Another book review blog?!?

Yes because people ask "Have you read anything good lately?" And I have. From a class ...

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Lady and the Unicorn - Historical fiction

Author: Tracy Chevalier
Title: The Lady and the Unicorn
Publication Date: 2004
Number of Pages: 248
Part of a Series: No
Subject Heading(s):  
  • Belgium
  • Brussels
  • Family
  • France
  • Historical Fiction
  • Lady
  • Le Viste
  • Nicolas des Innocents
  • Paris
  • Tapestries
  • Textile Industry
  • Unicorns
  • Weaving 
  • Women’s roles
Geographical Setting/ Time Period: Paris, France; Brussels, Belgium, 1490-1492  
Main Character(s):  
  • Nicolas des Innocents- Self-important, womanizing, kind of stupid artist who designs the Unicorn Tapestries.  
  • Claude LeViste- Wild, curious, hard headed daughter of a the nobleman, the object of Nicolas des Innocents lust.  
  • Aelinor Georges- good hearted, hard working blind daughter of the weaver of the Unicorn Tapestries.
Plot Summary: Nicolas des Innocents has been commissioned to paint the designs for tapestries of a nobleman. While he is negotiating the design, Nicolas meets Claude LeViste and becomes infatuated with her. One of the ladies maids catches them in a compromising position. Because of this, Nicolas is sent to Brussels to help weave the tapestries and keep out of trouble. Nicolas shakes up things wherever he goes, sometimes for better rather than worse.
Appeal: Setting-time period in France, Frame- the Unicorn Tapestries, details about weaving, Style-written in alternating view-points, Characterization.
Brief quote: “A look of cunning came over Marie-Céleste’s face. “I suppose you want to come and see me there, don’t you?” I gaped at her, amazed she was flirting with me after all that had happened But then, she could be useful to me. I smiled and brushed a freather from her shoulder. “Might do.” Pg. 138.
Prizes or Awards: Romantic Times Reviewers' Choice Award - Historical Novels: 2004
School Library Journal's Adult Books for High School Students: 2004
Similar Works: The Girl with the Pearl Earring Tracy Chevalier (descriptive, historical fiction, women’s roles)
Ophelia’s Fan Chirstine Balint (characters, historical fiction, women’s roles) NLP
Reviewer’s Name: Amanda Hegge

The Lady and the Unicorn: A Novel
Form adapted from Saricks, Joyce G. and Nancy Brown. Readers= Advisory Service in the Public Library 2nd.  Chicago: ALA, 1997.

Inés of My Soul - Historical fiction

Author: Isabel Allende (trans. Margaret Sayers Peden)
Title: Inés of My Soul/ Inés del Alma Mia
Publication Date: 2006
Number of Pages: 313
Part of a Series:   No
Subject Heading(s
  • 16th century
  • Biographical Novels
  • Chile
  • Conquistadors
  • Cultured Warrior
  • Historical Fiction
  • Imperialism
  • Independence in Women
  • Ines Suarez
  • Lady of War
  • Pedro de Valdivia
  • Spanish Fiction
Geographical Setting/ Time Period: 16th century Spain and the Americas (Chile)  

Main Character(s):
  • Doña Inés Suárez: An intelligent and passionate woman, as well as a fierce and unmerciful conquistadora, she is capable of both charity and murder.
  • Pedro de Valdivia: Inés’s lover and the first royal governor of Chile, who struggles with his sense of honor and his lust for glory.

Plot Summary: This memoir is a fictional account of the life of Inés Suárez, who was a conquistadora and a national heroine.  In rich detail, Allende portrays how Inés rose from a “widow of the Americas” in a small city in Spain to become an influential figure in the conquering of Chile and the founding and defending of Santiago.  Join Inés as she travels a vast expanse of ocean and battles numerous perils and challenges in search of freedom, power, and love.

Appeal: With rich historical detail, this novel unfolds leisurely, yet it features many exciting passages of the dangers the conquistadors and those they conquered faced.  Although it is from the perspective of a conquistadora, it is written with an understanding of the impact the conquistadors had on the inhabitants of the Americas.  The story is character-centered and the language features Spanish terms, yet it is not difficult to understand.  The novel tackles issues of feminism, class, race, and religion.

Brief quote: pg. 43
The line that divides reality from imagination is very thin, and at my age is no longer interesting, for now everything is subjective.  Memory is also colored by vanity. Even with Death sitting in a chair near my table, waiting, I still am influenced by vanity, not just when I rouge my cheeks if visitors are coming, but when I am writing my story. Is there anything more vain than an autobiography?

Prizes or Awards: This work won Booklist’s Editor’s Choice award as one of the Best Fiction Books of 2006.  Isabel Allende has received a number of awards, including the Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize in 1998 and the Chilean National Prize for Literature in 2010.

Similar Works:
Julia Alvarez, In the Time of the Butterflies/En el Tiempo de las Mariposas, historical novel set in the last days of the Trujillo regime of the Dominican Republic, about the lives of Las Mariposas, three sisters who became revolutionaries and martyrs.

Rosario Ferré, The House on the Lagoon/La Casa de la Laguna, fictional novel about a woman writing an historical novel about her and her husband’s families in the history of Puerto Rico, which her husband then finds and writes his own interpretation of events, feminist and tackles issues of class and race.

Reviewer’s Name: Natalie Garner

Ines of My Soul: A Novel

Form adapted from Saricks, Joyce G. and Nancy Brown. Readers= Advisory Service in the Public Library 2nd.  Chicago: ALA, 1997.

Shanghai Girls - Historical

Author: Lisa See
Title: Shanghai Girls
Publication Date: 2009 
Number of Pages: 342 (eBook)
Part of a Series: No
Subject Heading(s):  
  • Abuse- Fiction
  • Immigrants- United States- Fiction
  • China- Fiction
  • Los Angeles- Chinatown-Fiction
  • Chinese- United States- Fiction
  • Rape victims- Fiction
  • Discrimination - Fiction
  • Sisters- Fiction
  • Family Secrets- Fiction
  • War Crimes- Fiction
Geographical Setting/ Time Period: 1937 Shanghai, 1937-57 Los Angeles  

Main Character(s):
  • Pearl- Older sister, considered the smarter and plainer sister, Dragon
  • May- Younger, prettier sister, works in Hollywood, Sheep
Plot Summary: When their Baba gambles away everything and the Japanese invade, May and Pearl’s middle class happiness is shattered as they must escape China only to live in arranged marriages in LA in a controlling and cruel household.  They struggle to find happiness amid turbulent times (WWII and Korean War) in racist America as their loyalty and lives are challenged during the Red Scare.

Appeal: Historical details of Shanghai and LA’s Chinatown; detailed and introspective; incorporation of Chinese sayings and beliefs; family dynamics

Brief quote: “Your sister is a Dragon.  The Dragon and the Tiger will always fight for dominance.  She must hope for a son- and what mother doesn’t wish for this thing?- because then their deeper positions will be clear.  Every mother must obey her son, even if she is a Dragon.  If your sister was a Sheep, I would be concerned.” Pg 117-118 (in eBook)

Prizes or Awards: nominated for the 2010 Asian Pacific American Award for Literature

Similar Works:
  • Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan- details, setting, and family relationships (JC)
  • The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck- details, setting, culture (JC)
  • The Rape of Nanking: by Iris Chang- Nonfictional look at the Japanese invasion that See describes in Shanghai Girls (JC)
Reviewer’s Name: Jessica Conley

Shanghai Girls: A Novel 

Form adapted from Saricks, Joyce G. and Nancy Brown. Readers= Advisory Service in the Public Library 2nd.  Chicago: ALA, 1997.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Anansi Boys - Fantasy

Author: Neil Gaiman (audio book voiced by Lenny Henry)
Title: Anansi Boys
Publication Date: 2005
Number of Pages: 334 
Part of a Series: Yes. Sequel to American Gods
Subject Heading(s):
  • African Diaspora
  • All Myths Are True
  • Anansi
  • British
  • Caribbean Mythology
  • Divine Parentage
  • Fat Charlie Nancy
  • Feathered Fiend
  • Humor
  • Magical Realism
  • Mythopoeic Fantasy
  • Petting Zoo People
  • Reality Warper
  • Trickster Gods
  • Urban Fantasy
Geographical Setting/ Time Period: Present day England, Florida, & the Beginning of the World.
Main Character(s):
  • Fat Charlie Nancy: A perpetually-unlucky accountant, who is terrified of singing.
  • Spider: Charlie’s brother and an exceptionally cool person, and if you don’t agree, you will after he tells you to.
  • Anansi: A Spider God who weaves mischief and stories wherever he goes, he decides to die for a bit and let Charlie and Spider learn to weave stories for themselves.
  • Grahame Coats & Tiger: A sociopathic showbiz agent who loves clichés and idioms, and a sociopathic Big Cat God who hates clichés, idioms, and Anansi.
Plot Summary: Tormented by his father’s embarrassing antics throughout his life, Fat Charlie Nancy does not get the respite he expects when his father unexpectedly (and rather embarrassingly) dies.  Instead, he gets the benefit of a long-lost brother, who steals his identity, gets him arrested, and seduces his fiancée.  In order to get rid of him, Fat Charlie has to go an unusual route, for his father and brother are gods.  Unfortunately for Fat Charlie, the bargain he makes to rid himself of his brother has a price he didn’t expect.  The family must reunite to fight off the wrath of gods and men, and to save the people they love.

Appeal: This humorous urban fantasy features parallel worlds, the magic of the gods, and a story of mythic significance, of good versus evil.  Throughout the book Gaiman provides Anansi stories for those readers who are not familiar with the god.  The book provide multiple points-of-view, in which the characters journey to self-discovery, to find their identity as humans and as gods; the book explores how much magic and divinity are related to the will and confidence to use them.  The story unfolds leisurely, but picks up pace near the end of the novel, with the interjections from other parts of the story adding to the anticipation.  The language of the story is interesting, because many of the characters are of Afro-Caribbean origin; the dialog is written in an accent, but not a phonetic accent, so readability should not be a problem.   Additionally, Lenny Henry does an excellent job of portraying the accents in the audio book.

Brief quote: pg. 213: Spider turned, and said something else that sounded a lot like ‘frigate.’ There may not have been a million penguins waddling and slipping and belly-sliding toward the brothers, but it certainly looked that way.  As a general rule, the only things properly terrified by the approach of penguins tend to be small fish, but when the numbers get large enough . . . .

Prizes or Awards: It debuted at No. 1 on the New York Times Bestseller List and has won many awards, including the Locus Award, an annual award from Locus, a magazine that published news and information about the Science Fiction and Fantasy industry, the British Fantasy Society Award, and the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award in 2006.  It also won the Alex Award, awarded by the ALA for books written for adults that appeal to young adults.

Similar Works:
Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, Good Omens, Humorous urban fantasy take on Armageddon (the film Dogma is loosely based on it).
Robin McKinley, Sunshine, Urban fantasy that, although dark, is upbeat; Gaiman praised the book.

Special Features: The last page includes an illustration of a spider by Neil Gaiman.
Reviewer’s Name: Natalie Garner

Anansi Boys 

Form adapted from Saricks, Joyce G. and Nancy Brown. Readers= Advisory Service in the Public Library 2nd.  Chicago: ALA, 1997.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Blameless (The Parasol Protectorate) - Steampunk

Author: Gail Carriger
Title: Blameless: an Alexia Tarabotti Novel
Publication Date: 2010   
Number of Pages: 355 
Part of a Series:  Yes, book 3 of the Parasol Protectorate, 1st is Soulless
Subject Heading(s):  
  • Comedy of manners
  • London (England) - History - 1800-1950 - Fiction
  • Tarabotti, Alexia (Fictitious character) - Fiction
  • Italy - Fiction
  • Steampunk
  • Vampires –Fiction
  • Knights Templar- Fiction
  • Supernatural romance- Fiction
  • Werewolves - Fiction
Geographical Setting/ Time Period:   Victorian era: England, France and Italy  

Main Character(s):
  • Lady Alexia Tarabotti Maccon- Pregnant preternatural, strong, witty and always hungry.
  • Lord Conall Maccon- Alpha of Woolsey werewolf pack, husband of Alexia, ruggedly handsome, bold and currently acting like a fool
  • Madame Lefoux- French milliner/inventor who dresses like a man
  • Professor Lyall- Beta werewolf of Woolsey pack and voice of reason
 Plot Summary: Everyone knows that supernaturals can’t reproduce, so Lady Maccon finds herself disgraced and kicked out when Lord Maccon learns she is pregnant.  Suddenly without the protection of the pack and with a bite order on her neck, she heads off to Italy, accompanied by Madame Lefoux, seeking vindication of her honor and proof that Lord Maccon is the father.  Shunned by the pack and society, hunted by the vampire hives, and held as guest/specimen by the Knights Templar, Alexia must rely on her wits, her friends, and her parasol.

Appeal: Witty dialog; clever inventions; London society and fashion; outrageous and engaging characters; action and danger.

Brief quote:  “Alexia thought this was dreadfully boorish.  The least they could do was answer with a, ‘No, killing is all we are interested in at the moment, but thank you kindly for the offer all the same.’ Alexia had, in part, compensated for a lack of soul through the liberal application of manners.” Pg 121-122

Prizes or Awards: Starred review Publishers Weekly, two weeks on NY Times Bestsellers, 1st book in series received Alex Award (adult book with YA appeal)

Similar Works: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith- comedy of manners with supernatural twist, pacing

Reviewer’s Name: Jessica Conley

Blameless (The Parasol Protectorate) 

Form adapted from Saricks, Joyce G. and Nancy Brown. Readers= Advisory Service in the Public Library 2nd.  Chicago: ALA, 1997.

Mort - Fantasy

Author: Terry Pratchett
Title: Mort
Publication Date: 1987 
Number of Pages: 243
Part of a Series: Yes, The Discworld Series (38 novels in the series as of October 2010). Mort is the 4th novel published in the Discworld series & the first book featuring Death. 
Subject Heading(s):
  • Apprentices
  • Death - Fictitious character
  • Discworld - Imaginary place
  • Fantasy Fiction
  • Murder
  • Princesses
  • Dark Humor
Geographical Setting/ Time Period: Discworld

Main Character(s):
  • Death- the anthropomorphic personification of Death, he is a seven foot tall skeleton that wears a black robe, carries a scythe, has a fondness for cats, and rides a large horse named Binky. Death’s job consists of ushering souls into the afterlife, which He describes as a necessary public service. He talks in SMALL CAPS.
  • Mort- A naïve teenage from Discworld, Mortimer, known as Mort, is described by his father as being prevented from doing anything practical by his propensity to think too much.
Plot Summary: Death has decided it is time to find an apprentice. He chooses Mort, who isn’t known for being good at getting things done and is known for being all knees and elbows. When Death lets Mort run the show for a day, disaster strikes when Mort accidentally kills the assassin sent to kill the princess instead of Death’s next victim- the princess herself. Meanwhile, Death has taken a holiday and is reluctant to return to work.

Appeal: Mort is filled with the satirical humor Pratchett is known for. The story is character driven and the characters, even Death, are ones you’ve seen before. In a way this is a coming of age story, for the character Mort. While the setting and frame are unique and important to the story, knowledge of the fantasy world of Discworld is not essential. The pace is slow at first but builds quickly after Death takes Mort away. Unique to Pratchett’s style of the lack of chapters; sometimes scene breaks are shown by asterisks. Sentences are short and language is modern, but some characters have unique language styles that differentiate them.

Special Features: Footnotes throughout text, a crossword puzzle, a index of main characters in the Discworld series, “Discworld on $30 a day” feature, and a non-map.


Prizes or Awards: Pratchett was the bestselling author in the UK in the 1990s before JK Rowling. Mort was voted the most popular Pratchett novel by the BBC’s Big Read 2003.

Similar Works:
  • Reaper Man by Terry Pratchett Second book featuring Death as main character
  • A dirty job by Christopher Moore Death as a fictitious character, dark humor
  • Death, Jr., vol. 1 by Gary Whitta Death as a fictitious character, humorous
Reviewers Name: Lori Chatman


Adapted from Saricks, Joyce G. and Nancy Brown. Readers= Advisory Service in the Public Library 2nd.  Chicago: ALA, 1997