Archive | February, 2015

Book Review: The Seeing Stone (Arthur Trilogy #1) by Kevin Crossley-Holland

23 Feb

Arthur and the Seeing StoneArthur de Caldicott lives in a time of change: Richard the Lion-Heart has just died, replaced by the cruel King John, and it will be the year 1200 soon–a time of new beginnings. And Merlin has just given him a seeing-stone that shows him the story of King Uther and another Arthur who is himself, but who isn’t. If only Arthur could figure out what it all means…

Not the best of summaries, admittedly, and I don’t think it conveys how much I LOVED this book. I almost didn’t read it, to be honest. Almost. It started with present tense, which all regular viewers know I HATE, and present tense popped up throughout the book as well, but it was done sensibly as a way to distinguish between the stone and real life, and as such I didn’t mind it so much.

This book is written as the diary of 13-year-old Arthur, and what I loved most was that it detailed the way of life for the people of 1199. The division between rich and poor, the cold and hunger, the way 60 people gathered in one place was an awful lot, the hard work people had to go through just to survive, the unfaltering belief in religion, the strange medical remedies, the struggle of babies to reach their first birthdays. All this from the hand of a 13-year-old struggling to come to terms with the unfairness of the world, all the while mesmerizing us with the magic of the stone and the parallels between the Arthur we know from other stories and the unique life of this Arthur.

Honestly, it’s probably my favorite book I’ve read so far this year, though I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. It’s a plodding sort of plot without many action scenes (though I suspect the sequel will have more). I was just loving soaking up life in 1199!

The cast of characters was hugely entertaining too. Arthur himself is curious and quick, and grows a lot over the course of the book. Gatty is so resilient and wise beyond her years. Nain is funny; Sian is cute; Merlin is quirky. Even the animals seem to jump from the page.

As a retelling of Arthurian Legends, I can’t say I’ve read enough in that area to make a comment. I can say I enjoyed it immensely as a historical fantasy, and that I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys that genre. I was so disappointed when I finished this book and couldn’t get straight into the next because I realized I bought Book 3 rather than Book 2!


Book Review: I, Coriander by Sally Gardner

22 Feb

I CorianderCoriander Hobie is the daughter of a wealthy London merchant and a beautiful woman respected for her potions that make people feel well. But from the time Coriander receives a mysterious pair of silver shoes, everything starts going wrong. Her mother dies; her father marries a horrid woman who brings in an even more terrible holy man who calls her “Ann” and beats her; her beloved Danes is sent away, and Coriander is locked in a chest. That’s when something strange happens: Coriander is taken to another world, and it’s there that she learns secrets that could change her life.

Okay, okay, so there are a lot of your typical fairy tale elements here. The evil stepmother, love at first sight, a helpful fairy guiding the MC along… but it was enjoyable all the same and I think younger readers would get a kick out of it. Beautifully written as all of Sally Gardner’s books are, with those details that take you back in time and put you right in the story.

I will say, the plot got a bit weird for me after Coriander was locked in the chest. The little love story weirded me out, particularly when Coriander went back as a 15-year-old or whatever who should still have had the mind of a 12-year-old because of the weird aging thing (in my opinion!). The plot got a little twisty and I felt like some of the various strands could have been cut out and more details added to the more important ones… but again, a younger reader going into this book with a less analytical eye will have no trouble suspending their disbelief and enjoying the story as-is.

Loved Coriander’s character and the way she ended up talking back to the crooked man. Do NOT call her Ann. 😉

Would recommend to anyone with a love of fairy tales!

Book Review: The Pindar Diamond (Aviary Gate #2) by Katie Hickman

21 Feb

ThePindarDiamondBefore I start with my usual summary, I feel I should mention the grand mix-up that led to this book. It’s a Bookfest acquisition and was on the Children’s Books table. The cover does look like YA, doesn’t it? Upon reading it I can tell you I wouldn’t be giving it to a young teen, at any rate, due to content. But it was still enjoyable, even if I haven’t read Book 1! There’s no number anywhere on it, either, so I didn’t know it was a Book 2 (though to be honest, I wasn’t confused for the most part and it can read like a standalone novel). So know that when reading this review, I’m reviewing it as standalone. I DO want to read Book 1 though!

Right– so the book follows the lives of several different people whose lives are all intertwined, even if they don’t yet know it. Largely taking place in Venice in the time of gambling houses and courtesans and the plague, it’s a dark, twisting tale of love, heartbreak, and greed.

This was a beautifully written novel with a strong sense of character and setting. All of the characters were intriguing in their own way, but truthfully I was more caught up with the nun’s story than anyone else’s (which bodes well for me–it sounds as though she may feature in Book One and if there is a Book Three, my guess is a part of the story might be hers as well… maybe!).

Venice of old is a dangerous place and I feel as though the author captured all the nitty-gritty details of life there–from the convent to the courtesans and gamblers.

I feel as though I can’t comment much on the plot, other than that all the different threads came together quite well (though I could certainly see where the story was going long before the reveal, which might have helped in a way because I kept yelling at the characters when they missed chances to meet!). As a sequel, I’m not sure how good it is, but I have been convinced to read the first book so that’s something, right?

Sorry this review feels scattered — this is why I should review books after I read them, not three books later! 😉 This is recommended, though perhaps start with book one first!

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