Sunday, October 30, 2011

Laini Taylor, Jane Yolen, C.W. Gortner, Michelle Moran

Haven't done book reviews since August, as I've been rather busy learning to be a mother and applying for jobs and interviewing, but I have managed to read a few books since then. I am currently reading a random fun book called The Secret History of Elizabeth Tudor, Vampire Slayer, figuring it would be an in-between book, between historical fiction and YA books, as that has been mostly what I've been reading lately. 

Creepy Monsters, Sleepy Monsters by Jane Yolen
Cute rhyming picturebook about two little monsters who are getting ready for bed. 4 stars, recommended for ages 3-8. 

Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes by Eric Litwin
I discovered this book by accident when I found the video of the author performing the book with a couple of guitarists. All the kids in the video loved it and I thought it was pretty adorable too. Pete gets some white shoes and then proceeds to step into all different colors and every time he does, he sings a little song about his shoes. Very good book for storytimes. 4 stars, recommended for ages 3-8. 

This Little Piggy with CD: Finger Plays, Clapping Games, and Pantomime Rhymes by Jane Yolen
A book of mostly British & American nursery rhymes (predominantly ones I had never heard of)that are used for babies and toddlers. They are in the form of lap songs("To Market, To Market"), finger plays ("Where is Thumbkin?")and clapping games ("Pease Porridge Hot"). I loved the background knowledge on each of the songs, along with fairly detailed instructions for each of them. I love the illustrations, which are nice for kids to look at, though I agree it is hard to hold up the book and perform the songs. Good resource for new librarian or parent.  4 stars, and recommended for ages 2+.

Young Adult
Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
I had been waiting for months for this book to come out and it was so good, I finished it in two days, could not put it down. Laini Taylor is such an amazing writer with fantastic detailed descriptions of everything that is happening with the character and her stories just draw you into the book and make you never want to leave. Which made things kind of frustrating when you found out that this is the first book in a series and you will have to wait at least another year for a sequel (though I am secretly glad that we will hear more from the main character as she is one of the most interesting ones I've ever read about).

This book is about Karou, a 17 year old girl who lives with an unusual family and always feels alone. She wants someone to call her own, someone to complete her. She is a fantastic artist and is famous for her notebooks, in which she draws these otherworldly characters that her classmates can't stop looking at. Everyone thinks they're fantasy, but it turns out they are real. One day, on one of her errands she encounters an angel who nearly kills her, though she doesn't know why. As the angel comes back to find her, she begins to unravel things about her past that she had forgotten. Will Karou ever find true love? Who is the angel and what connection does he have to her? 5 stars. Recommended for ages 15+.

Nerfertiti by Michelle Moran
A well-researched and interesting take on one of Egypt's most famous queens, this book is seen from the viewpoint of Nefertiti's sister Mutny. I really liked Mutny's character who had a good head on her shoulders compared to Nefertiti, who just came off selfish, whiny, and a little bit sad. While I enjoyed the book about the Heretic King (Akhenaten) and the Amarna period for its lush historical detail, I would give this book 3 1/2 to 4 stars for it's long-windedness. I would be interested in reading her book on Mutny's daughter Nefertari, The Heretic Queen. 4 stars. 

Brigid of Kildare by Heather Terrell
I really enjoyed this feminist viewpoint of the life of the Irish fifth century St. Brigid and her fascination with the Virgin Mary. The book gave a history of the saint and how she came to create the Book of Kildare, an intricately designed work that contained the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John but prominently featured a gorgeous illustration of the Virgin Mary at the beginning of the text. The novel switched back and forth between 5th century Ireland of Brigid and Roman scribe Decius and modern-day Ireland when a historical appraiser named Alex discovers the Book of Kildare in a hidden compartment of a reliquary box in the Catholic convent of St. Brigid. Reading this books makes me want to discover more book about the Druid culture and Early Christianity and how these two were blended to encourage more people to join the faith. 4 stars. 

The Last Queen by C.W. Gortner
Ok I realize that I am reading this from a 21st century woman's point of view and not a 16th century woman's POV and that is a little skewed, but this book pissed me off. I would not have put up with what Juana of Castile went through, betrayed by her husband and father and sequestered away in a castle to rot. Despite this, I enjoyed reading about her story as I didn't know much about Spanish royal history or about Juana herself. 

Juana of Castile's parents were the famous Queen Isabel of Castile and her king consort, Fernando of Aragon. I never knew that her father wasn't a king of the loosely united Spain, and that his hunger for power eventually led to him screwing his own daughter out of her rightfully earned crown. Juana married Philip of Flanders, son of the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I. At first, their marriage was full of love and passion but as her husband's ambition became more prevalent at the urging of his advisor, he started to become more greedy and their marriage went downhill. She had five children, one of which became Charles I of Spain/Charles V of Germany and another became the famous Philip II of Spain. 4 stars. 

Cleopatra's Daughter by Michelle Moran
I loved this book even more than I liked the author's book "Neferiti". This book was set in about 30 BC when Selene's father Marc Antony is defeated by Octavian (who later becomes Emperor Augustus) and kills himself, as does his wife Cleopatra. Selene and her her twin brother Alexander are brought as "guests" of Octavian and live in his sister Octavia's house in Rome with all of her children from previous marriages. It was very interesting to read this book about the early part of Augustus's reign, and to see major players such as Selene, Marcellus and Tiberius as teenagers. The author take liberties with inventing the character of the Red Eagle, who fights for slave's rights and tries to assasinate Octavian. I was happy to see, at the end of the book, that Selene did end up making a love match and was able in her own way to recreate Alexandria, though she was never allowed to go back to Egypt. 5 stars. 

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