Thursday, April 30, 2015

Briggs' Heroic Fantasy: Dragon Bones

Dragon Bones, Patricia Briggs
I am a very big fan of Patricia Briggs' Mercy Thompson series.  Even talking about it gives me a fluttery, breathless thrill recalling how much I enjoyed those stories  I can recall feelings I had in response to each and every villain so clearly still!

So when my dad mailed us a copy of another, earlier Patricia Briggs novel (albeit addressed to Haki), there was no question I was going to read it.

Now, the Mercy books are urban fantasy, and consequently have a modern, easy-to-imagine setting, names and dialogue.  Dragon Bones features a more traditional, medieval feel, as well as:
  • So many foreign names attached to people, places, and politics (and without a glossary or map).  
  • A hero I only sort of liked.  I definitely disliked his adversaries, and wanted good to triumph, but I felt I was willing him to be better so much that it detracted from how much I cared for him.  
  • Paranormal content, which I think made the story better.
  • A fairly slow story, but well told.  Things improved from half-way, but overall, the novel felt like a slower, earlier work with less masterful pacing than I expected, from Briggs.
  • Good ideas.  There were some really interesting ideas, but at no point was I enchanted or swept away by the narrative the way I was with books 3 onwards, in the Mercy series.  In fact, I doubt I'll read the sequel.
Overall:  I think big fans of traditional fantasy novels (like Legend) will enjoy this more than I did; maybe even love it (like my dad did).  For me, it was only okay.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

An Illustrated Theory of Relativity: A "Children's" Book Review

You Are (Not) Small, Anna Kang
Created by a talented husband and wife team, this new release illustrated story features bold, comic-style illustrations and text, with a simple (but valuable!) message.  Esky opened the review copy and then confidently read it to me and the other two girls (I think it is appealing when a book doubles as an Early Reader, don't you?!).  And we all like it.  So much so, I was immediately asked to take a turn reading it aloud (with voices -- which, by the way, are easy to cast and remember with size-based characters).  We consider this short tale an excellent addition to any family library interested in stories that can be funny and moral-rich.   Available in bookstores, today!

Saturday, April 25, 2015

A Reading Log (Free Printable)

Here's a Reading Log I made for use in our home. You can print it and use it for your kid/s too (the blank line is for your student's name, and we write the page count in on top of the pages icon in the small rectangle at the top of the cell). We like it because it only requires a small amount of writing; number of book read (we write this sideways), title, and author, and then it is multi-choice selection by colouring/highlighting/circling -- enough writing for good practise, but not so much as to overwhelm.  It's also a great way to see trends emerging. 

Happy reading!

Friday, April 24, 2015

I Heart Wolves (and so do ecosystems)

I'm sharing it in case you haven't seen it yet.  
Do I love it?  YES.  
Am I aware this is oversimplified and contains a soundtrack and designed to evoke an emotional response in me?  YES.  
I lapped it up.  Thrice.  
P.S.  Wolves are my favourite animal, hands down.  It may be part of why I had a very high cringe-threshold in these books, too -- which I've received mixed feedback about, from y'all.  I did refer to them as a "guilty pleasure" and plastered "teen romance" on the review.  You were warned! 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

One Step Closer to the Throne

Esky: I heard you saying that it may not be long until your mum's mum dies.
Me: You did?
Esky: Yeah.  I know that that is sad, but it is also kind of good
               ...because then you'll be the queen!"
Me:  ... "I think I can understand your way of thinking here."

I then went on to explain that while she had seen and read some stories where characters inherited the kingdom after their parents died, that I was in fact, not part of a royal family, and so I wouldn't become a queen.  I supplied examples of living royal families, outlined "common people" to royals ratios, and what royal life seems like, to me.  I also confessed I wouldn't trade places with any royal I knew of.  She didn't look too disappointed about any of these points, but there was a small confused furrow to her brow that indicated something still bothered her. 

Me: (Suspecting the furrow's cause) "Did you think you would be a princess?"
Esky: "Well...yeah."
Me: "I see!  What part of this news is most disappointing to you?"
Esky: "Well, I thought I was going to get a bed like this."
Esky then opened a Sofia the First Colouring Book she was given (containing illustrations based on a show we've never even seen on TV, but she likes colouring copies from the book -- there are flying horses, after all), and carefully turned to a picture she obviously knew well how to find.  She then tapped the page, her finger on a line drawing of a four poster bed, complete with draperies.  A picture of Sofia with part of this bed in the background, I might add.
Me: "That is a very nice bed."  I schooled my facial expressions carefully through this entire exchange, but I did raise my eyebrows here.
Esky: "Yeah.  I thought it'd be like always being in a tent, but warmer."  She attempted a shrug to show that she could work through this.

Friends: this is the same kid that assumed picture-book illustrations of children posting letters to Santa must be thank-you letters.  I mean, what else would these kids be writing? RIGHT?!  This is the kid who tells me she will work to earn a pet if we'll let her, and only ever talks about having new things when referencing "when I am older" or "one day maybe I'll have" about animals, not other things so much (including animal toys).  I have never thought of her as an entitled kid.

I also think she is pretty switched on...but there are some Esky oversights;
  • I know I speak often of how privileged we are to lead the life we do, but where is the palace?  The staff?  Perhaps we are of the humbler royal variety.  Yet with four-poster beds.
  • This rendering of events writes my own mother out of the line of succession completely. Perhaps she figured it still meant she was one step closer to Princesshood, and she could wait out another elderly family member's mortal departure if it meant, invariably, being one step closer to that four-poster?
So that is how the back-story goes.
Because there is more. 
Because she doesn't often ask for big things, and because she is a sweet kid, I decided then and there that that girl deserved to feel like she slept in a tent all the time -- what a sweet aspiration! She didn't want the wardrobe, the trinkets, or the cloches housing banquet food...she wanted a perpetual tent.  And, even if it makes my skin crawl (I am pretty anti- promoting princess things), that kids deserves to feel "like a princess," if her definition is so reasonable and darling.

And thus, this:
And being the easily-pleased, sweet girl that she is, she is not only content, she is elated.  In fact, I think she believes I have made good on all she had hoped to inherit -- and ahead of schedule; no deaths required.

"Mosquito net and $2-shop flower leis, you say?"
I say "Making dreams come true."  That kid deserves to snuggle down and smile up at the canopy (euphemisms for mossie net abound, I assure you) and know she is adored.

  • Were she one of the rich and famous, this is pretty much the simplest writer I've ever heard of.
  • Yes, she has a queen-size bed.  
  • This kind of doubles as a reading nook to replace the one I wanted to convert to closet space for Mia (who is slowly moving out of our room, officially). Tick. 
  • This addition has meant Esky has appeared by our bedside after nightmares much less frequently.  In fact, her need for nighttime reassurance as almost entirely stopped.  That's it -- forget "Making dreams come true" -- I build force-fields!

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