Friday, December 31, 2010


By Robert Harris

Start Date: 3 September 2010
End Date: 18 December 2010
400 pages (Paperback Edition)
Published 7 August 2007
Recommended for: High school or adult readers interested in history

Imperium is about the complex politics of Ancient Rome. The story is centered on Cicero, a Roman politician. The first part of the story follows him as he learns how to be an orator and Harris slowly introduces the reader to some of the characters that are to play a larger part later. Then he begins to build his reputation as a lawyer and prosecutes Gaius Verres, an extremely corrupt governor. Both during an after that accomplishment, he struggles to gain imperium, political power, by cleverly maneuvering the treacherous waters of Roman politics.

As I’ve mentioned several times in earlier posts, the beginning of this book was incredibly slow. However, I’m glad I stuck with it. About 60 or 70 pages in, it was engaging enough for me to get the nagging little voice in the back of my mind that pops up whenever I’m reading a good book, telling me to “just read a few more pages; forget the math homework.” About halfway through the book it got to a climax, the thing that he was working towards for the entire book to that point, and it was getting really interesting and really good, and then he had the climax and the resolution and then there was still another half of the books to go, and I was like, what the heck? At that point, part I ends, and Harris moves on to part II. Part II is written in a much more engaging style than part I, partially because the reader already knows the characters and partially because part II feels like a sequel rather than a continuation of the story. Harris focuses less on individual details and writes with a slightly different style as well as having a different goal than part I.

Ultimately, I would recommend it (mostly to adult readers, I think high schoolers would get bored much to quickly) but be prepared to stick with it through the slow bits.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Forgotten Stories

A few days ago I was thinking about authors, and how so many of the wonderful stories we read will be forgotten in 100 or even 50 years. It got me wondering about what we were missing out on, the stuff that was written in the early 1900s. And also what would last from our time.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Life As Usual

   I haven’t been reading as much recently because it’s the week before winter break, so every teacher wants to squeeze in a test, quiz, or essay. I finished Imperium and liked it very much, so I will try to post a review by Monday night. I’ve been getting very behind on reviewing the books that I read – I finished Fablehaven at the end of November and I also wanted to review a holiday-related book for the holidays. Well, if anyone wants to know whether Emilia is the true hero of Othello, that’s the review I have right now, but I’m not going to post it because then I’d probably lose the 1 follower that I have.
   Since last nightstand update, I got The Danger Box (by Blue Balliett) as a gift, and it looks pretty good – I liked Chasing Vermeer and her others, so hopefully I’ll enjoy The Danger Box as well.
   Only 3 people voted in the poll for what I’m reading next, so I guess it’s up to me to choose between The Clockwork Three, Clan of the Cave Bear, and A Girl Named Disaster (no one voted for Eyes Like Stars). I guess I won’t be putting up any more polls for a while, until I have slightly more viewership. Well, I suppose that’s life – same as usual.

Friday, December 10, 2010


By Cornelia Funke

Start Date: 2 December 2010
End Date: 4 December 2010
400 pages (Hardcover edition)
Published: September 14, 2010
Age Recommendation: 12+

I was a little reluctant to read this book because I was afraid it’d be a bit too creepy for me, who has relatively low creepiness-tolerance. However, my worries thankfully were not fulfilled, and I devoured this book as quickly as possible.

One thing that bugged me was that Funke dives right in without a lot of back-story. This makes it a little confusing at first, because you don’t really know who any of the characters are or what is happening, but it keeps you (or at least it keeps me) reading, because you understand more with every sentence. But just to clear things up, the main 4 characters are:

Jacob Reckless: Main character. Discovers the Mirrorworld and becomes an adventurer, looking for his father.

Will: Jacob’s brother. Will follows Jacob into the Mirrorworld and gets scratched by a Goyl (a sort of rock-man known for their rages and mercilessness) and begins to become one.

Fox: Jacob’s… companion, I suppose. A girl who spends most of her him in the shape-shifted from of a fox.

Clara: Will’s girlfriend who follows him into the Mirrorworld. She becomes a major character, but I won’t say why.

Anyway, after the initial dive, the story gets much more engaging. Funke’s use of language is inspiring, especially since it was originally written in German and then translated. There were a few parts where I felt like I should be writing some of my favorite phrases down so I wouldn’t forget them. (Frustratingly, I didn’t actually write them down and have by now forgotten them.) The journey is fascinating and easily draws the reader into the Mirrorworld. Another thing that didn’t stand out quite as strongly for me but deserves mention are the fairy tales woven into the plot, many times slightly warped. For example, during the journey, they stay in Sleeping Beauty’s castle, but in the Mirrorworld, the prince never came to wake her. As in that case, the fairy tales of the Mirrorworld, in addition to being real, end quite a bit darker than the fairy tales we all know and love.

However, I was dissatisfied with the ending. It had the quality of an ending written for a sequel, but with the loose ends wrapped up a bit too tightly for a sequel. To me, it feels like an almost-happily-ever-after that should make a good ending but left me wanting more. [UPDATE: I just read that there is a planned sequel, so nevermind about that bit.]

Generally, I felt like the middle was good enough to make up for the less-than-wonderful beginning and ending. Although a bit creepy, it wasn’t nearly as much as I thought it’d be, and to repeat myself, the language was absolutely beautiful.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Post-Promise, Post-Hanukkah Nightstand

The once-giant pile is receding! I think I may have to cave soon and buy something new.

Eyes Like Stars (by Lisa Mantchev) and The Clockwork Three (by Matthew J. Kirby) were Hanukkah presents. I'm looking forward to them both. However, I'm determined to finish both Imperium and The Disappearing Spoon before I start them. I put a poll on the sidebar of this blog so that you can have some input for what I read next. Right now, I'm estimating the end of The Disappearing Spoon and the end of Imperium will take me until Sunday night (which is when I set the poll to end), but if I end up changing that date, I'll make sure to post it.

[Update: There's no way I'm going to finish by Sunday. I'm extending to poll until Friday the 17th.]

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Sea of Trolls, Revised Review

By Nancy Farmer

Looking back, I was surprised by how completely uninformative my previous review of this series was, so I thought I’d redo it.

If you want to read my old review, the link is here:

Here’s my new review.

First of all, I really, really liked this series. It takes place when the Vikings were raiding Saxon villages in the late 700s and early 800s CE. Jack, the main character of the Sea of Trolls books, lives in one of these villages. He and his sister Lucy are captured by a band of northmen (Vikings). They are nearly sold as slaves, but are spared because Jack had been training as a bard, and the leader of the northmen’s band, Olaf One-Brow, wants Jack to stay on as his personal bard (called a skald in the northmen’s language). Jack and Lucy are taken to see the king and queen of the northmen, Ivar the Boneless and Frith Half-troll. When Jack accidentally casts a spell with his skald-magic to make Frith’s beauty disappear, she takes Lucy and sends Jack on a quest to find a way to undo his spell with a warning that if he takes too long, she will sacrifice Lucy to the god Freya. Jack, Olaf, and the other vikings go on this quest to find Mimir’s well, which would give him the knowledge necessary to undo the spell and save Lucy. The most important of the vikings (and my favorite) is Thorgil, a shieldmaiden determined to prove herself a shieldmaiden worthy of Valhalla (the northmen’s heaven, reserved for the greatest warriors). Although quickly angered, crabby, and inconsiderate, she has the greatest character arc of any character in the series. It’s a great books with tons and tons of historical references that enrich the novel rather than slow it down.

The second and third books are great as well. I’m not going to summarize these because I don’t want to give away anything from the end of the 1st book, but it brings back great characters like Thorgil, Jack, and the Bard, and introduces new ones that are just as good. I highly recommend this entire series.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Great Tree of Avalon

By T.A. Barron

Book 1: Child of the Dark Prophecy
Start Date: 21 November 2010
End Date: 23 November 2010

Book 2: Shadows on the Stars
Start Date: 23 November 2010
End Date: 24 November 2010

Book 3: The Eternal Flame
Start Date: 25 November 2010
End Date: 25 November 2010

Overall, I really liked this series, although I wouldn’t recommend reading them back to back in five days. (By the time I got to the middle of the third, I was getting sick of the storyline and needed a break.) The trilogy is a hero’s journey with three interconnecting plotlines that might be a little confusing at first: Tamwyn, a wilderness guide trying to find his brother and his own sense of self; Scree, an eagleman charged with protection of Merlin’s staff, and the foster-brother of Tamwyn; and Elli, an apprentice priestess who sets off on a journey to the Lady of the Lake. One of these is the true heir of Merlin, with the power to save Avalon. Another is the Child of the Dark Prophecy, with the power to destroy it. I really liked the entire trilogy, although it could get a little bit slow at times. Barron mostly drew me in with his masterful descriptions of the world of Avalon and his expert weaving of the three storylines. Also, it often references the Lost Years of Merlin books by T.A. Barron because they’re semi-prequels. However, you do not need to read The Lost Years of Merlin in order to understand or appreciate the Avalon books, because even though they’re mentioned, it’s in the context of pre-Avalon history rather than as an essential part of the plot. Overall, these books are long but recommended.


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