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 Father Christmas Letters by J. R. R. Tolkien

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Title: The Father Christmas Letters by J. R. R. Tolkien

Premise:

This book shares a series of letters written by Tolkien (as Father Christmas) to his children, chronicling the adventures at the North Pole each year.  The letters are nicely illustrated with Tolkien’s customary pen and ink drawings.

My thoughts:

This book was completely new to me and I fell in love with it!  Tolkien’s illustrations are simply charming and it’s interesting to see how his style, which I’m used to seeing in his LOTR books, comes through in these letters written to his children.

The letters themselves are simple enough for children, but still interesting for older readers.  It’s easy to imagine the antics going on at the North Pole with the elves, goblins and especially the North Polar Bear or N. P. B.  Who knew that Santa was faced with quite so many obstacles and shenanigans while getting ready to deliver presents to children all around the world?  I can’t wait to share this book with my kids–they are going to love it!

I recommend The Father Christmas Letters to children and families as a wonderful book to read during the holiday season.  You should be able to finish it in two or three leisurely sittings.

Rating: 5 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

Circle of Light #1: Greyfax Grimwald by Niel Hancock

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Title: Circle of Light 1: Greyfax Grimwald by Niel Hancock

Notable: Book #1 in the Circle of Light series

Premise:

Dwarf, Bear and Otter cross over Calix Stay, the river which separates the World Before Time from Atlanton Earth.  Though initially unsure of the purpose of their quest, they meet some wizards and a few trustworthy humans who help keep them safe and guide them along their journey.  The three unassuming friends have a pivotal role to play in the fight against the Dark Queen, who seeks to gain control over all the earth.

My thoughts:

We’re going really retro here!  This is one of the books that came in my Books by the Foot sci-fi/fantasy box. It started out on shaky footing from the start, when it stated on the cover, “Beginning a great new saga for all who love THE LORD OF THE RINGS!”  The author was just setting himself up for some unflattering comparisons and critiques.  If the cover hadn’t mentioned The Lord of the Rings, I would have read this with a completely open mind.  As it was, I was too busy trying to compare the two.

Circle of Light is not even in the same league as The Lord of the Rings,  It’s like saying that Palmers and Ghiradelli chocolates taste the same.  Anyone with a modicum of good taste can tell the difference.  In addition to that, many elements of the story seem like a direct rip-off of The Lord of the Rings.  But let’s lay those issues aside and simply talk about the merits of this story.

The plot isn’t bad.  There are a few scenes which have the potential to be interesting and epic.  Unfortunately, the writing is such that even major battles come across as mundane and boring.  FYI–the story ends without any resolution, so you’ll have to read the next in the series to get to a satisfying stopping point.

I like the choice of animals as main characters.  Bear and Otter are probably the two most endearing characters.  Dwarf, the other main character, is a bit of an enigma.  He seems a bit off, as if there are two warring personalities at work within him.  If a character is going to exhibit behavior at both ends of the spectrum, there should be a good reason for it.  Please author, what is the character’s motivation for acting the way he does??  Let me bring up another issue–character names.  Holy cow, this story is chock full of names–multiple names for many characters.  It got to be very confusing and didn’t add to the story at all.

Overall, I was not impressed with this book.  The writing style and execution were subpar, the characters uninteresting, and the events rather boring.  If you’re young and just want a so-so fantasy adventure to read, you might not mind Greyfax Grimwald.  If you have a more sophisticated palate when it comes to your fantasy novels, I’d say skip it.

Possible Objections:

  • Some violence
  • The a-word is used a few times (as in someone is being a dunce)

Rating: 2 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