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.