Friday, 25 December 2009

Captain Wentworth's Diary ~ Amanda Grange

As a lover of Jane Austen, anything really, that pertains to her takes my notice. But especially with Persuasion. Persuasion was the first Jane Austen novel I read and it is (out of the ones I've read so far by Austen) my favorite. So when I saw that this book was supposed to be "Persuasion" from Captain Wentworth's perspective I was pretty excited.

It starts out in the year 1806, when Wentworth (at the time a Commander, not Captain yet) and Anne meet for the first time. Persuasion, by Austen, begins in the year 1814 ... I believe. As Grange writes the first part of the book (almost half), she is going by her own imagination. So, really, if anyone were to write a book about what they thought Wentworth was like based on imagination you would come up with, perhaps, a different description from each person. That said, I pictured him different from what Grange did.

Over all, the book was well written. After the first part of the book (the 1806 part) when you're in the year 1814, the events closely follow Persuasion. It was fun to see how Grange thought Wentworth would respond. In some parts I thought the same as Grange as to how Wentworth was thinking and sometimes I imagined Wentwoth responding differently. But since Austen did not write this book, we really don't know how she originally pictured Wentworth.

The book was interesting and rather fun. Would I read it again? Maybe not, but that's just my personal preference. I thought it was a good book. There was nothing bad in Grange's writing. It just isn't the kind of book that really grabs my attention to read over and over.

So, all that said. I'll leave it up to you if you want to read it. I guess I would recommend it, just for fun.

Monday, 26 October 2009

Sarah’s Key ~ Tatiana de Rosnay

Rather than write my own synopsis of this story I decided to use the summary from the publisher:

Paris, July 1942: Sarah, a ten year-old girl, is brutally arrested with her family by the French police in the Vel’ d’Hiv’ roundup, but not before she locks her younger brother in a cupboard in the family's apartment, thinking that she will be back within a few hours.
Paris, May 2002: On Vel’ d’Hiv’s 60th anniversary, journalist Julia Jarmond is asked to write an article about this black day in France's past. Through her contemporary investigation, she stumbles onto a trail of long-hidden family secrets that connect her to Sarah. Julia finds herself compelled to retrace the girl's ordeal, from that terrible term in the Vel d'Hiv', to the camps, and beyond. As she probes into Sarah's past, she begins to question her own place in France, and to reevaluate her marriage and her life.

I couldn’t have said that better myself.

This book had a compelling story to tell. During WWII Jews were not only targeted in Poland and Germany, but while France was under military occupation Jews were persecuted there as well. The Vel’ d’Hiv roundup involved the capture of many Jewish children who were ultimately sent off to Auschwitz. I personally dislike reading about the Holocaust because what happened to the Jews was just awful, and it makes it all the more difficult because it’s not just a story; it actually happened. But this book was wonderfully written, and having never heard of the Vel’ d’Hiv’ roundup I was interested in the story-line. The author weaves the narrative between the past and the present; a sure method to capture her reader’s interest. The only part of this book that I didn’t care for was Julia Jarmond’s marriage falls apart as a result of her interest in Sarah’s life. I would have liked to have seen her marriage survive. And if I remember correctly there were a couple of swear words; seems like you can’t read a recently published novel without finding those in there. Recommended.

The Shadow of the Wind ~ Carlos Ruiz Zafón

Ten-year-old Daniel Sempere has received his greatest treasure: His father has taken him to one of Barcelona’s well-kept secret locations: the Cemetery of Forgotten Books. Daniel is allowed to choose one book for himself, to keep for the rest of his life. He selects The Shadow of the Wind by Julian Carax. From its opening paragraph the book entrances Daniel. Armed with his now favorite novel, Daniel vows to discover all he can about Julian Carax and obtain more of his books.

Daniel soon learns though that Julian Carax’s life is shrouded in mystery. And his writings have disappeared; someone has methodically collected all of Carax’s works and burned them. But Daniel is undaunted. Accompanied by his friend, Fermín Romero de Torres, they embark on a journey of exploration into Carax’s life, and this quest will leave its shadow on Daniel’s own personal history.

This novel for adults was excellent! From the moment I started reading it I couldn’t put it down. It is chock full of mystery and intrigue. The characters are interesting, and their stories are woven together. As Daniel was playing detective I found myself anxious for his discoveries as well. The author does use some coarse language, but thankfully it wasn’t a lot. And the characters that curse you would expect them to speak like that so I guess it’s understandable, although not necessary. Also there were some imprudent moments between Daniel and his girlfriend. I guess when your characters are unredeemed sinners you have to expect them to act like their natures. But other than those two points I really enjoyed the story.

Friday, 18 September 2009

The Inheritance ~ Louisa May Alcott

As a little orphaned, lonely child Edith Avelon was adopted by a wealthy, caring family, the Hamiltons. She's grown up in this family and loves them like her own family and they love her back ... all that is but cousin Ida. Lady Ida envies Edith's grace, beauty, charm, and the love and attention people give her. Edith is very shy and humble and knows not why Ida hates her so. Edith's only wish in life is to be loved and wanted.
One day a Lord Percy comes to visit the Hamiltons and is quite taken with Edith ... much to Lady Ida's distress. She vows to make Edith's life miserable and to attract and steal the love and attention which Lord Percy seems to bestow upon Edith.
So much does Lady Ida hate Edith that she is willing to lie and steal and cheat to ruin and upset Edith's happy life.
But, even more to the ruin of Lady Ida, but to the joy of everyone else, Edith's past is discovered and the shocking truth is what no one would have guessed.
I smiled through this whole book! I loved it. It kind of has a Cinderella feel to it! Alcott wrote it when she was seventeen and it shows. It is clearly a written by a teenager. Not at all suspenseful like "A Long Fatal Love Chase".
As I said, I loved this book, it was a quick, easy read and I highly recommend it.

Magic Tree House Series ~ Mary Pope Osborne

Siblings Jack and Annie have discovered a tree house in a forest in their hometown of Frog Creek, Pennsylvania. Being children, they have to explore the structure. The tree house is filled with books on every subject imaginable, and a spoken wish to travel to one of the places pictured is supernaturally granted. Surprise: The tree house is magical!
The first few books in the series have Jack and Annie trying to discover who owns the tree house and how the dwelling is magical, and going on adventures in the meantime. Each book takes them to a different place and period in history: from exploring pyramids in ancient Egypt to crossing moats with medieval knights in Europe to escaping ninjas in China. As Jack and Annie go on their adventures they get into scrapes that always cause them to have to consult with the book that corresponds with where and when they are, so the reader learns facts as they are enjoying a fictional story.
I’ve been reading the series to my daughters, and the stories captivate them. My 5 year-old especially likes them. She asks every night if we can read Magic Tree House. The books are only 10 chapters long and are illustrated so young listeners and readers will stay interested. I have been in disagreement, though, with some of the facts contained in the books. The first book, Dinosaurs Before Dark, used information like “50 million years ago..”, etc. so I had to tweak what I read to them. Other than that I suggest reading them.

1984 ~ George Orwell

After a worldwide nuclear war in the 1950s, three different major powers have come to control the earth. These three groups have deduced that the best way to manage their acquired peoples are to be constantly at war with each other and to control every part of their citizens’ lives. Homes, jobs, clothing, food choices; all of it is restricted. Every person’s movements and actions throughout the day is watched and dictated by the authority in power. In every room, in every building, and even in the rural areas are two-way T.V. screens and microphones. You are never alone. The government suppresses and falsifies all the media to report only information that positively reflects that government; ensuring their longevity. And if you even THINK contrary thoughts about the governing body you will be tortured and killed.
Fast forward to the year 1984. Winston Smith lives in this established, negative society, and he is naturally unhappy. He works for the government in the UK, known as Big Brother, and Winston visibly sees the corruption and lies that Big Brother spews forth. Each person is taught from a young age to blindly love Big Brother and support it. Winston doesn’t. He knows that there must be others out there who feel as he does. But to be guilty of “thought crime” is lethal, and all around him are hidden “thought police” whose job is to find people like Winston and imprison them or erase their very existence. Winston is living on borrowed time.
Overall I liked this book. It was different than anything I had ever read. It was heavy in politics, which I personally didn’t mind, but it required the reader to really pay close attention to the details in the story. Negative comments: the two main characters were immoral people, and unfortunately the author describes their sinful actions. While doing research on the book I was surprised to learn that many high schools include 1984 among their required reading. I don’t feel it’s appropriate for teenagers at all, but I can understand why it’s used: the “negative utopia” that Orwell has created causes the reader to mull and compare our current society to his. But there is adult content in the book, and I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone who isn’t a discerning grown-up.

The Two Towers (Part two of 'The Lord of The Rings') ~ J.R.R. Tolkien

The Two Towers continues the story began in The Fellowship of the Ring. At the close of that book we find that the Fellowship has failed. Frodo and his servant Sam secretly departed to take the perilous journey to Mordor alone; leaving the other members of their party to travel to Gondor to aid in the impending war. Frodo and Sam are tracked, though, by the creature Gollum, who is ever searching for the One Ring himself. He becomes their guide through the Shadowed Lands around Mordor. Gollum is possessed by the Ring, and his every action cannot be trusted. He leads them to a trap which results in Frodo being poisoned by a fell spider and captured by Orcs, and Sam is left to complete the deadly errand of destroying the Ring himself AND rescuing Frodo, somehow. What will be the fate of the Ring?
The other party members are ambushed by Orcs during Frodo and Sam’s disappearance. Merry and Pippin are taken captive by the Orcs, who have been instructed to bring their prisoners back to Saruman--the White Wizard who is now in league with Sauron. Boromir dies during the attack, and Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas follow the Orcs across the plains of Rohan with the intent of rescuing Merry and Pippin. The two Hobbits escape their captors and providentially meet Treebeard the Ent, who summons an Ent army to bring down Saruman. Meanwhile, Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas meet the Riders of Rohan and Gandalf (!!!)--who has returned from death to aid in the upcoming war. A great battle takes place between Saruman’s Orc army and the men of Rohan along with Gandalf and what’s left of the Fellowship. Saruman is defeated, but Sauron is about to begin HIS war; the war to end all other wars.
This is my favorite book of the trilogy. The first half of the book is exciting and fast paced. The story of the attempted rescue of Merry and Pippin, the attack on Helm’s Deep, and the destruction of Isengard are all sequences that I enjoyed reading. Frodo, Sam, and Gollum’s journey can get tedious, but it still kept me interested. This book also introduces two of my favorite characters: Éomer and Faramir. Faramir especially has an ethereal quality about him that makes him seem lordly, and with Tolkien's mastery of dialogue the characters really come alive. It should be noted that Tolkien has a slightly archaic writing style which is somewhat challenging to read. And, as with the first book, I had to look up several words in the dictionary. But if you can adjust to his style and verbiage I think you will find the story intriguing. I am looking forward to finishing the tale in The Return of the King.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

A Long Fatal Love Chase ~ Louisa May Alcott

This very exciting novel starts with Rosamond Vivian desperately wanting freedom from her solitary life with her Grandfather. But, little does she know that the stranger who appears in the doorway, Phillip Tempest, is about to grant her that freedom, only to make her wish for freedom from different chains. Many things happen to her and she discovers things from Tempest's past that drive her away from Tempest, but "He stalked her every step --- for she had become his obsession ..."

I honestly wasn't sure about this book at is first. The back advertised it as a book "considered "too sensational" to be published in the author's lifetime." I waited, as I read, for the parts considered "too sensational" but could not find any. I greatly enjoyed this book, it was very captivating and I couldn't wait to read more and find out how it ended. Alcott (best known for her "Little Women" novel) had a way of throwing things in that I never would have expected to happen and I honestly was expecting something unexpected to happen until the last line of the book, when at last I knew nothing else could surprise me. I had a few ideas of how I thought the book maybe could end, but I was guessing until the end ... which doesn't always happen with me, there are many books I've read that I know what's going to happen before I read it, but I could not do that with this book. She does write in an older English style so there were a few times where I had to re-read a sentence or paragraph to get the flow of thought, but if I can do it, so can you.

I recommend this book to anyone look for an exciting, captivating, thrilling, keep-you-guessing kind of book.

The Turtle Catcher ~ Nicole Helget

Liesel Richter was born with an abnormality. In our modern society filled with medical advances her problem would have been easily remedied shortly after birth. But growing up in the early 1900s in rural New Germany, Minnesota, Liesel is forced to conceal a secret shame for the rest of her life. She never leaves the farm, and is content with taking care of her brothers. Her only consolation is the lifelong friendship she shares with the “slow” boy from down the road: Lester Sutter.

The Turtle Catcher chronicles Leisel’s life and that of her family. The reader learns a great deal of Minnesota history from the time of the Dakota Conflict to the period after World War One. We also get a glimpse into the mentality that surely abounded among a community of German-Americans, conflicted between their loyalties to their homeland and extended families back in Germany and their new homes here in America.

I hated this book. Hated with a capital H. The book opens with a murder/suicide, and if you think it surely must be more uplifting after that grisly beginning you would be incorrect. The entire Richter family is confronted with depressing trials and tragedies that encompass the entire book. One would be led to believe that a German immigrant’s life is one of solitary unhappiness. After viewing Leisel’s deformity, Maggie, Leisel’s mother, is pronounced to love her “hard”. In other words she didn’t show love at all but rather neglect for the poor helpless child. Not only that, but the book was lewd in several parts. It contained very mature adult themes and content. The author does have an intriguing writing style, but I would not recommend this book to anyone to read. Christian readers beware.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Through the Looking Glass ~ Lewis Carroll

After finishing Alice's Adventure in Wonderland, I was a little saddened when I found that some of the parts that I loved in the Alice in Wonderland movie, were not in Alice's Adventure in Wonderland. However, after finishing Through the Looking Glass I was delighted to find that some of the characters I was looking for were actually written about in Through the Looking Glass (the talking flowers, for example). I think the movie just takes both books and combines them, which is understandable. But, instead of writing a whole review about this book, I will just link you back to Alice's Adventure in Wonderland, because my thoughts are the same for this book as they were for that one. I thought it was good and a great read!

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

The Fellowship of the Ring (Part One of ‘The Lord of the Rings’) ~ J.R.R. Tolkien

As I sat down to write a review of this book I felt almost foolish because, let’s face it, most people know what this book is about because they have either seen the movie or at least heard about it since it’s such a huge cult classic. I myself have seen the movies so many times with my husband that we have started a friendly Quote War to determine who knows the dialogue better. But as is true with most movies based upon books the book itself differs from the movie and is usually in fact BETTER than the film version. That general knowledge holds true here.

Frodo Baggins is a Hobbit, a person half the size of a normal man, who lives in an underground home in Hobbiton in the fictional world of Middle-Earth; a place very similar in landscape to our world but different in its inhabitants of Elves, Dwarves, and Hobbits as well as Wizards and Men. Frodo has inherited a ring from his uncle, but not just an ordinary ring: a magic ring, and one that has a dark and deadly past. Through Frodo’s friendship with his friend the Wizard Gandalf, Frodo learns that his ring is in fact The One Ruling Ring of ages ago in which the Dark Lord Sauron forged to be a weapon of control over all the Free Peoples of Middle-Earth. In the 2nd Age of their world, Sauron was defeated, and the ring was lost. But Sauron has come to power again, and he once more seeks to destroy all of Middle-Earth and enslave its peoples to his will. He only needs this One Ring to complete his plans. Frodo must destroy the Ring and thereby save Middle-Earth. But he cannot accomplish that task on his own. Help comes in the form of an alliance consisting of Frodo and three other Hobbits, a wizard, an elf, one dwarf, and two men. Together, this fellowship sets off to journey deep within Sauron’s domain, to the land of Mordor, to end forever the Lordship of Sauron.

This is the second time that I have read this book, and I enjoyed it more the second time than the first. Admittedly the beginning is slow; I found it easy to read for a second and then put it down because Frodo and his Hobbit friends were only traveling, and it was a little boring. But once the Hobbits reached the village of Bree and met Strider, things picked up considerably. I found myself engrossed in the poems and songs contained in the novel whereas the first time they left me somewhat puzzled. The book is full of the IMMENSE history of Middle-Earth that Tolkien had written, and it makes you want to learn more about the legends and people spoken of. And of course I was comparing the novel to the movie throughout my reading. In some places I would say the film version was enhanced to make it more exciting than what actually happens in the book. It’s also neat to read a line of dialogue and be able to actually picture the character saying it because you have seen/heard them say it in the film. Along with the book I have a collection of Tolkien’s maps which helped me in reading the book; you can visualize the Fellowship’s journey better with the aid of the maps. (Printable maps can also be found online.) I am now excited to continue the story in “The Two Towers”, part two of The Lord of the Rings.

Sunday, 26 July 2009

The Crucible ~ Arthur Miller

The Crucible is a play based upon actual historical facts and people from the Salem Witch Trials. ... I feel sorry for anyone who had to sit through the play when it was originally performed. ... The characters portrayed in the play are real people who were directly involved in the trials that took place in 1692 in Salem, MA although the events, actions, and personalities of the characters in the play are purely fictitious.

The story focuses on Abigail Williams, the niece of Reverend Samuel Parris, and Abigail’s friends whom we soon find out where all participating in some questionable behavior. The curtain opens upon Reverend Parris praying over his afflicted daughter, Betty. Various neighbors enter and exit the scene and pronounce the child to be possessed, much to the horror of Reverend Parris.

Whether Betty was truly ill or simply acting I never found out because I quit reading the story after 20 pages. The characters were so cruel and generally annoying that I couldn’t stand reading about them. I don’t know why Arthur Miller chose to make his historically Puritan characters out to be so malicious. Even though the book was only 140 pages long I did not want to finish the story. Had I been in the audience during the original 1953 Broadway production I would cringed the entire time.

Monday, 13 July 2009

Sarah, Plain and Tall ~ Ptricia MacLachlan

Anna and Caleb live with their father out on the prairie. Their mother died while giving birth to Caleb. Their father puts an add in the paper for a bride. Sarah answers the add and comes to live with them on the prairie ... the story is familiar if you've seen the movie. I grew up loving this movie, it's one of my Mama's favorites. I think I also loved this movie because the siblings share the names of my older brother and me ... although I was happy to learn that in the book Anna is older then Caleb ... not the other way around as it was with me and my brother. *wink*

I just love this book, honestly I do. I'd never read it until just recently. It's a cozy, home-y, exciting, make you fall in love with all the characters kind of book. Read it, read it, read it!

This story is told by Anna, the oldest child who greatly misses her mother, but has to be strong (as the house chores all fall to her). Her little brother talks a lot and asks many things. He's a very curious child. Their father is strong, quite, reserved, and deeply misses his dead wife.

Sarah answers the add in the paper. She writes letters about herself to the family. She is, as she describes herself in a letter "strong and I work hard and I am willing to travel. But I am not mild mannered." She leaves out that she has a very strong will and is quite stubborn. She lives by and loves the sea but she says she was come to the prairie. She will come by train and will wear a yellow bonnet.

Sarah arrives, with her cat Seal. Many hardships await her as she becomes accustomed to the ways of the prairie ... death of farm animals, chickens for eating (not pets), no rain for months and months, no neighbors for miles and the hardest, no sea.

Anna doesn't want Sarah there because she's afraid she'll learn to love Sarah but Sarah will end up leaving because the prairie is too hard. Caleb loves her right away and is always looking for things that Sarah says that mean she'll stay.

In the end they all come to love her, but will she stay with them on the prairie or will she go back to her beloved, greatly missed sea?

Kenny and the Dragon ~ Tony DiTerlizzi

In the land where rabbits raise sheep is where we find Kenny ... er ... Kenneth, but all his friends call him Kenny, so by all means ... we find Kenny.

Kenny isn't your ordinary rabbit, I mean, besides the fact that his father and mother raise sheep, and besides the fact that they walk and talk and also besides the fact that Kenny rides his bike to town to go to school every day, Kenny isn't your normal rabbit. He loves reading and learning and books, books, books. Most kids ... er ... rabbits in school don't like to read and learn, they go because their parents send them.

So, that's the world of Kenny the rabbit, he lives on a sheep farm with his father and mother and loves books.

One day, while mother rabbit is making supper, soup I believe, father rabbit rushes into the kitchen, scared to death and hyperventilating ... there's a dragon sleeping on top of the hill where they graze the sheep! He then proclaims they're moving without a moments hesitation before they get eaten. Mother rabbit says she's not leaving until Father tastes the soup to see what it needs and they've all had supper and the dishes are done. Father agrees and after eating supper, he calms down and says they aren't moving after all.

Kenny is wild with excitement, a real dragon! After supper and dishes and homework, he dons his "armor" (which consists of several pots and pans, a broom, a garbage can lid, etc.) and heads out to see the dragon. To his great surprise he and the dragon become best buds. Now he has but two friends. His other friend, in town, is an old badger who owns a book store (a fellow book lover that lends books to Kenny as often as Kenny needs them). The badger often entertains Kenny with tales of knights in shining armor, dragon slayers and the like.

Soon, in spite of how Kenny and his parents try to keep the dragon a secret, news spreads and the king (I don't remember where he's from, I think he just appears) calls upon a retired knight to slay the dragon and save the town. It's up to Kenny and his friends and family to save the dragon. Will they succeed?

I thought this book was wonderfully written. DiTerlizzi uses wonderful descriptions and writes well, I finished this book in under four hours! Although it's written for a younger age group I still enjoyed it. :) I recommend this book to those who have the slightest interest in finding out what happens to Kenny and the Dragon.

Meet Samantha & Samantha Learns a Lesson ~ Susan S. Adler (An American Girls Collection)

This sweet series of books for young girls tells the story of Samantha, a wealthy orphan living in 1904. Samantha’s parents have died in a boating accident, and she lives with her grandmother in a stately Victorian home somewhere presumably in the New England area. (That’s my best guess anyways.) The reader follows Samantha’s every-day life growing up in America over a century ago. Samantha has house servants, she attends an academy solely for girls, and she befriends a young lady who is poor and works in a neighbor’s home.

Along with the ordinary adventures that a 9 year-old commonly finds themselves involved in we also get a glimpse into life in the U.S. and the drastic changes that were taking place during this period of industrialization. After the story is complete there is extra historical information pertaining to the time period complete with photographs of real people and items.

I have been reading these books to my daughters, ages 5 and 7, and they seem to like them. I find myself stopping in the middle of the story though and explaining “the way things were back then” as life without an automobile or even living in a house with 3 stories are foreign concepts to my girls. It is very helpful to have the extra information at the back of the book to refer to. I also enjoy the length of the books as they are usually only a half a dozen chapters which make them excellent for reading a few chapters a night before bed. I recommend them for young girls up to about age 12 although I remember reading them as a teenager as well. And I'm enjoying them again as an adult.

The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane ~ Katherine Howe

In this engaging novel about the Salem Witch Trials, we follow Connie, a grad student at Harvard who specializes in American History, on a journey spanning the length of a summer in 1991. Connie is an only child, and her mother, Grace, asks Connie to move to Marblehead, Massachusetts (near Salem) to clean out Grace’s childhood home and prepare it to sell. Connie balks at this request as she is supposed to be preparing her graduate school dissertation, not spending her summer cleaning her dead grandmother’s house.

Once at the 17th century home though, Connie makes a discovery in an old family Bible; a skeleton key was hidden in the pages, and tucked inside the key’s shaft is a piece of parchment bearing the words “Deliverance Dane”. Connie is instantly intrigued, and she makes it her sole objective to discover what or who is Deliverance Dane. This mission leads her back into the past as she unravels clues pertaining to her family history and details regarding a puzzling event in the history of our nation.

Flipping between the present and the past, this book kept me captivated from beginning to end. Overall I enjoyed reading the book, but I did have one major complaint: being a story about the Salem Witch Trials obviously there was a great deal of subject matter pertaining to magic. Normally this doesn’t bother me as I can read novels with that content for what they are: fictional stories. But this book bothered me as the characters who were practitioners of magic were also presented as being devout Puritan Christians. These women claimed they were doing “the will of God.” The author went so far as to write out some of the incantations, and the instructions involved saying the names of God and “reciting the Lord’s Prayer”. The Bible is very clear on this issue. Deuteronomy 18:10-12b states:

“There must never be found among you anyone who sacrifices their son or daughter in the fire; anyone who practices divination, an omen reader, a soothsayer, a sorcerer, one who casts spells, one who conjures up spirits, a practitioner of the occult, or a necromancer. Whoever does these things is abhorrent to the LORD.”

It’s very obvious from that verse alone that magic is wrong. Yes, there are people today who do the very things in that list, but are they doing it along with the will of God? No. Books can be very misleading, and even fictional stories can tweak our minds to think, “Is that really true??” Because I wouldn’t want anyone to be confused on the issue of magic and God’s viewpoint on it I would not recommend this book to others.

Friday, 10 July 2009

Prairie Songs ~ Pam Conrad

Set back in the "Soddy House" days of Nebraska, this book is told from young Louisa's point of view. It does well to show the hardships of the early settlers; such as gathering buffalo chips instead of wood for the fire, soddy houses instead of wood houses, not a neighbor for miles and nothing but miles and miles of open grass and not a tree insight. It also gives a glimpse of what winter would have been like as well. The book is about a Doctor and his wife who move to the "wilderness" of Nebraska from New York into a soddy near Liousa and her family. Liousa and her family do all they can to help the new couple feel at home. Part of the story is either you come to love the praire or completely hate it. I asked an eleven year old girl what she thought of the book and she said she liked it.

I, however, had a slightly different view. Sadly, Conrad (the authoress) has many of the characters use swear words to emphasize their point. The way the husband and wife treat each other is also another down point, as well as the father's attitude toward his children. But hard times did tend to make people a bit harder, so maybe I'm just being overly picky.

Another thing I thought that Conrad could have left out was a scene in which someone dies and she goes into some detail (a little much I thought) in describing the scene and how the dead person looked. Depending on what a child is accustomed to in their normal day to day life, a scene like that may not effect them at all, I just thought it was slightly over the top.

I, personally, am probably not going to read this book again, nor would I recommend it to any one. But, that's just my personal opinion.

Alice's Adventure in Wonderland ~ Lewis Carroll

If you've ever seen Disney's movie of Alice in Wonderland then you have a rough idea of what this book is about. However, upon starting this book and getting aways into it I realized that the movie doesn't follow as closely to the book as it could have. There are, as Alice cried, `Curiouser and curiouser!' things in this book as you continue to read. I didn't, however, find anything unusually scary in the book, as I had in the movie (the queen of hearts always scared me in the movie, for she was always be-headed people and was always quite angry :) ). There are so many more explanations for things that happen in the book that the movie leaves out. In the end, you walk away quite settled and understanding most of what happened. It is quite the adventure! :)

I greatly enjoyed Lewis Carrolls humor and his many uses of puns and homonyms (words that sound alike but have different meanings). It was a very easy read for me and rather enjoyable. However, I do not think a younger child would understand a lot of what is going on, especially if it is being read aloud to them. For example: I started reading this book out loud to a couple of kids, and usually when I read a book and stop at the end of a chapter they beg for me to continue, but with this book, when we came to a stopping place they vanished from the room without a word about continuing. Carroll does tend to write part of a sentence and then add, in ( )'s some explanation and then continue his sentence, which can be quite confusing for a younger child, especially if they are not the one reading it. For example:

Down, down, down. Would the fall never come to an end! `I wonder how many miles I've fallen by this time?' she said aloud. `I must be getting somewhere near the centre of the earth. Let me see: that would be four thousand miles down, I think--' (for, you see, Alice had learnt several things of this sort in her lessons in the schoolroom, and though this was not a very good opportunity for showing off her knowledge, as there was no one to listen to her, still it was good practice to say it over) `--yes, that's about the right distance--but then I wonder what Latitude or Longitude I've got to?' (Alice had no idea what Latitude was, or Longitude either, but thought they were nice grand words to say.)

Presently she began again. `I wonder if I shall fall right through the earth! How funny it'll seem to come out among the people that walk with their heads downward! The Antipathies, I think--' (she was rather glad there was no one listening, this time, as it didn't sound at all the right word) `--but I shall have to ask them what the name of the country is, you know. Please, Ma'am, is this New Zealand or Australia?' (and she tried to curtsey as she spoke--fancy curtseying as you're falling through the air! Do you think you could manage it?) `And what an ignorant little girl she'll think me for asking! No, it'll never do to ask: perhaps I shall see it written up somewhere.'

Carroll also has an older style of writing and spelling, which may be slightly confusing to some.

So, all that to say, I liked the book, but I don't know that I would label it as a children's book so much as a young adult's book.

Old Yeller ~ Fred Gipson

Who doesn't love a story about a boy and his dog? I'd seen a movie based on this book many times, it was a favorite movie, so I was very excited to actually read the book. Needless to say, I loved it!

Living in the Texas Hill Country, Travis, 14, is put in charge of his little brother, mother and family farm as his father goes off on a cattle drive. Shortly after his father leaves an old "yeller" dog comes to the farm. Travis wants nothing to do with the dog at first and wants to run him off the farm, but after Yeller saves the lives of Travis' family, Travis decides he's alright after all and grows to love the dog deeply. Many things happen in the father's absence such as bull fights, wolves, skunks, wild hogs and stubborn mules. Of course there's always the fields that need looking after, the harvest brought in, and the hunting to supply the meat. Without warning hydrophbia (rabies) starts to spread in the area around the farm. Animals die and the family is forced to deal with watching the animals die and then taking care of the corpses. After a wolf with hydrophiba tries to attack the family Travis is faced with a heart-rending decision that had me in tears.

The book is told through the eyes of Travis, but even though it's written from a boy's point of view there is no doubt that any girl would greatly enjoy it, too. I did. :)

I read this book aloud to a couple of younger children and they were always begging for more at the end of each chapter and I was right there with them, it was so captivating and exciting. We finished the book in less than two days. I highly recommend this book for anyone, not just the children. *wink*