Saturday, October 12, 2013

Girl of Fire and Thorns Trilogy-- Part Deux

Part one can be read here.

Carson, Rae

It just needs to be noted that I LOVED this series. LOVED it. I loved the symbolism and otherworldliness and magic and romance and MORALITY it encompassed. Crown of Embers is a quick/easy read and when it was done I pre-ordered The Bitter Kingdom. I wanted it in my hot little hands, and quite frankly was a little bummed I didn't have a magic stone of my own to aid me in this endeavor--or to help me set the stink bugs inundating my life on fire.  As you can see, I'd totally use my Godstone for GOOD. I enjoyed the plot turns which kept the reader guessing, and the growth we witnessed as our child queen grew into her powers/responsibilities. I love a good love story and Carson delivered. One more than the other. I won't get into it because spoiler. Let's just say hallelujah Rae Carson for involving a male lead who didn't smirk and smolder and sparkle every ten seconds. I'm just sayin. It's nice to have a love interest who is gorgeous because of his character and strength as a human being, rather than his copper locks and temperamental moodiness. Daughters take note: real men are honest, kind, moral, intelligent, and humble. They want to protect you, but realize you are strong and beautiful and that they have as much to learn from you as you from them. Climbs off soap box. Enough of this pretty boy nonsense. Mumble mumble. I have to admit I read this book six months ago and as such the details are a bit muddled, but I did love this series and would absolutely let my littles who are morphing into bigs (STOP!!!) read them when of age.

Crazy ladies say-- 4.4 Dobbies.

Carson, Rae

So!! This one I just finished. And can remember more of the plot than say, who died and who did not. Win. Also? My mind is a steel trap. Which is why I can, and do, read books over and over and over again....  All in all The Bitter Kingdom was a lovely conclusion to a fabulous series. For whatever reason I found myself plodding through it a bit, but that may be more because of the genre flip I've made lately than Carson's writing. Apparently I'm all about the adult political thrillers these days. Obsessed really. And moving back into the YA section felt forced. BUT! I thought Carson wrapped up most of the plot lines quite nicely and I thoroughly enjoyed the final turns. Well written. Beautiful story. Great moral. Two thumbs up. The best in the series? No. In fact I probably enjoyed it the least of the three, but again that might have more to do with me than the book.

4 Dobbies.

Thursday, April 18, 2013


Blah. We knew this would happen, yes? Yes. The addiction beats the writing. Every. Time. Meh. So! Brushes off hands, stretches back, let's begin. Because I've got ten to talk about. No, not all in this post. And four more are in the mail, and I'm about done with another, and it's a viscous VISCOUS cycle.

It also needs be noted that while typing this little ditty, I'm currently using THIS, like a freaking geriatric patient. And it has become THE PRECIOUS. No one understands me like my healthmate forever massage, pulse, electric shocker device. NO ONE. That I only just started using it recently (uh, today. i started today.) shames me.

Moving on.

The Immortal Beloved series by Kate Tiernan
Immortal Beloved
Darkness Falls
Eternally Yours

Meh. I didn't hate them, I didn't love them. I obviously kept ordering more, so there you have it. Although, I almost didn't make it through the first 50 pages of book one. It is SO POORLY WRITTEN.

Nastasya is an immortal who has spent the past 400 something years partying. After some troubling events, she decides to change her ways and become Amish? No, not really. But a little bit yes. Which quite frankly is fine. Great even. I'm all for simplification and self-reflection. My problem lies with the main character herself. She's just so unlikeable. And I don't care how immature you are, if you've lived 400ish years you don't speak/think like an obnoxious 14 year old. Period.

Whatever. She's on a quest for zen immortality living/purpose and meets a viking god character (of course she does) who she love/hates (because of course she does). Drama ensues and we spend the next few books watching Nastasya "grow" and escape other immortals trying to kill her/steal her power.

There might have been head banging. Mine. But really? It's my own fault because I kept reading them. It's brainless entertainment and makes for a fun little read on the beach for a teenager. There is no sex, which I LOVED. The more YA fiction I read the more I'm surprised by how commonplace intercourse is between characters. And how explicit. Tiernan keeps away from the sexy sex, but IMO doesn't exactly spend enough time developing the romance either. The best characters are not the main characters.

All in all, it's clean, with a little violence. I'd let my future teenage girls read them, though not for their literary merit. Will I read them again? No. They're already listed on Amazon for sale.

Three Dobbies.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Wherein I am lazy. Three books.

I know. Enough of me already. I'm a little bugged too. But if I get too far behind I'll just stop and I don't want to stop, so... skim?

Farthing by Jo Walton-- 3.5 Dobbies

Every time I rank a book I think back on my Dobby status for the Storyteller. (You: are you still yammering about that book? let. it. go.) The writing was soooo good, but I only gave it a four. FOUR. Is Farthing in the same league as Storyteller? No. Definitely not. Every time I review another book on this blog I end up bumping up the Storyteller's ranking. Because it haunts me. And that really has to count for something. And LOOK here I am yapping about it again while I should be talking about Farthing. Wretched.

(In the event of full disclosure I'm having a very sad day and 6 days ago swore off sugar and Diet Coke like some kind of maniac. I'm not entirely sure the two are unrelated. But I'm crankier than usual. Which is saying something.)

(In the event of full disclosure the second, I am drinking a Diet Coke as we speak because it's that bad. Just one. I don't even have more in the house. And it's tepid, because somehow that makes me less of an oathbreaker? Let's move on.)

Farthing. Eh. It was okay. I kept reading it, which is more than I can say for The Thief. Of which I tried and got half way through, but just. didn't. care...

It's some kind of what-if historical fiction novel and comes across as a bit Sherlock Holmesy. Minus Robert Downey Jr. And therein lies (full disclosure the third, enlies is not a word. therin lies? yes. i just asked cousin google. we're all welcome.) the problem. Just meh. It's a period novel (WWII-ish) and one of the leads (a Jew) is framed. I don't know, I just think there's so much that could have been done with the storyline. The writing was okay, not gripping. And I really wasn't pulled one way or the other in terms of funny or sad. Just meh. I won't be reading it again, but am not angry that I spent time reading it in the first place.

The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson --- 4.5. Dobbies

This one, I loved. Not LOVED, but loved. I didn't sleep with it under my pillow is basically what that translates into. Therapy. I'm aware. I'll look into it.

It's got a kick butt heroine who defies all the norms for your typical "queen." She doesn't look like a queen, she doesn't act like a queen. Basically, she's awesome. The writing's not quite as thoughtful/smooth as Bitterblue, but still very very good. The plot moves along quickly and Queen Elisa and I will most definitely be exchanging Christmas cards. I. have. a. crush. on. her.

It's fantasy and it's got some fabo morals woven through the storyline. I LOVED the symbolism. At times a wee bit simplistic, but it's certainly one that when my littles are bigger will be shoved into their hot little hands. I'm all about strong female characters on a mission. (aren't we all really?) I'm off to order number two. And three.

Legend by Maire Lu --- 4.5 Dobbies

And speaking of kick butt heroines... another resounding YES. Face paced, great plot, intrigue, fantasy (i'm noticing a theme in my selections)... the writing isn't as lyrical as The Girl of Fire and Thorns but that might be on purpose (probably on purpose). It's a futuristic society where people are basically shipped into "careers" from the age of ten onward according to how well they performed on their trial. Things are not as they seem and I gasped, hand over heart more than once while reading this book. Marie Lu has no compunction showing the severity of consequences for those who do not hearken to the rules of the Republic.

It's great. I read it in a day and loved it. I loved that it's written from two different points of view and that it's fast paced and smart. I DID NOT like the "ending," if you can call it that.  No closure. I like my books to end. Even if there's another one or two or six coming down the pipeline. Lazybones. Others have managed, you can too. Will I be purchasing book number two? It's already done. Should be here tomorrow. I'll let you know how it goes.

Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore

Goodness. I LOVED THIS BOOK. If you haven't read the Graceling series, run don't walk to your nearest well, are there even bookstores anymore? That's a sad sad. To Amazon then, I'll wait. Bitterblue is the who knows what in the series of Graced friends. It's number three, but I'm not sure if it's the final. One thing I love about Kristin Cashore's books is that she finishes them. I know, NOVEL. But in the day and age of, everything must be a series, I find myself extremely bugged by books that don't end. Just hang. I just finished Marie Lu's "Legend," and it was fantastic, but it was as if she just got tired of writing and so she stopped. Makes for a longer second and third book? I don't know, but I don't like it. I think it's lazy and rude. (perhaps momma needs a few more real people friends?)

Anyway, back to Bitterblue and its awesome. The writing is witty and sharp, and the characters very likable. (or should i say "my friends"--which of course they're likable, they're my friends.) Graceling is just a punch in the gut YES. Fire? Meh. Did she have an editor for this book? Did they read it? I don't know. Meh. Bitterblue rivals Graceling.

If you are looking for great books for your younguns to read, would I recommend them? Well... It's different for everyone. I'd have no problem with my girls someday reading the first two, but might hold off a bit on Bitterblue. The end, oh the end. It's so... adult. And horrible.  (The end itself is not adult and horrible, but rather the unveiling of past events and the ultimate consequences for beloved friends characters, is very mature.) So I'd definitely preview the last one before letting the kids have a go. And honestly, it opens the door for some interesting albeit hard conversations about the evils and political mechanisms of the world. But, it's a matter of timing and personal discretion.

This was one of those books where I finished the book sad because I wanted to be able to read it again for the first time.

4.85 Dobbies

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Ability Development from Age Zero-- Shinichi Suzuki-- 4.8 Dobbies

So my five year old's cello teacher gave me this book when we started lessons with her a month ago. I know. I am brave. And heroic. I believe that some kind of medal is in order... Anyway, to say that I was apprehensive to start this little fireball on an instrument would be an understatement. HUGE. She's kind of spacey and a bit of a klutz. I have nightmares that involve her and her cello in a variety of scenarios. None of them end well.

But we started her six year old sister on the violin and felt strongly that 'she of the many accidents' should play a different instrument. They already compare themselves to one another too much already. So, cello. Lily. Pray for us.

BUT, when we started Ms. Valerie gave me two books to read. One was, "Ability Development from Age Zero," and it has changed my life. It's changed my perspective as a teacher and more importantly as a parent. It's not very politically correct (not even one little bit) and you can tell it's kind of the random thoughts of a very old little Asian man (so sweet). But he's brilliant, and he's so insightful. Honestly, I'm a better person for having read this book. I don't think there's a day that goes by where I don't think of passages and strive to improve my behavior and approach to my children. Which quite frankly is saying something, because I avoid things that make me feel guilty. (i know. i'm fun.) And I'm also a pretty big proponent of raising your kids the best you know how and letting the chips fall where they may. With a bit of guidance. What I'm trying to say is that my kids aren't in swimming and dance and Chinese lessons and advanced math (HAH) and and and.... They're kids. This is the only time in their lives where they get to be kids and play. So our kids do, and they're great at it. I still subscribe to this method of child rearing (FOR ME) but Suzuki helps us be better at what we do. Moving on.

This really is a book designed for those who are starting littles on an instrument, but I think it can be applied to many situations.

Point the FIRST: In no way shape or form should one feel bad if they have olders who don't play instruments (OBVIOUSLY. Goodness I'm a fountain of wisdom.) and I could see how one might feel guilty about what one is NOT doing with the child folk while reading this--heavens, I was starting to feel bad about starting my littles so late at FIVE, which quite frankly is just NONSENSE. NON. SENSE. He's an opinionated little Asian man who LIVES to teach the littles the violin. I mean my heavens, the main methodology/books we use to teach starters is Suzuki. This is HIS LIFE. It's kind of awesome. And not for everyone. MOVING ON geez woman, so much prattle...

Point the SECOND: I wrote all over everywhere in this book and just realized Lily' teacher probably wants it back. FAIL.

Main Points:

Saying "My child has no talent" is actually the same as saying, "I did not educate my child to develop the sprout of his talent." Which I agree with, but sounds harsher than it really is. Many many parents don't want, or don't forsee their child loving a life with a musical instrument--plus it's a huge time suck, so if it's not for you, it's not for you. Period. No guilt. Next.

Children practice in spite of being scolded. Why don't you make happiness part of their incentive? This one just slapped me across the face. Seems obvious no? Probably for most individuals, for me? Not so much. YES, good heavens YES. I'm an idiot...

An unlimited amount of ability can develop when parent and child are having fun together. (Again, I has the stupid.) This also makes me look back on many of the starter students I've had in the past and cringe. Oh, if only I had a time machine...

Adults Must Self-Reflect-- Parents must constantly ask themselves whether they are good examples for their children. In other words, a parent should ask himself if he is noble or if he is striving to be noble.  This one also kicked my can. I find myself asking this question in my head 10 times a day now, even when my kids aren't present. Am I being noble? Sure that person in church is treating me like trash, but can I be noble anyway? Yes I can. It's HARD and I'm not happy about it, but I can at least try.

A truly civilized human being is thoughtful of others, pours his love on others, knows the joy of living, and enjoys working for the happiness of all. Biggest take away from the whole book, right here. GOLD STAR if you're already applying this to your lives. HUGE FREAKING STAR. I perhaps get a non-descript dot. I'm working towards star. It's a process.

Scolding children without changing oneself does not help the children. And sigh...

Reverence for children is reverence for life. I agree, but I've also taught the eight year olds' Sunday school class. Just the fact that I didn't end their lives... Moving on.

When you can delicately feel what is in the heart of another, then you will be able to understand Bach and Mozart. The ability to feel music means understanding the human heart. YES.

Practice not being angry instead of developing an ability for anger.

Personality is a talent.

If a child is brought up to have a beautiful heart and wonderful abilities, with love for others and the happiness of being loved, then the mission of a parent is ended. The way will open up for the child later. Parents do not need to worry whether or not their children will succeed. And that's pretty much the heart of the matter. It's more about raising beautiful loving children than brilliant prodigies. Some choose to do this with music, others with art, others with sports, others with education.... It all boils down to the same thing.

Of all the work that people do, there is nothing more noble, nothing more important, than  raising your own child to be a fine person. We all do it in our own way. We're not perfect, but we're trying to be good.

ACT WHEN YOU THINK. Basically, do it now. Don't procrastinate. Easier said than done when dealing with emotional little girls wielding bows and lots of personality.

It's a short and quick read, but really provides a lot of insight with teaching children (teaching them ANYTHING). He cuts right to the heart of the matter, and you can't help but chuckle at his "know everything" tone.

Big fan. Has helped me a lot with day to day dealings of my littles, and definitely with my students.

4.8 Dobbies

Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Fault in our Stars--- 5.0 and Elderwand

Oh dear. I'm crying and I haven't even started writing about the book yet. I'm just THINKING about the book and what I'm going to write. I'd say that his is never a good sign, but in my opinion this is a great sign. The BEST sign.

Oh, I loved this book. So much. I believe I made it to page 11 before I knew that it was going to be an all-time favorite. I'm a fool for not recognizing it sooner. I'm crying again, let's take a break.

The writing, the dialogue, the story, and the message of this literary masterpiece is spot on. Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion, and John Green supplies it in spades.

The protagonists are cancer patients. Some terminal. Some not. This isn't a spoiler, it's announced within the first few pages, and they all attend group therapy together in the basement of a church.

"Which meant there was quite a lot of competitiveness about it, with everybody wanting to beat not only cancer itself, but also the other people in the room. Like, I realize that this is irrational, but when they tell you that you have, say, a 20 percent chance of living five years, the math kicks in and you figure that's one in five . . . so you look around and think, as any healthy person would; I gotta outlast four of these bastards." (RUN to Amazon and put her in your cart. I'll wait.)

Hazel, our leading lady, lives with stage IV thyroid cancer. Isaac has "some fantastically improbable eye cancer," and Augustus Waters a "touch of osteosarcoma." He's on a "roller coaster that only goes up."

Basically, well I'm awful at writing synopses. (looking up how to make this plural. not going to tell you how i had it written originally. i am a little shamed.) All TA's I encountered at BYU can attest to this, and I really don't believe it's ever going to change. Digressing. Still. It needs to be noted. Lest you think I am unaware of my problem. I'm not. A book blog! What a grand idea!

Back to Hazel and Augustus. They have grand adventures, and not so grand adventures, but everything with them is perfection. It's like dating really. If you can't have fun grocery shopping with someone, chances are you're not with the right someone. Because how often are you going to be eating strawberries dipped in chocolate on the beach after you're married with children? Never. That's how often. But if you can laugh together at the Target? Golden.

Hazel and Augustus understand the ridiculousness of their situation and somehow manage to find humor and poignancy in the every day. It's brilliant. (Best. Synopsis. Ever. How am I not doing this for a living?)

I laughed through the whole book and even at the end when I was ugly crying into a towel (my son was in the tub and i didn't want to scare him. he thought it was just a bizarre game of peek-a-boo.) I laughed. And then I slept with the book underneath my pillow.

I work for a cancer foundation. Oddly enough, a highly improbable eye cancer foundation. Every day I hear stories of survivors, warriors, lost loved ones, and it's hard. (Just now my computer beeped to let me know i had email. I paused in my writing to read a note from a woman who just lost her young brother suddenly to this terrible disease. My heart is heavy.) And I suppose therein explains my love for this story. That people can find humor, and light, and love amidst terrible tragedy. That life fundamentally is so hard, and that we laugh anyway. We cry, and we stretch, and we grow. We love despite the possibility (perhaps inevitability) of heartbreak. And it doesn't get any better than that.

 "The Fault in our Stars" by John Green

Monday, February 4, 2013

The Storyteller---4.0

Edited--I changed the ranking of this book because I simply CANNOT stop thinking about it. I've gone weeks and am still reminiscing about all the feeelings. And it's so well written. Sooo well written. And translated for that matter. So it got upgraded. And I might even recommend it to a few of you. (Holly Abbe, this book has you written all over it.) And there's probably going to be another post to discuss spoilers because I need to talk about it. Good Crimany, just put in on your bookclub reading list, because it will certainly inspire discussion. It still remains on the not for my daughters' eyes list. I'm like a kite in the wind.

The Storyteller by Antonia Michaelis

This post may need to be edited in the future for right now I am simply angry at this book. Angry. And indignant. Antonia Michaelis is a talented, talented writer. Words move for her. And yet...

The writing is lovely and poetic. It takes itself a bit seriously, but not so much that you are constantly aware of it. It was first published in Germany (in German obviously) and perhaps that explains some of my hangups. Cultural norms. Those allowances accounted for, I am still indignant.

The author dances back and forth between fairytale and reality. I loved the fairytale sections of this book. Loved. They were poetic and beautiful. Haunting and descriptive. They explained aspects of the characters that pulled me closer emotionally. At times, the author gets a bit wordy, but I am an impatient squib and perhaps that's more a fault of mine than hers.

The plot keeps you guessing. Michaelis weaves a story that is unpredictable and alluring. It is not a story that I ever wished myself to be a part of, but I enjoyed the ride for three quarters of the journey.

And then...

An act of violence changes everything. For the characters, for the reader, for my review. But for this act and the way the author ultimately accepts the unforgivable, I would have rated the book much higher. The characters are flawed. I like that in my people. The protagonists are antagonists as well, and that makes things interesting. But for three pages...

For an adult novel, the justifications bother me. For a YA novel? Just no. I would not let my daughters read this book. I understand that some things are viewed differently in different cultures. But no. Any kind of justification for violence against women, whatever the circumstance, is unacceptable.

Tannatek-- Not a fan. I sympathized with this character and enjoy a good tortured soul. But no.

Anna-- She's in love after one stunted conversation? I understand they're teenagers and we're living in the land of Twilight, but no. There's naivete and then there's this. Woman-child needs therapy and stat.

Micha-- The most redeeming part of this book involves the spirit of this beautiful little girl. I pray that she spends more time with Linda than with Anna for the duration of her fictional life.
The Polish Peddler and our heroine Anna fall in love/fascination after one awkward conversation involving a ratty doll. I'm sure there was symbolism and that I simply missed it. Our peddler is the sole provider for himself and his younger half sister, Micha. He protects Micha from villains who want to steal her diamond heart, and ultimately finds himself committing the same heinous acts as those he despises most. It does not end well. Even though it kind of does.

I will not be reading this book again, but enjoyed the writing enough that I will possibly read another of this author's novels. Fingers crossed the overall take-away is a bit more palatable.