Oct. 1st, 2012 02:52 pm
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SeraphinaSeraphina by Rachel Hartmann

Decades ago, the Queen of a human kingdom and the King of the dragons worked out a peace treaty, still not completely trusted by anyone. Since then, the dragons (who call themselves saars) have decided that humans can be interesting. They take human form, or sarantras, and come to the city to explore human ways. This is the world that Seraphina has grown up in. She’s recently moved to the city and taken a job as assistant to the court musician, even though her Secret means that she must keep to herself, trusting no one and desperately lonely. A close friend of the family and her teacher, Orma, is a sarantras who has the special scholar’s license not to wear the visible badge. From dealing with him, she has learned to understand how dragons think – a Vulcan-like mindset that prizes scientific calculation and considers emotion dangerous and unreliable. This skill brings her to the attention of Prince Lucian Kiggs, a bastard engaged to Princess Glisselda, granddaughter of the still reigning queen who made the treaty in the first place. Her musical skill, meanwhile, was on display at the funeral for the much-loved prince whose was recently found murdered in dragon-like fashion in the wilderness. The talent lands her a position teaching Princess Glisselda harpsichord, while Kiggs decides that she’s the perfect person to assist in the investigation of the prince’s death. In her personal life, Seraphina’s mind is inhabited with people, some more and some less human in shape, who will take over her mind with visions if she doesn’t carefully visit and talk to the avatars of them in the garden she’s created for them in her mind. She’s always assumed this was her mind just being a little weird on her – until she meets one of them in person.

Seraphina is a character after my own heart. My lonely teen soul had a hard time identifying with any character for whom making friends came easily, and Seraphina’s loneliness brought me right back to that time. Happily for her, by the end of the book she’s found a happier place, one that felt honestly won. There was also a lot about music, and just reading about her playing the oud without her plectrum made me smile in geeky recognition. OK, I’ve never played an oud or used a plectrum, but I loved that Hartmann used real historical instruments, and Seraphina and I had flute, voice and keyboard in common. This is set in a beautifully realistic Renaissance world with a saint-based religion. It’s full of politics, music, personal discovery as well as the dragons, with some romance thrown in for good measure. While there is a villain in the end, for the most part, the sides are drawn in shades of gray, with neither humans nor dragons being the Enemy, and understandable motives on all sides. We have it in teen, and while Seraphina really is going through teen problems, the sex and violence are both low enough to make this fine for advanced younger readers. I would happily recommend this to anyone who identified with Menolly in Dragonsong.
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Those 25-minute commutes to various places in different directions every day add up. I was thrilled when my son got old enough to enjoy audio books with me. Now my daughter is old enough to ask for music in the car at the same time as he’s asking for his book… I hear the sounds of doom. Music in the car is more work for me – one book will last us for hours and checks out for three weeks, where a single CD is done in a day and only goes out for a week. I need a stack of them to make it through the week. Or, you know, I could bring my mp3 player. But then I’d only be listening to my own music, and what fun would that be?

CD cover The Rough Guide to English Folk. According to the back copy, English folk music has been experiencing resurgence. Hooray! This disc features a wide variety of modern English folk musicians, from instrumental to vocal and from traditional interpretations to folk-rock. I had only heard of one of the artists on this album, Kathryn Tickell, whom I was fortunate enough to see live in front of, I believe, a Maddy Prior concert years ago. This album was a hit with everyone listening to it. I loved the range of songs – the foot-tapping rhythms of Kathryn Tickell’s Northumbrian pipes, the dense male harmonies, the ballads based on fairy tales and wars current and remembered. I’m going to look into getting more from Emily Portman, whose “Tongue-Tied”, a haunting ballad retelling of the tale of the Wild Swans (but with ravens instead of swans) that went through my head for days. The six-year-old boy, forced to listen to music rather than our book (the thrilling Septimus Heap book 6 – Darke), liked it after all and said it reminded him of Pennsic. And the toddler is still asking for it, and was singing the tunes even after the car was turned off.

Cross-posted to and .
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CD coverThe Andrews Sisters The Andrews Sisters If you’re looking for some bright and cheerful music to match the spring weather (or maybe make it feel like spring even if the weather isn’t cooperating), look no further than the Andrews Sisters. Their two most famous hits are “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” and “Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen”, both great songs. The tight, three-part harmony and the swingin’ style carries through the whole album, though a hint of old-fashioned racial attitudes are unfortunately apparent in “Rum and Coca Cola.” This particular album could also be improved with some liner notes – I had to go to their web site for details such as the date of their first hit (1938, after six years of touring) and learning that they were the first female group to go platinum. Though they continued to have hits long after the war, I consider this brassy, upbeat World War II cheer on a disc.
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Summer reading is keeping things hoppin' here in Libraryland, but I'm trying to catch up.

book coverHarry and the Potters by Harry and the Potters This is the time of year when I start feeling nostalgic for Harry Potter – waiting in line for the new book, then discussing it with all my friends. Why not celebrate Harry’s birthday (July 31) and relive the magic with some wizard rock? Harry and the Potters is one of the first wizard rock bands to make it big. The two performers, brothers Paul and Joe DeGeorge, recorded their first album in their garage with not much but a whole lot of enthusiasm. Intonation and timing were sometimes a bit off, but I couldn’t help smiling as I listened to lyrics like, “You can’t take my best friend’s sister and get away with it,” or “Why’d you have to kill my parents, Lord Voldemort, I mean You-Know-Who?” The songs in this album are taken directly from the plot of the first two books and sung from Harry’s point of view. Although my library only has the first album, the band is still going strong, with several more albums and active tours – their [edited to add link] web page says they’re now touring Amsterdam and Ireland.

For more Harry Potter-inspired music, try The Hogsemeade Diaries by Tonks and the Aurors, a more singer-songwriter-style take on wizard rock. Go more in depth into Harry Potter with The Sorcerer’s Companionby Kronzek and Kronzek. Feel the love with Kids’ Letters to Harry Potter from Around the World compiled by Adler, or knit yourself some Gryffindor gear from the patterns in Charmed Knits by Hansel.
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A while back, I mentioned that I was doing a pirate picture book bibliography. I’m feeling a little too lazy to post everything up here, but it’s here – Not Too Scary Pirate Books.

Pegleg TangoDid I say that Mr. FP would never stop listening to Snack Time? Ha ha! Well, he’s probably still listening to it in [ profile] amnachaidh’s car, but in my car, we are now listening to Peg Leg Tango by Captain Bogg and Salty I’m now hearing “I am a pirate in this world” and “There’s a pirate party shakin’ on the ship!” around the house. Their web sites all seem to be down, but there are a few copies of their two more recent albums (this one included) left on Amazon. This is pirate fun for all ages.

Kids, Parents and Power Struggles coverA little more about tantrums: The parenting book I last reviewed, Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline was recommended by a friend, who heard about it in her Raising Your Spirited Child class. I’ve a couple friends now who took that class, and both have noted remarkable increase in harmony and cooperation since then. Raising Your Spirited Child by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka is on my reading list. Last week I heard from another friend with a four-year-old that reading just the first two chapters of her more recent book, Kids, Parents and Power Struggles: Winning for a Lifetime took tantrums from ten to fourteen down to two a day. I’ll have to interloan it to get hold of it, but I didn’t want to deprive any of y’all that might be in need of such assistance until then. Also still on my parenting to-read list is How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish, who also wrote Siblings without Rivalry, which I reviewed a while back.

Silver Sea

Mar. 25th, 2008 06:16 pm
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CD coverSilver Sea by Meav I got lucky pulling random CDs out of the Irish music bin at the library. This was a solid album of traditional and modern songs. Meav has a light and flexible, if occasionally breathy voice. She opens with what sounded like the song of a mermaid living with her lover on land, and continued on with a surprisingly upbeat version of “Wicked Sister”, the murder of the beautiful younger sister accompanied by sparkling harp. There’s a lovely version of “Maid in Bedlam”, as well as some Gaelic songs that I recognized but didn’t know by name. (Yes, I listen in the car, so no looking up titles.) She’s a new artist to me, but if you like Celtic or folk music, I highly recommend her.
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Ragtime Detroit by River Raisin Ragtime Revue It was news to me, but apparently Detroit was a significant source of popular ragtime music at the turn of the last century, with many prominent composers and two large sheet music publishers (the primary venue for spreading music at that time.) The hefty liner notes document many of these composers and the importance of the music presented, including some with titles no longer politically correct. You don’t need to read either the notes or the titles to enjoy the music, though – it’s peppy and swingy and reminded me of carousel music (but with real instruments and good recording). Get some cotton candy, put on this CD, and enjoy some quintessential summer music.


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