Wednesday, August 31, 2011

YA Wednesday: North of Beautiful

North of Beautiful
By: Justina Chen Headley

Genre: Young Adult
Rating: 5 stars

Summary from Goodreads:
It's hard not to notice Terra Cooper.
She's tall, blond, and has an enviable body. But with one turn of her cheek, all people notice is her unmistakably "flawed" face. Terra secretly plans to leave her stifling small town in the Northwest and escape to an East Coast college, but gets pushed off-course by her controlling father. When an unexpected collision puts Terra directly in Jacob's path, the handsome but quirky Goth boy immediately challenges her assumptions about herself and her life, and she is forced in yet another direction. With her carefully laid plans disrupted, will Terra be able to find her true path?

I love this book. I try not to give many 5 stars because I feel like a book really has to be something awesome in order to get the best of the best and this book has it. The characters are believable and endearing. The story deals with heavier issues (borderline abusive parental relationships/physical deformities) in a real way. The port-wine stain  that covers her face is the tool used to write a book that is truly based on family relationships in all of their complexity.

All of the characters are dynamic and most achieve significant growth throughout the novel. My favorite of these would be Terra's mother. She begins as a very overweight, submissive, spineless person. She refuses to stand up to her husband and seems unable to come out of the shadows. However in the story she has moments where she comes into her own and reclaims her identity.

I love this book, I haven't bought it yet but I will as soon as I have the cash (poor, starving college student remember) go and read it, it really is amazing.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Classic Tuesday

by: Elizabeth Gaskell

Genre: Classic
Rating: 4 stars

Summary from Goodreads:
Gaskell's witty and poignant comedy of country town life - a gently comic picture of life in an English country town in the mid-nineteenth century,Cranford describes the small adventures of Miss Matty and Miss Deborah, two middle- aged spinster sisters striving to live with dignity in reduced circumstances.

Rich with humor and filled with vividly memorable characters—including the dignified Lady Glenmire and the duplicitous showman Signor Brunoni,Cranford is a portrait of kindness, compassion, and hope.

I listened to this while driving around this summer and the characters were so adorably funny that at times I almost had to pull over because I started laughing pretty hard. One of those memorable instances was when one of the esteemed ladies got dizzy when thinking that the earth is spinning around the sun not staying still. 
Rather than having any real plot it is a series of vignettes telling all of the secret foibles which can be found in the society of women. Gaskell teases in a gentle manner however, perhaps because she was aware of the restraints of the society which she created for them, genteel enough to not work but not wealthy enough to be truly independent. There really is very little for the women to do.
It is a wonderful comedy of manners which points out faults in these wonderful women what some of us can be sure to find in ourselves. It is an extremely happy read with endearing characters and a wonderful movie to go along with it (though it is a little mixed up as most movies are). I love Gaskell, I have since I first came across North and South, and this one is simply wonderful

Monday, August 29, 2011

Miscellaneous Monday -Christian Fiction

Widow of Larkspur Inn
By: Lawana Blackwell

Genre: Christian, Historical fiction
Rating: 4 stars

Summary From Goodreads:
Julia Hollis' opulent life in Victorian London crashes to pieces when her husband passes away. Worse, she is told by his bankers that he gambled away their fortune. Now, the family's hope rests on The Larkspur, an old abandoned coaching inn in the quaint village of Gresham. 
Driven by dread and her desire to provide for her children, Julia decides to turn the dilapidated inn into a lodging house. But can she--who was accustomed to servants attending to every need--do what needs to be done and cope when boarders begin arriving? And then an eligible new vicar moves into town....

Let me first say that with the school year now officially upon me I will most likely be taking more summaries from Goodreads

This was a wonderfully gentle read. It didn't particularly race along with its plot but rather moved at a sedate pace, meaning that yes in places it dragged for a bit, but on the whole was something that I read when I didn't need to think that much because I was recovering from studying for finals.  The characters are all likable, the plot doesn't really throw you for any loops and it has a nice message. There is a very strong Christian aspect (Main man is a vicar what do you expect?)

it's a perfect “recovery read” for when you simply want to relax and get a good story.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Fluffy Friday: Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart

Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart
by: Beth Pattillo

Genre: Chick-Lit
Rating 2 stars

Claire Prescott is a sensible woman who believes in facts and figures, not fairy tales. But when she agrees to present a paper to a summer symposium at Oxford on her ailing sister's behalf, Claire finds herself thrown into an adventure with a gaggle of Jane Austen-loving women all on the lookout for their Mr. Darcy. Claire isn't looking for Mr. Anyone. She's been dating Neil -- a nice if a bit negligent -- sports fanatic. But when a tall, dark and dashing stranger crosses her path, will the staid Claire suddenly discover her inner romantic heroine? Her chance meeting with a mysterious woman who claims to have an early version of Austen's Pride and Prejudice -- in which Lizzie ends up with someone other than Fitzwilliam Darcy -- leads to an astounding discovery about the venerated author's own struggle to find the right hero for Lizzie Bennett. Neil's unexpected arrival in Oxford complicates Claire's journey to finding her own romantic lead. 

While reading this I wondered if Patillo had actually read Austen. The impression I got was that she had simply watched the movies and not the good ones. All of the obvious Pride and Prejudice plot points were there only the characters were so underdeveloped that I really couldn't possibly care less about what happened to them. Clair was irritating and her "budding romance" with James was not at all believable.

The worst parts were the little bits of "First Impressions" that Pattillo tried to pass off as Austen. It was obvious there that Pattillo had never really studied Austen and that's what truly made me question if she had read it. You may try to defend her by saying it was her mimicking the Authoress before she became a good writer. That won't work.  Jane Austen has a very distinctive writing style and whatever Pattillo was doing it wasn't this. 

Pass on this one, it will save you a lot of time.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Sorry Nothing Today

Hey there....sorry there is no review today simply because I am moving across the country for school, the likelihood of there being one tomorrow is slim too. Please forgive me and if you have noticed this and are missing me, thank you so much for being a follower!

Classic Tuesday: Heart of Darkness

Heart of Darkness
by: Joseph Conrad

Genre: Classic
Rating: 5 stars

Sent into the steamy heart of the jungle, this story chronicles Marlow's journey up river to the inner station where he meets the legendary Mr. Kurtz. Marlow's journey and discovery of Mr. Kurtz reveals the depravity to which mankind can seek when left to their own devices.

This is a classic novella which almost everyone it seems is forced to read at some point in either their high school or college career. The reactions run the gamut from absolutely loving it, to thinking it was the biggest waste of class time ever.  As my rating might show I am of the first camp. Now I know that it can seem slow- as if you are floating down a and all of the "brooding gloom" may seem too much for some people but I find it marvelously written and the ideas within it are wonderful.

The idea of what mankind is like without the social constraints of the police, of friends, of other people in general around is quite alarming as we see with the powerful Mr. Kurtz. It does make you ponder about what's inside each of us and overall if we would succumb to our own "heart of darkness" if given the chance to do so.

Now I should probably make note of the racist ideas in there. First off, remember when reading books from other eras you need to understand the mindset of the time so Conrad was simply writing within his era. Secondly, look at who the self-control and who can be described as almost regal during selections. My opinion is that this social criticism casts the Europeans in a much worse light than the natives.  So please read with an open mind.

I love this book, it is one that I have kept and reread without being assigned to do so. I love how Conrad makes us think. I love that there are quite a few hilarious quips peppered throughout the story. I simply love this book.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Miscellaneous Monday- She Walks in Beauty

She Walks in Beauty
by: Siri Mitchell

Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction
Rating 3.5 stars

Summary from Goodreads:
For a young society woman seeking a favorable marriage in the late 1890s, so much depends on her social season debut. Clara Carter has been given one goal: secure the affections of the city's most eligible bachelor. Debuting means plenty of work--there are corsets to be fitted, dances to master, manners to perfect. Her training soon pays off, however, as celebrity's spotlight turns Clara into a society-page darling. Yet Clara wonders if this is the life she really wants, especially when she learns her best friend has also set her sights on Franklin De Vries. When a man appears who seems to love her simply for who she is, and gossip backlash turns ugly, Clara realizes it's not just her heart at stake--the future of her family depends on how she plays the game.

I loved this little gem that I found when looking for free books for my kindle. It is a sweet book about a girl who is being dragged kicking and screaming onto the social scene.  She would must prefer to spend her time reading than learning the latest dance. 

Rather than focus on romance as most historical novels seem to do this focused a lot more on the fashion aspect.  A particular point in the novel is the use of the corset and the battle all women go through to try and achieve the perfect 16 inch waist. Now obviously we know the dangers that are associated with the corset but at the time this was written they had been suspected but weren't viewed as a serious threat.  Also we see the beginnings of American stardom and the paparazzi beginning to take to the scene.

It claims to be a Christian fiction but in reality it really wasn't much of a point in the novel at all except for the fact that it was clean, and the main characters went to church a few times (in order to be seen by society).

All in all it was very well researched, decently written (if a little formulaic) and I related to Clara. It is a very fun read that still has some substance.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Fluffy Friday

Courting Miss Amsel
by: Kim Vogel Sawyer

Genre: Chick-Lit
Rating: 3 Stars

Summary from Goodreads:
Edythe Amsel loves her first teaching assignment - a one room schoolhouse in Walnut Hill, Nebraska. She has big plans for her students and intends on their receiving a fully rounded education. Unfortunately her ideas just may be too much for this town to handle
 Joel Townsend is thrilled to learn the town council hired a female teacher to replace the ruthless man who terrorized his nephews for the past two years. Having raised the boys on his own since their parents' untimely deaths, Joel believes they will benefit from a woman's influence. But he sure didn't bargain on a woman like Miss Amsel. Within the first week, she has the entire town up in arms over her outlandish teaching methods, which include collecting leaves, catching bugs, making snow angels, and stringing ropes in strange patterns all over the schoolyard. When Edythe decides to take her pupils to hear Miss Susan Anthony speak on the women's suffrage amendment, the town's outcry reaches new heights. Even Joel isn't sure he can support her newfangled ideas any longer.

I liked Edythe as a character, her love of teaching and of children was obvious and her creativity in regards to teaching methods was fun to read about. Also learning about her less than happy family life and how it affects her throughout the novel was a nice little part of it as well.

The plot was a bit predictable and I wasn't entirely hooked on the characters change of attitude at the end of the novel but it was good for its genre. This novel is exactly what you expect it to be. It's light and sweet with little bits of history thrown in here and there good for a day when you want a good story without having to think too hard.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Historical Thursday

The Bad Queen
by: Carolyn Meyer

Genre: Historical Fiction, Young Adult
Rating: 3 stars

Summary from Goodreads
From the moment she was betrothed to the dauphin of France at age fourteen, perfection was demanded of Marie-Antoinette. She tried to please everyone—courtiers, her young husband, the king, the French people—but often fell short of their expectations. Desperate for affection and subjected to constant scrutiny, this spirited young woman can’t help but want to let loose with elaborate parties, scandalous fashions, and unimaginable luxuries. But as Marie-Antoinette’s lifestyle gets ever-more recklessly extravagant, the peasants of France are suffering from increasing poverty—and becoming outraged. They want to make the queen pay.

Everyone who has learned anything about the life of Marie Antoinette knows the entire plot of this novel. It covers her difficulties in conceiving, to her lavish parties, to the night her husband was killed, everything. What set it apart for me was the fact that the reason Marie was what she was is that she was simply doing what she was told to do. She was following orders and traditions on almost all counts and if she had been instructed better who knows what would have happened.

But if Meyer was trying to make me like Antoinette she failed miserably. All I saw was a whiny child who lacked all self-discipline, and showed no interest in anything other than herself. It was quite irritating actually to have to listen to how she hates to read and can’t write and can’t keep up with the current events of the country she is supposed to be running.

This book is great if you want to know the life of Marie Antoinette and haven’t gone in-depth yet but if you already know her life story I feel like you can pass on it.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

YA Wednesday: Mara Daughter of the Nile

Mara Daughter of the Nile
by: Eloise Jarvis McGraw

Genre: YA, Historical Fiction
Rating: 5 stars

A slave girl in Ancient Egypt, all Mara wants to do is to be free. Therefore when she is offered not one but two chances for freedom how could she refuse. All she has to do is turn double-spy and work for both Queen Hatshepsut and her younger brother and contender for the throne Thutmos III.  The game she plays is a very dangerous one and one she intends to win.

This girl is your wonderful hot-tempered heroine. She is feisty and will fight for what she wants, and because of this willingness to fight for herself I found myself rooting for her as well. She is intelligent, calculating, but still grows throughout the novel.

The adventure/political aspect of it is wonderful as well. Mara could very easily sell out her other master Sheftu to the Queen and gain her freedom, yet in the novel she begins to learn to see the bigger picture and wonders if that would be the best choice for Egypt. Her going back and forth on this issue and her intrigues to keep both parties happy keeps the story moving at a wonderful pace.

 I found this book in 7th grade and I am still reading it in college - it's one of the few that I brought with me. I love it and think it is simply wonderful.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Birthday Dedication!! Happy Birthday Little Bro - This is for you!

The Lightning Thief
by: Rick Riordan

Genre: YA
Rating: 3.5 stars

Summary from Goodreads:
After getting expelled from yet another school for yet another clash with mythological monsters only he can see, twelve-year-old Percy Jackson is taken to Camp Half-Blood, where he finally learns the truth about his unique abilities: He is a demigod, half human, half immortal. Even more stunning: His father is the Greek god Poseidon, ruler of the sea, making Percy one of the most powerful demigods alive. There's little time to process this news. All too soon, a cryptic prophecy from the Oracle sends Percy on his first quest, a mission to the Underworld to prevent a war among the gods of Olympus.

Let my preface: I am a mythology nut. Greek, Egyptian, Norse, Celt - I love it all. Here there is a really nice in-depth look into the Greek mythology done in such a way that the modern-day youngsters can not only enjoy it but also remember it. It is a perfect series for those young friends of our who really don't like to read normally because it's fast paced and full of action.

I really loved how all of the different mythologies got dropped in here and there. From the invisibility cap to the wonderful use of Iris (who is my favorite little goddess). The book is peppered with details that show that Riordan did his research in regards to the mythology of the novel.

But I do need to mention that it did feel a lot like a HP knock-off, but I will forgive it because HP is a good thing to knock-off of, and the age group that this is intended for probably won't notice.

I really do need to reiterate that this is the perfect novel for the reluctant reader, some of my younger siblings would rather be outside rather than reading but both of them have read this and loved it and the rest of the series. If a book can do that, it definitely has my seal of approval.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Miscellaneous Monday - I Am Really A Princess

I Am Really A Princess

By: Carol Diggory Shields

Genre: Children's
Rating: 5 stars

 "I am really a princess. And when my true parents, the king and queen, find out how I have been treated around here, they are going to be very upset." That first sentence says it all as a little girl complains about all of the things she has to do.
However, after the day is done, the chores are through and it's time for bed our little princess that trading ponies and princes for tickles and hugs just might be worth it.

There are childhood favorites that stay with you and that you want to make sure that you have for your kids, this is definitely one of those for me. The story is very cute and expresses  exactly how all children feel, from eating whatever you want for dinner to having a pony (who of course will stay in your room). 

This is another that I had memorized because I wanted to hear it every night. I really think I just wanted to look at the pictures. The  illustrations are what really make children's books and these are just so adorable. I had a toss up between the picture of the dinner scene or where the young princess picks out her own most marvelously mismatched outfit.

This is perfect for just about every little girl you may have in your life and maybe even some of the older ones as well.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Fluffy Friday - Head in the Clouds

Head in the Clouds

by Karen Witemeyer

Genre: Chick-Lit, Historical Fiction, Christian Romance
Rating: 4 stars

Adelaide Proctor finds herself in Texas following her Prince Charming, little does she know that he is really not the man she imagined him to be. With no job or other prospects she jumps eagerly at the chance to be a governess and tutor for a young Isabella, the mute adoptive daughter of British rancher Gideon Westcott. Gideon had come to America in the hopes of making something of himself and was given the charge of Isabella on the ship over. Far from the grasping hands of her uncle both Adelaide and Gideon believe themselves safe; little do they know that trouble is coming for them.

I really thought this was marvelous chick-lit. I give my ratings based on their genre and this one did its job marvelously. The characters were endearing and believable for the most part and I thought the writing style far surpassed in what can be found in Chick-Lit these days. The Christian aspect was balanced well, adding to the story rather than distracting you from it. 

Gideon was a perfect gentleman that women everywhere would swoon for and thankfully Adelaide deserved him. She was intelligent, and from her interactions with Isabella it showed that this author has actually interacted with children. it could be because I have so many dealings with them myself but when a writer writes children in I pay close attention to how they behave and most of the time they are either too young or too old for what their supposed age is. Here Isabella character perfectly suits her.

For those of you looking for some sweet summer reading this would be the perfect thing for a lazy afternoon or two. 

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Historical Thursday

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan
by: Lisa See

Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 3.5 Stars

In 19th-century China a seven year old girl named Lily finds herself matched with a laotong or an old-same, a sister for life. She and Snow Flower go through their lives experiencing their greatest life experiences together. They are there for each other through their foot-binding, marriages, and children. They communicate in the secret woman's language of nu shu but when a misunderstanding occurs their sisterhood is threatened to be ripped apart.

This one has been on my to-read shelf for a long time and I am glad that I finally got around to it. It is told from Lily's point of view when she is old and preparing her story for her death.

It was good, the topic was well researched, the plot moved quickly, but I found that the writing was average. There were no particular passages of beauty or wordplay that stood out to me. Lily's behavior in her adult life also didn't seem to fit entirely with both her character as a whole and her childhood friendship with Snow Flower. 

What I did like were the insights into the process and mentality behind the tradition of footbinding. While it was hard to read at times (those poor little children having to go through that) it was very interesting to learn more about the thought process behind it. Also the whole idea of nu shu the secret handwriting of women fascinated me. In a culture where language can become an art form this idea of a language known and used by women is a beautiful thing.

But the point of this is that it wasn’t the novel’s plot that drew me in, it was the historical bits. The back of the book where there is all of the historical background was probably my favorite part. The plot was ok, pretty standard but the history was very appealing.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

YA Wednesday - General Winston's Daughter

General Winston's Daughter
by: Sharon Shinn

Genre: Young Adult
Rating: 4 stars

Averie Winston, daughter of the great General Winston, is tired of staying at home while he goes off to exciting places. So she and her guardian travel to join him and her gorgeous fiancĂ© in the exotic Chiarrin.  She comes expecting a fun and tame adventure. However she discovers that the Chiarizzi are not at all happy with the occupation and there are rebels everywhere. Not only that her fiancĂ© - the seemingly perfect Captain Morgan - isn't all that she thought him to be. 

I like how this had obvious ties to the British occupation of India and other countries.  It brings up thoughts on occupation in general and how those who are being occupied might feel about the situation.

At first glance it feels like just another female coming of age in a foreign culture. Shinn does a wonderful job in creating a new culture that is detailed and complete. Everything from food to fashion to religion is covered without feeling like the reader is being overwhelmed with the information. So I was up for another fun adventure story. 

Then it took a twist.

The ending made the novel take on a new depth in it's social commentary and perhaps is one of the most substantial novels written by this author. Anyway - I love it, and would definitely recommend it to all of my friends who are looking for a read that is not purely fluff but not too dense to handle.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Classic Tuesday: Our Mutual Friend

Our Mutual Friend
by: Charles Dickens

Genre: Classic
Rating: 5 Stars

It all starts when John Harmon comes out of exile and back to London to claim his inheritance. A myriad of characters come together and weave a story that is rife with mystery, adventure and romance.

Dickens is perhaps my favorite author. His descriptions of people, and places, his very distinctive beginnings - everyone can recite those of  A Christmas Carol  and  A Tale of Two Cities - along with his satire make him one of the funniest and most memorable authors I have ever come across. And this book is, thus far, my favorite of his. 

It is a little gem which has been almost forgotten, Sparknotes itself doesn't have a page for it, which is probably why my English teacher assigned it. This is by far and away my highest favorite novel I have ever been assigned to read. It is almost like reading a soap opera it is so complex and yet all of the story lines are nicely intertwined - you just may not see it at first.

Jenny Wren – a little girl with a “bad back and queer legs” is one who has stuck with me. She isn’t an angelic child who is patiently bearing her struggles, she is more like an old crone stuck in a child’s body. She is wise beyond her years and has a bit of a vengeful streak that had me laughing and cheering her on.  To counteract this marvelous character is Bradley Headstone, to me one of creepiest persons ever put to paper.  The image of his hands wringing and his horrid calls for “Eugene Wrayburn” can still send me shivers just thinking about them.

Now do not be daunted by its size dear readers. Despite its hundreds of pages it is a book that will suck you in and not let you out willingly. I love it and am planning on rereading it during my flight back to school.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Miscellaneous Monday - The Screwtape Letters

The Screwtape Letters
by: C.S. Lewis

Genre: Christian Fiction
Rating: 5 Stars

This satire is a series of letters of an upper-level devil named Screwtape to his nephew Alcorn in regards to the best ways of keeping one from becoming a Christian. It systematically sheds light on all of the faults and foibles of human kind that keep them from religion.

I love this book. Lewis manages to point out exactly all of the nuances of human nature that can be used either for us or against us. The younger and more inexperienced tempter does his best to draw the Christian away with the bigger sins of adultery, greed and anger. These are the things which seem like they have the biggest impact yes? Well as Screwtape advises his young charge he explains that it is the smaller of the sins- those of thought, laziness, and bad intentions which are the most destructive.

An example that sticks out to me is the advice of distraction. Screwtape advises his nephew to make the human focus on the faults of the people around him when his is at the church service rather than pay attention to the meeting itself. He tells the younger tempter to make the man focus on the faults of all the others and remember how one has offended him. Lewis has done a masterful job in making us see the gravity of participating in such seemingly trivial matters.

This book caused me to really look inside myself to gauge where I am at in my life and if I am content with staying there. It brought up so many points in neat, concise writing that it was necessary to slow down and to ponder them. For all that it was done in a witty manner and so beautifully written as well.  

This is a MUST-read for all Christians and a book which should be discussed with friends and family.  

Friday, August 5, 2011

Just For Fun Friday

The Glassblower of Murano
by: Marina Fiorato

Genre: General Fiction, Historical Fiction
Rating: 4 stars

Summary from Goodreads:
Venice, 1681. Glassblowing is the lifeblood of the Republic, and Venetian mirrors are more precious than gold. Jealously guarded by the murderous Council of Ten, the glassblowers of Murano are virtually imprisoned on their island in the lagoon. But the greatest of the artists, Corradino Manin, sells his methods and his soul to the Sun King, Louis XIV of France, to protect his secret daughter. In the present day his descendant, Leonora Manin, leaves an unhappy life in London to begin a new one as a glassblower in Venice. As she finds new life and love in her adoptive city, her fate becomes inextricably linked with that of her ancestor and the treacherous secrets of his life begin to come to light.

I read this right after I got home from a trip to Venice so I believe that's what made it so wonderful. Also the focus was more that of intrigue than of romance, particularly during the portions of the story set in the past. That combined with the writing and the wonderful character of Leonora - a woman trying to make it in a predominately male career made the book one of the best I read that summer. The fact that I had just come from Murano and had seen how they made their glass (and I admit bought quite a few trinkets) made me enjoy it all ther

The writing - particularly for Corradino's story - is very well crafted I especially enjoyed the symmetry of the first and last chapters. It showed the readers exactly how much Leonora has grown throughout the novel. This is one I would pass along to anyone who loves history, art, and intrigue with just enough romance to keep it interesting.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Historical Thursday

Here was a Man
by: Norah Lofts

Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 2.5 Stars

Summary from Goodreads:
In one of her earliest works, beloved author Norah Lofts brings us her riveting and romantic account of Sir Walter Raleigh and the court of Elizabeth I. Raleigh knew from the time he was a boy that his life would be exceptional. He dreams of someday exploring the New World he's heard about in snippets of sailors' stories on the docks of the fishing villages where he was raised; and his good fortune leads him to rise in the court of Elizabeth I, becoming a most trusted friend and advisor to the power players of the day.

This one was simply ok for me. I did enjoy reading more about Walter Raleigh, a man who no one in America really knows much about except perhaps his dropping his cloak so that the queen wouldn't get her feet wet.  Lofts fleshed him out into a real character made a man who was believeable and created an Elizabeth which balanced out the reports of her being loved by her people and yet being a tyrant to her court. I enjoyed how Lofts managed to make the dear Gloriana someone to be pitied in spite of her quick temper and swiftly brutal punishments. It was also enjoyable to see the great writers of the age with Shakespeare, Marlowe and Spencer all making appearances.

Why such a low rating you ask? I just found the novel hard to read. The plot was good as was her character developments but her sentence structure was confusing. I would have to go back and reread sentences to make sense of what she was saying. I feel that if she had her sentences polished up it would be an amazing novel.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

YA Wednesday

Calico Captive
by: Elizabeth George Speare

Genre: Historical Fiction, Young Adult
Rating: 4 stars

In 1754 an Indian raid on her small New Hampshire town leaves Miriam Willard a prisoner of the Indians, forced to take part in a harrowing march north. Not knowing how it will end but expecting the gauntlet Miriam is not sure she can go on. Unbeknownst to her however is the fact that she is not being taken for the Indians but rather for the French. She is traded into the elite society of the French in Canada, with no way back home in sight.

I love stories with a strong female lead (can you tell?) and Miriam is very good at her job. She is neither perfect nor bratty but a wonderful spunky in between. She doesn't accept her new existence without a fight and that fight is what keeps her interesting throughout the novel. She makes the mistake of prejudice and has to grow up and come to terms with these new people who are not at all what she had imagined them to be. 

Another...very specific thing that I love to read about is sewing and dressmaking. I am pretty sure it's because I can't but I desperately want to. And as one could probably tell from the title, there is a lot of fabric in the course of the novel. Miriam happens to be quite deft with a needle and this talent is able to take her a long ways.

Also Speare has done a wonderful job in capturing the setting of the story. She describes everything wonderfully and you can tell that she has done her research.

Adding the above elements together comes a great young adult book which sadly seems to be overlooked. I would recommend this to anyone who wanted an easy read, but still full of fun, adventure and a little bit of growing up.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Birthday Dedication!!

Island of the Blue Dolphins
by: Scott O'Dell

Genre: Young Adult
Rating: 4 stars

In the Pacific there is an island that looks like a big fish sunning itself in the sea. Around it, blue dolphins swim, otters play, and sea elephants and sea birds abound. Once, Indians also lived on the island. And when they left and sailed to the east, one young girl was left behind.

This is the story of Karana, the Indian girl who lived alone for years on the Island of the Blue Dolphins. Year after year, she watched one season pass into another and waited for a ship to take her away. But while she waited, she kept herself alive by building a shelter, making weapons, finding food, and fighting her enemies, the wild dogs. It is not only an unusual adventure of survival, but also a tale of natural beauty and personal discovery.

Birthday dedications are when - on a follower’s birthday  (so if you want yours just let me know)- I review the book of their choice. This one is for a dear family member.

I read this for the first time when I was in third grade but have come back to it several times. I love the originality of it and how it is pieced together. First of all it teaches all of the the basic skills one needs - making a fence out of whale bone, how to catch an octopus and properly gather and prepare shellfish, all things every self-respecting child needs to know.  I love the stories of her daily routine and how she keeps herself alive.

One thing that really makes this novel is the fact that it is based on a true story. That was something I learned during one of my several re-readings of the book. The woman's name was Juana Maria and sadly after she was found and taken to the mainland she died in seven weeks.  You can actually visit her grave at the mission of Santa Barbra in California. 

After discovering that the novel - though fiction - became more to me. I loved it more because it became all the more real and wonderful. It is a great read and while it is targeted at a younger set it is fun to go back and read it again.


Keturah By: Lisa Tawn Bergren Genre: Christian Historical Romance Rating: 3.5 stars Summary:  In 1772 England, Lady Keturah Banning Tom...