Tuesday, March 29, 2011


I’ve decided to change the format of my blog here at DemureConnoisseur, mostly because I feel like the composition so far has been very restrictive creative wise.  There really isn’t that much creativity that can go into reviewing things like books, recipes or other products, but before it was so..rigid.  So there it is.

I have this feeling that it wasn’t very fun to read.  I think that right now I’ll try something much more fluid and easy to change just to mix it up, though there may be a few elements that I keep.  I like to include the cover art of the book I’m reviewing.  I also like to search DeviantArt for fanart, this has been a recent addition to my reviews.  I enjoy it and since the blog is mostly for my own enjoyment that is probably the most important thing.

So, now that I’ve cleared the air with the winds of change, I think I’ll move onto the review for Pegasus by Robin McKinley that I finished just this past weekend.  My husband got up with our son this past weekend on Saturday so that I could sleep in, and while I did sleep in, I also laid in bed and finished the last 60 pages of Pegasus while snuggling in the covers.  It was great!

I will lead with – I love Robin McKinley.  I have listed her as one of my favorite authors for almost as long as Tamora Pierce has been on my list.  Since middle school, which is nearing on 15 years now.  My favorites of Ms. McKinley’s books are: The Blue Sword, Deerskin and The Hero and The Crown.  As long as I’m being forthcoming with my favorites, I would like to add that although I’ve loved most of her books, that doesn’t include all.  I have tried reading Sunshine at least three times.  Each time, I can’t get past the first couple of chapters.  I own the book, so sometime I may try again but so far it hasn’t gone well.

Pegasus started out the same way.  I picked it up to read earlier in the year as it was a Christmas present (if I remember correctly) from my Mom, she had picked it up from Borders with one of their famous coupons (in hardcover, of course as I am pretty sure it isn’t available in paperback yet).  I put it down after the first 3 pages.

by DeviantArtist: skellingt0n
I then read When Beauty Tamed the Beast by Eloisa James.  I tried Pegasus again.  This time I was resilient, there was no surrendering.  I plowed on; page after page, until I reached about chapter 5, and then it was easier.  Her prose is always full of inner dialogue and elaborately, nay, immaculately written descriptions of scenery, of characters, expressions!  So, the plot isn’t at the forefront of the first few chapters, it is history, it is getting to know the characters, and the characters’ history, even. 

Here there may be spoilers.†  It’s not in my nature to talk about spoilers but I suppose this could be one.  It’s not an intricate plot.  It’s not a full story as it does have quite the cliffhanger at the end.  Pegasus II is due out in 2012 sometime.  A little long to wait between books when there is a huge, somewhat dissatisfying cliffhanger at the end of the first book in my opinion, but they don’t normally (read: ever) defer to me to judge these things.

It took me a few days after finishing Pegasus to decide if I liked it or not, mostly because of the ending and the not so exciting plot that I had figured out nearly before I was halfway finished with the book, and although that sounds mostly negative I have to say that overall it was actually a positive experience.  I enjoyed the narrative, the beauty of the subject material, I really envied Sylvie most of the time I was reading, and I hope that Pegasus II has a little bit more of an exciting plotline (it really has to), so I can’t wait to find out it’s release date!

Here’s the other important info for you:

Title:  Pegasus
Author: Robin McKinley
Pages: 404 Pages
Genre:  Fantasy
Blurb: A gorgeously-written fantasy about the friendship between a princess and her pegasus
Because of a thousand-year-old alliance between humans and pegasi, Princess Sylviianel is ceremonially bound to Ebon, her own pegasus, on her twelfth birthday. The two species coexist peacefully, despite the language barriers separating them. Humans and pegasi both rely on specially-trained Speaker magicians as the only means of real communication.
But it’s different for Sylvi and Ebon. They can understand each other. They quickly grow close—so close that their bond becomes a threat to the status quo—and possibly to the future safety of their two nations.
My Rating: (★★★)

My Rating System:
= didn’t like it
★★ = it was ok
★★★ = liked it
★★★★ = really liked it
★★★★★ = it was amazing
© demureconnoisseur/ Stacy Grey

† a play on the "Here they be dragons"

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Tortall and Other Lands

Title:  Tortall and Other Lands
Author:  Tamora Pierce
Ideal Age Range:  Teen
Mass Market Paperback:  369 pages
Copyright Date:  February 2011
Blurb:  “Years ago, the novel Alanna introduced fantasy lovers to the magical kingdom of Tortall.  In Tamora Pierce’s subsequent fifteen books set in this medieval realm, readers have gotten to know generations of families; legions of friends, foes, and fantastical creatures; and much about the history, magic, and spirit of this extraordinarily well-drawn locale.
But epics do not always proved the smaller, more intimate tales.  Collected here are six wondrous shorter tales from the land of Tortall, featuring previously unknown characters as well as old friends.  These stories, some of which have never been published before, will lead old fans and new readers more deeply into one of the most intricately constructed worlds of modern fantasy.  There are four more fantasy tales not set in Tortall.  Two are historical and set in an unknown town; one takes place in a remote desert; and one is set in a very well-known town, New York City, in our time.
And as a bonus, there’s one nonfantasy set in contemporary Idaho that proves that Pierce’s multilayered characters, finesse with dialogue, and impeccable storytelling are not limited to lands inhabited by dragons and magic.
Dive in and get carried away.  Few writers can envelop you as completely as Tamora Pierce.”
My Rating:(★★★★)  I really enjoyed Tortall and Other Lands, mostly for two reasons: One, with a 5 month old son, it is a lot easier to read short stories than a long novel and two, well, it’s Tamora Pierce.  I’m going to break down the short stories and rate them, but overall I will say that I liked all of them for different reasons, mostly to do with the great variety of subject focus.
Student of Ostriches~ This first short story was published first in Young Warriors: Stories of Strength which is a book with a collection of short stories edited by Tamora Pierce and Josepha Sherman, so as I read the first story in Tortall and Other Lands I was plagued with a feeling that I had read the story before.  I kept thinking to myself what the next twist in the plot would be and then it happened, too many times to be a coincidence so I looked it up, relieved that I wasn’t some sort of psychic.  Then it occurred to me that if I had been editing Tortall and Other Lands, I don’t think that I would have led off with a story that had been previously been published. 
Student of Ostriches was a look into the beginning of a Shang Fighter that was first named in Lioness Rampant, Kylaia Al Jmaa, the Shang Unicorn.  And even though I was going through Deva Vu the entire time I was reading the story, I did like it, it makes me wish that Tamora Pierce would write a book or a series about the Shang.
Elder Brother is the story about the tree that Numair turned into a man.  If I were to give it a grade I think I would settle for a B+.  This story and the next are connected, showing a look into other cultures in Tortall, like the people that follow the God of the Flame.
The Hidden Girl is about a girl named, Teky who had an interaction with a character from Elder Brother, as if to show the other side of an unknown religion.  I liked this story, as it made you think about what it would be like to be in a culture that had their women be veiled, and not as something to not understand and hate, as it seems happens “in real life”, but to think of it in a totally different way, as a source of hidden strength.
Nawat, was probably my least favorite story in the collection.  I’m not sure why, really, maybe it’s because I wasn’t that big of a fan of the character in general, or that the story was a little too long.  I wouldn’t say that I didn’t like it because overall any story in Tortall is a worthy tale to me.
The Dragon’s Tale was cute, and one of my favorites.  Kitten is the main character of The Dragon’s Tale with a few supporting characters that many remember, Daine, Numair and Numair’s horse, Spots.
Lost, set in Tusaine about a girl who is amazing at mathematics, has Darkings in it.
Time of Proving was very short, a tale about a girl who is on her quest to prove herself as an adult of her tribe, where she helps a basically helpless “tenth-rank scholar” named Sunflower.
Plain Magic was good, an interesting look into a different type of magic, one that isn’t all sparks and fireworks, but common magic.  Featuring a supposed man eating dragon.
Mimic was one of my other favorites, about a girl on the verge of growing up that saves an unknown creature that she names Mimic.
Huntress is the first of the stories set in this world and in this time period.  It was different but in a good way!
Testing is set at a group home featuring several teen girls that are notorious for not welcoming new housemothers.
I chose not to read the sneak peek into Mastiff because I didn’t want to get one chapter and not be able to read the rest!
Similar Titles:  Young Warriors-Stories of Strength
What I’m Reading Next:  Not sure yet, I have a huge To Be Read pile.
My Rating System:
= didn’t like it
★★ = it was ok
★★★ = liked it
★★★★ = really liked it
★★★★★ = it was amazing
© demureconnoisseur/ Stacy Grey