Monday, January 17, 2011

The Book of Three

By Lloyd Alexander

Taran, the assistant pig-keeper longs to be a hero. He begins his journey with a strange assortment of companions on a dangerous mission to save his beloved land, Prydain. Packed with action, humor, romance, and gallantry, Taran’s adventures chronicle his beloed Prydain and his battle with the forces of evil.

Lloyd Alexander knows how to spin quite the yarn. His books have such an old feeling to them, as if they were written as legends even when they are new. Taran's story is familiar in that he is a boy wishing to be a warrior, and when he gets what he wants he realizes it might not be everything that he thought. It's funny how the premise of good vs. evil and a journey from an unlikely hero never gets old. This book is the first in the chronicles of Prydain, of which there are 5. You may also recognize it from Disney's movie "The Black Cauldron" which is the second book in this series. Have a peek, especially if you have never experienced Lloyd Alexander before. This book can be slow at times, especially if you're used to the fast-pace of modern stories that go for plot speed vs. character and story development. Give it a go and you might be surprised. Alexander's "The Iron Ring" is one of my favorites.

Bella at Midnight

By Diane Stanley

In the little village of Castle Down, in a kingdom plagued by war, lilves a peasant girl called Bella. Blessed with a kind family and a loving friend, she manages to create her own small patch of sunlight in a dark and dangerous world. Bella is a blacksmith’s daughter; her friend Julian is a prince- yet neither seems to notice the great gulf that divides his world from hers.
Suddenly Bella’s world collapses. First Julian betrays her. Then it is revealed that she is not the peasant she believed herself to be: She is Isabel, the daughter of a knight who abandoned her in infancy. Now he wants her back, so Bella is torn from her beloved foster family and sent to live with her deranged father and his resentful new wife. Soon Bella is caught up in a terrible plot that will change her life- and the kingdom- forever. With the help of her godmother and three enchanted gifts, she sets out on a journey in disguise that will lead her to a dstiy far greater than any she could have imagined.

I picked this book up on a whim at the library and was plesantly surprised by the entertaining and warm story of Isabella and Julian. It does have some echoes of Cinderella, but they are very slight. This story has a life of its own and is a great addition to any collection that enjoys fairytale-esque books. It was sweet and endearing.

A Christmas Carol

By Charles Dickens

Miserly Ebenezer Scrooge is warned by his old partner, dead 7 years, that he is headed down the path that will bind him into chains if he doesn’t change. Scrooge is visited by three spirits and learns what his life was, what it is and what it could be.

So I read this aloud to my parents over Christmas break and heartily enjoyed it. I finally seemed to get through to my mother in saying that Dickens is wicked awesome and quite witty. I'd never read this famous novel and wasn't disappointed, having read a few of his other books. Ebenezer Scrooge is a deliciously colorful character, which makes it so much fun to meet the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future with him. Dickens makes this tale a message to us all what not only the Christmas season is about, but what life is about- love and happiness and family. I can't say how enjoyable it was to retire to the living room around the Christmas tree each night to read a bit of this novel. It left all of us feeling contented and warm; I hope to continue the tradition every year.


By Scott Westerfeld

It is the cusp of World War I, and all the European powers are arming up. The Austro-Hungarians and Germans have their Clankers, steam-driven iron machines loaded with guns and ammunition. The British Darwinists employ fabricated animals as their weaponry. The Leviathan is a whale airship, and the most masterful beast in the British fleet.
Aleksandar Ferdinand, prince of the Austo-Hungarian Empire, is on the run. His own people have turned on him. His title is worthless. All he has is a battle-torn Stormwalker and a loyal crew of men.
Deryn Sharp is a commoner, a girl disguised as a boy in the British Air Serivece. She’s a brilliant airman. But her secret is in constant danger of being discovered.
With the Great War brewing, Alek’s and Deryn’s paths cross in the most unexpected way…taking them both aboard the Leviathan on a fantastical, around-the-world adventure. One that will change both their lives forever.

While starting out kinda slow and tedious slogging through all the details of an alternate world of 1918, this book turned out really awesome. Between advanced machinery and animal/machine hybrids it was both creative and unique. My advice is to give it time and really get into the story and the characters, which promise to be really deep and rich. I quite enjoyed Alek's point of view, but wasn't deterred when it switched to Deryn's as well. They are both equally likeable and I'm hopeful for a little romance on that front. (I'm a girl so sue me). Great book and well done to Mr. Westerfeld! Scott Westerfeld is also the author of Uglies, Pretties, Specials and Extras.

The Fire Within

By Chris D’Lacey

When David moves in with Elizabeth Pennykettle and her eleven-year-old daughter, Lucy, he discovers a collection of clay dragons that come to life. David’s own special dragon inspires him to write a story, which reveals the secrets behind a mystery. In order to solve the mystery and save his dragon, David must master the magic of the fire within- not only with his hands but also with his heart.

This was a fun book, cute and geared toward kids probably 4-6th grade. It was mostly about these group of squirells that Lucy likes and David writes stories about with the help of his personal dragon, Gadzooks. This is a fun book and very entertaining, but it's mostly for younger kids and can be a bit dull for older people. It was still cute though.