Wednesday, February 23, 2011

My Fair Godmother

This. This is exactly what I'm looking for when I read YA books usually meant for teenagers. I absolutely loved this book. About half-way through I looked at Jon and said, "I'm buying this book." It shouldn't have taken me so long to actually read this book, because I've been hearing from book bloggers and author blogs (namely Shannon Hale) that it's amazing. It was Janette Rallison's other titles that turned me off. Things like Revenge of the Cheerleaders, and It's a Mall World After All. I was worried that this would be a ditzy teen novel, and I was wrong. While it does begin with a teenage/high school-ish setting, most of the book takes place in medieval times.

It's about Savannah, recently dumped by her boyfriend (so he can date her older sister), who qualifies for help from a fairy godmother. Only instead, she ends up with Chrysanthemum (Chrissy) Everstar - who is only a 'fair' godmother with a tendency to seriously mess up wishes. I won't tell you much more, but before you know it, Savannah is stranded in medieval times along with a friend and, essentially, hilarity ensues. That and some serious character development. I loved Savannah; she was a strong heroine, which is exactly how I like my female protagonists.

The plot is multi-layered and interesting. Lots of little details and crazy twists. Fun magic, emotional moments, great romance. Believable characters. Funny, witty. I'm a fan. It reminded me of two of my favorite books: Ella Enchanted and Goose Girl. But not really, because it was completely original. Oh, and did I mention that Janette Rallison is an LDS author? No need to worry about swear words or any inappropriate material of any sort. This is the kind of book our teens should be reading. It has definitely fast-tracked itself to the top of my to-buy list. Fans of YA lit, fantasy, romantic comedy, and fairy-tales: this book is for you!

The DaVinci Code

I have read this novel before, but it is my favorite Dan Brown novel. It's not as gory and graphic as Angels and Demons, and it doesn't have the objectionable content The Lost Symbol was full of. I actually really enjoy reading DaVinci Code. It's smart. It's full of interesting (and true!) history. It has descriptions of incredible pieces of art that you absolutely have to look at while reading (and will be shocked by the things you never noticed). There are tons of codes and secrets embedded within secrets and symbols. This book also is a breathtaking race to the finish with a surprise ending. I'm a good predictor of books, but I never have been able to predict a Dan Brown ending.

I know there are some people who object to this book's subject matter, but it doesn't bother me. Why couldn't Christ have been married? I just don't follow the logic that if He was, He wasn't divine. Rubbish. There's no reason He couldn't have been. I'm not saying I believe for sure that He was, just that it wouldn't bother me if He was. This book is completely compatible with my faith. I don't think the Catholic church has all the answers. The fact that many of their rites and beliefs were based on pagan beliefs doesn't bother me. It just shows that eternal truth dates back to the beginning of time. Truth has been passed down from the beginning and distorted. Just look at how many cultures have creation myths that have similar elements! It just goes to show that at the beginning, there was one truth. I believe that the LDS faith has restored the real truth about the creation, fall, Atonement, and real purpose of life on earth.

This really does have to do with DaVinci Code, because reading it will make you question what you know and the source of your beliefs. It doesn't surprise me that Catholics take issue with this book. It severely attacks many of their beliefs. And I believe it's right. BUT, we have to remember that, however brilliantly researched, DaVinci Code is still a work of fiction. We don't have to accept everything Dan Brown says as fact. Anyway, this is a smart book. An interesting book. A fabulously written tale of suspense. I love it and recommend it.

Before I Fall

I picked this up because I was very interested in its premise. This is essential the YA lit version of Groundhog Day, one of my favorite movies of all time. I wanted to see how the 'living the same day over and over' premise worked in a book. Unfortunately, I can't recommend this book because it was full of objectionable content. Why? Why? Why do books taking place in high school have to be like this sometimes? Not every teenager spends high school drinking, smoking marijuana, speaking with foul language, and being immoral. I was so angry about all the bad parts, because this could have been a truly amazing book.

I was blown away by the beauty of the writing. Truly gorgeous. And the romance (the real romance) turned out to be very clean, very sweet, very sincere. I hated Sam at the beginning of the book, but I grew to really care for her. She dies at the end of the first day, by the way, and spends the next 7 days reliving the day she dies. I won't tell you how it ends, only that it's unpredictable, but fulfilling. There are some very important issues addressed in this book. It's heartwrenching and made me think seriously about my own life.

I am so angry with this book!!! It could have been an all-time favorite of mine. It has amazing qualities. Unfortunately, what's left lingering in my mind are all the bad parts (and the bad parts are nasty). I wish I could recommend it. I truly do. But I can't. I have read, however, that Lauren Oliver's new book, Delirium (which is a dystopian novel) is much cleaner. I'm excited to read it because I think Lauren Oliver has incredible talent as a writer.

The Far Pavilions

It took me the better part of two (no, probably three) weeks to read this book. It's FAT. And epic. It scans such a huge period of time for one person. A lot of YA novels take place in a matter of days. This book covers decades. I really enjoyed it. I felt like I really got to know the main character, Ashton, and everything that made him who he was. I loved knowing his entire history and I liked the exotic setting. It made me curious and I ended up doing a little outside research on India and the British occupation. I think the Indian practice of suttee is absolutely dreadful. The stories from Ash's childhood were moving and intense, his adulthood, even more so. Loved the romance as well. Very slowly developed and very real. I had a little trouble about 200 pages before the end, because the last bit of the book is all a description of one battle. Oh and a nasty massacre it was. But it was moving and there are certain characters (won't reveal names because I'm anti-spoiler) that I wanted to cry over when it was all said and done. I saw it coming (seriously, anyone who ever quotes "Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori" in a book is just asking for it), but it didn't make it any easier. Overall, this is a heavy and intense book that is both rich and fulfilling. Absolutely worth a read.

Clair Poulson

I've always been a Clair Poulson fan, but I haven't read any of his books in years. After my grandma passed away, I inherited all her Clair Poulson books. Probably because everyone else already has them. See, Clair Poulson lives in the same town my mom grew up in and they all know him personally. His wife taught my mom piano lessons for years. A lot of the books I have now are signed by him too. :D In case you've never heard of him, Clair Poulson writes LDS mystery/crime novels. So, I went back and read one I remembered liking then read his two most recent. I'll Find You is pretty old (2001!) - ok not that old, but it did feel old because the characters wrote letters and didn't have cell phones and the internet was referred to once as being a bit of a novelty. Times have changed, no? I really liked both Dead Wrong and Deadline. I can tell that Poulson has improved as a writer and the plots were all very tight. A little predictable here and there, but I am a very good predictor of books. It's cause I've read too many! I especially liked Dead Wrong because a very important part of the story occurs in Boise! I don't read much LDS fiction, but I think Clair Poulson does it well. And it's always fun to have settings in Utah/Idaho, places that I really know well. Anyway, so if you like a good crime novel now and again, try something by Clair Poulson.

The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work

I'm taking a marriage class this semester and this is one of our texts. As you've probably noticed, I don't read a lot of self-help type books. I'm not a non-fiction kind of girl. But now that I've read this, I think that I should definitely add a little more non-fiction into the mix. I really enjoyed this book and felt enlightened by it. I think that Gottman has some seriously good common sense and lots of research to back it up and I learned a lot from this book. It surprised me. Now, if you're reading this and you know of other similar books that you've liked, leave me a comment and let me know. I'd like to find some good ones, and I'm particularly interested in finding some good parenting books.


This one's a reread. I picked it up in 2009 I think and really enjoyed it. I should probably go back and find the review I wrote then. Not sure why I decided to reread it, probably just that I saw it at the library and thought, 'why not?' It wasn't quite as good the second time. I still think plot is interesting and the premise is unique. I especially like the romance in this one because it's a) clean, and b) slowly developed. I get so sick of YA books where a couple falls in love at first sight. It can work occasionally, but it's way overdone. A slower romance feels more realistic, more solid, more believable. I like that you get to know the characters well. They are all well-developed. Excellent book and much better than Graceling which is the companion book to this one.

Mara, Daughter of the Nile

This is another reread. I am very much a rereader, by the way. I haven't done it much lately, but when I find a book I love I enjoy revisiting it over and over again. This is a book I could read a million times. It is sooo good! Love that it's Egyptian (there's a fabulously scary tomb sequence), love the story (Mara works as a double spy), love the romance (good and clean). This book was one of my Christmas gifts this year. If you've never read it, I recommend you do!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate

The Newbery winners were announced for this year so I put them on my library request list, when I realized that there was still a Newbery book from last year that I've been meaning to read. Fortunately, last year's Newberys had far fewer requests than this years! It didn't take too long to get this book in my hands.

Loved it! Absolutely. It is just so wholesome and fun. I'd characterize this book as slower and sweeter than other children's books I've read. It takes you back to the turn of the century (meaning 1899). I loved all the science stuff and the descriptions of "new" technologies like telephones and cars. Calpurnia is a fabulous heroine. Definitely will be buying this one and adding it to my kids' must-read lists. We need more books like this.

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

I guess I was curious. I wanted to know what all the fuss was about and why so many people love this series. I went into it kind of nervous after reading a few reviews. I expected it to be a bit grittier than my usual read. I expected violence, murder, you know... stuff you find in a crime novel. I didn't expect it to be much worse than, say, a Dan Brown novel. I was anticipating intense.

I was wrong.

It was much, much, worse than I imagined. I don't think I could have imagined it, because usually such filthy things don't live in my imagination. This book was incredibly, vastly inappropriate. Every kind of vile thing that exists on this planet: in this book. So why didn't I stop 10 pages in when I realized how bad it was? Because I don't have very good self-control when it comes to reading books. I usually finish, even if I find them offensive. This is one of my main character flaws. The other problem I had was that I was so frustratingly invested in finding out what happened to the stupid missing heiress that I kept reading! Larsson kept giving me little clues that kept me hooked. Anyway, all I have to say is DON'T READ IT. I'm kind of glad I read it so I can warn all of you not to. This book is brutal, violent, sadistic, disturbing, I could go on and on. Just save yourself the trouble and don't bother. I will not be reading the other two books in the series.

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks

I enjoyed this - to an extent. Frankie is a very intelligent young woman at a prestigious private school that prepares students for Ivy League Universities. Frankie is doing her best to break into the all-male secret society on campus. I thought Frankie was smart and hilarious and I really enjoyed her adventures, which include orchestrating some seriously elaborate pranks on campus. I even learned a few new vocab words, panopticon in particular. I particularly loved her little plays on language. She gives a whole little lecture on "neglected positives" in language. Let me illustrate:

Prefixes such as in, non, un, dis, and im make a word negative:
restrained (positive)
unrestrained (negative)
possible (positive)
impossible (negative)

Well, Frankie decided that there are neglected positives. Why isn't the opposite of impetuous, petuous? Inept, ept? Disturbed, turbed? Anyway, I'm a language nerd, so I thought that was really funny. She uses her neglected positives throughout the book and they become essential to the plot.

Truly, my only complaint about this book, which was otherwise funny and clever, was its feminist overtones. I'm not wholly against all feminists. On the contrary, having studied literature a bit has made me realize how much of a feminist I really am. There have been some seriously insulting injustices against women in history. I just think that some feminists take it too far. This book shows one particular feminist trait I despise: the belief that all men are pointless and worthless. I can't say exactly how this comes about in the book without spoiling any of the plot, but I left feeling like, "Really? Did it really have to be like that?" It's too bad, because otherwise this book would have left me feeling very turbed.

The Golden Spiral

The best I can say about this book is that it was forgettable. I was lukewarm on the first book of this series (this is the second), but I thought that maybe this would improve it. Nope. In fact, I thought it was worse. It took one of my favorite things - time travel - and made it incredibly boring. It's the plot that struggles. I could never tell exactly what was going on or why. I never really believed the connection between the two main characters anyway, so I was left feeling neutral about their relationship. Bleh. I can't deny that part of my feelings against the main guy character, Dante, originate from the fact that I am not easily won-over by suave, handsome, Italians. Anyway, another problem with this book is with the side characters, whose plots were slightly more compelling, because they were completely disregarded in this book. A few interesting things were set up, then left hanging. Not a book I'd recommend. I don't think I'll bother with the third whenever it does come out.

Black Book of Buried Secrets

Hmmm... Here I am attempting to catch up, since I haven't posted in a month. Let's see if I can even remember what I'd planned to say about this book! I enjoyed it, but obviously you'd need to have read the entire series to appreciate it. It gives all sorts of fun little details and extra inside secrets to the 39 clues world. Definitely for fans, but probably what I'd consider a non-essential. It did set up the next series a bit, which I will plan on reading, but probably not buying (too many books to buy!).