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Title: Doctor Dolittle's Post Office
Author: Hugh Lofting
Genre: fantasy, animals

Doctor Dolittle wastes no time in setting up the most efficient mail service in the world when he discovers that there is not only an animal language, but animal writing as well. “The Swallow Mail”, as it is called, soon boasts good pens in the post office, postmen who tap once for a bill and twice for a letter, regular afternoon tea for both staff and customers, a reserve of thrush, gull, and penguin helpers to assist with deliveries in the colder climates, and most exciting of all – the great mail robbery. (from the inside flap)

A nice easy read.

On his way home from West Africa, where previous adventures have taken place, Dr. Dolittle is diverted to the (fictional) kingdom of Fantippo...where he discovers a 'post office' that doesn't work well because the principle was admired, no one in Fantippo had any idea how to run a postal service in a practical matter. So the doctor sets about fixing it – using the Royal Mail as his template – with the help of several animal friends, including a Cockney sparrow.

Soon, it becomes clear that running a postal service is a responsibility, an adventure, and can be an agent of change. The doctor cures diseases (which leads to a great line in the text, showing Lofting's ability to work with puns); makes new friends; changes the economic, cultural, and political life of the area he's in (in ways that the Star Trek fan in me reacted strongly to); hears stories from some extraordinary animals, and makes several discoveries in one of his main fields, natural history.

There's also a section in the middle in which the doctor, and some of his “pets” as the book calls them, tell stories they plan to publish in an animals' magazine. I think that's a great device, because each animal narrator's point of view says something about their species' “culture” and way of looking at the world. My favourite story – meaning the one I think is the best narrative – is told by the owl Too-Too...but I found the “Piggish Fairy Tale” (by Gub-Gub, a pig) and the very short tale of human-animal interaction in a domestic setting (narrated by the duck Dab-Dab) very interesting as well.

Overall, I liked the book – although references to the “ignorance” of “these people” (also described, at least by the cheeky sparrow, as “heathen”) – as as well as other instances of casual racism and (Great) White Man Saving The Day, were jarring and unwelcome (even if I knew the book was written in an era when they wouldn't be).
Title: The Clue of the Leaning Chimney (Nancy Drew Mystery Stories #26)
Author: Carolyn Keene
Genre: mystery, teen lit, pre-teen lit

As a result of an encounter with a sinister stranger on a lonely country road, Nancy Drew and her friend Bess Marvin discover that a rare and valuable Chinese vase has been stolen from the pottery shop of Dick Milton, a cousin of Bess.

Dick had borrowed the vase from his Chinese friend, elderly Mr. Soong. He is determined to repay Mr. Soong for the loss and tells Nancy that if he can find “the leaning chimney,” he feels he will be on the track of a discovery which will solve his financial problems.

Can Nancy find the leaning chimney? Can there be any connection between the vase theft – one of a number of similar crimes – and the strange disappearance of pottery expert Eng Moy and his daughter Lei?
(adapted from the blurb)

Not bad.

I like that the plot's not so focused on the mystery that it's all Nancy thinks about or does in this story – we see her go to a wedding, babysit, and visits an aunt (although that was in connection with the case) in this book.

There's a lot to love here. Some moments that stood out to meCollapse )

On the other hand, some things were a bit weak. I think that “it was needed for the plot to progress” was one reason some of these were used, but they still stood out to me as oddCollapse )

Then there were smaller things. For example, apparently “Hypers!” is a “trademark” phrase of George's? Maybe I've not (re)read enough of the original Nancy Drew series, but I've not heard her use the word before, and she does at least three times in this book. Something to look out for when I read more, anyway.

The rest of the things that stood out to me as odd probably did that because of the age of the story:
For exampleCollapse )

Overall though, not bad at all. I'm glad I read it. And I was pleasantly surprised to find that it took place just before The Secret of the Wooden Lady - one of the first Nancy Drew books I read, certainly the first I ever owned, and which I recall liking.

2012: Books 5-6

Read

5. Jane Bites Back by Michael Thomas Ford.

This was okay. I was tempted to not finish it, but it was short so I felt like I had to. And I was completely ready to not read the sequels, but now I find I am going to. It ends on a bit of a cliff-hanger, so I'm stuck. The novel is about Jane Austen as a vampire living in modern times and trying to get published again. It involves some famous characters from the Edwardian era as vampires and some modern characters and I just didn't really connect with any of them, including Jane. I'll give the second a try, but I'm not hoping for much. I will say that I have never been an Austen fan, though, so that might have colored my perception a bit.

6. The Secret Prophecy by Herbie Brennan

I adored his Faerie Kingdom series, so I was eager to try this one. One of the big twists I guessed pretty early on, but it wasn't a bad book. I might read sequels (while this could easily stand as a single novel, the very last sentence hinted that there was more to come), but I wasn't that into it. I think it might be because I'm older -- this book would probably be a lot more interesting for a 10-15 demographic, rather than someone more than a decade older.

Currently Reading

1. The Wild Queen by Carolyn Myers

#20 - Real estate problems

I have fond memories of John Bellairs' young-adult thriller The Dark Secret of Weatherend, so I was pleasantly surprised to find one of the sequels, The Mansion in the Mist, in a charity sale at our local supermarket. Young teen Anthony Monday faces the prospect of a stultifying summer in his small 1950s Minnesota town till his friend and local elderly librarian Miss Eells invites him on a fishing retreat to her brother's northern island summer home. Things go well till Anthony discovers a mysterious chest in the attic that, when opened, transports him to a mirror version of the island, dominated by a mansion in the titular mist so forbiddingly gothic it could have been drawn by Edward Gorey. (Oh, hey - it was.) The mansion, Anthony discovers, is inhabitated by a virtual Shriners' Club of creepy cultists who're planning on taking their nefarious activities beyond the confines of their otherworldly abode. Anthony escapes, though, and it seems that the cultists, despite their ambitions, are safely confined in their extradimensional pocket - until the cult leader comes looking for Anthony...

I liked Weatherend for its genuinely creepy atmosphere and life-or-death struggle founded in eldritch lore successfully contrasted with the cozily oblivious goings-on in the heroes' small town, plus Anthony's cross-generational friendship with the steely, proactive Miss Eells. Unfortunately, Mansion leaves the sleuthing mostly up to Miss Eells's brother, who is kind of too all-knowing and short on character to be a compelling protagonist and whose time in the limelight robs the reader of the Eells-Anthony friendship that drove their debut book. The threat of the cultists is kind of generic and ill-defined, and it's kind of hard to believe Anthony would find weeks on the tiny island, with little to explore and nothing to do but fish and play cards, invigorating. Reviews indicate that Mansion suffered from coming at the end of Bellairs' illustrious career, and it is indeed the last installment in its series; I suppose that I'll have to hunt down Anthony's other two books to find a successful follow-up to Weatherend.

Book 7: Ancient Mesopotamians

Okay, I admit, I have a weakness for these types of books- the simple 'all about (fill-in-the-blank) peoples' even tho I often read much more in depth books about them... it's just FUN to read! This one was enjoyable, despite a few problems:

This is aimed at school-age children/youth, and is a book which is supposed to give a good overall look at the Ancient Mesopotamians. It was certainly fun to read and the usual format of eye-candy with good pictures of actual artifacts and artistic renderings of some also, worked very well to this end. It gave a nice 'starting' basis if you know nothing of these facinating peoples, or time in human history. I was a little dissapointed that the artwork accompanying the stories was a little gloomy, even gruesome, for younger children, even though the material was written well for that age group. Also sad to me were seeing the misidentified artifacts, as if the authors had not done much research, just looked for good stock photos and basic answers without fact-checking them. It doesn't matter in the end to middle-school children, but older youth might learn incorrect 'facts' and younger kids might get some not-so-grand dreams about the scary looking gods and heros in the book!
Title: Over Sea, Under Stone
Author: Susan Cooper
Genre: Adventure, fantasy, Arthurian

This is the first in Cooper’s fan-favourite The Dark is Rising Sequence, although it was originally intended as a standalone and was written some years before the four that eventually followed it.

From the blurb:
On holiday in Cornwall, the three Drew children discover an ancient map in the attic of the house that they are staying in. They know immediately that it is special. It is even more than that – the key to finding a grail, a source of power to fight the forces of evil known as the Dark. And in searching for it themselves, the Drews put their very lives in peril.

It’d been a while since I read this book (the last time was in 2008 or so) and oh my goodness, I think I’d forgotten how good it is. Others in the Sequence may be stronger when all five are taken as a whole but this story is perfectly good on its own too. On this re-read – probably only my third ever of this book – I gained a (perhaps) renewed sense of appreciation for this story and I was able to rediscover the depth of detail in it. The descriptions of some of the moments the three children experience, particularly a scene when one of them is being chased by an unfriendly figure and the scenes near and at the end of the quest, really stood out to me.

I can also really relate to one of the children, an Arthurian legends enthusiast, much more now than I think I’d have been able to earlier. The Arthurian legends are a somewhat recent discovery as items of interest, delight, and (a bit of) scholarship for me – in fact, it’s about as recent as the last time I read this book! :D That might be one reason I found I liked it so much this time, but I know it’s not the defining one.

All the characters in this are great, whether they’re our heroes and their allies or the story’s main antagonists. On the side of the ‘good guys’, we really get to see the complexities of each of the three children’s personalities, and while their parents only get brief mention one does get a ‘sense’ of what they’re like. I like Mr. Drew, who comes across as a person with quite a sense of humour, and I also like the detail that Mrs. Drew knows her daughter well enough to realize she’ll be happy to wander around on her own after declining to go with the boys and Mr. Drew on a trip one morning.

Other fascinating characters who are the children’s allies include their mysterious ‘Great-uncle’ Merry and their holiday pet, a dog called Rufus. Merry serves as their guide and confidant in this story, sort of an Obi-Wan figure to their Luke Skywalker, and Rufus proves to be a valuable companion as well.

The antagonists are also portrayed well. More are introduced as the story progresses, and they start becoming more effective as the days in-story pass, so by the last chapter they’re quite creepy.

I recommend this as a fun children’s adventure with some intriguing dark parts mixed with the lighter fare. It’s also a great set-up for the rest of the Sequence, but it can be enjoyed just as well alone.

January Reading

I made it to 170 books last year, so here is the beginning of my new 200 books in a year challenge! There's 15 for January, 5 off my goal of 20 per month, but eh, what can you do?

American Vampire #22 by Scott Snyder
A Flight of Angels by Rebecca Guay
Aphrodite the Beauty, Artemis the Brave, and Aphrodite the Diva by Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams
Loki by Mike Vasich
Nicholas, Raine, and Lyon by Elizabeth Amber
Dance in the Vampire Bund 1 by Nozomu Tamaki
The Children of Odin by Padraic Colum
The Listeners & Other Poems by Walter de la Mare
Two Sighted by Annmarie McKenna
Wise Child by Monica Furlong
The Seer and the Sword by Victoria Hanley

My Thoughts?Collapse )
"Everyday life in the Ancient World"
Kingfisher
ISBN 0-7534-5464-5

This was so much fun- it's aimed at a younger audience, and is framed as a 'travel book' tongue-in-cheek. Each chapter (there are four, One each on Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome, and the Aztecs & Incas.) opens with the time, who is in power, and a good place to start your travels... then it offers 'travel' advice on how the local natives dress, eat, what thier culture is like, things to be careful of, and even things you might want to do or see while there.

It's adoreable and filled with fantastic artwork not unlike the DK series, but in many mediums, making it good eye candy to read aloud to a younger child, or to really draw IN an older reader- even as an adult, knowing these 'facts', I found it fun to read. I really genuinely enjoyed it.

I would reccomend it to parents trying to get thier youth or child interested in ancient history or perhaps social studies or geography- and for any adult who just wants a fun walk through history with the artistic eye-candy to make you smile. :)

Books #150-162

The Lost Hero & The Son Of Neptune by Rick Riordan
Death Comes to Pemberley by PD James
Star Trek: The Sorrows of Empire by David Mack
Love Letters of Great Men ed Ursula Doyle
Athena the Brain, Persephone the Phony, Athena the Wise, & Artemis the Loyal by Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams
The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter
A Taste of Midnight by Lara Adrian
Oglaf: Book One by Doug Bayne and Trudy Cooper
Now a Bride by Mary Balogh

My Thoughts?Collapse )

Sep. 28th, 2011

61. The Wizard of Oz- L Frank Baum, 149 pages, 3/5
I never read this as a kid but I saw the movie a couple of times and so there were few surprises in this book, despite there being a number of differences between them. It was for a younger reading age than I was expecting and I must admit it didn't really blow me away.

62. Far From the Madding Crowd- Thomas Hardy, 374 pages, 4/5
I hated Tess of the D'Urbevilles and ended up putting this off for a long time because of that. I ended up being pleasantly surprised by how enjoyable it was, if not by the ending, which was pretty much the obvious conclusion by half way through the book.

63. Around the World in Eighty Days- Jules Verne, 276 pages, 4/5
I didn't like this as much as Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea or Journey to the Centre of the Earth but it was a fun, understated adventure story.

64. The Iron Man- Ted Hughes, 63 pages, 4/5
Having read Hughes poetry for the first time earlier this year I couldn't resist buying this when I saw it in HMV for only £2. It's a great little story and one I will keep for when I have children.

65. The Time Machine- HG Wells, Project Gutenberg Edition, 4/5
My first time reading Wells and I really enjoyed this book. It takes a pretty dim view of the far far distant future, when the human race has followed two evolutionary paths, the Morlock and the Eloi but it was a good read and quite exciting.

1-4/50

Hello, fellow bookworms! 2011 is my first year taking up the challenge. I have a very long to-read list, but I'm also one of those types who loves to reread my favorite books over and over, so my challenge is to get through 50 books not including rereads. Maybe then I'll finally make a dent in the to-read list... Anyway, here goes!

Title: Turing Japanese
Author: Cathy Yardley
Pages: 320
Rating: 3.5/5
Book: 1/50

I don't pick up chick lit very often, but the manga industry subject matter drew my attention. Lisa Falloya is a half-Japanese-American who wins a yearlong internship with a manga publisher in Japan and learns a thing or two about herself along the way. All in all it was an enjoyable read, though not without its flaws. The pacing didn't seem right - it skipped ahead too much for my taste, and without much transition. There were plenty of little things that bugged me, and the boyfriend became rather stereotypically controlling as the book went on. I would have liked to know a lot more about the actual content of Lisa's project, too. However, I did like most of the supporting cast, and Lisa undergoes a nice personal journey by the time the book comes to an end. I'd read it again.

Title: Hanako and the Terror of Allegory vol. 3
Author: Sakae Esuno
Pages: 256
Rating: 2.5/5
Book: 2/50

I came across this series while interning for Tokyopop and was actually quite intrigued. It follows Aso Daisuke, the "Allegory Detective" who investigates physical manifestations of folklore. This volume was a little disappointing in that I found it more confusing than the previous two in the series. It's nice to see how things are developing between the main characters, and I'm interested to see how it all pans out in the next (& final) volume.

Title: Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life
Author: Anne Lamott
Pages: 239
Rating: 3.5/5
Book: 3/50

Recommended by a good friend of mine. A guide to the writing process, full of advice and encouragement. While I will be taking Lamott's words into consideration in my writing pursuits, overall I found the book helpful but not life-changing.

Title: When You Reach Me
Author: Rebecca Stead
Pages: 208
Rating: 4.5/5
Book: 4/50

2010 Newbery Medal winner! A well-crafted book for young readers, and a quick, pleasant read. Set in the late '70s, twelve-year-old Miranda starts receiving mysterious notes following a split with her best friend. It pays tribute to A Wrinkle in Time by the great Madeleine L'Engle, and it captures the nature of childhood friendships quite nicely. While the mystery may reveal itself to some readers more quickly than others, none of it feels heavy-handed.


4 / 50 books. 8% done!

Oct. 1st, 2010

Title: Changeling
Author: Delia Sherman
Year of Publication: 2006
Genre: Fantasy, YA
Pages: 289
First Line: "'Wake up, Neef. Spring cleaning today. Cobwebs to sweep, mice to relocate, turtles to wake up and polish. And you have to clean your room."
Summary: Neef is a changeling, a human baby stolen by fairies and replaced with one of their own. She lives in "New York Between," a Manhattan that exists invisibly, side by side with our own, home to fairies, demons, mermaids, and other creatures of Folk lore. Neef has always been protected by her fairy godmother, Astris (a very lovely white rat), until she breaks a Fairy Law. Now, unless she can meet the challenge of the Green Lady of Central Park, she'll be sacrificed to the bloodthirsty Wild Hunt. Neef is a native New Yorker, and she's determined to beat the rap -- but New York Between is a maze of magic and magical rules, and time is running out....

Source: Back of book

Review: I found this story to be really enjoyable. Unlike a lot of other modern fantasies I've read, it has a very story-teller feel to it. It has all of the elements of a fairly tale (except romance, which, while I was disappointed when I realized there was none at first, I gradually came to accept and even enjoy it as a fresh change). The writing style is very simple, but the text is appropriate for all ages. One of the nice things it that Neef's age is never quite explained. Her counterpart, it seems, is about twelve, but because of the aging difference, it's difficult to say how old Neef is. That way, if you only like to read about characters your age or older, you can easily imagine Neef to be at least fifteen, maybe even seventeen or eighteen (though I wouldn't say beyond that). The characters in this book were a lot of fun, for the most part. I would definitely love to live in Neef's world. I also found the story to be interesting, aside from the beginning, which was fairly slow. Definitely recommended, particularly for very young adults (11+) who are looking for a way to get into larger "chapter books."

Worst part: The only character I really didn't like was the antagonist (the Green Lady). Usually I really like this character in fiction, but I found she wasn't quite what I was used to. Fairly unrefined and with a heavy New York accent (apparently), which I felt was the total opposite of what she should -- and traditionally is -- be.

Best part: I like that the Changeling was made out to have a mental handicap, which could have been a result of -- or the misunderstanding of -- her being one of the Folk.

Grade: B

Other Books by This Author: Through a Brazen Mirror, The Porcelain Dove, and The Fall of the Kings.


64 / 50 books. 128% done!

Selling Books

Does anyone know of any good sites to sell books?

And for those of you who sell used books, what is a good price (for both paperback and hardcover). Most of the books I am selling are YA.

I've considered eBay, but am hesitant to pay the fee ($0.65) in case the books don't sell.

So, suggestions?

I know there are several places where you can type in the ISBN to see if a site is buying, but a lot of times, they aren't.

I'm also open to book rings.

TIA.

x-posted
I have now come to the end of my 50 books in a year challenge and will be starting over on the 1st July! To see an overview of all the books I have read in a year, go here.

42. The O'Sullivan Twins by Enid Blyton

WARNING: SPOILERS In case any of you want to re-read them too!
I don't remember reading this one (as a young child) at all but I found that I didn't enjoy this book as much as the previous (The Twins at St. Clares) because they all seemed to turn nasty! It was like bully-fest at St Clare's. It's funny how the 1950s seem really different to nowadays - we seem to take bullying a bit more seriously. Of course, there's no real physical violence (it is a children's story after all) but I did find myself getting angry at some of the characters. In particular, a girl called Erica did some mean things, but instead of talking to her and explaining that was she did was wrong (and she was genuinely feeling sorry), giving her a second chance (lessons about forgiveness etc), the students excluded her completely ("I'd like to pull her hair out!") and the teachers suggested she go home and start afresh in a new school, instead of telling the girls to treat each other with respect. So, now she has left St. Clare's. Seriously, what is up with that? I suppose it just shows the differences between the 1950s and 2010, but I guess I just prefer boarding school stories where the girls ride horses and have midnight feasts, instead of bitch about each other constantly (as I had enough of that in secondary/high school!).

I didn't expect children's stories to make me feel so angry xD

My Rating: 3.5/5
Amazon Rating: 4.5/5

43. Summer Term at St Clare's by Enid Blyton

WARNING: SPOILERS
The last term of the first form at St Clare's... a few odd things happen in this book. One of the girls gets kidnapped by a gypsy (Blyton's words, not mine) and they considered not letting the police know so the school wouldn't get any attention by the media.

It's interesting how there's more focus on being intelligent, sporty, plain-looking whereas nowadays you would not get insulted at school by other pupils for not bothering to do your work or making sure your hair looked nice - those sorts of people would be the popular ones in school, as oppose to the intelligent people. I wonder if that was true?

It's still a cute series though even though it's obviously outdated. I have a feeling I haven't read as many as I thought I did; I figured I'd read the whole St Clare's series, but I think that must've been the Malory Towers series instead (which I also bought!).

As with the previous book, another girl is being kicked out for doing something nasty (-ish) (see quotation above) instead of explaning the importance of, you know, getting on with life. She gets kicked out for not being well liked as opposed to cheating on her French test.

"I am not going to keep you at St. Clare's after this term, of course. You will never be liked by any of the girls now".


My Rating: 3.5/5
Amazon Rating: 5/5

44. Second Form at St Clare's by Enid Blyton

This is the fourth book of the St Clare's series and it is much like the others: midnight feasts, lessons, concerts, mean girls, sports (lacrosse and tennis)... so there's not much to say really!

"I wish Alison worked as hard in my classes as she does in yours," remarked Mam'zelle, in her rather harsh, loud voice. "Ah, her Frence exercises! But I think, Miss Quentin, she really does work in Drama."
"Oh, well she simply adores me," said Miss Quentin, easily. "I can always make her type work. She'll do anything for a smile or a kind word from me - like a dear little pet-dog"."



44 / 50 books since ~June 2009. 88% completed!

Previous reviews at my journal.

38-41

38. Awkward Situations for Men by Danny Wallace

I usually love Danny Wallace's books as they usually make me laugh out loud loads of times, but I only laughed twice whilst reading this book. This one is a collection of a little stories from his time at the magazine Shortlist involving him arguing with a bishop online or commenting that his friend's baby looks "just like Hitler".

The stories are told in typical Danny-style: very British, blunt, simple and emphasised, but for some reason (as other people seem to have found this book hilarious) it just did not make me laugh. I still love you Danny, but unfortunately, I did not love this book. I'll still be interested in watching the US sitcom based on the book though.

My Rating: 2/5
Amazon Rating: 4.5/5

39. High Fidelity by Nick Hornby

I really enjoyed this book from the moment I started reading it. I see the main themes of the book as being: love, life and music. As a music fan, it's interesting to read about others who understand the importance of music: relate it to every aspect of their life, search for old demos or new acoustics, constantly recommend people music, and shake their heads at people who just don't get it. The main character is Rob: Rob Fleming is a London record store owner in his 30s whose girlfriend, Laura, has just left him. At the record shop — named Championship Vinyl — Rob and his employees Dick and Barry spend their free moments discussing mix-tape aesthetics and constructing "top-five" lists of anything that demonstrates their knowledge of music (Wiki).

I found this novel to be relatable (even though I really wanted to slap Rob sometimes) and funny and I definitely recommend it. I also have two of his other books: About a Boy & How To Be Good, so I'm interested in reading those too.

"People worry about kids playing with guns, and teenagers watching violent videos; we are scared that some sort of culture of violence will take them over. Nobodies worries about kids listening to thousands - literally thousands - of songs about broken hearts and rejection and pain and misery and loss."


My Rating: 4/5
Amazon Rating: 4.5/5

40. The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner by Stephenie Meyer

WARNING: SPOILERS

I used to be an actual Twilight fan girl. No, really. Two and a half years ago I was obsessed with the series. I did gradually get bored of all the hype though and so I'm probably indifferent to it now. However, I'm not going to start saying "Twilight's rubbish!" etc etc because I would probably still really enjoy the books if I re-read them again and I clearly I still like the books if I preordered this one, and I'll definitely be going to see the Eclipse movie! I think the most important thing is that "young people" are reading, regardless of what it is. It's great to see people excited about books.

Anyway, this book was okay. It was always going to be too short anyway to be a really gripping story, but I was curious. Bree is a newborn vampire who gets killed in Eclipse - you literally only hear about/from her for a few pages. (Random note: I remembered who she was even though loads of Twilight fans couldn't recall her because the "Bree" is one of the main characters in another book series I loved as a young teenager, Sweep/Wicca by Cate Tiernan!). In this book, you find out a bit more about the background to Bree's story and the battle that occured in Eclipse. However, I am now curious about Diego (a vampire that Bree becomes close to) and Fred (a "freak" vampire whose special ability is to, well, produce an awful deterrent smell...clearly Stephenie has run out of ideas, but he's a curious vampire nonetheless). I'm giving it 2.5 out of 5 because although it gets interesting during a few parts of the book, I feel as if it might as well have been a "Bree information pamphlet" on Stephenie's website rather than its own story as a lot of it could have been summed up pretty easily without the filler pages and a few things were cringe-worthy (e.g. vampire kissing).

I did enjoy the book but I still feel that it opened up even more unanswered questions: the other vampires; what about their backgrounds? Where did Riley go? Why weren't they meant to know they could go out during the day? I can't remember if these were answered in Eclipse as it's been about two years since I read it, but I will be reading it soon again so I guess I'll find out then!

Overall, it's probably good for "hard core" Twilight fans but no use to anyone else.

My Rating: 2.5/5
Amazon Rating: 2.5/5

41. The Twins at St Clare's by Enid Blyton

I'm re-reading the St Clare's series (I bought the 1970s boxset as opposed to the new ones because they're just too...modern!). I first read the series when I was in infant and primary school (so about 6-9 years old most likely) and I remember loving them. Re-reading this book, it's interesting how I still remember bits of the storyline and the characters.

This is the first book in the series where Pat and Isabel O'Sullivan join St Clare's at 14 years old. I love how everyone says "ought" and "shan't", and they're just so posh. I love it! Why doesn't anyone use ointment anymore?

My Rating: 5/5
Amazon Rating: 5/5


41 / 50 books since ~June 2009. 82% done!

Previous reviews in my journal.

Jun. 21st, 2010

Title: Wings
Author: Aprilynne Pike
Year of Publication: 2009
Genre: YA, fantasy
Pages: 294
First Line: "Laurel's shoes flipped a cheerful rhythm that defied her dark mood."

Summary: Laurel's life is the very definition of normal. . .until the morning when she wakes up to discover a flower blooming from her back. As it turns out, nothing in Laurel's life is what it seems. Now, with the help of an alluring faerie sentry who holds the key to her true past, Laurel must race to save her human family from the centuries-old faerie enemies who walk among them.


Source: Back of book


Review: Not fantastic. Something about the style annoyed me -- it seemed very fake or something. The story itself wasn't bad. I'm not sure how I felt about the "wings" and what they were made of, but that could be because I've never heard that take before and I've read a crazy amount of faerie stories. This definitely isn't the best faerie book I've read, but not the worst, either. Maybe worth a read? It gets better as it goes on and it makes you, or me, at least, want to read the sequel, but I'm not about to go out and buy it.

Worst part: The first half was weird. Or the first third? I don't know. It didn't work as well as its remaining parts. Those weren't mind-blowing, either, but they were certainly better. And then the whole thing about Laurel's age bothered me. Especially when it came to the situation with David.

Best part: Tamani. The faerie boys are ALWAYS the best part.

Grade: C

Other Books by This Author: Spells.



45 / 50 books. 90% done!

May. 4th, 2010

Title: Beastly
Author: Alex Flinn
Year of Publication: 2007
Genre: YA, fantasy
Pages: 304
First Line: "Mr. Anderson: Welcome to the first meeting of the Unexpected Changes chat group."

(First line of the actual text: "I could feel everyone looking at me, but I was used to it."

Summary: I am a beast. A beast. Not quite wolf or gorilla or dog, but a horrible new creature with fangs, claws, and hair springing from every pore. I am a walking monster.

You think I'm talking fairy tales? No way. The place is New York City. The time is now. And I'll stay this way forever -- unless I can break the spell.

Yes, the spell, the one the witch in my English class cast on me. Why did she turn me into a beast who hides by day and prowls by night? I'll tell you. I'll tell you how I used to be Kyle Kingsbury, the guy you wished you were, with money, perfect looks, the perfect girl, and the perfect life. And then, I'll tell you how I became perfectly. . .beastly.

Source: Back of book


Review: This is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast. I love that story and I love this book. The book, which will be released as a movie on July 30, 2010 (starring Alex Pettyfer, Vanessa Hudgens, and OMG Neil Patrick Harris -- they couldn't have picked anyone better), was a great story. Not the most well-written book I've ever read, but I found it super enjoyable. Probably was a little old for it (I'm 18); the writing was really easy to understand, so I'd suggest this for 9th graders, I think. But those younger and older, of course, can enjoy it as well. The changes made to the story were really interesting and the book in general was definitely worth it. Give it a read!

Worst part: I really wish the quality/difficulty of the writing was greater. Also, I feel there was something not quite right about Kendra's character. Maybe a bit immature?

Best part: I seriously love Will. He should have gotten a love interest, IMHO.

Grade: B+

Other Books by This Author: Diva, Fade to Black, Nothing to Lose, Breaking Point, Breathing Underwater, and A Kiss in Time


32 / 50 books. 64% done!

Book 8

8. Title: The Secret of NIMH
Author: Robert C. O'Brien
Genre: YA/young children's lit.
Pages: 249

Summary: Ever since last summer, Mrs. Frisby has been worried about Timothy, her younger son. Timothy has had pneumonia--he almost died--and now he is too frail and weak to be moved. But if the Frisbys don't move immediately, they'll all be killed!

Mrs. Frisby is frantic. Then she hears about the wonderful Rats of NIMH--rats who are strong, smart, able to do almost anything. They've escaped from the lab at NIMH. They can save the Frisbys. But will they? (from the back of the book)

Thoughts: I grew up watching the movie. When I found out my husband had the book amongst all of our numerous paperbacks, I was pretty excited. This book is very obviously geared at a young audience. Even though the writing style is simplistic, I felt that the O'Brien was able to convey the situation, setting, characters, motivation, etc. very well and in an easily understood manner. This book would be really good to read aloud to younger children. Some of the things surrounding the rats'/mice's time in NIMH might need to be explained to smaller children; however, this book is easily grapsed and entertaining. I still love the movie, but they are very different (the endings aren't the same). But I am very happy that I took the time to dig this out of our books and read it.

To point out something interesting, I found that this book had echoes in Ratatouille.

Currently: The Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill

#21: 3 Willows


#21: 3 Willows by Ann Brashares

Format: Ebook

Genre: Middle-grade

Themes: friendship

Why I chose it: The author also wrote the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants books, and I was in the mood for a light YA book like those

 

Plot:

Ama wanted to go to an academic camp; instead she ended up at a wilderness camp. Polly wants to be a model, and is blind to hints that this might not be the best career for her – and to signs that something is wrong at home. Jo, trying to deal with her parents' impending divorce, throws herself into her new friendships with the older popular girls, but may have to leave her old friends behind in the process.

 

Thoughts:

This book was okay, but there was nothing in it that I hadn't already seen in a bunch of other middle-grade and YA novels. The lessons the girls were supposed to learn were all very transparent. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants books had a lot of familiar elements in them too, but those books put them together in interesting ways, so they felt interesting rather than overdone. I didn't get that feeling with this book.

 

What I loved best about the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants books was the characters. I thought the characters in this book were a lot more uneven. I really liked the character of Polly, but I thought Jo was a weak character, and I had a hard time getting interested in her story.

 

Rating: 3/5

Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree


Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree by Lauren Tarshis

Where I got it: Sony's ebook store

Format: Ebook (Sony Reader format)

Genre: Middle-grade

Themes: friendship

 

Plot:

Emma-Jean Lazarus, a quirky and socially awkward middle-schooler, usually stays out of her classmates' lives. She doesn't understand them, and they seem like too much trouble to bother with. But when a classmate of hers confides in her about a friendship problem, Emma-Jean decides to step in and fix things.

 

Thoughts:

This was a fun book. I loved the character of Emma-Jean, because she reminded me of myself as a kid. The solutions she comes up with for the problems she's trying to fix may not be the most reasonable, but it's easy to see why she would think they were. I wasn't entirely happy with the ending, though; it seemed a bit simplistic. Also, I didn't think either of the two subplots were resolved sufficiently. The book could have used a bit more length; then the ending and the subplots could have been fleshed out.

 

Rating: 4/5

Title: Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher
Author: Bruce Coville
Genre: fantasy

I remember seeing, a while ago, that someone was going to/wanted to read this book for 50bookchallenge. I highly recommend it, whether for this challenge or not. This book was a re-read for me, although I hadn't read it in a long time: I first read this book after being introduced to it by an elementary school teacher and perhaps once after that. I found that I still liked it as much as I did when I first read it.

The story focuses on titular character Jeremy Thatcher, a short-for-his-age sixth grader, who stumbles across a magic shop while running away from two bullies. There, he is drawn to a colorful marble-like sphere he sees on a display case, although "[h]e [wasn't] really looking to go home with anything"*. The shop's owner, Mr. Elives, tells Jeremy that it is in fact the sphere that wants Jeremy and not the other way around. Jeremy is understandably confused, but buys it anyway. It turns out to be a dragon’s egg.

When the egg hatches, Jeremy finds a strange companion in the baby dragon, whose presence is strange at first but then becomes a constant (and mostly reassuring) factor in his life. This is appropriate, because the story is about the influence the dragon has on him/in his life – for example, by causing him to try to understand a person he might not have taken the trouble to get to know otherwise and by boosting his (self-)confidence.

The characters in this story are its stars. Jeremy’s father Dr. Thatcher has some of the best (often meaning funniest) lines in the book, and some of the best (descriptive) writing focuses on or is about him. Miss Priest, a librarian, and Mary Lou Hutton, a girl in Jeremy’s class, also feature and have a lot to teach both Jeremy and the reader.

This book should be a quick read for most people. The target audience is middle-school-aged and therefore the chapters (all thirteen of them, plus an epilogue) are fairly short. But that does not take away from the quality of the story at all. In addition, the new afterword provided by Bruce Coville (on the occasion of the 20th anniversary publication of the book and the Magic Shop series, of which it is a part) is insightful and pleasant to read. The illustrations, when done by Gary Lippincott, are pencil sketches that enhance the work in just the right way.

I actually didn’t realize this book was part of a series until I picked up the edition I read for 50bookchallenge (published by Magic Carpet Books; amazon.com link here), which proclaimed it as such. The other books in the series are The Skull of Truth, Jennifer Murdley’s Toad, The Monster’s Ring, and Juliet Dove, Queen of Love. They are all standalones, but the reason they can be considered a ‘series’ (as far as I understand it) is that Mr. Elives’ Magic Shop features prominently in each of them. I will probably borrow any of these that are available at my library, but Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher will likely remain my favourite.

* from the front flap of the book's dust jacket

Books #55-60

1001 Books

23. The World According to Garp, John Irving. 437 pages.
I didn't particularly like this book. I liked the first part, when Garp was still growing up. But once he was an adult, and a writer, it just got... weird. And on top of that, a lot of the same plot devices and anecdotes that Irving used in The 158-Pound Marriage showed up in this book, and I didn't particularly like them the first time around.

24. All Quiet on the Western Front, Erich Maria Remarque. 296 pages.
It's surprising how easily I became sympathetic with the German army despite being an American whose great-grandfather had his leg shot off by Germans during WWI. I suppose it's the excellent writing combined with the knowledge that the majority of the soldiers were fighting not because they necessarily agreed with the cause, but because it was what was done. This book really brought the horrors of trench warfare, and war in general, into reality. An incredibly well-written but profoundly sad novel, definitely deserves its place on the 1001 Books list.

25. Saturday, Ian McEwan. 304 pages.
The book was okay. McEwan is obviously talented, and his use of words and turn of phrase is exceptional. But I don't care too much for his plots, and this was no exception. I'm not a big fan of 'day in the life of' stories, but if you are, or you like McEwan's writing, I'd recommend the book.

26. The Death of Ivan Ilyich, Leo Tolstoy. 106 pages.
More of a novella than an actual novel. This book begins with the death of Ivan Ilyich, and then then goes on to tell the story of his life and how he actually died. You come to feel his pain, his physical pain from the disease, the mental pain from not knowing exactly what is causing him to die, and the emotional pain of knowing that most of his family won't miss him when he is gone. Tolstoy manages to cram a lot of pain and emotion into those 100 or so pages.

Other Books:

33. Haven Home for Delinquent Girls, Louise Tondeur. 320 pages.
A sweet book about a home for delinquent girls and some of its occupants from the 20s to the present day. Most of the girls were pregnant, lesbians, or both. The stories are told as a girl who has been hired to help turn the house into a baking school uncovers some diaries and meets some of the former occupants.

34. Howl's Moving Castle, Diana Wynne Jones. 329 pages.
Such an adorable book! I loved it, and can't recommend it enough. Definitely need to read more by her.

I'm upping my goal, to 40 books from the 1001 Books list, 100 total books, and 35,000 pages. Ambitious, but it'll give me something to work towards.

1001 Books:
26/40 - 65%

Total Books:
60/100 - 60%

Total Pages:
24,643/35,000 - 70.4%

Days Passed:
278/366 - 76.0%

05. Gossamer, by Lois Lowry.

05. Gossamer, by Lois Lowry. * * * * * 02/17/2008

[http://www.amazon.com/Gossamer-Lois-Lowry/dp/0618685502/]

144 pgs. 2006. Fiction: Fantasy fiction.

Audience: grades 4-8

Summary: While learning to bestow dreams, a young dream giver tries to save an eight-year-old boy from the effects of both his abusive past and the nightmares inflicted on him by the frightening Sinisteeds.

Review: This was a very delicate, very sweet book. Yes, the foster home woman and the boy and the boy's mother are all very generic stock characters. The thing is, the book isn't completely about them. The book is about Littlest One, who is learning how to be a dream giver. While the journey of the boy and his mother is important, it's equally important that Littlest One learns her task and discovers new and different ways to achieve her goals.

Awards: Caudill Nominee, 2009; Wilson's Children 10/01/06; Wilson's Junior High School 08/01/07.

Similar: The Giver, by Lois Lowry; The Great Gilly Hopkins, by Katherine Paterson; Pictures of Hollis Woods, by Patricia Reilly Giff; The Pinballs, by Betsy Byars.

The Giver by Lois Lowry a children’s SF for 8-12 year olds written in 1993 is part of a loose set trilogy set in the same imagined world but not necessarily with the same characters. It deals with a world where your life is one of conformity and happiness. The short novel honestly faces why a society such as this would arise with its benefits and essential failure explored. The core of that failure is that…grief is the price you pay for love. Without sadness, can love and laughter really exist?

 We discover a community of unlimited happiness and good manners set in a green and pleasant paradise of high but largely hidden technology. In this world, only 50 children per community are born from genetically approved placements in birth mothers. Regulations define your clothes, toys and your role in society from your first year. From eight you have to volunteer for a range of community duties so that your life long occupation from twelve can start. We join Jonas as the ceremony for 12’s is near for the allotment of his calling.  Much to his and the communities shock he is not allotted a job but is selected to be the Receiver. In learning what this is, he discovers the hidden pain and dark side of unlimited happiness. This sets off a chain of events as Jonas discovers what being released really means. He faces what growing up means, and consequences whose meaning you have to decide.

 The book has over 3000 ratings on Amazon.com alone so we are talking popular and critical success (it won the Newbury Medal- the USA children’s literature award). Even so, it is banned in several USA State’s School and Library systems because of the dark emotional issues dealt with. Surprisingly doesn’t to have attracted the same attention in the UK. If you or your children have not read it then you have missed a classic. But if you have read it then you know why it’s enjoyable and highly recommended!

Apr. 7th, 2008

32. The Science of Happiness: How Our Brains Make Us Happy -- And What We Can Do to Get Happier Stefan Klein (3/5)

Yes, I read two books practically back-to-back that both had the title The Science of Happiness. This one is actually much more concerned with happiness -- as opposed to depression -- than Stephen Braun's book.

This was not a bad book, and Klein does a very nice job toward the end of describing cognitive behavioral therapy techniques and how they can be applied to oneself to help maintain a positive outlook. I felt, however, that his descriptions of neurological processes were sometimes so simplified as to be inaccurate. Or perhaps it's just that no one really knows exactly how it all works, and that's why they seemed vague and overly simplified.

33. Toxic Parents: Overcoming Their Hurtful Legacy and Reclaiming Your Life Susan Forward (3.5/5)

This is weird to review because I don't actually have parents I'd term toxic, so I'm not sure I can really rate it based on its helpfulness. I did feel that while it sometimes strayed into a kind of self-help-ish-ness that I tend to really dislike, the author seems to have a lot of useful things to say. I liked that Forward focuses a lot on the concrete, visible ways that relationships with others can affect one's life, rather than just talking about one's wounded inner child or somesuch (although she does do that). I'd recommend it to people who have difficult parents, if they can stomach a bit of self-help jargon.

34. First in Space James Vining (3/5)

This is a graphic novel, meant for middle readers, about the chimps that were trained and sent into space early in the US space program. I liked the idea, but I felt that Vining did a poor job of providing context for both the characters and the larger events taking place in the novel. I'm an adult reader, and I had difficulty in distinguishing what the actual roles were of the men and scientists caring for and training the apes (in fact, I frequently had trouble recalling if the human characters had been given names). I can't imagine that a young reader would have an easier time. There is also very little explanation given for the fate of the chimps after the space race is over; the narrative suddenly flashes a couple of decades into the future, and our starring chimp is in a zoo. How did he end up there? How did his trainers feel about this? If this is going to be included in the novel, it needs to have context, otherwise it's just confusing. Artworkwise, I did really like the way Vining drew the chimps, and his drawings of the equipment and machinery are very accurate. The artwork feels flat, however, and the frames are often crowded. I think Vining has a lot of potential, but I wish he would work in color and/or learn to use shading and greyscale to better advantage.

35. Mushishi, Vol. 1 Yuki Urushibara (4/5)

I really enjoyed this manga, which was a belated Christmas gift from my younger brother. The basic idea is that there are creatures called Mushi, which are a bit like fairies, a bit like ghosts, and a bit like microscopic organisms. They are unspeakably ancient, and when they come into contact with humans, the results are often tragic. A young man named Ginko is a Mushishi, someone who studies and attempts to assist those who are afflicted by Mushi, and this episodic manga follows several of his "cases."

I liked that the Mushi are essentially fairly amoral, rather than particularly evil; in many cases, they are as conscious of the effect they have on their human hosts as we might be of the effect we have on a river we live near or a tree whose fruit we harvest carelessly. They can be malignant, but are only rarely malevolent -- they are simply alien. My favorite story in the collection was about a Mushi who was essentially the ancient spirit of a swamp. It was lovely and actually quite moving. I'm looking forward to reading more from this series.

36. Pop Art: A New Generation of Style Richard D. Leslie (3/5)

This was not as good as the volume on Art Noveau that I read from this same series. I felt that Leslie did not do a very good job of placing the works of art within their historical and political context. There weren't as many large reproductions of the artwork in this volume, either, I don't think. Still, it offered a fairly good overview, and it is amply illustrated.

Apr. 7th, 2008

31. The Thirteenth Reality: The Journal of Curious Letters James Dashner (1/5)

My initial reaction to this book -- that some of the ideas were original but that the writing was decidedly sub-par -- was unfortunately accurate. Tick and the other characters never quite ring true as people; Tick is a stereotype of a geeky kid, and the author seems to think that the best way to remind the reader that another character, Paul, is from California is to have him say things like "Far out!" all the time. Dashner either tries distractingly hard to make his metaphors original, or falls back on cliches. Frankly, the whole thing read embarrassingly like something I would have come up with during my teens. To top it off, I found the climax disappointing, and the whole 400 page novel seems to mostly be the set-up for a series.

It really seems that Dashner would have been better off paring the novel way down and publishing it as the first book in a middle-grade series, alongside Animorphs and the like.

books 21-26

arghh! having so much trouble posting this!!! so frustrated.

books 21-26

 


Tired of trying to post this. I'll try to post in twos and threes again.

Books #6-#8

The Nixie's Song by Toni DiTerlizzi & Holly Black. 162 pages
Book 1 in the new series of Spiderwick books. I loved the first series, and the few returning characters mixed with the new cast and setting really well.

Tithe by Holly Black. 310 pages
As a little girl, Kaye could see faeries. Years later Kaye finds out that the faeries are real, and that she isn't as human as she thought she was - she's a changeling. Roiben is a knight in one of the Faerie courts, who meets Kaye by chance. Then she gets caught up in a mystical faerie ceremony.

Ironside by Holly Black. 323 pages
When Roiben takes position as ruler over the Unseelie faerie court, Kaye declares herself - asking to be chosen as his consort. When he sets a seemingly impossible task for her, she believes that Roiben doesn't want her and decides to tell her mother the truth about who she is.

#45

Today I finished book #45 for the year:

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

This was one of my favorite books as a kid and I'm so glad I picked it up and read it again. If you haven't read this book, I recommend you try it. It's a quick, easy, light read about a little boy named Milo who doesn't know how to use his imagination. With the help of the 'phantom tollbooth' he goes on an amazing adventure through Lands Beyond. On his adventure he is trying to rescue Rhyme and Reason, and he meets a wide array of bizarre and interesting characters. Milo learns the importance of letters and words, numbers, sight and sound, and the drawbacks to ignorance. The story uses a lot of wordplay that is very witty and amusing.


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