Review by: Mark Palm
A lot of people seem to like it when things fall neatly into categories. For me alphabetizing is about as far as I like to go. So reading Sorrow's Knot by Erin Bow was a real treat. For a YA book it is serious, even grim. It has magic, but not of a type I had ever read about before. It is steeped in time and place, but it is set in a world almost without description. I liked it a lot.
The book is set in a Native American landscape seeming in the West, but the time and place are up for grabs. As I said earlier though, Ms. Bow does a great job of making the world come alive with quotidian details and descriptions that are spot on, but firmly tied to a cultural base. The story is about a girl on the cusp of womanhood named Otter, and her close friends, Kestral, and a boy named Cricket. Without giving away a lot of the plot I can say that Otter’s mother, Willow is the tribe’s Binder. In a wonderful system (I hate to call it that but it works) the many wild and dangerous spirits of the world, and the spirits of the dead are kept at bay by these women of power who use yarn to make patterns and tie knots that are suffused with magic and power. One of the most important roles of the binder is to bind the tribe's dead as they are taken to their burial platforms, so that they do not return as dangerous spirits. Unfortunately I can say very little else about this fascinating practice because the lore of it is , no pun intended, so tied up with the plot that it would spoil the surprises.
Now I enjoyed this book a great deal, but it is one of the more frustrating books that I have had to review because so much of the story revolves around a few plot twists that I feel like I cannot reveal, so much of the story I cannot divulge. Just let me say that Cricket and Kestral find their place in the tribe, and they help Otter on her quest to find her role in the world, and her destiny. The story is tense, and Ms. Bow does a wonderful job in making us feel the huge expanse of the world outside the narrow confines of the tribe. Unless I am mistaken the word tribe is never used in the book, but I use it here for brevity's sake. There are few characters in this book, but they are full and complex, and I came to care for them all.
One of the books most admirable features is that way that Ms. Bow never slips out of the character of the world she has so fully created. Every simile, every metaphor, and the language itself, is tied to the characters and their lives with total verisimilitude, and for all of that, the languages sings. It is quite an achievement, as well she shows us the comforts in the smallness of the tribe and the fear of the unknown world that lies beyond, but as the story progresses some of that is subverted as the wide world outside unfolds. It sounds like a contradiction, but it's more like a revelation.
I know that a lot of this review is vague and I have been very skimpy with the plot, but this is the kind of book that demands this kind of treatment. I could blab on and on for days about it once you have read it, but to do so beforehand would ruin this small gem. So just trust me this time, and read Sorrow's Knot.
Review by: Avalon Palm
Wow! That's the only word that fits this book, except maybe supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. It is a wonderful book, but beware, if you read this book you might have a cranium explosion caused by EXTREME AWESOMENESS.
The Fairest of Them All is a wonderful spin on a selection of fairy tales. The book includes the stories of Rapunzel, Snow White, Prince Charming, The Seven Dwarves, and The Famous Villain: A witch/stepmother. The main character, Rapunzel, is raised by a witch in the woods. Then who should show up at the door but Prince Charming? The story continues in a flurry of mystery, evil, adventures, and true love's kisses.
The Fairest of Them All is a book I would suggest to almost anyone over twelve years old, mainly saying so because of its size. If you're a fantasy reader, get ready for the read of your life.
Review by: Stacy Palm
I picked this book up because I have two growing teens in my home, and I want them to have a healthy prospective of being intimate with their spouse when they are older yet the good judgement to abstain until that committed relationship has been formed. Wow, That puts us parents in a tough spot! You don't want to say, "Don't do it because it's bad." Yet, that is what so often leaves our mouths. Without getting to personal, my husband and I have a very solid relationship when it comes to being intimate. I'm very thankful for it and I honestly believe it is all due to good communication. So again, I picked this book up with the above in my mind.
I'm not one for what I consider "self-help" books, but I do love books that help me become a stronger spiritual person and that help me become the the truest person I can be. I have to say that this was a very well written book and provided much insight. I did not agree 100% with everything, but there was a lot of useful and truthful information in it. I was also astounded to find there were some new discussion points for myself and my husband. I enjoyed the "ponder the principle" points at the end of the chapters and each prayer that accompanied them. This book did provide some good discussion points on how to talk to my kids so they have healthy intimate relationships with spouses in the future. It also provided insight to children who have been abused, and since I work with foster children that sadly many are abused sexually, this added an additional layer of insight I did not expect to find when I first choose this book. I would recommend this book to couples seeking how to be more intimate while following the passages of the Bible, and to parents looking to provide their teens with the tools to be happy, healthy, and successful partners later in their life.
Review by: Stacy Palm
This is another very difficult review to write. For one, I was obviously captivated to the point that I could not put this novel down and finished it in a day. That tells me I was so intensely drawn into these characters and what was happening that I could not wait an extra minute to find out then end. The mystery was intriguing, the characters unique, and the setting was captured very differently because of the limitations of the main character.
However, there was also something underlying that was nagging at me, which is the reason I did not give this novel 4 stars. It took me awhile to put my finger on it, but I finally figured out that it was what my husband and I refer to as "The Beach Syndrome." There was a really good book called The Beach, that they made into a really horrible movie, and the problem was that the ideals behind the story were so adversely thrown into your face at every moment that you felt pummeled by the politics. Now this book is no where to that level, as I said it even took me awhile to figure out what was discomforting to my about the book. In the end, the authors ideals of coincidence vaguely do feel as though you are getting hit over the head with the authors ideas.
I'm going to go back to what I first said, as I do not want to leave you with a negative impression of this book. It was really good, very well written, and incredibly original. I recommend that you read this book and post your own opinions and reviews, as it is a great book to discuss. Especially when thinking about disabilities or what we consider to be special needs of children.
Review by: Stacy Palm
This is a tough review to begin so I think I should start by saying that you should go now and get this book because this is a great book to discuss with others who have read or are in the process of reading it. I know that there is a lot of hype surrounding this book, and I understand why. It is a great read with colorful characters, exotic landscapes, and unsolved mysteries. The writers did a excellent job of propelling the story forward while developing the characters.
I will state that there is one minor downfall for me and it is the only reason I did not give this book 5 stars. The character, Lilac, had some developmental shortcomings in the written sense. Don't get me wrong, I loved her after the growth and adaptation she went through, but I think that in an effort to present her to the audience in the beginning as the debutante, she was made just a little to self-conscience. It was the only critical thing I can say however.
The landscape and setting for this book were the stars of the story and I wish that more would've been done with the actual local wildlife. This book reminds me (vaguely) of the old science fiction movie Enemy Mine, which is a classic to me, but for young adults and more romance. I would love to see this book adapted into a movie and can't imagine that someone out in Hollywood land isn't already in the process of trying to procure rights. So I highly recommend you go grab the book now before the mad rush to read it before primer day happens (hopefully).
Review by: Stacy Palm
There is nothing more enjoyable in life that sitting down to a dinner table with amazing food and drinks to share with your friends and family. I am one of the few who enjoy the art of entertaining and would prefer to be the creator of the meal rather than having someone else do it. So I was very excited to receive this cookbook created by the Founding Farmers Restaurant in Washington D. C.
This book compliments the restaurants own menu and tradition of offering "Farm inspired American True Food and Drink" (www.wearefoundingfarmers.com). The recipes aim to please eco-friendly palettes by using only farm fresh ingredients. The selections are both appetizing and creative and perfect for a gathering meant to cultivate conversation and pleasant memories.
Review by: Stacy Palm
It's a couple weeks after Christmas, but the presents continue to roll in. I received this novella directly from the author for an honest review. I have to say that I very much love spending time in the "In Shadow" world! Let's talk a minute about the fairly new trend of providing readers additional insight into characters and lands with the release of novellas. At first, I was not a fan of this trend because I feared for the antiquated individual who choose books over e-readers; how would they know about these side stories, would they miss vital information because they lacked technology, and would this audience be forgotten over time for choosing not to change with the times? However, after reading and reviewing many of these novellas, including this one, I have to say that authors are doing a fine job of weaving additional tales into the worlds without forgetting that some readers may not have access to these stories, while those of us who are desperate to spend additional time in the world while waiting for the next release can enjoy these brief rendezvous with our most beloved characters.
Now to this tale, Iced in Shadow picks up after book 2 in the series and is a delightful holiday tale! It is true to Ms. Luhrs good form and includes lots of fun and romance. This novel also gives us a bit more information on Hamish, who I hear will be a central character in the next release! There are insights into all of our favorite characters and many moments that had me laughing. I have to add a personal note here, and those of you who read book 2 "Desired by Shadow" know that children abound in the books ending. I happen to work for a home for foster children in Texas, and truly love the element of providing homes and safety for the children while the world is in the midst of chaos. Kudos to Ms. Luhrs for remembering the children.
Anyone who has read a book in this series will benefit from picking this novella up, as there are a few moments that will lend details into the relationship between Hamish and Colin. I recommend this series to anyone looking for a different sort of paranormal romance that is both enticing and amusing.
Review by: Mark Palm
In another review, not long ago, I said that we were being buried beneath a wave of books about vampires. Well here comes one more wave.
The Kindred of Darkness by Barbara Hambley is the fifth novel in a series featuring James and Lydia Asher. Set at the end of the Victorian era the books deal with Professor Asher, of Oxford, and of late in Service to the Crown in the Great Game, and his scholarly wife Lydia, whose lives have become entangled with vampires who exist in the fringes and shadows of society. This novel is the first of the series that I have read, and as such I must first set out by saying that it stood on its own fairly well although at times I was a bit lost by all of the ancillary characters of little import who seem to be treated as familiar. In terms of plot and the main characters Ms. Hambley did a strong job in establishing the book and I rarely felt at ends.
The book deals with the kidnapping of the Asher's daughter, Miranda, and her nanny, by the Master Vampire of London, one Grippen. It happens while James is away lecturing on the Continent and Lydia must deal with this on her own, but not for long.
Not long after Grippen reveals why he has kidnapped their daughter, and what he wants from Lydia, help comes first in the form of a Spanish vampire who is a friend of the Asher's, the dashing Don Simon Ysidro, then finally in James himself. After that the book is a strong exercise in suspense as the Asher’s try to find their daughter by tracking down two different vampires. They do this through various means of old-fashioned spy craft and also through the tangled web of High Society, as one of the undead that they seek is planning to undermine the wedding of one of Lydia's acquaintances. The Society storyline is the least successful because of a surfeit of rather colorless characters that muddy the storyline, and Ms Hambley further slows it down by tossing in handfuls of well-researched but ultimately unimportant minutiae. When the Asher’s are on the case however tracking the Vampires and their human accomplices, the narrative is taut and filled with action.
None of the villains are particularly vivid, but Don Ysidro and James are sturdy. Lydia is the real star of the book, intelligent and finely drawn, she is a contradiction; a woman of her time who rebels against the conventions she is forced to live by to keep from being more of an outcast than she already is, all for the sake of her husband and daughter. The pace of the book is deliberate at first, then after the arrival of James, begins to pick up momentum and speed. The vampires, even Don Ysidro, are rather chilling , heartless creatures, who make no bones about the death they must deal in order to survive. There are some nice scholarly twists and turns, as the desperate parents much negotiate their way through this tangled skein using the tools of espionage, scholarship, and connections to society. Also Ms Hambley did a good job in surprising me with some well-timed revelations about some of the supporting characters, giving them depth as the story rushed on, and saving them from being one-dimensional clichés.
The writing was steady, although now and again Ms Hambley got so tied up with interior monologues in the midst of narration that I thought that she might be trying to circumnavigate language instead of using it, but for the most part I enjoyed this book. I might just start liking vampires after all.
Review by: Mark Palm
It's hard to write about humor without giving a lot of examples because humor is so subjective. What leaves me rolling in the aisle might elicit a chuckle from the next person and fall as flat as a flounder to the person after that. That's why this review was so tough for me because I want to tell you so much of Hyperbole and A Half that you probably wouldn't need to go out and get the book. And you should go out and get the book. That way I won't have to tell you about the time-capsule letter that Ms. Brosh received from her ten-year old self asking her to please write back when she opens the letter fifteen years later or about how she used to creep her parents out by watching them sleep from the corner of the room or about the Simple dog and the Helper dog. All of these stories, accompanied by Ms. Brosh's simple, deadpan illustrations are laugh-out-loud funny, to me anyway.
Review by: Stacy Palm
Alright ladies, did you get everything on your list to Santa? Well, even if you did, go add a bonus gift to your pile from yourself and pick up this book (and the first book in the series!) When I think of all the talented writers throughout the years in the romance genre beginning with V.C. Andrew, Nora Roberts, and then moving on to Kelley Armstrong, Karen Marie Moning, and Sylvia Day I can honestly say that Kat Bastion is now added to that list of talented favorite writers.
This novella picks up the story with a Christmas twist and focuses on Robert, Iain's trusted Commander, whom we met briefly in the first novel. What I love about this...