Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (Sherman Alexie)

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
Sherman Alexie
Little, Brown
Fiction, YA General Fiction
****+ (Good/Great)


DESCRIPTION: Arnold Spirit, Jr, better known as Junior, entered this world with the odds stacked against him, and not much has improved in fifteen years. Even having survived "water on the brain", childhood epileptic seizures, and other issues, his future on the Spokane Indian Reservation can't help looking grim, with abysmal education and near-ubiquitous alcoholism and generations of poverty creating a landscape devoid of hope. When he takes a chance at a better life by transferring to a high school off the rez in the nearby (all-white) farm town of Rearden, he knows he'll be facing a challenge, but he has no idea how much hope will truly cost him - or if the sacrifice will ever be worth it.

REVIEW: Augmented with cartoon illustrations by "Junior," this award-winning tale chronicles a pivotal year in the young life of a modern Spokane Indian boy, inspired by the author's experiences on and off the rez. With humor and pain and occasionally crude language, Arnold explores not only his firsthand experience with culture clash, but what it means to reach for more when everyone around him has forgotten how to hope. It's not an easy journey: not only does he have to face racism and class issues at Rearden, being the only Native American boy in school (a school whose mascot is a stereotypical "redskin" cartoon), but his own friends and neighbors consider him a traitor to the race, attitudes encrusted by generations of poor conditions and poor prospects that are part of the reservation system. Everyone seems to know how broken it is, but nobody seems to know how to fix things, or if repairs are even possible with so many people beyond caring. Arnold has to learn to walk two worlds, learning to see the good and the bad on both sides of the reservation border in a journey fraught with victories and setbacks in abundance. It makes for a good, often amusing, and sometimes moving story of one underdog daring to challenge the low expectations the world sets before him, and the effects that challenge has on those around him.

You Might Also Enjoy:
The Secret School (Avi) - My Review
Ghost Hawk (Susan Cooper) - My Review
Native American History and Culture (Christopher Savio) - My Review

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

August Site Update

A day early, I know, but I just posted the update of the main review site, archiving and cross-linking the previous eleven reviews.

Enjoy!

Friday, August 26, 2016

Return (Aaron Becker)

Return
(Sequel to Journey and Quest)
Aaron Becker
Candlewick
Fiction, YA Picture Book
****+ (Good/Great)


DESCRIPTION: When her busy father ignores her, a girl draws a door on her wall and returns to the world beyond, where art and color come alive and where she's a hero. Her father follows, and finds himself swept up in the adventure when a new enemy attacks.

REVIEW: I saw this go through the library today, and had to grab a copy for a quick read as I worked. Like the first two books, Return tells a great, imaginative story with no words needed. This time, a grown-up joins the action along with the girl and her friend from the previous tales. Her father helps, but doesn't overwhelm or try to take control from the children. As for the world beyond the door, it remains as wild and wondrous as ever, with page-filling images bursting with color.

You Might Also Enjoy:
Animalia (Graeme Base) - My Review
Journey (Aaron Becker) - My Review
Sector 7 (David Wiesner) - My Review

Vengeance Road (Erin Bowman)

Vengeance Road
Erin Bowman
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Fiction, YA Western
****+ (Good/Great)


DESCRIPTION: Kate Thompson just turned eighteen a short time ago - and she grows up fast, the moment she rides home to find the house in flames and her beloved Pa hanging from the mesquite tree over Ma's grave. She doesn't know why the Rose Riders, notorious gang headed by Waylan Rose, rode all the way from their usual stomping grounds to Prescott to target her family, but it doesn't matter: she won't rest until each and every one of them's as dead as the father she buried. As she rides across Arizona Territory in pursuit, she inadvertently picks up the Colton brothers, Will and Jesse, who prove impossible to shake... especially when there may be gold involved, a lost mine deep in the Superstition Mountains and in the very heart of Apache territory. Kate couldn't care less about any gold, not while her father's killer still walks and talks, but much blood has already been spilled over this claim - and hers may be next.

REVIEW: This is a fast-riding Western adventure in the vein of True Grit, with flying bullets and lost fortunes and twists and turns aplenty. A frontier girl, Kate grew up strong and keen, setting out on her quest without quite caring if she ever makes it back alive. Along the way, she's forced to confront more about herself than she wanted to know, learning just how much she really has to learn, but she keeps her spine and her fire through most of the tale. She's not a perfect heroine, letting the ends justify the means more than once... but nobody in this book is perfect, and everyone ends up using someone for their own goals at some point - sometimes with tragic consequences. This is not a watered-down young adult love-on-the-range tale, either; though there are some sparks of romance, they're firmly kept on the background for most of the book, and even when they try to move to the forefront, there are many complications. The characters are solid residents of their era, with the attendant attitudes and prejudices: all the whites look askance at the Apaches, who in turn rarely speak less than ill of the whites, with little more than grudging tolerance ever managed. They also smoke, drink, and make casual reference to prostitutes. It was a hard time that produced hard people, but they were still human, still trying to do right by themselves and, when possible, those they love... even if they failed at least as often as not. With hardly ever a dull moment or sour note, not to mention its unflinching willingness to take its characters to some very harsh places, both physically and emotionally, I highly enjoyed this Old West romp.

You Might Also Enjoy:
The Misadventures of Maude Marche (Audrey Couloumbis) - My Review
The Sisters Brothers (Patrick deWitt) - My Review
Six-Gun Snow White (Catherynne M. Valente) - My Review

How to Build a Dinosaur (Jack Horner and James Gorman)

How to Build a Dinosaur
Jack Horner and James Gorman
Plume
Nonfiction, Dinosaurs/Science
**** (Good)


DESCRIPTION: For decades, paleontology was mostly about digging up fossilized evidence of extinct life-forms, then studying them in the lab, using comparative anatomy, modern animals, and educated guesses to reverse the evolutionary clock. Now, new disciplines are joining the effort, such as molecular biologists studying microscopic remains and the new discipline of developmental evolutionary biology, or devo-evo, which studies embryonic development for clues to macroevolutionary changes. As we learn more about life on Earth now and then, would it ever be possible to actually reverse the genetic clock? Could we unlock the changes in development to "wake" ancestral characteristics? Could we rebuild a dinosaur from a modern chicken?

REVIEW: This is an intriguing book, offering both an update on where modern paleontology is going and a speculation about what we'll be capable of in the future. For large stretches, the question of the authors' hypothetical "Chickenosaurus" takes a back seat as they catch us up on new trends and breakthroughs that continually rewrite the proverbial book not only on dinosaurs, but on evolution, genetics, development, and modern life on Earth. Even when we think we know something - like how simple it should be to grow a tail - we discover we were wrong, leading to new science and potential breakthroughs with wide-ranging consequences, and not just for the books; ongoing studies in the surprisingly complex embryonic development of tails, once considered too basic to bother with, may lead to new preventative measures and treatments for a wide range of human spinal disorders. Several "guest" scientists are featured, from mentors to colleagues to students of the authors who have gone on to their own boundary-breaking careers. As for the chicken connection, scientists have long recognized the relationship between birds and dinosaurs, though the birds branched off long before the fall of the "terrible lizards" at the end of the Cretaceous. So, theoretically, the genetic instructions that could lead to dinosaur-like characteristics are still there in the modern chicken. Would it be a true-to-life dinosaur, a real Jurassic Park? No - at best, it would be an approximation, a way to prove or disprove the developmental changes of millions of years. The authors debate the ethics of "resurrecting" dead species and the potential benefits to science and humanity should such an animal ever be feasible outside mere hypothesis. At times, especially in the early parts, the book feels stretched, but overall it's a fascinating look at how far we've come in our understanding, how much we still have to learn, and how interdisciplinary cooperation, rather than the old compartmentalization, leads to new answers and even more questions. All in all, it's a decent read for us average folk who are curious about the topic, but not obsessed (or wealthy) enough to afford a PhD.

You Might Also Enjoy:
Jurassic Park (Michael Crichton) - My Review
Dinosaurs (Carl Mehling) - My Review
Your Inner Fish (Neil Shubin) - My Review

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Lumberjanes Vol. 1: Beware the Kitten Holy (Noelle Stevenson and Shannon Watters, authors; Brooke A. Allen, illustrator)

Lumberjanes Vol. 1: Beware the Kitten Holy
(The Lumberjanes series, 1 - 4)
Noelle Stevenson and Shannon Watters, authors; illustrated by Brooke A. Allen
BOOM! Box
Fiction, YA Comics/Fantasy
**** (Good)


DESCRIPTION: At Miss Quinzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet's Camp for Hardcore Lady-Types, girls spend their summers canoeing, hiking, learning about nature, making friends, and earning Lumberjanes merit badges... or, at least, that's what most girls do. April, Jo, Mal, Molly, and Ripley keep driving their cabin counselor Jen nuts breaking camp rules - but it's not really their fault. Something weird's going on in and around camp - strange old bear-women and three-eyed foxes and more - plus a peculiar warning about a "Kitten Holy" they can't make heads nor tails of. Like it or not, they're up to their eyeballs in the strangest summer of their lives! At least they'll get some kick-ass merit badges at the end - if they make it that long...
This volume includes the first four issues of the Lumberjanes comic books.

REVIEW: This girl-power fantasy adventure comic doesn't loaf around, hurling the reader straight into the action and introducing both characters and concepts on the fly. It's a weird, wacky tale with some hilarious lines, not so subtly poking popular story tropes (and outfits like Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts), though the characters are sometimes a jumble and some haven't developed much depth yet. Still, it's quite fun and reads quickly, and it got some laughs out of me. I expect I'll be exploring more of this title in the future.

You Might Also Enjoy:
Fairy Quest: Outcasts #1 (Paul Jenkins) - My Review
Princeless (Jeremy Whitley) - My Review

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Wings of Fire: The Dragonet Prophecy (Tui T. Sutherland)

Wings of Fire: The Dragonet Prophecy
(The Wings of Fire series, Book 1)
Tui T. Sutherland
Scholastic
Fiction, YA Fantasy
**** (Good)


DESCRIPTION: When a hairless little scavenger slaughtered the old SandWing queen, chaos erupted across the dragon world. Since none of her three daughters had killed the old queen, there was no clear heir to the vacant crown. Blister, Burn, and Blaze have been fighting ever since, even dragging other dragon tribes into their decades-long conflict. But there may be hope for peace in a NightWing prophecy of five dragonets, hatched on the brightest three-moon night, who will end the war and choose the rightful queen. None of the rivals trust the prophecy to favor them, hunting down and slaughtering any of the so-called Talons of Peace who are determined to see it fulfilled - but destiny will not be so easily thwarted...
According to his guardians, Clay the MudWing tried to kill his nestmates when he hatched - but he's been an oversized klutz ever since, the worst of the five dragonets hidden in the secret cave by Talons of Peace guardians. Maybe he's too softhearted and stupid to fulfill the prophecy, as he fears, but they have two more years to grow. Hopefully he'll find the inner monster he was hatched with by then, the one that will let him fight like a proper warrior. Only Tsunami the SeaWing grows restless; she tires of life underground, and doesn't see how they're supposed to save a world they've never even seen. She's determined to escape - and so is Clay, after he overhears their guardians planning to kill off one of the five: harmless Glory the RainWing, a last-minute substitute for the SkyWing called for by the prophecy. The plan goes wrong almost from the start, plunging Clay and his fellow dragonets into a world far more cruel, violent, and treacherous than any of their studies could've prepared them for. Do the dragonets of prophecy stand a chance when the whole of the dragon world stands against them?

REVIEW: As a dragon-lover, I could hardly resist trying this popular new middle-grade series. Sutherland creates a wonderfully imaginative world that's sure to enthrall young fantasy fans, with several different tribes of dragon (each with their own look and special skills) and interesting characters. Clay and the other dragonets start out fairly simplistic (he's the big, lovable oaf, Tsunami's the scrapper, the NightWing Starflight's the studious and aloof one, the runt SandWing Sunny's overly trusting and optimistic, and Glory the RainWing's the overlooked, quiet one), but they all grow significantly, each finding unexpected challenges that they sometimes fail to negotiate. The dragon world is not a kind one: surprising levels of death and betrayal wind through the plot, and the talons of the dragonets aren't entirely clean by the end. The prophecy itself has potentially tainted origins, as well, and the Talons of Peace can be every bit as ruthless and cold as the queens they claim to oppose. Starting off quickly, the story moves at a fair flight speed, with the odd touch of humor to liven darker moments. Being the first of the series, it resolves just enough to set the dragonets on their path, while leaving more twists and hooks to keep readers eager for the next book. If the dialog sounded a little human and juvenile at times, if the odd anachronism slipped in now and again, and if the message was a trifle heavy-handed, well, it's aimed at middle-grade audiences. The Dragonet Prophecy marks a nice, solid start to a series any young dracophile will enjoy.

You Might Also Enjoy:
Dragoncharm (Graham Edwards) - My Review
Bitterwood (James Maxey) - My Review
Song of the Summer King (Jess E. Owens) - My Review

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Feel The Heat (Kathryn Shay)

Feel The Heat
(The Rockford Fire Department series, Book 1)
Kathryn Shay
Smashwords
Fiction, Romance
***+ (Okay/Good)


DESCRIPTION: Francesca "Francey" Cordaro's thirtieth birthday wasn't spent with girlfriends at a wine bar, or on a date; as a firefighter, she was battling a blaze in a warehouse when she broke her arm rescuing a civilian. This wasn't just anybody, though: it was Alex Templeton, stunning bachelor CEO of Templeton Industries. Francey's worked hard to prove herself in a man's world, and she has the bitter reminder of her parents' failed marriage to show her what happens when a firefighter gets too close to anyone outside the job. She hasn't even dated in ages, and the last thing she needs is to fall for a man way out of her league, no matter how charming. Unfortunately, her heart has other ideas...

REVIEW: It can be difficult to find romances that stretch boundaries; part of the appeal seems to be the comfort of the familiar. This one, however, had a nice twist, so I gave it a try. Ultimately, I had mixed feelings on it. Francey definitely isn't the stereotypical swooning romance lead; her profession, coupled with scars left from her childhood and the bitter breakup of her parents (one that neither parent got over), give her a little more backbone, and a few more obstacles to overcome when negotiating a relationship. Alex, on the other hand, is largely the typical alpha male... a trait that nearly costs him everything as he finds himself drawn to a woman who won't be stuck in the proverbial kitchen. Sparks naturally fly from the start (literally, if you take into account how they meet), and the pair go through the expected ups and downs... some of them feeling a little manufactured, like more than a few lines of dialog. Competing for space, however, is the ongoing feud between Francey's father, Ben, and her estranged mother, Diana - one that drags the story back to typical romance tropes, particularly the idea that first loves are the only real loves and anyone who walks away from a relationship is merely in denial. (There were a few other squirm-worthy moments here and there, as well.) Other characters, some likely cameos from Shay's other series, clutter up the tale with too many names who have too little to do to distinguish them. And there's a background thread about the cause of the fire at the warehouse that resolves more or less as one might expect from early on. It manages to come together (mostly) by the end, though, and there's a decent level of sizzle in the sexual tension throughout. All in all, it's not a bad romance, and the lady lead offers something a little more gutsy than many romances, but it just felt too bloated and occasionally forced for me to grant it a full four stars.

You Might Also Enjoy:
Concrete Evidence (Rachel Grant) - My Review
Almost Perfect (Julie Ortolon) - My Review
Bidding On Brooks (Katy Regnery) - My Review

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Magick Made Easy (Patricia Telesco)

Magick Made Easy
Patricia Telesco
HarperCollins
Nonfiction, Magic
***+ (Okay/Good)


DESCRIPTION: Cauldrons, broomsticks, eye of newt... real folk magick has never been like most popular descriptions make it sound. It's often been much smaller and more practical, a personal sort of magick and manifestation that still holds relevance today. The author offers tips on materials and rituals for today's magick workers.

REVIEW: Another potential idea-sparker, I picked this up on discount. Telesco doesn't offer step-by-step spells or cleansing rituals or other such things. Mostly, she gives an overview of what "real" magick is, which seems to boil down to focusing one's intent and using ritual and specific items as props to help with manifestation or thought change. Teleseco then offers long, alphabetized lists of items and their "meanings" and associations in spellcraft, with the frequent reminder that one's own interpretation and gut reactions ultimately trump any belief handed down from previous cultures or generations. I found the lists only vaguely useful; aside from the alphabet, they were disorganized, and some of her descriptions were vague or incomplete. (At one point, she refers to the ruby slippers of The Wizard of Oz - though, if she'd actually read the book, she'd know they were silver originally. A minor thing, but it made me wonder about the depth of research in other entries.) To be honest, I started skimming round about the B's. On the plus side, she included thoughts on the magical potential of the modern world, bringing folk magick into the twenty-first (well, twentieth, as it was published in 1999) century. Her writing is also reasonably clear and accessible, without losing itself in esoteric terms or concepts, which earned it the extra half-star over Okay. It isn't a bad book, and would likely be useful to someone looking to try a little folk magick for the first time, but it failed to really engage my interest or imagination.

You Might Also Enjoy:
The Little Giant Encyclopedia of Spells and Magic (The Diagram Group) - My Review
The Giant Book of Magic (Cassandra Eason) - My Review
The Complete Book of Amulets and Talismans (Migene González-Wippler) - My Review

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

City (Clifford D. Simak)

City
Clifford D. Simak
Open Road Media
Fiction, Collection/Sci-Fi
***+ (Okay/Good)


DESCRIPTION: For thousands of years, around the fires at night, tales have been told of ancient times and lost worlds... but were they ever true? These stories are often considered cautionary tales or attempts by previous generations to give form to impossible concepts, but some argue that there is a factual basis, a hidden history wrapped in layers of storytelling, pointing to a lost, utterly alien species. Was there ever a time when Dogs had no speech, when they were just dumb beasts at the heels of the legendary, ultimately self-destructive race known as Man?

REVIEW: This classic collection by noted author Clifford D. Simak chronicles the rise of a Doggish race in the wake of humanity's failure, a fall triggered not by war or external catastrophe but by blind spots and flaws in our racial psyche. It's an odd conceit, one that takes a while to grow on the reader, especially as the pre-tale commentary (by Doggish authors, many of whom argue against the possibility of Man ever having existed outside a story) acts as partial spoilers for the tale that follows. (This especially wasn't helped by a long-winded introduction to this Kindle reprint, one that assumes I already know about Simak and the significance of City.) The stories themselves also show their age around the edges, and not just by having the last cities of modern civilization abandoned as obsolete a few decades before I read this: the tales all rely on outdated attitudes and cultural assumptions, including (but not limited to) the sexism. Women appear as wives or secretaries, and almost never else - and among the robots, Dogs, and other species, no females apparently exist at all. The tales themselves often wander into philosophical territory, bogging down now and again under the weight of their ideas. That said, the further I read, the more the overall themes started to gel, and the collection as a whole presents ideas and images that linger long after I met them. I can see how these were, and are, considered genre classics, even if the style and some of the tales themselves aren't quite my cup of cocoa.

You Might Also Enjoy:
Foundation (Isaac Asimov) - My Review
Childhood's End (Arthur C. Clarke) - My Review
A Fire Upon the Deep (Vernor Vinge) - My Review

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

The Waking Fire (Anthony Ryan)

The Waking Fire
(The Draconis Memoria series, Book 1)
Anthony Ryan
Ace
Fiction, Fantasy
**** (Good)


DESCRIPTION: Arradsia's drakes - jungle-dwelling Greens, fiery Reds, aquatic Blues, and elusive Blacks - are the continent's greatest bane and treasure. Deadly predators with poisonous flesh, their refined blood grants temporary abilities to one in a thousand humans who ingest it, the Blood-blessed. Use of and trade in "product" forms the backbone of the continent's corporate power, giving it an edge over other nations. But the captive drakes wither through generations, their blood weak, and the wild population has been decimated by human encroachment. If the companies want to survive, they'll need new product... and some, out of desperation or greed, look afresh to long-lost legends of a fifth drake species deep in the inhospitable Arradsian interior, the never-seen White.
A disaster as a boy revealed Claydon Torcreek's Blood-blessed gift... but chaos and poverty left him to fend for himself in the streets of Carvenport, using his unregistered abilities to steal and cheat a meager living in the slums known as the Blinds. When his cover is blown, Clay's only chance to avoid jail (or worse) is to accept employment with the Ironship Trading Syndicate as part of a secret expedition, retracing the footsteps of the only company crew to ever have reported glimpsing the White, though none lived to return.
Miss Lizette Lethridge was recruited by Ironship at age eight, training at the Academy for espionage work on behalf of the company. Her latest mission has her chasing a mysterious artifact created by a madman, deep in the heart of enemy territory... a mission that will challenge everything she thought she knew about her world, her life, and her mentor.
Lieutenant Corrick Hilemore knew his posting to the Ironship Protectorate Vessel Viable Opportunity wasn't as glorious as a berth on the newest, most flashy vessels, but the retrofitted "blood-burner" ship boasts of being the fastest in the fleet, perfect to hunt the pirates haunting the isles surrounding Arradsia. But greater threats soon emerge, a challenge from the Corvantine empire, testing Hilemore and the crew of the Viable to their limits.
As the hunt for the White unfolds and the world teeters on another intercontinental war, dangerous currents stir. Drake attacks increase, the mutated Spoiled tribes of the Arradsian jungles increase their attacks, and madness seems to grip the the world. Something wakes, a fire that may burn the entire world to ash. Will finding the legendary White stop it, or fan the flames?

REVIEW: This was an impulse buy, the result of a discount coupon and the ever-popular lure of a cover featuring a dragon, plus an intriguing concept. Ryan crafts an intriguing world, if not quite so elaborate as some epic fantasies, plenty solid and interesting enough to sustain a series. Machinery mingles with (what is essentially) magic in a world where some have thrown off old forms of rule and government in favor of a corporate-led nation based on profit and competition, a shift with both good and bad outcomes, though other parts of the world each have their own customs and flavors. I admit some of them were still just names on the page (like a few of the characters) by the end, but the main ones become distinctive entities. Likewise, the characters, each largely on independent paths, are unique enough to readily stand apart, though Hilemore's arc doesn't mingle with the other two for the most part until the very end. All go through some changes, often traumatic, as they each come to realize that something greater is going on than simple corporate profit-chasing or political squabbling. As for the main hook, the drake blood magic, it has shades of Brandon Sanderson's metal-based allomancy in his Mistborn series: each blood has distinct abilities, which characters can exploit in interesting ways, though use has physical (and mental - particularly in the case of Blue, which allows mind-to-mind communications across vast distances) consequences. The story unfolds with plenty of action and intrigue and the odd touch of humor, with only a few lulls and drawn-out bits now and again. I found it a solid read, well worth my money, and I expect I'll be picking up Book 2 when it becomes available (though, pending a coupon and sale, I'll likely wait for paperback.)

You Might Also Enjoy:
The Rain Wilds Chronicles (Robin Hobb) - My Review
His Majesty's Dragon (Naomi Novik) - My Review
Mistborn: The Final Empire (Brandon Sanderson) - My Review

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Cora and the Nurse Dragon (H. L. Burke)

Cora and the Nurse Dragon
H. L. Burke
Amazon Digital Services
Fiction, YA Fantasy
***+ (Okay/Good)


DESCRIPTION: Young Cora loves nothing more than dragons, be they the flashy racers or the short-lived little mayflies that go for a few pennies an egg at the pet store. She dreams of becoming a dragon jockey when she grows up, or even finding one of the cat-sized pet dragons hatching from her egg kits, though her dad has funny notions about keeping dragons in cages or terrariums (but, then, he was still a boy when the last of the wild dragons disappeared, so maybe it's an old person thing - where else would a dragon live these days?) Then a fight with Xavier, the spoiled brat son of her dad's boss, leads her to find a strange little dragon egg... an egg that hatches out a dragon unlike any she's seen. He's small and brown and not much to look at, but little Cricket has an odd affinity for dragon eggs - and, under his influence, they hatch out all sorts of wonders, not at all like the mayflies she normally gets. Even as Cora thrills at her discovery, doubts and trouble cloud the horizon. Where did Cricket come from? What kind of dragon is he? And what will happen when grown-ups discover what he can do?

REVIEW: I wavered a bit on the rating for this one. Aimed at a younger audience, Cora's world is a little exaggerated and simplistic, with Cora and her friends (and enemies) sometimes being predictable... but there are some more tangled moralities as the story goes on, particularly among the adults, tangles that younger readers might well miss as most of the action focuses on Cora's level. It also gets somewhat preachy; though the blurb doesn't mention it, this is a Christian story, so there are some rather blatant and obligatory Moral Lessons for Young Children (even though it's not quite so brow-beating on the matter as some such works I've encountered), not to mention an assumption that the reader must also be Christian. Given that, it still managed a few surprises. As for the dragons, they're fun, even if they're sometimes more like scaly puppies than dragons; younger readers will likely enjoy their antics and their interesting colony structure. The story reads fairly quickly, with Cora having to make some tough decisions and do some growing up along the way, especially as she learns that everyone - even her own father - has secret sides to them. The ending felt a little off-kilter for some reason I can't quite put my finger on, and if one thinks too hard the whole plot hinges on a deus ex machina (almost literally), but for the most part it works, at least for a children's story. All in all, it's not bad, but it was just a little too preachy for me to give it a solid Good rating.

You Might Also Enjoy:
Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher (Bruce Coville) - My Review
Dragonsdale (Salamanda Drake) - My Review
Dragon Girl: The Secret Valley (Jeff Weigel) - My Review