A Review of The Hidden City

The Hidden City (The Tamuli, #3)The Hidden City by David Eddings

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

At long last, I’ve finished this book. It took me far, far too long. It was a long book and I’ve had a busy time. I think the reason I took so long, though, was that I didn’t really want to have to say goodbye to these characters again. I have a tendency to put off finishing a book when I know it’s the last in a series.

I love the way Eddings characterized the people. They seemed, in many ways, to be quite real. Pretty much everything is tied up in a neat little bow. Many, many of the characters were married or in committed relationships by the end of the series, but that’s fairly typical of his writing style.

One section – the wedding shown in this book – is a little stilted in it’s writing, but… once you get to the next chapter the reason for that becomes clear. I felt like it was a very nice way of shining a light on that particular facet of Sparhawk’s character and it made the reader really understand his decision.

This book, like the Belgariad/Mallorian series plays with fantasy tropes. Some people might find it a bit off-putting. Other people will see the humor in how Eddings did that (as I did). In spite of how long it took me to read this book, the four-star rating stands. I really liked this book!

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A Review of Silver on the Tree

Silver on the Tree (Dark Is Rising, #5)Silver on the Tree by Susan Cooper
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’ll start by saying that I’m really glad that I re-read this book. It has been so long since my first reading that there were parts I didn’t remember. I also realized that there were parts that went over my head the first time, which I noticed and appreciated more in this reading.

I found this book to be as well written and enjoyable as the previous books in the series. I loved all the characters, although… it would have been nice to see more of what the Drews were doing while Will and Bran were in the Lost Land.

My favorite part was the, actually, the journey through the Lost Land. Gwion was a great character! I adored his interactions with Will and Bran, as well as with the Riders of the Dark. The scene with his king was poignant.

The ending was kind of bittersweet, but I loved all the little bits that went into it: the idea that Will, as an Old One, would see Merry again, the little moment between Jane and Bran, etc. I felt like it was a fitting end to the series.

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Write a Novel in a Month?

Blog circle is here once again: This month’s topic: To NaNoWriMo or not to NaNoWriMo? Why or why not?  If you participate, what type of prep do you do before the start? Are you excited for this year?

NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month – is something that I first discovered about twelve years ago.  That first year, I didn’t participate.  However, the next year rolled around and I decided on October 31 that I would do it.  I signed up and never looked back.  I’ve been hooked ever since.

For me, it’s less of a challenge to write.  I’ve reached the point where I write every day (or nearly every day) even when NaNo isn’t going on.  However, the challenge is to focus on a single project for an entire month and finish that project during the month.  I’ve succeeded in that nearly every time (I’ve always reached the word goal, but there was one time when the story wasn’t finished by the end of the month).

Preparing for NaNo is one of those things where it’s very individual.  In my first year, I wrote out my outline on the last day before the event and… just started writing.  In other years, I’ve written detailed outlines, character outlines, world notes, and… just about everything you could imagine.  What I’ve found is that I need some kind of plan, but I can’t plan too much either.

This year, I have a few different short synopses, one pretty lengthy outline and character profiles for the six major characters (including pictures).  I’ve also got a short list of minor characters and settings, along with dares and dialogue prompts.  That’s all the preparation that I feel like I need.  As it is… I’ll probably deviate from my outline pretty soon after the month starts.

Excitement… comes and goes.  Sometimes, I wonder if my story will be worth reading when all is said and done.  However, whenever I start to tell someone about my story, I get excited all over again.  I’m just hoping that I’ll be able to make the story be half as much fun to read as it has been to dream up.

A Review of The Smuggler’s Treasure

The Smuggler's Treasure (American Girl History Mysteries, #1)The Smuggler’s Treasure by Sarah Masters Buckey

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I found this book by pure chance at a street fair this summer. I never knew about these books from American Girl’s and now I’m going to be looking for more of them to read.

Elisabet starts off the book as a bit of a brat, but it actually makes a lot of sense. She’s grown up the daughter of a wealthy ship’s captain – with a fine house and servants and all the things that go with it. Now, she’s been ripped away from that life and sent to live with her aunt and uncle in New Orleans. She expects that they live the same way she did in Boston. Upon arriving, she realizes that she is quite wrong in that expectation.

Not only is her uncle dead, but she’s not going to a fine home with servants to wait on her. She’s going to the home of a shopkeeper and she’s going to have to learn how to work hard herself. Eventually, she makes friends with Marie and Raoul and Claude.

There were some things that didn’t surprise me at all – the identity of the ghost, the fact that the story has a happy ending (this is a story from American Girl after all). Other things were a little surprising: just what the treasure was and how it’s important to the story was a surprise. I also found it really amusing to see this little blond rich girl about Elisabet’s age pop up: Caroline. Now, she was nothing like the Caroline that the same company had out a few years ago, but… it was still kind of funny.

Yeah… this book is great for the target audience: 10-13 year old girls. There’s enough of a mystery there to get them thinking and the clues are there for them to solve it, along with Elisabet and Marie.

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The Whole Thing?

I’ve been spending the last few months re-reading a series of books that I read in my mid-teen years: The Dark is Rising Sequence.  It’s a five-book contemporary fantasy series written for middle grades (the main characters are generally between ten and twelve years old).  None of the books is especially long (one count of the entire sequence puts it at just under 800 pages).  However, I keep seeing questions about reading just one book from the sequence.

The Dark is Rising was a Newbery Honor Book (runner up for the medal) and The Grey King won the Newbery Medal.  So… yeah, people just want to read these books, since they are clearly “the best” of the sequence.

On one hand, I can understand that someone might not wish to read a book that isn’t great.  However, just because a book didn’t win or get nominated for an award doesn’t mean it’s not well written or enjoyable.  I’ve read and really enjoyed books that never won awards and I’ve read books that did win awards that I didn’t care for.

Additionally, they were written as a series.  That tends to mean… things happen in one book that are important in the next book and, if you don’t read those previous books, then you don’t know what all is going on.  You are meant to read them in order and, in order to get the whole story, you’re meant to read all five books.

So… yeah, would you honestly skip books in a series just because they didn’t get an award?  If so, have you ever felt that you missed out by doing so or does it give you more time to read better-written books?

A Review of The Grey King

The Grey King (The Dark is Rising, #4)The Grey King by Susan Cooper

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I remember enjoying this book as a girl, when I first read it. Now, on re-reading it… I love it. It’s easily the most powerful of the four books I’ve re-read in the series. I also learned something about myself, in re-reading this book.

Bran Davies, the secondary protagonist, is an albino. He was, in actual fact, the first albino in fiction that I was ever introduced to and… he has colored my opinions of them ever since. I love albino characters. ^_^;; I don’t try to portray them as magical or mystical or evil – because that was not my introduction to them in literature. While it’s true that Bran is, by the end, revealed as anything but a normal boy, he seems to be one at first. For most of the book, there’s nothing extraordinary about him, beyond his looks. It’s not until the very end – when Will learns his true nature – that the reader realizes the truth.

In any case, this book sets up the final one in the series quite nicely. Again, I love the characters. It’s wonderful how the author can, even when dealing with characters like Will (who is not a normal boy), still capture the way a normal boy acts and reacts to things – particularly the strange things that these kids go through. That realism helps the reader become immersed in the story. As unbelievable things happen, the characters have such realistic reaction to them that the reader can believe them as well.

Great book! Great series! I’m looking forward to beginning the last book.

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A Review of Pussycats

Pussycats: a photographic celebrationPussycats: a photographic celebration by Elizabeth Carr

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a book that I bought for myself years ago, because one of the photographs inside reminded me of my own cat, who had passed away a few years before. I didn’t actually read it at the time – I just turned it to that page and admired the cat.

Now, fifteen years later, I read the book and admired the quotes and photographs it holds. I’m really glad I have kept this book. The quotes are sometimes clever, sometimes sweet. Seeing the old photographs is fun too.

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