Irregular Review: Dragon’s Danger, Edward Branley

When I signed up for Story Cartel, I went straight for the fantasy and kidlit selections because, well, that’s what I read and that’s what I felt most comfortable reviewing. I chose Dragon’s Blood by Edward Branley because it had a nice cover. You know what they say, “never judge a book by it’s cover”? Well, they say it for a reason. Dragon's Blood

Dragon’s Danger
Edward Branley (Blood Bound #1)
☆☆☆☆☆ (No comment.)

Goodreads summary:

Don’t believe everything you read on the Internet!
Joey, Anne Marie, and David are three teens from New Orleans. They’re smart enough to understand this. Imagine their surprise when a “dragon’s egg” they bought online turns out to be from an ancient trading company that sells “collectibles and curiosities”. Suddenly it’s more than just kidding around, as they help their dragon avoid danger and evolve to its full potential!
For over a thousand years, the dragons have used the merchant concern, Hassan’s Collectibles and Curiosities to help identify those worthy of becoming the “Blood Bound” — humans who are willing to hatch dragon eggs and nurture the hatchlings to adulthood. The methods used by Hassan’s have changed over time, but the results are the same. The dragons live!
It’s never been easy to be a teen. Asking a teen to hatch a dragon egg is a big request. That’s why it’s important to choose a teen who has friends to help. Better yet, get three inseparable kids to do the job!

The Good
The cover art, as I mentioned, is what drew me to the story. The premise reminds me of Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher, a book I loved when I was a kid, but if Jeremy had internet access.

The Bad
I didn’t finish this. I’m not one of those people who powers through when books get boring. There are only so many hours in the day. I dropped this book partway through the first chapter. Why? I didn’t feel like anyone had taken the time to edit it. So why should I take the time to read?

Sentences like, “Typical of New Orleans in February, it was cold for two days, today’s high would be much warmer,” and “Since most of New Orleans’ Catholic high schools are all-boy or all-girl, the boys ended up at one school, and Ann Marie at another, but regularly re-unite on holidays and in the summer” threw me out of the story while I tried to figure out what they meant. (Those were on facing pages, p7 and p8.)

Look, I don’t demand perfection, but two glaring editorial failures like this, in two pages, in the first chapter is unacceptable. I tried to look up the publisher, but was unsuccessful; if Elysian Fields Press has a website, they’ve done a mighty fine job of hiding it. (Goodreads lists the publisher as Smashwords, but the author’s profile doesn’t list any books.)

What really killed the book for me, however, was this:  “’Fuck you, Joey!’ she said, without even looking away from the TV.”

Dragon’s Danger is billed on StoryCartel as a “middle grade contemporary fantasy.” SFWA quotes agents and editors as defining MG as for children age 8-12. Dragon’s Danger has a casual F-bomb in the first chapter; searching the e-book pulls up an additional twenty five instances of the F word. His author bio rather defensively states, “he can attest that sixteen-year olds attending Catholic school do swear like the Trio do,” and while I’m sure they do, this is inappropriate language for a MG book. I wouldn’t feel comfortable putting this in my students’ hands.

So why was this a MG book? The characters are rather old for a normal MG protagonist (they’re all sixteen or so) and the language was more suited to a YA audience. This was the real lack of editing that made me decide not to finish this book, more than some awkwardly worded sentences.

I received a free digital copy of this book from StoryCartel.

Advertisements

Then Now Next Thursday (April 2, 2015)

The WhisperI decided to make up a weekly check-in since the demise of both What Are You Reading? Wednesdays and What’s Up? Wednesdays.

THEN

I recently finished reading Aaron Starmer’s The Whisper, second book of three in the Riverman TrilogyHoly Sh*t: A Brief History of Swearing, by Melissa Mohr; and since we’re reading poetry books in library class to celebrate National Poetry Month, I read Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s The Gruffalo with my students. They can vote on The Gruffalo or a selection of dinosaur-themed poems; votes have overwhelmingly gone to The Gruffalo in every class so far this week.

NOW

I picked up Story Thieves, by James Riley, when I finished Holy Sh*tI knew after enjoying a nonfiction book that much, I’d need to switch genre tracks, so I went for MG meta fantasy. Then I got really into writing a detailed annotation of Story Thieves, but I needed something to just read on the train, so I went back to Iron-Hearted Violet after literally months hiatus in the middle of the book.

Iron Hearted VioletI don’t know why I had to press pause on this book. It’s so good. Maybe it was too good. Sometimes, if I’m not in a good headspace and something is too beautiful, it hurts and I just can’t. Well, I picked it back up, and it’s so beautiful and so perfect. Iron-Hearted Violet is everything.

NEXT

What I really want to read is the third volume of the Riverman Trilogy, but not only has it not been released, there’s not even any title, release date, or cover! Rude. I really need to know what happens to Aquavania before I can decide wether or not I liked The Riverman and The Whisper.

Seeing as I can’t have that, instead I’m going to finish up the books I’m reading (including The Silmarillion) and I got really excited about The Great Beanie Baby Bubble when I first heard about it on BookRiot.

“What Are You Reading?” Wednesdays (February 18, 2015)

The SilmarillionWhat are you currently reading?

I’m kinda/sorta (re)reading The Silmarillion, but I will be honest with you: I’ve been in the worst reading slump. I just can’t focus on anything, and it’s awful.

What did you recently finish reading?

Since I last updated, I’ve read: In Real Life, Take Me Out to the Yakyu, The Hobbit (can you tell I’m on a Middle-earth kick?) and the online edition of Nimona. (I can’t wait for the print version this May.)

What do you think you’ll read next?

Ugh, I don’t know. I just hope I’ll find something to pull me out of this slump.

“What Are You Reading?” Wednesday (January 21, 2015)

“What are you reading?” Wednesday has been absorbed into Musing Mondays over at Should Be Reading, but I’ll continue posting on Wednesdays.

Iron Hearted VioletWhat are you currently reading?

Iron Hearted Violet, by Kelly Barnhill, and it’s so good. I have a few other books on my ereading app (don’t I always?) but this one has just been so amazing that I haven’t even been tempted at all to see what else I’ve got on there.

What did you recently finish reading?

I read (and reviewed) Vivian Apple at the End of the World.

During my lunch breaks at work, I read Afternoon of the Elves, the 1991 Newbury Medal winner, in the Open Library online reader. It was … okay, I guess, but I’m surprised it was a Newbury Medal winner. Was 1990 just a slow year for children’s fiction, or something? It wasn’t bad, exactly, but with that golden sticker on the front, I was expecting better.

What do you think you’ll read next?

I still have Shadowplay on my phone and I’m about halfway through So You Want to Be a Wizard. I should probably try to get through my backlog of half finished books before I start anything else, but “should” doesn’t necessarily mean “will,” because one of my students is reading The Fellowship of the Ring and another student is reading The Golden Compass and I want to reread both of those things now so I can talk about it with them. (Not that I haven’t almost memorized both of those books, but, you know.)

Top Ten Tuesday: FREEBIE: Top Ten Favorite Books to Reread

Top Ten TuesdayThis week’s Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by The Broke and the Bookish) is a freebie and it’s too much responsibility!

I decided to write about my “Top Ten Favorite Books to Reread.” Some books stand up well to rereading and revisiting at every stage of life, but others fall flat when you’re older and wiser.

… and, since I’m still pretty new to this book blogging game, I thought it would be a good “getting to know you” list.

  • More More MoreMore, More, More! Said the Baby, Vera B. Williams I haven’t read this book in years – maybe literally even a decade, at least – but it was my absolute favorite book when I was just a baby and toddler. I asked my mom to read it to me so many times that she eventually got sick of it and hid it on top of the fridge, forgotten until I grew tall enough to reach up there for the chips I wanted for an after school snack.
    I always loved books, no doubt thanks to my mother’s patience in reading this book to me over and over and over again, until I can still – twenty years later – recite some of it from memory. (I probably would have hidden it from me, too.) Maybe I didn’t just learn to love reading from my parents, but to love rereading, too.
  • The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry My fourth grade teacher read this one out loud to us, and I remember the dreamy feeling of knowing I had just experienced something important but not quite knowing what. I knew that I didn’t understand it, not really, and I understood that understanding would come in time and there was no need to rush it. I was basically Hermione when I was in school – know-it-all, frizzy hair and everything (see below, about Harry Potter) – so it really was incredible, knowing that I didn’t know and that knowing would come in time. Now it’s my honor to read this aloud to my fourth and fifth grade students and hope it touches one of them the way it touched me.
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's StoneThe Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien I finished reading Fellowship of the Ring in the theater, frantically turning the last few pages as the lights went down on the Saturday matinee. (Spoiler: Boromir dies at the beginning of The Two Towers. Imagine my surprise.) My dad took me to see it. I was so excited. It was hard – I fought harder to read The Lord of the Rings than I have ever struggled to read a book in my life – but it was so worth it. I return to this one periodically when I need a reminder of my dad, or of who I am – as a person, as a reader. Every time I reread it, I feel like I understand it differently; I used to identify most with Merry and Pippin, or Éowyn, but last time I read it, Boromir really… I finally got Boromir.
  • Harry Potter (series), J.K. Rowling I loved books before I read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (USian), but I haven’t loved something so completely before or since. I doubt I ever will. Growing up with Harry was a thing, and nothing quite like it will ever happen again, I think. I dressed up for the book release parties of Book 4, Book 5 and Book 6. (I was in China when Book 7 was released.) Whenever I feel sad, or nostalgic, or homesick – or, let’s be honest, just whenever – I like to pick this up and reread it, revisit Hogwarts. Every time I read it, I identify more or less with other characters. I’ve always been very much like Hermione – she’s probably what made me adore the series so much – and as I’ve grown up, I’ve understood or identified with Tonks, and McGonagall and Remus.
    I read Sorcerer’s Stone thirty two times before I stopped counting (and I stopped counting in seventh grade/2002).
  • The Golden CompassHis Dark Materials (series), Philip Pullman The only books that mean more to me than Harry Potter are His Dark Materials. While Harry Potter was a lot more fun, His Dark Materials moved me, when I was a tween, in a way I didn’t really understand. I only knew for certain that I had experienced something monumental, something huge and life-changing, and I didn’t know why. I couldn’t even say what had happened; I still remember sitting in the library parking lot trying to explain to my dad. Every time I reread this, I understand it a little bit better, and I feel like Lyra (re)learning how to read her alethiometer.
    I never really identified with Lyra – never in my life have I been half as wild or wily as her – but I admired her, and I still do. I wanted her as my friend, even as I was a little frightened of her; now I want to protect her, and I want Mary Malone as my friend.
  • TSUBASA: RESERVoiR CHRoNiCLE, CLAMP I’ve only read this series front-to-back, first-to-last twice, because it’s long, and because my entire collection is, inconveniently, located on the other side of the planet. But I would be lying not to include it, because I would read and reread volumes over and over (… and over and over) waiting for the next release when it was in English-language serialization and I just love it soo much. I can acknowledge that the plot is … unstable, what with all of those plot holes, but gosh, I just love the characters and I swear, this silly manga series got me through college with at least a little sanity left over, even if it is completely ridiculous.
  • TSUBASAThe Vampire Lestat, Anne Rice Unlike the other books on this list, The Vampire Lestat has no particular deeper meaning to me. I don’t have, like, a deep attachment to it, or anything. It’s just fun. It’s some funny brain fluff and Lestat is a really great narrator. I’ve reread some of the other Vampire Chronicles books, but this one is my favorite, no doubt. Maybe it’s because I like Nicki? Or because Lestat is my favorite member of the Coven of the Articulate?
  • The Drawing of the Three and The Waste Lands (Dark Tower series), Stephen King I can’t honestly include the whole series here, because I usually skip The Gunslinger and lose interest again somewhere in Song of Susannah and I always skip the middle flashback bit of Wizard and Glass, but man, some of the scenes in The Drawing of the Three and The Waste Lands (and even Wizard and Glass and Wolves of the Calla) are so cool. Like, I just know it will be soo satisfying to watch Eddie Dean destroy Blaine. I’ve already read that part a million times but I always cheer anyway, even though I know what’s going to happen.
  • How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Dr. Suess I’ve mentioned before that I reread this book every year around Christmastime. It’s true. My mom used to read it to me every Christmas Eve, and now I read it to my students during their last library visit before winter vacation. I love the rhyme and rhythm of the story, and I love the memory of my mother reading it to me, and I love that, once again, I have it nearly memorized. Most pages I can say without even looking, and the rest need only a glance before I’m off.
    I have to like the books I read aloud, as I usually read them between six and fourteen times a week, depending on my lesson plans, but this one is always my absolute favorite.

What about you? What are your favorite books to reread? What did you choose for your Top Ten Tuesday list this week?

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten 2014 Releases I Meant To Read But Didn’t Get To

Top Ten TuesdayTop Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature of The Broke & The Bookish. This week, we’re talking about “Top Ten 2014 Releases I Meant To Read But Didn’t Get To.” I’ve said it before, but I don’t usually keep up with this stuff. That being said, there were a bunch of things that came out in 2014 that I really meant to read and then didn’t (or started and then dropped, or only just heard about but started reading immediately), so this list wasn’t as difficult to create as it might have been, because 2014 was a good year for books.

  1. Island of Excess LoveThe Half-Life of Molly Pierce, Katrina Leno Isn’t this the one where the girl has Dissasociative Identity Disorder? I’m super curious to read about it, for a whole bunch of reasons, and I’m not sure why I didn’t get around to it earlier, except that the opportunity never presented itself? This one is definitely still on my list.
  2. The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender, Leslye Walton Another one where I’m not sure why I didn’t read it, because it sounds like something right up my alley (and vaguely reminiscent of Skellig), and it has a beautiful cover. Another one I plan to read eventually, for what it’s worth.
  3. The Island of Excess Love, Francesca Lia Block There is a certain kind of teenage girl who loves Witch Baby. I was that kind of teenage girl, so when I heard about Love in the Time of Global Warming, I snapped it up immediately. I don’t usually “do” apocalypse stories, but the idea of an Odyssey retelling starring a girl named Penelope was too much to risk missing out. Now there’s another one, this time a retelling of the Aeneid? I’m still not sure why I never read this last year.
  4. Prince LestatGretel and the Dark, Eliza Granville Probably I haven’t read this one because anything set around the era of Nazi Germany is bound to be pretty dark (it’s even right there in the title), but it’s about the power of stories, and if there’s something I can’t resist, it’s the power of stories. So I’ll definitely give this one a read when I get the chance.
  5. Something Real, Heather Demetrios Something about this just really appeals to me. I’m really curious if the “Bakers Dozen” family is a fundamentalist family (like the Duggars) or just happen to have a lot of kids? ‘Cause if it’s about her escaping the Quiverfull cult, then I definitely want to read it, but either way, I won’t turn it down if it comes by my way.
  6. A Thousand Pieces of You, Claudia Grey I love a good multiverse, ever since I read The Golden Compass in fifth or sixth grade, but I took it off of my list because I wasn’t sure that I’d be interested in reading a love story about Marguerite and Paul, which, knowing YA, would probably take center stage over the far more interesting and important fact of multiple universes.
  7. Jackaby, William Ritter I always love a well-crafted speculative historical fiction story that could logically fit into the actual events. Jack the Ripper still hasn’t been conclusively identified, and perhaps at this point, never will be… So why shouldn’t it be the work of some mysterious supernatural creature? It’s not my usual thing (a little to horror-y for my taste) but the cover did catch my eye last year.
  8. RivermanHollow City, Ransom Riggs I started reading this one but ultimately dropped it because the talking dog was too freaking weird for me, and not in the general way that Miss Peregrine’s is weird. Still, I wish I could have gone through it because the first one was so cool. I really love the conceit of the book being told around found photographs, but I just wish author hadn’t found the photograph of the dog with the hat.
  9. Prince Lestat, Anne Rice I got pretty far into this one before admitting that I was bored. (It needs more Armand and Marius.) Usually, I wouldn’t count a dropped book as something I “missed,” but I would like to get the rest of the way through it. I like knowing what Lestat is up to in the 21st century, even if it means slogging through bits about vampires I don’t know.
  10. The Riverman, Alex Starmer Does it count if you didn’t even hear about this book at all until 2015 and are currently reading it? Oh, well. I’ll put it here anyway, because as soon as I heard about it, I knew I had to read it, like, immediately, for a whole bunch of reasons and so far, it has not been a disappointment.

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books I Wouldn’t Mind Santa Bringing This Year

Top Ten Tuesday

It’s a liiiiitle late for Christmas shopping – my friends/Japan family and I are having our Christmas dinner tonight, since half of us have work on Christmas Eve and Christmas – but just in case: here are my Top Ten Books I Wouldn’t Mind Santa Bringing This Year.

I’m breaking the list into two: five books I want for myself, and five books I want for my library.

For My Personal Collection:

  1. Harry Potter and the Philospher's Stone 2014Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone “But Leslie, don’t you already have this? Isn’t it, like, your favorite book?”
    Yes, yes, I do. I have numerous copies, even, but I always want more, like the adorable new Bloomsbury paperback or this French paperback. I collect different editions of this book, but really, I wouldn’t mind if Santa would just bring my existing collection to Tokyo on his sleigh.
  2. Sacred High City, Sacred Low City: A Tale of Religious Sites in Two Tokyo Neighborhoods Living in Tokyo, I’ve developed a hobby bordering on a religious obsession with Shinto shrines, but most of my knowledge is informal, gleaned from what little I remember of undergrad and my limited ability to read the informational pamphlets the priests sometimes give me with my goshuinchō stamps. In 2015, I’d like to do a little more serious research, including this book.
  3. Critical Perspectives on Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials While Harry Potter was my obsession, His Dark Materials changed me in quieter, deeper ways that I didn’t fully realize until I reread the trilogy after moving to Tokyo. I love books about books – at home, I have heaps of books with titles like The Psychology of Harry Potter and The World of The Golden Compassbut this is a more in-depth, scholarly (and thus, expensive) book that I haven’t had the chance to read yet and I would love to get deeper into this story.
  4. NimonaThe Magician’s Book I already have this one in ebook format, but I loved it so much that it would be an honor to have the print edition on my shelf beside my own Magician’s Book(s), The Golden Compass and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (mentioned above). 2014 was the Year of the Magician’s Book, and I’d love to hold the actual, you know, book.
  5. Nimona I read most of this comic free online, but I liked it so much that I want to hold it in my hands and hug it and keep it on my bookshelf and admire it forever. This one might also double-up and go in the secondary library collection, too, because it is just soo great. I haven’t cried over a webcomic since seventh grade.

For My Library Collection:

  1. Olivia Kidney and the…  There are a couple of these (Secret Beneath the City and Exit Academy), and I want them both for the library after a student came up with a copy of the first book, begging me for the rest of the series. I didn’t even know it was a series, but how do you say “no” to one of your best patrons – a girl who comes in every single day to borrow new books and help sticker and shelve for fun in her free time – when they’re just dying for the next book in their new favorite series?
  2. Blossoming Universe of Violet DiamondThe Blossoming Universe of Violet Diamond I tried to order this with the last PTA batch, only to realize – d’oh! – it won’t be released until next year. Oops! But I do really, really want it. I’m trying to build a diverse collection. Many of my students are biracial/bicultural, and I think this is a story that would resonate with them, even if the specifics are different than their own situation – it’s a mirror and a window.
  3. The School for Good and Evil Soman Chainani was one of my Top Ten New-To-Me Authors of 2014, and I really want this book in the library collection. I know what my patrons like, and a certain faction of my patrons likes princesses – loves princesses, even. I think this book would support their interest while maybe subtly dismantling the “princess” archetype, where “princess” means “pretty and helpless.”
  4. Eddie Red, Undercover: Mystery on Museum Mile (Series) Some of my “reluctant” readers have finally branched out from Captain Underpants and started reading Jack Stalwart and Zac Power and asking for more. We don’t have more, is the thing. For some reason, my library collection is weirdly lacking in adventure stories. Here is a solution to that problem.
  5. My Mixed-up Berry Blue Summer I want this book for a bunch of reasons. For one thing, queer characters are underrepresented in my library collection, but And Tango Makes Three is one of the most popular titles. For another, it takes place in Vermont, which is where I grew up, and that’s cool. The students – all international – like asking about where the teachers are from. I tried to buy it last year, but it was “not a priority,” while none of my other fiction picks had any complaints. Hmm. Hopefully Santa can help me out here…