Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie

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Title: Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie

Premise:

Wendy and her brothers go on a fantastic adventure with Peter Pan, a boy who lives in the Neverland and never grows up.  They encounter mermaids, fairies and the infamous Captain Hook.  Though they go on many adventures, eventually Wendy and the boys must return home to grow up.

My thoughts:

My son and I read Peter Pan together for our homeschooling and I must say that it surprised me quite a bit.  I grew up watching Disney’s Peter Pan, so I was expecting a tame and mostly innocent story.  Let me tell you, the original Peter Pan is not all fluff.

Captain Hook and the Lost Boys do plenty of killing and maiming in their fights, though at least it isn’t described graphically.  Even innocent little Michael ends up killing a pirate in the final fight scene.

The Disney version got the story line mostly correct, but the book’s delivery is much more wordy and old-fashioned in its language.  I enjoyed it, but I could tell that my son’s attention was flagging at times because of the side tangents and complexity of the language.  For that reason I’d say this book is best suited to older elementary and up — unless your child has a great attention span.  Overall, I enjoyed the book, but it will be a one-time read for me.

I recommend Peter Pan to those who enjoy classic childhood adventure stories.

Rating: 4 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

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The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax by Dorothy Gilman

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Title: The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax by Dorothy Gilman

Notable: Book #1 in the Mrs. Pollifax series

Premise:

Mrs. Pollifax is an older widowed woman whose children have left home.  She is feeling unfulfilled in her daily pursuits, so her doctor recommends that she try something out which she’s always wanted to do.  When she was younger, Mrs. Pollifax dreamt of being a spy.  You can see where this is leading, no?

My thoughts:

I was not expecting much of this book–just look at that cover!  When was the last time you saw a book cover quite so absurd?  This book surprised me so much with how well it was written, the charming heroine, and the crazy story line.

Through a happy accident Mrs. Pollifax is chosen for a simple mission, but she ends up getting dragged into a complex and dangerous web of intrigue.  Though she’s naive in the ways of secret agents, Mrs. Pollifax is experienced in life and human nature, and she has to employ all of her wiles and knowledge to make it through a truly harrowing ordeal.

I recommend The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax to those who enjoy an unconventional adventure story with a unique protagonist.  This was a completely unique and refreshing read!


Possible Objections:

  • Some of violence
  • A bit of adult language

Rating: 5 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

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

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

Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne

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Title: Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne

Premise:

Phileas Fogg, the stoic and predictable Englishman that he is, decides to go on a trip around the world because of a wager.  He bets his whist companions £20,000 that he can make the trip in eighty days.  Fogg’s servant Passepartout accompanies him, as well as a wily detective who believes Fogg to be a notorious bank robber.  They have many adventures and setbacks along the way, even rescuing a damsel in distress, but will they make it back to London in time to win the bet?

My thoughts:

The first Jules Verne book I read was 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.  I had my own copy lined up on the shelf in my bunk bed and it was my first introduction to science fiction as a kid.  Ever since then, I’ve loved Jules Verne’s fantastical adventure stories.

Though Jules Verne is best known for his science fiction, this book doesn’t exactly fit into that category.  It capitalizes on elements of the industrial age, such as the great strides made in dependable and quick transportation.  It truly was a marvel how quickly one could traverse the globe, compared to what was possible only a short time previously.

The story is fairly simple — a man travels around the world as quickly as possible, encountering several obstacles along the way.  That’s it in a nutshell.  The character development isn’t stellar and there are a TON of place names, but despite those very slight criticisms, I loved the story.  It’s so very readable and I love a good adventure story!

As far as classic literature goes, this book has fairly accessible language.  It’s also a largely action-driven story, so those two considerations make this a good book to start your journey into classic literature.

I recommend Around the World in Eighty Days to fans of early science fiction and those who enjoy classic literature.

Possible Objections:

  • One character gets high in an opium den
  • Native people referred to as “savages” a few times
  • Overtly English-centric attitude throughout

Rating: 4 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

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

Anne of Green Gables: A Graphic Novel adapted by Mariah Marsden

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Title: Anne of Green Gables: A Graphic Novel adapted by Mariah Marsden

Premise:

Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert (siblings) want to adopt a boy who can help them with work on their farm, but through a mistake they end up with a girl instead.  Anne Shirley is nothing like what they expected, but she wins their hearts and they decide to keep her.  This is the story of Anne’s childhood and its defining moments.

My thoughts:

I’ve been a fan of Anne Shirley since I was a kid, so this graphic novel really had me excited!  I was also kind of afraid, too.  What if it was done poorly?  What if they didn’t capture Anne’s spirit and humor?  What if they butchered one of my all-time favorite stories???

I’ll lay to rest those insecurities right now and tell you that I absolutely loved this book!  The format is, of course, different from the original, but it still manages to capture the magic of the story.  The graphic novel focuses on simplified and essential dialogue, pivotal events, and the emotions/reactions/feelings of the characters.  A lot of detail was necessarily cut out, but the essence of the story came through loud and clear.  I’ll confess that it made me cry a couple of times.  The story ends on a hopeful note, with Anne and Gilbert finally reconciling and the hint of love in the air.  *sigh*

The artwork is really nice.  There are plenty of charming and lovely vignettes, and a wonderful color palette.

I recommend Anne of Green Gables to fans of the original book, and to elementary-age kids as a good introduction to the story.

Rating: 5 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

Alice in Wonderland: A Graphic Novel by Powell & Ferran

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Title: Alice in Wonderland: A Graphic Novel by Martin Powell & Daniel Ferran

Premise:

Alice goes on a picnic with her sister, but becomes bored and falls asleep.  She has a fantastically outrageous dream about talking animals, a violent queen, and growing and shrinking.

My thoughts:

The story of Alice in Wonderland is totally bizarre and out there, and you shouldn’t expect anything different in the graphic novel.  Since this is a shortened way of sharing the story, the zany and nonsensical scenes seem to randomly follow one another.  From an adult perspective, the story seemed disjointed and strange (and I already know the plot), so I can imagine kids would be confused by it.

The artwork is very nicely done and I like how they visually represented each scene, but that’s not enough to make up for the seemingly pointless story.  I think Alice in Wonderland works better in its original form.  The story requires more words to try and make sense of the ridiculous events.

I recommend Alice in Wonderland to elementary-age kids who would like to learn the premise of the original tale without committing to reading a longer book.

Rating: 3 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

The Smurfs: The Village Behind the Wall by Peyo

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Title: The Smurfs: The Village Behind the Wall by Peyo

Notable: Unnumbered volume from The Smurfs Graphic Novels series

Premise:

The Smurfs discover a whole new village filled with only girl Smurfs!  Wild adventures await as the Smurfs try to keep up with the ladies on their own turf in a more jungle-like setting.  Based on the 2017 movie, Smurfs: The Lost Village.

My thoughts:

Though this collection of stories is overflowing with female Smurfs, it wasn’t my favorite Smurfs graphic novel.  It’s probably because I don’t know the characters well and I haven’t seen the movie that the stories are based on.  While the concept is really cool, I wasn’t that impressed with the stories themselves.  They weren’t very engaging and that’s why I gave this book only 3 1/2 stars.

There are a couple of things which I really like about the book.  The female Smurfs are very much like Amazons in their abilities and way of life.  Unlike the prissy Smurfette, these ladies can fight, ride dragonflies, thrive in the wilderness and aren’t afraid to get dirty.  I also like the way these lady Smurfs look–with their blue hair, purple-blue-green color scheme, and almost Polynesian-looking camouflage.

I recommend The Smurfs: The Village Behind the Wall to Smurf fans.  Girls will probably especially like it because it features a whole cast of female Smurfs.

Rating: 3 1/2 Stars

Until next time…

Lori