Angela Critics

02/02/2012 - 3:30am
Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George

Princess Celie’s favorite day of the week is Tuesday because that’s the day Castle Glower usually grows a new room or two, or a turret, or passage. Castle Glower’s favorite person is Princess Celie, the only one who has ever tried to explore and map the ever-changing structure. Castle Glower is not shy about making its opinion known. When the Castle decides Prince Rolf should be the King’s Heir, he awakes one day to discover his bedroom has been moved next to the throne room. Unwelcome guests find their quarters growing smaller and shabbier, while favored residents are housed in spacious comfort in Tuesdays at the Castle, by Jessica Day George.

When the King and Queen disappear--ambushed and presumed dead--visitors from foreign lands arrive suddenly to advise Celie, Rolf, and their sister, Lilah, during the time of transition. But the Castle seems to know that something isn’t right and the plotters underestimate the Castle’s abilities. They also underestimate the courage and intelligence of the Royal children. The Castle creates a turret, stocked with useful items, that appears when Celie and her siblings need it. It provides a passage to a hidden room where the children can overhear the council’s scheming--complete with a magic cloak that muffles sound so the children will not themselves be overheard. Celie’s maps and her relationship with the Castle are the keys to saving the kingdom, the castle’s inhabitants, and the castle itself.

12/07/2011 - 3:30am
The Fallen Blade by Jon Courtenay Grimwood

In the early 15th-century Venice of The Fallen Blade, by Jon Courtenay Grimwood, no one is safe from the political ambitions of the ruling family--not even Giuliette, beautiful cousin of the Duke. She becomes a pawn in the schemes of her aunt and uncle who are regents for the simpleton Duke Marco. Meanwhile, Venice faces external threats from the Ottomans, the Byzantines and the German emperor. It is Atilo il Mauro's job as head of the Assassini to protect Venice and enforce the will of its ruling family while trying not to be destroyed by that family's internal power struggles.

11/24/2011 - 3:30am
Won Ton: A Cat Tale Told in Haiku by Lee Wardlaw, illustrated by Eugene Yelchin

Most books about pet adoption are told from the child’s or family’s point of view. But Won Ton: A Cat Tale Told in Haiku by Lee Wardlaw explores the delights of adopting a shelter cat from the cat’s perspective. During visiting hours, he pretends not to care but can’t resist taking a peek. On the car ride to his new home, he begs to be let out, only to insist on being let back in. In true cat fashion, he is sure of his own importance. He certainly deserves a name worthy of an oriental prince. “Won Ton? How can I / be soup? Some day, I’ll tell you / my real name. Maybe.”

09/27/2011 - 3:30am

Come one, come all! Wander the Cloud Maze. Delight in the Ice Garden. Ride the amazing Carousel. Have your fortune told. Marvel at the tattooed contortionist. Enjoy the magical creation that is The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern! Only open from dusk to dawn, with every visible surface colored black, white and gray, this amazing venue truly lives up to its proper name, Le Cirque des Rêves or The Circus of Dreams.

The circus was created to serve as a forum for a magical competition to which young magicians Celia and Marco were bound by their teachers while still children. But just as the circus tents spread outward in a series of spiraling circles, so too does the circus’s impact on the people drawn into its orbit. As Celia and Marco fall in love, not realizing that the game is in fact a duel in which only one can be left standing, the circus takes on a life of its own.

07/07/2011 - 1:48pm
Poetrees by Douglas Florian

Whether you’re “nuts about the coconut,” or think the Japanese Cedar is “ex-seed-ingly fine,” you’ll be drawn into this amazingly creative celebration of trees. I have to say that the statement on the cover was right – I loved this book “tree-mendously!”

Be prepared to have your ideas of books and poetry turned sideways! Poetrees by Douglas Florian is formatted to take advantage of the height created when opened. I’ll go out on a limb and say it is the best combination of words, layout and art I’ve seen in a long time. Whether it is the words of “The Seed” printed in the form of an infinity symbol to show how the life of trees is a cycle or the words in “Roots” that cascade down the page, much like roots sink into the soil, the arrangement of text on the pages adds another layer of meaning to the already strong combination of vivid imagery of the poems and the inspired illustrations. Poetrees is just an amazingly beautiful and effective book.

07/06/2011 - 10:21am
LMNO Peas by Keith Baker

LMNO Peas, by Keith Baker, will bring a smile to parents who have heard their children slur the middle letters together as they sing the alphabet song. This engaging book is populated by lively Peas whose occupations and activities match the letters of the alphabet. These little “pea-ple” are acrobats and explorers, parachutists and X-ray doctors.

Baker’s colorful illustrations bring the peas to life as they bicycle across the pages to the finish line, dive underwater or juggle dishes. The images are simple and clear, perfect for reading aloud to a group, but with plenty of detail to invite closer looking. Parents will enjoy such hidden treasures as “The King” singing for the kayakers. See if you can find the ladybug hiding in every two-page spread. 
05/19/2011 - 3:31am
A Tale of Two Castles

In A Tale of Two Castles, by Gail Carson Levine, young Elodie embarks on her journey to Two Castles with the warning of her family ringing in her ears: beware of ogres and dragons, and, even worse, the whited sepulcher. Elodie’s parents think she will apprentice to a weaver. But headstrong, independent Elodie dreams of becoming a mansioner--an actress. As she nears Two Castles, Elodie discovers that the free,10-year apprenticeships have been abolished. She does not have enough money to pay for an apprenticeship or to pay for the voyage home. What will she do? How will she survive?

04/20/2011 - 3:31am
Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay

Under Heaven, by Guy Gavriel Kay, is neither historical fiction nor fantasy, but a fascinating blend of both. Carefully researched details of life in China during the Tang Dynasty blend with ghosts and folkloric beings come to life to provide a rich, satisfying backdrop to a gripping story.

Shen Tai spends two years of official mourning for his father, burying the battle dead from both sides at a remote site in the mountains. Kay’s description brings the setting to life complete with the eerie sense of the spirits of the dead haunting the battlefield until their bones are laid to rest. Tai knows he has buried one of the restless ghosts when he no longer hears it calling out in the night. But Tai’s private mourning draws royal attention and a gift that will either make his fortune or destroy him.

04/18/2011 - 3:30am
Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare

In Clockwork Angel, Cassandra Clare returns to the world she created in her series, The Mortal Instruments. Clockwork Angel, the first installment in the new Infernal Devices series, is set in London, several hundred years before the events in City of Bones. Tessa, an American, is called to London by her brother, only to find him missing and herself a captive, embroiled in a dark world of demons, warlocks, vampires and Nephilim, those descendants of angels who strive to protect the world from the forces of evil.

The London Clave that shelters Tessa is also home to three orphaned Nephilim, each apparently with secrets of their own. The attraction between Tessa and fiery Will takes center stage. But the quiet, mysterious Jem also falls for her, as Will pushes her away. Which handsome young man will get the girl in the end? Can a Team-Jem versus Team-Will fan split be far off?

04/13/2011 - 3:31am
The Meat Lover’s Meatless Cookbook

You don’t have to be a vegetarian to love this cookbook! Whether you want to eat more healthily by reducing the amount of meat you eat or just are looking for tasty ways to get your recommended five-a-day of fruit and vegetables, this cookbook really satisfies. The inspiration for The Meat Lover’s Meatless Cookbook: Vegetarian Recipes Carnivores Will Devour began when Kim O’Donnel, a self-confessed carnivore, decided to try following the recommendation to eat meatless meals once a week. She discovered that vegetable-based meals do not have to be a sacrifice, but can be exciting and tasty, so much so that you won’t miss the meat.

The recipes are written for the beginner to advanced-beginner cook “with an adventurous spirit.” The book is arranged seasonally, with 52 menus plus a Wild Card section with basic recipes that can be mixed and matched or paired with one of the menus for a more substantial meal. Directions are clear, and the tone throughout is encouraging. O’Donnel makes liberal use of spices and seasonings to liven up flavors, but the recipes are easily adjusted to suit individual tastes. If you don’t like hot food, reduce the amount of curry powder you use.

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