Friday, May 21, 2010

Princess Ben by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

A girl is transformed, through instruction in life at court, determination, and magic, from sullen, pudgy, graceless Ben into Crown Princess Benevolence, a fit ruler of the kindgom of Montagne as it faces war with neighboring Drachensbett.

Interesting twist on Sleeping Beauty, Snow White and other fairy tales involving dragons, enemy kingdoms, evil stepmothers, a handsome prince and hidden princess.

Princess Ben is shown as a fat, spoiled princess who has to save her kingdom after her mother and the king are killed. Her aunt, now queen, does not seem to like her.
Ben is sentenced to a high tower where she finds and learns magic which is both useful and hindering. When it seems war is at hand, Ben escapes her cell to help but is caught and used as a slave in the enemy camp.

Ben overcomes obstacles and grows and changes for the better throughout the story. And her aunt changed as well.
There wasn't enough in the story to show me the change between the prince and princess from sworn enemies to being in love.
Cute story.

Rating: PG
S: None
V: war, dragons
L: None

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Spells by Aprilynne Pike

Six months have passed since Laurel saved the gateway to the faerie realm of Avalon. Now she must spend her summer there, honing her skills as a Fall faerie. But her human family and friends are still in mortal danger--and the gateway to Avalon is more compromised than ever.

When it comes time to protect those she loves, will she depend on David, her human boyfriend, for help? Or will she turn to Tamani, the electrifying faerie with whom her connection is undeniable?

Last year my children wanted a bedtime story so I retold "Wings." One of my children eagerly awaited "Spells" so I could tell the next part of the story. After I read it I was asked to retell it. Sadly, this story wasn't made for storytelling.
This book showed us the fairy world, Avalon, and how Tam and Laurel fit into fae society. No action with the trolls came until almost the end.
Also, it sets up the next book for Laurel to have to choose between David, her human boyfriend and Tam, the fairy. The love interest and Laurel's desire to remain 'human' seem to be the obstacles to overcome in the book.

I'm still waiting to find out why Laurel's memory was wiped out and sent to live in the human world. It seems Laurel's more important then has been revealed.
Promiscuity is expected in Avalon.
There is a great hook at the end of the book.

Rating: PG 14
S: sexual tensions, kissing, possible sex but not shown
L: little to none
V: Fighting with trolls

Saturday, May 15, 2010

As You Wish by Jackson Pearce

Ever since Viola's boyfriend broke up with her, she has spent her days silently wishing—to have someone love her again and, more importantly, to belong again—until one day she inadvertently summons a young genie out of his world and into her own. He will remain until she makes three wishes.

Jinn is anxious to return home, but Viola is terrified of wishing, afraid she will not wish for the right thing, the thing that will make her truly happy. As the two spend time together, the lines between master and servant begin to blur, and soon Jinn can't deny that he's falling for Viola. But it's only after Viola makes her first wish that she realizes she's in love with Jinn as well . . . and that if she wishes twice more, he will disappear from her life—and her world—forever.

Jackson Pearce spins a magical tale about star-crossed lovers, what it means to belong . . . and how important it is to be careful what you wish for.

I don't think I've ever read a story with a genie love interest! This was a unique twist on the-human-falling-in-love-with-an-immortal and refreshing change.
Viola has a devoted boyfriend, Lawrence, but when she confesses her love for him he has to tell her he's gay. Suddenly, the boyfriend is popular (everyone wants a gay guy at their party!) and Viola becomes invisible. She wishes she belonged again. She wishes she felt whole like she did with Lawrence.
Her wishing brings her own personal genie. But Viola is unlike most teenagers; she doesn't wish for clothes or fame or popularity. She actually doesn't know what to wish for which presents a problem for Jinn, the genie. He needs to grant the wishes as fast as possible and get back to his own immortal land.
Viola accidental makes her first wish and sees first hand that not all the popular kids, or Royal Family, are happy or whole.
Soon, Jinn and Viola find themselves drawn to each other which can't possibly work because "A bird may love a fish, but where will they live?"

Jackson Pearce develops strong characters each with their own personality and voice. It's not heard to want Viola as a BFF or Lawrence (the boyfriend) either. And who wouldn't want a hot genie?
Jackson also shows the underbelly of high school; drinking, make out sessions, cookie cutter blonds, and parties and absent parents.
He also shows loyalty, love and relying on yourself.

Rating- PG 14
S: sexual tension, lots of kissing, one of the main characters is gay
L: some swearing, 'F' bomb
V: a couple of punches

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Friendship for Grown-Ups by Lisa Whelchel

I received this book from Book Sneeze to review.

Former Facts of Life star Lisa Whelchel shares her experiences of growing up without true friends and how she learned to find and develop them as an adult through God's grace.

Not many people can say they lived their most crucial developmental years on the sound stage of a wildly popular TV show. But that's exactly what happened in Lisa Whelchel's life. As a child, she learned to guard her heart so tightly to avoid true hurt that she found herself unable to form lasting friendships as an adult.

Friendship for Grown-Ups details her experiences of learning to come out of her shell, to trust, risk, and become vulnerable by God's grace and find meaningful friendships. Readers encounter her captivating story and refreshing perspective on life's most precious gift--and they find practical tips for their own friendships along the way.

Lisa Whelchel was sent to Hollywood when she was very young-by herself. Sometimes her mother or grandmother would stay with her a few days, but for most of her life, Lisa was alone and had learned to rely on herself. She closed her heart off so no one would get close enough to hurt her.

This book is full of personal stories and advice.

Lisa is also very religious and talks openly of her relationship with her Saviour.

There are three lessons on the flap:

Lesson #1: It is Okay to be needy.

Lesson #2: It is important to be needy with safe people.

Lesson #3: It is helpful to know who the safe people are.

At the end of the book, Lisa breaks each chapter down with ideas and questions to move her reader into safe and good friendships.

I decided to try some of her advice to making and keeping friends. I set up a lunch date with two of my friends; texted my love to another and sent a message via Facebook to another. I hope this is only the beginning of me becoming a better friend as well.

Rating: PG

S: None

V: None

L: None

Friday, May 7, 2010

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin

In the valley of Fruitless mountain, a young girl named Minli lives in a ramshackle hut with her parents. In the evenings, her father regales her with old folktales of the Jade Dragon and the Old Man on the Moon, who knows the answers to all of life's questions. Inspired by these stories, Minli sets off on an extraordinary journey to find the Old Man on the Moon to ask him how she can change her family's fortune. She encounters an assorted cast of characters and magical creatures along the way, including a dragon who accompanies her on her quest for the ultimate answer. Grace Lin, author of the beloved Year of the Dog and Year of the Rat, returns with a wondrous story of adventure, faith, and friendship. A fantasy crossed with Chinese folklore, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon is a timeless story reminiscent of The Wizard of Oz. Her beautiful illustrations, printed in full-color, accompany the text throughout. Once again, she has created a charming, engaging book for young readers.

I must confess: I have a weakness for Chinese art, people and places, not to mention stories.
This book is inspired by Chinese folklore starring a young girl named Minli. She lives in a poor village with a mother who is unhappy about their situation and a father who tells her wonderful stories.
Minli wants her family to be happy so she decides to seek their fortune on an adventure to ask the Man in the Moon how to do this.
Along the way, she meets many wonderful characters who give her help and advice.
The stories were all tied together and came back full circle.
Minli learned what mattered most as did her mother and father.
The illustrations were beautiful, traditional Chinese.

I found myself making my life into a folklore story the next day :) I wondered what each person that crossed my path had to offer me in my life. And did I have for them?

I loved this book and would add it to my library.

G Rating

V: None
S: None
L: None

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Sapphire Flute by Karen Hoover

It has been 3,000 years since a white mage has been seen upon Rasann. In the midst of a volcanic eruption miles outside of her village, Ember discovers she can see magic and change the appearance of things at will. Against her mother's wishes, she leaves for the mage trials only to be kidnapped before arriving. In trying to escape, she discovers she has inherited her father's secret--a secret that places her in direct conflict with her father's greatest enemy. At the same time, Kayla is given guardianship of the sapphire flute and told not to play it. The evil mage C'Tan has been searching for it for decades and the sound alone is enough to call her. For the flute to be truly safe, Kayla must find its birthplace in the mountains high above Javak. The girls' paths are set on a collision course...a course that C'Tan is determined to prevent at all costs.

I won this book in a contest and was anxious to read and review it for Karen, especially after I met her!
I was intrigued by the flute part of the book. I wondered what kind of justice an author can do with a musical instrument. Anyone can write about putting a piece of metal/wood/crystal to their lips and blowing, but can they portray the essence of the music?
That was my first thought, well, subconsciously. You see, I'm a Band Fag. Yup. That's the name any member of our marching band was called.
So was Karen.
I played the flute.
So did Karen.
We will soon be BFF (she doesn't know that part yet so let's keep it on the DL, ok?).

Anyway, the book follows two different girls from two unique worlds.
They both have magic, families, a destiny.
Karen wove this tale well from the description of the world to the people who inhabit it. I could picture each person through their unique personality and voice (well, not one character since he didn't talk but he had personality).
I became invested in story right away and found myself rooting for the good guys (or girls) and hoping the bad ones are defeated. Or at the very least, frustrated.
The girls, Ember and Kayla, are not aware of each other except maybe in dreams. But when they both decide to take fate into their own hands, they are set on the same path, and hopefully, will meet soon.
The writing is clean and flows well. The characters are well developed and keep growing. Obstacles and trials are constantly standing in the way of the goals, which change when faced with the possibility of the bad guys winning. The descriptions are bright and thorough. I had no problem entering the world Karen created.
There are many characters and a few times I had to remember which ones belonged to which girl but the problem resolved as I read more.

I await the second book, Karen, and would love to review it for you! hinthintwinkwink

Rating G
S: None
L: None
V: Some fighting

Monday, May 3, 2010

In the Company of Angels by David Farland

Based on the true story of The Willie Handcart company of 1856, In The Company of Angels unfolds the triumphant tale of pioneers who struggle against unendurable hardships-persecution, buffalo stampedes, rampaging Indians, lingering starvation, and the early onset of the coldest winter in US history-to find the gentle homeland of the soul.

I went on Trek last summer with my church youth. We went the end of July when it was hot. We pulled handcarts for over 50 miles, experienced a sudden lightening/rain storm, went without water longer than we should have, put up and took down camp, grew blisters and soothed heat rashes.
You can ask anyone who went and they will tell you it was the best week. We grew spiritually and mentally, realizing we can do hard things.

It was hard going over Rocky Ridge in the summer, I can't imagine what it was like for the pioneers, who were starved and exhausted, to attempt the climb in the middle of a blizzard.

David's story is told from three viewpoints: Eliza Gadd, Bodine Mortenson and Captain Willie.
At first I was a little taken aback by the viewpoint her choose of the one non-LDS pioneer in the company. But as I read, I saw the strength in this character.
I already had a soft spot in my heart for Bodine, but after David's sketch of her, I loved her more.
And Captain Willie was made human and strong and amazing in this story.
I waited for parts of the story I was familiar with and was disappointed when they weren't given much light in the story. On the other hand, I learned more about the start and middle of the handcart trek.
I also waited for the part in the story that I assumed was the title. I wasn't disappointed, especially as I cried. And I don't cry easily. But after going over Rocky Ridge and spending time in Rock Creek Hollow, my tears easily surface at the mere mention of those places or the pioneers I associate there.

David self-published this book so I think I was hyper-aware of any mistakes. There were a few but for the most part I skimmed right over them.

Thank you,David, for giving us another look at an American tragedy that made so many strong people.