Archive for March, 2012


grumpy about readin'....

Joel Stein at the New York Times has decided to stir up some feelings on this subject.   I checked this out, and while I didn’t leave a comment, 225 other people have.

Our group has discussed YA books, like The Hunger Games, and others — and it seems like we’re in agreement that a good story is a good story.  Period.    Frankly, I’m happy that people read.

So, just passing this along…..


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Our April selection is Except the Queen by Jane Yolen and Midori Snyder

Sisters Serena and Meteora were once proud members of the high court of the Fairy Queen- until they played a prank that angered her highness. Separated and banished to the mortal realm of Earth, they must find a way to survive in a strange world in which they have no power. But there is more to their new home than they first suspect…

A sympathetic Meteora bonds with a troubled young girl with an ornate tattoo on her neck. Meteora recognizes it as a magic symbol that will surely bring danger down on them all. Serena, meanwhile, takes in a tortured homeless boy whose mind is plagued by dark visions. The signs point to a rising power that threatens to tear asunder both fairy and human worlds.

And the sisters realize that perhaps the queen cast them from their homes not out of anger or spite- but because they were the only ones who could do what must be done…

(summary courtesy of GoodReads)

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At last night’s discussion of His Majesty’s Dragon, people mentioned other books they were reading.    They were:

Dragonsbane by Barbara Hambly   not at our library

The Rook by Daniel O’Malley  SF-F OMA

Pretty Monsters by Kelly Link  TN LIN

Steampunk edited by Kelly Link  TN STE

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman   Jh GAI

Death and Resurrection by R.A. MacAvoy  SF-F MAC

The Man Who Never Missed by Steve Perry not at our library

Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace  F WAL

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Last night, the group met to discuss His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik.  As always, we had a great discussion, and people had a lot to say.   I’ll try to summarize as best I can here:

  • Mike noted that the book really moved along, and he enjoyed how we (as readers) learn about Temeraire as he is learning about himself.  He did, however, note that he thought it was a bit odd that Laurence would refer to Temeraire as “My dear,” for example, but then figured that this would perhaps be common for that era.
  • “Menolly” said that at first, she felt Laurence came off as a bit of a prig — but then, that made sense, considering the time period of the book, Laurence’s background, etc.  “Hola” noted that since she had just finished Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, that she felt Laurence’s mannerisms and attitude were in keeping with the time period.
  • Kathleen really enjoyed the characters and in particular, how the author explicated Laurence in terms of his social class, family, work, etc., so that you really get to see him evolve throughout the story.   She appreciated how, even though he evolved, that he maintained his moral core — he didn’t waiver, but expanded his view of what was right (and why).   Nicole mentioned that at first, the book seemed like “Pride and Prejudice and Dragons, but then got better — and in particular, she liked that there were well-written female characters, who played prominent roles in the story.
  • Many readers liked not only the main characters, but the supporting characters, as well.   We talked about our reactions to Rankin, for example — “Hola” liked how Novik set it up for the reader to discover what he was really like (and then, once we knew how bad he was, that we had to endure him sticking around as a character.  At least one of us wished that Laurence had just pummeled him to a pulp).
  • Some readers felt that while Novik’s writing style was very descriptive, they still weren’t always able to clearly visualize the size of the different dragons.  Having the illustrations at the end of the book was somewhat helpful, but a bit more size-description would have been appreciated.   Readers did appreciate that Novik would sometimes quickly jump to a new scene, and how this was pretty seamlessly done (and cut out some of what would be boring, otherwise).
  • “Menolly” commented that she found it fascinating that the dragons had multi-person crews on them, something that other readers also found interesting.  As one person put it, at times, it seemed like there were enough people in the crews to make it seem like a “dragon clown car.”
  • There were some people in the group who have read a lot of other books about dragons, citing Anne McCaffrey, in particular.   Comparing McCaffrey’s dragons to Novik’s dragons made for some good discussion.   The fact that Temeraire spoke several languages, and Novik’s explanation for this, was discussed — but readers appreciated that Novik was consistent with this, and the explanation.  As “Menolly” said, this is one of the cool things about writing a book with a fantastical being in that you can do whatever you want — you just have to explain it, and stick to your rules.
  • We also discussed Laurence’s relationship with Temeraire, and the overall social structures in the book.  One person said that there was a clear, class-based structure and protocol, and how in this story, it seems like there is commentary on how, even in the real time period (this era, sans dragons), that there were indicators that change was in the air, and that things were moving towards a more egalitarian society.
  • The other comparison about dragons that was made, that readers liked, was how the dragons had really different personalities.  Also, that there were dragons who were a bit more …. simple.  Like Volly.  Volly seemed to be universally liked by readers (and we thought he could definitely star in his own children’s book).  Readers also found Levitas, Rankin’s dragon, to be a character that they liked, and felt a lot of sympathy for.
  • Readers liked the alternate history, and the setting of the book.  We also commented on how well-written the battle scenes, and other parts were written, and how it was clear that Novik had done her research.
  • “Hola” did say that while she really enjoyed the book, she found Temeraire almost too good to be true.  As she put it, he comes off like he’s the “best ever dragon in the world.”  Other readers agreed, but we discussed how he is a central part of the story — if he were “the most mediocre, uncool dragon,” he wouldn’t be a main character.
  • “Burt Macklin, FBI” listened to the audiobook, and said it was really well read — and that the reader used different voices for the different characters.
  • Since this book was written by a female author, and the main characters were male, “Pokéthulu” asked if the men in the group felt that Laurence was well-written and believable (from a male standpoint).   All of them felt that he was — and one reader noted that he never thought about the gender of the author at all (which means that Laurence was believable).

The codes we assigned to this book were: DRA, ALT, MIL, HIS and GB and the overall rating was a 4.

Have you read the book and would like to comment?  Please do!!

* please note that some people in our group use an alias — which keeps me from always having to say, “someone said,” “one person noted,” etc etc., and also gives members the option of some privacy.  Aliases are indicated in quotes.

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I know some people in our group also read graphic novels, so I thought I’d post a few of the titles that will be hitting those shelves soon:

Echo: The Complete Edition by Terry Moore

Gate 7 – Volume 2 by Clamp 

Silent Partner: The Graphic Novel by Jonathan Kellerman

Bleach, Volumes 42 & 43 by Tite Kubo

Naruto, Volume 57 by Masashi Kishimoto

Xombi by John Rozum 


If you have any suggestions of books you’d like to see in this section, please let me know — I’m always on the lookout for good graphic novels!  

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Arthur C. Clarke

The six shortlisted books are:

  • Greg Bear, Hull Zero Three (Gollancz)
  • Drew Magary, The End Specialist (Harper Voyager)
  • China Miéville, Embassytown (Macmillan)
  • Jane Rogers, The Testament of Jessie Lamb (Sandstone Press)
  • Charles Stross, Rule 34 (Orbit)
  • Sheri S.Tepper, The Waters Rising (Gollancz)

For a complete explanation, please visit the Clarke Award site.

We have most of these books in our library, with the exception of The End Specialist (which is a U.K. only book right now, and which we cannot order), and The Testament of Jessie Lamb — which is due out in May (U.S. edition), and which is on order.

and you all know I’m cheering for Embassytown, naturally……

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If you enjoyed His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik, you may be interested in the rest of the series:

  1. His Majesty’s Dragon
  2. The Throne of Jade
  3. Black Powder War
  4. Empire of Ivory
  5. Victory of Eagles
  6. Tongues of Serpents
  7. Crucible of Gold

All of these are in the library’s collection, which may be accessed through our catalog.
There is also a nice new SITE for this series.

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