Lost Truth by Dawn Cook

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Title: Lost Truth by Dawn Cook

Notable: Book #4 in the Truth series

Premise:

This fantasy dragon adventure finally wraps up with Alissa, Strell, Lodesh and Connen-Neute going on a journey to find some long-lost comrades.  Alissa and her true love are finally united, though that means one young man is left seriously disappointed.

My thoughts:

After enjoying the previous book so much, this one was a bit of a letdown.  The action was interesting, with several new characters being introduced (which was a welcome relief) and a completely new setting.  Meeting Keribdis brought the story full-circle and it allowed Talo-Toecan to face the foibles of his past which had wreaked so much havoc.

The resolution to Alissa’s love triangle fiasco was sadly disappointing to me.  I didn’t care much for her choice (I tend to root for the underdog), and it didn’t really seem to matter much anymore.  In the previous book her relationship with this particular character had been neglected so much that I pretty much lost interest in it altogether.  There wasn’t enough in this volume to convince me that she was really committed to the relationship.  The other character she had been attached to is basically discarded at the end of the story and that really rankled me.  Oh well.  I’ll get over it.

I recommend Lost Truth to fans of fantasy, dragons and female heroines!


Possible Objections:

  • A bit of violence

Rating: 3 1/2 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

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Forgotten Truth by Dawn Cook

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Title: Forgotten Truth by Dawn Cook

Notable: Book #3 in the Truth series

Premise:

Alissa continues to train with Talo-Toecan, but when she practices a new skill it accidentally sends her back in time.  She’s still in the environs of the Hold, but ends us 400 years in the past, when Lodesh was just a young man.  Alissa tries to find her way back to Strell and her own time, but her feelings for Lodesh become much more complicated.

My thoughts:

This is my favorite book in the series so far.  There’s a richness to the Hold and Ese’ Nawoer of the past that is completely missing in the previous two books (probably because they’re unpopulated, no?).  The characters of Connen-Neute and Lodesh were a real pleasure to see developed, and there were several strong supporting characters, as well.

I don’t know what is going to happen with Alissa’s love life, but it seems like she might have three possible suitors now.  I’m rooting for Connen-Neute, though in truth, I don’t even know if he’s a real contender.  Strell was missing for most of this book and the few scenes he was in weren’t very compelling.  I found myself losing my attachment to his character–eek!  Lodesh likewise has lost some of his shine, based on some underhanded dealings on his part.

I didn’t care too much for the end of this book.  The men all seem totally defeated or amazingly oblivious, while Alissa lords it over them and won’t let go of one of them.  That young lady is being awfully selfish!  We’ll see where this story goes in the next volume…

I recommend Forgotten Truth to fans of fantasy and dragons!


Possible Objections:

  • A bit of violence
  • A tiny bit of language

Rating: 4 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

One Trick Pony by Nathan Hale

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Title: One Trick Pony by Nathan Hale

Premise:

The earth is being decimated by an alien species that is harvesting all of its technology.  A traveling band of humans is trying to salvage as much history as they can while staying one step ahead of the aliens.

My thoughts:

This was a really unique book.  The landscape and characters are interesting and imaginative, but definitely on the bleak side.  Imagine big swaths of the earth just cut right out.  And freaky aliens who are scooping up anything on earth which contains technology.  That will give you an idea of just how desolate the earth is in this story.

The action centers around a group of children who are out exploring and accidentally draw the attention of the aliens.  They try to evade them, but end up right at the heart of the alien enclave.  I won’t tell you the end because that would just wreck the story, but it’s satisfying.

I recommend One Trick Pony to fans of dystopian science fiction.  If you like aliens, this would be right up your alley!

Rating: 3 1/2 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

Doctor Smurf by Peyo

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Title: Doctor Smurf by Peyo

Notable: Book #20 in The Smurfs Graphic Novels series

Premise:

When Papa Smurf is too busy in his laboratory to tend to the health needs of the rest of the Smurfs, one of them decides to take on the roll of Doctor himself.  The new Doctor Smurf prescribes whichever potions suit his fancy, writes sick notes for all of the Smurfs, and generally causes a complete breakdown of the Smurf way of life.  It’s up to Papa Smurf to put things to rights and take over again as the physician for the Smurf village.

My thoughts:

When I saw that the library had a line of these Smurf graphic novels, I was over the moon!  I never even knew that they existed!  In my bid to finish my reading challenge by the end of the year (which I’m not certain I’ll accomplish), I’m reading more graphic novels.  Kind of a cop-out, but a fun cop-out nonetheless.

This story is playful and lighthearted as you’d expect any Smurf story to be.  It doesn’t contain anything really profound, though it does make you think a bit about hypochondria and the over-prescription of medication.  I’m sure that would be lost on a child reading the story.  My one criticism is that I think the world “Smurf” is overused.  In the show they use it to mean any number of things, and I totally get that.  It’s part of what makes it so charming, but when the word is used so much that you have difficulty understanding parts of the story, that’s a sign that you might want to hold back on that next “smurf” you’re going to substitute.  Just my two cents.  Other than that, I really enjoyed this book and can’t wait to read more Smurf graphic novels.

I recommend Doctor Smurf to kids and adults alike who are fans of the Smurfs.

Rating: 4 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

Skylark by Patricia MacLachlan

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Title: Skylark by Patricia MacLachlan

Notable: Book #2 in the Sarah, Plain and Tall series

Premise:

Sarah and Papa have been married a year, and Anna and Caleb have come to know Sarah as their mother.  However, hard times hit when there is a drought on the prairie.  Can Sarah cope with the difficulties of prairie life, or will she return home to her beloved Maine?

My thoughts:

Like the first book in the series, this one is also short and to the point.  Through a relatively simple story, MacLachlan goes straight to the heart in examining the topics of family, hardship and commitment.

Life on the prairie ends up being harder than Sarah ever imagined, and she’s not sure if she can cope with the prolonged drought which threatens their home, livestock and very existence.  I enjoyed seeing the children’s relationship with Sarah’s relatives develop.  Even though they left the prairie to visit Sarah’s family, they felt secure in the knowledge that Sarah saw them as her children and didn’t simply leave them behind.  The development at the end cements their status as a family even more.  No spoilers!

I recommend Skylark to young people who enjoy stories about early American settlers.

Possible Objections:

  • One of Sarah’s aunts goes skinny-dipping

Rating: 4 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

OTHER SARAH, PLAIN AND TALL SERIES POSTS:

The Help – Movie 2011

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Yesterday I watched The Help, the movie adaptation of the book by the same name.  It was awesome!

For those of you who have never read the book, this is a story about a young lady named Skeeter who wants to become a writer, and the relationship she develops with a couple of maids in Jackson, Mississippi during the Civil Rights era.  All of the women will be in grave danger if they are caught as they work on their writing project — sharing what it’s like to live as a black maid in the South during that time period.  If you want to know more about what I thought of the book, check out my book review.

My thoughts:

I was already a fan of the novel, so I was a bit nervous to see how they had translated it to the big screen.  I’m happy to say that the movie adaptation of the book was strong.  I think a large part of the movie’s success is in its amazing actresses.  Whether they are good or bad, all of the ladies played their parts really well.  Even Hilly, the bat-sh** craziest of the Southern belles, excited a certain fascination in me.  She’s one of those characters you love to hate.

The movie was shortened and simplified somewhat from the book, but that is nothing unexpected.  I don’t think the essence of the story was damaged in any way.  I was glad to see that they took out the scene in which Minny and Celia are accosted at Celia’s house.  I thought that it was out of place in the book, and it would have been even more mystifying in the movie.

The true artistry in this film is the message it shares.  Viewers are shown a story of love, acceptance, betrayal, and hatred–and asked to come to their own conclusions.  Who was right and who was wrong?  Can relationships based on respect, compassion and a desire to do what’s right, overcome the color barrier?  Should we take a risk in working with someone different from ourselves, even at the risk of getting burned?  This message needs to be heard today, just as it did during the Civil Rights era, because our country’s racial issues certainly haven’t gone away.

I recommend The Help to all adults and possibly some mature older teens.  Even if you’re not a history buff, it’s still a wonderful story worth watching.

Possible Objections:

  • A moderate amount of bad language
  • Racially offensive language

Rated: PG-13

Rating: 4 1/2 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

OTHER THE HELP POSTS:

The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart

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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 Land of the Silver Apples by Nancy Farmer

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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

Empyrion: The Search for Fierra by Stephen R. Lawhead

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Empyrion: The Search for Fierra is a book which my husband recommended.  It’s an older book, but one he enjoyed as a young man.  Now it’s my turn to enjoy it!

Premise:

Orion Treet is hired to take part in a mission to check on the status of a space colony which has been established by a private company.  Three others are a part of the team and they successfully locate the colony on a far distant planet, but something has gone horribly wrong.  Not only have they arrived in the wrong time period, but they’ve also stumbled into a dystopia.  Their reception is less than ideal, and they must find a way to escape and find the Fieri, the other group of human descendants.  Can they find the answers to what went wrong and make things right again?

My thoughts:

I liked this book a lot more than I expected to.  It’s a unique story about how a human society develops, removed from the influences of Earth.  The setting is interesting and the supporting characters are unique, if a bit odd at times.  Yarden, Treet’s love interest, is definitely an enigma.  The end of the book segues into the next, when Treet continues his mission to keep Fierra safe.  I left out a lot of details, but I didn’t want to totally ruin the story for you.  It’s more fun to discover Empyrion for yourself.  🙂

I’m looking forward to reading the next book in the series, but it will probably have to wait a little while.  We’re scheduled to move in a few days and I don’t want to tote library books along with us!

I recommend this book to teen and adult fans of science fiction.  It’s a unique and entertaining adventure story, which I think you’ll really enjoy.

Favorite quotes:

“Treet had to admit that he did indeed like living; it was, after all, one of the things that made life so worthwhile.” (p.2)

“To be alive and know you were dying and know too there was nothing you could do about it, thought Treet in one of his lucid moments, was surely the worst trick of a whole universe full of lousy tricks.” (p.343)

Possible Objections:

  • A little violence
  • A bit of bad language
  • Religious commentary (There is a distinct good vs. evil undertone to the book, which can easily be ascribed a Christian influence.)

Rating: 4 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

Thrift Store – Young Adult Reading Challenge #1

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Having finished the romance reading challenge, I’m ready for a break from that particular genre.  I found these five books in the young adult/juvenile section at my local Goodwill and am looking forward to reading them!

I read the Twilight series several years ago, but never formally reviewed them.  And I have to say that I don’t mind reading them again.  Even though they’re rather teenager-y books, they are also strangely addictive.  The Hunger Games series has been recommended to me by more than one person, but this will be the first time I’ve even taken a look inside one.  What can I say?  I tend to shy away from the latest craze, sometimes shunning that item for years.  There must be a contrariness built into my nature.

READING LIST:

Wizard’s First Rule by Terry Goodkind

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Wizard’s First Rule is the second to last book from my Thrift Store Fantasy Reading Challenge.  Almost done!  I had never heard of this book, nor the author, Terry Goodkind.  It can be a little intimidating starting a thick book with no clue about whether or not it will be a good one.

Wizard’s First Rule is an epic fantasy adventure story in which Richard (the Seeker) has to defeat the evil Darken Rahl.  He is aided by a beautiful but powerful woman, a wizard, and a few others.  The majority of the story is taken up by their journey to find a magical object which must be hidden from Rahl, and by the many scrapes they find themselves in.

I am still conflicted about this book. Was it good? Was it bad? Did it mess with my brain? Probably so. There are parts of it that I really like and parts of it that made my stomach churn.

The frequent graphic violence (including sexual violence), is just so overwhelming. If that had been watered down dramatically, I think I might have liked the novel more. Of course the writing isn’t stellar, but it’s hard to fairly assess anything else in the book when all you can think about is a dominatrix, a pedophile, and people’s heads cracking open like melons.

What I liked:

  • I liked the variety and different types of characters.  It seems like there was a lot of thought and imagination that went into the diverse inhabitants of this fantasy world.  You get to see people who are pure and people who are quite diabolical.
  • I liked that they were going on an epic adventure and that their journey took many detours (it reminded me of The Lord of the Rings quest).
  • The beginning and end of the book.  The last third of the book, in particular, really picks up in plot twists and complexity.  Even though there were parts of this book that I didn’t like, I will probably read the next in the series because the end of the book was an interesting segue into the next.

What I didn’t like:

  • The main characters seemed almost bipolar at times, going from saying they would protect someone with their life one minute to holding a sword against that person’s throat the next.  Real people don’t act that way, but hey, maybe they were under extreme stress?
  • I felt like the book could have been shortened by not repeating phrases over and over.
  • One of the characters seems to me to be almost a rip-off of the Gollum character from Lord of the Rings.
  • I understand that terrible things happen in war, but personally I was very uncomfortable with how candid the author was about things like sexual exploitation and gory violence.
  • The middle of the book was more difficult to get through–I had to force myself to keep reading.  It seemed like it was lacking any urgency in keeping the story going.

So, there you have it–my mixed feelings on this book.  I feel like there are definitely people out there who would really dislike this book because of some of the intense subject matter.  If you’re uncomfortable with the occult, gory violence, or sexual themes, I would recommend you skip this one.

Possible Objections:

  • A lot of violence & gore
  • Not very subtle references to sexual violence against women & children
  • Sexual themes, including S&M and references to anatomy
  • 2 instances of the b-word
  • Occult themes

Rating: 3 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

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An Amish Harvest: Four Novellas by Beth Wiseman, Kathleen Fuller, Amy Clipston, Vannetta Chapman

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I have never read an Amish romance novel before, so decided to try one out and see what all the fuss is about.  An Amish Harvest is a short book which consists of four novellas by four different authors.  The stories all revolve around the Amish way of life.

Because the stories are by four different authors, you will notice some differences in writing style and word usage.  The styles are all similar enough that it shouldn’t be too much of an issue.  The first story has to do with an Amish widow and an English (what the Amish call non-Amish people) widower; the second is about a man and woman who bond after an accident; the third tells the story of a couple of young people who are different from others in their community and find understanding in one another; the last one is about a mystery and how a couple of middle-aged people bond during the shared experience.  Please, don’t ply me for details–it will ruin the stories for you!

I enjoyed the first two stories very much.  They were engaging and the characters were likeable.  The third story was pretty good, though it was missing a certain something to make it sparkle.  I didn’t enjoy the fourth story at all.  It seems like the characters weren’t very endearing and the plot was not engaging enough.

I feel like this book would appeal to women who love a wholesome love story.  It’s a fun, short read that could fill up a couple of cozy evenings on the couch.

Rating: 3 1/2 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

*Disclaimer: I received this book for free from BookLook Bloggers in exchange for an honest review, which I have provided here.

The Quick by Lauren Owen

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The Quick is the third book that I’ve read from my Thrift Store Fantasy Reading Challenge.  I was actually quite looking forward to reading this one because it involved old London and vampires.  I seem to have a hang-up on those two things.  Also, the cover of this book is really appealing.  I know that’s a silly reason to like a book, but there you have it.  I’m a silly person.

Generally, this book is about a young man (James) who goes to London to try his hand at writing and subsequently disappears.  His sister (Charlotte) becomes concerned and goes in search of him.  She discovers that there is a hidden underground vampire world in London which her brother has become entangled in.  The rest of the story is taken up by her trying to locate, free, and aid her brother.

There are many side characters who come in at various parts of the book.  For some of them we are given extensive or at least some background information.  Others simply appear and disappear without the reader really knowing who they are.  This was somewhat mystifying because some of the characters who are given extensive back story (Mould, in particular), don’t feature all that prominently in the remainder of the story, or their back story seems a bit irrelevant.  There are some characters who were intriguing and whose stories may have been very interesting, if the author had bothered to share them at all.  In particular, I would have liked to have known more about Burke, Liza, and the others associated with Mrs. Price.

The last part of the book was very disappointing, in my opinion.  It seems like it was a lame attempt at tying up the loose ends of Charlotte and Arthur’s lives.  There was no resolution, no satisfaction, not enough follow up with many of the characters, and no clear answer about what happened to James.  I was pretty upset with the way it ended.  It felt like a waste of time to read a book which had such a lame ending.

Don’t get me wrong, the book has its strengths.  It is well written and flows fairly well within each scene.  (Though the way it jumps around between different characters and time periods is very disorienting.)  I liked the majority of the characters and their complexity.  I liked the diversity in settings and circumstances.  However, those things weren’t enough to overcome the sense I got that this was a wasted story.  When you spend the whole book waiting for some kind of resolution or closure to the problem, and that doesn’t come to fruition, it’s disappointing.

Maybe others wouldn’t be as hung-up about this issue as I am.  It’s hard to say.

Possible Objections:

  • Violence & gore
  • Some bad language
  • Mild sexual scene between two men

Rating: 2 1/2 Stars

Until next time…

Lori