Book Review: “Elantris” by Brandon Sanderson
Book Reviews / July 19, 2014

I’ve never read anything by Brandon Sanderson before, and I’m generally leery of thick fantasy novels that have the look of “Book One of a Punishingly Long Series.” Three things convinced me to give this book a try. First is the fact that, although it was his first published novel back in 2005, Sanderson hasn’t written any sequels to it… yet. I’m told he plans to, but so far all he has rolled out is a novella set in the same universe, titled “The Emperor’s Soul”, and a short e-book called “The Hope of Elantris”. It’s possible we may luck out, and this will be a standalone novel; that would be just about perfect. The second and deciding vote in favor of reading it is the fact that an audiobook, read by Jack Garrett for Recorded Books, was available at the public library. Third, and making it unanimous, is the list of other works by Brandon Sanderson, which includes a bunch of other stuff that I suddenly want to read.

Book review: “Pegasus” by Robin McKinley
Book Reviews / January 26, 2014

She has won the Newbery Medal (for” The Hero and the Crown”). She has won the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award (for “Sunshine”). She has entertained us with tales of vampires, fairies, dragons, and Robin Hood, as well as folk tales spruced up as novels. As the wife of Peter Dickinson, she dwells in a reactor-core of magic and beautiful storytelling that could reach critical mass at any time. All that being said, if she doesn’t produce a sequel to this book, I will be seriously miffed with her.

Book review: “Finnikin of the Rock” by Melina Marchetta
Book Reviews / January 7, 2014

The Australian author of “Jellicoe” Road has dealt with many issues facing today’s young adults: loneliness, depression, grief, single pregnancy, suicide, racism, family and school problems galore. Then she turned toward writing YA fantasy, and the “Lumatere Chronicles” is the result. In this first book of the trilogy, we are introduced to a gripping, romantic fantasy about sexy young people riding horses, sailing ships, and fighting with bows and arrows and swords, all to restore a lost kingdom. What sets it apart from every other tween melodrama about prophecies being fulfilled, curses being broken, secret identities being revealed, and prisoners being delivered from durance vile?

Book review: “The Runaway King” by Jennifer A. Nielsen
Book Reviews / December 8, 2013

Jaron, alias Sage, proved to be more than as advertised in “The False Prince”. After convincing an ambitious nobleman he was the best impostor for a long-lost prince, Jaron proved to be the real prince after all—supposedly killed by pirates, but lying low in the guise of a street urchin. Now he has returned to claim his throne, just when his country’s aggressive neighbors are poised to strike at any sign of weakness. In the second book of the Ascendance trilogy, the young king must run away from his kingdom in order to save it from an imminent threat of invasion.

Book review: “The Castle Corona” by Sharon Creech
Book Reviews / September 11, 2013

The first author to win both the Newbery Medal (for “Walk Two Moons”) and the Carnegie Medal (for “Ruby Holler”) here deviates from her general habit of depicting present-day kids in dramatic situations. Instead, she conjures a make-believe kingdom somewhere in medieval Italy, with a king and a queen, a princess and two princes, hermits, peasants, servants, and knights.

Book review: “A Tale Dark and Grimm” by Adam Gidwitz
Book Reviews / July 11, 2013

This book is what happens when a New York City schoolteacher stitches together nine fairy tales from the Brothers Grimm to form one coherent story—while, at the same time, restoring much of the original versions’ weird, scary, and bloody bits. And although the narrator often pulls the reader aside and begs him to make sure there are no small children in the room to hear the tale, the entire book demonstrates an amazing faith in kids’ guts, brains, and hearts—not only that they can understand and appreciate such strong stuff, but that they are brave enough to take it, worthy to enjoy it, and keen to learn from it

Book review: “The False Prince” by Jennifer A. Nielsen
Book Reviews / July 9, 2013

The kingdom of Carthya is in trouble. Its king and queen, together with their eldest son, have been poisoned. The younger of the two princes was lost at sea four years ago, presumed dead. Its borders are lined with the armies of neighboring countries, hungry for the land’s rich resources.

Book review: “Captain’s Fury” by Jim Butcher
Book Reviews / April 8, 2013

Now, two years later, “Captain’s Fury” picks up the plot-line just in time for Tavi to be relieved from his command and move beyond his role as captain. And though Book 5 is titled “Princeps’ Fury”, it is in this book that Tavi is first recognized as the Princeps—i.e., the First Lord’s grandson and heir, rightly named Gaius Octavian. If I just surprised you, you’ve missed a lot and should go back to “Cursor’s Fury” before reading any further. Spoilers ahead!

Book review: “Tanglewood Tales” by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Book Reviews / February 11, 2013

And yet I would bet you’re hearing about this book for the first time now. Here some writers would say, “So goes the world,” and let it be. But I say it need not be so. Nathaniel Hawthorne is too important a figure in American literature to be allowed to remain only a figure, silhouetted against the dying light of a bygone age. His writing really is enjoyable, and some of it was designed for the enjoyment of kids. And even though kids’ tastes may change, there still remains a good deal of charm and appeal in Hawthorne’s retellings of the world’s most timeless tales.

Book review: “The Rose and the Ring” by W. M. Thackeray
Book Reviews / January 25, 2013

This hilarious fairy-tale spoof was written as a “fireside pantomime,” to amuse a group of English children between Christmas and New Year while staying in an unnamed European city. Moreover, it was published under the pseudonym “Michael Angelo Titmarsh,” if you please.