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Book Review: The Rose Society, by Marie Lu

The Rose Society (The Young Elites, #2)The Rose Society by Marie Lu

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I loved this story! The characters are fascinating, the situations gripping, and the descriptions evocative

So, why only four stars?

Well, they say a picture is worth a thousand words, so I am going to show you a picture. Here is Queen Maeve Jacqueline Kelly Corrigan as a young girl, learning to ride her horse:

girl lying on horse's back

You will notice that both the girl and the horse are lying down. It might be better, for illustrative purposes, if the horse were standing up, but the girl actually has to lie down in order to illustrate the Maeve Jacqueline Kelly Corrigan School of Riding properly. Why? Because, in this book, every time Queen Maeve wants to get her horse going, she
digs her heels into its rump!

At this point, I think we need another picture. Here is a horse's rump
horse's rump

Now, Queen Maeve is described as tall and athletic, but still -- I think she would have to lie down on her horse in order to kick it in the rump while actually on its back. I got quite distracted thinking about this, because Queen Maeve rides a lot, and she kicks her horse in the rump absolutely every time she wants it to go anywhere! I kept wondering why she didn't kick her horse in the side, like Shasta with that uncooperative horse from Archenland, in The Horse and His Boy. Given her long legs, she could even have dug her heels into its belly -- but its rump? Really?

I was also a little taken aback by the über Irish names everyone has in Beldain. The people, as Marie Lu describes them, could be Irish or celtic, as far as their physical appearance goes. But culturally, they are a completely new invention -- very interesting, but not particularly Irish, at least not in my view. It seemed to me that the name of their country might have been meant to evoke the ancient festival of Beltane -- which had its dark side, but was basically a celebration of spring. What we see of Beldain seems quite different -- almost antithetical. It appears to be a very dark and cold kind of place -- maybe a Samhain sort of place.

I did enjoy the book, and I am eager to read the next one, in spite of my quibbles about horses and horsemanship.

I would say that for me, the book was a solid 4, maybe even a 4.5.

I don't want to give away any of the plot, but I will say that I found Adelina and her sister Violetta fascinating, and I am eager to find out more about what happens to them. I am hoping against hope for some kind of a good ending - maybe even a redemptive one.

I would recommend this book -- particularly to readers who like their fantasy dark.

View all my reviews
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New Podcast Episode, In Which We Interview Elizabeth Wein!

Hi, everybody!

My sister mary_j_59 nd I talked to the awesome Elizabeth Wein for our library podcast! We talked mostly about her latest book, Code Name Verity, but also about her other books, her writing process, her life and ideas.

Alas! We did not get to historical knitting, but we did discuss her literary influences (Alan Garner, Ursula Leguin, Dorothy Sayers, etc.), why she wanted to be a writer, and when she decided on this career (She was 7 and  loved Ellen Tebbits, by Beverly Cleary). She also told us about her research for the novel, including the real-life people who inspired Code Name Verity. And she avers that flying vintage planes is actually scarier than ringing colossal church bells. Apparently, she is given to dangerous sports! She concludes by telling us about two amazing young bloggers, Malala Yusafzai and Martha Payne, who have made a real difference in the world in their different ways. Finally, she encourages young people who wish to be creative to follow the example of these girls by using online resources for writing and self expression. She believes that art and writing can definitely make a positive difference in the world, and that young people can get out there and do it. But young artists should also be aware that their work will grow and change, just as they will.

Elizabeth Wein generously provided many of the pictures used in this podcast, including;

1. Two self portraits with vintage airplane
2. Three vintage photos of ATA women, licensed to her by the Imperial War Museum for use in this podcast.
3. Three drawings done when she was 12 years old to illustrate a WWII epic she was creating at that time.

We hope you enjoy the podcast!

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Stone Fox - A Ghost Story

Well, a little while ago I did two things I've never done before. 1. I wrote a piece of fanfic. 2. I entered my fanfic into a contest on Sounis. And now, I'm very earnestly wishing I hadn't. Because, for one thing, the picture that inspired the fanfic  is now separated from it.

So I figured I would post it here, as well, where it can be with the picture I drew for it (they're kind of divorced on Sounis), and people (at least one or two people) can enjoy it in a completely non-competitive way.

And I promise, after my brief foray into fiction, I'll get back to my essay about hints and foreshadowings in "The Thief."

The characters in this story are from Megan Whalen Turner's "Conspiracy of Kings." And although it is a ghost story, it isn't scary. At all!

PS Happy Halloween, everybody!

PPS For readers who know the Queen's Thief stories -- I think Gen and Helen do have a common ancestor, way back, who was an architect....
And for those of you who don't know the books, I wonder if the story makes sense? Let me know!
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icon, pony, step on your foot

Eugenides, or How to Lie by Telling the Truth

One of my favorite books is Megan Whalen Turner’s The Thief, and one of the reasons I love it is because of that TERRIBLE TWIST! There’s a big surprise at the end, which anybody who is a really careful reader ought to be able to see coming. But it tricked ME, and -- I may flatter myself -- but I think I am a careful reader.

I work in a library, and I often give kids this book. I tell them that there’s a twist, but that there are dozens of clues, right in the first few pages, and certainly in the first couple of chapters. I admit to them that I was actually really surprised by the ending, but I started the book over again as soon as I finished reading it, and everything was right there, staring me in the face! And I say that they might be better readers than I was -- maybe they’ll have it all figured out well before the ending. But I’ll bet they won’t!

More than one reader has taken me up on this challenge, but no one has yet come back to tell me they’re a better reader than I am. Which may be just because they are too nice to say so.

But anyway, just for fun.....

I’m now going to dissect the opening of this book -- or at least certain bits of it, the bits that should have made the whole plot so, so, obvious to me, but somehow just didn’t. My dissection follows the cut -- but be warned! There are spoilers!

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An interview with Kristin Cashore

Hi, everybody!

I just wanted to let you know that our podcast has been up and running again for a while, and we've got some really awesome interviews, plus a cute mini-cast of the library chickens!

Our latest episode features YA author Kristin Cashore, who tells us all about her latest novel, Bitterblue!

Please check it out, if you have time, and let me know what you think!
(BTW, for my friends over in Sounis, an amazing number of YA authors love Megan Whalen Turner's books -- just listen to the Queen's Thief love from Mike Mullin, Jon Skovron, etc. So cool!)

I hope you enjoy the podcast!
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Concept art for the Queen's Thief books

Hi, everybody!

I'm sure you will remember that some time ago, the awesome Vince Natale, creator of the cover art for our favorite books, sent me the sketches and preliminary paintings for the Conspiracy of Kings cover art, which I shared with you. Well, Vince tells me that he really enjoyed the discussion about that post, and he has now sent me preliminary art work for the other three books! Which I will now share with you, after the cut (which I hope works this time -- fingers crossed!) The explanations of the drawings and paintings are all Vince's own, and I hope you enjoy them!

Happy Holidays, everyone!

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OK, I tried the Sorting Hat. No surprises :-D

Thanks to my sister and Sionnaraven for bringing this quiz to my attention! It really is much the best sorting hat out there.

So here's how I came out.

64% Ravenclaw, 53% Hufflepuff, 38% Slytherin and 43% Gryffindor!

Or yet in wise old Ravenclaw,
if you've a ready mind,
Where those of wit and learning,
Will always find their kind;

The cardinal traits of Ravenclaw are intellect, wit and openness to experience. They are the most introverted house of the four. Ravenclaws are more likely to prefer small gatherings of like-minded individuals and require recooperation after stressful social interaction. These individuals are intuitive creatures, the quintessential researchers. They lack the stubborn, strict, and rule-abiding qualities that would inhibit intellectual growth—one can't be too set in their ways if they are to be open to exploring new ideas and paths of thought.In contrast to Slytherin and Gryffindor, Ravenclaws in general are much more emotionally stable. Their reactions seem dampened compared to the sometimes dramatic responses of the other houses—they're much less likely to get offended, they're more open to criticism, not particularly argumentative and interested in hearing different points of view. They can at times seem to be less interested in people and more interested in their own inner world, and appear to be disconnected from the rest of humanity.
Ambition is secondary to them. Although they may strive to excel in school, knowledge and self-enrichment is the primary goal as opposed to simply wanting good marks. If they do happen to strive for excellence, it is because it fits with their other goals, not out of a desire to be superior or the best. Due to their intuitiveness and willingness to listen, Ravenclaws can be empathetic and make good advisors. They should generally leave leadership roles to people who are more extraverted and who would enjoy them more, however.

And here's the link.

PS I'm probably the last person to find out about this quiz, so please do forgive me if it's really old news.

But if it's not, enjoy!
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Of Emeralds, Books, and Über-Geekdom

Well, anybody who knows me even slightly probably believes me to be a book geek. But if you would like proof....

I am now officially at the stage where books remind me of other books, not just of real life!

For all you Sounisians who love Lord Peter Wimsey, have you checked out Jill Paton Walsh's latest, The Attenbury Emeralds? I'm in the middle of it right now, and enjoying it very much. An added plus: passages and informative tidbits that bring other books to mind! Consider this bit: Freddy Arbuthnot is talking about jewels, explaining why emeralds are so much more expensive than diamonds.

"There's lots of fun in diamonds," he was saying. "And they do come in various tints and colours. But the fashion is for clear-water stones, so the more valuable they are, the less distinctive. Whereas .... There's no such thing as a flawless emerald. Emeralds have flaws and inclusions. Little crystals of pyrite, calcite, and acualité. Drifting veils within the stone &emdash; the French call this jardin. Lots of personality. Someone who has looked closely at an emerald could tell it again even if it has been re-mounted, or carved or re-cut.

And Freddy also explains that a carving or inscription, if well done, adds to the value of an emerald, too, because emeralds are extremely difficult to carve, especially if they have inclusions.

So...Eugenides, Thief of Eddis, knew exactly what he was doing (but when doesn't he?) when he took an emerald seal ring, with a flaw like a breaking wave, from the trap in Hephestia's underwater temple....

Which gives rise to another question, of course. What about the seal ring Eugenides is wearing in KOA? Is it the same one, perchance? I like to think so!

I'll end with a pretty picture -- here's a seal ring I can't quite picture Eugenides wearing -- but isn't it great?

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Concept art from Conspiracy of Kings!

Ok, so today I have a special present for all my lovely Megan Whalen Turner Fans! And I really hope you like it!

I have been communicating with Vince Natale, the amazingly talented artist who did all the covers for the latest American editions of Megan's books. As you may know, the cover art for Conspiracy of Kings has been a major topic of discussion, and it came up again at the Horn Book Colloquium at Simmons College last October. I saw a few sketches there that I had never seen anywhere else, and they fascinated me.

So, I got in touch with Vince Natale, and he sent me all of the concept art for COK! Plus, he will do a podcast, and will send me concept art for all the other books, too, which I can share with everybody. So, we definitely have some fun things to look forward to in the New Year!

I'm in an awful hurry just now -- family stuff calls -- so I'm just going to post the pictures with only occasional bits of commentary. Since there are a lot of them, they'll be under a cut.

BTW, you know that trend of hands holding things on book covers? Well, it reappears here! I think you can probably guess how ;-D.

Here we go -- enjoy! (And checkers, stop pacing! You're making me nervous!)
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