Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Princess and the Hound (book review)

The Princess and the Hound, by Mette Ivie Harrison, is the story two very different people who must marry one another despite all the barriers between them. In the kingdom of Kendel, Prince George keeps the dark secret of his forbidden animal magic. Keeping this secret eats away at him every day. In the kingdom of Sarrey, Princess Beatrice keeps an equally distressing secret...she isn't the Princess at all, but a wild hound trapped in a woman's body. These two are bound to marry for duty, but how can they when their secrets form a barrier that neither can breach?

This book is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, but where the Beast is an animal trapped in the body of a woman. However, it was very different from the original fairy tale, and could almost be considered a fairy tale of its own. I liked soft-hearted George and proud, stubborn Beatrice, and I can't wait to read the sequel, The Princess and the Bear.

Outfoxing Fear (book review)

Outfoxing Fear, edited by Kathleen Ragan, is a collection of folktales about (you guessed it) fear. Anything that people have feared over the years--from ghosts and demons to vicious tigers to death and disease--you will find a folktale about in this book. There are stories of clever foxes and man-eating tigers, brave war heroes, and malicious devils. If you are looking for tales to keep you up all night reading, you've found the right book!

I definitely adored this collection of folk tales, and I will treasure it for a long time. There was a vast assortment of characters. I particularly liked the clever old woman in "What are you Most Scared Of?" who outwitted the devil that came knocking at her door.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Homecoming (book review)

Homecoming, by Cynthia Voigt, is the first book in the award-winning Tillerman saga. It tells the story of the four Tillerman children, abandoned by their mother in the parking lot of a mall with nothing but a few dollars. Dicey, the oldest of the children, leads her siblings on to the small hope they have...the promise of a beautiful seaside mansion belonging to their Great-Aunt Cilla. But when they get there, the children find that Cilla has died and her daughter, Eunice, does not have the kind of home and attitude they have been looking for. The younger children are having problems at school and only their brother James is seeming to enjoy it. So the children march off, their future unknown to them. Their mysterious grandmother is the children's last hope. What will they do if they cannot even find a home there?

I enjoyed this book very much, although it wasn't perfect. I think it was a bit rash of Dicey to just head off to her mysterious grandmother with her siblings after she found life with Eunice unfitting. Normal children don't just leave their homes whenever they feel like it. She didn't even know what life was like there. But other than that, this book was an amazing journey of hardship and trust where the reader grows along with the characters.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Finishing Becca (book review)

In Finishing Becca, by renowned historical fiction author Ann Rinaldi, young Becca is chosen to leave the hard work on her farm behind and work for a rich Loyalist family in Philadelphia. The year is 1778, and Philadelphia is a hotspot for Revolutionary war happenings. Becca can't wait to see the city for herself, her stepfather can't wait for her to get away from him, and her mother can't wait for her to finally get a formal education. The people she is to work for are well-educated socialites, the Shippens, and surely they can give Becca a rich girl's education. But the only thing Becca gets an education in is mendacity, because young and beautiful Peggy Shippen has set her sights on the American general Benedict Arnold, and she will do anything to turn him to her side. Becca can only watch in astonishment and disgust as Peggy woos Arnold into turning against his native country.

It was interesting to see this important historical event from a maid's point of view. As the story unfolds, Becca finds herself a part of the Shippens' duplicitous dealings, so the reader gets to see what happens through the eyes of someone who was close to the family. This book wasn't the best that I have read by Ann Rinaldi, but it did not disappoint me (her books never do).

This book was read for the Back To History Challenge.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Uncle Tom's Cabin (book review)

Uncle Tom's Cabin, by Harriet Beecher Stowe, is a story of cruelty, of escape, and of hope. It documents the fictional journeys of two slaves (young mother Eliza and kind, old Uncle Tom) and tells of how both of their lives change as time goes by.

When this book was published, it was an immediate bestseller. It was translated into more than 20 different languages. Queen Victoria wept over it. The book's effect on the world was phenomenal. It showed the world what a major issue slavery really was in the U.S., and it shocked people in the North, many of whom had never really thought much about the issue, into acting against slavery.

In the beginning, both Eliza and Tom are owned by kind Mr. Shelby and his wife, but things soon change as Shelby sells both Tom and Eliza's young son Harry to get himself out of debt. Eliza overhears his conversation with the trader, and decides that she is not going to take it. In the dead of night, Eliza and Harry sneak away, determined to elude the slave catchers and their vicious hounds. Tom also hears the news, but his faith in his master never wavers, and he allows the slave traders to take him away from his heartbroken family. He does not leave, however, without great sorrow.

Meanwhile, Eliza and Harry are busy keeping the slave catchers off their trail. They are taken in by a kind Quaker family, and while there, Eliza meets her handsome young husband, George. The family, now reunited, is led by a guide from the Quaker home to their destination of Canada. But even this journey is not an easy one as they face an open confrontation with the slave catchers.

Tom, while on a boat down to the south, meets a beautiful young girl named Eva, who is determined to have her father buy him. Her father, the handsome and thoughtful young Augustine St. Clare, is happy to oblige. Tom finds life at St. Clare's plantation satisfying, and enjoys spending his days with Eva. But when death strikes the family, Tom finds himself without a master yet again. Tom was lucky to find Eva and her father. He's not so lucky this time. There are many cruel masters among the bunch, and when Tom is sold to an ugly brute named Legree, he knows he has found one of them. Legree's slaves are beaten as they work in the fields all day, and have hardly any time to sleep at night. Legree believes Tom's pious, unbreakable spirit to be something which no slave should possess, and Tom immediately becomes one of his least favorite people on the plantation. One night, while in a rage, Legree shoots Tom. Even as he lies dying on the floor of a shed, Tom is loyal enough to forgive his master for the horrible things the brute has done.

This book, especially the ending, was incredibly sad. Tom's incredible loyalty is hard to imagine, especially after the things Legree has done to him. However, this book wasn't perfect. The picture it painted of the happy slaves on Shelby's plantation wasn't true in most cases. In fact, masters as kind as Shelby and St. Clare were very rare. Even despite these flaws, the book was phenomenal and it is something I am going to read over and over again.

This book is for the Classics Challenge.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Among the Hidden (book review)

Among the Hidden, by Margaret Peterson Haddix, is the first book in the Shadow Children sequence. The main character, Luke, is a forbidden third child. He spends his days hiding in the attic in case the authorities come to investigate his parents house. Then one day, Luke sees a girl's face in the window of a house where two boys already live. He has finally found a child like himself! But when he finally meets the girl, named Jen, Luke finds that she is willing to risk her life to make her presence known. Will Luke allow himself to get caught up in a scheme that could gain him everything he ever wanted...or ultimately destroy everything he loves?

This book was an extremely fast read, and I finished it in less than an hour. It really is hard to put down! The ending was shocking, but definitely was a cliffhanger. I liked Luke more than Jen, because Luke was quiet and observant, while Jen was rash and a bit rude. I can't wait to read the next book!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Uglies (book review)

Uglies, by Scott Westerfeld, takes place after the human world as we know it has been destroyed. The main character, fifteen-year-old Tally, lives in a new and fresh high-tech world. Her sixteenth birthday is nearing, and Tally can't wait. It will bring her an operation which turns her from a repulsive ugly into a beautiful pretty. But Tally's close friend Shay has doubts about this operation. When Shay runs away, Tally is faced with a choice: she can turn her friend in or live the rest of her life an outcast without becoming pretty at all. In the end, what she chooses changes the fate of everyone in her world!

This book was amazing! Tally's world was new and unusual, and it made me think about what it would be like to live there. The book was a mix of science fiction and adventure, although it was different from most of the other books in those genres that I have read.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

What an Animal Challenge

Yes, I know, I shouldn't be joining another challenge, the What an Animal Reading Challenge. But I couldn't help it (especially since it involves animals). Here's my list. I managed to use a different animal for each book!

The Ravenmaster's Secret by Elvira Woodruff (Raven on cover and in title)

The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings (about a deer and fawn on cover)

The Princess and the Hound by Mette Ivie Harrison (features dog in book, has dog on cover, and dog in title)

Blackwater Creek by Deborah Kent (horse on cover, about horses)

All the Cats of Cairo by Inda Schaenen (cat on cover, cat in title, and features cats in book)

Outfoxing Fear, Edited by Kathleen Ragan (Fox in title and on cover)


Coyote by Catherine Reid (coyote on cover, coyote in title, and is about coyotes)

For Love of Insects by Thomas Eisner (insect of cover, insect in title, and is about insects)

Wild Magic by Tamora Pierce (horse on cover)

Monday, July 07, 2008

So You Want to Be a Wizard (book review)

So You Want to Be a Wizard, by Diane Duane, begins when twelve-year-old Nita runs into her local library to hide from a gang of local bullies. As she is running her hand along the shelf, something stops her. It's a book titled So You Want To Be A Wizard. Nita takes the book home and reads every page of it. At the end of the book she takes the wizard's oath and becomes a wizard herself. She soon meets a fellow wizard, a young boy named Kit. During their first spell, Nita and Kit accidentally transfer a white hole named Fred from his world into theirs. Having found no way to return him to his own universe, they take him in as a friend.

Soon, Nita, Kit, and Fred are running off on a new adventure, this time in a horrible parallel world where cars, helicopters, and even fire hydrants are living--and carnivorous--creatures! Kit, who is a natural with vehicles, soon befriends a predatory sports car, which he had helped out of a fix. With their newfound help, the young wizards soon restore this strange world--and their own--to order, but not before they all make terrible sacrifices and learn more about themselves than they could ever have hoped to know.

I think this was a great start to what I suspect is a wonderful series. The world Duane created was fascinating and dangerous, and there was a great variety of characters. I absolutely can't wait to read the next book in the series, Deep Wizardry.