Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Wednesday Wars

By Gary D. Schmidt

Holling Hoodhood is really in for it.
He’s just started seventh grade with Mrs. Baker, a teacher he knows is out to get him. Why else would she make him read Shakespeare…outside of class?
The year is 1967, and everyone has bigger things to worry about. There’s Vietnam for one thing, and then there’s the family business. As far as Holling’s father is concerned, nothing is more important than the family business. In fact, all the Hoodhoods must be on their best behavior at all times. The success of Hoodhoood and Associates depends on it. But how can Holling stay out of trouble when he has Mrs. Baker to contend with?

This book completely deserved the Newberry Honor it got. Holling's perspective and narration of events in this rather rough part of history along with his own personal tragedies and triumphs will leave you profoundly grateful and reminiscent of when you were a kid yourself and were certain that one teacher really really hated your guts. I felt for him at every disaster, every embarassment, and every tragedy. This coming-of-age book is sure to be shelved with the best of them; including Lowis Lowry's The Giver and Jerry Spinelli's Stargirl, with it's own unique voice. And oh boy if you know Shakespeare, you'll get an even bigger kick out of Holling's interpretations of Romeo and Juliet, The Tempest, Hamlet, Julius Ceaser, and Macbeth. You gotta love the honesty of kids before they learn tact! I especially loved the fact that Holling memorized Caliban's curses from The Tempest and started calling everyone he hated Shakespearian cuss words. :) Toads, beetles, bats! But this book is good!

The Tale of Despereaux

By Kate DiCamillo

This is the story of Despereaux Tilling, a mouse in love with music, stores, and a princess name Pea. It is also the story of a rat called Roscuro, who lives in darkness but covets a world filled with light. And it is the story of Miggery Sow, a slow-witted serving girl with a simple, impossible wish. These characters are about to embark on a journey that will lead them down into a horrible dungeon, up into a glittering castle, and ultimately, into each other’s lives. And what happens then? Reader, it is your destiny to find out.

First off, if you haven't read a book by Kate DiCamillo, repent! Her books are charming and endearing to readers of all ages. Some of her books include Because of Winn-Dixie, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, and The Elephant's Magician. This particular story was turned into a movie a few years ago, which was pretty mangled from the original book, so if you saw the movie and though, 'oh that was cute' but were otherwise unimpressed, you MUST read the book. This wonderful, powerful and ridiculous story will have you smiling and rooting for a little mouse who dares to be different and follow his heart...even if there is no such thing as happily ever after.

Rangers Apprentice 10: The Emperor of Nihon-Ja

By John Flanagan

In his brief time as an Araluen warrior, Horace has traveled the known world and fought countless bloody battles. All for his country, his king, and his friends. For all that is right.
When Horace travels to the exotic land of Nihon-Ja to study the senshi fighting technique, it isn’t long before he finds himself pulled into a battle that is no his- but one he knows in his heart he must wage. The Nihon-Ja emperor, a defender of the common man, has been forcibly dethroned, and only Horace, Will, and their Araluen friends, along with a group of untrained woodcutters and farmers, can restore the emperor to the throne.

So this is the final adventure of Will, Halt, and Horace. :( I actually read this one very slowly with that knowledge so I could make every last second count. And Mr. Flanagan still gets kudos from this fan. I did like the previous 2 books better than this last one, but it was still the characters I know and love, so I can't not enjoy reading it. This book follows Horace more closely than in any previous book as he takes up the fight to protect Shigeru, the empereror of Nihon-Ja (Japan) when one of his Senshi (Samurai) Lords rebells against his plan to give the common people more say in their lives. Of course, we get to see Will and Halt along with old friend Selethen. And not to mention the feuding girls Alyss and Evanlyn. A great end to a great adventure.

Want to know something awesome though? John Flanagan is writing a book entitled The Lost Tales of Araluen which will include stories to fill in gaps he left between while this is the official end, this isn't the last we've heard from the Ranger Corps! And Mr. Flanagan is also starting a new book series titled Brotherband about a group of Skandian boys which I think were mentioned at a point in this last book. I'm happy to not have to leave the Araluen world completely. :)

Tennis Shoes and the Feathered Serpent

By Chris Heimerdinger

Join Jim Hawkins as he embarks upon his most difficult and perilous quest- a quest for survival against unseen enemies. A quest to solve the deepening mystery of the disappearance of his sister, Jennifer, and his old friend Garth Plimpton.
Jim, now the father of two teenage daughters and a ten-year-old son- all as stubborn and self-willed as he ever was! Must battle the forces of an old and secret adversary set on decimating every shred of his existence. Once again Jim must descend through the mysterious passages of Frost Cave and the Rainbow Room, only to emerge with his family in a land and time teetering on the brink of ultimate destruction. The time just prior to the Savior’s appearance in the new world.
The time of the Feathered Serpent.

This book in the Tennis Shoe Adventure Series is one of my favorites. Not only is there adventure (and in Utah of all places!) but there is a plethora of spiritual connotations and references to Jesus Christ and The Book of Mormon. This book is mainly for members of The Latter Day Saint Church, and it is a favorite among teens and adults alike. But I'd say if you are Christian and like adventure and a little time-travel to boot, you'll enjoy this as much as we (LDS) do. Join Jim Hawkins as he is framed for murder by an old enemy, and his daughter is kidnapped for nefarious ends and must attempt to save her or lose his whole family.

Tennis Shoes and the Feathered Serpent: Book 2

By Chris Heimerdinger

“As we separated from the rest of the refugees of Zarahemla, a terrible vision haunted my thoughts. By abandoning my two younger children to search for Melody, might I lost my entire family?”
Join Jim Hawkins and family as they stand face to face with the ultimate forces of good and evil in this confluding volume of Tennis Shoes and the Feathered Serpent, and fourth volume of the ongoing Tennis Shoes series. Hearts will pound and adrenaline will rush as this spectacular Book of Mormon epic races to its breathtaking climax.

This is part two of The Feathered Serpent, where we ended off with Jim Hawkins escaping from jail, taking his kids and escaping to the time of the Nephites to rescue his oldest daughter Melody. This story follows Melody's story of kidnap and a blossoming romance from an unexpected source. It switches back and forth between Melody's perspective and Jim's, who is leaving with a small group to rescue Melody, along with Garth and the prophet Nephi's son, Jonas. Treachery follows them along the way, as well as an unexpected addition to their group. Thwarted at every turn, Jim and his Nephite friends must trust that God has everything worked out in advance. The culmination of this great adventure ends with the triumphant and glorious appearance of The Feathered Serpent...

This is a great fiction for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, who love and know the Book of Mormon. This series will bring tears to your eyes and joy in your heart.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Forgotten Locket

By Lisa Mangum

When Abby stepped through the hourglass door, leaving her beloved Dante blind and bleeding on the other side, it was in full faith that she could find a way to repair the damage to the river of time and restore him- as well as her family. It was a desperate chance that seemed worth taking.
But Zo had other plans.
Now Abby is trapped in a full-fledged battle for her own mind and life and heart. Even worse, Zo’s evil intent reaches beyond simple revenge against her and Dante. The whole world is in danger of collapsing unless Abby can summon her courage and undertake a journey that will lead her beyond the origins of the hourglass door.

So here's the conclusion of The Hourglass Door series. This series kept me interested enough to finish, and I did end up liking this book more than I thought I would. It's not really down my lane though, as the book is mostly a love story. If you are looking for a romantic book that doesn't go into bedroom scenes, this is a great choice. As soon as I forcefully put the skeptical realist into the closet, and just let myself go with it, I decided the book was good. Abby and Dante are oh so in love 'forever and always' and have to face insurmountable odds to fix the time stream. There are lots of twists and we find out a few answers to questions left dangling in the first two books. The series is interesting and the time travel is pretty cool. I wish there would've been more Italian language and poetry actually show up instead of her just talking about it. I think if I had to rate the series I'd give it a 2.9 out of 5. (It's an almost 3).

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

By C.S. Lewis

Narnia…a land frozen in eternal winter…a country waiting to be set free. Four adventurers step through a wardrobe door and into the land of Narnia- a land enslaved by the power of the White Witch. But when almost all hope is lost, the return of the Great Lion, Aslan, signals a great change…and a great sacrifice

So I haven't read this since I was a wee child of about ten, and it was fun to read again. But it was kinda boring because I've read/watched the story so much that it just didn't keep my interest unless there were differences from the movie or things I'd forgotten about. Still super good, but probably not worth a readthrough if you are like me and have read it before and seen every television/movie/animated movie that has come out. C.S. Lewis still rocks though!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

I Am Number 4

Well I finally saw the movie version and am happy to report that the movie is quite enjoyable. I was plesantly surprised and entertained. While there are quite a few differences between the movie and book, they did well adapting it to the big screen and making it a movie that people who haven't read the book can both understand and enjoy. It's not really an 'A' movie, but I think it's pretty good for a friday movie night. There is frequent swearing by the way, but no bedroom scenes. Lots of fighting and action, some stabbing of aliens, but they turn to dust and disappear. As far as violence goes, it's not bad (though for me bad means bloody). I'd say take a gander if you're older than 13. :) And I suggest reading the book before if you're at all interested, it sorta made it funner to watch because my brain filled in any gaps that there might've been.

Friday, June 3, 2011

The Princess and the Bear

By Mette Ivie Harrison

He was once a king, turned into a bear as punishment for his cruel and selfish deeds.
She was once a princess, now living in the form of a hound.
Wary companions, they are sent- in human form- back to a time when magic went terribly astray. Together they must right the wrongs caused by this devastating power- if only they can find a way to trust each other. But each becomes aware of an ever-growing attraction, the stakes are rising and they must find a way to eliminate this evil force- or risk losing each other forever.

I finally got my hands on the sequel to The Princess and the Hound on the bargain shelf at my favorite bookstore. I was stoked to find this and the third novel as well and read them both in three days. I was enchanted at Harrison's portrayal of the Hound, it was astonishingly well-done and I truly felt like I was in the mind of a hound that was trying to figure out how to be both human and hound. Her voice was so distinct and honest it was simply magic. The Bear was easy to relate to in his need to change and impress the Hound while trying to deal with being human again after being a bear for so long. There were a few parts depicting magic that made me feel uneasy, but the overall effect of this book was lovely, and the slow and steady realationship that developes between Chala and Richon is so real and rich. This book is a great companion to the first.

The Princess and the Snowbird

By Mette Ivie Harrison

She is the headstrong daughter of the hound and the bear, heir to all her royal parents’ magic and able to transform at will into any animal she wishes.
He is an outcast, a boy without magic, determined to make his way in the forest beholden to no one.
Though Liva and Jens are as different as night and day, from the time their paths first cross they are irresistibly drawn to one another. Each wrestles with demons: Liva with the responsibility that comes with the vast magic she’s inherited, Jens with the haunting memories he’s left behind. Separately, they keep a lookout for each other and for the immense snowbird whose appearances signify a dark event on the horizon.
When a terrible threat surfaces, Liva and Jens set out in an attempt to protect all they hold dear. Much is at stake- for while their failure could spell an end to all magic, their success could bring them together at last.

As I read each upcoming book in this series I am struck by the poignant voice of these novels. There is a beautiful poetry in the story that recalls how I felt about fairytales as a little girl. Harrison has a unique way of stating her views about people, animals, and magic. I admit, I had to start to remove my own beliefs from the book to enjoy the magic of it, because parts of it just didn't mesh with my own opinion. But I can still recognize a great work when I see it. This latest book has darker tones than the previous two books, but balances the life and love of the protagonists extremely well.

There is a strange sad feel to the story that I can't adequately describe...perhaps haunting would be accurate. I would think that those who enjoy fantasy and deep thinking will like this book most. It's a tossup as to who to reccomend this series to; though I will unreservedly say The Princess and the Hound is a wonderful stand-alone read.

Gadianton and the Silver Sword

By Chris Heimerdinger

Jim Hawkins, still unable to remember his former adventures among the Nephites, is nevertheless haunted by fleeting images he can’t seem to connect with any particular source. Vivid memories are returned to him bit by bit when strange and anceient visitors suddenly interrupt his life- one desperate for his help, others desperate for revenge.
Be a part of the excitement as Jim Hawkins, Jennifer Hawkins, and Garth Plimpton embark upon the most thrilling and hazardous quest of their lives: one that teaches them the true meaning of valiance in these latter days and where every step of the way they are pursued by the darkest of villans…

This is the second book in the Tennis Shoes Among the Nephites series, a LDS (Latter Day Saint) work of fiction based loosely on people and stories found in The Book of Mormon, and later in the New Testament. This series is greatly loved by many LDS readers and happens to be one of my favorites as well. I enjoy the first person narrative of Jim hawkins, a college student at BYU, who as a boy had a great time-travelling adventure when he was thirteen, yet doesn't recall it now save for brief glimpses of memory.

This story follows Jim's journey to remember his past among the Nephites, and help an old friend to destroy a great evil. Along with his kid sister Jenny, his best friend Garth, and the girl he loves, Jim races against the Gadianton Robbers to destroy an evil ancient sword before it falls into the wrong hands, or tempts him beyond what he is able to withstand.

This series is great and always uplifts me when I'm feeling down. Honestly, when I'm having a bit of a struggle spiritually I'll grab this series and start reading and it ultimately leads me back to scriptures and to my knees to pray.