Terie Garrison's WinterMaejic (DragonSpawn Cycle: Book 2, sequel to AutumnQuest) - Grade: B+. As previously stated, I'm nervous about these because all 3 came out at the same time. In Terie's defense, this book wasn't bad. It didn't have quite the appeal as the first, and the plot dragged in places, but it held my interest. I read it in one sitting without putting it down (except to eat breakfast, and I was annoyed to do so). The main character, Donavah is bound by a spell and finds herself unable to speak or use her hands early on. Any of you who are familiar with my less-than-advertised writings will know I have a character I'm wrestling with in similar fashion, though my idea takes this one a bit farther. Still a good read, not a waste of time, and I'm excited to read the others.

Philip Pullman's The Subtle Knife (Dark Materials: Book 2, sequel to The Golden Compass) - Grade: A-. If it's possible, I enjoyed this book more than the first. I had no trouble with accents, and found the descriptions lovely and wonderful, much more prevalently apparent than I guess I saw in Book 1. Also the Godless/Anti-Christian arguments are becoming a bit clearer, though I'm going to have to read Book 3 before I can come down on either side of the argument (war? *snicker*) But I breezed through this in a sitting as well, it had no trouble holding my interest at all.

Todd DeZago and Mike Wieringo's TELLOS: Reluctant Heroes and TELLOS: Kindred Spirits: Grade: A+. Ok, so technically it's a cheat, because these are graphic novels and not book books. But I reviewed a graphic novel previously. These comics are sheer beauty and brilliance, and I'd read them before, but got them because I wanted Turtle to read them. I remembered them being amazing, but not the reason why. The ending is the answer to the mystery. Some of the plot feels rushed, but it's a comic, so I let it slide. But the ending is the charm that brings the whole story together and makes the read worth it. Go and read NOW! :)

Terie Garrison's SpringFire (DragonSpawn Cycle: Book 3) - Grade: C. Eh. That's how I really felt about this book. I have trouble getting through it honestly. So much of the plot was unnecessary, and confusing... this book just really let the series fall apart. I'm hoping that the 4th book will bring it all back together and redeem the shortcoming of the third, but I'm nervous it won't.

Terie Garrison's SummerDanse (DragonSpawn Cycle: Book 4) - Grade: C-. I really don't know what to say. The plot in this book seemed the same as the others... let's have the main character get separated from the others, go through some terrible ordeal, then be saved miraculously at the end. *shakes head* I would have cut books 2 and 3 entirely, and most of Book 4. The saddest thing for me is seeing (from my authorial eyes) the potential this series had. Maybe Terie accomplished her goals, and painted her version of the story she wanted told, in which I commend her. But I'm pained because I see it being so much more. And it wasn't. Is this due to the last three being cranked out all at once? Or something else? I can only speculate...but in the end I was disappointed. Terribly.

Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman's Dragons of Autumn Twilight - Grade: A+. I find it funny that this (well, these, because it's a series) never makes it into my Top Ten Favorites list. But really, it is. I LOVE THESE BOOKS to no end. And in many, many ways, they are my inspiration for writing. If you look closely at my characters and my plot, you can detect the similarities. There are many; more than I care to admit... If you have not experienced this series (and the Death Gate Cycle, you absolutely should. They are amazing stories! Love me some DragonLance!!!

Philip Pullman's The Amber Spyglass (Dark Materials: Book 3) - Grade: A. Wow! This book was a whopper! So long! But I didn't have too bad of a time with it. For the sake of brevity, I won't go into what could easily be a full post on the idea of God and Godlessness in this book. I will simply say I can see where some people find the argument having merit. I disagree. I think Pullman has a unique perspective on life, one that I very much appreciate and resonate with. The end was so heart-wrenching and made my heart ache so desperately... because there love was so real and so genuine, and then they had to... incredible. I didn't really understand/or feel that the more engaged parts of the war sequences were explained adequately, or fully, but I thought the end was marvelous, and brilliant, and I didn't feel there were gaping chapters full of unnecessary drivel. I think this trilogy stands well, each book individually, and the three collectively. It's a shame to think that his popularity may have been tainted by his "un-christian-ness" because he's thought intensely and deeply about his plot, much more than I can say for a great deal of people that I know. 'Nuff said.

Erik Larson's Devil in the White City - Grade: A. This book was pretty intense, especially since it's non-fiction. The level of research (and notes in the back) was very reminiscent to me of Water for Elephants, maybe even moreso with the depth of research and work put into the book. Larson is a witty writer too, whose small embellishments really added a flair to the novel, and sometimes made me laugh out loud. Quite a compelling read for history buff and fiction devourer alike, especially if you have any inclination toward the psychotic and psychopathic.

Deborah Davis' Not Like You - Grade: B. This is relatively new YA Fiction, and after having read it, I wasn't sure why I even ever picked it. But I did. Saw a review or a teaser somewhere, and decided, what the hecks, why not? It's about a 16-year old girl trying to come to grips with life, love, and herself, all while trying to deal with a-continually-attempting-to-recover alcoholic mother. It's kinda gritty (ie, there's sex), but ends up being very real. The ending left me dissatisfied, and ultimately, I don't know that I'd recommend it to anyone, but I didn't hate the book.

Carole Wilkinson's Dragon Keeper - Grade: C. Someone recommended this to me... and I got it. And it's won a whole ton of awards. But it was Chinese... and I definitely grew up with my nose in all of Laurence Yep's books. So anything Chinese-related is going to be inevitably compared. And I don't care how many awards Wilkinson won, she is not, and never will be, Yep. The story of the slave girl befriending the dragon, and their journey to escape was okay in its own right. But I couldn't help thinking over and over and over that Yep would have done this, or written it that way, and the story ended up marred by what it could have been... if only Yep had written it. I don't think (sorry whoever recommended it) that I'm going to bother with the rest of the award-laden trilogy. Again, I didn't hate it. If you've never read Laurence Yep, you might enjoy it. :/

Eldridge Cleaver's Soul on Ice - Grade: B. I'm hesitant about the grade on this one, because this book is so important to society, and a gut-wrenching look at the evolution of Blacks in America. In this regard, it should be marked as a quintessential looking-glass for the dissemination of cultural, political, national, and yes, even racial identity in the 60's and 70's. Cleaver's insights, understandings, and revelations are poignant assessments of the revolutionary period where Blacks found themselves finally in a position to shed (and fight back against the injustice of) the previous defining 400 years of their American Experience (and place in History). In this essence, I applaud, as well as laud, this book for its practicality, brutal honesty, and copious acknowledgment of the problems and trials faced by the people - some of which are still prevalent today. It should be give the most resplendent of A's. However, the one thorn in my side this book insists on pressing firmly into my skin is the skewed and unjustified (though not at the time) view of homosexuality Cleaver brings to the table, and outlines in explicit, exquisite detail. I wish I could simply ignore the posits of homosexuality contained within; nevertheless, sex and sexuality are such a grounded principle twining through the bursting pages of these memoirs, that it demands to be confronted, digested, and heard. Aside from the fraught accouterments of gay people strapped judiciously at the side of the armored warrior struggling for place and acceptance, I would proudly march alongside him; indeed, many of the essays and commentaries incited in me a desire to be more politically active, to be more of a force in what I see to be a STILL-changing America, one in which I can play a pivotal, influential role. Cleaver evokes this without being flat-footed or patronizing, without asking directly or urging the reader to action. The underlying tension simply touches the spirit and awakens a sense of duty, of necessity, in aiding the cause of change, and ultimately, equality, making it (considered wholly, thorn aside) a resounding success requisite in anyone's diet for cultural, racial, etc, etc, etc, equality and equanimity.

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