Friday, April 30, 2010

Review: The Storyteller's Daughter by Cameron Dokey

The Storyteller's Daughter
by Cameron Dokey
YA, Fairy Tale
218 pages
published: 2002
For: Once Upon a Time Challenge
3.5 of 5 stars

About

This is a retelling of Arabian Nights, focusing mostly on Shahrazad's story and the story of the king.

Reaction

I haven't read the original fairy tale of Arabian Nights, and the only memory/association I have for it is a preview I saw as a kid for a TV movie. So I can't say how accurate or different this version is. But I enjoyed it.
 
I liked Shahrazad's story - about her mother and her storytelling gift. I like her father, the vizier, and her younger sister. I liked how different brotherly relationships were showcased in the novel. The really enjoyed the tall tales. I was surprised by this because sometimes I just want the side-stories to end so that I can return to the 'real' story, but this time I would sometimes forget about the 'real' story and wanted to get back to the book for the sake of the side-story. I must be a sucker for those lyrical tall tales. I liked exploring how the king became so cold-hearted and watching him struggle with himself. I liked that the storytelling gift came with a price, was something that had to be discovered instead of 'made up,' and that it was associated with cloth.

For all that, I must confess that this one isn't my favorite retelling by Dokey. I felt like the character's motivations were sometimes overdone. (Though this could be the fault of working with this particular fairy tale.)  What logical purpose does it serve to kill your wife the morning after? You won't get an heir that way. And I didn't fully understand Shahrazad's removal from the world - society, yes, but never going outside? That seems to make for insanity. The sequence of events got a tad confusing at the end and a few things were wrapped up too neatly. This seems an odd thing to say when referring to a fairy tale, but there it is. Perhaps some of my confusion has more to do with internal logic. There should have at least been textual reasons.

And I think I'm going to be sick if I endure any more references to "seeing with your heart" or "looking inside your own heart." But I don't know if that is the fault of this book or is indicative of me getting fairy taled out. Since I'm nearly done with the Once Upon a Time Challenge, being fairy taled out is perfectly fine.

Bits and Even Smaller Bits

So...I put in the new comment system. I love being able to reply directly, but I don't know if it is all worth it yet. Please let me know if it is miserable to use. If it takes to long to load or even if it won't let you comment at all. (Email me if that is the case.) I am not opposed to pulling the whole thing. BUT what is it going to take for blogger to make threading possible? Can we protest? Have a comment sit in? Throw rotten tomatoes? I've actually thought of moving my whole blog over this issue...but then I chillax and remember that I'm opposed to work in general and that sounds like WAY too much work. But Bloggies, we need a plan!

Our first ARC arrived this week! (Happy Dance ~ dada da DA) But it is really for my daughter. (Though I am absolutely going to read it first because I am over-protective like that.) This leads me to ponder (1) how strange/wondrous/unfair this world is that she gets her first ARC at 10 years old after 2 review posts, and (2) what an awesome Mom I am. Hehehe.

I've come to terms with the fact that I steal book summaries from Goodreads or whatnot. I do not know why, but it used to be that I would get so annoyed with writing out a summary that I would put off reviewing a book. Lame. But I'd stare at the screen and try several times...and it just wasn't fun. So my first solution was just to not summarize at all, this stemming from the idea that if I have read it, surely everyone else has since I'm always so far behind. I have come to realize that is not true. We all read very different things!! And if I come across a book review for a book I haven't read, I get really lost if there is no summary. The moral of this story: cntrl C, cntrl V and problem solved. Peace out.

I have put up new tabs (seesee) and linked all my reviews and I'm so proud of myself. :) But this made me realize that scanning through what I've reviewed doesn't give you much idea of what my favorite stuff is. Only what I've read in the last few months. I'm thinking I need to review some of my favorite things from the past and make my awesome lists look more awesome. That's the master plan.

Spring is here! Of course that means snow on the poor flowers as often as blue sky....but Spring! I am waiting for some fields in the mountains to pull out their blossoms so I can grab some more epic-type pictures. Wish me luck! I'm way excited for my Spring header. (And Spring picturing is far less hazardous than Winter. So nice.)
This in not related to books, but Somebody I dote on every day turned ONE this weekend. I'm in shock. But he is just so boo-tee-full. And is a cake throw-er. Who knew?

Ooh! And I learned how to put holds on at the library. Suh-weet. (Hush up! I may be slow, but I get there. :P ) And I took the kids to the library to look for Keturah and Lord Death, (which they said they had. LIARS.) and we left without any new books. You see, it's not that my Hellions squeal/scream/shriek or unshelf books or have to go to the bathroom as soon as we enter or run around - they do do all these things - but the problem is they get lost. As awful as they might be, I'm kinda attached and tend to panic when I can't locate them. Librarying will have to wait till Dear Husband is there to help corral. Or one-on-one library outings.

And I'm rambled out.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Review: Llama Llama Mad at Mama by Anna Dewdney

Llama Llama Mad at Mama
by Anna Dewdney
Picture Book
published: 2007
5 of 5 stars

About

Little Llama doesn't want to go shopping and he lets everyone know how much he hates it. But Mama Llama has some answers and helps disfuse the Llama Drama.

Reaction

At our house we LOVE this book. I had not read it until my Kyra begged for it from her Kindergarten book club order. It was cheap; I grabbed it. I am sure glad I did.

As a writer, and a poetry and aspiring picture book writer even, I am very particular about rhyming stories. The meter and rhyme has to be good. This little book delivers.

More than that, though, the story is very apt and touching. I know I'm just a sentimental mom, but when Mama Llama tells Little Llama about how she doesn't like shopping either, but at least they are together...I got chills. I also loved the seeing the shopping through Little Llama's point of view. And the glorious tantrum in the store is beautiful and painful and soSOso true to life.

The illustrations are darling. We all love to look at the llamas' funny hoofed feet and big ears. And Little Llama's pouty, angry, sulky faces are priceless. And the book is mercifully short - as a picture book should be. No one gets bored with the pictures before the words are finished.

Since this book's arrival in our home, my 3 year old has even asked many times to go shopping at the Shop-o-rama. (I did take me several minutes to figure out what she had said that first time!)

We highly recommend this book to all those families with more than their share of Llama Drama.

Review: Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen

Lock and Key
by Sarah Dessen
YA
422 pages
published: 2008
3 of 5 stars

About

Ruby is used to taking care of herself. But now she's living in a fancy new house with her sister, Cora, a sister she hasn't seen in ten years and her husband, Jamie, creator of one of the most popular online networking sites. She's attending private school, wearing new clothes, and for the first time, feels the promise of a future that include college and her family. So why is she so wary? And what is Nate the adorable and good-hearted boy next door hiding behind his genial nature? As Ruby starts to see, there's a big difference between being given help, and being able to accept it. And sometimes, in order to save yourself, you've got to reach out to someone else. - from Goodreads

Reaction

This is my first Sarah Dessen novel and I enjoyed it. I was very drawn into the characters' story. I especially liked Cora and Jamie - one a candidate for nicest guy on earth and the other almost unlikable...at first. I liked how first impressions were not correct. The sisters' forced relationship felt real to me. I know what the awkwardness is like when you are with someone you should, and did, know, but do not know any longer. And my situation doesn't come with as much hurt or misunderstandings! I liked that Jamie wasn't all perfect, but was obsessive almost to a fault, gullible, and possessing of a temper. The secondary characters were the best part for me.

I liked the themes of the book: independence versus accepting help, family, self-reliance, giving of yourself, accepting people for who they are and what they can give. I liked the progress Ruby made towards letting others in and building her own family.

While reading it, I felt pulled along because of the characters. It was definitely a character driven novel as not much actually happened.

I did NOT appreciate the casual sex and drug use, though the sex at least was off screen. The drug use was flagrant. Is that normal for a Dessen novel?? That is what lost the book a star . But all in all, this was a good read for me - no war, no slavery, no hugeness. Happy day.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Listful Mondays: Book Places Not of this World I Want to Visit/See/Live In Forever and Ever

Book Places Not of This World that I Want to Visit/See/Live in Forever and Ever

Some worlds have names and some worlds, not so much. I've used the world name if I could, and the first book of the series when I couldn't. If the make-believe world was in our world, I had to use the book title as well. (I couldn't just keep saying Earth!)


All clear? Ready? (* = 'and sequels')
  1. Pern (Anne McCaffrey) - I can't even tell you how badly I want to be a dragon rider and have a fire lizard. Life. Long. Ambition.
  2. Krynn (Dragonlance - Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman) - To meet a kender... To Hang in Solace... To see the elven city with all the aspens... Ahhh...
  3. Hogwarts (Harry Potter - J.K. Rowling) - I'll go anywhere if I can wave a wand and have my dishes washed and dinner cooked.
  4. Fablehaven * (Brandon Mull) - Fairies. Brownies. Hugo.
  5. Midkemia (Raymond E. Fiest) - Castles + magic = Awesome.
  6. Garion's World (Belgariad - David Eddings) - Can I have Garion too?
  7. Prydain (Prydain Chronicles - Lloyd Alexander) - An oracle pig? I'm so there.
  8. The Lightning Thief * (Rick Riordan) -  Ambrosia, anyone?
  9. The Rowan * (Anne McCaffrey) - If I got to pick a super-power it would SO be telepath and port.
  10. Magyk * (Angie Sage) - I'd love to fly.
  11. Alagaesia (Christopher Paolini) - Sometimes you just want to join the battle for good and hack some people up. Though I'd prefer to have a dragon of my own!
  12. Sister's Grimm * (Michael Buckley) - Just keep me clear of Grandma's cooking!
  13. Narnia (C.S. Lewis) - Meeting Aslan would rock!
  14. Middle Earth (J.R.R. Tolkien) - Oh to see the elven forest and the hobbit village!
  15. The Sword of Shannara *(Terry Brooks) - I think the wishsong would be grand. And I could give Allanon a piece of my mind.
  16. Bayern (Shannon Hale) - I want to talk to the wind too.
  17. The Eye of the World * (Robert Jordan) - I'd like to see the white tower and other ogier architecture.
  18. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy * (Douglas Adams) - I find absurdity hilarious. I'm so over Earth.
  19. Alcatraz  Versus the Evil Librarains * (Brandon Sanderson) - I want my own talent. Maybe not washing dishes.
  20. Elantris (Brandon Sanderson) - Drawing + magic = Pretty Power.
  21. Mistborn * (Brandon Sanderson) - Metal...yum.
  22. Princess Academy (Shannon Hale) - I would enjoy communicating through stone.
Observations:
  1. There are many many worlds I DON'T want to visit. They include, but are not limited to, dystopian worlds. 
  2. I don't know how I'd ever pick just one. But there's a possibility the dragons would win out. Unless I could have Garion. :)
Where would you like to go?

{Next week: Book Pet Peeves.}

Friday, April 23, 2010

Jadyn's Review: The Sugar Plum Ballerinas by Whoopi Goldberg

THE SUGAR PLUM BALLERINAS
by Whoopi  Goldberg
MG
151 pages
published: 2008
**** out of 5

Alexandrea moved away from where she used to live and things get a litte screwed up.
Epatha feels like a real person and but I understand her best.
Alexandrea learns that when you always mess up friends are nice to have (especially  helpful ones).
I like the friendship that began.
Mainly what I liked was the story of friendship and trustworthy girls that stick up for each other and trust each other.............................................................................after a while.

Hopping 'Round

I'm back at Crazy-for-Books for another hop this week, where you find other bloggers to visit and drag bloggy visitors to you. It's lots of fun! Come join us!

And let me know if you came by from that-a-way. Happy happy Friday! (I'm going to see the dragon movie tonight!!!)

Book Moments in Photos

That is a headband that Jadyn has reassigned as a bookmark/handle. I thought her very clever and funny. And that book is the second in an awesome series by Kathleen Duey. I really need to get around to reviewing some of the backlog.
This guy loves book too. He likes to hit himself in the head with them. He likes to steal them and run away. He likes to open and close them. He likes to rip out pages. But mostly (you guessed it) he likes to eat them. Somehow, I know just how he feels. That does not, however, make it okay that he ATE my signed copy of Fablehaven. Cretin.

Review: Hush Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick

Hush Hush
by Becca Fitzpatrick
YA, Paranormal
391 pages
published: 2009
1 of 5 stars

About (As if You Didn't Know)

Average-ish girl meets dark/handsome/mysterious boy in biology and her world is turned upsidedown. Here's goodreads if you want a "better" summary.

Reaction

*Spoilers - left and right! Duck!*
Observations:
  • We'll just get his out there first: I didn't get so much of a rape vibe from Patch even though I was prepped for it and looking for it. What I got most was an 'I'm going to kill you...and enjoy it cuz you're oh so pretty, and cuz you're so dumb, you're going like it too' vibe. Nice.
  • I wanted to like Nora. I wanted to feel bad for her. I wanted to be scared for her. I could not. That girl was too stupid to live. Go right ahead and die Nora. I don't care at all. But yes, run first, it's more enjoyable if you run.
  • I know it was supposed to be dark and scary, but again, I couldn't be darked or scareded. It was only amusing.
  • Patch has got to be the rudest, most condescending,  unlikeable, icky, insulting love interest I have ever encountered. Ew. Sorry Patch, I don't care about you either.
  • The Twilight parallels were too obvious and ubiquitous to be anything but funny.
  • World building flaws abounded.
  • Can you say - too many bad guys? Geez. Everybody and their dog wanted a piece of that girl. I actually kept getting confused and had to stop and remind myself why this person wanted to kill her.
  • Vee was the most annoying character. Just saying.
  • Nora was the most inconsistent character I've ever read.
  • There were several shotguns that were never fired. (1) Was her father really just murdered during a random act of violence? (2) What was up with that roller coaster?
  • There are awfully low standards for getting one's wings back.
Things I Don't Get:
  • I really don't mean to be terribly judgmental, but I don't understand how fear and arousal can exist at the same time. Unless you are messed up.
  • Nora doesn't trust him, thinks he's speaking to her in her head, thinks he's going to kill her...AND YET runs off with him at every opportunity. Gack.
  • Nora is upset and embarrassed about being a sex object - then ties a scarf around her chest and calls it a shirt
  • How 'bout this dynamic: "I am restraining myself from killing you - see how much I love you?"
  • If Patch fell for loving a mortal, how does he have wings at the end when he still loves a mortal?
  • By what authority can a fallen angel tear the wings from a yet-to-fall angel? Mayhem! And how did that solve the problem anyway? Dabria could still show up and kill the stinkin' girl.
  • Would a guy really want sex so bad if he couldn't feel it?
  • If a fallen angel can only inhabit a body during what-ever-that-month-was and maybe only a half-angel's body (not real clear on that) how did Patch jump into Nora? I know, I know, it was hard and only lasted a little while, but if it was impossible before...
  • How did Patch know Nora was a descendant?
  • Why was Elliot still loyal to Jules when the original motivation was the money and staying at his rich school. That didn't work out...so why was he hanging around?
  • I realize Jules was bent out of shape because Patch took his body for two weeks a year, but why was he SO upset about it? I mean, I'm pretty sure all Patch did was sleep around, which is basically all that Jules did. That's what he was doing when we first met him. And obviously Patch didn't keep too close a tabs on him during the rest of year. Melodrama much, Dude?
  • Why is a mother whose husband was just murdered fine with leaving her daughter alone every night?
  • Why does Vee's family let her go out the next day after a violent attack and surgery? Frankly, she would have been in too much pain to move.
  • If killing Nora would give Patch everything he had wanted for hundred of years, why did he need opportunities to get closer? Why enroll in school? Why talk and date and pine? Why not just grab the useless mortal, run off and kill her?
  • This dynamic is unfathomable: "You don't like me? You don't want to kiss/date/hang with me? Too bad! I'll pick you up at 5." "Oh okay. Let me slip into something completely revealing so you'll stop eyeballing me." Yes, I mentioned the scarf already. Sorry. But am I supposed to be romanticized because he is overbearing and forceful?
  • Nora was scared out of her mind, but never told her Mom because that might mean moving. Hmm. Memories and the house were nice, but would anyone's survival instinct be over-ridden by that? 
I'm bored with this. Not a good book. Not a book impressionable girls should read. But please don't think I'm all worked up and HATE this book, because I'm not and I don't. I might well rant about type-cast love interests later, though. But we'll end on a positive note.
  • I read this book in one evening. Fast read. Interesting. Morbidly so, but hey, a page turner is a page turner.
  • It was amusing. 

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Smile! You're on an Awards Show!

In the last month I have received this award from two generous bloggers, Star Shadow and Queen Bee. Thank you again - you made my month. (My apologies for not posting sooner - I usually have limited time and I give priority to my reviews so I don't forget what I want to say. Today Little Mr. Wiggly Butt has fallen asleep so I have TWO hands!)

7 things about me:
  1. I name things. It makes it easier to talk about them or direct people to find things on them. For example, the little counter by the oven where miscellaneous things get piled is Mike. The settee by the front door is Nora. The round table that has been chopped short to be a coffee table of sorts in the front room is Arthur. The list could go on and on.
  2. I get my nose, rather than my chin, wet when I eat a whole apple . (It's all in the wrist.)
  3. I am from Northern California. No, I mean NORTHERN California. A city called Redding that is about 2 hours south of the Oregon border. It is a beautiful hot place with huge lakes, forests, mountains, and rivers. And only 3 hours from the ocean. I miss it.
  4. My favorite color is green.
  5. I am 4 credits away from my BA in English with a creative writing emphasis at BYU.
  6. I decorated my family room in pumpkins and leaves because I love Fall so much I can't bear to put it away for a year.
  7. I have an irrational fear of worms.
Passing this on to bloggers who have BEAUTIFUL blogs:
  1. Erin at Bookish in a Bow
  2. Stacy at A Novel Source
  3. Brenda at Brenda Loves Books
  4. Morgan at Smitten with Books
 
 This one was also given to me by Queen Bee. Happy Dance!

So 7 more things about me (so that you'll know more than you ever wanted):
  1. I wish I could swing all day. I wish my bed were a swing.
  2. I have one poem published in Ladybug Magazine and one more supposedly coming out in some future issue some day.
  3. I hate mayonnaise and love barbecue sauce.
  4. I make up songs and sing a lot over the course of the day. I forget most of them.
  5. I have weathered preemie-hood, have a son with ADHD, and a spirited daughter (THIS book is life-saving)...so nothing surprises me. 
  6. I care nothing about professional or college sports, current fashion trends, or TV shows.
  7. I am a tomboy. My heart goes pitter-pat for camping and hiking and boots and Cabella's and trees.
Passing it On to those with HONEST blogs:
  1. Christy at Dearest Dreams
  2. Michelle at Michelle Teacress
  3. Bookscoops
  4. Kim at Good Clean Reads
 (I changed the rules a bit because it was getting too stressful. This blogging thing can't get stressful. That's what I have those 5 kids for!)

Monday, April 19, 2010

Review: Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister by Gregory Maguire

Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister
by Gregory Maguire
Fairy Tale
372 pages
published: 1999
For: Once Upon a Time Challenge
4 of 5 stars

About

In the lives of children, pumpkins can turn into coaches, mice and rats into human beings.... When we grow up, we learn that it's far more common for human beings to turn into rats....
We all have heard the story of Cinderella, the beautiful child cast out to slave among the ashes.But what of her stepsisters, the homely pair exiled into ignominy by the fame of their lovely sibling? What fate befell those untouched by beauty . . . and what curses accompanied Cinderella's exquisite looks?
Extreme beauty is an affliction
Set against the rich backdrop of seventeenth-century Holland, Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister tells the story of Iris, an unlikely heroine who finds herself swept from the lowly streets of Haarlem to a strange world of wealth, artifice, and ambition. Iris's path quickly becomes intertwined with that of Clara, the mysterious and unnaturally beautiful girl destined to become her sister.
Clara was the prettiest child, but was her life the prettiest tale?
While Clara retreats to the cinders of the family hearth, burning all memories of her past, Iris seeks out the shadowy secrets of her new household--and the treacherous truth of her former life.
God and Satan snarling at each other like dogs.... Imps and fairy godmotbers trying to undo each other's work. How we try to pin the world between opposite extremes!
Far more than a mere fairy-tale, Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister is a novel of beauty and betrayal, illusion and understanding, reminding us that deception can be unearthed--and love unveiled--in the most unexpected of places. - from Goodreads

Reaction

I enjoyed this retelling immensely. The author reinvented every character in the story, added background and feeling, and spun the narrative around to resemble no other telling of Cinderella I have encountered. The characters felt real, with personal crosses to bear, their own world view, and near overwhelming flaws. I loved not knowing how the fairy tale was going to mature from that fertile ground. I loved the lack of parallels between this retelling and the standard versions. I cared about Iris, the younger stepsister, and wanted very much for her to find some happiness.

I find retellings that remove much or all of the "magic" and "explain" the magical story by mundane means to be fascinating. Such stories make me wonder about the real world origins of our fairy tales. Park of me wants to think that each one had a "real" version way back when about "real" people, which over time got changed and added to and inflamed to be what we have today. I doubt this is the case, and I don't actually care...but thinking and imagining are the best time ever.

This book explored good and evil and the motivations of each. I loved that through most of the book I saw the stepmother as wrong and misguided, but not necessarily evil. I loved that "Cinderella" was not the most sympathetic character despite, or because of, her beauty. I enjoyed the discussions of beauty.

My favorite quote: "Perhaps charity is the kind of beauty that we comprehend the best because we miss it the most." page 313

The writing was easy and approachable - nothing that stood out or detracted. It was mostly clean (as to language, violence, and sex) save some references toward the end. Though the subjects were mature enough for me to recommend for older teens.

My only complaint was about the narrative twist at the end. And it's not that I didn't enjoy it - it added great depth to the story, answered some questions, and who doesn't love a little surprise? My complaint has more to do with plausibility. I'm afraid that this little gem of a line has been floating through my head since: "I got better." (Don't forget the brogue and the glottal stop.)

(This is from Monty Python's The Holy Grail. I could NOT edit this video, and I know you don't want to watch the whole thing, and will get lost as to my point if you do, so PLEASE fast forward to 1:20 and play until 1:32. It's AWESOME.)

Yah. Check this book out. Then youtube The Holy Grail. You know you want to.

Listful Mondays: Book Places I Want to Visit/See

Book places I want to see/visit.

I have decided that for this list, I will only include places that actually exist. Like on our planet. And not in alternate dimensions or versions of our planet. I'll save those places for another list - next week in fact. Though now I'm worried that my list will be short as I'm a better fantasy reader than a world reader. We shall see. It isn't Long Listful Mondays - any list will do. And I doubt this will be an exhaustive list, as frankly, I'm exhausted. (I've taken to writing my Listful posts on Sunday night since I can't get it up before noon on Monday otherwise.)


Book Places (on this earth) I Want to See/Visit and the Book Behind the Why:
  1. Canadian wilderness - Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
  2. England - SO many...Jane Austen, Jane Eyre, Crispin: the Cross of Lead by Avi, Possession by A. S. Byatt, North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell, etc...
  3. Ireland - Lara and the Gray Mare by Kathleen Duey
  4. Germany - the Book Thief
  5. Guernsey - The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
  6.  the Ozarks - Christy by Catherine Marshall
  7. Prince Edward Island - Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery
  8. those Cro-Magnon sites in France (and other ancient peoples and cave paintings) - The Clan of the Cave Bear and sequels by Jean M. Auel
  9. Antarctica - Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World: The Extraordinary True Story of Shackleton and the Endurance by Jennifer Armstrong
  10. the great plains - Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  11. the Atlantic Ocean - Firefly Beach by Luanne Rice
  12. the Arctic - The Iceberg Hermit by Arthur J. Roth
  13. New England - The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare
  14. New Zealand - Once an Angel by Teresa Medeiros
A Few Observations (in List Form!):
  1. These are not necessary places I'd like to vacation or hang out, but places I'd at least like to see.
  2. These are FARFARFAR from all the places I'd like to visit/see/vacation at, just places I've actually read about.
  3. Some of the books listed are not among my favorites, some I'm even embarrassed to list, but they stuck with me because of place. (Though some are absolutely among my favorites!)
  4. I have not traveled our real world very extensively! 
  5. I have read books of other locations, but they are usually historical and oft times not appealing to visit or likely untraceable. (Say stone age forests or the middle of the sea...)
 As always, I'd love to see your lists! (And maybe some suggestions as to books that have really great real world locations...)

{Next week: Book Places Not of This World that I Want to Visit/See}

Friday, April 16, 2010

Review: Hush by Donna Jo Napoli

Hush
by Donna Jo Napoli
YA, Folklore
308 pages (234 read)
piblished: 2007
For: Once Upon a Time Challenge
1 of 5 stars

About

Melkorka is a princess, the first daughter of a magnificent kingdom in medieval Ireland - but all of this is lost the day is kidnapped and taken aboard a marauding slave ship. Thrown into a world that she has never known, alongside people that her former country's lays regarded as less than human, Melkorka is forced to learn quickly how to survive. Taking a vow of silence, however, she finds herself an object of fascination to her captors and masters, and soon realizes that any power, no matter how little, can make a difference. - from the front book flap

Reaction

I did not finish this book.

This does not happen to me often. Not necessaily that I don't like, even occassionally hate, a book, but that I decide not to finish. Perhaps I'm a touch obsessive, or maybe a tad too loyal, but I feel like when I start to read a book I enter into a contract of sorts. The book fulfills its end of the contract by being and I fulfill mine by reading it. All of it. (Perhaps I am too easy on the book?) It is difficult for me to breach my contract, but that is what I have done.

Was it that bad? Not necessarily. Note I've still given it one star, not zero. The setting was fascinating, the characters interesting, some even lovable, and the plot compelling. Or at the least had the beginnings of compelling. And since I knew the kidnapping was coming, sometime, the beginning (which lasted longer than I thought it would) stretched to an almost unbearable tension. When I read about Melkorka's silence and the consequences, I was intrigued. The subtle plays for power and the will for self preservation were well done.

But as the story progressed at a leisurely pace, I just couldn't hack it. Last night, before I put it down for good, I wound up crying in my bed for the horror that is our world for the second time in a month. I am not tough enough. And that was before it all got worse.

*Spoiler Alert*
The horror that is slavery! The violence, the hopelessness, the cruelty, the rapes, the graphic descriptions of everything from hunger to menstrual blood. Then after reading some reviews on Goodreads and discovering that none of the questions would be answered and that the ending was nearly as hopeless as the rest... No. This book is not for me.
*Spoiler Over*

Please don't stop and tell me that not everything has happy endings. I know this. I accept this. And I truly think there is great value in reading about "unhappiness," from education to learning empathy. (And I read many hard books and love them and find great personal value in them.) But for me, whatever value I may have gleaned from this story was outweighed by the price I was paying to my well-being.

Many may appreciate this story. It is based on Icelandic tale. And it feels real. No softening. No apologies. If you like that, and are tougher than me (which most of you surely are), than I would recommend this book. Just keep in mind it is not for younger teens.

Now I am going to find some books about dancing daisies and bunny slippers. I need a break.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Very Short Bookish and Blogging Thoughts

I am currently reading both of these books and am very excited about them. They are both for the Once Upon a Time challenge. I'm about half way through Confessions and am delighted in how unlike Cinderella it is so far. Anyone read either??

I am frustrated with blogger commenting. It is so cumbersome to respond. I even typed out a super long response and had blogger eat it. Arghh! So I've been researching add ons and have asked Husband to plug one in. He's been busy. Arghh! I might be pushing through on my own. *tremble* But when I get it going, you all are gonna see an explosion of responses. Has anyone tried Intsensedebate or Disqus??

My F2F book club is tonight. Bel Canto. Woowoo!! How much I look forward to getting out of the house! And then to talk about books? Heaven. And tonight I have reason to expect some animated epilogue bashing. Should be good fun. My other F2F book club is soon - I gotta finish that Bitter/Sweet Hotel book.

Taxes. I assume everyone else did theirs in February. Oh to be responsible and organized. What must it feel like? "I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by." - Douglas Adams

I have been reading Fablehaven out loud to my older kids. So Exciting! We recently finished the first one and started the second. Those books pack a lot of action and interest into each page. So so good.

I've got to drive by two libraries today/tomorrow. I renewed a handful of books online for the first time last night. It was surprisingly easy. I don't get to the library near as often as I'd like on account of the screaming horde of children, so I have a few problems when I do get there. (1) I check out WAY too many books. I can't read them all that fast. (2) I forget to return them. I gather up late fees almost as fast as dirty dishes.

I've been reading some posts lately referring to the competition among bloggers for followers and stats and stuff. Really? I'm blissfully ignorant of this. Why would there be competition? What would one win?

Memes. I've also read much bashing of memes. (I looked up how to pronounce that ridiculous word and promptly forgot. I don't know what to do with that word!) At first I thought meme bashing to be, um, harsh. Yes, that's the word. But then as I "get out" more and visit more blogs I have found some justification. When I'm visiting a blog I want to get an idea of what the blogger reads, what their style is, how they review, and mostly get a feel for their personality through their writing. When the whole page is book lists and links and mailboxes and what page are you on....I get lost. I'm no wiser for scanning my brains out. I'm finding this frustrating. Any thoughts on memes?? Too much? Too little?

Enough short thoughts. If I lay down now I can close my eyes for 30 minutes. Can you imagine?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Review: Just One Wish by Janette Rallison

Just One Wish
by Janette Rallison
YA
272 pages
published: 2009
4 of 5 stars

About

Seventeen-year-old Annika Truman knows about the power of positive thinking. With a little brother who has cancer, it’s all she ever hears about. And in order to help Jeremy, she will go to the ends of the earth (or at least as far as Hollywood) to help him believe he can survive his upcoming surgery.
But Annika’s plan to convince Jeremy that a magic genie will grant him any wish throws her a curveball when he unexpectedly wishes that his television idol would visit him. Annika suddenly finds herself in the desperate predicament of getting access to a hunky star actor and convincing him to come home with her. Piece of cake, right? - from Goodreads

Reaction

This book was adorable. And I don't mean that in a demeaning way. It was fun and funny and quick (I read it in one evening) but it had a real heart. I loved Annika and her spunk and daring. I loved her "get up and do" and "I don't need a plan" approach to life. I loved her best friend and the loyalty she showed. I loved the little brother and his worries and quick mind and unconditional love for his sister. I loved Steve and his thick skin which wasn't really that thick after all. I loved that Annika had real issues to face and real tears to shed. I loved the archery, the snake, the kisses, the studio, the trailer jumping, and the not perfectly-perfect ending.

This book isn't going to change your life. But it will bring out a sunny smile, squeeze your heart, and make you want more of Janette Rallison.

And when you go out and get more, might I suggest My Fair Godmother. It is my favorite favorite so far.

Review: Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

Bel Canto
by Ann Patchett
Fiction
318 pages
published: 2001
3.5 of 5 stars


About

Somewhere in South America at the home of the country's vice president, a lavish birthday party is being held in honor of Mr. Hosokawa, a powerful Japanese businessman. Roxanne Coss, opera's most revered soprano, has mesmerized the guests with her singing. It is a perfect evening — until a band of terrorists breaks in, taking the entire party hostage.
But what begins as a life-threatening scenario slowly evolves into something quite different. Friendship, compassion, and the chance for great love lead the characters to forget the real danger that has been set in motion and cannot be stopped. - from Goodreads 

Reaction

Let me just talk about the writing for a while. The writing made this book. It was a unique and satisfying experience. While reading, I felt like I was floating through the air, weightless and worry free. Perhaps carried by butterflies. It was strange, surreal, and completely addicting. And while those butterflies carried me, seemingly over a beautiful jungle valley, I noticed a story playing out below and I watched avidly. I floated and hovered and the distance made the frightful situation beautiful. It wasn't always the people or the story that kept me picking up the book, but the glorious weightlessness.

That is not to say the the people and the situation were not interesting. I wanted to know how things would play out. I wanted to watch the interactions. But I was never emotionally invested to the point that I was scared for anyone, or couldn't handle with aplomb how I figured things would end. I was fascinated by my own response, so strange was my floating!

I worry that I have lost you all....waxing too metaphorical...but gall darn it was awesome.

On a more concrete level, this book was a subtle study of psychology, of how things change within people and within relationships when a new dynamic is enforced. I did sympathize with the terrorists (albeit from a distance) and rose and fell with the plight of the hostages. I felt the most for Gen. Gen was my favorite. Yet all the characters felt very real - everyone was terribly flawed, yet redeemable, including the terrorists. The ending was predictable, sudden, and harsh, but it really couldn't have ended any other way. The ending lent the whole story an air of believability and realism. It was good.

I didn't love everything though. I didn't appreciate finding myself rooting for a would-be adulterer. I took a step back at that point. I didn't buy into the idea that when an opera singer sings everything turns to roses - terrorists forgetting their goals, hostages of inconceivable amounts of time finding bliss, and uneducated teenagers swooning. Opera is actually an acquired taste, at least for most of us. I sure wouldn't have been swooning and forgetting I wanted to go home.

And of course, the epilogue was horrendous. Really. I'm still incredulous that that bit of bad taste was tacked on. I am trying to forget it exists and not have the whole book tainted beyond recovery. That icky.

At the end, I would recommend this book. If nothing else, to experience the writing. Maybe you will get carried by butterflies like I was. Enjoy the ride!

Monday, April 12, 2010

What Do You Think About BAD YA Romance and Rape Culture??

 A few weeks ago I ran into a bunch of fascinating links and started mad clicking and reading with my mouth open and my head nodding. Call me sheltered, call me naive, call me uneducated...but I was not actively aware of certain cultural flaws, or of many of the books discussed below. But Wow. Just wow. I'm not saying every article and view point contains unadulterated "truth," but a lot struck a resonating chord within me.

I know there are quite a few links below, and many cross-reference each other and there is some overlap within the articles, but I think it would be worth your while to check them out.

Jessica Day George's review  of Hush Hush
why ya romance needs to change by In Which A Girl Reads
Another Post About Rape
Bad Romance (or, YA & Rape Culture)
And THIS one at University of Fantasy

For the record, I have not read Hush Hush and offer no personal opinion on it. I have read positive reviews as well as these negative ones. (I wanted to read it before I put up these links, but I don't think I'll get my hands on it anytime in the near future.)

What do I think? Well, the short of it...I  need to (1) be more aware of the romantic relationship dynamics of what I read (2) be mindful to NOT financially support BAD romance (3) be watchful of what my daughters read and (4) teach my daughters to stand up for themselves - always - and that includes screaming. It has also cast a new light on a few episodes from my first year in college and allowed me to judge my reactions a little less harshly than I have in the past. Behaving the way you are supposed to behave does not ensure that others will behave the way they are supposed to.

Now, I really really really want to know what you think!

Listful Mondays: Book Movies

Book Movies I Own or Want to Own


Welcome to Listful Mondays again! Today's list was not difficult, but did require much roaming the house to find all the movie stashes. (And I'm in now way certain I found them all.) What I found interesting is there are many movies I have which I don't automatically think of as "book movies," but which very much are. Another interesting thing - I would guess book movies make up roughly a third of all the movies we own! (I did not include Disney's fairy tale adaptations.)

Book Movies I Own:
  1. Much Ado About Nothing
  2. Pride and Prejudice (1995 - the 6 hour one and my favorite)
  3. Pride and Prejudice (2005)
  4. Pride and Prejucide (2003 - the Mormon version)
  5. Jacob Have I Loved
  6. The Hunt for the Red October
  7. The Spiderwick Chronicles
  8. Sense and Sensibility (1995)
  9. Sense and Sensibility (2008)
  10. Persuasion (2007)
  11. Northanger Abbey (2007)
  12. Jane Eyre (2006 - my favorite)
  13. Jane Eyre (1997 - my second favorite)
  14. Jane Eyre (1983)
  15. Jane Eyre (1996)
  16. Rebecca (1997 - haven't actually finished watching this...)
  17. Eragon
  18. Harry Potter 1 - 7
  19. Jurassic Park
  20. Because of Winn-Dixie
  21. Love Comes Softly
  22. Love's Long Journey
  23. Love's Enduring Promise
  24. Stardust
  25. Clueless (Emma adaptation)
  26. Emma (1996)
  27. Emma (2009)
  28. Nancy Drew
  29. The Princess Bride
  30. Shrek
  31. How the Grinch Stole Christmas
  32.  Holes
  33. Matilda
  34. The Polar Express (Ghastly)
  35. The Princess Diaries 1 & 2
  36. The Many Adventures of Winne the Pooh
  37. Narnia
  38. Prince Caspian
  39. The Bourne Identity
  40. The Bourne Supremecy
  41. The Bourne Ultimatum
  42. Anne of Green Gables
  43. Anne of Avonlea
  44. The Importance of Being Earnest (2002)
  45. The Secret of Nimh
  46. Watership Down
  47. Peter Pan (2003)
  48. Jumanji
  49. The Jungle Book (1997)
  50. Horton Hears a Who
  51. The Three Musketeers (1993)
  52. The Incredible Journey
  53. A Series of Unfortunate Events
  54. Ella Enchanted
 Book Movies I'm Aching to Acquire:
  1. North and South (2004)
  2. The City of Ember
  3. The Lightning Thief
  4. Speak
Book Movies I Haven't Seen Yet Because I Have a Demanding Baby:
  1. The Time Traveler's Wife
  2. My Sister's Keeper
  3. Where the Wild Things Are
  4. Wuthering Heights
  5. the new Alice in Wonderland (Don't know it's official name)
What are your book movie collections, or wish list? What great book movies am I missing? I would love to see your lists!


{Next week: Book places I want to see/visit.}

Friday, April 9, 2010

Book Blogger Hop: Fun, Friends & Feelin' Fine

Come join me in the hop this week at Crazy-for-Books. You'll find tons of cool new book blogs and might even get a few new visitors to yours. Oh yeah.

Please comment if you're visiting me through the hop! Hope you feel at home here. :)

Thursday, April 8, 2010

I Love Despair.com

Makes you feel all warm and fuzzy. :)

Review: Briar Rose by Jane Yolen

Briar Rose
by Jane Yolen
Fairy Tale
239 pages
published: 1988
3 of 5 stars

Ever since she was a child, Rebecca has been enchanted by her grandmother Gemma’s stories about Briar Rose. But a promise Rebecca makes to her dying grandmother will lead her on a remarkable journey to uncover the truth of Gemma’s astonishing claim: I am Briar Rose. A journey that will lead her to unspeakable brutality and horror. But also to redemption and hope. - from Goodreads.

Briar Rose is a fascinating, heart-wrenching novel. I was immediately caught up in the mystery of Rebecca's grandmother's life, and how she could possibly be Briar Rose. I loved searching through the old documents and momentos, I thrilled at the journey through Poland, and I scrambled to make all the pieces fit together. And they did fit together - but not in any way I could have guessed beforehand. And even the slight modern-day love story was sweet and engaging. The ending was as satisfying as it could be.

Though rather than leaving me crushed about an individual's war story, as war books often do, this book left me crushed by the horror that is our world. But if we do not understand what happened, how can we prevent it from ever happening again?

*Spoiler Alert (at least a bit of a spoiler)*
I would not recommend this book lightly. First, though it is billed as YA, I don't see how it could be. The protagonist is 23 (I think) and her love interest 35, both with jobs and grownup responsibilities. Is this a problem? Not for me!! But I doubt an average15 year old would be drawn in to experiences so outside their own. Second, there was a homosexual sex scene that was more descriptive than I was prepared for. Third, and most important, the subject matter (of mass killings, burials, bodies...) was brutal and horrific. And true. Not just any kid can handle that.

I will not ever forget this story. I think it worthwhile for anyone old enough to read it. It was amazing to see a fairy tale adapted to recent history.

Review: East by Edith Pattou

East
by Edith Pattou
YA, fairy tale
516 pages
published: 2003
4 of 5 stars

East is a retelling of the Norwegian fairy tale, East of the Sun and West of the Moon. This is my second version of this fairy tale (the first was Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow by Jessica Day George) and I really enjoyed it. It feels to me like a cold and snowy Beauty and Beast, with some evil trolls thrown in.

 My thoughts:
  •  I loved how the story was told from several different points of view. The chapter titles where only the name of whose voice would be speaking. I was quite a ways into the book before the MC, Rose, started speaking, and it worked. Even the White Bear and the Troll Queen had a few chapters.
  • I appreciate how in this tale, the love between Rose and the bear developed over a year's time.
  • I enjoyed how the winds weren't present as characters in this version, but were represented by people with strong personality types. I loved that the Rose was helped by "real" people.
  • The journey to find the white bear, because the winds weren't used, was long and grueling. It added much to Rose's character development and was fascinating.
  • I liked reading about weaving.
  • The superstitious mother was entertaining and infuriating.
  • It was a fairly fast read with a steady moving plot.
  • I compared this retelling to the other version I have read the whole time, this plot device against that plot device. I preferred some things from this one more, and some things from the other. So I say, read them both!

Jadyn's Review: Fairy Realm books by Emily Rodda

FAIRY REALM Books 1 - 10
by Emily Rodda
MG, Fantasy

It was amazing and MAGICAL series of awesome tasks and adventures. On the way Jessie finds out that she is a fairy princesses.

What I liked

1. Jessie is granddaughter of Mr. and Mrs. Belairs. Mrs. Belairs has an amazing identity an always comes to her rescue.

2. Jessie has a charm bracelet given to her by the folk of the realm and presented to her by Queen Helena.

3. It is sooooo extremely interesting and exciting. It was an extreme series and I want to read all of Emily Rodda's books that she has written and will write!

Here are the books in the series:
  1.  The Charm Bracelet In it Jessie saves the realm.
  2. The Flower Fairies  It is an extraordinary book about .......about...............FOR PETE'S SACK IT'S ABOUT THE FLOWER FAIRIES!
  3. The Third Wish  Is an awesome book about a young mermaid and her mistake.
  4. The Last Fairy Apple Tree The gnomes are scared that their greedy greed will betray them.
  5. The Magic Key is about Jessie's birthday and her wonderful and frightening party and mishap.
  6. The Unicorn  is about the marvelous creatures of the DREAM FOREST.
  7. The Star Cloak is about Jessie's encounter with creatures on STAR MOUNTAIN.
  8. The Water Sprites is about the mean and jerky, restless sprite.
  9. The Peskie Spell is about a spell that needs to be found and gets found.
  10. The Rainbow Wand is about a young girl in the realm and the fight.
That's all I'll say for now.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Listful Mondays: Book Food

Book Food (food mentioned or described in books) that you want to eat or have eaten.

I think I should have included the word "memorable" in my topic because as I've thought about this topic, I have realized that many of my food memories in books are not food I would want to eat. So I am making two lists - memorable book food I want to eat, and memorable book food I'd rather not.

My apologies for putting this up so late in the day. I am sick. And had to known what sort of sick I'd be last week, this topic would not have been chosen.

Book Food That I WANT to eat:
  1. Bubbly pies and meat rolls from Anne McCaffrey's dragon books. (I've spent a lot of time in this world and somethings go crazy cuz I can't get my hands on their food!)
  2. Pumpkin juice and chocolate frogs from the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. (There is actually much more food from Harry Potter that sounds wondrous. Nearly every meal at those magical tables sounds amazing - though amidst the roasted meats, buttered toast, and cakes, there is usually at least one thing I DON'T want to eat - like steak and kidney pie or treacle tart. I don't actually know what treacle is (it might even be a dessert) but I don't eat anything that sounds like 'treacle.')
  3. Bread and cheese from the Spellsong Cycle series by L. E. Modesitt Jr. (Bread and cheese doesn't sound that great, and is in fact standard fare among traveling people, but in these books, which I read straight through, the only thing those people ate was breach and cheese. I didn't think the books were great and was frustrated with their diet, but I found myself craving, and eating, bread and cheese. I might have been pregnant...)
  4. Lembas, or waybread, from The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien. (Usually anything made by elves sounds glorious.)
  5. The amazing plethora of food made and consumed in Farm Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder. 
  6.  Polgara, from several series' and stand alones by David Eddings, can make gourmet food over a campfire, including toast, bacon, roast chicken, omelets, and stew.
  7. The Earth's Children series by Jean M. Auel has some yummy ptarmigans stuffed with stuff and baked in underground stone ovens.
  8. Ambrosia in The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan. (I've told my husband many times that I think bruschetta is what the gods eat. My ambrosia would taste like that.)
  9. Have you ever tasted water so good as the water Katniss (Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins) found right before see expired from dehydration?
  10. Unless maybe it was the water Wanda (The Host by Stephenie Meyer) chugged after her death-defying trek through the desert.
Memorable Food I Do Not Want to Eat. Ever:
  1. The cabbage concoctions by Aunt Zelda in the Septimus Heap series by Angie Sage.
  2. The shriveled olives in The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner.
  3. That same Polgara tends to make porridge a lot. Pass.
  4. Hatchet by Gary Paulsen has a detailed description of slurping down a raw turtle egg. Yum.
  5. Sole Survivor by Ruthanne Lum McCunn. This is the story of a man who survived on a wooden raft in the ocean for 133 days. Here is a quote: He experimented more daringly with food. Looking for marrow, he discovered many of the birds' bones were hollow, and when he carefully picked apart a skeleton, he saw the hollow bones in the wings were connected to their lungs, allowing them to fill with air. These he used as straws to suck out the clear fluid surrounding a fish's tiny brain, pretending he was drinking the white of egg. He crunched the eyes of fish as though they were lumps of barley sugar. And he ate the granular masses of yellowish tissue he sometimes found behind a fish's swimming bladder, finding they tasted like roe. ... Flaccid livers, chewy kidneys, crunchy marrow, fatty skin, creamy brains, birds' blood, and fish's spinal fluids offered a variety of tastes and textures.  (I have the stomach flu and that was hard to type out!)
  6. The MC in Restoree by Anne McCaffrey was trapped in an asylum and needed to fee her charge the "blue food" while she ate the "red food." Something like paste if I remember right.
  7. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. Need I say more?
  8. The endless brown bread and potatoes from The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  9. Just about anything made by Sabrina and Daphne's grandmother in The Sisters Grimm series by Michael Buckley.
Food makes quite an impression, doesn't it?? I'd love to see a list from you!

Here's a real easy, but potentially long, one for next week. See ya all then. Happy listing!

{Next week: Book Movies I Own or Want to Own}

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Low-lights

WARNING: This is a very self-indulgent post. Not worth reading.

I brought the computer upstairs so I could catch up on blogging while sitting next to my sick husband and waiting to give my oldest her next dose of anti-nausea medication, but my mind is so fried that I can't pull it together to write any of the reviews buzzing in my head. So I'm going to share a bunch of low-lights.

First, I want to register what a horrible blogging week this has been for me. I couldn't rub two minutes together to type up anything. I literally have a list of all the posts and reviews I want to do. I haven't even been able to visit (and meet and follow) all the new people that visited me last week yet. Frustration! I had a church activity this week for which I was a planning participant, my second little girl turned 6 on the 1st, and the week deteriorated into a horde of sick children...but the biggest reason was the cranky 11 month old boy who has a vendetta against my computer.  (Seriously, this kid knows how to pull out the power cord, hit just the right keys to open/close things, and switch off the internet access. He also knows that banging the screen triggers my current "bug" making the screen go blank, and he likes to lick it. All of it. It's shinny. Gack!) So if I haven't responded to a comment, or visited you, it is NOT because I don't plan on it or want to. I'm in the midst of a lesson in patience.

And now for a series I'd like to think of as Books Have Finally Addled My Brain.

(1) This Christmas as bought my husband the first 13th Reality book. James Dashner is a local author that I've heard endless wonderful things about and I figured my husband would love it...and I'd get to read it later. :) Recently, I found the first two books at our Costco, so I grabbed the next book as well. Mr. Husband has now informed me that I bought him the second book for Christmas when I thought I was buying the first, and that I bought the first book at Costco when I thought I was buying the second. Huh? I'm not usually that clueless. Help?

(2) After proudly showing my brother (who, for the record, is not a "fiction" reader or an artist of any sort) my new header for my blog (we have that sort of relationship - I share what is important to me and he dutifully listens/looks and ahhs at the right places), when he asked where I had acquired the pictures.
"I took them!"
"You own that chair?"
"Yes."
"Which she bought just for the pictures." (Thanx Mr. Husband.)
"You put it in the snow?"
"Yes."
"How'd you get it out there?"
"I carried it."
"And the books?
"Yes."
"In a forest."
"Well, kinda."
"And took pictures of it?"
"Yes."
"Where are your footprints?"
"I, uh, walked up the side, way over that way, and around that tree, them put the tray there to hide anything."
Incredulous stare.

Every answer was more sheepish. I rarely have felt so silly. But later I plucked up my resolve. Crazy I might be, but I love my pictures. And winter will be the hardest season. It's all downhill from here.

(3) Another humbling conversation, this time with my 8 year old son.
Me: Looklooklook! I have 15 followers! Isn't that great?!
X: 15 is...not that many.
Me: But...but...a month ago I only had 4. (whimper)
X: Well...that's an...increase.

(4) There is no period in my header. And I can't just FIX it. That requires Husband's help since he did something to resize it and upload in some special yaddah yaddah way. Grumble grumble.

(5) With all the blogs I'm am now reading and following, I find I'm having an association problem. My mind is on overload. For each blog I want to remember the name, the look/layout, the blogger's name, and bio info. That's four things! For each blog! How do you all do it? I'd really love to hear any tricks you have.

Hoping next week is better for blogging. :)

Friday, April 2, 2010

Review: Rose Daughter by Robin McKinley

Rose Daughter
by Robin McKinley
YA, fairy tale
324 pages
published: 1997
2 of 5 stars

I'm new to the world of Robin McKinley, and I think the jury is still out. I really liked Beauty, her other retelling of Beauty and the Beast, though I had issues with the end. Here is my review on that one. It was suggested to me many times that I might like Rose Daughter better. Oh how sorry I am to disappoint everyone! This one did have an ending, and even a bit of a surprise one, but I didn't like it better at all.

First, what I did like:
  • Beauty's sisters where talented and fun and not just beautiful.
  • Beauty is very kind and has an inner strength.
  • Beauty's father grows and changes.
  • The roses where interesting and lovely. (Up to a certain point...)
  • The names where more descriptions than names (Jeweltongue, Lionheart, Longchance, Bestcloth, Trueword), though this is also a tad annoying.
  • The scene with an army of toads following obediently was great.
  • The Beast wasn't a spoiled royal child.
  • There was an ending.

Why didn't I like it more when it is my favorite fairy tale, has many good things, and has an ending?? I can answer that in one word: Confusing.

Now I'll use lots more words.

The writing in this retelling wasn't as lyrical, as fairy-tale-y, as Beauty, and instead was ambiguous. It was a regular occurrence for me to not quite know what was going. Re-reading the passages didn't help. The only thing I could do was continue and put the pieces together as more details came out. I also never understood the Beast's back story. It was given, or a part was given, no fewer than 5 times. There were different versions, which would have been fine if the accurate version had clarified things. The whole system of magic wasn't clear, there were no internal rules that I could understand. It was frustrating. I still don't know what part the witch played, where the bad guy went, why the house was an enemy, why Beauty dream traveled, or what the heck was up with the weather vane, the see-through animals, or where the compost came from. (Was it from the transparent animals?) Arghh!

I also found the narrative confusing when it dwelt on an ever-changing house and rose tending. The rose were interesting and the house was creepy, but the whole book felt like wandering shifting hallways and pruning bushes. I guess I got bored. All I could think was, "Go talk to the Beast!" How did they fall in love? There was little interaction. It's a nice metaphor - tending the guy's flowers with love until they thrive to save him - but translating that to real love doesn't work for me.

And my last confusing complaint (SPOILER ALERT!!!) had to do with the Beast staying a Beast. I'm not against this plot development necessarily, but I'm concerned about certain physical implications. Call me shallow or carnal if you'd like, but I find physical intimacy an important part of romantic love, and seeing as how he was huge and couldn't even eat like man, I'm worried about their...compatibility. And really, it's not needful for the story. The Beast doesn't need to stay a beast to prove anything, Beauty loved him the way he was. But freedom from the spell traditionally involves freedom from a shape he hates and the ability to marry, etc...

I didn't hate it. I was happy to finished reading it. (Though part of that was hoping that I'd understand what was going on at the end...) But I preferred Beauty 10 times over.

Weekly Geeks 2010-11: In the Beginning

I'm asking you to think back to the moment when you realized "I am a reader!" The moment you felt that desire to read everything! The moment you knew you were different than most of those around you and that this reading thing was for real. Tell us what book you were reading when that moment occurred. If you can't pin it down to one book, what other books define this moment in your life? Do you have a story that goes along with this moment? Please do share.

I've been thinking about this topic all week and have been unable to sit down (with two free hands) to write about it!! The more I've thought about it, the more I see my beginning as a reader as a series of events.

(1)  I don't know for sure, but I'm guessing I was in 3rd grade when my older brother (7 years older) decided it was time for me to read real books, which meant fantasy books. He convinced me to check out The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander from my tiny school library (which was a big deal all by itself) and then set me up on his bed right next to him to read together. Can I even express what a huge thing that was?? I was in heaven. The only problem was that the book was still a little hard for me, and I had my first experience with reading the words but not understanding. (Many experiences with this and text books to follow in years to come.) My brother was annoyed and impatient with me when I confessed my weakness. Back on familiar ground. But I now had a goal. Read that book. Make my brother happy. Climb that mountain! (I think everyone should have an older brother - it keeps one humble.)

(2) I read that book about a year later. It was amazing. And my thoughts went from "read that book" to "so that's what this reading thing is about."

(3) I devoured the Prydain Chronicles and The Little House on the Prairie novels and Anne of Green Gables. Each of these were unique and glorious and I knew I LOVED reading. They were also my first experiences with becoming so involved with a set of characters that I would feel destitute when a series ended. What would I do now??

(4) So, I asked my older brother what I should read next. He mailed me a long list of fantasy novels. This started my saving up of my allowance to buy the next book. And the place that I started, the place that made sure I was a fantasy addict for the rest of my life, was Dragonlance. Dragons of Autumn Twilight by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman.

What is it about that (or those) book(s) that caused you to feel this way?

The magic! The epic adventure! The mystery! The suspense! The immersion into an entire world with history and myth and religion and races of people and geography... But I actually know the exact moment in this book, which stretched to include this entire genre, when there was no turning back. The moment when I met Tasslehoff Burrfoot. Do you know a kender? Depending on now you answer this question, you either know exactly what I'm talking about, or you are missing out on something very special. 

Oh Tass. How I love you!!
 
And just for fun, if you are able to, post a picture of what you looked like when this important event happened!
This is me at almost 11 (with my baby sister) and is the closest guess I have to how old I was when I got my hands on Dragons of Autumn Twilight.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Review: The Squad: Perfect Cover by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

The Squad: Perfect Cover
by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
YA, chick lit
273 pages
published: 2008
3 of 5 stars

About

Bayport High’s Varsity cheer squad is made up of the hottest of the hot. But this A-list is dangerous in more ways than one. The Squad is actually a cover for the most highly trained group of underage government operatives the United States has ever assembled. They have the perfect cover, because, beyond herkeys and highlights, no one expects anything from a cheerleader. -- from Goodreads

More directly, it is about Toby, a rebel black belt, combat boots kinda gal who hates school and school spirit and obviously cheerleaders. That makes it especially difficult when she becomes the next recruit.

I'm almost embarrassed that I read this. But a while ago I read someone's review and died smiling. How?? Could there be anything more ridiculous?? And so of course, I wanted to read it. During a recent library trip, with a goodreads to-read list in hand, I scanned the shelves and found it available. After The Book Thief, a good cheerleader spy novel sounded just right. (I'm wondering if I've ever written a more improbable sentence.....that would be yes...but I was serious this time....)

Reaction

Here is the first paragraph, which I read out loud to my husband while waiting for seats at a restaurant after our library date trip, and after rendering him speechless by reading the back: 

If you'd told me at the beginning of sophomore year that I was going to end up a government operative, I would have thought you were crazy, but if you'd told me I was destined to become a cheerleader, I would have had you committed, no questions asked. At that point in time, there were three things in life that I knew for certain: (1) I was a girl who'd never met a site she couldn't hack or a code she couldn't break, (2) I had a roundhouse that could put a grown man in the hospital, and (3) I would without question chop off my own hands before I'd come within five feet of a pom-pom.

My first thought? I like her!

I smiled nearly the whole time I was reading this one. It requires a large suspension of belief, but suspension is good. It was fun. And I enjoyed that all those horrid cheerleaders where not flat characters - they had problems and depth and talents and even brains. Well, most of them. And there really was spy stuff in there.

I wasn't crazy about how "feminine wiles" really could solve anything. I mean, there are a few men out there with a brain (in their head) right?? And I actually started spacing out during some of the spy stuff. But that only reflects my interests. I never have picked up a spy novel becuase I knew it wouldn't be my thing...and I was SO right. I found myself thinking (and this blows me away) that I wanted to get back to the girly-cheerleader-love-interest crap. (Anyone who knows me will now know how much I truly boring I find spy stuff.)

So. This wasn't the next great thing. I doubt I'll end up owning it unless I find it at a used book store. But I enjoyed it. You'd probably enjoy it too.

One more quote:

...I became the owner of a limited-edition hot-pink cell phone identical to one owned by innumerable vacuous celebrities. Mine, of course, came equipped with a variety of special features, ranging from my very own electron wave accelerator to the world's teeny-tiniest hard-core hard drive, but that didn't make it any less pink.