Book review: “Fall of a Kingdom” by Hilari Bell
Book Reviews / December 15, 2013

Inspired by a Persian legend and originally titled “Flame”, this is the first book of the Farsala Trilogy. The new and improved title, while dramatically distinctive, has the drawback of giving away the ending. But since the story is only getting started, that’s probably all right.

Book review: “Powers” by Ursula K. Le Guin
Book Reviews / October 26, 2013

In the third book of the “Annals of the Western Shore,” the author of “A Wizard of Earthsea” completes what appears to be a fantasy trilogy for young adults. I hope that appearances are deceiving in this case. I hope this series will continue beyond this book!

Book review: “Voices” by Ursula K. Le Guin
Book Reviews / October 19, 2013

In the second book of “Annals of the Western Shore,” gifted maker (poet) Orrec Caspro and his animal-whisperer wife Gry Barre come to the city of Ansul, fabled for its literature and its scholarly culture. But it seems they have come seventeen years too late: for Ansul has been conquered by the Alds, the people of the Asudar desert to the east. Unlike the people of Ansul, who revere countless gods and ancestral spirits, the Alds are devoted to the worship of one deity: the burning god Atth, whose word is to be spoken and never written, and who deems all other gods to be demons. To the Alds, all writing is demonic by definition.

Book review: two YA baseball novels
Book Reviews / October 16, 2013

More than five years ago, I reviewed “The Boy Who Saved Baseball” by this author, who is totally not the actor from Three’s Company. In that review, I said that I planned to read more of his books in the near future. I was true to my word, but only to the extent that I have had this book and another by the same author on my shelf all these years. It’s no reflection on my feelings for baseball fiction (which are generally warm) or for this author (intrigued, respectful). It’s just an occupational hazard of being a book junkie whose shelves are jammed two books deep with titles I’ve been planning to read for ages. So many books, so little time!

Book review: “The Book of Lost Things” by John Connolly
Book Reviews / October 14, 2013

The trail of “things to read after Harry Potter” has already led me past many books in which real-world characters get mixed up in the world where fairy tales and children’s stories are real. Off the top of my head, these include the work of authors Chris Colfer, Eoin Colfer, Ian Beck, Frank Beddor, Michael Buckley, Marissa Burt, Michael Ende, Lev Grossman, Tom Holt, Lisa Papademetriou, and Sarah Beth Durst; even if I’ve forgotten twice as many, my point is made. If you’ve been following developments in my book review column, you might appreciate the variety that gives spice to this theme.

Book review: “Three Hainish Novels” by Ursula K. Le Guin
Book Reviews / October 3, 2013

This omnibus volume of the first three books of the “Hainish Cycle” is also available under the title “Worlds of Exile and Illusion”. I chose to lead with the simpler, more plainly descriptive title, mainly because it happened to be this edition that I borrowed from the public library. To be sure, it’s a bit of a misnomer. The first three installments in Ursula Le Guin’s multiple award-winning series are really more on the order of novellas, weighing in at 117, 113, and 160 pages, respectively.

Book review: “Escape from Castle Cant”
Book Reviews / September 26, 2013

This book is a sequel to “The Secret of Castle Cant”, which I read many years ago. Like the sequels to many other books I enjoyed, I have had this one on my shelf for so long that I forgot what the original book was about and had to re-read my own review of it to refresh my memory. I understand there is a third book in the series, titled “The Black Arrow of Cant”, published in 2007.

Book review: “First Lord’s Fury” by Jim Butcher
Book Reviews / August 26, 2013

Five books ago, Tavi of Calderon was an active, resourceful, good-naturedly trouble-prone farm boy whose prospects in life were dimmed by the fact that, unlike everyone else in Alera, he had absolutely no fury-craft—that is, no control over the spirits of air, water, wood, metal, earth, and fire. While others had these powers to a greater or lesser degree—and those with the most fury-craft tended to rise to the highest positions in society—Tavi couldn’t even turn the lights on or off without help. Nevertheless, we watched him grow into an admirable young hero, thanks in part to the unique approach to problem-solving that his disability forced him to develop.

Book review: “Interworld” by Neil Gaiman & Michael Reaves
Book Reviews / July 28, 2013

High school sophomore Joey Harker has such a poor sense of direction that he sometimes gets lost in his own house. One day, during a social studies exam in the form of a scavenger hunt around the downtown area, he walks into a patch of fog and comes out in another reality altogether. A world where McDonald’s sports a single, green tartan arch, and where his parents have a daughter his age—but no son.

Book review: “Dirty Magic” by Carol Hughes
Book Reviews / July 13, 2013

Joe Brooks, a boy who likes models and Monster Machine magazine, gets up in the middle of the night and finds that his bathroom door opens into a muddy plain stretching to the horizon all around. Suddenly Joe is in a strange, island world where the sun never shines, the war never ends, and the lost children who regularly appear out of nowhere never seem to get home again.