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Deception's Pawn (Princesses of Myth)
Deception's Pawn (Princesses of Myth)
by Esther Friesner
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $13.45
78 used & new from $0.12

2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing sequel, June 13, 2015
Warning: contains some spoilers from the first novel in the duology.

I loved Deception's Princess because it stepped out of the constraints of the brave, independent, kickass girl trope that is all too common in YA lit today. While Maeve is a courageous young woman who isn't afraid to fight for herself, she has proven to be clever and relational-oriented. She uses a daughter's wits to fight when she cannot use a son's weapons, and she has been shown to be close to her friends and family. In Deception's Pawn, however, the character that has been built for her in Deception's Princess falls apart, and Maeve becomes another foolhardy girl who charges recklessly into situations and somehow gets through tough situations that could have easily gone bad.

Determined not to be her father's pawn, Maeve has entered fosterage to gain greater freedom. Whereas I found Maeve a mature character in the first novel, Maeve feels youthful and headstrong in the sequel. She often acts based on her emotions instead of relying on the wits that she espoused in the first novel. For example, despite the gossip floating around, she continues to hang out with a young man alone outside of the walls because of her personal desires (to learn how to fight and to hang out with Ea, the kestrel she loves). She is also hopelessly naive in her interactions with the foster girls and continues to consider them her friends for much of the novel in spite of their contradictory behavior.

The characters and their relationships lose depth. The foster girls are extremely shallow and focused on (1) self-preservation and (2) getting a guy. If they take an interest in the other girls, it's because they have their self-interests in mind. Considering how the novel is told from Maeve's perspective, I would understand if Maeve taking a superficial interest in the other girls led her to portray them shallowly, but she actually takes an interest in them. Furthermore, Maeve doesn't interact consistently with any one character; as a result, the other characters tend to come and go at random. There isn't a consistent plotline that involves any one character. I find it problematic that the guy who forces a kiss on Maeve ends up being the most reliable character at the end. Other guys (and girls) that ought to have been reliable end up being shallow, cowardly, and inattentive. I'm especially disappointed in Odran. I understand that his love with Maeve in the first novel was youthful and naive, but his reaction to the changing dynamics of their relationship was poor. This was very, very disappointing.

The ending was very cheesy and unrealistic. First, Maeve resolves conflicts with different people rather quickly and unsatisfactorily. I know things won't always wrap up cleanly in reality, but the way things stand at the end of the novel, the characters remain superficial. Second, given his actions thus far, I highly doubt that Maeve's father would go and give her what she wants especially without her having to bring it up. What it is I won't say because I don't want to spoil the ending. He's a guy who does things because he has an agenda, not because he wants to do someone a favor. (Third:) What I did like is that Maeve stands up for herself and gains the freedom and independence that she desires. Furthermore, she is shown to be a strong woman who does not need a man but rather stands equal to men in a traditionally patriarchal society.

While Maeve's pursuit of freedom is admirable, her character is too youthful and naive to make her "success" realistic. While she wants to be independent, she does not exhibit the wisdom and skill set necessary to be a leader among her people. That said, she is a young woman in the process of learning more about the world, and I do believe that she has the charisma to be a strong leader. I just wish that she showed more growth in this novel, for she showed a lot of potential in the first novel. As it is, Deception's Pawn is a disappointing follow up to the first novel.

Content (contains potential spoilers):
- Maeve runs away from fosterage to live with Odran. They make out with fiery passion, and it is implied that they have sex. Some of the other foster girls have lovers; it is implied at least one of them has sex with her lovers.
- The foster girls can be very mean. The bullying among the foster girls gets pretty bad. For example, some of the girls sit on top of Maeve so that it is hard for her to breathe, and they stay there until she cries. In the past, the bullying got so bad that a girl ran away never to be seen again (it's highly likely that she died out there).
- Two guys get into a (physical) fight over Maeve.


The Jesus Cow: A Novel
The Jesus Cow: A Novel
by Michael Perry
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $16.41
69 used & new from $9.35

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly entertaining and well written, June 13, 2015
This review is from: The Jesus Cow: A Novel (Hardcover)
The Jesus Cow is a novel that I have been waiting for. I enjoy reading novels that use absurd elements to explore humanity. (For example, the bug / vermin in The Metamorphosis. Or, in the case of The Jesus Cow, the calf bearing the image of the Son of God.) I do want to say upfront that you cannot take the religious component seriously while reading this novel. I know that some people may not be comfortable with the religious content or how it is handled. I totally understand. For me, I read this novel with the understanding that it is not about religion. Rather, "religion" is used to explore humanity and show the absurd direction that it can take. (Cue: spiritual theme park and Harley making money off his "holy" calf.)

From the moment that I read the title of this book, I knew that there would be humor in it. And there is plenty of humor to go around in The Jesus Cow! Better yet, it comes packaged in a very well-written novel. (Know that I, the English major, rarely say this.) There are many, many lines that I reread and underlined or put in brackets because I love the way Perry worded them. For example, Perry describes one of Harley's past relationships in one sentence: "Harley himself had once named a Holstein heifer calf after a high school girlfriend; sadly the relationship ended before the calf was weaned" (P. 15 of the ARC). I love this sentence because it says so much about Harley's relationship in a unique way that fits into the context. Perry doesn't say something generic that could speak to any protagonist; instead, he describes Harley's relationship in a way that draws from pieces of Harley's life. In a way that I can imagine Harley himself thinking about his past relationship.

I also like how different characters in the town take turns narrating their story. As I mentioned in my review of Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye (read my review here), such sketches give us insight into characters coming from different backgrounds and allow us to build a deeper understanding of the culture of a place and how it influences the people that live there. In The Jesus Cow, we see how small town life has contributed to the development of each character, how each character reacts to their environment, and how each character, in turn, influences the lives of other characters. For example, if I had only learned about Klute from Harley's perspective, I might have dismissed Klute as a greedy developer out to get Harley. By reading about Klute's story from Klute's own perspective, I could sympathize more with his situation. These are but two of the many characters in the small town of Swivel.

The Jesus Cow is a highly entertaining and well written novel that explores themes about humanity.


In a Dark Wood: What Dante Taught Me About Grief, Healing, and the Mysteries of Love
In a Dark Wood: What Dante Taught Me About Grief, Healing, and the Mysteries of Love
by Joseph Luzzi
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $16.18
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A compelling memoir, June 5, 2015
In a Dark Wood is a compelling memoir about Luzzi's journey through grief and the healing process following his wife Katherine's untimely death. A professor of Italian and a Dante scholar, Luzzi draws parallels between The Divine Comedy and his own experiences in the dark wood of grief.

Having studied English during my time as an undergraduate student, I appreciate how Luzzi relates Dante's great work to his personal experiences and finds meaning in one through the other (and vice versa). It's actually what drew me to this book in the first place, and I love how Luzzi intertwines his story with that of Dante's work. I do wish that I had read The Divine Comedy before picking up this book. It has been years since I've looked at Dante's work. While Luzzi does a good job explaining the connections that he makes between Dante's work and his own experiences, a refresher would have helped me to better understand the significance behind Luzzi's references from a more critical perspective (the casual reader shouldn't have too many problems).

That said, In a Dark Wood has a complicated narration. Luzzi not only intertwines his story following Katherine's death with that of The Divine Comedy, he also includes anecdotes from his college days and from his parents' lives. While I like all the connections that Luzzi makes, he jumps around a lot from scene to scene, from one point in time to another. Furthermore, though his book follows a general timeline, he does not entirely narrate events in chronological order, so it can be difficult to piece events together in their proper order, especially if you don't finish the book in one sitting. I would have preferred if Luzzi cut back on some points and focused more on the immediate storyline. I do appreciate how he ties in his Italian heritage and how he shows the importance of family and friends in his life. Luzzi shows the ups and downs and how his family supported him in his time of grief. The inclusion of his family members' stories also serves to show where he comes from and how it influences his relationships with different women.

In reflecting on his family, his personal experiences, and on Dante's work, Luzzi gives a profound commentary on love, life, and loss. As he tells his daughter Isabel at the end of his book, "it's not what lands you in the dark wood that defines you, but what you do to make it out—just as you can't understand the first words of a story until you've read the last ones" (quoted from ARC). In a Dark Wood is a heavy read in that Luzzi is weighted by his grief throughout much of the book. In his grief, he makes many poor decisions, including his neglect of his fatherly duties to Isabel, and he continuously finds himself unable to move forward with his life. The excruciatingly slow progress out of the dark wood can get frustrating to readers who haven't gone through similar experiences. Nevertheless, Luzzi's narration stays true to reality in showing readers the challenges of working through grief. Through it all, Luzzi is there reflecting on his thoughts and actions during his time in the dark wood, and he makes ample use of The Divine Comedy to comment on love and loss.

Content (contains potential spoilers)
- Questions about the afterlife and if humans have a soul that lives on after death. (Includes some questions on religion and God's existence.
- Relations with multiple women following Katherine's death, includes sex (not explicit).
- In his grief over his wife's untimely death, Luzzi becomes an absent father and leaves much of the child-raising duties to his mother and his sisters. He also gets into heated arguments with some people, including a lover and his mother over his behavior. They aren't described in great detail.
- I do not recall any language that ought to be mentioned. If there was any, they are few and sparse.


Fat Girl Walking: Sex, Food, Love, and Being Comfortable in Your Skin...Every Inch of It
Fat Girl Walking: Sex, Food, Love, and Being Comfortable in Your Skin...Every Inch of It
by Brittany Gibbons
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $17.65
49 used & new from $5.85

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An important book on being (and loving) ourselves, June 2, 2015
Fat Girl Walking is an important book in that that it brings up topics that society has been hesitant to address. Topics that we should address: such as the impossible-to-achieve beauty standards that the media propagates. And about how beauty is subjective. At the same time, Fat Girl Walking is a book that I would hesitate to recommend to some readers because of the explicit content. I will be explaining my reservations about the content at the end of my review so that readers who may not be as comfortable with such content can determine if they should pick up this book.

What I like about the book:
- Gibbons's story is relatable. No matter our size, most if not all of us have felt out of place in our bodies at some point. We've also dealt with growing pains, love and feelings of rejection, perhaps even depression and anxiety. We also, at some point, must decide who we are and what we should accept about ourselves. To this end, Gibbons gives us both the good and the bad. She doesn't prettify her story for us.

Gibbons is candid in the telling of her story. The way Gibbons tells her story, it's from one woman to another. I love how personal the reading of this book is. Gibbons isn't here to tell us what to do, nor is she here to make her story about her body. While her body does play a role in her experiences growing up, it is a part of her. It isn't something she talks about as if it were separate from her essence or as if it is something to be controlled. Her story is about a woman who has become comfortable with who she is, and learning to love her body happened to be a part of the process.

Important message: That said, it is important to remember that, if we don't love our bodies, we really can't love ourselves, and we won't treat our bodies, ourselves, right. As Gibbons mentions, it's not very comfortable to diet. It's much more comfortable to accept our size (though this doesn't mean that we should gorge on junk food—that's not very healthy).

The last pages: I especially love the last part of the book. The first, and larger, part of the book covers Gibbons's life and what she dealt with growing up. The last part of the book follows Gibbons after she becomes more comfortable in her body and is filled with opinionated statements that are humorous and also inspiring. For example, she covers the pros and cons of subjects such as pregnancy. There are also some humorous email exchanges between Gibbons and her husband.

We're beautiful when we love ourselves. Reading this book, I remember thinking that Brittany Gibbons is a beautiful woman. Yes, it's evident in the pictures that she includes in the books, but it's also evident in the words that she writes. When I read this book, I see a strong, confident woman who knows herself and loves herself. I understand that even now she might be dealing with some issues; our problems never entirely go away. However, she's chosen to confront her problems, and we can see in her story that her determination has made a great difference in her life.

What I didn't like so much: Brittany is a very candid and casual writer. This is charming and, at the same time, potentially off putting. While I love how she deals so frankly with issues that women face, I was not prepared for the explicit content. Rarely does a page go by when Gibbons uses explicit language. There is also quite a bit of frank talk about her sexual endeavors. While her language may seem commonplace to some readers, more conservative readers may find it off putting.

I was surprised that sexuality appeared as much as it did in this book. While I knew this wasn't going to be a weight loss book, I did expect a larger focus on body image, loving oneself, and having self esteem. I do understand that relationships play a large role in influencing how we grow up and how we view ourselves. It makes sense that Gibbons talks a lot about her relationships, especially about her relationship with her husband, and I respect that she wants to talk about sex given the role it plays in her coming to terms with her body. That said, it's a very personal subject. This book isn't for readers who aren't comfortable with explicit talk about sex (or about explicit, frank talk about any subject for that matter). This is a candid book in many ways.

Content (potential spoilers)
- Casual use of explicit language and use of profanity (not in moderation)
- Frank talk about sexual endeavors, including but not limited to a brief attempt at lesbian sex and her first lessons in masturbation as a ten-year-old girl. There is also frank talk of other matters. For example, when she was young, her dog slept on the bed with her and had its period, which got on Gibbons. Be prepared for a lot of frank talk on uncomfortable matters.
- There are also some domestic problems. Gibbons's dad got into an accident when she was young, and his behavior causes problems for the family. For example, he follows a boy to school for a reason that doesn't seem to warrant such extreme measures.
- Gibbons dealt with strong feelings of anxiety in college, and she talks about her experiences with it.

* There is a LOT of content in this book. I can't remember all of them. My advice is to treat this as a book filled with mature content. If this were a film, I'd give it an R rating for the language and sexual content. Do not read this if you aren't prepared to handle a lot of language or sexual content. Or frank talk about any subject.


Made You Up
Made You Up
by Francesca Zappia
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $10.83
58 used & new from $5.35

4.0 out of 5 stars A somewhat lighthearted coming of age story, May 29, 2015
This review is from: Made You Up (Hardcover)
I fell in love with Made You Up from the time lobsters were first mentioned. That first lobster scene is so cute, so precious, so full of feels. I never questioned if it was real or not. But then . . . .

Made You Up is a novel that will make you question everything that you see. I would think that Alex perceives reality only to later question it only to later question my doubts. Made You Up is a mind boggling read.

Alex's unreliable narration is both the charm and the major flaw of this novel. On the one hand, I love the complexity that Zappia creates by intertwining reality and delusions so that we, the readers, finds ourselves questioning everything that we're told. In the process, we come a little closer to understanding what it would be like to be unable to discern what's real and what isn't real. That said, I do want to acknowledge that Zappia wraps up the novel rather cleanly. By the end, we learn what's real and what existed only in Alex's mind down to the smallest details we wouldn't have thought to question. This means that Alex also learns the truth. While it's nice as a reader to get the closure, I doubt events will always wrap up so nicely in reality, and I encourage readers to keep this in mind while reading Made You Up.

The major flaw of having an unreliable narrator is that we cannot ever completely trust the narrator. Yes, we shouldn't ever completely trust the narrator of any book we read because any narrator is going to have his or her biases, and some narrators may even have a reason to lie. (Ever study Jane Eyre or The Marquise of O in a college class?) In the case of Made You Up, however, you can't trust that everything you see actually happens. For example, Tucker so rarely appears after Miles is introduced that, even though I saw him interact with people other than Alex, I began to doubt that he really existed. I began to think that maybe Alex made up those interactions. You can see what a headache I was beginning to develop by the time Zappia began to clear things up for me. (Yes, Tucker really exists . . . rather, this other thing you thought was real isn't real at all . . . and so forth.) Though I began to question my sanity, I actually enjoyed the "big reveals" at the end (except for that one tragic one . . . how could "that" not be real???? Whhhyyyyyyyy?????). Made You Up is like a puzzle. Once the pieces begin to click into place, you begin to recognize the discrepancies that have taken place, and everything begins to make more sense. I believe that Made You Up is a novel that will be fun to reread for clues that you didn't pick up at first read.

Family is not entirely absent from the novel. Longtime readers of the blog know how much I value family. I believe that family is integral to our identities. Even if we're at a stage of our life where we don't particularly like certain members of our family, that's also a part of who we are. In Alex's case, her family influences her through how her parents react to her seeing things that exist only in her imagination and to her paranoia. While I don't particularly like how Alex treats her mom or how Miles talks to her mom in one scene, I can understand how she feels. Back in high school, there were many many times when I felt like my mom couldn't understand me, and those feelings led to resentment and feelings that I lacked control of my life. I appreciate how Alex comes to realize the love that her parents feel for her and decides to seek the treatment that her parents were considering. Her love for her sister is especially touching. While she does treat Charlie as The Annoying Younger Sibling at times, it's clear that she deeply cares for her young sister and treasures her existence.

What I really love about Made You Up is that, while Alex may have schizophrenia, Made You Up is not a story about schizophrenia. It is the story about a girl (and a boy) dealing with the insanity of high school life, and our narrator just so happens to have schizophrenia, which makes it just a little more difficult to work through the insanity of high school. I recommend this for readers who enjoy reading a (somewhat) lighthearted coming-of-age story with some crazy high school adventures and a little dose of mystery.

Literary Value:
I believe that it is important to have different kinds of books out there that show different people living different kinds of lives. Alex's story gives us a place where we can get a glimpse of what it may be like to live with paranoid schizophrenia. I do emphasize the "may" given that Zappia was never diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia or hay personal ties to schizophrenia. At the same time, she does try to portray the real deal. In an interview at Bettgeschichten, Zappia says, "I read books on it, I watched documentaries, and I went online to forums where people who have schizophrenia were discussing the illness." Most importantly, Made You Up shows how, while Alex may have schizophrenia, it doesn't take over her life. She is a normal high school girl who is just having a little more trouble than most working through the insanities of high school life.


We Are All Made of Molecules
We Are All Made of Molecules
by Susin Nielsen
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $11.54
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars We Are All Made of Molecules has the complexity that I have been searching for in YA lit, May 19, 2015
4.5 stars

We Are All Made of Molecules is a YA novel that I've been waiting for. The plot is focused and relatable, and the characters clearly mature over the course of the novel. Most importantly, We Are All Made of Molecules has a strong message for readers. While reading is something that I enjoy, I also want to learn something from the books that I read. It can be a moral lesson, or it can be something as simple as a character learning some truth about life and / or standing up to his or her fears. We get all of these in Susin Nielsen's latest novel.

The writing is simple, much more so than I would have expected in a novel that contains some mature content. While I generally like novels with more complexity, the simplistic language and straightforward narration are powerful tools that bare the characters' lives to the reader. There aren't any extraneous details that distract from the main plot points. Furthermore, We Are All Made of Molecules is a novel that can be easily finished in one sitting. Nothing should distract from the story except an emergency.

As you might have guessed from the synopsis, the story is told from the alternating POVs of Stewart and Ashley.While it was interesting to see their different opinions on certain topics and to see what goes on behind the scenes in each character's lives, I found much more depth overall in Stewart's perspective. For much of the novel, Ashley is a shallow, fashion-crazy, boy-obsessed girl who is overly concerned with the social ladder and where she stands on it. While we do learn things from her that we can't get with Stewart, who is bad at reading social cues, I enjoyed reading from Stewart's perspective so much more. He makes nerd jokes (something I love but rarely see in YA lit), he's funny, and he's interesting. Ashley's POV doesn't contribute enough that I feel like it is essential to the story's message. She does become more likable at the end; at the same time, it isn't until the end that I really appreciated her character. Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver presents a more complex character in Samantha, who is also an "It" girl that matures into a more sensitive and caring person.

That said, what Ashley's POV does contribute to the plot is that her story intertwines with Stewart's story to show the different facets of high school life. Ashley may just be a girl who is concerned with the social hierarchy, but she is also a bully who has made fun of others and stepped on them in order to climb to the top of the social ladder. Stewart is a boy lacks social awareness and has been bullied as a result. While I wasn't particularly fond of Ashley's POV, I like how the alternating POVs weaves together the lives of the bullies and the bullied, the "haves" and the "have-nots," to reveal the absurdity of categorizing peoples' values based on where they stand on the social ladder. Whereas Ashley considered herself to be at the top of the ladder, her relationship with her "friends" is a facsimile built on what she imagines to be the prefect life. In the end, Stewart, who stays true to himself and presents himself as he is to others, proves that true happiness comes from making real connections with the people around you. In order to be happy, Ashley must become more like Stewart, and the two must work together to defeat the system that gives bullies the power to oppress others.

Literary Value: I find We Are All Made of Molecules to be a novel with literary value because of the growth that the characters exhibit. Stewart and Ashley enter the novel with preconceptions about how their lives will go, and after their first meeting, they form superficial opinions about each other that will later prove false. They learn about the complexity of life and about the fallacy of judging people by appearances and initial impressions. There are important messages about respect and tolerance, family and friendship, bullying and the social hierarchy, what is really important in life and what it means to be a decent human being. The plot has the complexity that I have been searching for in YA lit.

Mature Content: While the language is simple and more what I would expect from a middle-grade novel, I would not recommend this to younger readers because of the content. (Warning: potential spoilers follow.) Ashley belongs to the stereotypical "It" scene in high school. She and her friends lust after the hottest boy in their school, there is language and talk of girls' bodies in a boys' locker room scene, there is partying with alcohol involved, and there is an almost-rape scene. Stewart is bullied because of his brains and geeky appearance, and at several points he is afraid to go to school. There is also homophobia and discrimination against homosexuality by some persons.

Overall: We Are All Made of Molecules is a novel that I believe young adults should read. It has complexity: Stewart and Ashley show true character growth, family and friends play important roles in their lives, and their story shows us what is really important in life.


Find Momo Coast to Coast: A Photography Book
Find Momo Coast to Coast: A Photography Book
by Andrew Knapp
Edition: Paperback
Price: $11.06
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A fun, unique travel book, May 14, 2015
Find Momo: Coast to Coast is an adorable book in which the border collie Momo and his buddy Andrew Knapp travel from coast to coast across the United States and Canada. There is a good mix of photos where it is easy to find Momo and ones that challenge the reader's imagination. I can envision this being a fun book to huddle over with the family in a race to find Momo.

Many of the photos are breathtaking and worth examining in their own right. I love how there is a mix of tourist attractions and everyday life of the people who in live the areas that Momo and Knapp visit. In the midst of it all, Knap captures photos that show Momo making himself right at home. The two's adventures remind us of the excitement to be found in travel—both in the major attractions and in the quietude of the everyday. Traveling isn't always about visiting the places well traveled. We also need to remind ourselves to look for adventure in the culture of the places that we visit, and we can't do that by following the tourist guidebook. Branch out; explore different sceneries.

That said, I do wish that we were given more specific details in the captions about the locations in the photos. If you're curious about where exactly each photo was taken, you have to flip back to the answer key. Otherwise, I have nothing to complain about!

Find Momo: Coast to Coast is a fun, unique travel book. I love the idea of sharing a road trip through the antics of a dog, and I had a lot of fun searching for Momo (though at times I did get pretty frustrated. Momo isn't always easy to find!). I would definitely recommend this book to readers, especially those who love furry four-legged creatures like Momo.


Song of the Lioness
Song of the Lioness
by Tamora Pierce
Edition: Hardcover
43 used & new from $4.31

5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best series ever, May 1, 2015
This review is from: Song of the Lioness (Hardcover)
Song of the Lioness is one of my all-time favorite series. It is one of my staple comfort reads, and I re-read it at least once or twice a year. I have this particular edition of the series. I love it because I can read the series in one go together!

Out of all of the YA authors with whom I am familiar, Tamora Pierce is the best at writing real characters. For a while now, I've seen a trend in YA lit to write "kickass" heroines. These heroines tend to be super strong one moment and a weeping mess another moment, leaving me confused as to who is the real them. When I think about a truly strong and independent heroine with some vulnerabilities, Alanna is the first heroine to come to mind (followed by Daine and Kel from Tamora Pierce's The Immortals and The Protector of the Small). Alanna is strong, independent, and courageous. When she gets picked on for being small and weak, she doesn't break down. Instead, she suffers quietly while diligently training on her own so that she can prove her strength further down the road. She is also vulnerable in that she is scared of her magic, and she is scared of her womanhood. What makes her real is that these vulnerabilities are integral to her identity. She isn't strong one moment and then her vulnerabilities are exposed the next like many of today's YA heroines. Rather, her vulnerabilities are always with her, and they are important to the plot. Alanna cannot attain true knighthood without embracing her vulnerabilities.

Song of the Lioness is Tamora Pierce's first series, so the writing and character / plot development isn't as well done as her later series. Nevertheless, these are very solid for a debut author. In particular, I want to draw attention to the world building. I love when authors take the time to draw the maps for a fantasy world and when they understand the culture and history of their fantasy worlds so well that they can really develop the world. I felt like I was traveling the world with Alanna, and I could feel the distinct change in culture when Alanna brought me with her across the borders into another nation and even when a foreigner would arrive in Tortall. Few YA fantasy novels possess this power.

Tamora Pierce also writes unique characters. It is rare nowadays to find a novel where I love the supporting cast as much as I love the heroine. George and Faithful especially. George is a paragon for chivalrous thieves, and Faithful is one of the best literary cats ever written. What makes such characters special is that, while I may be able to place them under stock character lists, they are alive. They have their unique histories and character quirks. When they take action or say something, it doesn't feel like it is because the author thought that it would be cool if they did such and such or if such a scene took place. Even if she did, the scenes flow into one another. Again, Song of the Lioness is Tamora Pierce's debut series, so some of the dialogue and action does feel forced, but I can see a pattern in them. Everything that happens builds into the plot, a plot that I very much enjoyed.

The most important takeaway from the Song of the Lioness series is that we can do whatever we set our minds on. Alanna is small and not as strong as the other pages. Instead of giving up, she works harder than everything else. When she learns that she has no talent in swordplay, she drills herself in the basics so long and so hard that her body can respond instinctively to attacks. When she is bullied, she trains herself so that she can beat a bigger boy instead of relying on her friends, who would have gladly fought in her place. In a world that isn't accepting of female knights, she fights to make a place for herself. Alanna is a young woman who never quits until she has tried as hard as she can to overcome a situation.

The Song of the Lioness series has one of my favorite heroines of all time, an exciting world of adventure, and some of the most lovable characters in YA lit. It has romance, but the romance doesn't take over the greater plot. At its heart, Song of the Lioness is a coming-of-age story in which a girl who doesn't belong makes a place of her own through sheer determination and force of will. Alanna is someone with whom I could relate growing up, and her story is one that I will continue to love even as I grow older. I will for sure share this story with my future children and anyone looking for a good book to read.


Song of the Lioness Quartet: Alanna; In the Hand of the Goddess; The Woman Who Rides Like a Man; Lioness Rampant
Song of the Lioness Quartet: Alanna; In the Hand of the Goddess; The Woman Who Rides Like a Man; Lioness Rampant
by Tamora Pierce
Edition: Paperback
Price: $31.21
41 used & new from $19.30

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best fantasy series ever, May 1, 2015
Song of the Lioness is one of my all-time favorite series. It is one of my staple comfort reads, and I re-read it at least once or twice a year.

Out of all of the YA authors with whom I am familiar, Tamora Pierce is the best at writing real characters. For a while now, I've seen a trend in YA lit to write "kickass" heroines. These heroines tend to be super strong one moment and a weeping mess another moment, leaving me confused as to who is the real them. When I think about a truly strong and independent heroine with some vulnerabilities, Alanna is the first heroine to come to mind (followed by Daine and Kel from Tamora Pierce's The Immortals and The Protector of the Small). Alanna is strong, independent, and courageous. When she gets picked on for being small and weak, she doesn't break down. Instead, she suffers quietly while diligently training on her own so that she can prove her strength further down the road. She is also vulnerable in that she is scared of her magic, and she is scared of her womanhood. What makes her real is that these vulnerabilities are integral to her identity. She isn't strong one moment and then her vulnerabilities are exposed the next like many of today's YA heroines. Rather, her vulnerabilities are always with her, and they are important to the plot. Alanna cannot attain true knighthood without embracing her vulnerabilities.

Song of the Lioness is Tamora Pierce's first series, so the writing and character / plot development isn't as well done as her later series. Nevertheless, these are very solid for a debut author. In particular, I want to draw attention to the world building. I love when authors take the time to draw the maps for a fantasy world and when they understand the culture and history of their fantasy worlds so well that they can really develop the world. I felt like I was traveling the world with Alanna, and I could feel the distinct change in culture when Alanna brought me with her across the borders into another nation and even when a foreigner would arrive in Tortall. Few YA fantasy novels possess this power.

Tamora Pierce also writes unique characters. It is rare nowadays to find a novel where I love the supporting cast as much as I love the heroine. George and Faithful especially. George is a paragon for chivalrous thieves, and Faithful is one of the best literary cats ever written. What makes such characters special is that, while I may be able to place them under stock character lists, they are alive. They have their unique histories and character quirks. When they take action or say something, it doesn't feel like it is because the author thought that it would be cool if they did such and such or if such a scene took place. Even if she did, the scenes flow into one another. Again, Song of the Lioness is Tamora Pierce's debut series, so some of the dialogue and action does feel forced, but I can see a pattern in them. Everything that happens builds into the plot, a plot that I very much enjoyed.

The most important takeaway from the Song of the Lioness series is that we can do whatever we set our minds on. Alanna is small and not as strong as the other pages. Instead of giving up, she works harder than everything else. When she learns that she has no talent in swordplay, she drills herself in the basics so long and so hard that her body can respond instinctively to attacks. When she is bullied, she trains herself so that she can beat a bigger boy instead of relying on her friends, who would have gladly fought in her place. In a world that isn't accepting of female knights, she fights to make a place for herself. Alanna is a young woman who never quits until she has tried as hard as she can to overcome a situation.

The Song of the Lioness series has one of my favorite heroines of all time, an exciting world of adventure, and some of the most lovable characters in YA lit. It has romance, but the romance doesn't take over the greater plot. At its heart, Song of the Lioness is a coming-of-age story in which a girl who doesn't belong makes a place of her own through sheer determination and force of will. Alanna is someone with whom I could relate growing up, and her story is one that I will continue to love even as I grow older. I will for sure share this story with my future children and anyone looking for a good book to read.


Alanna: The First Adventure (The Song of the Lioness, Book 1)
Alanna: The First Adventure (The Song of the Lioness, Book 1)
by Tamora Pierce
Edition: Paperback
Price: $8.66
80 used & new from $0.89

5.0 out of 5 stars One of my favorite series, May 1, 2015
Song of the Lioness is one of my all-time favorite series. It is one of my staple comfort reads, and I re-read it at least once or twice a year.

Out of all of the YA authors with whom I am familiar, Tamora Pierce is the best at writing real characters. For a while now, I've seen a trend in YA lit to write "kickass" heroines. These heroines tend to be super strong one moment and a weeping mess another moment, leaving me confused as to who is the real them. When I think about a truly strong and independent heroine with some vulnerabilities, Alanna is the first heroine to come to mind (followed by Daine and Kel from Tamora Pierce's The Immortals and The Protector of the Small). Alanna is strong, independent, and courageous. When she gets picked on for being small and weak, she doesn't break down. Instead, she suffers quietly while diligently training on her own so that she can prove her strength further down the road. She is also vulnerable in that she is scared of her magic, and she is scared of her womanhood. What makes her real is that these vulnerabilities are integral to her identity. She isn't strong one moment and then her vulnerabilities are exposed the next like many of today's YA heroines. Rather, her vulnerabilities are always with her, and they are important to the plot. Alanna cannot attain true knighthood without embracing her vulnerabilities.

Song of the Lioness is Tamora Pierce's first series, so the writing and character / plot development isn't as well done as her later series. Nevertheless, these are very solid for a debut author. In particular, I want to draw attention to the world building. I love when authors take the time to draw the maps for a fantasy world and when they understand the culture and history of their fantasy worlds so well that they can really develop the world. I felt like I was traveling the world with Alanna, and I could feel the distinct change in culture when Alanna brought me with her across the borders into another nation and even when a foreigner would arrive in Tortall. Few YA fantasy novels possess this power.

Tamora Pierce also writes unique characters. It is rare nowadays to find a novel where I love the supporting cast as much as I love the heroine. George and Faithful especially. George is a paragon for chivalrous thieves, and Faithful is one of the best literary cats ever written. What makes such characters special is that, while I may be able to place them under stock character lists, they are alive. They have their unique histories and character quirks. When they take action or say something, it doesn't feel like it is because the author thought that it would be cool if they did such and such or if such a scene took place. Even if she did, the scenes flow into one another. Again, Song of the Lioness is Tamora Pierce's debut series, so some of the dialogue and action does feel forced, but I can see a pattern in them. Everything that happens builds into the plot, a plot that I very much enjoyed.

The most important takeaway from the Song of the Lioness series is that we can do whatever we set our minds on. Alanna is small and not as strong as the other pages. Instead of giving up, she works harder than everything else. When she learns that she has no talent in swordplay, she drills herself in the basics so long and so hard that her body can respond instinctively to attacks. When she is bullied, she trains herself so that she can beat a bigger boy instead of relying on her friends, who would have gladly fought in her place. In a world that isn't accepting of female knights, she fights to make a place for herself. Alanna is a young woman who never quits until she has tried as hard as she can to overcome a situation.

The Song of the Lioness series has one of my favorite heroines of all time, an exciting world of adventure, and some of the most lovable characters in YA lit. It has romance, but the romance doesn't take over the greater plot. At its heart, Song of the Lioness is a coming-of-age story in which a girl who doesn't belong makes a place of her own through sheer determination and force of will. Alanna is someone with whom I could relate growing up, and her story is one that I will continue to love even as I grow older. I will for sure share this story with my future children and anyone looking for a good book to read.


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