The Bookshelf Corner

A creative space for all things books and writing….


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Book Review: Lady Knight by Tamora Pierce (2nd Read)

Image via Goodreads

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Series: Protector of the Small, book 4
Rating: 5/5
Recommend to Others?: Yes

 

Summary (via Goodreads):
In the final thrilling installment of Tamora Pierce’s Protector of the Small series ( First TestPage, and Squire), our sturdy young heroine, Keladry of Mindelan (a.k.a. Kel), has finally been knighted. Never one to rest on her laurels, Kel champs at the bit, ready to tackle the horrific magic killing devices she was shown in the Chamber of the Ordeal during her knighthood initiation. The huge, insectlike machines, “made of iron-coated giants’ bones, chains, pulleys, dagger-fingers and -toes, and a long whiplike tail,” feed on the souls of dead children and are systematically killing off the citizens and warriors of Tortall.

Thoroughly disgusted to discover that not only is she not going to be assigned a combat post, but she has been placed in charge of a refugee camp instead, Kel, in her usual noble, stoic way, swallows her disappointment and sets out being the best refugee camp commander possible. Of course, destiny has a way of sneaking up on a young woman like Kel, and soon she is fulfilling the ordeal the Chamber set out for her… and then some.

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My Review:
Lady Knight was just as wonderful and action-packed as the first time I read it.

Kel is a natural born leader even if at first she doesn’t think she’ll do a good job at commanding a refugee camp. The way she handles the obstacles thrown at her is admirable – you can learn a lot from her brand of leadership.

I loved all the characters – even the less than desirable ones. But of course, animals are what really stole my heart. There’s Jump (Kel’s dog), Peachblossom and Hoshi (Kel’s horses), the sparrows, and cats. They were cute already but then their intelligence magically increases to human understanding – then they’re just amazing to behold.

A story, in my opinion, is successful when both the protagonist(s) and antagonist(s) are unique, well-developed, interesting, and elicit a response from the reader. As with all her novels, Tamora Pierce really accomplishes that with Kel, her friends, the machines, and other main villains.

Lady Knight is a fitting conclusion to the Protector of the Small series and Kel’s story. An emotional rollercoaster for both the main character and the reader. It’s one of my favorite books and I’m so pleased to have gotten to read it a second time. This story is just another reminder of why I read, why I write, and why I spend too much time fantasizing about books.

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Book Review: Slaves of Socorro by John Flanagan

Image via Goodreads

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Series: Brotherband Chronicles, book 4
Rating: 3/5
Recommend to Others?: Maybe

 

Summary (via Goodreads):
*part of official Goodreads summary

…Hal and his fellow Herons have returned home to Skandia after defeating the pirate captain Zavac and reclaiming Skandia’s most prized artifact, the Andomal. With their honor restored, the Herons turn to a new mission: tracking down an old rival turned bitter enemy. Tursgud—leader of the Shark Brotherband and Hal’s constant opponent—has turned from a bullying youth into a pirate and slave trader. After Tursgud captures twelve Araluen villagers to sell as slaves, the Heron crew sails into action . . . with the help of one of Araluen’s finest Rangers!

In this fourth book in the Brotherband Chronicles, a new battle unfolds as old rivalries are renewed, peace treaties are put to the test, and the action builds to a pulse-pounding finale…

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My Review:
This part of the series felt like an interlude to what might be the overall plot of the series. Hal and his band’s presence are requested by the King Duncan of Araluen but this is interrupted by the focus of the book: the kidnapping of Araluen citizens by the renegade Skandian Tursgud.

The beginning is really good and started things out on a high, humorous, note. However, once the main characters had set sail things kind of dulled out by way of uneventful scenes and dialogue exchanges I was hoping we’d be past. This continued even when the core conflict arose and after as Hal and crew – along with an old welcoming character (I totally fangirled when he showed up) – tried to figure out how to rescue the Araluens before they could be sold into slavery.

And then we come to the “main battle” which is one very long continuous event that switches scenes to show you everything that is happening as it is taking place. This takes up much of the second half of the book and all the way until just before the last chapter. It’s a pretty cool scene albeit a little too long for my attention span.

There’s a lot of uncertainty that keeps the tension high during this particular (above mentioned) scene. One particular character is given a lot of character growth – it was good to see him really shine in this book. And I kind of even enjoyed the ingeniousness of the main “antagonist.” He was rather surprising. However, where Tursgud is concerned I’m surprised by his lack of presence in the book and where things end up with him – it’s a little scary but disappointing.

So this part of the series was okay (perhaps, meh) all in all but I am very curious to see what will happen in book 5, Scorpion Mountain, as the back of book four tells that the worlds of Brotherband and Ranger’s Apprentice will collide – how exciting!


Brotherband Chronicles
The Outcasts – book 1
The Invaders – book 2
The Hunters – book 3

Ranger’s Apprentice: The Early Years
 The Tournament at Gorlan – book 1
The Battle of Hackham Heath – book 2


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Book Review: The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires

Image via Goodreads

Genre: Picture Book, Children’s Fiction
Rating: 3/5
Recommend to Others?: Maybe Yes

 

Summary (via Goodreads):
Award-winning author and illustrator Ashley Spires has created a charming picture book about an unnamed girl and her very best friend, who happens to be a dog. The girl has a wonderful idea. She is going to make the most MAGNIFICENT thing! She knows just how it will look. She knows just how it will work. All she has to do is make it, and she makes things all the time. Easy-peasy!? But making her magnificent thing is anything but easy, and the girl tries and fails, repeatedly. Eventually, the girl gets really, really mad. She is so mad, in fact, that she quits. But after her dog convinces her to take a walk, she comes back to her project with renewed enthusiasm and manages to get it just right.

For the early grades’ exploration of character education, this funny book offers a perfect example of the rewards of perseverance and creativity. The girl’s frustration and anger are vividly depicted in the detailed art, and the story offers good options for dealing honestly with these feelings, while at the same time reassuring children that it’s okay to make mistakes. The clever use of verbs in groups of threes is both fun and functional, offering opportunities for wonderful vocabulary enrichment. The girl doesn’t just make her magnificent thing — “she tinkers and hammers and measures, she smoothes and wrenches and fiddles, she twists and tweaks and fastens.” These precise action words are likely to fire up the imaginations of youngsters eager to create their own inventions and is a great tie-in to learning about Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.

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My Review:
Not exactly what I expected. The use of present progressive to tell the story was jarring for much of it. But all the verbs and adjectives used to describe the main character’s actions I think will be really beneficial for child readers to learn. I also liked how the author lays out the illustration on and across the pages – that’s always a fascinating part of picture books. I kind of wish the main character had a name but I get that the focus was on the magnificent thing she was trying to build. The biggest win for me for this book was the main character’s determination and ingenuity. She kept trying again and again to achieve her goal even when things seemed hopeless – that is an important lesson kids should learn.


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Book Review: The Pigeon Wants A Puppy! by Mo Willems

Image via Scholastic

Genre: Picture Books, Children’s Fiction
Series: Pigeon
Rating: 5/5
Recommend to Others?: Yes

 

Summary (via Goodreads):
He really, really, REALLY wants one. He’ll take really good care of it! What’s the matter–don’t you want him to be happy? The latest book in the best-selling Pigeon series is the funniest one yet.

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My Review:
Fun. Interactive. Surprisingly hilarious. Reading this book was like watching a cartoon for really little kids where the characters break the fourth wall. The main character – the pigeon – addressing the audience in such a way made the story really enjoyable to read – and yes I did respond back to a 2D pigeon. I love how the pigeon uses so few words but has super expressive facial expressions and body language. My favorite line was when the pigeon said, “I’m a puppy-lovin’ pigeon” – such a funny and sassy line. I also like how the book ends with a humorous implication of what is likely to occur after the story is over. A great picture book overall.


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NetGalley Book Review: The Song of Seven by Tonke Dragt, Translated by Laura Watkinson

Thank you to NetGalley and Pushkin Children’s Books for providing me with an e-copy to read and review.

 

Image via NetGalley | First Published in 1966

Genre: Middle Grade, Children’s Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Recommend to Others?: Yes

 

Summary (via NetGalley):
An exciting new stand-alone adventure by the internationally bestselling author of The Letter for the King.

Seven paths, seven unlikely friends, and one extraordinary adventure featuring magicians, secret passages, conspiracies, hidden treasures, a black cat with green eyes and a sealed parchment which predicts the future.

At the end of every schoolday, new teacher Mr Van der Steg entertains his pupils with tall tales of incredible events, which he claims really happened to him – involving hungry lions and haunted castles, shipwrecks and desert islands. One day, when he can’t think of anything suitably exciting to tell them, he invents a story about a very important letter which he’s expecting that evening, with news of a perilous mission. Evening arrives and so, to his surprise, does an enigmatic letter…

And so Mr Van der Steg is drawn into a real-life adventure, featuring a grumpy coachman, a sinister uncle, eccentric ancestors, a hidden treasure, an ancient prophecy and Geert-Jan, a young boy who is being kept prisoner in the mysterious House of Stairs.

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My Review:
The Song of Seven by Tonke Dragt was a true joy to read. It is perhaps the most exciting fairytale mystery/adventure I have ever read.

Yes, it is that good.

So good that the only thing I felt compelled to do was sit back, relax, and read – and write down names here and there (there are a lot of names to remember!). I constantly had to know what would happen next.

The story is compelling right from is ordinary and humble beginnings. The main character, Frans van der Steg (love his name!), goes from teaching and telling stories to his young class to finding himself in the middle of what could only be described as a story come to life. And certainly not something Frans could ever conjure on his own. The whole thing is ridiculous and wild (in a good way), as Frans would agree, but even he can’t escape the magic and mystery of the events that unfold.

The only thing I’m still confounded about is how someone (Frans) could forget a certain something of particular importance for 300+ pages time and time again. It was funny at times but, my goodness, I felt bad for the man.

Truly, The Song of Seven is an unexpectedly wonderful story of truly unimaginable proportions.


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Trying Different Writing Approaches

Royalty Free Image via pixabay.com | Text added in Paint

Sometimes when I go to write a story I struggle with how to begin or effectively express the ideas in my head. The time it takes to even put down the first word and the difficulty of the task varies. It’s an internal conflict as old as time.

When I write I strive to go above and beyond, which is a lot of pressure I put on my self. But I want every story I craft to be the best it can be. All stories take time to reach such points and it is – I believe – the heart of the writer behind it that allows it to get there.

We all have our own writing process that we stick to like rubber cement glue. But occasionally one must try a different approach to get the ball rolling.

Recently, I wrote a short story where I had an idea that I really liked. It sounded like a good, funny, idea in my head but as is my wont I struggled to convey said idea. Then by some strange notion I began to approach the story in a way I’ve never before.

I allowed my characters to tell the story themselves.

I said, “Tell me your story. Entertain me. Make me laugh,” because those were the impressions the idea invoked. My characters – a married couple – did just that.

They spoke to me. And I found it easy to transcribe their words into the story I’d imagined, possibly better. I listened and learned. I giggled and smiled.

That is until I got near the end of the piece. Funny thing is I had sat there so long that my mind eventually began to wander. I have several passions so there are times when my mind will shift to something else – like binge-watching countless YouTube videos. But the story wasn’t hindered and I finished the draft to my satisfaction.

For a first draft, I was pretty proud of it. Even more so, I got through the process of writing this piece without much of the stress that writing can bring.

I’m not sure what made me want to share this and it all probably sounds silly.

One of the things I’ve enjoyed about blogging, about connecting with other book lovers and writers, is that we can all learn from each other. Big or small, someone somewhere may be supported and strengthened by such honesty.

As always, happy reading and happy writing!


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Book Review: Magic Steps by Tamora Pierce (2nd Read)

Image via Goodreads | 2000 cover

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Series: The Circle Opens, book 1
Rating: 5/5
Recommend to Others?: Yes

 

Summary (via Goodreads):
Lady Sandrilene fa Toren knows all about unusual magic – she herself spins and weaves it like thread. But when she witnessed a boy dancing a spell, even she is confounded. To her dismay, Sandry learns that as the mage who discovered the power of the young dancer, she must be his teacher. Before lessons can begin, however, Sandry and her uncle, Duke Vedris, get news of a mysterious murderer stalking a clan of local merchants. The killer employs the strangest magic of all: the ability to reduce essence to nothingness. As the murders mount and the killer grows bolder, Sandry’s teaching takes on a grave purpose. For it becomes clear to everyone that the killings can only be stopped by the combined workings of two people: the young teacher and her even younger student.

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My Review:
Magic Steps is just as wonderful as I remembered. It had me feeling bittersweet nostalgia and oh-so-happy. A great beginning for fans of Tamora Pierce who didn’t want the Circle of Magic stories to end. But Magic Steps remains a joy to read despite the gruesomeness of the plot.

Seeing Sandry really put to work all she has learned in the past four years was a joy to see. Strong willed and very intelligent, Lady Sandrilene fa Toren (a 14-year-old “stitch witch”) has all the makings of a great mage and leader. She’s so mature that I sometimes forget she’s just 14.

Such a thrilling book with many characters to know and love. There’s Duke Vedris, the ruler of Emelan who commands respects that’s fully earned – I’ve always enjoyed seeing his character in action. Kwaben and Oama, Sandry’s personal guards – I always love seeing kickass, loyal teams. Yazmin, a renowned dancer, who teaches Pasco to dance – she is a spitfire to love.

I like the humor Pasco’s character adds to the story. Here we have someone coming late into his magic – an anomaly in Pierce’s universe – who must quickly learn to control his newfound power and assist in a murder investigation. And he’s 12. That’s a lot for a 12-year-old boy wrap his head around. But I think coming from a family with generations of harriers made some of his actions and reactions pleasantly surprising.

However, I wish Pasco was a bit more in the foreground of the story. We get three different third-person limited points of view – the majority’s Sandry’s – and third person omniscient mixed in. A little jarring here and there for me but the way the story is woven works nonetheless.

There’s so much to love and talk about this story. Awesome universe. Interesting characters. Creative plot. Everything I love about Tamora Pierce’s remarkable stories. This was a fun re-read.