Friday, November 2, 2012

Heading East

Hello, All! Sorry that it has been so long since my last post, but I intend to make up for it with this and a couple of other posts over the next few days! Today's review is about a book called East.
This is a retelling of the myth called East of the sun and west of the moon. I haven't read the original tale, but from the synopsis that I checked out, this book seems to be very accurate to the original. East was written by Edith Pattou. She has a couple of other books, but this was the first that I've read by her. It's a young adult, myth, or historical fantasy fiction. The book is set in Norway, I'm not exactly sure when, but I believe it's meant to be in the 1500's. It's a fascinating tale, told from 5 different points of view, though mainly through the eyes of Rose, the main character. Rose was born the 8th child to a former Map-maker named Arni and his loving, but very superstitious wife, Eugenia. Her strongest belief is in Birth Direction. Birth Direction says that a person's personality, temperament, and course of life are determined by the direction their mother was facing when they were born. She believes that it will bring them good luck to have a child of each direction...except North. It was foretold that any North-child she had would be a wanderer, and then buried alive in ice. Eugenia goes to extreme lengths to avoid having a north-born, and is satisfied when she finally has the last of the 7 directionaly planned children. Till one takes ill, and dies. Eugenia insists on having another baby, to fill in the gap, but when the time comes, there seem to be mysterious circumstances around the birth of there new daughter. The whole family knows that something is wrong, but at the instance of Eugenia, everyone drops the subject and moves on with life. Except Arni and the now second youngest child Neddy. Neddy falls in love with his little sister from day one, and the two are best friends for life. Neddy is more of a home body though, choosing to work on his studies and intellect, and Rose can not sit still for anything. There is always something drawling her away, a wind, a butterfly, a sound, a dream. She is constantly wandering away much to the worry and upset of her Mother and Brother. Neddy is another of perspectives used to tell the tale. He sees everything through the loving, and trusting eyes of an elder brother. Arni, the Father, also gives some insight. He tells of how he much he loved his map making business, but how he was influenced, by his wife to become a farmer. He's not a good farmer. He tries hard, but the families circumstances deteriorate as the years pass. Rose, meanwhile is aware of the family's misfortunes, and does what she can to help, but can't stop herself from wondering. At different times through out her life, Rose comes in contact with a great white bear. Neddy sees it too, but to him it's just a bear. Rose sees in it the eyes and almost the soul of a human. Naturally, she's encouraged to not discuss the bear around her mother, and Neddy tries to act as though it doesn't even exist, but it's a delusion he can't hold on to for long. It seems like the family can't become any poorer, when they do. And on top of it, one of the elder daughters becomes very sick. The family pull together, and do the best that they can, but finally all hope seems lost. That is when the White Bear returns. He returns with a very shocking offer for the family, one that they try hard to refuse. Rose must go with the Bear. If she does then the family will receive good fortune, like never before, and the sick daughter will be delivered. If she doesn't, their sadness will know no end. What is Rose to do? Ah, well, you have to read and find out! What I've told you of the story so far is just the beginning. But I don't do spoilers, and I really highly recommend this one! Let me tell you why. Rose is a great character. Just exactly what I love in a heroine. She is brave, clever, loving, and determined to do what is right. I think she's fascinating in her interests, and quirks. She's not perfect, but she is admirable. Her family is interesting too. Pattou is excellent at Character development, though I do wish she had gone into a little more detail about the other siblings. I know this books is not about them, but I like learning about families, they help explain a person, for better or worse, and I think that I might have had an even deeper understanding of Rose if they had been more involved. That is just a personal preference. Her descriptions were adequate. It's always obvious where the characters are, and how they are influenced by their surroundings. I do think she was a little sparse at times, a little vague. But over all, I think she is a good writer. I absolutely recommend this book, and give it a 4. As I said, I am going to try to get more reviews out this week. Please leave comments, and feedback! Take Care!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Schwa effect

Welcome, welcome, all! I hope you are having a great day. I've been loving the weather here in South Jersey over the last few days. I'm looking forward to the weekend, even though it means I have to work! *WARNING* Some semi-minor spoilers in this review. This Week's book is called "The Schwa was here." By Neal Shusterman. (Yes, Neal with an 'A') It's an "Antsy Bonano" (the main character of our story) Novel. It's the first one that I've ever read, but knowing there are more, is really exciting, and I'll have to go look for them. I was given this book to read by my aunt. It was on her school kids' Summer reading list, and as she travels a lot, she likes having a book to take along and fill the time. She and I often talk about books that we've read, and exchange or suggest them. She gave me this one, insisting I'd like it, on her last visit. I'm SO glad she did! I enjoyed it 100%. The basic genra is Young Adult, but it's not one of those dark, moppy, "ehhh life is so hard when you're 14, wahhh" kinda books. On the contrary. While it delt with some grown up, more interpersonal issues, it maintained a light hearted feel through most of the book that was very refreshing. It's set in Brooklyn, I'm not sure exactly when, but recently enough that they talk about cell phones. Anthoney, (or as those near and dear call him, Antsy) Bonano is a smart, sarcastic kid, with a kind heart, and THE BEST sence of humor. He is the midle of three kids, with one older brother, and a younger sister. His dad works for a plastic company, and his mom takes care of the home front. His best friends are Howard Bogerton and Ira Goldfarb, a basic genius and a future film director, respectively. They are the kind of kids you would know from school, or from your neighboorhood. Just average kids, making it in a big city. They spend time playing video games, and on occasion testing plastic wears for Antsy's dad. During one such test, involving a manikin name Mr. Bullpucky, Antsy and his pals have first contact with "THE SCHWA." Calvin Schwa is a kid from their school who has the incredible power of being (not becoming) practically invisible. He scares Antsy and the boys at first, but eventually they are overcome with curiosity about just how deep this invisibility power goes that they start testing it out. They have the Schwa do crazy things like go into a class room with a bunch of other people, then have someone else go in and count heads. Almost every time, the counter skip over him. Eventually they do bigger, things like have him go sit in the teachers lounge for a couple hours, or stand in the hallway with a bright orange sombrero, singing at the top of his lungs! And the results are almost all the same- barely anyone notices, and those who do, only have a vague memory of him. (if it even was a him.) The Schwa has power! Then, another boy from their class puts down a bet for Antsy and the Schwa (by this time, Antsy has appointed himself the Schwa's manager). He bets that the Schwa can't sneak up to old man Crawly's apartment, get into the house a steal a bowl from one of his 14 Afghan dogs, without getting caught. Old man Crawly owns the restaurant that is downstairs of his apartment. He is not to be trifled with. Once, when he was upset about an incident involving tomatoes, he had all tomato shipment stopped to Brooklyn for two weeks! The stakes are high, but so is the glory if the Schwa can pull it off. So they go for it! And fail. When they are caught by old man Crawly they have a choice of having the police called and get hauled away (according to Crawly) or they can do "community service" assigned by the man him self. They chose the latter, and set them-selves for some hard trials ahead. Through this time, Antsy learns that there is much more to this man that has terrified the neighborhood kids for so long. He also gets to know more about Calvin Schwa, and his dim past. Alright, so that was kind of a long summery, but It's really such a small part of the story! I REALLY REALLY loved this book! The characters were fun, and smart, and sarcastic as all get out! Antsy is such a great kid. He loves his family, though he has no problem letting you know about their quirks. He stands up for what he thinks is right. He doesn't take crap from anyone, but likes keeping peace where he can.He's very insiteful and really thinks about how his actions effect those around him...most of the time. He is a well written, well developed character. All the characters are developed well. I enjoy a book where you can see change in the characters (good or bad) and you absolutely can here. When there are minor characters, you know they won't be around long, but in the short span you meet them, you see exactly who they are, and the part they are going to play. Even with the silliness of the schwa experiments, the book is very realistic, and has some great consequences, and morals. I can't say that there was anything I really found fault with, except maybe that there were a couple, well developed, characters that I would have liked to spent more time with (there I go making friends with fictional people again!) I would give one warning about the way it's written. It will give any English major a headache. Since it's told from a 14 year old brooklynite's perspective, the tenses, and really just about all the grammar are rather askew...or better yet...non existent. But I (the daughter of an English teacher) thought it was quite charming, and effective to the character of Antsy. I VERY HIGHLY recommend it. It is a quick read, and will get you laughing from the first page! It gets a genuine 5 on my rating! Well, Thanks once again for stopping by! Enjoy your weekend, and I'll see you next week with some more words of love! Manda

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

This book left me "Hungry" for more!

Welcome, Welcome! So glad to be back! The last couple of weeks were silly busy, but I'm back and ready to review! So I've had a couple of people ask me to review the Hunger Games. I know a bunch of you have probably already read it, but I enjoyed it so much, that I really want to review it! The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins, is the story of Katniss Everdeen's survival. Her survival, first, as the family provider in a post apocalyptic world, and later as a contestant in the Hunger Games. Katniss' life is very hard. Her father died in a tragic accident leaving her mother in a paralyzingly shocked state, that renders her practically useless to her daughter's well being. Katiniss is left to pick up the pieces. She must provide for not only her mother, but her younger sister, Prim as well. Katniss has help from her very handsome friend Gale. They are both skilled at hunting and join forces to care for their families. Then Katniss' world is turned upside down. Each year the Hunger games is put on by the supreme central government referred to in the book as "The Capitol." 70 Some years before the book takes place, the Capitol had become so over bearing that the country (which is supposed to be North America, divided now into 12 districts, rather than states)revolted against them. The Capitol crushed them, taking down, as an example, a 13th district that no longer exists. Since then the Capitol put on the hunger games. This is a horrific event where children 12-18 are forced to compete to the death, till there is only one remaining. The survivor is given wealth and fame as a reward. The Games were designed to show the people that they have no hope of ever going against the Capitol again. Worse then that, the Capitol shows off it's 'supreme' power by using the country's children for sport. Katniss' sister, Prim is chosen, on her very first Hunger Games, to be a tribute. Katniss sacrifices her freedom to save Prim, and Volunteers to take her place. This is almost unheard of! Because of her selfless act, Katniss grabs the attention and hearts of the nation. Her choice also causes her to be a symbol to the people of freedom. She did not simply let the Capitol take what it wanted, but made her stand, and kinda made her own rules. So if I don't stop now, I'll tell you the whole story, and give it all away. I could talk about it forever! So let me get into some of my thoughts about this book. The first time I picked it up, I was very uninterested in it. I had heard that Stephanie Meyer (author of the twilight books) had endorsed it so I wanted to check it out. (Say what you will about Twilight,I enjoy it, and more importantly I think that Stephanie Meyer and I could be great book buddies!)The premise, just printed on the book cover did not draw me in at all. I don't enjoy books with needles violence (or TV shows that have it either)and the morbidness of children killing one another for sport was just a huge turn off. So I put the book down,and walked on to find something else. Well, about 6 Months to a year later, right before I believe the third book in the series, Mockingjay, came out, it seemed like a lot of hype was going into these books, so naturally being the curious bookworm that I am, I picked up a copy on my next trip to the library. I was there for an hour, reading, (in the teen fiction section) unable to put the book down! Suzanne Collins is such a masterful writer! I have read so many books in my life, but I have never read one that captivated me so much, so quickly as Hunger games. The characters are so deep, and so well developed that you know them instantly. The inviroment is as clear as day! You learn the layout, the temperment of the people. You feel the rigitity of the Government, and absolutely the undercurrent of rebellion and freedom in the face of all the supporting characters. So, now, more about the characters. First Katniss. What a heroin. She is strong, and tough, and loves her family with all she has. She's not a very emotional girl. She has a lot of walls up that make her rough around the edges, but all with good reason. While she is a forward person, like when she took her sister's place, it did seem to me that there were a lot of things, outside of the Games themselves, that she just let happen. I think that was the only thing I didn't enjoy about her. She was deep, and put thought into all of her actions, but there were a few time when I felt like she should have taken action, and didn't. As I mentioned earlier, there is Gale. Gale is a hardworking, big, strong, make all the girlies swoon, kinda character. He has grown to care deeply for Katniss, and promises to look after her family when she is sent away to the games. I think he is a wonderful man, and personally would have fallen for him, if I were in Katniss' shoes, but at the same time, I don't find much depth in him. He's loyal, and smart, and I think he's a good guy, but he lacks something for me. I'm not really sure if that's how Collins intended to portray him, or if she was concentrating more on Katniss, and a couple others, and just didn't take the time to develop him more. But he just wasn't quite what I wanted. The other man in Katniss' life is Peeta. When the tributes are selected from each district, they pick two, a male and a female. Peeta is the male from district 12. He and Katniss know one another, but only from a distance. They spend the next couple of weeks getting to know each other, and the worth of one another, better. I really like Peeta. To me he was the most positive character, tho he's packing plenty of common sense. He doesn't come from the greatest of home lives (few do in this story) but he's quite sure of himself, and what he intends to do with the position that he's been put in. He's very intelligent, and I think that's another reason I like him so much (brains do it for me, what can i say? Well...not in the way they do for zombies...that's totally different.)Through out the book, he finds every opportunity to protect and care for Katniss, and take a stand against the oppression of the Capitol. Overall he's a really strong character that is superbly well written. There are so many more characters that are worth noting, but I really don't want to give away anymore of the story. If you plan on reading it, just keep an eye out for Cinna, Caeser Flickerman, and Rue. I hope this has been a interesting and helpful review. As mentioned throughout I LOVE THIS BOOK! I give it a 5 on my rating scale. I highly recommend it, with the understanding that not everyone will like it, and with the cautio n, that it's not for everyone and certainly not for younger readers under, I'd say 13 or 14. Thanks for stopping by! I have another review already in the works, and I hope to get it out sometime in the next couple of days! Have a fab day! PS, I know that some of you have probably read this already, so please feel free to add anything that you think deserves mention in the comment section. But please PLEASE, no spoilers! Thanks!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Short tale of "Everlasting"

Morning! Today's book review is brought to you by the letters M and N for "Mediocre" and "Not bad,". Those are the terms I'd use for Everlasting, by Angie Frazier. It was a fine book, that kept me interested, but over all it was just kind of "eh." It's a historical fiction,(a fave genre of mine. In case you were wondering) set mostly at sea in the 1860's. It's told in first person by Camille Rowen, a 17 year old girl, from a wealthy family. Camille is destined to marry a man that she has no real feelings for, but whom sees as a good match. Her fiance, Randall is a good man, and madly in love with her, but unbeknownst to Camille has a large investment in her Father's shipping company. A company which is on the verge of bankruptcy. Once Camille learns this, she becomes even more motivated to marry Randall, out of loyalty to her father. She sets her mind to it, regardless of the absence of love. Also regardless of the charming attentions of Oscar Kildare, Her father's young first mate. Camille sets out to sea with her father and his crew for the last time before her marriage and tragedy strikes! I won't give away anything too vital, because I don't believe in spoilers. :) The Characters were good, relate-able characters but as far as their development is concerned, it seemed as if I had met them before, in another book. There was some growth by Camille, but very little was done to give Oscar or her father more depth. But like I said, it felt like I had met them before, so there wasn't really need for it. This is a big issue for me. I really enjoy meeting new "people" when I pick up a first time read, and while it was comfortable in a way, I missed the challenge of becoming friends with them. Of overcoming the obstacles of faults and falling in love with the attributes and strengths that life, real or fictional, brings. I guess the best way to say it is that it made me care less about the characters. One thing that I do think the author did a FANTASTIC job of was creating the world around the characters. Whatever venue Camille and her friends wandered into was as clear as day in my "mind's eye". There were sea ports, ships, oceans, towns, wilderness, that all captured my attention, and I really think that was what kept me turning the page. I was dying to see where they would go next! The plot wasn't too bad. The book gave off shades of classics like Treasure Island, and other swashbuckly novels(patent pending on that term), but fell short on that front, for me. Camille finds herself in search of a stone that promises immortality, or rather, could raise people from the dead. I felt like the plot was slightly neglected in favor of the AMAZING surrounding description, and the adequate dialogue. Frazier is not breaking any new ground with this plot line, so I think that it really should have been developed on a deeper level, maybe with a few new twists in order to maintain the interest of the reader. Over all the book was good. It was fairly fast paced, and interesting. I would recommend it to someone looking for a light book, and a quick read. I'd also say go in to it with no expectations, in order to get the most enjoyment out of it. I give it a 3 over all.(or horse on the animal scale. I can't quite get that out of my head.:}) Thanks for checking out my blog! I'll have another post up sometime in the next week. Bye!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

My Very Favorite book!

Hey Everyone, Welcome back! So, before I begin my first review I want give you an idea of how I'll be rating the books I review. It's nothing too fancy, just your basic 1-5 scale. I briefly entertained the idea of making it something really crazy, like "possum-frog" (because I really dislike Possums, and frogs are my very favorite animal. I do detest spiders above any other thing on this planet, and I might actually use that when reviewing a terrible, terrible book, but we'll just have to see.) but really, that's just confusing and and unnecessary distraction that would detract from the reviewing process.
I could use stars I suppose, but then what if I said something was 4 and 1/2 stars? Wouldn't you wonder which half? Left half? Right half? Top Half, bottom? So better to just stick the the plain old numerical scale, and call it a day. Now, you may ask, why only 1-5, why not 1-10? or 10-100, by tens? Well because I lean toward the dramatic, and with such large numbers in hand (I know 10 is not a large number...)I might get carried away. So 1-5 it is! Now I was trying to decide what book I should jump off with, when it came to me; this is MY blog, why not begin with MY favorite book. It's a book called Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith. And while I haven't read every book on the planet, yet, I think it's the BEST BOOK EVER!!! It's actually two books, called Crown Duel, and Court Duel but most of the time when you find it in stores now, it's sold as one book. I have read Crown duel, Five or Six times. It's one of those books that I turn to when I want to revisit old "friends." When I want a book I know is good! When I just need a short escape from reality. The story is told from the first person perspective of Meliara, a young, poor-ish undereducated countess, who along with her brother Branaric lead the charge against the tyrant king, Galdran. I love the character Meliara. She is a super heroic, and slightly head strong character. She does everything with her whole heart. She believes in absolute right and wrong, and always sticks her ground. She is brave, and smart, and funny without meaning to be. Meliara's tenacity is matched only by her captor, The mysterious Marquis of Shevraeth. A tall, blond man with a quiet presence that unnerves and frustrates Meliara. I really don't want to give away much about his character because he's another one of my favorite. Sherwood Smith actually wrote a book about his past called A stranger to command which I actually haven't read yet. (It's on that long, long beautiful list of 'someday' reads.) The setting of this story is a country called Remalna, which I just found out recently is on a different planet. This is NOT a SiFi book however, it is categorized as fantasy. Even though it's fantasy, Smith gives such titillating hints of a deeper, fuller history, that it seem more like it could be historical fiction. She really has a gift for description, and character development. There are very poetic depictions of the experiences and surroundings that it's very easy to see the world as Meliara sees it. Yet, Smith never over does it with wordiness or pointless speeches. And like I said, the character development is OUT OF THIS WORLD! (haha. puns.) You get to know the characters almost as soon as you begin the book. Get to know them, like old friends. Or enemies. They have depth, and heart, and feelings that are extremely easy to relate to. There are secrets, and traits about each character, that you learn along the way, just the way you do with "real" friends. I'm such a bookie (not of the betting persuasion) that if I'm in to a really good book, I find myself thinking "what is *insert character name here* doing at that moment?" (But that's just between you and me.) The only faults I really find with this book are that there isn't more historical background given. Now, I am a historian, in that I majored in history in College, so I crave history in EVERYTHING! So this fault may really be a personal bias. The other problem that I have is that with all her talent for description, Sherwood Smith does tend to reuse several phrases over and over. This to me is very annoying, but it is not so great a trial that it distracts from the story. So over all, the book gets a five!(a frog on my animal scale) Crown Duel is an exciting page turner with soul that will transport you to a different place and time. I recommend it for anyone aged 13+, and really recommend it to EVERYONE! Again, thanks for stopping by, and if you have requests or recommendations of your own, please leave me a note!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

In the Beginning

I don't know when it all began. Maybe in second grade with my first two real chapter books, A bio on Christopher Columbus, and Gulliver's travels. Both good, and both lodged in my memory forever. Maybe it was when my Mom, another bookite through and through, handed me my first Nancy Drew novel. (oh that was a lovely day!) That Nancy, the pretty and lucky strawberry blonde girl, with the lawyer for a father (thus how she financed all those miss-adventures of hers), and was more clever then anyone else out there, got me really started. I don't think I stopped after that. There was always a book in my hand, bag, pocket, car, on my computer, from that point on. Some might say it's in my genes, as there isn't a person in my immediate or extended immediate family that doesn't enjoy reading. Just walk into the house of my childhood sometime. Your first impression will be "is your house always this clean?" (the answer is no, but we knew you were coming, so we did the highland reel of cleaning jobs. Just for youuuu!) But your second impression will absolutely be that you did not, in fact, walk into my home, but rather a Library, or more accurately, a used book store. There are LITERALLY books in every room in the house. Yes, to answer that question you would only dare to ask from the sequestered safety of your computer chair, the bathroom. I've always been comforted by this fact. Not necessarily having them in the bathroom, but I mean, just having so many! I love being surrounded by books! I have moved many times, and lived in many places, but they never felt like home until I unpacked and organized my bookshelf...s... That! That is the moment I know I'm home. I love the options that these cascades of books give me."Shall I read a classic today, or should I learn how to make chicken coops?" (not an unusual topic of book to find in our house.)It's a guarantee, a promise that I will never be bored. How can people get bored? So what, there's nothing on TV? Read a book. So what, it's raining outside? Read a book! So what, my friends are all busy? Read a book! So what, my taxes are being raised? Read a...oh well, there I'd say write your congressman, cuz that's really the only way to solve that one, but, I think you may have gotten my point by now. BOOKS ARE WONDERFUL! So, for a long time now, my mother, who is also an English teacher along with being a bookite, has tried to encourage me to write. My creed has always been 'Those who can, write. Those who can't, Read." I am the latter. But She's encouraged, and encouraged, and ENCOURAGED! And finally gave me a valid idea. (well, no, she's given me thousands of those over the past 26 years, but this one is the point of this paragraph) I read so much, and talk about the books that I've read, CONSTANTLY, (and not always to willing listeners. I am ted mosby.)so she suggested I start a(nother) blog, reviewing the things I love so much. . . . Okay. . . . I Guess I could do that...So here it is. Well, here is the intro. The reviews will begin tomorrow. I already have my first few books ready to review, so this blog, I promise, will have more then just the inaugural post! I am going to try to do a variety of books. Tho most will tend to be novels. I may even take requests. If there is a book that you saw that you think looks interesting, but want to know if it's worth your time, send it my way. Or if you have suggestions, on books you thought were good, must reads, let me know those too! I'm very excited about this, and I hope ya'll will enjoy it too!