Friday, August 27, 2010

Review: Ondine: the Summer of Shambles by Ebony McKenna

Ondine: The Summer of Shambles
by Ebony McKenna
YA, Fantasy
336 pages
published: 2010
4.5 of 5 stars


A teenage girl, in a small eastern European country, runs away home from physic camp with her new pet ferret. She tries to go back to her life helping in her family's restaurant, but has trouble after trouble with the fact that her ferret isn't really a ferret at all.


I was so excited about this book I just went ahead and ordered it off amazon. But then there was had a bad moment. You see, I had some expectations. Expectations that weren't the fault of this book at all. I had my mind set that this was a high fantasy novel, taking place in another world, would not be a contemporary time period, and that it involved quests and journeys. And that there would be no footnotes. We got off on the wrong foot and I set this book aside with much disappointment. My bad. With a little time to adjust my arbitrary expectations, I picked Ondine up again and loved it.

So note: This takes place in our world and time, though this obscure country does remove it from daily experience. There are no real quests. The characters stay fairly close to home. And there are footnotes.

About those footnotes. When I wasn't ready for them, I was annoyed. When I came back, loosened up and in a good humor, I found them right funny. I grinned my way through much of this book. Through the footnotes, the author was my buddy. A facetious, flighty buddy. Very enjoyable. And the translations of Scottish brogue were helpful.

The characters and their bizarre situation drive this novel. Shambles the ferret is saucy and witty. I liked him equally as a ferret and a man. Ondine is sweet and hard working, and has a brilliant breakdown. Ondine's family is large and interesting and soaked into the pages, even proving to be the cause of her current troubles.

I read it one sitting and had a great time.

There was one not so favorite thing. Ondine seemed a little hot-blooded even for a teen. Raging hormones much? Because of that, this book isn't really for younger teens. It doesn't get descriptive, but the feelings and situations might not be understandable to youngsters. There are occasional racy comments (amusing ones) and lots of blushing.

A very fun read.

Other Reviews:
In the Hammock  (I so should have been prepared for the footnotes! You mentioned them clearly. Bad memory of mine.)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Reading Anniversary

I didn't know to be grateful for a husband who reads when I was first married. I was naive enough to think that everyone loved reading as much as I. I know better now and I am grateful. We celebrated 12 years on June 20th.

When I asked Scott what was something he would like to do to celebrate, he said he wanted me to read to him. For our date I grabbed a simple and short romantic novel that I have enjoyed several times and we headed up into the mountains. We walked some lovely paths through the Sundance resort before finding the most perfect place to read. There was no one else around, there was a comfortable bench, there was a cool breeze coming off the water fall, and the scenery could not have been more beautiful. A perfect date. (Later we rode the moonlit chair lift ride. Highly recommend. Very romantic.)

I'm going to tell you now that book moment about The Apprentice by Deborah Talmadge-Bickmore mentioned in Book Moments and probably before. Pointless Story Warning.

I found The Apprentice at a used book store and it's cover struck my fancy. It is a short romance/fantasy that appealed to my teenage sense of isolation and drama. (I'll have to review it later. I really do love it. Though as an adult re-reader, I know some of my love is nostalgia. It is a bit of a self-indulgent book.) I loaned it to my friends and they loved it too. Then I loaned it to a less responsible friend and I never saw it again. I dutifully searched all my used book store haunts and could not find another copy. I even went to new book stores. Nothing. This was before the internet, the wonderful amazon, or even before I was aware I could ask a book store to order it for me. Such naivety! Sigh. Regardless. To me, this favorite book was lost forever....

Flash forward to my first semester at college. I had become friends with an apartment of guys and I hung there a lot. (I think I appreciated the quiet, stress-free environment over the girly craziness of my own. I tended to nap there.) One of the guy friends took me to visit a neighbor he had computer questions for. While I zoned out during the computer discussion, I noticed a book shelf and began scanning the titles. I recognized some and registered him as a fantasy reader. Then I saw The Apprentice. Cosmic Moment. So shocked was I that I burst out, interrupted their riveting conversation, "You Have The Apprentice!" I don't normally talk, let alone interrupt, strangers. In embarrassment I babbled about loving that book and losing it. This nice guy then just up and offered his copy to me. (I don't remember how, but he happened to know it was quite near my birthday.) I was stuck. I also don't just accept gifts. Especially from strange boys. But it was The Apprentice.

I took it. Oh the shame. What weakness! I clutched my ill-gotten book and retreated.

I'm sure it comes as no surprise that later, when I encountered him again, I was more than willing to talk and play...till 3:00 in the morning. (I'm a sucker for rubber band wars, and this guy taught me how to flick pennies. The joy!) And then with even less surprise, that I married him.

Happy Anniversary Scott! I love you and I love that you love books and I love that you just gave me that book I wanted so badly. I'll never forget.

Review: Illusion by Paula Volsky

by Paula Volsky
674 pages
published: 1991
6 of 5 stars


For two hundred years the Exalted classes have used their dazzling magical abilities to rule Vonahr. Now, their powers grown slack from disuse and their attention turned to decadent pleasures, they ignore the misery of the lower classes until the red tide of revolution sweeps across the land. Thrust into the center of the conflict is the beautiful Eliste vo Derrivalle, spirited daughter of a provincial landowner, who must now scramble for bread in the teeming streets of the capital. With the key to her magical abilities an elusive secret, she must suddenly find a way to survive in a world gone mad ... with liberty.

Illusion is a work of fantasy on the grandest scale - a seamless web of passion, danger, heroism, and romance that will hold you spellbound from the first page to the last. -
from Goodreads


I'm breaking back into the review groove with one of my all-time-favorite books. I read this one in High School after picking it out cold from a used book store. I just liked the cover. Thought is would involve hardship.

This was one I mentioned in my Book Moments post, about hiding in my room in the garage, on my little couch, next to my huge pile of clean clothes (because I never put them away), and hoping Mom didn't find me with some necessary housework. All day. I couldn't stop. I had never read anything like it.

It wasn't high fantasy in the sense that there was a whole world to save from some powerful evil. It didn't have other races of creatures or a big world to traverse. In some ways it was even myopic, with Eliste trying to save her own life and preserve her world view that was being threatened on every side.

Yet Eliste was not the only point of view written. You get to observe the "bad guys" and the "good guys" and wonder which exactly are the bad and the good. Or is everyone just misguided? Focused? Lost? Wrong?? Wrong in that way that everyone is a least a little wrong...too egocentric to see beyond our own noses.

If I had to describe this book in 4 words it would be: French Revolution with Magic. But that makes it sound too simple. It sometimes read like a history book, sometimes like a romance, sometimes like a fantasy. It jerks your sympathies. It surprises you with hidden identities, stubborn determination, and just how low the characters sink. It is filled with lovable characters. Lovable because they are absolute stinkers - ignorant, immature, arrogant, impetuous, self-centered, proud, silly, vain - with flashes of brilliance and self-sacrifice and tenacity and forgiveness.

It has been a while since I've read it last (though I've read it probably 3 times) and I keep remembering another part that I loved, and another. I can hardly pick. Ooh ooh I want you to read it!

Back to salient points. Engulfing read. Haunting. Unforgettable. Amazing characters - the good and the not so good. Satisfying and plausible ending without too much "happily ever after." And in a small way, I feel like a have a better handle on the psychology of revolution, elitism, mob control, and survival.

My only complaint? Those stinking French names that I can't pronounce. Grrr. 

Give it a try. I'll be shocked if you regret it.

A Letter

 (Hiking in Logan Canyon)

Dear Bloggies,

As is obvious, Summer and blogging didn't mix for me. With all 5 critters home all day there were no peaceful nap times with the computer on my lap. At first, I was horrified and stressed. I begged and bribed and wheedled. I ranted and fussed and complained. I tried writing late at night. I tried writing midst the chaos. I threw a fit. I pouted and sulked and whined.

And then I accepted it and gave up.

Things were better after that. Though I much missed your blogs and comments.

But I was able to read. Some I read out loud to everyone. Some I read in my swing while the critters played outside. Some I read with one hand while holding the baby so he would sleep with the house spinning around him. I have much to review and discuss.

School started today, and while things aren't "back to normal" yet since my husband is upstairs nursing a back this moment Baby boy is asleep and the computer is unmolested on my lap. :) So much to do!

And anyone attending the Utah Book Blogger's Social this Saturday, I hope to see you there. It will be my first social. I am excited and nervous. Big smiles!

Bookingly Yours,
A Small Accomplishment