Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

**Book 1**

Continuing on in the Chronicles of Narnia, is The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. I have realized I'm fond of this book. It's technically the second book in the series, but it was the first book written.

The book takes place during WWII when all the children were evacuated from London. Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy are sent to a Professor's house. But this isn't just any Professor. This is the same boy who was the Magician's Nephew.

Lucy stumbles through a wardrobe and finds herself in Narnia. But when she tells her siblings, they don't believe her. That is, until they all stumble through.

They all end up in Narnia and their adventures truly begin.

This is definitely a good fantasy read for a younger audience.

Monday, July 29, 2013

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants

Ok. I'm a bit of a sucker for girl coming of age books. I can't explain why, I just have always loved them.

This book is four coming of age stories wrapped in a story of friendship.

Bridget, Lena, Carmen, and Tibby are best friends. They have been best friends since they were born. They normally spend every summer together, but this year, their fifteenth year, they are all going their separate ways for a couple of months. They stay connected by a magical pair of jeans that somehow fit all four of them, even though they are built very differently.

Carmen goes to visit her father. She assumes that it will be the two of them having fun and connecting. But she is surprised when she arrives and discovers that not only will it not be the two of them, but that her father is getting married and now has two stepchildren. She hates the new family, but she is mostly mad and disappointed that her father didn't warn her.

Bridget is in Baja California for soccer camp. She is the headstrong one of the group. She is the girl who gets a goal and doesn't stop until she reaches it. Her goal for this camp is to seduce the 19 year old male coach of another team. She is brazen and reckless.

Lena heads to Greece with her younger sister to visit their grandparents. While there, Lena's grandmother tries to set her up with the grandson of her friends and neighbors. Lena tries to find a way to turn away Kostos, and then an unfortunate incident happens, creating a rift between the two grandfathers who have been friends for decades.

Poor Tibby is left alone. She doesn't go anywhere and gets a job at the local pharmacy, Wallman's. She meets Bailey, who, while three years younger, will turn Tibby's world upside down. Bailey has leukemia and she manages to show Tibby that her life isn't as bad as she had previously thought it was and opens her eyes to the world outside her "miserable" life.

The pants go to each girl, and the first time around, they each fail to really do anything profound while wearing their magic Pants. But when each girl gets the Pants for a second time during the summer, they learn something about their lives and find a way to, essentially, the moral of their summer.

I loved that these girls grew and changed over their summer. They were each prejudiced about who they were and what they were doing, but all four girls learned valuable lessons that helped to make them into better people.

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Hunchback of Notre-Dame

I wasn't a huge fan of this book. It was long, which normally isn't a problem, but a majority of that length is stuff that really isn't pertinent to the story. If I could, I would cut about a third of the book out. Particularly the parts that are all about the architecture of Paris and the layout. It's not really something that the book needs and it takes up several full chapters.

That being said, this is nothing like the Disney movie. Yes, up to now, that was my experience with The Hunchback of Notre-Dame. But this story is definitely not child friendly. There is no happily ever after ending. It is a raw, gritty tale about a deformed man, a crazy archdeacon, a captain of the guard, and a gypsy girl. There is love, betrayal, pain, fear, and even humor.

If it had been edited down to take out all the frivolous nonsense, it would have been a great book. I did like it, but I probably won't read it again.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Magician's Nephew

Since finishing the Little House series with my daughter, we have moved on to The Chronicles of Narnia. I will admit that I haven't really read these books. So, while I read to the three year old, I will be enjoying them for the first time.

The Magician's Nephew is the first book in the series by placement of book, although it was written and published sixth. But I read it first because it is the beginning of Narnia.

Digory is a little boy with a neighbor girl, Polly, who becomes a close friend. His uncle, however, is not a good man. Uncle Andrew is a magician, but he is not a nice magician. He tricks Polly into using a ring which transports her to another world and forces Digory to go as well in order to bring Polly back into their own world.

During this, the children go on an adventure, meet an evil Witch, and witness the birth of the land of Narnia.

Overall, this is a good book. It is fantastical in it's creation and tells the story of the professor as a child and Narnia before the other books begin.

The Casual Vacancy

This book is one of those ones that I didn't love, but I also didn't hate. I won't say it wasn't a good book, because it was a good book. But I found the characters of the sort that I struggled to have a favorite character. Actually, my favorite character might have been Barry who dies right at the beginning of the book, but even then I didn't love his character.

Throughout this book, each character has negative qualities - a lot of them. At the beginning, they are often just alluded to. It's as if each character is introduced in his or her best light and the longer you read, the more real they become. Their flaws were slowly exposed over the course of the book and you discovered that the people who were all pushing for one side or the other on an agenda for the small town of Pagford were doing so for their own selfish reasons.

Characters that I loved at the start of the book, I discovered I despised at the end. Characters that I hated at the beginning endeared themselves to me.

The Casual Vacancy is a huge deviation from J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series, but that's ok. I just expected something different out of this book. But, it's still a good book and I enjoyed reading it.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The First Four Years

**Links: Book 1 * Book 2 * Book 3 * Book 4 * Book 5 * Book 6 * Book 7 * Book 8**

This is the last book in the Little House series. It was published posthumously and it is a harsher, more honest book than the writing in the other eight books.

It tells the first four years of Laura and Almanzo's marriage. These first years are hard, but Laura does a lot of growing up.

The farming part seems to mostly be a failure. A hailstorm, hot winds, fire, just a series of unfortunate events that caused their wheat crops to fail. But they also manage to successfully raise livestock.

Laura also gives birth to two children during this four year period, the only child to survive, a girl named Rose, was born first, but later on, Laura also had a son who died mere weeks after birth.

Laura's emotions in this book are much more raw than they were previously. I felt Laura's pain. I felt her joy.

But I wish that this book was more like the others. More directed towards the child-like wonder. But it was a good book otherwise - short, but good.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Dear Mr. Darcy

I'm a fan of Pride and Prejudice as it is, so reading a retelling of the story is something that I enjoy.

This book is written as a series of letters between various characters from Pride and Prejudice, with a few additions that are necessary to truly tell the story.

I do feel that some of my favorite parts of the original story were left out or changed in such a way that I had some reservations, but overall, it was a very enjoyable read.

I think I particularly enjoyed the way that the author expounded on Mr. Darcy's character. In Jane Austen's novel, Mr. Darcy was an enigma. He was proud. But, in Dear Mr. Darcy, you start see how he struggled with his feelings for Elizabeth long before he expressed them to her. He tries to talk himself out of those feelings, but we all know how that ended. I just really liked getting insights on other characters than just Elizabeth.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Red Riding Hood

I'm not sure whether this was written prior to the movie or after. But I love the movie of this telling of Little Red Riding Hood.

The Wolf is a werewolf. Somebody in Valerie's village is the Wolf. The villagers provide a monthly sacrifice - an animal from their mangers. By providing this animal sacrifice each time there's a full moon, the people of the village are spared the death that they had previously suffered from.

But now there's a blood moon, a moon that occurs once every 13 years and the only time that the werewolf can pass on his (her?) curse to another. This begins a hunt to discover and destroy the Wolf.

Everyone is suspicious of everyone else. Who is the Wolf?

I enjoyed this book, but I felt that it ended rather abruptly. It felt unfinished. But, overall, I enjoy this retelling of Little Red Riding Hood.