Thursday, November 24, 2011

A Journey to Another Time

The Redheaded PrincessThe Redheaded Princess by Ann Rinaldi
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The whole time I was reading The Redheaded Princess, I kept thinking I had read it before. But no, that didn't seem quite right. Why was it so familiar? I do not read a lot of historical fiction so what had I read that dealt with this time period? I was flummoxed - until Lady Jane Grey became Queen. Ah, yes, I had read the 'story' from her perspective. After finishing the book, I read the Author's Note and discovered that Rinaldi had also penned that version of events. Ok. Now, it all makes sense. I have read about the time period and characters in a book by the same author!

The Redheaded Princess chronicles the life of Princess Elizabeth from early childhood until she becomes Queen Elizabeth I. We are privy to her hopes and dreams and her growth as she struggles and learns, sometimes the hard way, how to make her path and where to place her loyalties in this tumultuous time. Much more than a list of dates and description of events, The Redheaded Princess explores relationships. It explores how relatinships are or can be affected by power or the lack thereof. What does it mean to be Queen? What are the responsibilities that come with this power? How do the various characters handle the power they are given? These are some of the questions that we delve into alongside Elizabeth as she prepares to one day be Queen of England.

Rinaldi makes the history come to life on the page. She somehow manages to create characters we care about and relate to on some level. She takes an almost unknowable world and make sit feel like somewhere we have visited. Although, I guess in this case, I had!

Educational and entertaining - what more can we ask?

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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A Delightful - and Meaningful - Adventure

Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of LifeJeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life by Wendy Mass
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I LOVE Wendy Mass' books! This is the third one I have read, the second in the last little while. My daughter is reading The Candymakers and is constantly searching for candy, the experience is so real. Jeremy is a candy connoisseur and collector. This book brought some delicious tastes to my mouth, let me tell you:)

Mass manages somehow to write her characters right into the reader's brain. I lived this entire adventure with Jeremy. At the end, I was so emotionally overwhelmed and crying (what else is new?). The next minute I was laughing so hard, I couldn't stop. No, really, I keep laughing everytime I think of the scene. My family thinks I am nuts but I challenge anyone to read the book and not laugh on page 277!

Mass has given us another fantastic set of characters, a beautiful look into the ever mysterious human nature, as well as a deep exploration of the meaning of life.

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Thursday, November 17, 2011

Amos Daragon #1

Amos Daragon #1: The Mask WearerAmos Daragon #1: The Mask Wearer by Bryan Perro
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Amidst the ultimate quest for equilibrium in the world, a balance between the forecs of good and the forces of evil, Amos Daragon, The Mask Wearer, is offers a tale of friendship and loyalty. Perro explores the sacrifices we make, and don't make, for our friends. And, he explores the sacrifies we make in order to do the right thing. Sometimes, we can even convince ourselves, and others, that we are doing the right thing when, in reality, we are not.

Amos Daragon is chosen to be a mask wearer. His mission is to return the world to a state wherein there exists a balance of powers. The dark powers are rising and must be subdued to a lesser strength so that everyone, every being, can live in harmony.

This classic battle between good and evil includes some magic, some folklore and mythology, and some very beautiful and caring beings. As in life, the lines between good and evil are blurred and boundaries are crossed.

The first in a 12 book series, we are set up in the final chapter for the next instalment. This series was originally written in French. I am not sure how many have been translated into English and am wondering if my very rusty, seldom-used French would be able to tackle the original edition.

I must add, though, that this was a very quick read and I am hesitant to include it in my 2011 50 Book Challenge:)

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Monday, November 14, 2011

A Little Bit of Mystery

NevermoreNevermore by Linda Newbery
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have started Nevermore before. This time I finished it! There is just enough of a mystery here to keep the pages turning, but not enough to scare me. I scare very easily, which is probably why I put this book down the last time I borrowed it from the library. I had worked out much of the mystery by the end of the book, but was still in for a little surprise, that someone else probably would have figured out.

Tizzie has spent her life moving from one house to another, from one school to the next, from one city to another. Now, her mother has dragged her off into the country. She can't even get reception for her cell phone for crying out loud! Tizzie's mom has been hired as the cook at Roven Mere. The house is fully staffed and ready and waiting for the family to return. They are returning imminently, the staff are assured. And yet, almost none of the current staff has ever met the elusive Lord Rupert and family. Tizzie is looking forward to the return of Greta Evershall, who is said to be her age. She envisions them becoming fast friends. When will they return and how will life at Roven Mere change when they do?

I really felt for Tizzie and my nerves were jumping for her as she tried to discover the secrets and unravel the mystery of Roven Mere, all the while trying to make friends and fit in at her new school.

Nevermore is a book that keeps you thinking and wondering about this odd little world that seems to be ever waiting.

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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A Beautiful Read

A Nest for Celeste: A Story About Art, Inspiration, and the Meaning of HomeA Nest for Celeste: A Story About Art, Inspiration, and the Meaning of Home by Henry Cole
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As Celeste weaves her grass baskets, so Cole masterfully weaves his tale. Layer upon layer is unearthed as we explore Celeste's world with her, as we join her in her search for safety and security - no easy feat for a mouse, or anyone else!

As we adventure with Celeste, we meet John James Audubon and his assistant Joseph. Audubon is known for his detailed sketches and paintings of birds in their natural habitats. Cole adds to our understanding of this artist and naturalist through the eyes of Celeste, the mouse, who brings her own perspective to the events in the story.

Cole explores universal themes of friendship and loss while delving into some important issues surrounding how we treat each other and our living world. Set on a plantation in the early 1800s, A Nest for Celeste illustrates through drawings and text, the way things used to be. As a person who has a very hard time relating to history, A Nest for Celeste really brought the era to life for me in a way I could understand and appreciate. Cole brings forward the relevant details and paints a vivid picture of life long ago. It is truly incredible how much has changed in terms of landscape and technology and yet how, in the realm of relationships, things are still very much the same.

Filled with stunning artwork that integrates into the story as its own invaluable layer, A Nest for Celeste is a heartwarming, life affirming read.

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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

We are supposed to be writing!

As you know, November is National Novel Writing Month. That means that you should not be seeing many book reviews this month. Rather, if you see anything here at all, it should be our thoughts and meanderings on the writing process and the progress of each of our novels (4  of us are participating in this house:)). Why, then, you may ask, have you seen more book reviews thus far in November than you have in six months or more?

The answer is relatively simple and I think you know what it is. PROCRASTINATION. That evil beast that comes to foil our best laid plans. It is important to note, though, that it is indeed possible to make friends with this monster. His bad rap is really rather unfair. You see, Procrastination and I are very good friends. We work together, symbiotically, to create true masterpieces, to achieve great heights. Nothing I have ever achieved in my life could have been accomplished without the help of my dear friend Procrastination. A real life example of this beautiful partnership can be seen on my parenting blog.

There are those who will be up in arms at the thought of this relationship, who will try (and fail) to tear us apart.

One of my friend's suggested that I write my novel about someone procrastinating writing a novel by blogging! Not a bad idea. My friend, Procrastination, however, can be quite bashful. He likes to reside in the shadows, meeting me in quiet, private moments. He doesn't like a crowd, though he will sometimes use one to help me achieve me goals. Right now, he is feeling the pressure of so much public exposure and has asked that I move on to another topic. I will surrender to this request respectfully and bid you all a good day and happy reading - or novelling, if that is what you are doing this November. And if you are novelling and reading this post, then I guess we share a friend:)

Monday, November 7, 2011

A Sweet Selection

The CandymakersThe Candymakers by Wendy Mass

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Candymakers is as delicious as it sounds. Four 12 year olds are given the opportunity to invent and make an exciting new candy in an actual candy factory. The book opens as the contestants arrive at the factory.

Logan lives at the factory, he is the candymaker's son. He feels a certain amount of pressure to prove himself and live up to his family's history of creating award-winning candy. He knows what he wants to create but lacks confidence in his technical skill.

Daisy is a bright, sunny girl whose enthusiasm and love of candy emanate from her very pores. She instantly puts everyone at ease with her warm, confident manner. Well, almost everyone.

Miles is nervous. He is full of questions about the factory and how the candies are made. He shares his thoughts on the afterlife, along with his many questions, with the others as they tour the factory. Miles also has some pretty unusual allergies.

Phillip arrives in a suit and tie. He carries a briefcase and seems incapable of smiling or showing the slightest glimmer of friendlliness. He is all business, and lets them all know at the outset that he intends to win. What is he hiding as he constantly scribbles in his notebook?

I love the way Mass shows different aspects of the characters and the story as she shifts point of view throughout the book. There are some delicious life-afirming surprises here for everyone. While the book is too difficult for my seven year old to read on his own, I think he would love the story. I think my 12 and 13 year old daughters would also enjoy it, especially the candy-crazy one!

A delightful read with just enough mystery and intrigue to tempt your palette.

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