Book Review Archive

The Fiddler of Bayou Teche

by Delia Sherman

[rating:5/5]

The great thing about new original fairy tales is the way they take old motifs, old themes and older tales and remix them in a new way to create a new story. “The Fiddler of Bayou Teche” by Delia Sherman combines several motifs of trickster tales along with myths and legends featuring musical instruments. The story that unfolds is a wonderful down to earth tale surrounding a trickster fiddler set in a deep south bayou.

The main character is a young albino girl named Cadence who lives in the swamp with the woman that adopted her, Tante Eulalie. Her mother serves the local loup-garou community as a medicine woman and plays the fiddle. Her mother cautions her against tricksters by sharing with her tales of warning. When her mother passes one winter Cadence ends up getting into trouble and being confronted by the very trickster her mother warned her against. Are the warnings and tales her mother armed her with enough to help protect her and allow her to survive?

There is a podcast of this fairy tale on the website Podcastle that features a fantastic reader, Elizabeth Green Musselman, and I really recommend hearing this fairy tale orally in this way almost more than reading it. It definitely adds to the experience.

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From Far Away Volume 5

[openbook booknumber=”159116835X”] [rating:4/5]

Transported into a fantastical world of high adventure, a confused and frightened teenager discovers she holds prophetic power that will awaken a new epoch of staggering uncertainty.

But even with such infinite power, Noriko still relies on the help of her faithful companion Izark to protect her. There are enemies lurking everywhere and Noriko needs all the help she can get.

Izark, however, may be the biggest threat of all. Within him lies an evil most unimaginable. When that evil finally reveals itself, Noriko’s spontaneous reaction surprises everyone… including herself!

As if being dumped down into a completely fantastical and strange world that doesn’t speak her language or play by her rules wasn’t bad enough. Noriko faces bigger enemies in this volume and feels more powerless than ever. She can’t help her friends or fight the bad guys, all she can do is be herself. But will that prove to be enough?

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Castle of Wizardry

[openbook booknumber=”9780345335708″][rating:5/5]

It had all begun with the theft of the Orb that had so long protected the West from the evil God Torak. Before that, Garion had been a simple farm boy. Afterward, he discovered that his aunt was really the Sorceress Polgara and his grandfather was Belgarath, the Eternal Man. Then, on the long quest to recover the Orb, Garion found to his dismay that he, too, was a sorcerer.

Now, at last, the Orb was regained and the quest was nearing its end. Of course, the questors still had to escape from this crumbling enemy fortress and flee across a desert filled with Murgo soldiers searching for them, while Grolim Hierarchs strove to destroy them with dark magic. Then, somehow, they must manage to be in Riva with the Orb by Erastide. After that, however, Garion was sure that his part in these great events would be finished.

But the Prophecy still held future surprises for Garion–and for the little princess Ce’Nedra.

This continues the magnificent epic of The Belgariad, begun in Pawn of Prophecy, Queen of Sorcery, and Magician’s Gambit–a fantasy set against a background of the war of men, Kings, and Gods that had spanned seven thousand years–a novel of fate, strange lands, and a prophecy that must be fulfilled!

In the fourth book of the Belgariad, The Castle of Wizardry, all the set up from the series so far finally come to fruition and the stage is set for the final book. Picking up where the story left off Garion finds himself leading the small group as Belgarath is out of it after the last show down and Polgara is maintaining a shield to protect Errand. What follows is Garion not just making the journey into adult hood but also stepping up into a position of responsibility and authority. Garion finally grows up and it is wonderful to see.

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Across the Universe

[openbook booknumber=”9781595143976″][rating:3/5]

A love out of time. A spaceship built of secrets and murder.

Seventeen-year-old Amy joins her parents as frozen cargo aboard the vast spaceship Godspeed and expects to awaken on a new planet, three hundred years in the future. Never could she have known that her frozen slumber would come to an end fifty years too soon and that she would be thrust into the brave new world of a spaceship that lives by its own rules.

Amy quickly realizes that her awakening was no mere computer malfunction. Someone-one of the few thousand inhabitants of the spaceship-tried to kill her. And if Amy doesn’t do something soon, her parents will be next.

Now Amy must race to unlock Godspeed’s hidden secrets. But out of her list of murder suspects, there’s only one who matters: Elder, the future leader of the ship and the love she could never have seen coming.

When young adults leave their hometown and go off to college it can feel like they have left the planet. All of a sudden they are in a whole new town with all new people, there are new rules of engagement and you are suddenly expected to act and think very differently. Worst of all many if not all their friends and family, most importantly the ever-present parents, are now gone and they are on their own. In Beth Revis’ science fiction debut Across the Universe she manages to capture all of this perfectly as we follow Amy and her journey aboard the spaceship Godspeed. Unfortunately it is captured too well and that along with a few other hiccups resulted in this book not turning out as well as I hoped it would.

Let me start this off on a positive note, Revis can write really, really detailed and realistic scenes. The book opens with Amy watching her parents be cryogenically frozen and then experience it herself. I have extreme needle phobia, it took forever to get through those pages. Even people who don’t have needle phobia squirm through that first chapter, it is intense and present and real and that kind of talent in a writer is extremely promising. She captures the small ship, the feeling of being trapped, the abandonment all very well and you experience it along with Amy and that is very powerful.

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The Heroine’s Bookshelf

[openbook booknumber=”9780061958762″][rating:5/5]

Jo March, Scarlett O’Hara, Scout Finch—the literary canon is brimming with intelligent, feisty, never-say-die heroines and celebrated female authors. Like today’s women, they placed a premium on personality, spirituality, career, sisterhood, and family. When they were up against the wall, authors like Jane Austen and Louisa May Alcott fought back—sometimes with words, sometimes with gritty actions. In this witty, informative, and inspiring read, their stories offer much-needed literary intervention to modern women.

Full of beloved heroines and the remarkable writers who created them, The Heroine’s Bookshelf explores how the pluck and dignity of literary characters such as Jane Eyre and Lizzy Bennet can encourage women today.

Each legendary character is paired with her central quality—Anne Shirley is associated with irrepressible “Happiness,” while Scarlett O’Hara personifies “Fight”—along with insights into her author’s extraordinary life. From Zora Neale Hurston to Colette, Laura Ingalls Wilder to Charlotte BrontË, Harper Lee to Alice Walker, here are authors and characters whose spirited stories are more inspiring today than ever.

Whenever life hits a bump in the road or I find myself stressed out the first thing I turn to is a book. Books ground me and give me a form of escape from my present circumstances. They let me take a step back and look at my problems from another point of view and provide a much needed mental health break. While I have done this all my life I have often felt very alone in my solace in fiction, until I discovered the internet anyway. But a print book, in IRL, now that’s a different sort of validation and this is why The Heroine’s Bookshelf is ranked among my top reads this year.

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