Monday, September 29, 2008

Mrs. Mike by Benedict Freedman

This story is narrated by Kathy O’Fallon. It starts out with her living with her family in Boston when she is diagnosed with pleurisy (an inflammation of the lungs), her doctor recommends that she moves to Canada with her Uncle, claiming that the cold, dry climate will do her well. So, at 16 she makes the long journey to live with her Uncle. Soon after arriving she meets and marries Mike Flannigan, who whisks her away into a remote settlement far from everyone she knows having to start a whole new life for herself and become a lot stronger person than she ever realized.

After I started reading this story I realized it had been based loosely on a true story, which to me made it more interesting and also probably made me enjoy it more than I would have. Going into it I thought it was going to be more of a Jane Austen story that focused on Kathy and Mike, but really it was Kathy’s story about adjusting to harsh environments, suffering losses, becoming a strong person and of course her relationship with Mike. The book covers a long time-span, which is nice in a way but can also be a bit overwhelming and I almost felt like each chapter was a short story packed with a lot of drama and then the next chapter jumping into another drama. Having lived in North Dakota and experiencing -50 below weather it gave me a better appreciation for the characters, and was better able to picture what they went through, in a small way.

It is an interesting story and definitely worth reading.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Princess Ben by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

Princess Ben’s parents are killed, leaving her in the care of her conniving aunt who is also Queen. Soon after being entrusted in Queen Sophia’s care Princess Ben is locked away, starved and miserable. She spends her days taking boring classes her aunt insists that she takes, and spends her nights locked in her cell. One evening she stumbles upon a hidden passageway that leads to an enchanted room. Now begins her own self-taught magical lessons. Ben’s private adventure is soon stopped when she learns she is to wed Prince Florian of Drachensbett, the very kingdom accused of murdering her parents! In an attempt to escape she ends up a prisoner for the very people she is hiding from. She now has to find a way back home to prepare the kingdom for war and finally accept her responsibilities.

I thought this book was rather charming and unique. I enjoyed Ben’s character, and reading about her many adventures. I thought she was easy to relate to because she wasn’t perfect, and things didn’t always turn out the way she wanted. It was fun to follow her progress throughout the book, as she turns from a somewhat spoiled girl to a Queen. I liked the concept of Prince Florian, but thought his character was underdeveloped. His character didn’t really appear until about 200 pages and even then they barely spent any time together. The time they were together was fun to read, because of the tension and misunderstandings. Also, I would have preferred if instead of Ben using her new found freedoms to steal from the kitchens, I would have enjoyed reading about her learning more spells, or finding other secrets. Too much focus was put on her love of food. One aspect I really enjoyed was the references to other fairytales. Ben trades some “magic beans” for a cow, loses her shoe after a ball (by throwing it at the prince), is stuck in a tall tower, has an “evil” step-aunt, and is under a spell of sleep, just to name a few. It almost makes me want to re-read to see if there were any others that I might have missed.

If you enjoy fairytales than you would enjoy this book, it is a fun read with plenty of twists to keep you entertained.
Reviewed by: Kathy

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Leven Thumps and the Gateway to Foo by Obert Skye

Fourteen-year-old Leven Thumps lives a wretched life in Burnt Culvert, Oklahoma. But his life is about to change and his destiny be fulfilled as he learns about a secret gateway that bridges two worlds—the real world and Foo, a place created at the beginning of time in the folds of the mind that makes it possible for mankind to dream and hope, aspire and imagine. But Foo is in chaos, and three transplants from that dream-world have been sent to retrieve Leven, who alone has the power to save Foo. Enter Clover, a wise-cracking, fuzzy, foot-high sidekick; Winter, a girl with spectacular gift of her own; and Geth, the exiled but rightful ruler of Foo. Their mission: to convince Leven Thumps that he has the power to save Foo and help him reach the hidden gateway and destroy it before it is too late.

Well, I don’t think I will ever be able to look at a toothpick in the same way again! You’ll understand what I mean when you read this book. I really enjoyed this story, it had an original story idea and the writing was well done and easy to follow. I loved the characters, especially little Clover. I wish I had a Clover! He sounds so cute and has a fun personality. Leven was a good mix of brave and humble. I enjoyed his relationship with the other characters and how he relied on them to help him and wouldn’t have been able to succeed without each other. The story ends in a good place, but there is still plenty of adventure to be had. I already have the next book on hold at the library and I’m excited to read it. I would recommend this book to anyone! It’s not like Harry Potter, but if you like Harry Potter then you would probably like this story.
Reviewed by: Kathy
Description from book cover

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn

Ella Minnow Pea is a girl living happily on the fictional island of Nollop off the coast of South Carolina. Nollop was named after Nevin Nollop, author of the immortal pangram,* “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.” Now Ella finds herself acting to save her friends, family, and fellow citizens from the encroaching totalitarianism of the island’s Council, which has banned the use of certain letters of the alphabet as they fall from a memorial statue of Nevin Nollop. As the letters progressively drop from the statue they also disappear from the novel. The result is both a hilarious and moving story of one girl’s fight for freedom of expression, as well as a linguistic tour de force sure to delight word lovers everywhere.

*pangram: a sentence or phrase that includes all the letters of the alphabet

This was an amazing book! It is very interesting and you want to keep reading to find out what will happen next, and how they will be able to get by as more and more letters fall from the statue. It was crazy to see how the people in charge are so insane, and even more crazy was that the people on the island actually followed them. I guess it goes to show you that you really need to pay attention to who you are electing, and hope that they are some people with sense. The book is based on letters and is not written in the traditional novel format. I fell in love with the characters, and wish that Nollop was a real place so I could go visit! This is a book I would recommend to everyone, definitely five stars!
Reviewed by: Kathy
Description from GoodReads

Palmyra by Susan Evans McCloud

I received this book as a gift probably 5 years ago and it has been sitting in a box ever since where I discovered it a couple of weeks ago. The book is set in Palmyra, New York after Joseph Smith has revealed his first vision. The plot revolves around the lives of 5 women who have been friends their entire lives and is told from Esther's perspective. You would think that the story revolves around the events that happened in Palmyra around this time but it doesn't. Rather it follows the lives of these 5 women as they grow and marry and start families and explores how friendship changes as we age. The book is neither exciting nor doctrinal. While the book is not in any way a page turner it was really wholesome and I came to feel about the characters and their lives like I would a dear friend. My complaint with many LDS novels is that they can become really heavy on the praying, scriptures, and general Holy Ghost feelings to the point that it becomes cheesy. Thankfully, I did not find that to be the case with Palmyra. I felt uplifted but not because McCloud shoved it down my throat. My only complaint was that it was very centered on having babies and losing babies...which I guess for this time period would have been very common given their age. By the time the third character had either lost a child or miscarried I was a little spent with the concept and this was the only thing keeping me from giving it more that 4 stars. Other than that I really came to love Esther and the friendship she shared with the other women.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Magyk by Angie Sage

*The seventh son of the seventh son, aptly named Septimus Heap, is stolen the night he is born by a midwife who pronounces him dead. That same night, the baby’s father, Silas Heap, comes across a bundle in the snow containing a newborn girl with violet eyes. The Heaps take this helpless newborn into their home, name her Jenna, and raise her as their own. But who is this mysterious baby girl, and what really happened to their beloved son Septimus?

Whenever I read fantasy books, especially ones about young wizards I really try not to compare them to Harry Potter. In this case I just couldn’t help myself, throughout the book I just kind of wished I was reading HP instead. I think this had a lot of good potential, it had a fun story idea, interesting characters and the writing was well done. The problem I had with it was that there were so many different narrators. It switched around from character to character which made it hard to keep track of who was talking and what was going on, and it also made it hard to really get attached to any of the characters. There was also a lot of different stories going on, and thought it could have been edited down a bit. Maybe that’s a personal taste and someone else might really enjoy the story, I however, became pretty bored with it and just wanted to hurry and finish it.
Reviewed by: Kathy
*Description from book cover

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Mage's Daughter by Lynn Kurland

*Neroche is under assault by a mysterious magic that has stripped it’s king of his powers and unleashed nightmarish creatures as weapons in a war of evil. Morgan of Melksham is fighting against that menace as well as for her life. Struggling to regain her strength after a near-fatal attack, Morgan realizes that she must decide between two facts: that of being a simple shieldmaiden or accepting her heritage as an elven princess. If only she could forget that she was the daughter of the perilous black mage of Ceangail…
Duty bound to aid his kind, Miach of Neroche is torn between what his responsibilities demand and what his heart desires. He is willing to risk his life to rescue Morgan from the darkness that haunts her, but he must do so at the peril of his realm. Forced to choose between love and the burden of his mantle, Miach sets out on his most deadly quest ever.

I enjoyed this book as much as the first. The characters are very likable and it is an easy read. A lot of times in fantasy novels I wish there would be more romance; well this book has plenty of that. I often felt it was more of a romance than a fantasy. I did enjoy that the characters really got to know each other, and were not kept apart for the majority of the story. However, it is nice in a story to have that tension of not knowing if they would be together or not and the book was lacking some of that tension, but it is still a fun read. The only other problem I had was that in the first book Morgan was really sure of herself, and although she does have a lot to take in it did get frustrating listening to her go on and on about how her insecurities, and also crying A LOT and seeking comfort in Miach. I guess it was nice to see how being in love has softened her and that being in a relationship helps us become whole. I look forward to reading the next book, which doesn’t come out until next year.
Reviewed by: Kathy
*Description taken from book cover.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Star of the Morning by Lynn Kurland

Darkness covers the land of Neroche, and the King, Adhemar, has lost his magical abilities. Legend has it that only the two magical swords held by Adhemar can defeat the powerful evil that covers the land. So he begins his search to find the one person who is destined to help him save the kingdom and return his magic.

Morgan of Melksham despises magic, and anyone who uses magic. As a favor to her dear friend she agrees to deliver a magical dagger to the King of Neroche. Accompanying her on her quest is a stranger, Adhemar, his brother Miach and three old friends. Unbeknown to Morgan, Adhemar is really the King of Neroche and Miach is the Arch mage and are in search for the one person who can help them wield the sword of Neroche and push back the black magic that is covering the land. Neither brother expects that Morgan could be the answer to their problems, or that one of them would fall desperately in love with her.

Star of the Morning is the first in a new fantasy trilogy. I had read great reviews about this series, and was excited to get started. I was able to get lost in the story and was surprised at how quickly the book flew by. I enjoyed the different characters, even if I didn’t love their names. Morgan was a great heroin, she is an amazing fighter, very beautiful, and will probably end up being very magical as well. Although we know who everyone is throughout the story, the characters do not. It makes for a fun read, knowing that Morgan will probably be pretty upset when she finds out who she is traveling with. The book was well written, there was a lot of dialog, and it didn’t get bogged down in the details or scenery like a lot of fantasy novels do. My only complaint is that this book was written as a starter book, so it ends with a lot of cliffhangers and really not too much happening during the book other than getting to know the characters. It is pretty much meant to set up the story and get some background in. I am anxious to start the second book, The Mage’s Daughter, and see how the love story with Morgan turns out.

I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys a good romantic fantasy.

Book 2, The Mage's Daughter, I've heard is as good as the first, if not better.
Book 3, Princess of the Sword, comes out January 2009.

Reviewed by: Kathy

Monday, September 1, 2008

The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley

The Blue Sword is the companion book to The Hero and the Crown. The latter is a prequel but I don't think it matters which order you read them because you are bound to be confused. I was hoping that when I read The Blue Sword that it would clear up some questions that I had while reading The Hero but it didn't. This is because McKinley writes in a circle. She can't just follow and event or a person from A to B. Instead you start at A and then visit C and D and then back at A to finish with B. I hope you'll pardon the crappy analogy. I will say that she did this much more in The Hero and the just took reading The Blue Sword to figure out what the problem with her writing style is. My other criticisms are that there is little dialogue and lots of description, which call me ADD, but I didn't find this enjoyable and made the book drag for me in places. In addition, she couldn't decide whether she was writing this book in the first or third person which also bothered me.

The story follows an unlikely hero, Harry (a woman) an Outlander who becomes the heir to the blue sword and defends the Hillfolk from the Northerners. I liked the progression of Harry as she starts out timid and grows to be self-assured and the hero that the Hillfolk hang all their hopes on. The story is more fantasy than love and that disappointed me. I don't want a romance novel but the loves story between Harry and the Hill-King Corlath had a lot of promise but not much page time. It was a good read but it didn't pull me in. It's not a must read but it was good. For that I'm giving it 2.5 stars out of 5.
Reviewed by: Jessica
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