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Kings Mountain, North Carolina, United States
"A mind lively and at ease" is a blog by a first-generation Russian-Ukrainian immigrant Maria K. (Maria Igorevna Kuroshchepova). An engineer by education, an analyst by trade, as well as a writer, photographer, artist and amateur model, Maria brings her talent for weaving an engaging narrative to stories of life, fashion and style advice, book and movie reviews, and common-sense and to-the-point essays on politics and economy.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Book review and author interview: Dragon Academy by Diane Nelson

Before you read Dragon Academy, please remind yourself that this is a book for children and young adults. Remind yoursef, what sort of thing drew you into a book, when you were twelve years off. If you have kids, you'll get the most out of this book if you read it with them - especially if you can do the voices for all the different characters, which could be tremendous fun.

Dragon Academy does have many of the traditional YA literature elements: a main character, who is not much older than the intended readers, with a big chip on his shoulder; two very temperamental magical creatures with a tummy ache; a supporting cast of grownups - some of them very cool, some not so much; a couple of really goofy characters for good silly comic relief; a budding puppy love; and a good deal of magic and adventure, some of it fun, and some of it quite dangerous.

The part of the book that is bound to be enjoyable to the adult readers is the universe Diane Nelson created for her characters. Instead of building an entirely new world from scratch, she pulled together a delicious mix of elements and references, creating an entire additional dimension to the book that may pass unnoticed by the younger readers but would be infinitely amusing to the grownups. ROUS's... Area 51 that is not so secret anymore... Dragon breeding as an acknowledged and respected endeavor... There are a few more, but I don't want to disclose my favorites for fear of spoiling the surprise. All that - infused with Diane's yummy clever language, well above and beyond the standard mindless verbal trash saturating so much of the contemporary literature.

Dragon Academy does not possess the numerous complex characters and sub-plots of Harry Potter, or the deep philosophic and religious undercurrents of His Dark Materials - nor does it intend or pretend to do so. This is a book equivalent of your home movie night favorite - something you return to again and again, something fun, fast-paced and clever, letting you have your thrills, your surprises and your chuckle, even though you are reading it for the tenth time.

About the author...

Diane Nelson is a Rennaissance woman all around, but especially when it comes to writing. She is a genre chameleon if there ever was one - and I say that with utmost respect and admiration. Her YA fiction is excellent; her fantasy leaves you wide-eyed with magic or jumping with terror, depending which page you are on; her erotica can and will leave you hot and bothered - in the best sense. And to make sure she doesn't run out of things to do, this formidable lady had just started her own publishing house - Pfoxmoor Publishing - and already has a few excellent works coming up in spring.

In order to afford my blog followers the pleasure of meeting this remarkable woman, I decided to take a page from Vanity Fair's book and use an old-fashioned Proust questionnaire to pick at Diane's remarkable mind.

Your favorite virtue: This is an interesting question. The ancient Greeks valued such things as temperance and fortitude (must have been Spartans), while Jewish tradition places high regard on compassion. Christianity derives its ethical constraints on faith, hope, love and charity. Hindis value restraint and non-violence, amongst many others. Objectivism focuses on rationality with its foundations in reason, purpose and self-esteem. And lest ye think me an escapee from the Philosophy Dept of Highfalutin’ U, rest assured I Wiki’d my way onto a new level of awareness. Mostly I was curious as to what I should be thinking about because I come at the virtue thing with a bit of an absolutist mindset. Since by nature I trend toward flamboyance, I suppose ‘temperance’ might be something to strive for, but I’m not terribly clever at that whole goal-setting thing when it comes to moral fiber. Raised RC, through the parochial school system, I eventually experimented my way through just about every belief system and finally found a satisfactory nesting spot with Humanism. If I have to choose a single virtue, one which, through execution, makes the natural world we inhabit a better place, then that would be respect. Respect for our fellow humans, respect for Gaia and all her creatures, respect for our pasts and respect for our future.

Your favorite qualities in a man: My muse is male. I like alphas. I like a man who isn’t afraid to step forward and take charge, who isn’t fearful around women. I like men who like strong women – and trust me, that is a rather rare trait. And I like men who are affectionate without being overbearing and possessive. And I’m single. ‘Nuff said.

Your favorite qualities in a woman: This may sound odd, but I spent most of my life preferring the company of men. That was reflected in my career as an analytical chemist and my choices of activities and hobbies. As I got older, I gradually became more comfortable in the company of women, particularly equestriennes who are almost to a woman, strong, determined, valiant, brave, foolhardy, balls-to-the-wall risk takers. Mix that with feminine compassion and that would make for a very nice virtue-set.

Your favorite characteristic in yourself: the ability to multi-task, persistence

What you appreciate the most in your friends: loyalty – my friends have been with me for years and years.

Your main fault: Just one? I’d guess, a certain lack of diplomacy, bluntness

Your idea of happiness: being a country mouse and all that entails. Having the horses, chickens, cats. Looking out from my kitchen window to the hill beyond and watching the turkeys in a stately march or the herds of deer tracking to the stream at the base. Talking to Farmer Bob about the small things of life – the weather, the crops, how ‘the boy’ is doing and when they’ll go help him set up the food wagon at the fair. Exchanging pleasantries at the grain store, asking after the owner. Receiving a wave from the neighbor up the road as I drive past.

Your idea of misery: I’ve had a lot of tragedy in my time. Misery for me is seeing others suffer and not being able to do something, anything, about it.

If not yourself, who would you be? A pioneer, walking alongside the wagon, headed to a new world, a new life of hope and promise. There’s a spot in Southeastern WY where you can see the ruts left by the wagons – the Oregon Trail, still visible. It is history, living, etched forever in the landscape. It is a record of hopes and dreams, and ghosts still trod those paths. If you close your eyes you can hear the gentle murmurings as they pass by, the creak of the wheels and grunts of the oxen.

Your heroes in fiction: I have a huge number of favorite characters but I’m stymied by the thought that one or more of them would stand out above and beyond, be worthy of emulation or adoration. But if I have to choose [you must, you must] I’m going to go outside novels and delve into the world of screenplays with Captain Tightpants, aka Malcolm Reynolds of Firefly fame. His character was thrust into a leadership role through the vagaries of a war that destroyed his planets, his culture and his way of life. His faith was stripped away but not his moral fiber. He might be a reluctant hero but he never failed to do the right thing, no matter the cost. My choice on the distaff side would be Karen von Blixen-Finecke from Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen. I have not read the book, but the movie – and the screenplay - will always occupy pride-of-place on my bookshelf. I have been told by many that I am very much like von Blixen and that gives me a thrill of pleasure.

Your heroes in real life: John and Robert Kennedy

What is your present state of mind? Optimistic

Your personal motto: Never give up and never give in

1 comment:

Soooz said...

Now THAT was a delightful and satisfying interview.

I am an admirer of both these strong and entrepreneurial women, and read the interview with great interest.

Well done to both Maria for a refreshed look at a marvelous interview technique and of course, Diane for once again showing me another side to her multi-faceted diamond self.