Archive | October 2016

An Exchange of Gifts by Anne McCaffrey

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Title: An Exchange of Gifts

Author: Anne McCaffrey

review

A random small review for a small book. 🙂

I’ve never read anything by McCaffrey before — I’m mostly aware of her as being the author of a number of Adult Sci-fi/Fantasy books which I haven’t read. But when I saw this little book at a library sale, it looked so darling I couldn’t resist picking it up, and I’m glad I did. 🙂

An Exchange of Gifts is a bite-sized fantasy novella (complete with illustrations) which I quite enjoyed. 🙂

It reminded me a little of The Princess and the Goblin, and The Ordinary Princess, though less fairy-tale-ish, and more realistic/older. (Like YA instead of Children’s?) But it did have an intriguing fantasy element which I liked — the way their Gifts were woven in was really neat. The mysterious sort of twist to it was interesting as well.

Meanne (the heroine) was quite well written (although I kind of thought she was a younger teen, and then found out near the end she must be older, since her eighteenth birthday was mentioned), and Wisp (the hero) I really liked! He was awesome and I liked his twists too. 😀

I liked how it wrapped up — though part of me wonders about a few things, since there wasn’t time to explore them… but at the same time it just WORKED really well to just have this little glimpse into this story and world.

Anyhow, not a “must-read” exactly, but I liked it muchly all the same. It just… kinda made me happy. *shrug* A very small fantasy tale which I really enjoyed reading. ^_^ (I think I miss reading fantasy! O_O This must be remedied…)

summary

From Goodreads:

anexchangeofgiftsWhen Meanne, a princess of the realm, runs away from her father’s castle and an unwanted suitor, little does she realize the hardships and difficulties that lie ahead of her. Loneliness is the worst part — until she finds a fellow refugee, a boy named Wisp. Together they must make new lives for themselves. Yet they both have secrets — hidden pasts and magical powers that can tear them apart!

factoids

Illustrated: Pat Morrissey

Genre/Category: Fantasy Novella

Age Group: YA

Published: 1995

Pages: 92

When Read: September 6, 2016

Favorite Character: Wisp! 🙂

Source: Library sale.

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{Goodreads} • {Amazon}


Thanks for reading!

Dream away in those pages . . .

~ The Page Dreamer

 

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The Spirit Well by Stephen R. Lawhead

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Title: The Spirit Well (Bright Empires, #3)

Author: Stephen R. Lawhead

review

The middle book in this 5-book series, The Spirit Well was another great addition to the Bright Empires novels. Enthralled, I sped through it in just a few days and can’t wait to continue the saga. Once again, I’m in a hurry to review this one, in effect capturing my thoughts at this point, so I can scurry along to read book 4, The Shadow Lamp… I must find out what happens next!

Again, the character list, “previously”, and ending essay were amusing and enlightening — I just love how even the extra beginning and ending matter are interesting. In short, I love basically every word of these books — literally.

The story itself is progressing in quite a fascinating manner, branching out in all directions (past/present/etc.). There were many new revelations! Some of a tragic or scary nature… and others verrrry intriguing… Let’s just say there’s a lot going on (and as the series progresses, it’s increasingly difficult to write spoiler-free reviews, but I shall do my best). The writing continues to be phenomenal as well and it’s just a pleasure to read. 🙂

There’s quite a collection of characters by now, but I never got them mixed up, and they were one and all delightful to read about. There were several point-of-view characters, both familiar and new; most notably Cassandra Clarke. I think I like Cass. *nod* Kit and Wilhelmina continue to be my favorite people to read about, on their separate journeys. I JUST LOVE THEM SO MUCH. ❤ I always love reading about them. It’s also always interesting to get glimpses at the lives of the generations of the Flinders-Petrie family: Arthur, Benedict, Charles, and Douglas, piecing things together. (And I’m also beginning to know what to think about them… hmm…) I still loathe Burleigh and Snipe, for the record. (But what’s a book without some well-placed loathing for the villains, I ask you.) Still on the fence about Lady Fayth… I love Etzel and Giles, and En-Ul and his River City Clan. We can add the Zetetic Society (mostly Brendan [Irish accent!], Rosemary [tea!], Tess [oh goodness, this lady! XD]) to our list of new acquaintances — still working on what I think about the society as a whole since I feel only recently acquainted with it, but methinks I like these people — as well as Brother Lazarus, who’s a definite new favorite. He’s an extremely quotable chap. 🙂 The people in these books are so well written!

Once again, we’re all over the map and time-periods, and I absolutely love it. Modern-day Arizona (that’s new! We hadn’t been to America yet…), the Stone Age, Egypt, China, 1600s Prague, 1800s Italy, 1970s Spain, 1930s Damascus, present-day London, 1800s England, medieval Oxford… (And of course Black Mixen Tump. I love saying that name — dunno why — even though it’s a scary place.) What a delightful tapestry of time and locality! Not to mention sprinklings of different languages (German, Spanish, Italian, French, Latin) for an extra immersive, authentic flavor. These books positively ooze rich multi-cultural feelings and it’s glorious.

I’m not sure exactly why I felt this way (maybe because we didn’t in book 2?) but it was neat to pop back into modern-day London again! That part, and the contrast with the older time periods, was great. Love love love! (Sale! Everything must go! XD Goodness, how awful. :P) And ah, good old Grafton Street, bringing back memories of the opening of book 1… It makes me all nostalgic. (I still can’t help but feel that the opening chapter of The Skin Map, “In Which Old Ghosts Meet”, when paired with the presence of a “Grafton Street” in London, is suspiciously like a reference to a certain old song I know… Especially when so many characters in these books are so fond of repeating that there’s no such thing as coincidence…)

Some of the interlacing storylines, especially Mina’s, make my head hurt, and I love it. Time travel-y stories are delightful to read about. She hadn’t… done something important yet that we saw happen in book 1 — MIND. BLOWN. I was even trying to make a time/character thread diagram, which… didn’t go so well. XD I’m still trying to wrap my head around some of the time-y things.

Did I have quibbles or uncertainties? Maybe a couple. One part was very sad… even though I should have expected it. But still. Sadness. 😦 There were a couple things that had me pausing to reflect, leading to some interesting ponderings, so even if I wasn’t sure how I felt about them, they at least served the purpose of making me think. I’ll have to see how things pan out in the rest of the series, but they didn’t make me dislike it, per se, just… unsure. So my quibbles aren’t really quibbles, and I don’t have any concrete complaints.

A few more brief thoughts/reactions:

  • I love how the experiences of Kit and Wilhelmina in the times/places they “adopt” (or… perhaps adopt them?) are so good for them. ❤ They really benefit from their adventures, which is fabulous.
  • There is much tea and yummy foods. (In the words of Brendan: “That will be Mrs. Peelstick making tea. We live on tea, it seems.” …I love this book.)
  • It’s still perfectly enjoyable/appropriate for Young Adult readers, as well as for older adults, I would say — basically, everyone should read it.
  • Some more tendrils of Christianity creep into this book than in the previous two — the tapestry is widening out.
  • The language barrier/misunderstanding about the map was very well done.
  • The new ley lamp is absolutely fascinating.
  • The moment when a certain… erm… cat shows up by a certain… erm… road — that was one of those priceless moments of AAHH which I loved. No idea why, I just did.
  • I found the Spanish peoples’ reactions to Kit to be hilarious — nobody wanted to deal with him, and they kept shuffling him off to somebody else. XD
  • That ending! How can it stop there? *flailing around* These books do have a tendency to simply stop and leave one squirming for the next one. 😉 I must read book 4 ASAP.

Overall? I greatly enjoyed this one and can safely say that it has joined the ranks along with The Skin Map (book 1) and The Bone House (book 2) as excellent specimens of books in a series I’m enjoying more and more.

Now if you’ll pardon me, I have a large book titled The Shadow Lamp (Quest the Fourth) calling my name, which I intend to devour at once. Toodle-pip and all that.

I will leave you with some quotes from The Spirit Well to help convince you that you need this series in your life (because you do, you know).

FAVORITE QUOTES

“I insist you go away before we both say something we will have need of confessing.”

“Dear lady,” offered the priest with a smile, “there are no accidents.”

Kit spent the next few hours idling in the gate-keeper’s lodge as a sort of quasi-captive — he was not locked up, nor was he free to go, for every time he got up and tried to leave, the porter came running after him, scolding in Spanish, and he was pushed back into the lodge. [I have no idea why I laughed so hard at this, but there you go.]

The old lady regarded her with a sudden intensity, then announced, “I’m going to adopt you, dear heart. I hope you don’t mind.”
“Not at all,” Cass replied. “But do I look like I need adopting?”
“Not in the least,” Tess answered.

Probably, I should have locked Kit in the strongbox as well, she thought sulkily. [Wilhelmina, of course.]

“I am gobsmacked. … You clever little thing.” [Mina again. I love her dialog.]

“Don’t you know?”
He shook his head. “Nobody tells me anything.” [<– The story of Kit’s life, right there.]

“It does not matter where one starts; it is where one finishes that makes all the difference.”

summary

From Goodreads:

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The search for the map — and the secret behind its cryptic code — intensifies in a quest across time, space, and multiple realities.

But what if the true treasure isn’t the map at all . . . what if the map marks something far greater? Something one world cannot contain? Those who desire to unlock that mystery are in a race to possess the secret — for good or evil.

Kit Livingstone is mastering the ability to travel across realities using ley lines and has forged a link from the Bone House, a sacred lodge made of animal bones, to the fabled Spirit Well, a place of profound power.

His friend Mina is undercover in a Spanish monastery high in the Pyrenees, learning all she can from a monk named Brother Lazarus. Still determined to find Kit, she is beginning to experience a greater destiny than she can fathom.

Cassandra Clarke is overseeing an archaeological dig in Arizona when a chance encounter transports her to 1950s Damascus. There, she finds herself unwillingly drawn to the Seekers — the last living remnants of the Zetetic Society who need her help to track down the missing Cosimo Livingstone and his grandson Kit.

But there are darker forces at work in the universe whose agents always seem to be one step ahead of the rest–and they’re all desperate to gain the ultimate prize in this treasure hunt where the stakes increase at every turn. At the heart of the mystery lies the Spirit Well.

factoids

Genre/Category: Historical Fiction / Fantasy / Sci-fi / Time Travel / Christian / Contemporary

Age Group: Young Adult. Adults will enjoy too.

Published: 2012

Pages: 375 hardcover

Series?: Book 3 in the Bright Empires series. (Book 1: The Skin Map — read my review here. Book 2: The Bone House — read my review here.) Followed by The Shadow Lamp, and The Fatal Tree.

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When Read: October 5-7, 2016

Favorite Character: Wilhelmina and Kit.

Source: Library

Other Notes: Be sure to pick up the first two books first! 🙂

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{Goodreads} • {Amazon} • {Barnes & Noble} • {Author’s Website}


Thanks for reading!

Dream away in those pages . . .

~ The Page Dreamer

The Bone House by Stephen R. Lawhead

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Title: The Bone House (Bright Empires, #2)

Author: Stephen R. Lawhead

review

It’s a mind-baffling attempt, trying to figure out how to review this book… But I shall give it a shot so that I can capture some of my thoughts as they are at this point in the saga, before launching into reading book 3, The Spirit Well.

The Bone House picks up more or less where book 1 in The Bright Empires series, The Skin Map, left off — I say more or less, since the time aspect makes such statements more complicated and… fluid than usual, and let’s just say that “chronology” is a word I only dreamed of while reading this book, in the best possible way. 😉 It makes me want to start an elaborate chart to map out the character threads, timelines, eras, and locations… That would be FUN! And mind-boggling, but hey.

This series (of which The Bone House is but the second part out of five) is a wonderful mental exercise, which I’m enjoying immensely. 🙂 The myriad of character threads, localities, times periods, and relative time lines to each other, not to mention the way the story leaps between characters from chapter to chapter with abandon — it all calls for a very elastic mind! Like I said, excellent mental exercise. 😀

Not to mention that it makes me think and want to ask questions and to LEARN things. Which is just a lovely side-effect of this exciting timey-adventure (with many breath-taking parts, twists, and fascinating timey things which I LOVE), which I couldn’t put down. I’ve never read anything quite like this series!

Let me just put it this way: If most novels are the equivalent of a jog for the mind, the Bright Empires series is like parkour… in zero gravity… through multiple universes. 😉

This delightful second book, which I enjoyed as much as The Skin Map, carries us through time and geography to Egypt, England, Prague… to the Etruscans, and even people of the Stone Age… as well as the 1200s, 1600s, 1800s, and naturally includes characters from our own 21st century.

Each place, each person or group of people we meet, is steeped in the fascinating and rich tones of cultures old and new, strange and familiar, and all equally skillfully penned. I felt entirely drawn into each place, and the details were fabulous and so gorgeously written. I just felt THERE the entire time. The bits of other languages scattered throughout — Latin, German, some prehistoric dialect — lent an even further air of rich immersion. I just LOVED being so fully inside these places!

Also, the part with the “River City Clan” as Kit dubs them, in the Stone Age, was one of my favorite parts! I don’t want to give anything away, but I simply loved how they were portrayed, in such a unique and intriguing way. They felt… right somehow; not bumbling backward cavemen of the cliche mentality moderns hold, but solid, close to the earth, with their own wisdom and close connection with each other, which we seem to have forgotten in this, our own “civilized” age. It was… refreshing to consider another perspective, to see these simple folk who are more complex than one might think. I also really loved the part with En-Ul — it was fantastic. Love, love, love. I guess the whole cavemen thing and how Lawhead did it surprised me, in a good way. I just… really really liked it. 🙂

Time would fail me (in more ways than one) to discuss each facet of this book with all the different places and things that happened, plus I don’t want to give it away and spoil the joy of discovering it yourself… So I think I will say a few words about the wonderful characters and then dash off to read the next book… 😉

As a general note, I ADORED how the characters in this book were mostly… nice people. That may sound strange, but it was refreshing to me to read about characters who are actually decent folks, with the good old ways of hospitality and cordiality even to strangers. Again, something this modern age may lack? There was by no means any shortage of suspense (goodness, no! ALL the suspense!) but it shows that there are more subtle ways of keeping us on the edge of our seat in books than through every person the main characters meet being awful people who are out to mess up their lives. …I mean, there are obviously villains to do that still (in a serious way! O_O Eep to Burleigh and company… *shivers*) but the world(s) seemed to be inhabited by REAL people, not caricatures full of “flaws” and suspicion and general ill-will toward the heroes. And maybe no one else understands what I’m trying to say, or cares, but to me it was important, and again, it was a different take, which I really liked. 🙂 I like when things make me think and make me feel welcomed, and when I can truly ENJOY them, which is definitely true of these books.

While thinking about villains (if I can call them all such… hmm… I shall look forward to more developments!), let me just say that even being in their points of view was really interesting; if slightly disturbing… There were a lot of different points of view, even among the heroes, and though some readers might not appreciate so many different viewpoints flipping back and forth throughout the book, yet I found the many perspectives quite bracing and intriguing, personally!

All the character-threads were so neat and I can’t wait to follow them further through the rest of the series! Arthur Flinders-Petrie and his line, Lady Haven Fayth (what’s her deal??) and even Archelaeus Burleigh himself, in his own shadowy way… Eep. Side characters such as Xian-Li, Etzel, Dr. Thomas Young, Giles, and all the rest, are still a delight to meet, follow, and learn more about… So real and varied. I just love them all! (All right, not such a fan of Snipe. O_O He scares me a little… I’m not sure what to think of some of the characters yet…)

My favorite main characters, though, are still Kit and Wilhelmina and their two different storylines. 🙂 Kit is still such an enjoyable chap to read about — I don’t even know why, he’s just… amiable and British, in whose mind it’s something between fun and amusing to be in — and I greatly enjoyed his escapades, even when he did blunder a little… but, well, we can’t all be Minas. 😉 Even if we wish to be… Wilhelmina is AMAZING, by the way. I loved her in The Skin Map already, but she takes another step in The Bone House, into a new role as one of my favorite characters ever. I basically want to be her. Or, barring that, at least be more like her. (She’s also the only female character in a book that I’ve felt that way about since I was very young. This is big news.) I don’t think I can even begin to accurately describe her in this small space, but she’s brave and warmhearted and smart and confident and friendly and enterprising and she has that charming lively way with words and… I just feel like if she’s around, everything might be okay, you know? It’s a feeling I can’t quite put my finger on, but she’s definitely a favorite character, and one I’d like to be more like myself. She’s really fitting in fabulously in 1600s Prague, like a duck to water, and has come so far from the beginning of the first book — and so has Kit, at that, in his own way. Anyway, I can’t wait to read more about all of these characters!

Even the little things add fabulous touches to this book: clever and/or amusing chapter titles; the helpful (and witty) list of characters and the “Previously” summary at the beginning which did wonders to refresh my memory of the happenings in book 1 (I wish I’d re-read The Skin Map before embarking on The Bone House, since it was over a year between readings for me, but the summary was very helpful and I think I did okay); and the essay at the end which was fascinating… Even little things like Etzel’s muffins (I want some now!) and such thoughts from Mina as: Plus, of course, she would have chocolate. A girl after my own heart. 😉

(One final note: it’s “clean” and age appropriate for teens. 🙂 I’d class it as Young Adult, content wise, though adults will enjoy it as well. So, all you young people who care about such things, this series is not actually Adult, even if the main characters are in their twenties. I think young adults will love reading these. I may have left the ranks of teenagerdom somewhat recently, but I’m still a teen at heart and there was nothing that bothered me. :))

I think I can safely say that I greatly enjoyed The Bone House (in fact, I can’t think of a single complaint I have about it!). Another excellent read from a masterful author. I have a feeling that, as only part two out of five, this far-reaching and intricate tapestry has only begun, and I can’t wait to follow the ever-more-tangled threads into the next part!

Onward, to The Spirit Well!

summary

From Goodreads:

2bonehouseKit Livingstone met his great-grandfather Cosimo in a rainy alley in London where he discovered the truth about alternate realities.

Now he’s on the run — and on a quest — trying to understand the impossible mission he inherited from Cosimo: to restore a map that charts the hidden dimensions of the multiverse. Survival depends on staying one step ahead of the savage Burley Men.

The key is the Skin Map — but where it leads and what it means, Kit has no idea. The pieces have been scattered throughout this universe and beyond.

Mina, from her outpost in seventeenth-century Prague, is quickly gaining both the experience and the means to succeed in the quest. Yet so are those with evil intent who, from the shadows, are manipulating great minds of history for their own malign purposes.

Those who know how to use the ley lines have left their own world behind to travel across time and space — down avenues of Egyptian sphinxes, to an Etruscan tufa tomb, into a Bohemian coffee shop, and across a Stone Age landscape where universes collide — in this, the second quest to unlock the mystery of “The Bone House.”

The Bright Empires series — from acclaimed author Stephen R. Lawhead — is a unique blend of epic treasure hunt, ancient history, alternate realities, cutting-edge physics, philosophy, and mystery. The result is a page-turning adventure like no other.

factoids

Genre/Category: Historical Fiction / Fantasy / Sci-fi / Time Travel / Contemporary (ish; linked to our time) etc.

Age Group: Young Adult — Adults will enjoy too!

Published: 2011

Pages: 385 hardcover

Series?: Book 2 in the Bright Empires series. (Book 1: The Skin Map — read my review here.) Followed by The Spirit Well, The Shadow Lamp, The Fatal Tree.

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When Read: August 8-16, 2016

Favorite Character: Wilhelmina! And Kit… and Arthur… etc.

Source: Library

Other Notes: Please do be sure to pick up a copy of The Skin Map before delving into this one! These are definitely not standalones and it would be a shame to get lost and miss the amazingness of the series by starting on book 2 instead of at the beginning. Plus, of course, The Skin Map is amazing, so. 😉

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{Goodreads} • {Amazon} • {Barnes & Noble} • {Author’s Website}


Thanks for reading!

Dream away in those pages . . .

~ The Page Dreamer