Tag Archives: Book reviews

The Belgariad– Another “Old Friend”

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Hiya, Fluffsters!

I’m continuing the series on “old friend” books.

Today, I’m going to be talking about the series “The Belgariad”, and why it totally qualifies as an “Old Friend” book / series.

First of all. For those of you who enjoy fantasy and haven’t read the Belgariad series yet, fix that. NOW. Seriously. Go get the first book. Stop reading this blog (for the moment) and go check out “Pawn of Prophecy” from the library or, better yet, purchase the entire set.

Now that you’re back, I’ll continue. 🙂

I was first introduced to The Belgariad when my Mom read them aloud to the family in the car. My family has a marvelous tradition of reading out loud in the car on “long car drives.” My sister and I would always love long days of travel, because Mom would read out loud to us. (Seriously. We’d ask “We’re not there yet, are we?” instead of “Are we there yet?”.)

Anywho. We started The Belgariad shortly after finishing the Lord of the Rings, and it quickly became one of my absolute favorite series. Since you’ve all read the Belgariad at this point (or else you ignored my second real paragraph…) I don’t need to tell you that it’s a fantasy coming-of-age quest story that is waaaay underrated.

I love these books.

But that’s not entirely the purpose of this post. The purpose is to explain why The Belgariad qualifies as an old friend.

Well, as mentioned previously, Mom read them out loud to us, starting when I was relatively young. So once more, I’ve known these books for a while.

But more importantly, these books have characters, and character. Eddings has a wonderful way of describing things that always evoke pictures, at least for me. So rereading these books is very much like going through a scrapbook or picture album, with lots of favorite memories. And because of the characters in the books, it’s as though the characters are commenting on the scrapbook as well.

In other words, the characters are so lifelike (at least to me) that you could basically hear them having a conversation with you whenever you read them.

If having a conversation with favorite characters doesn’t count as visiting old friends, it should certainly be a close second.

So, yeah. These books (Pawn of Prophecy, Queen of Sorcery, Magician’s Gambit, Castle of Wizardry, and Enchanter’s Endgame) are some of my favorite “old friend” books. I hope they are, or become, some of yours, too. And that was way too many commas in that sentence.

Well, I hope you enjoy rereading them!

“Old Friend” books — Redwall

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Hiya, Fluffsters!

And Fluffy, really. Didn’t you think I’d have posts stocked up ahead of time?

What are you talking about?

I “might not be able to generate content”? From Wednesday’s post?

Well… Better safe than sorry, right? And you did ask me to fill in for you a few times.


Anywho. Today’s post is in the category of “what books are old friends, and why?”

The book Redwall definitely qualifies.

Redwall, for those of you who don’t know, is a book by Brian Jacques about an abbey full of talking animals. (There are no humans in this world.)

The story is fun, full of adventure, and has great characters. The righting style uses a few more adverbs than is strictly necessary, but I still enjoy it.

This one is definitely an old friend type of book. For one, it’s very understandable, and a children’s story. That means that even if you haven’t read it for a while, you can still know exactly what’s going on, kindof like when you talk with an old friend who you know really well, even after a long time.

For another reason, this is one of the first books I actively remember my sister reading out loud to me when we were much younger. So, it’s an old friend because I grew up with it, it’s old, and the book is basically a friend.

But I would wager that for many of you, even if you haven’t read it, Redwall could become a new “Old Friend” book. So, give it a try!

Have a great day!

What makes an excellent fantasy story (Part 3)

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Hello, Fluffsters! Happy Saturday!

I hope your weekend is going well.

Good news! I have the rest of The List for you! (Who knew I could spend three days on a list, right?) Well, I hope you enjoy the remaining points.

5) Something new and/or original. This was one of the areas where Dragon Champion did an excellent job. The entire book was told from the perspective of… the dragon. That particular perspective was fun! I wouldn’t have thought about how dragons view the world. But E.E. Knight did. And he presented it in a wonderful way. The Dresden Files’ particular take on the interaction between magic and nonmagic is also a lot of fun, and is a very fresh perspective. Summer Knight (from the Dresden Files) presents an “enchanting” perspective of fairy hierarchy, for example. It’s fun.

That’s also part of the reason why I did not like the book “Eragon.” Ok, so it was amusing to see all the different places that the book seemed to steal from. (Star Wars knock off, anyone? No? Well how about Lord of the Rings? Dragonriders of Pern? And that magic looked suspiciously identical to the magic system from The Belgariad…)

As another example of originality, Wrede pulls it off in her Enchanted Forest Chronicles. I mean, seriously- a princess volunteering to be a dragon’s princess, and being bored with normal princess-y things? It’s enchantingly new.

6) Consistency of Magic. This is actually more of a subset of point 4. But it’s important enough to get its own point. It annoys me to no end when fantasy stories (be it written or televised) ignores rules. Especially when there are designated rules, not a designated “there are no rules.”

To again use Eddings as an example, he incorporates a few different types of magic in order to provide consistency. But even so, there are distinct differences. And each category of magic is extremely consistent. The primary type — sorcery — works through “the Will and the Word.” (You gather your Will, and release it with any sort of word that somehow relates in your mind.) The one thing that is absolutely impossible is to will something into nonexistence- it breaks the absolute rule, and therefore backfires.

These rules of magic are followed scrupulously throughout Eddings’s series in that universe. The consistency helps make The Belgariad excellent fiction.

Well, that’s about all I can think of for right now. I hope you have an excellent rest of your weekend!

What makes an excellent fantasy story (Part 2)

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Hi again, Fluffsters!

Sorry for leaving you off after only two points yesterday. But I’m feeling lazy, and there’s enough here for multiple posts, so I may as well. (Aren’t I nice like that?)

Anywho. On to more of what makes excellent fantasy stories!

3) Good plot. This also is clearly important. That’s part of why some of Lewis’s Narnia series are better than others. Lewis has wonderfully consistent characters, but not all of his plots are as strong. That’s also part of why Dragon Champion wasn’t bad. The plot was there. Something happened. That’s also, as I mentioned earlier, one of the reasons why Sorcery & Cecelia wasn’t fantastic.

Granted, plot consistency and neatness is preferred. But even then, it’s not always entirely necessary. Real life, after all, isn’t always the most coherent.

4) “Real” setting. What I mean by this, is that the setting feels real, or like it could be real. There seem to be rules that are followed, like with the real world. Even if the rule is “there are no rules”, it’s consistent. Of course, it’s a lot better to have consistent rules, not lack thereof. Rich details are very helpful for this. Eddings is one of the masters of this. The cultures in his books are fantastic. The Arends, for example, (from the Belgariad) are very… impulsive. Any Arend you meet in the series is not going to be particularly brilliant, but will be brave to a fault. At one point, he describes one of the sub-groups of Arends as, without too much persuasion, likely being willing to declare war on a rising tide. (Or something along those lines.) Again, it was quite consistent, and quite delightful.

And once again, I’m going to leave you after only two sub-points. I hope you don’t mind.

Tomorrow will have the final installment of the list, though, (at least of what I have so far!) so come back tomorrow! I hope you have a great Friday!

What makes an excellent fantasy story (Part 1)

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Hi, Fluffsters! Happy Thursday!

I think I’ve mentioned this before, but I’m a bit of a fantasy fanatic. There are few things better than curling up with a good fantasy novel. (Except possibly for curling up with a good fantasy novel and a mug of hot cocoa on a stormy night, under a nice fuzzy blanket.)

The trouble, of course, is finding a truly excellent novel. There are lots of fun books out there. Some of them are fantasy. But some fantasy books are not that great. Unfortunately.

But good fantasy, oh, that’s highly addictive. Excellent fantasy novels can transport you to a different world or time period for a while. They spark the imagination.

There are a few things that all good fantasy novels have in common.

1) They need to be not-poorly written. That’s pretty obvious… And the better written they are, the more likely they are to be good books. C.S. Lewis’s Narnia series and J. R. R. Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings, for example, are two examples of well written fantasy. They also have other good things going for them, which contributes to the serieses being good fantasy.

2) Strong characters. At the very least, the characters need to be believable and consistent. This will potentially make or break the story. Inconsistent characters are just confusing and detract strongly from a story. Some books, however, can be completely saved by strong characters. Now, that’s not to say that characters can’t change or grow. On the contrary, they almost need to. But the characters should do so naturally, for the setting.

The book “Sorcery and Cecelia”, by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer, for example, was a delightful work of fantasy. It didn’t have too much of a plot, but it had great characters. It was actually kindof like a Jane Austen book, but set in a fantasy world. It was really fun. Its lack of plot made it good, not excellent.

As an alternative, Dragon Champion (by E. E. Knight) did not completely succeed at this. Don’t get me wrong- it was a fun book. But from what I remember (it’s been a bit since I’ve read this book) some of the characters were not entirely consistent. That detracted from the tale. Especially since I remember there being some inconsistencies with the main character. (Again, don’t ask me for specifics.)

Well, I’m going to pause here for right now. Tune in tomorrow for the next part of what makes excellent fantasy!

Book Review: Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

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Hello again, Fluffsters! Happy Saturday!

Today, I’m going to once again be reviewing an extended version of a famous fairy tale. This one is

Ella Enchanted, by Gail Carson Levine (spoiler alert)

This story is a retelling of Cinderella. I really love it.

What makes this story particularly delightful is that Levine provides an explanation for why Cinderella is a wuss, and doesn’t fight for better living conditions, etc.

So, here’s the situation. Ella was enchanted by a traveling fairy (not her fairy godmother). She was “blessed with the gift of obedience.” She magically will follow every order that she is given. This could be from anything as stupid as “clap your hands” to anything serious like “kill yourself” (or a different person.)

This “gift”, of course, makes Ella a very strong willed person. She just can’t do what she wants to do if given a direct order.

The book is written from the first person perspective, which adds a great deal of depth. Since Ella is the main character, and a lot of the issues that arise are personal, it’s great from the story perspective to be inside Ella’s head.

So the story starts off with the narrator talking about her early childhood. Within the first chapter or so, her mother (very sadly) dies. We then meet the other players. Her father is an unloving, ambitious, hardheaded merchant who is frequently away. After Ella’s mother’s funeral, the father sends Ella off to a finishing school with two other girls about her age: Hattie and Olive. Hattie is surprisingly intelligent and very ambitious. Olive is, well, less than brilliant, and very greedy. Hattie discovers Ella’s secret “gift”, and uses it to her advantage.

Adventures ensue.

At about the last half to third of the book, Ella’s father marries Hattie & Olive’s mother in order to try to regain some of the losses that would ruin him. (The three ladies whose family he marries into do not know about this loss; the three think that they’ll be getting a lot richer through this marriage.)

Because of the unexpected lack of change of financial standing, as soon as Ella’s father goes away again, Ella gets demoted to low servant. She works as a kitchen maid.

Stuff happens, and the parents of prince Charmont (who Ella has been corresponding with) throw a ball in honor of the prince. Ella ends up going, re-meets Char, breaks the curse, and lives happily ever after.

I highly recommend this book. Levine, as always, writes with an engaging style. She expands the short story into a full length child-friendly book that is still engaging for adult readers. The land is realistic, the premise charming. I highly recommend this book. It’s aimed at a slightly older audience than The Princess Tales, but it’s still very family friendly. I’d highly recommend this for anyone, oh, age 8 and up. (Many 7 year-olds would probably enjoy it as well, though.)

I hope you have fun procrastinating with all of the books I recommend! If you read any of the books I’ve reviewed, comment about what you thought of them?

Book Review: Beauty by Robin McKinley

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Hello again, Fluffsters! Happy Friday! I hope you had a wonderful Fourth of July.

Today, I’m once again going to be reviewing a book. I’m even repeating an author from earlier this week…

Beauty, by Robin McKinley (Spoiler Alert)

I really enjoyed Beauty. I’d give it probably a 17/20. It’s more of a young adult book, similar to Spindle’s End. It’s not nearly as long as Spindle’s End, though; it’s only about 250 pages. (Spindle’s End was a bit more than 400.)

As you may have guessed from the name, this is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast. It’s in the more traditional vein with a few twists, though, rather than the Disnified version.


Beauty, whose real name is Honour, has a family: Her father and two sisters. Beauty gets her nickname when she’s a lot younger. She considers it an unfortunate nickname, since she is not considered a great beauty of the land. Her sisters are lovely; she isn’t, per say. They start off as a wealthy merchant family. Within the first chapter, the oldest daughter and the love of her life are engaged, but the entire family loses its wealth. They all decide move to where the two lovebirds will be living: a small town bordered by a magical forest.

The father goes away on a trip. On his way back home, he stops by a mysterious castle. He is waited on by the invisible servants and shown every courtesy. Only when he tries to pick a single rose for Beauty, as she requested he bring her, does the Beast first appear. The Beast then offers a trade: The perpetual companionship of one of the father’s daughters in exchange for his life. The father has a week. Beauty learns of this deal, and takes it. This transfers the setting to the castle.

The castle itself is a wonderfully imaginative location. It too is full of magic. Servants cannot be seen, and a library has every book ever written (in the past and in the future) in the castle.


Beauty. Beauty is a stubborn girl who loves reading and horses. She is also absolutely devoted to her family.

The Beast. The Beast is simultaneously a beast and a gentleman. He shows Beauty every courtesy, but he does require her to stay with him, as they agreed. He does have a softer side. After the Beast sent the father on his way, he magically filled the father’s saddlebags with all sorts of valuable objects the daughters jokingly asked for. The Beast also uses his magic to help a garden grow.

The family. The family are all very nice, very likeable people.

Villagers. The villagers are also likeable. There is no “Gaston” element. Granted, the villagers are all wary of the monster in the woods, but there aren’t any over-the-top egocentric xenophobes like Disney’s Gaston.

You actually used the words “Egocentric” and “Xenophobe”? I’m impressed, Webmaster!

… Uh, thanks, Fluffy!

As I was saying. All the characters are well written and interesting people. The invisible servants in the palace even have their own personalities.


Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It’s a typical plot, but in a different setting. I like the common use of magic, and I really like the library with Every Book Written in it. The characters are also very real.

Overall, I highly recommend this retelling of Beauty and the Beast.

Fourth of July Book Review: American Fairy Tales by Baum

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Hello, Fluffsters! Happy Thursday! And happy Fourth of July, to all my fellow Americans!

In honor of the day, and the theme of the week, I’m going to be reviewing a slightly older book:

American Fairy Tales by L. Frank Baum (Spoiler Alert)

(Yes, the same L. Frank Baum who wrote Wizard of Oz, etc. )

American Fairy Tales is a collection, well, fairy tales located in America, with a very American feel to them.

One of the best parts of the stories are the morals. But the stories themselves are also quite charming.

The first one tells the tale of a girl who meddles in affairs that do not concern her. She therefore accidentally releases a band of thieves her uncle had kept locked in a chest in the family attic. Through quick thinking, the little girl makes the situation. But the moral of the story is “not to interfere with matters that do not concern us.” After all, if the little girl had refrained from opening the chest, she wouldn’t need to return all the items the thieves stole from her own house.

One of my favorite “morals” occurs after a story with lots of trickery and generic not-good-moral-character-stuff. (All G-rated if it were a movie, though.) The author writes “I suppose [one of the characters] is there yet, and am rather sorry, for I should like to consult the wizard about the moral to this story.” Clearly, the author just wrote a fun little story, but at the time all short stories “needed to have a moral.” It’s charming little turns of phrases like this that make American Fairy Tales so much fun to read.

There are about a dozen stories in this collection. Some of them are a bit politically incorrect, but then, they were written in a different time. I don’t remember anything truly offensive in them. I recommend reading them. They’re a fun collection of American-style short stories, and very child friendly. Except maybe for the last two stories. But I digress.

I hope you enjoy them! They’re a fun way to procrastinate, and the collection is out of copyright, and so is therefore available from Project Gutenberg. (Free reading! Yay!)

Happy Fourth of July! I hope to see(?) you tomorrow!


Book Review: Snow White and Rose Red by Wrede

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Hello, Fluffsters! Happy Wednesday!

Today’s book review is on

Snow White and Rose Red by Patricia C. Wrede. (Spoiler alert.)

As I’ve mentioned, Patricia C. Wrede is one of my favorite authors. She writes in an amazingly compelling way that’s very well done.

Her book “Snow White and Rose Red” is a retelling of a Grimm fairy tale of the same name. It is not the tale of “Snow White.” Instead, it’s a tale of two sisters and their mother.

Unlike most fairy tales, the mother actually lives for the entirety of the fairy tale, and they have a good relationship with each other. The original is relatively nice, and not actually as gruesome as many original fairy tales.

Wrede takes the fairy tale, and expands it beautifully. She sets the story in old England. The language use is beautiful, and the dialogue is written with “thees”, “thous”, and other flowery things that just sound pretty.

The human main characters are devout Christians who live on the edge of Faerie, and so also do a bit of magic. (So, very different universe.) They’re not witches, they’re not evil, and they mostly restrict themselves to using herbs for healing. Later in the book they learn how to do a bit of magic, but again it’s for healing purposes. Mostly. It’s slightly complicated.

Wrede did an amazing job. The fairy tale is fairly straightforward. Wrede takes the tale and adds about 3 subplots that interact with each other, and still fit the fairy tale. I can’t describe it well enough to do it justice. So pick up a copy for yourself and read it, ok?

And have a great rest of your week!

Book Review: Spindle’s End

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Hello, Fluffsters! Happy Tuesday!

I hope your week is going well, and just continues to get better! I’m continuing the Book Review series. Today’s is

Spindle’s End, by Robin McKinley (spoiler alert)

I really liked the first 5/6ths of this book. The setting is great, the characters are compelling, and it’s a fun retelling of the classic story of Sleeping Beauty.

It starts off with a description of the land. It’s a land that is thick with magic. Like, literally thick. It “settled over the land like chalk-dust.” It would also do random things like spontaneously transform loaves of bread into ivory thimbles that stayed around for a few days, before crumbling away to dust. Fairies are relatively commonplace, sort of. And the provide a very useful role in society: They help keep the magic manageable.

The first few chapters examine the life of the royalty, before switching over to one of the main characters of the story: A fairy named Katriona, who kidnaps young princess Briar-Rose for her own safety, and raises her as her own niece. For another interesting twist, McKinley gives the young princess the ability to talk with animals.

Most of the book is about the princess’s first 16 years. Then the last bit of the book is about what happens after she finds out she’s the princess. And that’s where it gets confusing. I’ve read the book several times, and I’ve yet to fully understand the last sixth of the book, or so.

This book is written for the young adult crowd, rather than the younger crowd. I recommend it, but not as strongly as the other books. McKinley’s ideas are creative and fun, but come across as really confusing in certain areas.

Have a great week, Fluffsters! Talk with you soon!