” = Drohbriefen

[Incredible! At this point, I finished the post — and then WordPress ate the last part of what I posted! Urgh! I will now try to reproduce it.]

“joke quests” = albernen Aufgaben

“clouds of dust” = Staubwolken

“make my death swift and merciful” = gewähren Sie mir einen schnellen und gnädigen Tod

“villainous” = schurkischen

“Sincerely” = Mit vorzüglicher Hochachtung

“smelling salts” = Riechsalz

That’s it for tonight!

I have to add that I recently saw “Muppets Most Wanted,” and one of the funniest things (to me) was when Kermit was mistaken for a criminal mastermind frog and captured in Germany. The headlines screamed about the “Evilen Froggen”! Readers of Sonderling Sunday will know the correct translation is Böse Frosch, but of course how to translate English to German is just to stick “en” on the ends!

And look at the useful phrases we’ve learned tonight! Now if you travel to Germany and get pulled over by police, you know how to say, “Gewähren Sie mir einen schnellen und gnädigen Tod!”

May your week be the opposite of dämmrig und trübselig!

Mit vorzüglicher Hochachtung,

Sondra Eklund

Review of When Did You See Her Last? by Lemony Snicket

Friday, May 2nd, 2014

“When Did You See Her Last?”

All the Wrong Questions, Book 2

by Lemony Snicket
read by Liam Aiken

Hachette Audio, 2013. 4.5 hours on 4 CDs.

“When Did You See Her Last?” is the second entry in the All the Wrong Questions series of crime noir for kids. Young Lemony Snicket continues to stay in Stain’d-by-the-Sea. He and his chaperone are asked to solve another mystery, and once again his chaperone is completely misled, but young Snicket follows a progression of clues and reveals answers.

These books should be read in order. A master villain is hanging about, the statue from the previous book makes an appearance, and we get more clues as to what is going on with Lemony Snicket’s sister, but no answers.

These make wonderful listening. You’ve got a gripping story with plenty to set you chuckling. This would be ideal for a family trip. Now I just hope the next installment is coming out soon!

LemonySnicketLibrary.com
HachetteAudio.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Fiction/when_did_you_see_her_last.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

Please use the comments if you’ve read the book and want to discuss spoilers!