Book Review – The Ice Dragon

TITLE: The Ice Dragon
AUTHOR: George R R Martin
FORMAT: Hardback
ILLUSTRATIONS: Luis Royo
PUBLISHED: 2014 (this edition – story originally 1980)

 

I picked The Ice Dragon up at a bookstore because it was cheap and also short.  I estimated it to be a novelette.  I love GRRM’s stories, but I’m not always a fan of his writing style.  In fact, the last thing of his I read I found incredibly boring.  But I quite enjoyed Fevre Dream in graphic form and Game of Thrones on the screen.  So I wanted to give him another shot.

Four dollars later, this was mine.

As far as I knew, I was reading a short story that he did, and I was a little surprised to see it in chapter form, but not totally.

The story follows Adara, who is different and also the reason her mother died in childbirth.  While her father adores her siblings, she gets left to mostly her own devices, and ends up befriending an Ice Dragon, which nobody does.

I liked the story.  It was written more simply than his normal stuff, which means I wasn’t bogged down by unnecessary words and overly-long descriptions.  I found out later that the reason was that it’s actually a children’s book (Note: the bookstore hadn’t specified that.  I found it on the internet when I tried to look up word count)

So I guess the key here is that GRRM needs to write for Children for me to want to read it.

Still, the ending was annoying to me.  It was predictable and went in exactly the opposite direction from where I wanted it to go.

So a rating.  Whatever genre you want it to be, it was a nice story up until the very end.  I’ll give it a healthy 3/5.  Go ahead and give yourself a bit to read it, but don’t expect the most amazing story ever.

 

 

 

Book Review – Go To Sleep, Little Farm

TITLE: Go To Sleep, Little Farm
AUTHOR: Mary Lyn Ray
ILLUSTRATOR: Christopher Silas Neal
FORMAT: Board Book
PUBLISHED: 2014

Go to Sleep, Little Farm is an adorable fat board book about the farm going to sleep at the end of the night.

The color scheme is a mostly muted blue/grey with occasional pops of muted reds (like the barn, or the little girl’s pajamas), and it’s absolutely beautiful. Serene and peaceful like it was undoubtedly intended.

The book starts “Somewhere a bee makes a bed in a rose…”  and goes on from there.  Not your normal “the cow goes to sleep, the donkey goes to sleep” type stuff here.  Not-so common animals (even an earthworm!), illustrations and text that show where and how they sleep, and it’s just so precious.  As all the animals settle down, we see the little girl reading under her covers with a flashlight.  The farm settles in, dad turns off the light, and mom and dad tuck the little girl in so she can dream about all the animals that are sleeping.  The author even included the “slippers, asleep on the rug” and holy cow.  Since the toddler is currently in his “What’s your shoes doin’?” phase, that line was like the most perfect thing ever.

This is so much better than *gasp* Goodnight, Moon – and I love that book.

5/5 very sleepy pages.

BITB – Best of 2016

0000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000

 

Another trip around the sun and another few million pages read by those of us at Book in the Bag. [Note: I didn’t actually count pages, but it stands to reason, since we read so much.]

I know that 2016 was a rocky year for BITB – every blogger here either moved or had major health issues, among other things – but there were ups along the way, including lots of good books.  As always, our tastes varied, and this list represents decades of writing in multiple genres, fiction and non. In short, the books on this list are as varied as the bloggers reading them.

In order to make this list, the book had to receive a 5/5 review from one blogger and appear on this website. Not all of us may agree. (In fact, we usually don’t.)

Books appear in no particular order.

  • The Body Lovers – Mickey Spillane
  • Mildred Pierced – Stuart M. Kaminsky
  • Seventh Night – Iscah
  • Vengeance is Mine – Mickey Spillane
  • Dawn of Wonder – Jonathan Renshaw
  • The Bat Strikes Again and Again – Johnston McCulley
  • Bogart ’48 – John Stanley & Kenn Davis
  • Fantasy Encyclopedia: A Guide To Fabulous Beasts and Magical Beings, From Elves and Dragons to Vampires and Wizards – Judy Allen
  • Shadow of a Broken Man – George C Chesbro
  • 84, Charing Cross Road – Helene Hanff
  • Horton Halfpott -or- The Fiendish Mystery of Smudgepott Manor -or- The Loosening of M’lady Luggertuck’s Corset – Tom Angleburger
  • Hungry Planet – What the World Eats – Peter Menzel & Faith D’Aluisio
  • The Monster at the End of This Book – Jon Stone
  • Llama Llama Red Pajama – Anna Dewdney
  • Welcome to the Symphony – Carolyn Sloane
  • The Complete Casebook of Cardigan vol 1 – Frederick Nebel
  • The Complete Casebook of Sherlock Holmes: The Ectoplasmic Man – Daniel Stashower

 

 

Also, a note.  We love doing Writer Wednesday features.  If you’re an author who would like to be featured, comment on our Noteworthy page with your email address and I will reply as soon as possible. (Not all authors meet our criteria, but most do)  😀

12/13  CHECK

Books Review – Board Book Roundup

My method for picking out children’s books is to walk around the library and look for books on display that seem interesting/cute, randomly flip to a couple pages and see just how much text there is and to check out the artwork (I can’t tell you how many books I’ve put back because the illustrations are awful!), and then read them to a ridiculously smart almost three year old.  Anyway, I decided to combine several in this review.


TITLE: Harold’s ABC
AUTHOR/ILLUSTRATOR: Crockett Johnson
FORMAT: Board Book
PUBLISHED: Originally 1963. This edition – 2016? 2015? (New book/doesn’t say)

The book is kinda cool.  Harold and his trusty purple crayon (yes, that Harold) go out on an adventure through the alphabet.  This isn’t a typical ABC book.  There’s no A is for apple, turn the page, B is for Banana, etc… Instead, what you get is a story interrupted by that… “To go on any kind of trip, you have to leave home. He started with A for Attic…”  And as Harold is going through this, you see illustrations where the letter is front and center to something they’re talking about (In A’s case, the A makes up the top of the house. Q forms the Queen’s head.)

It isn’t bad, but this book is *small* – like maybe 4 inches or so.  I wish it had been just a little bit larger and the letters had been a little bit bolder.  I’m guessing with a kid a little older who already knows his letters that this story would go over better, but in this case, the toddler knows *most* of his letters and it was a little difficult to get him to pick out the letters and he got bored with it.  [Note: This paragraph brought to you by the phrase “little bit”]

A few of the letters were weak (X is for X-out), and Z was for snore “Zzzl” – um.. since when is there an l in the middle of a snore?  But most of them were good.

I’ll give it a 3/5.  Nothing overly wrong with it, but nothing exceptional about it either.


TITLE: Dig
BOOK BY:  National Geographic Kids
FORMAT: Board Book
PUBLISHED: 2015

So, Dig looked cute.  There’s a photo of large excavating equipment on the front, and when I opened it up randomly, I opened it to a larger photo of the same piece of equipment.  So I sort of assumed that it was about big equipment, which excited me.

Apparently, I should have looked at more pages, because it’s about all kinds of things that dig – people, dogs, whatever.  I was a bit disappointed.  Also, the toddler didn’t really care that mommy and daddy could dig in a garden.  He wanted the big equipment too.

This is an issue I have with board books.  Nothing about the book on the back cover, just a sales pitch for the rest of the series.

Anyway, really disappointed. The book was done well enough, but it isn’t what either of us wanted. And some kid apparently snacked on the library copy, so it tastes good enough.

Still, I’ll give it a tentative 4/5.  I was disappointed in it because it wasn’t what I thought it was (and really, what are the odds that I’d open randomly to the one page of equipment and not any of the other 10 pages of mammals?), but it wasn’t a bad book.


 

Book Review – Welcome to the Symphony

TITLE: Welcome to the Symphony: A Musical Exploration of the Orchestra Using Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5
AUTHOR: Carolyn Sloan
ILLUSTRATOR: James Williamson
FORMAT: Hardcover w/attached music panel
PUBLISHED: 2015

Welcome to the Symphony is a fabulous book.  It’s probably best suited for slightly older kids because of lots of big terms… 4-7 maybe?  But the not-quite-3-year-old I read it to enjoyed the music part of it.  I’m sure he won’t be saying timpani anytime soon.

Anyway, the book follows three little mice.  One of them is at the symphony for the first time, so the other two mice explain it to their friend as the book goes along.  It’s a really direct approach to terminology “Tempo is how fast or slow music is played” – AND behavior at the symphony.  “Don’t clap yet, they’re just warming up!”

Plus, as it works its way through a pretty well-known piece of music (I remember this as a background to some cartoons), it explains all the instruments and you can compare them to each other pretty easy.  Violin, Viola, Cello, Double Bass, Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, Bassoon, Trumpet, French Horn, Trombone, Timpani.  (And there’s a page about other instruments you may find in a modern symphony that you didn’t find in this piece of music such as the piano, harp, tuba, etc).

In all, this is a really thorough explanation of the symphony and a great introduction for a kid.

My only issue with the book is that you have to hit right on the number for the audio pad to work.  Most of these books, you can hit anywhere in the square; there are a lot of reviews on Amazon that say “This didn’t work!” and I suspect that they’re stemming from that issue.

Regardless – the book works, the toddler loved hearing the instruments, and when he’s a little older, I think this would be a great resource to teach him about music.

5/5 pages and 5/5 musical notes. :p

Book Review – Baxter Barret Brown’s Cowboy Band

TITLE: Baxter Barret Brown’s Cowboy Band
AUTHOR: Tim A. McKenzie
ILLUSTRATOR: Elaine Atkinson
FORMAT: Hardback
PUBLISHED: 2006

 

So, Baxter Barret Brown’s Cowboy Band looked interesting enough and I picked it up to check it out and realized it came with a CD of bass fiddle music.

*Sigh*  I really shouldda left this one on the display.

I googled the guy and apparently he’s a moderately successful fiddler, so of course he’d write a series about it (Note – I had no idea, apparently this is book 2).

I wanted to like this book, but it’s every single stereotype that I hate and by the time I was 2 pages in, I realized I was using one of those hick accents to read with because the book is written with the expectation of one.

But the book is… weird.  BBB wants to fiddle with the cowboys so he takes his Bass, which is about 3x the size of Baxter,  shows up at a ranch, and proves all the ways he and his bass can be useful – melting down a string for a branding iron, using it as a bridge for cows, a wagon, a….  ARGH.  You don’t treat an instrument like that and doing it cutesy in a book like this for kids isn’t going to teach kids how to treat an instrument.  (And yes, I do expect a little realism in my children’s books, even the silly ones… FIT THE WORLD YOUR STORY IS IN)

The words are part of the illustrations and in some places are a little hard to read.  Also, the toddler had ZERO interest in this book when I tried to read it to him.

The music on the CD isn’t bad, but it’s not worth the book.

I’m giving it 2/5 pages for the book and 3/5 musical notes for the CD.  Because I can.

Book Title – Cross Stitch: The Essential Practical Collection

TITLE: Cross Stitch: The Essential Practical Collection: Techniques, Projects, 600 Photographs and Charts: A Comprehensive guide to creative cross stitch with over 150 Gorgeous step-by-step designs in celtic style, traditional style, folk art and contemporary style
AUTHOR: Dorothy Wood
FORMAT: Paperback
PUBLISHED: 2000

I don’t often post reviews for craft books because crafting is so subjective, but with a title like that, this book has made a whole lot of promises.  And, well, it hasn’t delivered them.

First of all, I don’t know how “essential” or “practical” this collection is.  Half of the stuff is so ugly that I’d be embarassed to see stitiching it.  One pillow design is a hot mess.  It looks like a kid was doodling and mom translated it in string for no good reason.  Other stuff (“teenagers will love…” Um, no, no they won’t.) is just so bad that I can’t believe the patterns ever got in print.

Also, the book is all over the place – some patterns use DMC, others use Anchor, and there’s a bunch of other stuff that just isn’t consistent.  Many projects require the user to figure out the pattern on their own (isn’t the point of a pattern book to get a pattern?), and I’m not actually sure what some of the finished items even are.  And the patterns that are there all *require* the user to go copy the pattern at some level of zoom.

I wanted to like this book.  Based on the cover and it’s thickness, it looked thorough.  But practically (you know, title word here), it’s not.  There’s nothing modern about any of these patterns, and some of them need put out of their misery.

There is a good section at the beginning about technique and different types of stitching, but the rest of it is bad.

I’m going to give it 3/5, but it’s a nice, quiet, reserved one.

 

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