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Title: Chronicles of Avonlea
Author: L.M. Montgomery
Genre: Short story
Rating: 8/10
# pages: Audiobook, 7'ish hours
Date read: February, 2009

Summary: On Prince Edward Island, where Anne Shirley grew up in the sea-sprayed town of Avonlea, there was no shortage of wonderful stories. There was the case of Ludovic Speed, who wouldn't propose to the woman he had courted for fifteen years until Anne devised a plan to "speed" him up... if it didn't backfire and break his heart. But no one could blame mischievous Anne for the hilarious battle of the sexes that erupted when a man-hating woman and her cat got quarantined in the same house with a woman-hating bachelor and his dog. From sprawling Penhallow Grange, where a family waits nearly forever for two quarreling lovers to break their stubborn silence, to the tumbledown farm of Old Man Shaw, who awaits the retum of his beloved daughter, L. M. Montgomery has written twelve tales of secret hopes and hidden dreams, filled with enchantment and humor.

Review: A selection of cozy, feel-good short stories. I like that LMM doesn't try anything new in her short stories, but that they're just short versions of her novels, and that the atmosphere is the same. My favourite is "Old Lady Lloyd" which - who'd have thunk! - also happens to be the longest ;-)

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Title: The Screwtape Letters
Author: C.S. Lewis
Genre: Christian fiction
Rating: 8/10
# pages: 170
Date read: February, 2009

Summary: In The Screwtape Letters we are made privy to the instructional correspondence between a senior demon, Screwtape, and his wannabe diabolical nephew Wormwood. As mentor, Screwtape coaches Wormwood in the finer points, tempting his "patient" away from God.

Review: SL is an interesting and disturbing book that reminds me to which lengths the devil will go, how much trickery he'll use to make me fall away from God. I believe Lewis has a point in this portrayal of how devils 'live' and that it's the 'invisible' sins that are the most dangerous for our salvation.

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Title: The Adoration of Jenna Fox
Author: Mary E. Pearson
Genre: Sci-fi
Rating: 9/10
# pages: 272
Date read: February, 2009

Summary: In the not-too-distant future, when biotechnological advances have made synthetic bodies and brains possible but illegal, a seventeen-year-old girl, recovering from a serious accident and suffering from memory lapses, learns a startling secret about her existence.

Review: I was very fascinated by the writing style of TAoJF. It started out being very disjointecd - almost poem-like in its half, stand-alone sentences, but as I got further into the story, I realized it was the only way to write a book told in first person by Jenna Fox, as that was how she thought. The more memories came back, the more flowing her speech became.

The book offers an interesting moral dilemma. I'm not sure I agree with its conclusions, but I think it's something we're not too far off from having to contemplate.

An interesting and quick read.

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Title: Shiver
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Genre: Paranormal romance
Rating: 9/10
# pages: 367
Date read: February, 2009

Summary: For years, Grace has watched the wolves in the woods behind her house. One yellow-eyed wolf--her wolf--is a chilling presence she can't seem to live without. Meanwhile, Sam has lived two lives: In winter, the frozen woods, the protection of the pack, and the silent company of a fearless girl. In summer, a few precious months of being human... until the cold makes him shift back again.

Now, Grace meets a yellow-eyed boy whose familiarity takes her breath away. It's her wolf. It has to be. But as winter nears, Sam must fight to stay human--or risk losing himself, and Grace, forever.

Review: Absolutely amazing book. I couldn't put it down, and got to bed far too late last night because I just had to finish it. People who like Twilight will love it, and it might even appeal to people who didn't like Twilight as there's far less sparkling in it ;-)

I would have loved to give Shiver 10 out of 10, because for most of the book, it really deserves it. Unfortunately I felt the ending was much too abrupt, and therefore had to 'subtract' one. I hope this abrupt ending is to make room for a sequel, and if that is indeed the case, and the threads picked up there, I will immediately return and change this rating, but on its own, I think it's a shame that some rather important questions are left unanswered.

Still, brilliant book! If you enjoy paranormal YA - go read it!

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Title: The Name of the Wind
Author: Patrick Rothfuss
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 9/10
# pages: 722 (Dragedræberen=400p)
Date read: February, 2009

Summary: My name is Kvothe, pronounced nearly the same as "quothe." Names are important as they tell you a great deal about a person. I've had more names than anyone has a right to.

My first mentor called me E'lir because I was clever and I knew it. My first real lover called me Dulator because she liked the sound of it. I have been called Shadicar, Lightfinger, and Six-String. I have been called Kvothe the Bloodless, Kvothe the Arcane, and Kvothe Kingkiller. I have earned those names. Bought and paid for them.

But I was brought up as Kvothe. My father once told me it meant "to know."

You may have heard of me.

So begins the tale of Kvothe - from his childhood in a troupe of traveling players to years spent as a near-feral orphan in a crime-riddled city, to his daringly brazen yet successful bid to enter a difficult and dangerous school of magic. In these pages you will come to know Kvothe as a notorious magician, an accomplished thief, a masterful musician, and an infamous assassin.

Review: I couldn't quite decide whether to give this 9 or 10. I found it almost impossible to put down, so for that it ought to deserve 10, but Patrick Rothfuss relies heavily on foreshadowing - not just within the book, but also to later books in the series. That always annoys me, and automatically deducts at least one point.

However, the book really is amazing, and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it highly to any fantasy lover. I was especially fascinated by the descriptions of Kvothe's studies, and would have loved for there to be more details about that part of his life.

The book ended very abruptly, and as such is obviously part of a series, rather than a book that can be read on its own.

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Title: Further Chronicles of Avonlea
Author: L.M. Montgomery
Genre: Short story
Rating: 8/10
# pages: Audiobook, read by Sibella Denton, 6h44
Date read: February, 2009

Summary: Nestled between the ocean and the hills of Prince Edward Island is a road that leads to the house where a girl named Anne grew up, Green Gables, and to the wonderful place called Avonlea. In this second volume of heartwarming tales a Persian cat plays an astonishing part in a marriage proposal . . . a ghostly appearance in a garden leads a woman to the fulfillment of her youthful dreams . . . a young girl risks losing her mother to find the father she never knew . . . and a foolish lie threatens to make an unattached woman the town's laughingstock when an imaginary lover comes to town for real! Filled with warmth, humor, and mystery, these unforgettable stories re-create the enchanting world of Avonlea.

Review: I'm not a big fan of short stories at all, but LMM is the one exception. Her short stories are generally just as charming as her full-length novels, and I thoroughly enjoyed this reading of them. Some of the stories were a lot darker and without the happy endings we're used to from her novels, but still well-written and captivating.

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Title: The Conch Bearer
Author: Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 7/10
# pages: 260
Date read: February, 2009

Summary: In a dingy shack in the less-than-desirable Indian neighborhood he calls home, twelve-year-old Anand is entrusted with a conch shell that possesses mystical powers. His task is to return the shell to its rightful home many hundreds of miles away. Accompanying him are Nisha, a headstrong but resourceful child of the streets, and a mysterious man of indeterminate age and surprising resources named Abadhyatta. His quest will take him farther from home than he's ever been and will teach him more than he ever imagined -- and it will force him to make a poignant decision that will change him forever.

Review: Well-written, but I couldn't help thinking something was missing. I never really started caring for the main characters, and the book never 'drew me in' properly - I never stopped being aware that it was a book. I can't put my finger on anything specific that Divakaruni did 'wrong', so I don't know why I lacked sympathy for the characters, but it did mean that while the plot was interesting, I finished the book more out of a sense of duty than anything else.

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Title: By the Time You Read This
Author: Lola Jaye
Genre: Chick-lit
Rating: 7/10
# pages: 321
Date read: February 2009

Summary: When Lois Bates is handed the manual, she can barely bring herself to read it as the pain of losing her dad is still so raw. Yet soon his advice is guiding her through every stange of her life - from first love and relationships to her career.

The manual can never be a substitute for having her dad back, but through his words Lois learns to start living again, and discoveres that happiness is waiting around the corner...

Review: Chick-lit, fluff and sentimental fluff at that. By the Time You Read This is one of those easily read books that you can devour in one sitting, but that doesn't really leave any mark on you. It was enjoyable, but not a book that moved me in any way. One of those books that you read... and then pass on. If you need something light for a lazy afternoon, by all means pick it up, but don't go out of your way to get your hands on it.

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Title: The Tales of Beedle the Bard
Author: J.K. Rowling
Genre: fantasy, short stories
Rating: 8/10
# pages: 105
Date read: February, 2009

Summary: The Tales of Beedle the Bard, a Wizarding classic, first came to Muggle readers' attention in the book known as Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Never before have Muggles been privy to these richly imaginative tales: "The Wizard and the Hopping Pot," "The Fountain of Fair Fortune," "The Warlock's Hairy Heart," "Babbitty Rabbitty and Her Cackling Stump," and of course, "The Tale of the Three Brothers."

Review: Cute, old-fashioned fairy-tales. Better than expected, and leaving out the commentary by "Albus Dumbledore" can easily be read without any knowledge of Harry Potter folklore. No better than well-known fairy-tales, but certainly no worse either.

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Title: Freedom to Love
Author: Rhonda Kulczyk
Genre: Historical fiction
Rating: 8/10
# pages: 270
Date read: February, 2009

Review: Teased all through her childhood because she was darker than her peers, and first abused and then abandoned by her father, Alana never really learned to trust other people. She had her mother, and that was enough for her. She was secure in her mother's love, and opening up to anybody else just meant getting hurt.

Unfortunately, when Alana was 16 her mother died after a short illness, and suddenly there was no choice but to rely on others. First on the kind Mr. and Mrs. Raymond who took her in and took care of her in the first difficult days after the death, and then on Shay O'Connor - her old classmate who used to torture her as much as anybody else, but who now turned out to be her only hope, if she wanted to join the wagon train and go west - where hopefully her uncle would be ready and willing to take her in.

Alana swallowed her fear, and posing as brother and sister, she and Shay made the long treck from Missouri to California, meeting new friends along the way, and finally learning to trust God above all others.

Freedom to Love is a feel-good Western novel in the style of Janette Oke and Francine Rivers. Rhonda Kulczyk vividly describes both the characters and the atmosphere, so that the reader feels like she's right there along with the wagon train. I especially enjoyed seeing how Ms. Kulczyk managed to share Alana's conversion and faith without seeming preachy.

I couldn't help falling in love with the characters, and Rhonda Kulczyk managed to stay away from the pitfall of making them too perfect, but ensured that they all had human flaws to make them 'real'. My one concern with the novel was that the same could unfortunately not be said about the villain of the story, who appeared pure evil with no redeeming characters at all. I lacked some development to his character, in what was otherwise a very enjoyable and well written novel.

Freedom to Love is the first in a series - I can't wait to get to read the rest.

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Title: In Search of the Castaways / The Children of Captain Grant
Author: Jules Verne
Genre: Classic
Rating: 7/10
# pages: Audiobook from Librivox, 17hr
Date read: February, 2009

Summary: The book tells the story of the quest for Captain Grant of the Britannia. After finding a bottle cast into the ocean by the captain himself after the Britannia is shipwrecked, Lord and Lady Glenarvan of Scotland decide to launch a rescue expedition. The main difficulty is that the coordinates of the wreckage are mostly erased, and only the latitude (37 degrees) is known.

Lord Glenarvan makes it his quest to find Grant; together with his wife, Grant's children and the crew of his yacht the Duncan they set off for South America. An unexpected passenger in the form of French geographer Jacques Paganel joins the search. They explore Patagonia, Tristan da Cunha Island, Amsterdam Island, Australia and New Zealand in their search for Captain Harry Grant

Review: I've discovered that unfortunately Jules Verne doesn't really pass the test of time. I loved those of his books that I originally read (or had read to me) when I was in my tweens, but when trying to reread them now, I find them long-winded and somewhat boring. This isn't as bad as most, but it still took me a LONG time to get through, as I could put it down too easily and wasn't terribly interested in what happened next.

It didn't help that it was read by several different readers, many of which were unfortunately less than great. I don't mind a strong accent, I do mind an abundance of mis-pronounced words and a flat or sing-song reading voice. Fortunately most did get better as they went along, so obviously training has a lot to do with it.

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Title: The Way of the Heart
Author: Henri Nouwen
Genre: Christian non-fiction
Rating: 6/10
# pages: 74
Date read: February 2009

Summary: Inspired by the ancient teachings of St. Anthony and the Desert Fathers, The Way of the Heart clears before us a spiritual path consisting of three stepping-stones: Solitude (learning not to be alone but to be alone with God); Silence (the discipline by which the inner fire of God is tended and kept alive); and Prayer (standing in the presence of God with the mind in the heart).

Review: I actually found it difficult to relate the teachings of the Desert Fathers to something I can use in my daily life. I didn't quite agree with everything Nouwen said, and even where I did, I missed some suggestions to practical application from him.

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Title: Lucy Maud Montgomery: The Gift of Wings
Author: Mary Henley Rubio
Genre: Biography
Rating: 8/10
# pages: 597
Date read: February, 2009

Summary: Mary Henley Rubio has spent over two decades researching Montgomery's life, and has put together a comprehensive and penetrating picture of this Canadian literary icon, all set in rich social context. Extensive interviews with people who knew Montgomery - her son, maids, friends, relatives, all now deceased - are only part of the material gathered in a journey to understand Montgomery that took Rubio to Poland and the highlands of Scotland.

From Montgomery's apparently idyllic childhood in Prince Edward Island to her passion-filled adolescence and young adulthood, to her legal fights as world-famous author, to her shattering experiences with motherhood and as wife to a deeply troubled man, this fascinating, intimate narrative of her life will engage and delight.

Review: Very interesting biography. However, unfortunately not quite as unbiased as I'd hoped to see from somebody who's done SUCH extensive research on her subject matter (of course I understand no biography can ever be completely unbiased... I guess "neutral" is a better word).

My initial impression was that I was glad I'd read the journals before reading this. First of all, there were events Rubio skimmed over very quickly, where I was glad to have a bit more background information than the biography gave. Secondly, I felt it provided me with a more nuanced view of LMM's life than I would have had if I'd only had the biography as a source.

The book is generally well-written, although I did feel like Rubio occasionally included too much background information. I understand the desire to share 20+ years worth of research, but I felt the book would have flowed better if she'd limited the detailed information about various people's ancestors and had used the space thus freed up to include the endnotes she was forced to leave out instead. Also, there were many repetitions, where Rubio repeated herself practically word-for-word over a space of just a few pages - close enough, anyway, that I noticed.

I really appreciated this "condensed" version of the journals - it's much, much easier to keep all the details of various events (the different lawsuits in particular) straight when they're presented with all the information in one place, rather than - as necessary in the journals - spread out over the course of several YEARS where you forget the first details before the last have even happened yet.

However, I do think that Rubio unfortunately drew a lot of conclusions that I don't believe she had grounds to make - not based on the information given in GoW anyway. Of course she may have had other interviews etc. to base her theories on, but as these were never mentioned in GoW the reader doesn't know about them, and it therefore comes across as idle speculation. The most obvious case is the alleged importance of a person in LMM's life, based solely on a page in one of her scrapbooks. Based on this information alone there simply isn't enough evidence to state anything for sure one way or the other. I for one didn't agree with her interpretation, and was sad to notice how Rubio twisted a lot of events in the following to suggest that her interpretation was the correct one. It may have been - I don't dispute that - but because of the way it was written, there doesn't seem to be enough evidence, and the entire speculation comes across as gossipy and sensational. Something I was very sad to see in what I'd hoped would be a serious account.

Don't get me wrong, it mostly is. It just wasn't as unbiased as I'd expected, and Rubio seemed at times almost patronizing towards LMM in places - putting a lot of emphasis on small events that made LMM end up looking petty and unkind. She may have been / probably was at times, but these unnecessary connecting of unrelated circumstances stood out like a sore thumb. Once specific example is the end note #38 of the Norval years, where Rubio makes a very unfavourable comparison that I think completely uncalled for and unjust.

That said, I still really enjoyed the book - especially the extra insights and small details that I didn't already know and that were based on Rubio's many and detailed interviews with LMM's various maids, friends and of course Stuart himself. Rubio's obviously passionate about her work, and it clearly shows in her writing, making it engaging and easily read.

So definitely a very, very interesting book - but like with all other biographies it should be taken with a grain of salt and a lot of common "source criticism", as no biography can ever claim to be 100% unbiased.

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Title: The Stepford Wives
Author: Ira Levin
Genre: Fiction
Rating: 6/10
# pages: 186
Date read: February, 2009

Summary: All the beautiful people live in the idyllic village of Stepford, Connecticut, an affluent suburban Eden populated with successful, satisfied hubbys and their beautiful, dutiful wives. For Joanna Eberhart, a recent arrival with her husband and two children, it all seems too perfect to be true -- from the sweet, accommodating Welcome Wagon lady to all those cheerful, friendly faces in the supermarket checkout lines. But just beneath the town's flawless surface, something is sordid and wrong -- something abominable with roots in the local Men's Association. And it may already be too late for Joanna to save herself from being devoured by Stepford's hideous perfection.

Review: Ira Levin has a very atypical writing style - at least in this book. At first I thought I'd been unfortunate enough to find an edition that had been adapted from the screenplay, because the writing was so disjointed/simple at times, but no - this was how Levin intended for it to be written. I really don't know what I think of it. It's a spooky story, but I was extremely disappointed by the ending. I haven't seen the movie, so I was in no way 'prepared' for what was going to happen and was frustrated that there was no proper closure.

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Title: The Fledging of Az Gabrielson
Author: Jay Amory
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 8/10
# pages: 361
Date read: February, 2009

Summary: Az Gabrielson is one of the Airborn, a people who, with a stretch and a beat of their eight-foot wings, travel effortlessly around and between their cities, perched high above the clouds amidst a life of ease and airy beauty. Az, however, has no wings, making him a pained and isolated oddity in his glorious world of freedom and flight. Then one day he is selected for a job below the clouds. The system of massive automated elevators, which send up everything the Airborn need to survive, are breaking down... and threatening to take the Airborn society with them. Someone must travel to the Ground to find out what has happened, and Az, with his wingless similarity to the prehistoric Groundlings, seems perfect for the task of hunting for answers beneath the clouds. But in the vast shadows of the cities on the Ground, Az finds more questions than answers when he discovers that the Groundlings worship a dim notion of the Airborn and aspire to be like them. Filling the elevators with tributes to their winged deities, the Groundlings are beginning to think that their way of life is part of a very unnatural order of things. Az also meets a girl named Cassie Grubdollar, who's definitely no angel!

Review: I hardly know what to write for this review. I really enjoyed the book, but can't think of anything worth saying about it. Probably didn't help that I read it while sick, so it's all a little hazy to me now. I thought it was well-written and the characters well fleshed out. With a few exceptions they were three-dimensional and nobody (with the same few exceptions) 100% good or evil, but just like in real life, they all had a little bit of each.

Good book that didn't require too much thinking, making it perfect for a 'flu read.

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Title: Pet Semetary
Author: Stephen King
Genre: Horror
Rating: 6/10
# pages: 300
Date read: February, 2009

Summary: The Creeds have just moved to a new house in the countryside. Their house is perfect, except for two things: the semi trailers that roar past on the narrow road, and the mysterious cemetery in the woods behind the house. The Creed's neighbors are reluctant to talk about the cemetery, and for good reason too.

Review: This is one of those books that's really difficult for me to rate. On the one hand it was well-written and hard to put down, but on the other hand it was really unpleasant and I became exceedingly frustrated with the main character, because you just knew he was going to make a stupid decision and do the wrong thing. I'd hoped to be proven wrong, but unfortunately that wasn't the case.

While better written than many of his other books, it still features Stephen King's most annoying characteristic - the lack of an ending. In some books that's alright, but in this genre the lack of an ending typically indicates a cheap thrill - scary for the sake of being scary.

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Title: Storm Front (Dresden Files 1)
Author: Jim Butcher
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 3.5/5
# pages: 288
Date read: February 2009, 2013

Harry Dresden is a wizard. And unlike Harry Potter and his crowd, he doesn't have to keep his magic a secret. No, he's able to advertise freely. Just look him up in a phone book, and you'll find him in the yellow pages. From his office in Chicago he helps people find lost things, investigate haunted houses and - once in awhile - assists the police as their magical consultant.

It's not always great working with the police though. Harry is introduced to a number of unpleasant murders obviously committed by the use of magic which leads him to a dilemma: does he help the police to get rid of a criminal by dabbling in dark magic himself and risking the notice of the White Council? Or does he pretend he can do nothing, and risk being named main suspect, since the police don't know any other powerful wizards?

It doesn't look like he has much of a choice though. Circumstances soon make the decision for him and he has enough to do to try to stay alive and keep his friends safe as he is threatened by the mafia, hunted by demons, surprised by giant scorpions and constantly aware of the fact that the murderous wizard may attack him at any time.

As the rating indicates, I found Storm Front good but not great. Its charm is that it allows the reader to see magic and 'reality' side by side. Harry Dresden attempts to be a part of modern society - as much as is possible when technology dies in the presence of magic - and thereby goes against most magical stereotypes as seen in other books. It is interesting to see a magical world that's not kept secret, but is readily available to us common mortals.

Reread in 2013: I actually enjoyed this a lot more than on my first read-through... possibly because my expectations were quite a bit lower ;) Everybody I know seems to love it though, so I figured I'd give it a second chance and perhaps move on to the rest of the series this time.
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Title: The Allure of the Curse
Author: Patrick Vaughn
Genre: Paranormal
Rating: 8/10
# pages: 244
Date read: February, 2009

Review: Warrenna was 16 before she discovered she was born a vampire. Not having acted upon it, she was still considered an "orphan" by others of her kind as she had not yet succumbed to the infection, but had retained as much of her humanity as physically possible. Living together with a group of other orphans, she helps the elders rid the world of "true" vampires, while offering a sanctuary for the ones infected who hadn't turned yet.

Part of helping orphans remain human is the cleansings offered by the goddess Zera, as well as the healings the human Thomas is somehow able to perform. Nobody knows quite why Thomas is able to save the orphans from their dreams, nor why his blood apparently tastes awful to vampires, but everybody assumes Zera probably has a finger in the pie - and when that's the case, it's better not to ask too many questions.

Unfortunately some questions have to be asked when a raid goes horribly wrong, leaving one orphan killed, another mortally wounded, and Thomas kidnapped. What do the vampires want from Thomas, and why is he different than other humans?

Well-written and catching, The Allure of the Curse is a fitting sequel to The Cure for the Curse and an entertaining alternative to the Twilight series. It has been interesting to note the number of novels with vampires-as-good-guys that have appeared over the last years, but Patrick Vaughn has found a niche that's suitably different from Stephenie Meyers' and offers a good reading option for those eagerly awaiting more from her hand.

Patrick Vaughn did leave some threads hanging as well as some questions unexplained, but since The Allure of the Curse is meant to be the second book in a series of 7, he can be forgiven for this as it is to be assumed that these threads/questions will be picked up in future books. The plot itself was sufficiently tied up that I didn't feel like I was left hanging.

The Allure of the Curse is aimed mostly at a YA audience, but can easily be enjoyed by older readers also.

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Title: First Test
Author: Tamora Pierce
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 9/10
# pages: 204
Date read: August 2007, February 2009


Summary: Ten years after the proclamation that girls are eligible for a page's training at the court of King Jonathan of Tortall, 10-year-old Keladry applies and is accepted, but on probation, a condition never forced on male applicants. Resolutely accepting the challenge, the hostility of the royal training master, and harassment by fellow pages, Kel makes her way through this difficult year. Trained from early childhood by stoic Yamani warriors, she is capable of hiding her feelings, fearless in a fight, and willing to work hard to develop the necessary physical capacity. Her sympathy and support for the underdog and her sense of chivalry earn her the admiration of a group of fellow pages. She also befriends the sparrows that live outside her window and wins over a difficult horse. Kel performs well in her first real battle and is grudgingly allowed to stay for another year of training.

Review: Kel is by far the most ordinary heroine of Tamora Pierce's books, which is part of her charm... even if I do miss the magic. "Alanna" will always be my favourite Tortall quartet - especially since she was how I discovered Tamora Pierce in the first place - but "Protector of the Small" runs a close second.

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