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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Hidden Truth by Dawn Cook

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Title: Hidden Truth by Dawn Cook

Notable: Book #2 in the Truth series

Premise:

The story continues with Strell being trained by Bailic as a Keeper, and Alissa trying not to blow her cover.  Alissa accidentally wakes the city of Ese’ Nowoer and the magnetic Lodesh enters the scene as a rival love interest.  Useless continues to covertly tutor Alissa, and eventually Alissa undergoes a significant change.

My thoughts:

I zipped through this book, just like the previous one.  Even though the writing isn’t stellar, it’s rich in detail and kept me interested and wanting to find out what would happen next.  For those of you who can’t stand a slower paced book, I think this one would test your patience.  As I was progressing through the story and taking notes, I realized that there wasn’t a whole lot that was really happening.

There’s a lot of relationship intrigue and drama, people getting upset over seemingly unimportant things, waiting and/or skulking around.  There are a few action-packed scenes, but they’re not the norm for most of the book.  Personally, that didn’t bother me.

The characters in this book are probably what keeps me really interested.  Alissa is fairly petty/dramatic in her emotions, but not a stranger to admitting the error of her ways.  Strell seems to have taken a lesser role, serving more as a supporting character than in the first book, and Lodesh is quite intriguing.  I can’t wait to see what his role is in the next book.

Towards the end of the story, there’s a significant development for Alissa, but I don’t want to spoil it for you.  All I’ll say is that it’s pretty cool.

I recommend Hidden Truth to fans of fantasy who like to see an empowered female protagonist.


Possible Objections:

  • A bit of violence
  • A tiny bit of language

Rating: 3 1/2 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

Ella Enchanted — Movie 2004

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A short while ago I watched Ella Enchanted after having finished the book.

If you want to know more about what I thought of the book, check out my book review.

I watched the Ella Enchanted movie before reading the book, so I already knew that I would like the story.  Even though I really enjoyed the movie, I was surprised by how much the story had been changed from the book.  Ella’s movie father is much, much nicer than in the book.  The other major difference is that Char and Ella’s love interest is developed in the movie in a way that it never is in the book.   Also, Char’s evil uncle was completely fabricated for the movie, but we were really gratified to see Cary Elwes in the role.  He must have had fun hamming it up and it reminded us of his performance in The Princess Bride.  The other change which made the movie so much fun was the way it melded modern and old-fashioned, including in costume, dance and singing.  Yes, singing!  Yes, a Queen song!  What more can I say?

Anne Hathaway had a huge part in making this movie the success that it is.  As we all know, she is a superb actress and this film showcases her abilities, even at a young-ish age.  Just like in the book, Ella is a feisty and opinionated Cinderella-type.  Hathaway puts just the right amount of wit, sass and charm into Ella to make her one of the most likable princesses out there.

I recommend Ella Enchanted to everybody who enjoys a good fairy tale.  My boys watched it with me, and even they conceded it was a good movie.

Rated: PG

Rating: 4 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

OTHER ELLA ENCHANTED POSTS:

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

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Title: Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

Premise:

As children, Heathcliff and Catherine are inexorably drawn together.  Despite their differing natures and weaknesses of character, one can scarcely exist without the other.  Catherine’s haughtiness drives Heathcliff away and stirs him to make his way in the world.  When Heathcliff returns, life at Wuthering Heights will never be the same.  Heathcliff can’t let go of the past and seeks revenge for every real and imagined slight he suffered there.  He and Catherine are like two stars destined to crash into one another and destroy everything near them.

My thoughts:

I first read Wuthering Heights in high school because it was required reading.  I don’t even remember what I thought of it back then, except that it was a bit spooky.  Reading it now, it’s not the spookiness that struck me so much as the examination of human nature.  Heathcliff is such a diabolical character and seems completely beyond redemption.  And yet, despite the fact that he was a dastardly villain, I couldn’t bring myself to truly dislike him.  There’s a part in all of us which feels satisfaction in seeing someone else get revenge on those who have done them wrong.  I’m not saying I condone it, but something in my psyche wants Heathcliff to avenge himself.  Perhaps that’s the lasting draw of this novel — its ability to make the reader examine good and evil in his fellow man, but also in himself.

When you think about when this book was written, it was a very daring tale for its time.  Especially when you consider that it came from a relatively inexperienced young lady.  It’s impressive that she was so adept at capturing human nature and what makes the human race feel hatred, love, and every shade of emotion in between.

This was such an engrossing read for me, that the last part of the book kept me up until the wee hours of the morning.  I simply couldn’t put it down and had to learn the fate of Heathcliff, as well as his young charges.  The ending is so fitting and perfect.  It was a completely satisfying read.  Highly recommended!

I recommend Wuthering Heights to fans of classic literature and anyone who enjoys a messed up love story.

Possible Objections:

  • A little bit of bad language
  • A derogatory term for a loose female is used a few times
  • Some violence

Rating: 5 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

The Shunning by Beverly Lewis

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Title: The Shunning by Beverly Lewis

Notable: Book #1 in The Heritage of Lancaster County series

Premise:

Katie Lapp is a young Amish woman who is set to marry Bishop John Beiler.  Her heart still belongs to her first love, Dan, who tragically drowned at sea.  She hopes that her marriage to John will give her a new start in life and restore some happiness that she’s been missing.  Just before Katie’s wedding, a family secret comes to light that tears her world apart and she must decide which path is the right one to take.

My thoughts:

This is not my normal reading material at all, so I had a bit of a tough time getting into it.  The book starts out fairly slow, so that contributed as well.  Once I got several chapters in, the action and intrigue picked up and then I couldn’t put it down!  The best way I can describe this story is to say that if a Hallmark movie were to become a book, this would be it.  If that’s too feel-good and emotional for you, you would have a tough time with this book.

There is a strong Christian element to the story, but it didn’t seem out of character, given that it’s about the Amish.  I appreciate all of the small details that the author included about the Amish way of life.  You can tell that she really did her homework.  The story itself is pretty good.  I wasn’t expecting rip-roaring suspense, but it kept my interest and made me want to read the next in the series.

I don’t want to give away the plot, but suffice it to say that Katie goes through an identity crisis of sorts.  She has to figure out what her future life will look like and deal with the consequences of her choice.  It’s rather heartbreaking, really.

I recommend The Shunning to those who enjoy tame romantic stories and reading about the Amish.

Rating: 3 1/2 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

Love’s Labor’s Lost by William Shakespeare

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Title: Love’s Labor’s Lost by William Shakespeare

Premise:

The King and his companions have vowed to spend three years in serious study, avoiding the company of women, among other luxuries.  When the Princess and her entourage show up on a diplomatic errand, the King has to foreswear his vow to avoid female company.  Each man is smitten with one of the ladies and sends her a love letter and favor, trying to keep it secret from the others.  In the end all of their romantic maneuvering is made known and the men come clean about their intentions.  The ladies, however, are not so easily swayed.  They demand more serious proof before they are willing to entertain the men’s ideas of romance.

My thoughts:

I haven’t read Shakespeare for a long time!  Though this story is lighthearted and fluffy, it still manages to make some commentary on the foibles of love and romance.  The King and his men make complete fools of themselves as they pursue the Princess and her ladies in waiting.  The ladies are having none of it and keep their wits about them, even demanding proof of their suitor’s love at the end.  If the men are serious about their love and commitment to the maidens, they must each fulfill a mission given by their respective lady.  This is a refreshing departure from the typical man-wins-woman formula.

I enjoyed the overall tone of the play, which was very playful and upbeat.  The characters have fun with witty wordplay, although I didn’t particularly care for the parts that devolved into suggestive references.  The difficulty of the language and the sometimes suggestive comments make me think this play would be best for readers in high school and older.

It was really helpful to have an introduction to the book and the footnotes throughout.  A good amount of the vocabulary and sayings are completely obsolete in modern English.  Without a bit of help, a lot of the original meaning would be lost on today’s readers.

I recommend Love’s Labor’s Lost to readers who enjoy classic literature and a mental workout all in one!

Possible Objections:

  • Several jokes featuring sexual innuendo

Rating: 4 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson

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Title: The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson

Notable: Newbery Honor Book, 1979

Premise:

Gilly Hopkins is in foster care and about to enter a new home.  She wants nothing more than for her mother to swoop in and reclaim her, but alas, it’s not to be.  Gilly’s new home is with a large, motherly woman named Trotter and her foster son, William Ernest.  Gilly’s prejudices come to the forefront when she realizes that she’ll be expected to interact closely with African Americans, and when she passes judgment on Trotter and W. E.  Eventually though, Gilly realizes that sometimes our dreams aren’t what they’re cracked up to be, and making the best of our current situation can turn out to be a blessing in disguise.

My thoughts:

This is a really intense book!  Don’t expect to sit down and just float through it like you’re riding on a big, fluffy cloud.  Paterson doesn’t take shortcuts with her characters and she’s definitely not afraid of giving them flaws.  The main character, Gilly, is one of the most judgmental kids you’ll ever meet in a story, but it’s hard not to root for her.  She’s so miserably unhappy, that Gilly spews her vitriol on everyone around her, picking out traits in others to belittle and make fun of.

She doesn’t like Trotter because she’s overweight; she doesn’t like W. E. because she thinks he’s stupid; she doesn’t like her neighbor or new teacher because they’re black.  In all of these relationships, we see Gilly gradually progress into a new understanding about who they are.  She comes to value each of them and realizes that love and acceptance are possible with people who are different, and not part of your nuclear family.  She never thought she’d come to love these people, but they found a way to infiltrate her heart.  There is no easy fairy-tale ending to the story, but readers are left with the message that we should make the best of our situation in life and look for joy and contentment in what we have today.

As a parent, I have to warn you about the offensive bits in this story.  I wouldn’t want my younger child picking it up and thinking that it’s okay to copy Gilly’s language.  She uses totally inappropriate phrases to talk about Trotter, W. E., Mr. Randolph and Ms. Harris.  In one part the n-word is very clearly implied.  By the end of the book, Gilly’s language has become much tamer, but a child has to be old enough to realize that Gilly’s language is not something to emulate.

I recommend The Great Gilly Hopkins to those who enjoy coming of age novels which tug at your heart strings and are kind of edgy.

Possible Objections:

  • Offensive language (degrading those who are obese, African American, have special needs, etc.)
  • Mild epithets (d-word & hell)

Rating: 4 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

New Moon: The Graphic Novel, Volume 1 adapted & illustrated by Young Kim

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Title: New Moon: The Graphic Novel, Volume 1 adapted & illustrated by Young Kim

Notable: Book #3 in the Twilight Graphic Novels series (incomplete series)

Premise:

After a disastrous birthday part at the Cullen’s, Edward thinks that Bella will be safer without him.  After he leaves, Bella goes into a severe depression and is only drawn out of it by her own personal ray of sunshine, Jacob Black.  While Edward is away, Victoria seeks her revenge for James’ death and the werewolves are the ones who protect Bella from danger this time.

My thoughts:

I enjoyed seeing Jacob in this book.  I prefer his character over Edward’s because he’s much more down to earth and just a really likable guy.  It seems like he and Bella have more of a natural relationship, as opposed to the infatuation that’s overflowing between Edward and Bella.  Towards the end of the book Laurent shows up and the wolves come to the rescue, but Bella still doesn’t know who/what they are.  It leaves off with her having made it home and wondering if she and her dad will ever be safe.  That’s kind of a sucky place to stop, especially when you find out what I discovered today.

After doing some research, I discovered that this is an incomplete series.  Apparently the next book in the series was supposed to be released in July 2016 (or thereabouts), but it was scrapped.  So yeah, I won’t be finishing this series because I can’t!

I recommend New Moon: The Graphic Novel, Volume 1 to Twilight fans as an interesting take on the story.

Rating: 3 1/2 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

Twilight: The Graphic Novel, Volume 2 adapted & illustrated by Young Kim

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Title: Twilight: The Graphic Novel, Volume 2 adapted & illustrated by Young Kim

Notable: Book #2 in the Twilight Graphic Novels series (incomplete series)

Premise:

This book picks up in the middle of the original Twilight book.  It covers Edward and Bella’s growing relationship, Bella’s introduction to the Cullen family, and James and Victoria’s hunt to catch Bella.

My thoughts:

Honestly, I thought this book was even better than the first one.  Probably the best part is when Edward tells Bella about the history of his family.  The narrative takes on more of an actual story and not just the longing looks and professions of love that we constantly hear from Edward and Bella.  Bella also gets to meet the Cullen family and is mostly welcomed with open arms, except by Rosalie who’s still a little uptight about becoming a vampire.

It seemed like the part with Victoria, James and Laurent wasn’t quite so impressive as it was in the original novel and the movie.  James just seemed like a creepy dude and I didn’t get an adequate sense of how dangerous and terrifying he really was.  Victoria wasn’t much more than a bit player, and Laurent seemed like just another sweet guy.  Where was the danger and menace?  Okay, rant over.  Really, I did enjoy the book.

I recommend Twilight: The Graphic Novel, Volume 2 to Twilight fans as an interesting alternative.

Rating: 3 1/2 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

Twilight: The Graphic Novel, Volume 1 adapted & illustrated by Young Kim

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Title: Twilight: The Graphic Novel, Volume 1 adapted & illustrated by Young Kim

Notable: Book #1 in the Twilight Graphic Novels series (incomplete series)

Premise:

Bella Swan moves from sunny Phoneix to overcast Forks, Washington when her mother remarries.  She doesn’t have high hopes for life in this new town until she meets hunky Edward Cullen.  The interest is mutual, but the closer Bella gets to Edward, the more she realizes that there’s more to him than meets the eye.

My thoughts:

I was a bit unsure about this rendition of Twilight when I checked it out from the library.  I’m a fan of the Twilight series, but I was concerned this would be boring, maybe because I already know the story so well.  I guess I had the attitude of, yeah I already know that story.  Not the best way to start a book–with an attitude.

The artistic style is different from most of the graphic novels I’ve read, but it’s not unfamiliar to me.  It’s actually very similar to the type of artwork my niece does–with a strong Asian influence.  Young Kim does amazing eyes–amazing!  At times the characters’ proportions were a little off, especially if they were posing at an odd angle, but it wasn’t too bad.  (Poor Edward, in one scene, looks like he has a hunched shoulder.  Tee-hee!)

Overall, I enjoyed seeing the story told from a fresh perspective.  Young had an idea of how the story should look and she utilized some interesting and inventive scene setup and angles throughout the book.  Text was really kept to a minimum, but what was included got to the meat of the story.  It seemed to flow well and make sense.  So, even though I went into the book with an attitude, I enjoyed it and am looking forward to the second volume.  This one leaves off right in the middle of the story.

I recommend Twilight: The Graphic Novel, Volume 1 to Twilight fans.  It’s fun to see a new take on the story.

Rating: 3 1/2 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

The Gift of the Magi and Other Short Stories by O. Henry

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Title: The Gift of the Magi and Other Short Stories by O. Henry

Premise:

This is a collection of short stories by O. Henry.  It includes “The Gift of the Magi,” “The Cop and the Anthem,” “Springtime à la Carte,” “The Green Door,” “After Twenty Years,” “The Furnished Room,” “The Pimienta Pancakes,” “The Last Leaf,” “The Voice of the City,” “While the Auto Waits,” “A Retrieved Reformation,” “A Municipal Report,” “A Newspaper Story,” “The Ransom of Red Chief,” “A Ghost of a Chance,” and “Makes the Whole World Kin.”

My thoughts:

I read this book specifically for “The Gift of the Magi,” a Christmas story.  The book is so short, though, that I decided to just go ahead and read the entire thing.  A couple of the stories were familiar to me (“The Last Leaf” in particular), though I can’t think of where I would have heard/read it before.  Overall, I really enjoyed the book.  Most of the stories were well-written, clever, heartfelt, and several had twist endings.  Henry’s writing is challenging to read, so you’ll want to keep a dictionary at hand.  You will certainly expand your vocabulary!

You should know that there are three instances of the n-word in this book.  I believe they are contained in only two stories, but in any instance where an African American is included in a story, they are talked of in a condescending way.  For this reason, I wouldn’t recommend the book to anyone younger than an adult.

I recommend The Gift of the Magi to adults who enjoy short stories.  Most of the stories in this volume are satisfying reads.

Possible Objections:

  • There is a general air of condescension towards African Americans
  • Outdated/offensive racial language (3 uses of the n-word)

Rating: 4 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

Breaking Dawn – Part 1 – Movie 2011

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Last night I watched Breaking Dawn – Part 1, the movie adaptation of the first part of the book by the same name.  I’m almost to the end of these movies!

Bella and Edward finally wed(!) and jet off to spend a relaxed honeymoon in the tropics.  While Edward follows through on his promise of intimacy, it comes with some unintended consequences.  Bella becomes pregnant, and the entire Cullen clan scrambles to keep Bella healthy, and do their best to help her survive the birth of the fast-growing fetus.  When Jacob and the pack find out that an unknown supernatural being is developing inside of Bella, they feel it is their responsibility to get rid of the abomination.  Will Bella and the baby survive?  If you want to know more about what I thought of the book, check out my book review.

My thoughts:

I really like that they opened with the wedding scene.  It looked absolutely beautiful and felt like the culmination of Edward and Bella’s relationship.  Unfortunately, I was rather put off by the emotions displayed by the couple during their wedding.  Pattinson did okay, with his subdued emotions possibly indicating nervousness.  Bella, on the other hand, looked like she was attending a funeral.  Nary a smile crossed her lips as she spotted her true love and walked down the aisle.  Dang girl–if it’s that painful, why get married at all?  It seemed very unrealistic to me and turned the wedding into just another awkward scene.

Bella’s ubiquitous lack of emotion came through in the rest of the movie, as well.  I can’t even complain about it anymore.  It’s just so bad and takes away any concern you might have for her character.  How can you care about a character who doesn’t excite any compassion in you?

Of the J/E/B trio, I’d have to say that Jacob is my favorite character.  He acts in a way that is at least familiar to the rest of us.  Which is to say, he displays the emotions of a normal human being.  Let’s not mince words though, his imprinting in this movie was slightly creepy.  Never mind the fact that he was in love with the mother of his new love, this new love interest is a baby.  I know there is an explanation which is supposed to clear the way and make it okay, but I can’t get over the fact that they are showing romantic attachment between adults and children.  Too icky.

One of the more disturbing things in this movie is the amount of blood and gore, especially when you compare it to the previous movies.  This one blows all the others out of the water.  Bella’s nightmare the night before the wedding is very disturbing.  Also, the part in which Bella finally goes into labor is very bloody and rather grotesque.  I tell you this not to dissuade you from watching the movie, but to warn you that it might not be appropriate for younger viewers or those with a touchy stomach.

There are also some very suggestive scenes between Edward and Bella.  While the nudity is tastefully done, it doesn’t leave a lot to the imagination.  I wouldn’t be comfortable with my preteen watching those scenes.

While I enjoyed the movie, the plot was a bit simple to make it terribly satisfying.  Essentially it’s the conundrum of a girl getting pregnant and how that is dealt with.  If you’re not into relationship drama, this movie could quite possibly drive you insane.

I recommend this movie to ladies in their teens and older who enjoy a good paranormal romance.  If you are a fan of the Twilight series, I think you will enjoy this movie.

Possible Objections:

  • Violence & gore
  • Lots of blood (especially during the delivery)
  • Suggestive sexual content & partial nudity (though you don’t actually see the private bits)

Rated: PG-13

Rating: 3 1/2 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

OTHER TWILIGHT POSTS:

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: