Saturday, November 2, 2013

Fox Forever


By Mary E. Pearson

Locke Jenkins has some catching up to do. After spending 260 years as a disembodied mind in a little black box, he has a perfect new body. But before he can move on with his unexpected new life, he’ll have to return the Favor he accepted from the shadowy resistance group known as the Network.
Locke must infiltrate the home of a government official by gaining the trust of his daughter, seventeen-year-old Raine, and he soon finds himself pulled deep into the world of the resistance—and into Raine’s life.

 

So I was very anticipatory of this series after reading the first book “The Adoration of Jenna Fox” which was, in a word, amazing. The second book I didn’t like as much, it took on a darker tone and was told from Locke’s point of view instead of Jenna’s. But I still was invested enough to read this last installment, and was quite pleased. It still didn’t have the same punch as the first book, but it was great in its own right. It’s got the almost obligatory love story, but it tackles some interesting issues—mainly the question “what is it to be human?” Locke is a great character and very well written and believable as a teenager turned bio-miracle. Raine is interesting and their connection was well done, not over done and not treated lightly. The plot was a little see-through to me, as I knew what was going on from almost the first few pages. IT was still enjoyable and I’d recommend fans of the series to read this last book.

I give it a 3.5 out of 5- it was above average and fun to read.

The War of the Worlds


By H.G. Wells

Something has just landed in the country fields, and unidentifiable object that causes quite a stir. When it begins to move, the people, curious as ever wait with baited breath to see who could be inside. What ensues is a terrifying account of a Martian invasion told in the perspective of a man who saw it all from beginning to end.

 
Oh H.G. Wells, I’m sure this book was the height of science fiction in its day, but I was so bored. It was so over-worded and long winded that I felt it could’ve been made into a sufficient short story vs. a full bred novel. More than half of the book was spent running around the English countryside staring at the giant metal Martians burning things with its laser vision and spent in exposition about trivial things. Honestly, I can tell you precisely what happens in 3 sentences without feeling like I’ve left anything of importance out. I really do feel like this is a period-piece rather than a long-standing piece. It was hard to muddle through, but I was determined to do it. The end had more punch to it and was more exciting, but about 75-100 pages in the middle were just painful to get through because of the sheer wordage.

 
I give this a 2.5 out of 5

The Madness Underneath


By Maureen Johnson

After her near-fatal run-in with the Jack the Ripper copycat, Roy Devereaux has been living in Bristol under the close watch of her parents. So when her therapist suddenly suggest she return to Wexford, Rory jumps at the chance to get back to her friends. But Rory’s brush with the Ripper touched her more than she thought possible: she’s become a human terminus, with the power to eliminate ghosts on contact. She soon finds out that the Shades—the city’s secret ghost-fighting police—are responsible for her return. The Ripper may be gone, but now there is a string of new inexplicable deaths threatening London. Rory has evidenced that the deaths are no coincidence. Something much more sinister is going on, and now she must convince the squad to listen to her before it’s too late.

 

Oh where do I start? I enjoyed the first book in The Shades of London series, as the Jack the Ripper stuff really balanced out well with the silly and humorous doings of a White Chapel boarding school. Rory was always a bit over-the-top for me, but the undertones of ghosts and murders really toned her down. This second book however, felt like a romp on the un-believable and hormonal express. Rory is inexplicably jerking from one emotion to the next (even more so than is normal for a girl) and without suitable explaination does some truly idiotic decision-making. I was so out of patience with both the characters and the story by the end that I can tell you I won’t be reading any more of this series. Things happened in the plot that seemed to happen just because the author wanted them to, the characters felt a lot like marionettes that suddenly were jerked from stage left to stage right for no apparent reason. I’m disappointed, but no recommendation for this one. Skip it and be happy with the first.

I give it a 1.5 out of 5

No One Can Take Your Place


By Sheri Dew

Have you ever wondered if you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing with your life? Maybe you have a testimony of Jesus Christ but aren’t quite sure that he will really help you with your problems. Or, like most of us, maybe you have those days when you just don’t see how you’ll ever measure up.
No One Can Take Your Place is a book that will help you. It will help you catch a glimpse of the power our Father in Heaven wants you to have. It will help you learn how to lay hold upon that power, how to overcome the temptations that stand in the way of your happiness, and how to shine as a leader in the world. It will help you understand who you really are.
True happiness comes from doing what we were meant to do. This book will motivate you to find out what that means for you; it will also inspire you to carry out your unique work on the earth, for truly, no one can take your place.

 

I’ve read a few of Sheri Dew’s books, and all of them are well done and have precious truths in them, but I think this is my favorite so far. The entire book is filled with great things to keep you going, but the last section of the book is where I found the things that were the most precious. It was in this section that she talks about being kind to yourself and seeing yourself as someone who matters to the world, to your friends and family, and especially to God. This is a book especially for women and a great one at that. If you need a gift for a friend that’s struggling with feeling important, this is a great buy. Love it.

 

I give it a 4 out of 5

East


By Edith Pattou

Rose has always felt out of place in her family, a wanderer in a bunch of homebodies. So when an enormous white bear mysteriously shows up and asks her to come away with him—in exchange for health and prosperity for her ailing family—she readily agrees. The bear takes Rose to a distant castle, where each night she is confronted with a mystery. In solving that mystery, she loses her heart, discovers her purpose, and realizes her travels have only just begun.


Ever since I read Jessica Day George’s book “East of the Sun, West of the Moon” I have loved this particular fairy tale, most likely because it resembles Beauty and the Beast so much. This telling is creative and interesting, what with the “birth-direction” superstition and the way she describes the trolls, which was unlike anything I’d ever read or heard before. The characters aren’t all that memorable, and a little flat, which often happens in re-tellings of famous fairy tales. She does do Rose credibly, but most of the other characters are rather stereotypical, but that doesn’t make them less likeable in many cases. The story is told in a many-perspective view, mostly in Rose, but sometimes the bear, the troll, her brother, and her father. That was a little distracting, and I typically don’t like different perspectives while reading, it’s too jolting. It works, but I still would have preferred at least less perspectives to jump to and from. When all is said and done, this was an interesting and quick jaunt, but I did get tired of reading it, which is never good. I can’t really recommend it if you enjoy re-tellings, though many people really love this book. My best guess is that if you like young adult fiction and you like fairy tales, this is a fun read. If, like me, you want to find the best re-tellings of fairy tales, this one isn’t the best in my opinion for the fairy tale “east of the sun and west of the moon”.

I give it a 3 out of 5- average

The Hundred Dresses


By Eleanor Estes

“I’ve got a hundred dresses.” Nobody can believe it—Wanda wears the same old blue dress every day. “A hundred dresses—all lined up!” If Wanda really does have a hundred dresses, she’s certainly keeping them hidden…buy why?

 
This is that rare book that was read to us in first grade that I actually listened to and really loved. It’s a book about being kind and about being different. It’s classic and I know that adult book clubs read it all the time. It’s sweet and sad and a great subtle lesson for kids to learn about bullying and being nice.

 I give it a 4 out of 5

When the Stars Threw Down Their Spears


By Kersten Hamilton

Locked doors are opening, and magical creatures are tumbling through mysterious portals from Mag Mell, the world-between-worlds, into the streets of Chicago. Meanwhile, the romance between seventeen-year-old Teagan, who is part goblin, and the alluring bad boy Finn Mac Cumhaill is heating up….which is awkward, to say the least, considering he is bound by a family curse to fight goblins his entire life. Celtic mythology, adventure, and paranormal romance fuse in the electrifying finale of the Goblin Wars trilogy.

 

Sad day. I’ve been waiting for the end to this trilogy for a year now and after reading it, I was let down. I wanted to like it just as much as the first two, and I tried I really really tried, but I just don’t. It felt flat for me. It just seemed to randomly put new characters in and old characters acting out of character and people dying and just confusingness. There was enough to tie all the books together, but I got a little lost as to how certain aspects (which I will not spoil the book by relating) fit into the grand scheme of things. That and one of my favorite characters died and I really didn’t want that to happen…I swear the author could’ve saved them. It seemed a waste and I don’t know how it furthered the plot, but perhaps by that time I was already irritated enough to find it flawed. Oh well. Sad day.

 
I give it 3 out of 5-average. Sadly.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Mistborn


By Brandon Sanderson

For a thousand years the ash fell and no flowers bloomed. For a thousand years the Skaa slaved in misery and lived in fear. For a thousand years the Lord Ruler, the “Sliver of Infinity,” reigned with absolute power and ultimate terror, divinely invincible. Then, when hope was so long lost that not even its memory remained, a terribly scarred, heart-broken half-Skaa rediscovered in the depths of the Lord Ruler’s most hellish prison. Kelsier “snapped” and found in himself the powers of a Mistborn. A brilliant thief and a natural leader, he turned his talents to the ultimate caper, with the Lord Ruler himself as the mark.

But even with the best crew ever assembled, Kel’s plan looks more like the ultimate long shot, until luck brings a ragged girl named Vin into his life. Like him, she’s a half-Skaa orphan, but she’s lived a much harsher life. Vin has learned to expect betrayal from everyone she meets, and gotten it. She will have to learn to trust, if Kel is to help her master powers of which she never dreamed.

 

So, I’ve heard many avid readers enthuse about Brandon Sanderson, but when I read his Alcatraz books I was left with the feeling that he was talented but not really above average. I am here to tell you how wrong I was.  I read this book because I’ve got a friend who is pretty much Sanderson’s number one fan and I know she has good taste, so I thought, why not? I’m not really the type of person to get into high-fantasy, it tends to go on without any end in sight, which irritates me. This book was so brilliantly written, so cleverly concocted that I was reeling with Sanderson’s imagination and world-creating genius. It was concise, which is hard to do in fantasy, had a completely original feel, which is nearly impossible now days, and the characters were well fleshed out and not stereotypical. Basically, Mr. Sanderson, you rock. I was engrossed with the plot, wondering what wrenches he would throw in the works, because this was not a book you could see what was coming. It was “real life” unpredictable, even though there are people flying over rooftops. If you have any kind of liking for fantasy and a good yarn, I highly, highly recommend this book. I still have yet to read the other two in the trilogy, but I can tell you, they are definitely going to be read. I bow to your prowess Brandon Sanderson and would love to pick apart your process.

 
4 ½ out of 5

Drops of Gold


By Sarah M. Eden

When her father dies and leaves her completely destitute, Marion can think of only one thing to do—make a new life for herself. Commencing a life of duplicity, Marion transforms herself into Mary Wood—governess. In possession of a forged letter of recommendation and cloaked in the anonymity of her new identity, she enters a life of self-imposed servitude as teacher and caretaker of young Miss Caroline Jonquil of Farland Meadows. Her idyllic daydream vision of life at the Meadows is dashed when she finds a child desperately in need of hope and a cold and sorrowful home haunted by the past. With her characteristic sunny disposition, Marion casts her spell upon the household and slowly brings to life the long-forgotten joy of those within.

Layton Jonquil is a man tormented by the lies surrounding the death of his late wife, but he cannot deny his growing attraction for the beautiful governess whose goodness and optimism have touched his dormant heart. Their connection grows ever stronger, and despite the impropriety of harboring feelings for a servant, Layton’s heart whispers that this is the woman he’s destined to love. But when Layton’s fears about the past become too much to bear and the falsehoods in which they are entangled threaten to shatter his and Marion’s blossoming attachment, will true love conquer all?

 
This is my first book by Sarah M. Eden, and I can tell you this, it will not be my last. This was exactly what I was needing when I read it: sweet, innocent, and lovely. “Fluff” as I endearingly call it.  There are times in life when I just want a good and proper romance, nothing steamy (which I abhor), just something polite and warm. I loved reading about Marion and Layton and the sweet little 4-year-old Caroline. This was a nice short read that I enjoyed and was happy to find that this is the second book in a sequence about the Jonquil brothers. I look forward to reading the others. I think it shall become my guilty pleasure. It isn’t classical literature, but it sure gave me a good feeling when I finished it and made me smile in the reading. There’s a lot to be said for that.

 

I give it a 3 ¾ out of 5- above average for a proper little romance.

Finding Peace, Happiness, and Joy


By Richard G. Scott

The gospel offers us the unmatched gifts of peace, happiness, and joy, but often these promised blessings seem elusive. In his long-anticipated book, Elder Scott powerfully outlines the truths we need to understand and embrace in order to experience these gifts. You’ll appreciate the encouragement, practical advice, and profound apostolic counsel from this trusted mentor.

 
There is nothing like Elder Scott looking directly into your eyes. Reading this book I kept hearing him speaking and what a wonderful talk it was. He has a way of making everything intimate and personal as well as personable. There are some fantastic chapters in here, and some that didn’t apply to me as much, but will definitely apply to someone else. This is a great book and I know I’ll read it again, which is saying something for me because usually I don’t revisit this genre unless it was incredibly worthwhile.

 
I give it a 4 out of 5

Leopard Moon


By Jeanette Battista

How do you disappear when you come from a family of predators?

A wereleopard, Kess is forced to flee her home and family in Miami once her brother’s obsession with her turns violent. She runs from city to city, trying to stay one step ahead of the investigators her family has dispatched to bring her home. Kess ends up in the mountains of North Carolina and attracts the attention of Cormac, a young man with a secret of his own. As she attempts to live as normal a life as her were-nature allows, her brother Sek continues to hunt for her. He believes she is the key to revitalizing their weakened clan and is driven to extreme measure to ensure their continued existence. As Kess’ relationship with Cormac deepens, Sek closes in, threatening Cormac’s life and Kess’ freedom.

 
Good gravy. I have so many issues with this book, which I don’t know why I thought might be different from the main stream stuff of the moment. Were-leopard seemed such a cool idea to me, and I’m really okay with paranormal romance if it’s not obsessive (ahem…Twilight) and well thought out. This book was wrong on so many levels. For one, I don’t know why I thought that in the synopsis when it said Kess’s brother was ‘obsessed’ with her that it wasn’t going to be incest. Stupid brain. I thought, no one would do that in a teen book! That’s disgusting. Nope. Wrong. It went there. Gross. And yet, yes reader, I did finish it. There wasn’t anything special about the characters in the book. Kess is beautiful, graceful, and in trouble, but able to handle herself. Cormac is like a gorgeous marble statue by Michaelangelo, as well as protective and almost immediately in love with Kess, who barely puts up any struggle at all. Sheesh. The only slightly interesting thing about this book was the way it put were-creatures into light, you had the wolves, bears and hyenas. That part was interesting, and not there as much as I would’ve liked. But, due to incest and lack of originality in the romance, I have no interest whatsoever in reading any more of this series. I’m thouroughly sick of this groundhog-day like plot that shows up in any book with romance for teens.

 
I give it a 1 ½ out of 5 for some interesting aspects.

The Alchemyst


By Michael Scott

He holds a secret that can end the world.

The truth: Nicholas Flamel was born in Paris on September 28, 1330. Nearly 700 years later, he is acknowledged as the greatest Alchemyst of his day. It is said that he discovered the secret of eternal life.

The records show that he died in 1418.

But his tomb is empty.

The legend: Nicholas Flamel lives. But only because he has been making the elixir of life for centuries. The secret of eternal life is hidden within the book he protects—the Book of Abraham the Mage. It’s the most powerful book that has ever existed. In the wrong hand, it will destroy the world. That’s exactly what Dr. John Dee plans to do when he steals it. Humankind won’t know what’s happening until it’s too late. And if the prophecy is right, Sophie and Josh Newman are the only ones with the power to save the world as we know it.

 

This has been on my to-read list since it came out years ago. When I found it for pennies at the local thrift store I picked it up to read. I have to say that I was peeved. The synopsis, of which I copied and pasted above, leads you astray as to the way this book is told. It is almost entirely told in the perspective of twins Sophie and Josh, who I was irritated were the main narrators. I was really hoping for a wicked-awesome story from Nicholas Flamel himself, but no, this is just another teens rescue the world book that happens to have a famous historical mentor figure. That said, after I got past my irritation (for the most part), I thought to myself, this series has potential. It’s not my favorite, but I also said that the first time I read Fablehaven by Brandon Mull, and it is now probably my favorite series next to Harry Potter, and I’ve read it just as much. So I’m cool with being wrong about first impressions. It did intrigue me enough to want to read the next book, so I’ll let you know if it’s worth a gander.

 

I give the first book a 3 out of 5- average.

The Whipping Boy


By Sid Fleischman

Prince Brat is the most horrid spoiled rotten kid in the whole kingdom, and being a prince, it makes him think he’s got a right to be. Jemmy is his whipping boy, the boy brought in whenever the prince does something worthy of a spanking, which is far more often than Jemmy likes. One day Prince Brat and Jemmy are kidnapped by two ruffians and it is up to Jemmy to try and save the prince, who can’t seem to keep his mouth shut, and show him that if he wants friends he needs to be a friend too.

 
I remember my teacher reading this out loud in second grade. I didn’t remember much because, frankly, my listening skills were horrible as a kid. I do remember that it was funny. So, when I found it the other day I thought, I can read this is one sitting, I’ll try it. This book is great. It’s a fun way to get kids to read and see that being a spoiled brat isn’t the way to win friends and get people to like you. It’s interesting even as an adult, which is the way I look at great kids writing: if you still value it as an adult, it’s a good book.

 
I give it a 3 ½ out of 5

W.A.R.P The Reluctant Assassin


By Eoin Colfer

Riley, an orphan living in Victorian London, has had the misfortune of being apprenticed to Albert Garrick, a former illusionist turned murderer, who now uses his conjuring skills to gain access to his victims’ dwellings. On one such escapade, Garrick brings his reluctant assistant along and urges him to commit his first killing. Riley is saved from having to complete the grisly act when the intended prey turns out to be a scientist from the future, part of the FBI’s Witness Anonymous Relocation Program (WARP). Riley is unwittingly transported via wormhole to modern-day London—with Garrick close on his heels.
In modern London, Riley is aided by Chevron Savano, a seventeen-year-old FBI agent. Together, Riley and Chevie must evade Garrick, who has been fundamentally altered by his trip thought the wormhole. Garrick is now not only evil, but he also possesses all of the scientist’s knowledge. He is determined to track down Riley and use the Timekey in Chevie’s possession to literally change the world.

 

I was pretty excited when I found out Eoin Colfer was writing another series for young adults. I loved Artemis Fowl (with a little less enthusiasm for some of the later books) and had fun reading Half Moon Investigations, The Supernaturalist, Airman, and The Wish List. Eoin Colfer is a fun writer with twisting plots and charismatic characters. WARP was a fun creation with Time Travel at its center. I was wishing I knew a few more details about Victorian London so I’d know what Colfer invented and what was fact.  This book seemed to me to combine some of the historical vibe from Airman and the sci-fi of both Artemis Fowl and The Supernaturalist.  The two protagonists were interesting and fun. Riley is a 14-year-old kid who is just trying to survive to eat his next meal, while keeping his guardian from killing his assistant (him). He has many talents thanks to his master, who taught him skills in fighting, lock-picking, thieving, and illusions. On the other side of the century is Chevron Savano, also an orphan and California native with Native American roots and a full training skill set from Quantico. When these two meet, and Riley’s mentor kills Chevie’s, they find themselves allied out of need and on the run to prevent the devil incarnate from changing history for the worse. This was a solid adventure, with some grisly details of stabbings and murders. There was a little mention of Jack the Ripper and I found myself scrunching up my face in distaste at the horrible person that Garrick is. I have high hopes for the next books in the series.

 
This was a 3 out of 5- average, good, exciting, but not ‘spectacular’

Monday, August 12, 2013

Enchanted


By Althea Kontis

It isn’t easy being the rather overlooked and unhappy youngest sibling to sisters named for the other six days of the week. Sunday’s only comfort is writing stories, although what she writes has a terrible tendency to come true.
When Sunday meets an enchanted frog who asks about her stories, the two become friends. Soon that friendship deepens into something magical. One night Sunday kisses her frog goodbye and leaves, not realizing that her love has transformed him back into Rumbold, the crown prince of Arilland—and a man Sunday’s family despises.
The prince returns to his castle, intent on making Sunday fall in love with him as the man he is, not the frog he was. But Sunday is not so easy to woo. How can she feel such a strange, strong attraction for this prince she barely knows? And what twisted secrets lie hidden in his past—and hers?


Quite to the contrary of what I thought I had picked up—another fairy-tale retelling of the frog prince—I got an original, creative, and difficult-to-guess story of a magical family and their impossible lives. This was delightful to read. I never knew what was going to happen next or what fairytale I would invariable fall into. There were allusions to Jack and the Beanstalk, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and many other more obscure tales. Sometimes this seems to bog down the main plot, but it was all good fun to read. I found that more than anything this was a tale about the Faeries and their dabbling with humans. Sunday was a delightful character, a down-to-earth heroine that finds her magical family difficult to deal with, but loves them more than life. Rumbold on the other hand is less easy to decipher, his life shrouded in intrigue and mystery, which keeps the reader enthralled as to how he will find himself as well as winning Sunday’s heart. I for one will happily read the next installments of this series, it was well written and a fun and romantic adventure.


I give it a 4 out of 5

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes


By Arthur Conan Doyle

This is a gathering of some of the more notable cases of the world-famous Sherlock Holmes, written by his faithful friend, Doctor John Watson. Among the stories is “A Scandal in Bohemia” where we meet the American woman Irene Adler, “The Adventure of the Speckled Band”, “The Man with the Twisted Lips”, and many others.

 

There seems to have been an outpouring of Sherlock Holmes related media the past few years, which spurred my interest in reading the actual stories by Doyle. With the surprising Hollywood debut and sequel featuring Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law, I was certain that it would be a horrendous version that I would be sick at, but was surprised when I finally watched it that I loved it. Then came BBC’s absolutely genius modernized version that has many people in absolute agony while they wait to figure out how Sherlock survived his ‘fall’. That in and of itself is a brilliant re-imagined version, which is enhanced by Benedict Cumberbach’s manic energy and delivery of the famous detective, not to mention Martin Freeman’s incredible friendship and loyalty portrayed as John Watson. And, to top it off we have the recent adage of “Elementary” in America where Sherlock Holmes is, once again, a modernized character living in New York, a recovering drug addict that is just getting back into detective work. All three versions have their good points and bad, but all three are entertaining. Reading the original stories has been fun knowing the back-stories and having grown up with the Jeremey Brett episodes on PBS, which are more true to the stories than any other. I had fun reading stories that I’d never heard before, especially the engineer’s thumb and the man with the twisted lips. The blue carbuncle was actually quite funny, unless you were the antagonist of the story. I highly recommend reading the original stories if you are a fan of any of the above shows. After all, we all know that in the vast majority, the book is better than the movie!

I give it a 4 out of 5

 
Above: Elementary, New Sherlock and female Watson

 
Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law as Holmes and Watson

Wild


By Cheryl Strayed

A powerful, blazingly honest memoir: the story of an eleven-hundred-mile solo hike that broke down a young woman reeling from catastrophe and built her back up again.

At twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed though she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother’s death, her family scattered and her own marriage was soon destroyed. Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she made the most implusive decision of her life: to hike the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State and to do it alone. She had no experience as a long-distance hiker, and the trail was little more than an idea, vague and outlandish and full of promise. But it was a promise of piecing back together a life that had come undone.

Strayed faces down rattlesnakes and black bears, intense heat and record snowfalls, and both the beauty and loneliness of the trail. Told with great suspense and style, sparkling with warmth and humor, Wild vividly captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her.

 

Wow. This book really has me reeling. Not a good reeling either.  There was so much that really frustrated me and left me so angry that I wanted to yell and cry at the same time. I will say this much for the author: she knows how to work emotion. I had the same problem I always have with memoir: my beliefs mess with my ability to be objective.  Her life was a big huge mess, and I congratulate her on being so open and honest, that can be really hard, I know. Grief affects everyone differently and this is just one woman’s reaction and subsequent descent into madness and eventual realization. Her life was riddled with sex and drugs, and she doesn’t skirt around the fact that she enjoyed it, though it was all “recreational”. Just one point of the book and message that I was upset about and completely and strongly disagreed with; she cheated on her husband because her mother died and she was missing something. Again, everyone deals with, or doesn’t deal with, grief in their own way. Another thing, warning there are probably over a hundred instances of the f-word in this book, a point which had me reeling (in the bad way) wondering if anybody really said it with that much frequency and without batting an eyelash about it. Wow. But honestly, the one thing in the entire book that had me hating it was the offhand way the author addressed the fact that her heroine buddy had gotten her pregnant and she just automatically got an abortion. I think in the entire book it comprised 3 sentences. I was taken aback by how easy that decision was for her. Being very strongly against abortion, this not only upset me, but I was downright livid, an emotion I don’t often find myself feeling. I tried to work my way past it and enjoy her story of hiking, but I got tangled up in my own opinion and just couldn’t get past it. I can’t give this book any sort of good rating because it seemingly promotes terrible lifestyle choices like drugs and one night stands by making them seem normal and commonplace, and in the end, not really of that great of importance. I believe that the more that certain things are talked of, the more they gain power, words are powerful and I don’t like the fact that a vast majority of this book is profane and dealing with unsavory life choices. I have nothing against the author, this just wasn’t for me.

 

I give it a 1 ½ out of 5 because it was well-written and formatted and had interesting information on long-distance hiking and those who experience it.

My Antonia


By Willa Cather

The classic tale of a pioneer woman coming from the Old World into a new one and the struggles and championship she makes of life on the prairie of Nebraska in the countryside of the town Black Hawk.  Often hailed as Willa Cather’s most beloved novel and most maturely written work, My Antonia is well worth the praise.

 
I fell in love with the works of Willa Cather after taking a college course solely dedicated to her life and works. It was fascinating. I thought, ‘how can someone make prairie life interesting?’ It sounded like the dullest subject I could think of; I’ve driven through Kansas and Nebraska; it’s monotonous, hot, and filled with wheat and corn. But reading Cather’s stories about the plains and the people who were courageous enough to first inhabit them is inspiring and frankly often times entrancing. Because she mostly based her characters off of real people, her fictional characters come alive in ways that will surprise the reader. She has the same sort of natural ability to depict humanity as Charles Dickens does when I read his works. There are base differences, Cather’s characters seem more real, while both these author’s characters seem alive. My Antonia is not my favorite Cather work, but it was beautiful in its own way. Narrated by Jim Burden, a boy who comes to Nebraska from Virginia (like Cather herself) at the same time as Antonia and her family arrive from Bohemia. It’s a novel about survival and love. Like many of her characters, Antonia comes to love the land that she had to work and cannot find anywhere she would rather be, save her homeland. It’s a great work of fiction, though I would probably point first-time readers of Cather towards “O Pioneers!” rather than this for an introduction to her work. My other favorite is “The Professor’s House” and if you like short stories, everyone should read her story entitled “Neighbor Rosicky”. A-maz-ing.

 

I give this a 4 out of 5 (But that’s probably a bit generous)

Greta and the Goblin King


By Chloe Jacobs

While trying to save her brother from the witch three years ago, Greta was thrown into the fire herself, falling through a portal to a dangerous world where humans are the enemy, and every ogre, goblin, and ghoul has a dark side that comes out with the full moon. To survive, 17-year-old Greta has hidden her humanity and taken the job of bounty hunter—and she’s good at what she does. So good, she’s caught the attention of Mylena’s young Goblin King, the darkly enticing Isaac, who invades her dreams and undermines her determination to escape. But Greta’s not the only one looking to get out of Mylena. The full moon is mere days away, and an ancient evil being knows she’s the key to opening the portal. If Greta fails, she and the boys she finds stranded in the woods will die. If she succeeds, no world will be safe from what follows her back.

 

So, I read this thinking it would be a fun fantasy with a slight beauty and the beast feel (anyone who reads this blog knows how much I love beauty and the beast). Well…you can kinda see it. I’m not a fan of this book, it had too many things that felt rushed or just a ‘not enough’ feeling when I finished. For one thing, this book is pretty much a love story, the background stuff was interesting, but there wasn’t nearly enough explanation of the world of Mylena and how it related to Earth and even what all the creatures meant to each other and how they inter-related. They’re just there as a buffer to Greta’s humanness. As for Greta herself, she’s contradictory as a character and feisty. There was a lot of telling how she felt instead of letting the reader figure it out though. I also thought that her ‘disguise’ was pathetic. There needed to be more differences between the goblins and sprites and faerie creatures for me to even consider her as needing a disguise. Her relationship with Isaac is purely to have a romance for the main character. It’s typical of young adult literature nowadays to have a stalker-esque guy that is extra pushy and possessive, but apparently that is ‘sweet’. It irritates me. There is some address of how quickly their relationship grows; basically putting it to animal attraction and ‘destiny’. Greta herself asks Isaac why he loves her and he says it’s because she challenges him and makes him think differently. Sure, okay, but then there is no evidence in his character or their exchanges whatsoever. It’s very frustrating for a girl who likes a down-to-earth believable romance. This book is basically “I’ll throw myself into mortal peril, then we’ll meet in dreams, make-out some, then I’ll refuse to let you find me in real life for some flimsy reason or another”. It’s all enough to make me find a perpetual frown on my face as I read. Gah.

 

I give it a 2.25 out of 5

21 Principles: Divine Truths to Help you Live by the Spirit


By Richard G. Scott

“As you seek spiritual knowledge, search for principles,” counsels Elder Richard G. Scott. “Principles are concentrated truth, packaged for application to a wide variety of circumstances.”

In this exciting book, Elder Scott offers 21 principles he has distilled from his life experiences. These “concentrated truths” will help you understand more fully how to be guided by the Spirit. Elder Scott’s brief explanations open the way for your own discovery and exploration.

“I bear witness that Jesus Christ knows you personally,” Elder Scott writes. “He will provide answers to every difficult problem in your life as you trust Him and do all you can to understand and apply His doctrine and strive to live by the Spirit.” 21 Principles will be a valuable tool in that quest.

 

I loved reading this book. It was concise and simply formatted, giving the reader 21 different principles to ponder and apply in their lives.  I doubt it was a coincidence that it was 21 principles, which could be applied in 3 weeks-the time it takes to form a new habit. I enjoyed the sections on dreams and had many inspirational moments as I read the thoughtful and beautiful insights of this apostle of God. Elder Scott has a way of gently speaking straight to the heart of people and if you have ever heard him talk, you can hear his loving voice in every word. I highly recommend this book, in fact I cannot say enough how I think everyone should read this book and re-read it again. It would be a fantastic gift. 

 

I give it a 5 out of 5- Yes, it was perfect!

Cinderella


By Jenni James

When Prince Anthony spies Eleanoria Woodston outside her family home dressed as a servant, he knows something is amiss. Pretending to be John, his cousin’s outrider, he decides to take matters into his own hands and figure out why Ella hasn’t been seen at court. And more importantly why the daughter of one of the wealthiest families in the kingdom dresses like a pauper.
Ella has had her own bout of trials, including losing her beloved father and facing the wrath and jealousy of her stepmother and stepsisters. Becoming a servant doesn’t seem all that bad until the handsome John comes into her life, now he appears to be upsetting everything. Never before has she been so unsettled. Just his presence is making her dream of a life beyond this one.
When John invites Ella to the ball and she grudgingly accepts, he wonders if he’s truly losing his mind. How would he ever pull off pretending to be John while obviously hosting the ball as Anthony? Especially when the stubborn girl has made it quite obvious she would never attend a ball with a snobbish prince.


Surprisingly I really enjoyed this. There are a billion and one retellings of Cinderella, and while this one follows the original tale fairly close, it does have some unique and endearing twists that had me feeling warm and fond of the two protagonists. I enjoyed their courtship and relationship and the underlying plot of the book. It was pretty fluffy, but entertaining and sweet, just what I like in a story about love and happily-ever-afters.

 
I give it a 3.5 out of 5

Friday, August 2, 2013

Wonder


By R.J. Palacio

I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.

August Pullman was born with a facial deformity that, up until now, has prevented him from going to a mainstream school. Starting 5th grade at Beecher Prep, he wants nothing more than to be treated as an ordinary kid—but his new classmates can’t get past Auggie’s extraordinary face. Wonder begins from Auggie’s point of view, but soon switches to include his classmates, his sister, her boyfriend, and others. These perspectives converge in a portrait of one community’s struggle with empathy, compassion, and acceptance.

 
This book was surprising, touching, and absolutely wondrous. The author stated in one interview that this book was a “study in kindness” and it definitely made my favorite book of the year list. I was constantly engaged and impressed with the message and content of this book dealing with the cruelty and kindness of humanity. My favorite part is the overall message the author sends: people are better than we think and will more often choose to be kind when given a chance. I loved Auggie’s voice and was surprised that the different points of view from his older sister, to his classmates to his sister’s boyfriend worked so well. I’m not usually an advocate of different P.O.V’s but this worked so well and gave the book a depth and character that was endearing. I would recommend this book to everyone and anyone. I’ve already suggested it to scores of people who ask me what to read. It’s a book that brings tears at times and had me wiping my cheeks at the greatness of individuals and the power of kindness and friendship.

I give it a 4.75 out of 5

The 5th Wave


By Rick Yancey

After the 1st wave, only darkness remains. After the 2nd, only the lucky escape. And after the 3rd, only the unlucky survive. After the 4th wave, only one rule applies: trust no one.
Now, it’s the dawn of the 5th wave, and on a lonely stretch of highway, Cassie runs from Them. The beings who only look human, who roam the countryside killing anyone they see. Who have scattered Earth’s last survivors. To stay alone is to stay alive, Cassie believes, until she meets Evan Walker. Beguiling and mysterious, Evan Walker may be Cassie’s only hope for rescuing her brother—or even saving herself. But Cassie must choose: between trust and despair, between defiance and surrender, between life and death. To give up or to get up.

 
Bring on the apocalypse. Another premier in the ever-growing end-of-the-world survival novels, this book is quiet in-depth and well structured. The story was fast-paced and the characters memorable. Loads of teens are going to love this book, which is why I read it in the first place: you can’t escape the hype sometimes. So that being said, I do have some issues with this book. First: the language. It was pretty raunchy at times (beware sudden dropping of f-bombs) and does discuss sex (but does not include any actual scenes). This story bounces between 2 perspectives, that of Cassie and Zombie. There is a small chapter (which ruined what had potential to be a big surprise) from the perspective of another character. This book has been compared to Ender’s Game and The Passage. Now, I’ve read Ender’s Game, and I can see where the comparison was drawn from, but I thought it was hardly fair to compare the two. They had some similar plots, but the overall messages were vastly different. Ender’s Game had some serious questions and messages threaded throughout the book to the last page, this book however is more a ‘horror story’ of what happens when the unexpected happens. I’d call it a psychological thriller more than I would a love story—which I’ve heard it called. It’s meant to be horrible and scary and make your brain feel a little sick at the twists. The love story was interesting and I was reminded (spoiler) of The Host by Stephanie Meyers. It was more of a side-line than anything else, a way to keep a plot going that probably could have (and should have) ended with one novel.  It’s not a cheery book, nor was it meant to be—it’s the end of the world people. It’s graphic and people kill and are being killed throughout. Be warned; this should have more mature audiences.

 
I give it a 3.25 out of 5- average, save for the actual delivery of the story which was incredibly well thought out.

Watership Down


By Richard Adams

One of the most beloved novels of our time, Richard Adam’s Watership Down takes us to a world we have never truly seen: to the remarkable life that teems in the fields, forests and riverbanks far beyond our cities and towns. It is a powerful saga of courage, leadership and survival; an epic tale of a hardy band of adventures forced to flee the destruction of their fragile community…and their trials and triumphs in the face of extraordinary adversity as they pursue a glorious dream called “home”.

Welcome to the warren.

 
Hazel’s brother Fiver, a runt, has just had a bad premonition. The worst; they must leave their warren, he doesn’t know why he just knows that if they stay they’ll die. Not many of the rabbits believe in Fiver’s vision and think him insane, but Hazel manages to gather some discontented bucks and they make a run for it, barely escaping the Owsla, or the strongest rabbits in the warren that take orders from the chief. On a harrowing journey to find a new home and create a new warren, Hazel and the other bucks have to cross rivers and fight for their survival.  This is a journey of courage and fortitude for this unlikely band of rabbit-heroes. Each rabbit comes into his own as either warriors, leaders, dreamers, or story-tellers, among other things. This story is a great epic and I would recommend it to anyone who likes a good animal tale. I learned a lot about rabbits I never knew and had some good laughs along the way as well as praying that certain characters wouldn’t die. Some of my favorite sections of the book were the stories within the story about the ‘first rabbit’ El-arairah and his lieutenant and friend Rabscuttle. They were myth-like stories for the rabbits about their cunning royal ancestor.  It’s written brilliantly and with precision, and you’ll come to cheer for Hazel and his band by the end.

 
I give it a 4 out of 5

Hope in Our Hearts


By Russell M. Nelson

Few people understand the human heart better than Elder Russell M. Nelson, who, prior to his call into the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, was a pioneering cardiac surgeon. Today, as an Apostle, he understands our hearts in a new way—most particularly, he understands our need for hope in our hearts. As a special witness of Jesus Christ, he testifies powerfully of where that hope can be found.
In Hope in Our Hearts, Elder Nelson brings his remarkable grasp of the gospel and his unique medical training to bear in eighteen outstanding messages that focus on family and relationships, Church doctrine, and personal growth. The book includes such classic addresses as: “Nurturing Marriage,” “Jesus Christ—The Master Healer,” and “The Magnificence of Man.”
“My greatest desire,” writes Elder Nelson, “is to be a worthy disciple who willingly follows the Lord Jesus Christ. If my testimony and the teachings in this book prompt anyone to follow Him more diligently, I will be most grateful.”

 
First off, this is a book pointed toward a “Mormon” audience, or people belonging to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Russell M. Nelson is one of the 12 apostles.  It would probably get a tad confusing to read if you aren’t a member of our church. This is one of those compilations of different talks given either in general conference or at devotionals and such. I’m not sure, but you can probably find most of them online at lds.org, but there are some that I’d never heard before that were absolutely wonderful.  I especially liked the chapters on Christ’s birth and the last few chapters contained messages about the influence of good music and the character of man. There were a lot of choice messages in here along with some good messages that didn’t apply specifically to me.

I give it a 3.5 out of 5

Pingo and the Playground Bully


By Brandon Mull

Pingo and Chad are on an adventure with a few of Chad’s friends and their subsequent imaginary friends on a quest to discover who has the best imaginary friend. They may just discover something they’d never considered before.

Not as cute and warming as the first children’s book by Brandon Mull, but still sweet and full of good messages for kids, this sequel to the children’s book Pingo, is cute and fun.  I think kids will enjoy it and want to read it again and again. I really enjoy Brandon Dorman’s illustrating generally and this book has some great pictures.

I give it a 3 out of 5- it’s average.

Variant


By Robison Wells

Benson Fisher thought that a scholarship to Maxfield Academy would be the ticket out of his dead-end life.

He was wrong.

Now he’s trapped in a school that’s surrounded by a razor-wire fence. A school where video cameras monitor his every move. Where there are no adults. Where the kids have split into groups in order to survive.

Where breaking the rules equals death.

But when Benson stumbles upon the school’s real secret, he realizes that playing by the rules could spell a fate worse than death, and that escape—his only real hope for survival—may be impossible.

 

This book killed me; in a good way.  It was fairly typical of the popular teen genres, but with some pretty awesome twists. I was surprised and impressed with the twist that I didn’t see coming until the axe fell. It did remind me quite a bit of Dashner’s The Maze Runner, being quite violent at times and involving teens.  A lot like Lord of the Flies too from what I know of the novel (I’ve yet to read it, but I’m sure I’ll get to it someday). Honestly, it’s one of those series that I’m kind of ticked that I started because I don’t want to keep reading because of the violence factor in it, but I want so bad to figure out what happens! I was still kind of confused when it ended and wondered about a few things. It’s a great book for people who enjoyed books like The Maze Runner and The Hunger Games.

 
I give it a 3.75 out of 5 because the twist truly surprised me.

Snow White


By Jenni James

Raven and Snow White have been the greatest of friends for years, so when Snow’s father, King Herbert, and Raven’s mother, Queen Melantha, wed, the girls’ dreams come true—now they are sisters! However, in an act of exceeding folly, the king presents his new bride with the enchanted Lythereon Mirror as a wedding gift. Its dark power soon corrupts the queen.
Prince Corlan, Raven’s brother, is determined to find a way to destroy the mirror before he loses his mother completely—or it kills them all. Already the queen’s envy of Snow has become obvious. Corlan has been in love with Snow White since they were children and would do anything to protect the beautiful princess, even defy his mother. But when Queen Melantha uses the mirror to force Corlan into killing snow, he knows it will take a battle of great strength to outwit the evil spell surrounding him and save the girl he loves.

 
This book was a little ironic for me because the character that seemed more of the protagonist is Raven, Snow White’s best friend and new sister. Raven had much more depth as a character than Snow, who seemed to be this effortless beauty and a bit of an unobservant dunce at times. I loved the romance between Raven and her prince.  Corlan is a typical but lovable character with a nice twist on his involvement with Snow White. While I did enjoy this tale it isn’t one of my favorite mostly because of Snow White herself and her underdeveloped and stereotypical character.

I give it a 3 out of 5 mostly because of Raven’s story

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Odd and the Frost Giants


By Neil Gaiman

In this inventive, short, yet perfectly formed novel inspired by traditional Norse mythology, Neil Gaiman takes readers on a wild and magical trip to the land of giants and gods and back.
In a village in ancient Norway lives a boy named Odd, and he’s had some very bad luck: His father perished in a Viking expedition; a tree fell on and shattered his leg; the endless freezing winter is making villagers dangerously grumpy.
Out in the forest Odd encounters a bear, a fox, and an eagle—three creatures with a strange story to tell.
Now Odd is forced on a stranger journey than he had imagined—a journey to save Asgard, city of the gods, from the Frost Giants who have invaded it.
It’s going to take a very special kind of twelve-year-old boy to outwit the Frost Giants, restore peace to the city of gods, and end the long winter.
Someone cheerful and infuriating and clever…

Someone just like Odd.

 
The more I read from Neil Gaiman the more I like his style. This particular short story felt like it could be included in the old Norse mythologies and read much like those said stories. I love mythology and so of course loved this book. Odd was fantastic, relatable, and courageous.  It was fun to see the gods Odin, Thor, and Loki in such an interesting situation, and kids will enjoy this book and know these characters from the recent Avengers and Thor movies of past years. I think every kid would enjoy reading this; it’s short and has fantastic illustrations.  I hope to add it to my own library soon.

 
I give it a 4.25 out of 5

Silverwing


By Kenneth Oppel

Shade is a young Silverwing bat, the runt of his colony. But he’s determined to prove himself on the long, dangerous winter migration to Hibernaculum, millions of wingbeats to the south. During a fierce storm, he loses the others and soon faces the most incredible journey of his young life. Desperately searching for a way to rejoin his flock, Shade meets a remarkable cast of characters: Marina, a Brightwing bat with a strange metal band on her leg; Zephyr, a mystical albino bat with a strange gift; and Goth, a gigantic carnivorous vampire bat. But which ones are friends and which ones are enemies? In this epic story of adventure and suspense, Shade is going to need all the help he can find—if he hopes to ever see his family again.

 
This is a novel along the lines of many kid’s books about human-like animals. It reminded me a bit of Katherine Lasky’s Guardians of Ga’Hoole. It didn’t feel quite as adventure-like or structured as her series, but it is fun and follows the same kind of story. A young runt bat, who is different from his kin sets out to change the way life is for bats all around the world. He gets lost and makes friends along the way, and finds betrayal and sees things he never dreamed of and discovers the horrors as well as the beauties of life. It is a fun adventure for kids who enjoy animal stories and want to learn more about bats. It was enjoyable to read if a bit slow at times.

 
I give it a 3 out of 5- it was average for its genre.

What I Wish I'd Known When I Was Single


By John Bytheway

These are the hard questions of the young single adult years, made all the harder by the pressure many feel to move from “solo” to “duet” status. In this insightful book, popular author John Bytheway explores how to do life as a young adult: what to expect, how to cope, and where to turn for answers.
John offers the parable of the piano as a metaphor for the young adult experience: sitting alone on a piano bench with a piece of music, “Matrimony: A Duet,” propped up in front of you. As people come by and offer their suggestions (“You could play that music if you tried harder” or “if you had more faith” or “if you weren’t so picky”) things can get pretty frustrating. “don’t get too discouraged,” John counsels, and he goes on to offer plenty of sound advice on “getting joyfully through these in-between years.”
You’ll learn to stop focusing on things you can’t control, to play the dating game in such a way that you’ll have no regrets later, to express affection appropriately, to recognize when someone might be “the right one” for you—and when that someone might not be. Filled with counsel from Church leaders, John’s personal experiences, and a healthy dose of humor, What I Wish I’d Known When I Was a Single is a must-have guide to young adult life.

 
This is one of those books that I wanted to read, and yet didn’t want to read. As a young adult in the LDS religion we get hammered with the marriage talk at every turn. Once you hit age 23 the culture at large starts to worry for your prospects, and whether you’ll ever find your match. It can be stressful and discouraging. With his trademark humor and empathetic warmth, John Bytheway introduces new analogies and ways to deal with life while dating, courting, and waiting for a good match in the LDS culture. This book is not just about dating though, it’s about living life and finding happiness no matter what as a single young adult. It’s got some great advice about how to handle situations that are difficult; like breaking it off and how to handle rejection and move on, and how to handle unwanted attention and how to avoid being the person who give the unwanted attention.  It does feel slightly out of date at times, having been written more than ten years ago, but it still has some great advice in it and I would happily lend it to any single adult out there.

 
I give it a 3.75 out of 5

The Memory of a Salt Shaker


By Bernard M. Cox

Bert discovers the salt in an ordinary salt shaker gives him the power to see his life through the eyes of his deceased wife. This magical realist short story is the first story in The Space Within These Lines collection exploring memory and loss in an effort to show that which connects all people, the power of love.

 
This short story was endearing and creative. A man, who tragically loses his wife by violent means, finds that when he uses salt from their salt shaker he is able to see memories of their lives together through her eyes. It is told in short spouts of memory and the loss unfolds as well as their love. It is a unique way to show how people deal with the death of loved ones.  There is mature content; sexual references and some smoking.

I give it a 3.5 out of 5

Esperanza Rising


By Pam Munoz Ryan

Esperanza thought she’d always live with her family on their ranch in Mexico—she’d always have fancy dresses, a beautiful home, and servants. But a sudden tragedy forces Esperanza and Mama to flee to California during the Great Depression, and to settle in a camp for Mexican farm workers. Esperanza isn’t ready for the hard labor, financial struggles, or lack of acceptance she now faces. When their new life is threatened, Esperanza must find a way to rise above her difficult circumstances—Mama’s life, and her own, depend on it.

 
I’ve been told to read this again and again and I finally got to it. I can tell why so many people told me to read it, and I’m fairly certain it has won awards, but not sure which. It’s the story of a rich Mexican girl turned poor immigrant to America that has to work as a laborer when her father is murdered in Mexico and her mother falls ill when they reach America. Esperanza means Hope rising.  This historical text is definitely about hope and rising above your circumstances. It was touching and educated me about a part of American history I didn’t know much about. I enjoyed the incorporation of Spanish words and culture as well. It’s a great book for kids and adults that enjoy historical fiction and coming-of-age novels.

 
I give it a 3.75 out of 5 but it’s dangerously close to a 4

Reason


By Taylor Longford

When a fabulous winged sculpture mysteriously saves Elaina’s life, she travels across the country in her search to learn more about him. But the good-looking gargoyle she finds in Colorado isn’t exactly happy to see her. Too bad he’s going to be her new college roommate. New sparks fly every time Elaina and Reason look at each other.

Here’s the 3rd installment in the Greystone novels, this one is about the over-protective Reason, who was initially fighting Valor for MacKenzie, but offered to take the place of his cousin on a seemingly cushy mission to avoid the gargoyles getting split up. In his journey he meets Elaina, a girl who is irritatingly different, a girl who Reason can’t stop thinking about, no matter how much he wants to. Elaina is off to college, an art student, and ends up bringing along an untrusting Reason, who insists that to protect his family he must watch this girl who has discovered their secret. This installment is geared toward a little more mature audience, as it takes place not with high-school aged protagonists, but with a college aged girl. It was interesting and a lot more relatable for me, as I’m in college myself.  There are some scenes with mature material, such as Elaina’s off hand comments about boys trying to “get in her pants” and another drunk boy going after her. Again, more mature, so be careful if that bothers you. I’m fairly sensitive, and this did bother me some, but I also really liked it. Not only was this one about Reason, but it also was about his missing brothers, so there was an added mystery that I look forward to figuring out.

I give it a 3.75 out of 5

Rumplestiltskin


By Jenni James

A young prince crippled by a witch.
When Fredrico watches his cruel family mourn his falst death and announce to the kingdom their cursed prince has died, is the day he truly embraces his new life and new name Rumplestiltskin. How could he be known by anything else? His skin is completely rumpled and stilted now. He hides away from the king and queen and grows up as a crippled servant in the castle.
Years later, his younger brother, Marcus, becomes king and humors Aubrynn’s father when he boast that his daughter can turn straw into gold. Intrigued Marcus locks the distraught maiden in a tower and declares to the kingdom that if she can transform the straw, he will marry her, but if she cannot he will kill her father.
Rumplestiltskin is determined to help Aubrynn save her father and marry the king. Now, if only he can remember to keep his real identity a secret and not fall in love with her himself…

 
This is probably my favorite version of Rumplestiltskin I’ve read. It was sweet and had good morals in it; just along the lines of the fun and fluffy romantic stories that Jenni James has written. After reading Hansel and Gretel, I was worried that her other books would go downhill, but she’s right back in the game with this one and I thouroughly enjoyed the story of the young cursed prince who falls for his brother’s intended, not because of her beauty, which she is, but because he is kind and sees her in trouble. It is his kindness that wins her heart, and his inherent goodness and humor. I loved this version and think that anybody who enjoys fairy-tale retellings will love it too. I highly recommend this one.

 
I give it a 4 out of 5- great for a fairy tale.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Beyonders 3: Chasing the Prophecy


By Brandon Mull

Jason and Rachel were not born in Lyrian. They did not grow up in Lyrian. But after all of the battles and losses, the triumphs and adventures, and most of all, the friendships forged in this fantastical world, Lyrian has become home to them in a way they never could have imagined.
And so, armed now with the prophecy of a dying oracle, they have gone on their separate quests—each surrounded by brave and powerful allies—knowingthat the chance for success is slim. But Jason and Rachel are ready at last to become the heroes Lyrian needs, no matter the cost.

 
It took me a while to get to this read because I thought I’d read the first two books as a review, but I ended up just reading it anyway. This is the last book in the Beyonders series, and it was jam-packed with adventure and Brandon Mull’s trademark creativity and amazing characters. As I’ve stated before I absolutely love his creatures that he has created. The Seed Men and Displacers are my favorites in this series. I think my favorite character (besides Galloran, how can you not love him?) Is Ferrin, the displacer that turned traitor because of Jason’s valor and friendship. I love his honesty and that he always says he may betray them at any second and makes sure they know what he will do to survive. His story in this installment is my favorite. In this novel we move between two groups of heroes and friends, Jason’s group, who are on a quest to get information from a long-dead seer, and Rachel’s group who are on their way to attack Maldor at his impregnable keep. As their adventures come together and line up the reader is surprised at the slim chance they are given for victory, but the question is; will it be enough to win the day and save the people of Lyrian from tyranny and death?

 
I give this 3.75 out of 5 – it’s fun and a great ending to a good series.

Into the Land of the Unicorns


Bruce Coville

Eight! Nine! Ten! As each bell chime sounds, Cara pushes herself faster up the steep bell tower steps that lead to the roof. Eleven! She must be on the roof when the next bell tolls. As she races up the stairs, Cara can’t believe everything that has happened. Wasn’t it just a few minutes ago that she and Grandmother Morris were peacefully walking home from the library? When did that mysterious man start to follow them? What does he want? Where did he come from? Who is he? Twelve! The ringing bell brings Cara back to the moment. Gramma told her what she must do. With a deep breath, and only half believing she will be safe, Cara jumps off the church roof and into the adventure of her lifetime—into the Land of Luster, the world of the unicorns.
In Luster, Cara meets the Dimblethum, the Squijum, and the most magnificent of all the inhabitants, Lightfoot, a rebellious young unicorn. Together the new friends set out on a quest—to reach the Unicorn Queen and prevent the destruction of all unicorns.

 
Bruce Coville is one of those authors that I loved as a kid. I’ve had this book since I was probably 8 years-old. I, like many little girls, loved unicorns. This book is fun and fast-paced and great for kids; specifically girls. A classic journey tale, it’s got fun companions, the dimblethum and the squijum are loyal and unique, and remind me a bit of Gurgy from Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain chronicles. The story of the land of the unicorns and the hunters is creative and unique, something a kid can latch onto and love. I highly recommend this book for kids and adults alike. This is one of those rare children’s books that can hold the interest of adults, while not being a book that I would recommend solely to an adult. It's also a series, so if your child likes it, there's more where this came from! 

 
I give it a 3.5 out of five, probably a 3 or 2.5 for adults.

The Cold King


By Amber Jaeger

Calia Thorn has lived her entire life in a small town sheltered by the Cold King’s mountain. Working day and night to care for her younger siblings, complete her unending chores and please her selfish, lazy mother has left her with few dreams for her own future.
But then even those meager hopes are taken from her when the Cold King comes down from his mountain to demand a new servant. Ungraceful, unladylike, undesired and unwanted by even her own family, Calia is chosen to be sent to the palace.
The Cold King has lived for three hundred years under a curse imposed by his own father. With no hope of ever breaking it, he settles for keeping his heart frozen against any pain—or hope.
When his new servant arrives, she challenges him in ways no one ever has and sparks fly. But not every Beast is a prince charming at heart and not every beauty is a maiden just waiting for love.

Sometimes happily ever after isn’t so easy…

 
This is yet another retelling of Beauty and the Beast.  My aim is to find the best one out there! This one as they go, was different and very good. It’s more ‘realistic’ rather than fantasy. It dealt with abuse and some other mature issues along those lines. Calia is treated abominably not only by her family, but by the “Cold King” as well. He isn’t the charming misunderstood cursed beast that we’re used to; he’s really quite damaged. He’s suffered a great deal and it’s made him selfish and truly cold to other people. While he offers kindness to his servants, who love serving him and would do anything for him and their home, he has difficulty trusting people and allowing them to care for him. Calia is forced to become his personal servant, basically a sacrifice. Their relationship is interesting and complicated, just as relationships are in real life. It’s a gradual thing and sometimes a very painful thing. Like I said, there are instances of abuse, neglect and attempted rape. This is a book for more mature audiences, that being said it handled things very well and tactfully. There are hard themes in this book and while I don’t particularly think this is the best re-telling of Beauty and the Beast, it is a good book. I just prefer my fairy-tales to be more whimsical, believable, but light. This was heavy and at times cringe-worthy in the cruelty shown.

I give it a 3.5 out of 5 because it was well-done and handled hard topics