Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

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Title: Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

Notable: Newbery Honor Book, 1998

Premise:

When Ella is born she is given the “gift” of obedience by a well-meaning, but clueless fairy.  No matter the order, Ella must always obey.  After Ella’s mother dies, her father eventually remarries and Ella must go to finishing school with her two obnoxious stepsisters, Hattie and Olive.  When Hattie gives Ella a terrible order, she runs away so that it won’t have to be fulfilled.  Eventually Ella finds her true love and escapes the curse.

My thoughts:

This book was so much fun!  A number of years ago I watched the movie “Ella Enchanted,” without every having read the book.  I thought the movie was really cute, but now I have to say that I like the book even more.  As with most books which have been made into movies, the book far surpasses the movie.  The character development in the book was much more satisfying.

Ella’s character in the book is just so darn likable!  She’s spunky, funny, down-to-earth, affectionate, compassionate, and knows her own mind.  Even though she suffers a lot because of her curse/gift, Ella doesn’t give up and keeps trying to exert her own will.  Her relationship with Char was very satisfying.  It’s deep and meaningful, without any hints at inappropriate conduct between the young people.  It’s so refreshing to see a love interest for young people which maintains its innocence.  That’s a rare thing nowadays.

I recommend Ella Enchanted to anyone who enjoys a good fairy tale!  It’s a unique take on the Cinderella story.

Possible Objections:

  • Some talk about ogres eating people

Rating: 4 1/2 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

OTHER ELLA ENCHANTED POSTS:

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The Elixir Vitae Adventures: Ortus by Stacey Horan

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A special thank-you to Stacey Horan for providing an ARC for me to review!

Title: The Elixir Vitae Adventures: Ortus (Book 1) by Stacey Horan

Premise:

Abigail and Quinn Link must go live with their grandpa when their mother suddenly dies from cancer.  Their grandfather, Professor Larson, asks the children to fill in where their mother left off — guarding the elixir vitae or fountain of youth from those who would use it for their own gain.  They travel around the United States finding and solving clues, while trying to simultaneously fit in at their new boarding school.

My thoughts:

I love the cover of this book!  I know that seems kind of silly, but I wanted to share something that I think was absolutely spot-on with this book.  I also loved the personal note which I received from the author when I won it through Goodreads.

The premise of the story is a good one.  The children go on adventures with their grandfather to find clues all around the United States to discover the whereabouts of the elixir vitae.  They do this by means of a magic portal map and key.  So far, so good.

Unfortunately, the execution of the story leaves something to be desired.  The actual narration sounded like a teenager telling about the events of their day — more like a diary entry than a novel.  I found myself wishing for more detail throughout the story, more richness, more variety in sentence structure, and more complex thoughts.

The characters were okay, but I didn’t become attached to any of them.  They needed more fleshing out and a closer glimpse into their psyches to show readers what makes them tick.  It also seemed that their emotional reactions were off at times.  Sometimes they had extreme negative reactions in situations which didn’t call for it.  I wondered why this person was all of a sudden screaming at that person.  Would they all benefit from some anger management classes?

Finally, there were enough errors in the text itself that it couldn’t be overlooked.  The editing wasn’t awful, but it wasn’t careful enough, either.  Of particular note, I counted eleven instances of the wrong word being used.  That’s kind of a lot.  Throw in a few misspelled words, missing words, extra words, and a paragraph break in the wrong place, and you can see how it could become a problem.

I recommend The Elixir Vitae Adventures: Ortus to those who like adventures which feature kids as the heroes.  If you’re willing to overlook some bumps in the delivery, you might enjoy this story.


Possible Objections:

  • One instance of taking God’s name in vain
  • One of the kids says, “Holy shhhhhh” – implying you know what

Rating: 2 1/2 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer

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Title: Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer

Notable: Book #4 in the Twilight series

Premise:

Edward and Bella are finally married and jet off to Rio de Janeiro to spend a lovely honeymoon together.  Though they didn’t know it was even possible, Bella becomes pregnant.  The entire Cullen family must figure out how to keep both Bella and the baby safe during the pregnancy and delivery, and how to protect the child from the meddling Volturi.

My thoughts:

This is the final book in the Twilight series.  While I raced through the three previous books, this one I took my time with.  I didn’t really want to get to the end.

When compared to the three previous books, I believe that this book demonstrates a notable step up in the maturity factor.  No longer are readers subject to long scenes in which Bella and Edward look for novel ways of stating that they can’t live without one another.  Thank goodness for that!

I enjoyed the story line of this book and to me it felt like it jumped into the complexity of an intricate soap opera.  You have all of these characters with complicated relationships, loyalties, and motivations.  They are all thrown together to defend their families, friends and way of life, and it makes for some socially tangled interactions.  That’s something which most ladies love to imagine!  Many of the characters are challenged in the way they view other “monsters”, and it’s nice to see them overcome their prejudices.

One of the aspects which I most enjoyed was getting to meet all of the vampire allies and to get a feel for what their strengths were.  It’s nice to see some new characters who are not antagonistic, and to witness their interactions with the Cullens.

Finally, I like how Meyer wrapped things up within the story.  Bella becomes a vampire and does a great job adjusting.  Charlie is brought into the secret only as much as is necessary to ensure he can still be a part of Bella’s life.  Jacob gets his happy ending.  And independent vampires and other paranormals score a win in their desire to be free of the repressive rule of the Volturi.  What more could you ask for?  It’s happily ever after for all of our favorite characters.

I recommend Breaking Dawn to all the ladies out there who enjoy a good romantic story with a bit of danger thrown in.  I think it’s best suited to teens and up, as things get a bit violent, especially the farther you progress in the series.


Possible Objections:

  • Violence & some gore
  • Sensuality
  • One use of the d-word

Rating: 4 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

 

OTHER TWILIGHT POSTS:

Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer

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Title: Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer

Notable: Book #3 in the Twilight series

Premise:

The vampires and werewolves of Forks, Washington face a new threat when Victoria seeks revenge against Edward and Bella.  Though werewolves and vampires are natural enemies, they will have to work together if they want to save their loved ones from the mayhem which is swiftly approaching.  The conflict and constant tug-of-war between Edward and Jacob over Bella finally comes to a head, with Bella making her final choice.

My thoughts:

If you love drama and angst, then this is the book for you!  I just finished Eclipse this evening, and it definitely left me feeling sad.  The ending is so tragic and even though I know that everything will turn out alright in the end, I still feel so sorry for poor Jacob.

It seems to me that this story revolves less around action and more around relationships and feelings.  It completely capitalizes on the love triangle between Jacob, Bella and Edward.  Their feelings, motivations, guilt trips, selfish actions, fights, and hissy fits are all on glorious display for the reader to bask in.  It feels like watching a soap opera from up close.  Personally, I would have liked a bit less of the angst, squabbling and indecision, but I can see how it would appeal to a younger audience.

The steaminess quotient definitely jumped up a notch with this book, compared to the first two.  With the talk about marriage, Edward and Bella are more forward in their physical relationship than they have been in the past, though there isn’t anything explicit.  Even Jacob gets his turn to smolder in this book!

The relationship between Edward and Bella is still one of (what I think is) unhealthy co-dependency.  I get that young people like this idea that there is one person out there who is your soul mate, and that it would kill you if you had to part with them, but I can’t keep my brain suspended in the clouds like a teenager can.  My mind craves a bit more realism in their relationship, and for their characters to realize that you can’t completely depend on someone else to define yourself or your happiness in life.  Sigh…I know that won’t be coming in the next book, though.

Despite that criticism, I loved the book and couldn’t put it down.  It’s just so juicy and full of drama!  I think the conflict and uncertainty in the relationships makes the story so engrossing, and that’s what makes it so addictive.

I recommend Eclipse to all the ladies out there who enjoy a good romantic story with a bit of danger thrown in.  I think it’s best suited to teens and up, as things get a bit violent, especially the farther you progress in the series.


Possible Objections:

  • Violence
  • More intimate scenes & discussion of sex after marriage; also a sexual assault is alluded to
  • A few uses of the d-word

 Rating: 4 1/2 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

 

OTHER TWILIGHT POSTS:

New Moon by Stephenie Meyer

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Title: New Moon by Stephenie Meyer

Notable: Book #2 in the Twilight series

Premise:

Edward has left Bella, thinking that she will be safe if he isn’t a part of her life.  Bella just can’t cope without him though, until Jacob Black brings some sunshine back into her life.  Just when life is starting to settle into a new normal, all heck breaks loose.  The vampire Victoria seeks revenge for the killing of her mate, hikers go missing in the woods, some kind of giant animals are on the prowl, and Jacob is avoiding Bella.

My thoughts:

Once I get reading these books, I can’t put them down!  This one took me about a day and a half to read.

I like this book even more than the first one!  I think it’s because Bella and Jacob’s interactions are much more down-to-earth and comfortably familiar than when she interacts with Edward.  Her relationship with Jacob is based on friendship and that’s simply more satisfying to read about.

I was also fascinated with the werewolf culture and getting to know those characters better.  Jacob Black is, of course, a wonderful and likeable character, but he’s backed up by others at La Push whom I’d like to know more about, as well.

The part where Bella and Alice go after Edward is…different.  It almost seems like a different story altogether because the vampires are so very absent from most of the rest of the book.  I think their reunion is a bit unbelievable; Bella just a little too needy and ready to forgive.  If I were in her shoes I’d be stinking angry.  I like the bit about her powers though, especially since I know how that will play out in a later book.

The way that things end with Bella and Jacob is very sad, but since I already know the story line, I’m not too heartbroken.  It just seems like poor Jake gets the short end of the stick.  He did what was right and was a faithful friend and in the end he gets slighted.

A favorite quote: “I was like a lost moon–my planet destroyed in some cataclysmic, disaster-movie scenario of desolation–that continued, nevertheless, to circle in a tight little orbit around the empty space left behind, ignoring the laws of gravity.”  (p. 201)
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I recommend New Moon to all the ladies out there who enjoy a good romantic story with a bit of danger thrown in.  I think it’s best suited to teens and up, as things get a bit violent, especially the farther you progress in the series.

Possible Objections:

  • Violence

Rating: 4 1/2 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

 

OTHER TWILIGHT POSTS:

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

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Title: Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

Notable: Book #1 in the Twilight series

Premise:

When her mother remarries, Bella Swan moves back in with her dad in the tiny, morose town of Forks, Washington.  She thinks life there will be dull until she meets the enigmatic and gorgeous Edward Cullen.  He fascinates Bella and she can’t help but try to unravel the mystery surrounding him.  To her great astonishment, she finds that he is equally intrigued by her.  But will their irresistible attraction end in heartache or joy?

My thoughts:

I had already read this book several years ago.  I was absolutely engrossed by it back then, and it still keeps me riveted today.  Even when I knew what was going to happen, I was still on the edge of my seat.  I guess that’s the sign of a good story!

I don’t know how Meyer did it, but she concocted a thoroughly engrossing and satisfying love story with Edward and Bella.  I think it might have something to do with the forbidden nature of their relationship, and the way that they ease into each new step very slowly.  The romantic build-up is quite slow and of course that’s like sweet torture for the reader.

Meyer’s writing style is really to my taste, as well.  Just like J.K. Rowling kept her Harry Potter stories going along at a nicely measured pace, Meyer does the same.  You’re propelled quickly through the story without it feeling like any kind of burden or work on your part.  I’ll confess that this series is one of my favorite contemporary romance stories.

I only have a couple of criticisms.  The first one is really related to my own stage of life right now.  Since I’m older and well past my teenage ideas of all-consuming love, that aspect of the story is a little annoying to me.  I’m more into the idea of steady love which is based on friendship, respect and trust.  I’m sure most preteens and teens swoon over the I’ll-die-without-you love sentiments contained in Twilight, though.  My second criticism is that towards the end of the book (and throughout the rest of the series) Edward and Bella get a bit annoying in their dialogue.  You can only read, “I can’t live without you” and similar sentiments so many times before your mind rebels.  You want to shout at them to grow up a bit and say something more original or have a normal conversation.  Even with those couple of criticisms though, I love the story.

I recommend Twilight to all the ladies out there who enjoy a good romantic story with a bit of danger thrown in.  I think it’s best suited to teens and up, as things get a bit violent, especially the farther you progress in the series.

Possible Objections:

  • Violence

Rating: 4 1/2 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

OTHER TWILIGHT POSTS:

 

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling

HP Prisoner of Azkaban

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Title: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling

Premise:

In Harry’s third year at Hogwarts all heck breaks loose!  Notorious criminal Sirius Black has broken out of Azkaban prison and is bent on seeking revenge.  Meanwhile, Harry, Ron and Hermione are buried in schoolwork as they prepare to take their OWLs (final exams).  Quidditch is just as drama-filled as ever, and Harry learns to defend himself against Dementors–the terrifying Azkaban guards who are keeping guard at Hogwarts.

My thoughts:

This is another wonderfully rollicking Harry Potter story that embodies the elements of fun and adventure.  The Quidditch scenes are just as harrowing as in previous books; the school drama just as satisfying; the mischief just as exciting!

With this book, however, the series seems to have taken a turn into more mature themes.  Not anything inappropriate, but more mature in terms of emotions and motivation.  It deals with themes of hatred, revenge, betrayal, and how people react in adverse circumstances.  Harry really comes to a crisis point in his thinking when he understands how fully somebody hurt him and has to decide whether to embrace his hatred or let it go.  I like that kids get to explore those more complex emotional issues in this story.

The story itself feels like it’s more complex and well-planned than the previous two.  The plot is more involved and interconnected, with some decidedly clever bits that make you say, “Oh, now I get it!“.  I don’t want to give anything away, but Hermione’s “tool” is an awesome plot device.

I love Lupin and wish that he were a bigger part of the story.  It seems like there is so much about his character and history that is only hinted at and I’d love to get a fuller look at that.  One character who I think is portrayed quite differently in the movie is Crookshanks.  In the book he’s much more intelligent and plays a greater role in the story.  The movie Crookshanks is mostly just an ill-tempered cat.  It’s too bad he was dumbed-down for the movie.

Finally, it was very satisfying to learn more about the history of Harry’s parents and friends.  It helps round out the story and characters, and really adds a depth of understanding to everything that happens in the series.  If there’s one thing that J.K. Rowling does well, it’s writing well-developed characters.

I highly recommend Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban to kids from elementary school up through teens.  It’s also a great family read-aloud.  It’s definitely a family-favorite at our house!

Possible Objections:

  • 2 uses of the d-word
  • 1 use of the b-word (though it’s used in reference to a female dog)

Rating: 5 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling

HP Chamber of Secrets

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Title: Harry Potter and The Chamber Of Secrets by J.K. Rowling

Premise:

Harry Potter is back for his second year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry!  Don’t get too comfortable, though–danger lurks yet again for our dauntless hero and his friends.  Someone is determined to rid the school of students who are from non-wizarding families.  Can Harry, Ron and Hermione stop them before somebody is truly hurt?

My thoughts:

This book is possibly my favorite Harry Potter novel (though I’ll have to go through and compare all of them again to judge fairly).  The story is fun and charming; the characters are engaging and still fresh; the plot elements are fun and adventurous!  If ever there was a satisfying adventure story written for children–this is it!

Chamber of Secrets really capitalizes on the cohesive friendship of Harry, Ron and Hermione, where the first book only touched the surface.  In this book the friends really function as a team and figure out how they work best together.  Also, Hermione’s character became much less annoying and much more fleshed out.

Speaking of characters, I think that this book really did an admirable job of bringing in some very interesting and entertaining new ones–Professor Lockhart, Moaning Myrtle, and even Dobby.  An author should never underestimate the power of good supporting characters, and this story sure does deliver on that front.

As for the story line, it is so much fun–a flying car, the Forbidden Forest, the magical creatures, and the final scene in the Chamber of Secrets–who wouldn’t love it?

If you are familiar with the movie adaptation of this book, you will notice that the book and the movie are nearly identical.  It almost feels like you’re reading the screenplay.  Of course I know that the book came first, but I can picture the movie scenes in my head.  It’s a bit strange.

I highly recommend Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets to kids all the way from elementary school up through teens.  It’s also a great family read-aloud.  The story is timeless and would appeal to many ages.

A Favorite quote:

“’So Dobby stopped us from getting on the train and broke your arm….’  He shook his head.  ‘You know what, Harry?  If he doesn’t stop trying to save your life he’s going to kill you.’”  (p. 184)

Rating: 5 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

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Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

HP Sorcerers Stone

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I read the Harry Potter series years ago, though not when they first came out.  I had a thing back then about reading books which were being talked about non-stop.  The more someone told me, you have to read this book, the less I wanted to read it.  I finally caved and ended up absolutely falling in love with the books.  Now my kids are starting to read the Harry Potter series and I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to revisit them myself.  We currently have five people in our family reading through the series.  I think that’s pretty awesome!

Title: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

Premise:

Harry Potter has been raised unloved and mistreated by his aunt and uncle who took him in as an infant when his parents died.  Much to his surprise, Harry finds out that he has been accepted into a school for witchcraft and wizardry, and that he is in fact quite famous for having survived an attack by a powerful wizard named Voldemort.  Follow Harry in his first-year adventures–playing quidditch, making friends, and unraveling the mystery of who is trying to steal a valuable and potentially dangerous substance from the school!

My thoughts:

It is a bit difficult to review this book objectively because I’ve seen the movie multiple times.  How do I separate my impressions of the one without talking about the other?  I’m not sure that I can.  Rest assured, I’ll go back and watch the movie to post a review of it at some later date.

I love, love, love this book!  Rowling’s style of storytelling is wonderful!  She balances the dialogue and action well, keeping the story going at just the right pace.  Her characters are well-developed and relatable.  By the end of the book they end up feeling like old friends (and enemies).

The author also has an uncanny ability to inject humor into the story–through interesting and feisty  characters, humorous situations, and the wonderful medium that is British humor.  In the books a lot more of that subtle humor comes through, which unfortunately, doesn’t always make it into the movies.  Don’t get me wrong–I love the movies, but they don’t catch the full personality of the book characters, nor the subtleties of every situation.

There was one section of the book which I thought was really hilarious, which was shortened and condensed for the movie.  The part about the lengths that Harry’s uncle Vernon goes to in trying to escape the letters is absolute gold.  I thought it was one of the funniest parts of the book.

I was also struck by how long it took for Harry and Ron to accept Hermione as one of the gang.  In the book she is much more awkward, talkative, overbearing and disliked.  I don’t think the movie was wrong in speeding up that sequence, it’s just different.  Honestly, I think I prefer the movie version of that aspect of the story because it makes Hermione more likable and less socially awkward.

Another thing I noticed was that in the scene where Harry defeats the antagonist, the person is burned.  I appreciated that they changed that for the movie because I think it would have been a bit much visually for kids to handle.

I highly recommend Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone to kids all the way from elementary school up through teens.  It’s also a great family read-aloud.  The story is timeless and would appeal to many ages.

A Favorite quote:

“’Oh, these people’s minds work in strange ways, Petunia, they’re not like you and me,’ said Uncle Vernon, trying to knock in a nail with the piece of fruitcake Aunt Petunia had just brought him.”  (p. 40)

Possible Objections:

  • 1 use of the d-word

Rating: 5 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart

mysterious-benedict-society

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I just finished The Mysterious Benedict Society.  Thanks for the recommendation, smile rac!

Premise:

A group of children who are without families are tasked with saving the world from the nefarious Mr. Curtain.  Does this group of kids have what it takes to foil the evil plans of a super-smart adult with seemingly unlimited resources?  Follow them to the Institute where they will have to work together–using their cunning, skill and physical prowess to prevent Mr. Curtain’s domination of the entire world!

My thoughts:

I enjoyed this story, though it’s a bit hard to categorize.  It reminds me of Harry Potter a little bit–with the kids going off to a special school.  Though it’s classified as science fiction, I’d say that element doesn’t stand out very much.  Sure, there’s Mr. Curtain’s invention which definitely falls into the science fiction category, but the remainder of the book seems as though it could happen in a very normal world.

The children whom the story revolves around are each interesting and unique in their own way.  And I enjoyed following them on their adventures and seeing how their group grew closer over time.  However, there seemed to be something missing from their characters.  Maybe it was that they were missing the playfulness and humor that you normally see in children.  There also wasn’t a lot of vulnerability.  They were a little too much like adults for my taste.  The supporting characters were interesting too, but their development seemed a bit stunted, as well.

The story line itself was interesting and inventive.  I would like to have learned more about Mr. Curtain’s plan–specifically why he was going to such great lengths to gain control.  If his back story had been more developed, it would have helped me understand his motivation.  As it was, it came across as Mr. Curtain is evil because he’s evil.  I see that there are additional books in this series, so maybe they will expand on the characters and back story at a more satisfying level.

I recommend The Mysterious Benedict Society to elementary-age kids and preteens.  It would also be a fun read-aloud for families.  I think it’s possibly a bit juvenile to appeal to high schoolers.

Rating: 4 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

The Islands of the Blessed by Nancy Farmer

islands-of-the-blessed

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I finished the final book in the Sea of Trolls trilogy–The Islands of the Blessed. I think this was the best book in the series!

Premise:

Jack and his companions must go on another quest to save his village.  A draugr, or undead spirit, has been drawn to the little town by a magical bell.  She is seeking revenge for an old wrong done to her and will harm anyone who gets in her way.  Can the Bard, Jack and Thorgil get justice for the draugr before her patience runs out and someone else is hurt?

My thoughts:

I thought this was the best book in the series!  The characters have gained more depth and the plot has become more satisfyingly complex.

It’s great seeing the old characters again–especially the Northmen.  Skakki, Olaf One-Brow’s son, is an admirable man and a great leader.  The Bard saw much more action in this story and displayed more of his impressive magical skills.  Magic is just so much fun!  Jack and Thorgil also matured in this tale and their companionship finally develops into something safe and comforting.

The fin folk, or mermaids, were a really fun and imaginative people group.  I’ve never seen the concept of merfolk developed so fully, and it was interesting to see how the author imagined their homes, social customs, etc.

It seems like this is a series that could keep going, especially since there are characters whose stories didn’t wrap up–Pega, Lucy, Brutus, Hazel, etc.  I was disappointed that Pega’s character and story line weren’t developed more.  It seemed like there was a really good story wrapped up in her existence, but in the end nothing of great importance happened to her.  Jack and Thorgil’s entrance into the School of Bards sets the scene for another series of stories, but I don’t know that any will be forthcoming.  Islands of the Blessed was published in 2009.

This is a great book for kids in the elementary to teen age range, or as a family read-aloud.  Those who are interested in Norse mythology or the early interplay of Druid and Christian religions will appreciate the subject matter most.

Possible Objections:

  • One instance of the a-word

Rating: 4 1/2 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

The Land of the Silver Apples by Nancy Farmer

land-of-silver-apples

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I finished The Land of the Silver Apples last night and am happy to report that I thoroughly enjoyed it!  It is the second book in the Sea of Trolls trilogy.

Premise:

When Lucy flubs the need-fire ceremony, the slave girl Pega must take her place in bringing pure fire from the Life Force to the community.  Something went wrong at the ceremony and Lucy’s behavior continues to worsen until her family decides to send her to St. Filian’s monastery to be cured.  Things are not what they appear at the monastery, however, and Lucy is stolen away by an elf.  Jack and his comrades must venture into the bowels of the earth to rescue Lucy and call back water to the land.  What they encounter underground is not what any of them expected and they must work together to make it out alive.

My thoughts:

This was another delightful story by Nancy Farmer!  I continue to enjoy getting to know the main character, Jack.  I love how he learns and grows, while still holding onto the traits of a typical youth.  Pega, the slave girl, is a wonderful character.  She is multi-faceted, versatile and isn’t afraid to speak her mind.  The hobgoblins are charming and remind me a bit of hobbits.

I also like what Farmer did with the elves in her story.  They have an entire back-story to explain how they came to be and why they’re so glamorous.  They hold great power and are supremely dangerous, too (like an elf/vampire cross, in a way).  These are not the elves you hear about in most other fairy tale stories.  Get ready to have your perception of elves flipped on its head!

More mythical creatures are introduced in Silver Apples–kelpies, hobgoblins, knuckers, yarthkins, and more.  You will probably want to look up traditional descriptions of these creatures after reading this book.

I believe that the last book in the series will be a continuation of the present story line.  It seems to have left off without fully resolving a couple of issues.  In particular, I believe that Jack’s sister has a major role to play in the next book.  We shall see!

I would recommend this book to elementary-age children up to teens.  It’s full of adventure but tame enough that I’m comfortable with my kids reading it on their own.

Possible Objections:

  • Some violence & scary creatures

Rating: 4 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

The Sea of Trolls by Nancy Farmer

sea-of-trolls

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While perusing the shelves on a recent library visit, I found The Sea of Trolls and thought it looked interesting. It is the first book in the Sea of Trolls trilogy.

Premise:

Jack is the unnoticed son of an Anglo-Saxon farmer, until the Bard singles him out as his apprentice.  Jack begins to learn how to harness the life force and use magic.  Though life is looking up for Jack, it doesn’t last when Vikings invade his town.  Jack and his sister Lucy find themselves in the middle of an epic adventure involving magic, trolls, Vikings and dragons.  Can they survive and will they ever return home?

My thoughts:

I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked this book!  The action is a bit slow in starting, but once Jack leaves his homeland, the pace quickens and the story becomes more cohesive.

Jack is a main character whom I really like.  He’s down to earth, unassuming, and has a knack for blundering his way through all situations.  There are many other likable characters, though they all have their weaknesses and foibles–Olaf, Thorgil, the Bard, Bold Heart, and more.  I was disappointed that we didn’t get to see more of the Bard, but perhaps he’ll feature more in the other two books.

Norse mythology and some historical facts are interwoven into The Sea of Trolls.  I certainly didn’t take it as a historically accurate tale, but it’s fun to insert fact into fantasy stories.  For those of you who are fans of Norse mythology, Vikings, or European history, this story will give you a kick because it makes reference to all of those things.  Personally, I don’t know a lot about Norse mythology or the Vikings, but I’d like to learn more about them now.

I’m really looking forward to starting the next book in the series and hope that many of the same characters make a reappearance.  Since the adventure seems to have been fully resolved in this book, the next two should have their own independent story lines.  We shall see.

I would recommend this book to elementary-age children or even teens.  (In fact I just recommended it to my picky 11-year-old.)  It’s an entertaining adventure story that is free of bad language and not too descriptive in its violence.  This mama gives it a thumbs-up.

Possible Objections:

  • Some violence

Rating: 4 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

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Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

artemis-fowl

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Artemis Fowl is the first book from my Thrift Store Young Adult Reading Challenge.  Strictly speaking, not all of the books in this challenge are young adult books.  A couple of them are middle grade books, but I’m not overly particular in my classification of novels for young people.  If a person is under 18, I see them as a kid.  🙂

Premise:

Artemis Fowl, child of a crime boss, is seeking a way to reestablish his family’s fortunes.  Though Artemis is only twelve, he’s a criminal mastermind and has plans to obtain gold from the Fairies.  Unfortunately, Artemis doesn’t know about Holly Short with the fairy’s LEPrecon task force–she is a fairy to be reckoned with!

My thoughts:

This book is definitely aimed at the younger preteen-teen crowd.  The story line is fairly simple, but I believe that some of the plot holes will be filled in in succeeding books.  The sections of the story which focus on Artemis and his employees were not terribly interesting to me.  It was probably because I don’t identify with Artemis’ life stage or inner thoughts.  This lady is not twelve years old anymore. 😉

I think the story really picked up and gained some charm when Holly Short and the fairies were introduced.  The characters were interesting, the banter funny, and the action started in earnest.  Holly and Commander Root were my favorite characters.

I won’t comment more particularly on the plot of the book (beyond what was said in the premise section) because there isn’t much I could say that wouldn’t give away the entire story line.  Although the book is simple, I am curious to see how Artemis’ criminal plans (and hopefully moral redemption) play out in future.

I wouldn’t recommend this book to preteens and teens, even though they are the target audience.  Some of the subject matter is, quite frankly, inappropriate for that age group.  I don’t think there is much here to interest adults, either.

Possible Objections:

  • The d-word (4x)
  • A bit of graphic violence
  • The protagonist is a child who engages in crime.  He’s selfish, greedy, deceitful, etc.

Rating: 2 1/2 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

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Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany & Jack Thorne

HP Cursed Child - WM

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While picking up some books at the library the other day, I spotted Harry Potter and the Cursed Child sitting on the counter with the new items.  I’m a big Harry Potter fan and have seen this book all over the place, but had never purposely sought it out.  How could I pass it over when it was sitting right there in front of me?  I couldn’t.

The first thing you should know is that this book is written in play format.  You have to pay careful attention to who is speaking, and the story line moves more quickly with fewer extraneous details than in the novels.  If you’re looking for a book that exactly matches the previous Harry Potter novels, you will be disappointed.  This is something completely different.

This story is set nineteen years in the future from where we left off with Harry, Hermione, Ron, and the rest of the crew.  Harry and Ginny are now married, with kids.  Ron and Hermione are also married, with a child.  Even Draco has married and had a son.

It picks up with their children entering into their Hogwarts education and follows them through to their mid-teen years.  Albus (Harry’s son) and Scorpius (Draco’s son) have a hard time fitting in and become good friends.  However, Harry is distrustful of Scorpius and tries to thwart their friendship.  This is on top of Harry’s already strained relationship with Albus.  In an ill-advised plan, Albus tries to right a wrong from Harry’s past, while simultaneously trying to win his father’s approval.  Things go haywire and the whole cast has to come together to set things right before evil is again let loose on the wizarding world.  I could give you more details, but I don’t want to wreck the story for you.  😉

I enjoyed seeing the old characters in new adult roles.  They all show some imperfect tendencies and prejudices, and uncertainty in their new role as parents.  I like that this book takes a much deeper look at human nature than you generally get in the older Harry Potter novels.  This is a grown up world now, where adults make mistakes and people are more complex.  There is less of a line drawn between good and evil, and more emphasis on common priorities in life and how they can draw people together.

If you were a Harry Potter fan in your youth, you will appreciate the grown up complexity of this book.  You get to see your favorite characters again, but in the challenging world of adulthood.

Rating: 4 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

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