Book review: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, by J.K. Rowling

Webmaster’s note 1/15/2016: This is an old review from the previous version of the site, which we’re bringing in as a post so that it’ll be searchable in the reviews categories with newer content.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
by J.K. Rowling
ISBN 0439139597

reviewed by Scott Lammers

I’m not one to absolutely obsess with a book and finish it with one setting – haven’t been for years. So on the initial release date I acquired this book at half-past noon, and fourteen hours and 732 pages later, I had made a true exception!

Rowling had stated a few crux items about this book and the series in general. She’d mentioned how this was a keystone event in the series – I have to agree absolutely!

I have also rarely read a series of books that was intended as a series, where I could simply pick up and read each book and be satisfied with the story-line in each and every one on its own. The Harry Potter series has proved no exception for me; the first book left me craving more, the second had me screaming me for, and the third left a very clear emptiness in my gut as I knew the groundwork had been laid for much more later on. Well, this fourth book surprised me – after reading it, after knowing three books are yet to come, I found myself finishing it and realising it was completed with such excellence that I would have been happy if it were the end of the series on its own.

Two thumbs up? Only because I don’t have more hands….

Now, on to some thoughts and analogies which keep popping into my head all unbidden….

Book review: The Dragons Are Singing Tonight, by Jack Prelutsky and Peter Sis

Webmaster’s note 1/15/2016: This is an old review from the previous version of the site, which we’re bringing in as a post so that it’ll be searchable in the reviews categories with newer content.

The Dragons Are Singing  Tonight

The Dragons Are Singing Tonight
Poems by Jack Prelutsky
Pictures by Peter Sis
ISBN 068809645X

reviewed by Maria Bellamy

I am wild about a book that I discovered by chance today. I bought it as a present for a little boy, but the more I look at it, the less I want to give it away!

The oversized book is a collection of 17 poems about dragons, each one set in a double-page full-color painting of wonderful artistry.

Several of the poems are written from dragons’ points of view, including one who brags, one who’s tired of his image, one who’s loudly ferocious, and one who’s little and self-proclaimed nasty (my current favorite).

Other poems feature narrators who have dragons in their lives, with various reactions: fear, delight, concern for a sick one, anticipation of the egg that’s about to hatch.

The poems are in a well-planned order, anticipating readers’ reactions and dropping such poems as “If You Don’t Believe in Dragons” into just the right place in the book. Some selections are very funny, but others elicit much more mixed emotions. The final poem in the collection finds a beautiful balance of mood between a sadness that dragons don’t exist anymore and the secret conviction that wonders are around, if you know how to spot them.

The poems are well-crafted, with an absolute attention to such techniques as rhyme, alliteration, figurative language, and a rhythm that makes them very fun to read aloud and even try to put to a tune. Although imaginative children will delight in the poems, they are definitely adult read-alouds, since the vocabulary is not for young readers to attempt alone: for example, preposterous, stratagems, disconsolate, derision, happenstance, cacophonous. One reason I love the book is my belief that after a few readings, young listeners’ vocabularies will expand to permanently include these splendid words.

I cannot say enough about the illustrations in this collection. Each poem has its own huge painting of dragons of all hues and expressions, varying from a kid-friendly cartoonishness to some quite grand art. Each is unique, right down to its individual page border. Some clarify the poem, and all capture the right mood in rich, deep, distinctive colors. If I were publishing the book, I would not allow these wonderful pictures to be broken into two pages; I would at least offer a version the same size as this book when it is opened, but put a wire binding across the top. In fact, I would make it hangable, so as to be a rotating poster display.

I have spent hours today perusing the pictures, discovering more details in them, and reading the poems out loud to myself. I just placed a call to the bookstore; I have another copy on hold now, so I’m going to take this one to a young dragon-lover tomorrow. The kid’s just lucky I could find one for myself.

Book review: The Curse of Chalion, by Lois McMaster Bujold

Webmaster’s note 1/15/2016: This is an old review from the previous version of the site, which we’re bringing in as a post so that it’ll be searchable in the reviews categories with newer content.

The Curse of Chalion

The Curse of Chalion
by Lois McMaster Bujold
ISBN 0380979012

reviewed by Sylvia Wendell

Ms. Bujold has set out on a new journey with this book. This is a fantasy novel, with at least one sequel expected.

Lupe dy Cazaril, once a courtier and soldier, now an ex-galley slave, limps in the tag end of winter toward the only place he can think of that might take him in: the castle where he served as page in his youth. He is welcomed there by the formidable old lady who is grandmother to the heir and heiress of the throne of Chalion. He is alarmed when the Provincara appoints him to be secretary-tutor to her granddaughter, the Royesse Iselle. He is even more alarmed when the Roya summons Iselle and her brother to the capitol … for the man who betrayed him to the galleys now rules Chalion in the name of the Roya.

Cazaril and Iselle are soon pulled into the maelstrom of deadly court politics. When Iselle is faced with a nightmare marriage, Cazaril must make a desperate choice and perform a great task … to remove the curse that clings like a shadow to the royal family of Chalion.

Ms. Bujold has always included luminous spiritual and human insights in her books, along with the wisecracks. They give her Vorish creations moral weight and her protagonists conviction. This time she has gone further and placed Cazaril’s struggle to understand and accept what the gods expect of him at the center of the story. It is, in fact, a taut political thriller wrapped around a meditation on the nature of sainthood, miracles, and prayer.

This is a wonderful book and a terrific read, up to the author’s usual high standards. Bujold is incapable of writing a lame sentence. Her fantasy world, a standard swords and horseback setting, is acutely and convincingly observed. There is plenty of wry wit. And it will touch your heart.

Go forth and read.