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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Basket of Book Reviews

Here's another sampling of book reviews. I'm trying to catch up on what I've read but time keeps escaping. I think we all deal with that. Kids, jobs, family, yard work- everything conspires to interfere with my reading and writing time. If a book doesn't catch my attention and keep it, I don't finish it. I used to finish everything I started reading, but not anymore. Maybe I'm pickier, maybe I just have a lot less free time to spend with mediocre books. The ones I review are ones I read, finished, and enjoyed. They may not be great literature, but they were fun to read. So, for what it's worth, here's my opinion. Disclaimer - nobody paid me or asked me to review or read these books. I read them because I wanted to.

And I include links to Amazon product pages because it's the easiest way to find things, not because I love Amazon. Well, I do, mostly. You can usually find whatever you need there.


Moth in Darkness, Frances Pauli
http://www.amazon.com/Moth-Darkness-Frances-Pauli/dp/1594263744/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1307468436&sr=1-1

The boundaries between the worlds have fallen. Forced to integrate the creatures of fantasy into real life, humanity struggles against its disillusionment, prejudice and an inevitable feeling of inadequacy. Once an agent for the embassy that mediates between the worlds, Elizabeth Larson has abandoned her past and slipped into a world of nostalgic addiction to fairy revels, dancing, and the dark lure of her own memories. But when Lockland Sheen, her former partner and lover, goes missing, she is pulled reluctantly back into service. She must venture once more across the borders, into the land that haunts her, facing a string of gruesome murders, the imposing Sidhe rulers and her own addiction in the process. While the Embassy's agents attempt to soothe tensions between the races, Liz and her new partner search the fairy realm for Lockland. Fighting the constant temptation of the revels, they piece together the trail of an unknown enemy. But the longer they follow it, the more it appears that the man they came to rescue is more villain than victim. And the more they rely on Elizabeth's ties to the fairies, the closer she inches toward the madness that lurks behind her fantasies.

I loved this book. I can't wait for the sequel. It isn't light and happy dancing fairies and kittens. It's dark urban fantasy. The fey are alien, but still human in so many ways. They present themselves as perfect, but they're flawed. Elizabeth retreats into the revels as a way to escape the truth she discovered. Just go read it. It's a great book.

Five stars, PG-13 for violence and adult topics (addiction mostly)

Birth of the Firebringer, Meredith Ann Pierce
http://www.amazon.com/Birth-Firebringer-Meredith-Ann-Pierce/dp/0142500534/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1307468996&sr=1-1

Jan, the prince of the unicorns, is high-spirited, reckless-and the despair of his mighty father, Korr. Reluctantly, Korr allows Jan to accompany the other initiate warriors on a pilgrimage. Soon Jan's curiosity leads him, along with his friend Dagg, and their mentor, the female warrior Tek, into the greatest dangers-deadly gryphons, sly pans, wyverns, pards, and renegade unicorns. Yet time after time they are rescued, leading Jan to wonder: Am I the heir to a special destiny?

This is a kids' book. I rolled my eyes at the idea of talking unicorns and a whole unicorn culture. But I found myself intrigued enough to keep reading. The story is a bit predictable, full of angsty growing up scenes and angry teenager scenes, but there are enough twists and turns that I kept reading. The world is interesting. I was a bit bothered by unicorns being the only good creatures, all others are evil, but the author hints that it is the limited view of one tribe of unicorns that are bigoted. Jan learns that not everything he has been taught is true. Renegade unicorns aren't the evil his tribe believes.

Four stars, PG for mild violence

Ribbonwork, The Complete Guide; Helen Gibb
http://www.amazon.com/Ribbonwork-Complete-Guide-Technique-Trimmings/dp/0873497503/ref=tmm_other_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1307469446&sr=1-1

Ribbonwork comes to life in this appealing guide, featuring 5 beautiful projects to craft for heirlooms or gifts. Materials overviews, a "Ribbon Length Guide", easy-to-follow directions and an inspirational gallery are included.

I sat through a panel on early 20th century ribbonwork at Norwescon. The idea fascinated me. This book is the one most highly recommended for beginners. The instructions are clear and easy to follow. Helen Gibb starts with simple flowers and moves into progressively more difficult techniques. I haven't started creating ribbon flowers yet, but it's on my list of new hobbies. I just need more hours in a day.

Five stars, G with a warning that the pictures are so pretty that you'll want to rush out and get some ribbon and make your own ribbon flowers.

Soapmaking the Natural Way, Rebecca Ittner
http://www.amazon.com/Soapmaking-Natural-Way-Melt-Pour/dp/1600596010/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1307469919&sr=1-1

Here's where simple techniques meet 100% natural soaps that please the eye, the nose, and the environment!
Made with the safe and simple melt-and-pour method, these projects feature a delicious range of eco-friendly and animal-free ingredients-from oatmeal and lavender to honeysuckle and clay. The ins-and-outs of soap bases, colorants, and essential oils all received detailed attention.
Soapmaking the Natural Way is an affordable, informative, and inspiring resource.

Yet another hobby I want to explore. The book presents lots of really fun looking soaps that use melt and pour glycerin bases. Since most of my family has sensitive skin and lots of allergies, I would love to make soaps that smell good but won't irritate their skin. Glycerin soaps can be hard to find in the store. I'm planning on making several of these for my own family and to use as gifts.

Five stars, G with another warning that hobbies can be addictive