Mini Reviews: The Circle of Magic Quartet by Tamora Pierce

I’m the happiest thing on two feet right now. And when I’m feeling good, I want to review good books. SO YAY TAMORA PIERCE (again)!!!! ūüėÄ The Circle of Magic is set in a universe as cool and amazing as Tortall-verse – this time, Tammy brings out the magic of everyday crafts (ambient magic), like gardening, knitting, and metalworking. I’m totally in love with the characters, the world, and the simple and strong storylines throughout this quartet. I think 4X the main characters means 4X the emotions, because I’m so invested in all of them, despite (or because of) the Fearsome Foursome’s different personalities and beliefs. Also included here is awesome fanart because urghhh too awesome.

The Winding Circle kids: Daja, Sandry, Tris, and Briar, via Nest of Straight Lines.

To commemorate yet another TP series review, I shall henceforth weave poetic praise for The Circle of Magic. Literally. Because I have nothing better to do and because I love TP. SORRY FOR THE BAD POETRY.
Sandry's Book

The Winding Circle gets new students
With stronger ambient magic than ever seen before.
The story of these four, I’ll never get bored of –
These child-mages are ones I will always adore!

The button-nosed noble who makes thread glow;
The merchant girl who makes the winds blow;
The Trader outcast who works hot iron with bare hands;
And also, the thief who has a soft spot for plants.

At ten years of age, these young’uns are left torn
By devastating natural and man-made disasters,
And it’s only through Winding Circle that they¬†are reborn
And woven together tightly like brother and sisters.

Tris's Book

Title: Tris’s Book
Author: Tamora Pierce
Series: The Circle of Magic #2
Publication Date: April 1, 1998
Genre: (Middle Grade) Fantasy

But it seems that the weaving was too tight
And their magics were too tangled,
So amidst pirate season, the four try
To save Emelan and also get de-tangled.

Seeing the Fearsome Foursome grow
In magic and into their own¬†selves, I’d
Say I’ve grown to¬†care for them all, although
At the top, Tris and Briar are almost tied!

Daja's Book

Title: Daja’s Book
Author: Tamora Pierce
Series: The Circle of Magic #3
Publication Date: October 1, 1998
Genre: (Middle Grade) Fantasy

Tying for second place isn’t bad either,
And Daja is just as strong as the others.
Tammy’s great at putting these four
In situations that bring out their best and truest colors.

The underestimated and overpowered
Are often children, outcasts, and commoners.
But Daja is obviously no coward, and
She wins me over with her resilience and honor.

Briar's Book

Title: Briar’s Book
Author: Tamora Pierce
Series: The Circle of Magic #4
Publication Date: April 1, 1999
Genre: (Young Adult) Fantasy

As with most Tamora Pierce quartets,
(Except for The Immortals) this last book is my favorite –
So much friendshipping involved #noregrets
And now I reread from Sandry’s Book, I’m elated!

Quiet place, via minuiko.

Is there a book friendship that makes you squeal with glee?
If you had ambient magic, what form would yours be?

(Oh look, even my questions rhymed! #naturalpoet ūüėč)

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Review: Genome by Matt Ridley

Genome

 

I’m pretty sure I started to read this one in the middle of studying for some biology exam, and Genome became something like a study break. (Because I’m still technically reading about restriction enzymes and genes on chromosomes, right? Right.) So many interesting topics about the genome, organized in a fun way. BIOLOGY FOREVER. ‚̧
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Mini Reviews: The Protector of the Small Quartet by Tamora Pierce

This is only like my FAVORITE TAMORA PIERCE SERIES EVER, no big deal. I feel like it’s so hard to explain¬†why I love this series so much – I kind of just want to say JUST READ IT AND YOU’LL UNDERSTAND! And sometimes I don’t know why I love certain books¬†when there are probably similar books out there, but¬†The Protector of the Small¬†is The One for me. I reread it almost every year, and when I want comfort books, this is the series I turn to.

When I was in high school, I went to the library almost everyday after school to volunteer, and during my downtime, I’d inevitably turn to the Fantasy section and walk straight towards the “P” section for all the Pierce books. (Pros: Gail Carson Levine and Philip Pullman were also close by!) There¬†were these¬†wonderful shiny hardcover copies of Squire¬†and Lady Knight¬†that I would just claim for as long as I could, and I’M JUST IN LOVE. (So all my Tamora Pierce reviews are less of reviews and more of me ranting about my life, sorry in advance, haha.)

First Test

Long story short, the realm of Tortall is finally accepting its first girl into the knighthood training program in a hundred years (Alanna didn’t count since she hid that she was a girl), and ten-year-old Keladry of Mindelan stepped up at the chance. However, she’s been put on probation by the training master, and has to handle bullying from the boys and being at a physical disadvantage. Kel is determined to show everyone that she can make it, and in the process, gains some valuable friends and makes some enemies too. I fell in love with Kel and her gang in this book – Kel is so different compared to Alanna in that Kel is quieter and more “average” in terms of looks, so maybe that’s why I could relate with her more. Her tenacity and firm belief in doing the right thing particularly stand out in my mind, since the plotline allows those characteristics to shine through. This first book in the quartet has plenty of action and adventure, and allows us to revisit good ol’ Tortall while getting us familiar with the new characters.

Page

Title: Page
Author: Tamora Pierce
Series: The Protector of the Small #2
Publication Date: May 23, 2000
Genre: (Young Adult) Fantasy / Magic / Adventure

Ta-dah! Kel’s made it through probation! (Oops, was that a spoiler? You kind of expected it, right? Since she’s the heroine and all and the story can’t go on without her?) The knighthood training consists of four years as a page (modern translation: middle school), four years as a squire (high school, shadowing teachers/employed professionals), and pass the Ordeal of Knighthood (yay job!). This book details Kel’s next three years as a page. Life as a page isn’t easy, and Kel continues to try to balance her studies with her extracurriculars (ex. going on an anti-bullying campaign, essentially) and her developments into womanhood. Tammy always manages to fit so much time into one book without making it boring, and I was totally engrossed in seemingly mundane things. Also, more animals in this book!

Kel and her menagerie, via minuiko.

Squire

Title: Squire
Author: Tamora Pierce
Series: The Protector of the Small #3
Publication Date: May 1, 2001
Genre: (Young Adult) Fantasy / Magic / Adventure

Kel has survived four years as a page, and is moving on to being a squire under either an active duty knight or a desk knight in the palace. After facing prejudice and resistance as The Girl for four years, Kel faces new problems as she starts to become exposed to the rest of the world. She makes new friends and new enemies, and learns how to be a great leader in the process. She also (unfortunately?) gets stuck with a baby griffin (as you can see from the cover), which sounds like an awesome experience… but it’s not. I like how nothing is idealized or sugarcoated in this series (as well as other Tammy books) – if something sucky happens, it happens and becomes a learning experience. That said, bad things (ex. character death) doesn’t happen for no reason. Kel’s “high school” years are so much more exciting than mine, and maybe that’s why Squire is the book I read most often from this series when I was in high school, haha. ūüėĄ

Lady Knight

My favorite book in this series, if I had to choose. Kel becomes a full-fledged knight, but is disappointed when she’s put in charge of a refugee camp instead of being out in combat. However, fate has more in store for her than just that… this is the culmination of all things great about The Protector of the Small series: great friendships, great plot, amazing characters. SO MUCH LOVE FOR LADY KNIGHT!!!

Lady knight, via minuiko.

Altogether, The Protector of the Small quartet is AWESOME on so many levels. We get to see nine years’ worth of character development, and Tammy doesn’t disappoint. There’s never a dull moment, and every character contributes to the plot. Another amazing thing about this quartet is that there’s so much political and historical development, although unlike the previous Tortall heroines who were placed at critical moments of history being rewritten, Kel was not. It’s like discovering a new part of the world – the picture of Tortall in my head just got a lot more colorful and a lot bigger after these books!

Also, I AM IN LOVE WITH TORTALL FANART! I especially love minuiko’s depictions of the Tortallan heroines, and her Kel art is just¬†amazing… she’s a big Kel fan too! The Tortall Comics Project is where¬†the cool kids hang out, so that’s where I’ve quenched my PotS needs.

Squire, via JWHamer.

Review: Advice for a Young Investigator by Santiago Ram√≥n y Cajal

118

Right when I joined the lab, I got this book from my PI (principal investigator, or My Boss), who had gotten it from¬†his PI when he first started. I’m ashamed to say that I¬†had¬†never heard of¬†Santiago Ram√≥n y Cajal before this, but apparently he’s one of those big guys in science? This classic guide for new grad students is practical, informative, and often humorous, but probably a bit outdated given the cringe-worthy emphasis on the dominance of men in research and the supporting role of women.
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Mini Reviews: Brian’s Return & Brian’s Hunt by Gary Paulsen

Ahhhh, it’s the end of Brian’s Saga! ūüė¶ I’ll never get tired of the way Paulsen describes the food and nature scenes, and even though I’m sad that these are the last two books in the series, I’m excited to read Paulsen’s Guts in which he tells the true events that inspired this series. I also can’t wait to read Paulsen’s other works – his writing style is simple, yet powerful, and I still want more of it!

Brian's Return
 

Title: Brian’s Return
Author: Gary Paulsen
Series: Brian’s Saga #4
Publication Date: January 12, 1999
Category: (Middle Grade) Survival / Adventure

 
After reading Brian’s Winter, this sequel felt too short yet again. Brian’s Return is a continuation of The River – after Brian returns home, he is once again uncomfortable in his old environment. He loses interest in hanging out with his friends and watching TV, and ends up accidentally reverting back to wilderness mode in public after being in a “threatening” situation. After being forced go to counseling sessions, Brian realizes that he has to go back to the wilderness. No surprises in Brian’s Return, just a sense of rightness after Brian returns to the place where he feels he belongs. But I wanted more! I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of reading about Brian, and I’m so sad that there’s only one more book left in the series.
 
Brian's Hunt

Title: Brian’s Hunt
Author: Gary Paulsen
Series: Brian’s Saga #5
Publication Date: December 23, 2003
Category: (Middle Grade) Survival / Adventure

 
 
 
If this book was combined with Brian’s Return, I would’ve enjoyed the latter better. Brian’s Hunt continues off from where we left Brian, who was on his way to the Cree trapping family he met in Brian’s Winter. He meets an injured dog along the way, and witnesses a cruel and disturbing scene that leads Brian to The Hunt. In this last (for now) book in the Brian’s Saga series, Paulsen shows us a harshness of nature that is not present in the previous books. The one thing I didn’t like about this book was the addition of the Cree family’s daughter, who is around Brian’s age. Paulsen tempts us with a potential romance but doesn’t deliver – she’s a necessary (but minor) installment in this story, but Brian’s thoughts about her made it seem like she has a bigger role. (See, I stop understanding Brian when he starts turning into a teenager.) But nevertheless, this book is intense and captivating, and has a powerful message that is driven by vivid imagery and suspenseful scenes.

Canadian