Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Enna Burning

By Shannon Hale

Enna Burning is the second book in Hale's Bayern series. I am not sure if series is the right word because you don't really need to have read The Goose Girl in order to read and understand Enna, but they take place in the same world with some of the same characters, so you can call it what you want.

I found the prologue to Enna creepy, and if this had been the first Hale book that I had read, I might very well have put it down. The creepiness of the prologue does not continue throughout the whole book, though it appears a couple more times. Having finished the book, I can understand why the prologue is written the way it was, but it was still creepy.

The actual story of Enna begins a couple years after the end of Goose Girl, and Enna has returned to the forest. After her brother finds out how to speak with fire, Enna also learns to speak with fire and the story chronicles Enna as she tries to use and control this new ability.

I liked Enna's character in Goose Girl and was looking forward to reading/learning more about her. I didn't think this book did a good job of keeping with the character. By the very end of the book, I felt like the "real" Enna was back, but most of the book I kind of found her annoying and wondered what had happened to the spunky girl from Goose Girl. I do realize that part of the change in her personality was her inability to control the fire, but at the same time, the change started before she had read about the fire. So, I can't really explain it.

The story is not as strong as Goose Girl, but it is able to stand alone. I particularly liked that Enna's friends (particularly Razo and Finn) were such great friends, even when they couldn't understand exactly why Enna was doing what she was doing. While I didn't like how quickly Enna gave in to her captors, I liked Hale's explanation and the fact that Enna was able to redeem herself so completely.

Overall, I really did enjoy Enna Burning and I found myself promising to stop after just "one more chapter" over and over again. I didn't think the story had the same lyrical flow as the other Hale books that I have read, but I did enjoy it and would recommend it to people that enjoyed The Goose Girl.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Disney Fairy series

A lot of scholarly literary people do not really like series books. There seems to be a feeling that they aren't quality literature and should therefore be avoided. Then, within series there are the "good" kind and the "bad kind." The good series have books all written by the same author and a new book comes out only once a year or less (ie. Harry Potter, Ramona by Beverly Cleary, etc). Bad series are books that are written by multiple authors and published more than once a year (Nancy Drew, Baby-sitters club, etc).

I loved series books while I was growing up, especially the "bad" ones. I think I read every single Nancy Drew Casefile book published until I was a sophomore in high school. It drove my mother crazy, but they were fun and easy and there is just something so relaxing about "knowing" the story before you even start.

One of my current favorite "bad" series is the Disney Fairies series. The stories follow the adventures of Tinkerbell and her other fairy friends in Neverland. Peter Pan only appears in the books where Tink is the main character, otherwise all the characters are original.

While the books aren't going to become classics in the every child should read them sense, the stories are simple and usually have one direct positive message (being nice to friends, allowing yourself to ask for help, etc). They are written for a second grade reading level and definitely aimed at girls. And, if they get someone to read, that's more important than the fact that they aren't reading a classic. Isn't it?

What I really love about the Disney Fairy books is the beautiful color pictures that are in each of the stories. These are not cheap black and white (I do know that all black and white pictures are cheap), these are full color, often full page, beautiful drawings of scenes in the book. The covers can kind of give you an idea, but I think most of the best pictures are actually within the pages of the book.

And, just for the record, currently my favorite fairies are Tink (of course) and Fira.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Memory Keeper's Daughter

By Kim Edwards

Let's start off with a synopsis from the Barnes and Noble website (I am pretty sure this is the same as the back cover of the book too):

"On a winter night in 1964, Dr. David Henry is forced by a blizzard to deliver his own twins. His son, born first, is perfectly healthy. Yet when his daughter is born, he sees immediately that she has Down's Syndrome. Rationalizing it as a need to protect Norah, his wife, he makes a split-second decision that will alter all of their lives forever. He asks his nurse to take the baby away to an institution and never to reveal the secret.

But Caroline, the nurse, cannot leave the infant. Instead, she disappears into another city to raise the child herself. So begins this beautifully told story that unfolds over a quarter of a century in which these two families, ignorant of each other, are yet bound by the fateful decision made that long-ago winter night."

Sounds intriguing, doesn't it? The beginning of the book starts fairly strong, quickly bringing me into the story. However, by about the third or fourth chapter, I just wasn't interested anymore. The writing didn't particularly grip me, and I found the characters fairly one dimensional and annoying. Especially Norah. I cannot imagine being in her place, but at the same time, I just wanted to shake her and yell "get over it! you are destroying your family!". Also, it bothered me the whole time that everything could have been avoided and eventually fixed (to a degree) if David had just been honest from the beginning, or at least once he realized how devastated that Norah was.

I can't support David's decision, but I really did believe that he was trying to do what was best for his family and that he regretted it. I hate that he was almost demonized throughout the book.

The only character that I did really enjoy, probably for her refreshing honesty, was Rosemary. I was disappointed that she played such a little part of the book. I enjoyed every scene she was in, especially where she is first introduced and has tied David up!

Although the book really didn't do anything for me story-wise, I did find myself thinking a lot about it. Particularly the family dynamics and the importance honesty plays in it. I can't imagine having a secret as enormous as "our daughter is really alive" and keeping it from my husband, but it made me wonder what little "unimportant" secrets I might be keeping from him. Do they have an effect on our relationship? I think that my husband and I are very open and honest with each other, and I can't really think of any secrets, but if I ever have one I want to hide, I will probably find myself thinking back on The Memory Keeper's Daughter and be honest with him instead of trying to take the "easy" way out.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


by Rufus Butler Seder

When you were younger, did you ever try to make little flip books? You know, where you drew a man running in various stages, and then if you flipped the pages, it looked like he was actually running? I was never very good at those - I am to this day a horrible artist - but I always found them fascinating.

Gallop! is not a flip book, but every time you turn the page, you see an animal running, or leaping, or fluttering, etc kind of like an old school flip book (only you just turn one page, not flip through a dozen). It is so awesome.

It's a child's board book, so there isn't too much story to it, but the animation (or scanimation as it's called on the cover) is amazing! I bought a copy and have read it probably a dozen times since, because I just can't get enough of the images. Because there are so few words on the page, it will probably keep the interest of younger kids, and once they are old enough to recognize that the dog on the page is actually "running," it will be even more interesting.

I highly recommend that you check it out for yourself!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Booked for Breakfast

Every weekday morning, I wake up to an email with the subject "Booked for Breakfast - (book title)." It's a fabulous little book club that I happened across quite by accident. My current favorite mystery author mentioned Booked for Breakfast in a blog, and I had to check it out. I am really glad that it did because I've learned about some great mysteries, both new and old.

Basically, the email contains a brief excerpt from a book (in theory, and usually practice, it should take about 5 minutes to read). Every week a new book is chosen, and the whole week focuses on that book. On Monday I get the Prologue (if there is one), and by Friday I will have finished 2 or 3 chapters of the book. If I am interested in finishing the book, it is then up to me to find it at the library/bookstore. If I didn't enjoy it (or there is cursing, I hate cursing in a book), I simply delete the emails and wait until the next week. It's great.

For the most part, I really enjoy the selection and it has introduced me to author's that I probably would not have picked up otherwise. Oh, and it's totally non-committal. Sometimes I feel like if I start a book, I HAVE to finish it, not so with Booked for Breakfast. I don't have any guilt simply clicking on the delete key.

Also, the lady that puts this all together, Suzanne Beecher, always writes a little note at the top of each days selection. I find Suzanne quite delightful, and her little notes (totally unrelated to the book) usually put a smile on my face. Sometimes her notes are silly, sometimes they reflect on life, and sometimes they include great recipes. You just never know what you'll get.

If you are interested, check it out at:

By the way, there are other genres you can choose from (classic, chick lit, sci-fi/fantasy).

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Igraine the Brave

by Cornelia Funke

I love Cornelia Funke. This love affair started with The Thief Lord, which I found on a "what to read while waiting for the next Harry Potter book" list and really enjoyed the imagery and imagination. I wanted to be with those kids, hiding from evil aunts, etc. Next came Inkheart which to this day is my favorite book. I've since read all the books that she has published (at least in English), including two picture books. She is one of the few authors that I will buy on site, even if I haven't heard anything about the book.

Igraine the Brave is a book aimed at a slightly younger crowd than Inkheart and Thief Lord, but I found it very enjoyable. Igraine is the 12 year old daughter of a couple of powerful magicians. Her older brother is also training to be a magician, but Igraine wants to be a knight. Not just any knight, but one that wins competitions and one that people will remember for generations.

Shortly after the story begins, Igraine and her family are warned by a friend that their castle will soon be under attack by an evil nephew of a neighbor. Igraine's parents decide to wait until after Igraine's birthday to worry about him though. Unfortunately, they turn themselves into pigs while finishing Igraine's birthday present. In order to reverse the spell, the magicians need some hair from the head of a giant, which they are unfortunately all out of. Igraine volunteers to fetch the hairs, and the adventure begins!

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I found Igraine an engaging heroine. She could really stand on her own and her friends only added to the fun. The addition of the Sorrowful Knight was a great way of including things that all honorable knights should know in an unpretentious manner. Everything just fits well together, and the silliness of the story doesn't necessarily feel silly. Somehow, it just works. Cornelia Funke has a way with words that always makes the the story feel so real for me. Also, I believe she sketched the artwork that appears throughout the book.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Book Lists

Here are my Top Ten books from 2007. Please note that most of these books weren't actually published in 2007. They are simply books that I read and enjoyed for the first time in 2007.

In no particular order:

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
I loved this book. The writing style took a bit to adjust too (I know it's a turn off for some people), but the story is incredible and inspiring. It follows a nine year old girl in Nazi Germany who learns to deal with life (and all its horrors) through the written word. It's just great!

Clementine by Sara Pennybacker
Clementine cracks me up. I picked the book up because the cover picture of Clementine reminded me of my cousin. This is definitely an early reader, but it's one I think both boys and girls will relate too. It's also great for adults who want an easy read that will make them smile.

Elantris by Brandon Sanderson
This is one of the first "adult" fantasy books that I have read in a long time. It was true fantasy, but totally clean (which isn't a guarantee in adult fantasy) and had an intriguing story. Plus, it was a stand alone!

Uglies (trilogy) by Scott Westerfeld
My little sister introduced me to this series. It follows Tally (who I love) through a futuristic society where everyone has a surgery to become "pretty" at sixteen. The trilogy is complete; in fact, a companion novel Extras was published this year. Extras is not quiet as good in my opinion, but it was also a fun read. Oh, and while Uglies probably would be under the Sci Fi category, it wasn't as umm... weird as most of the Sci Fi I have read in the past has been, so don't let that turn you off.

Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan
That's actually the series name. So far, there are 3 books published in this 5 book series that follows Percy Jackson as he learns that he is a half-blood and his father is one the Greek gods. I am not a huge fan of the writing style (in that it references current things like Hillary Duff - I think that unnecessarily ages a book), but the books are fun and interesting. I would say The Titan's Curse (book 3) is my favorite so far.

The Chosen by Chaim Potok
I had been told by a trusted book advisor that this book was boring. So, I had avoided it for years. But, it was a book club choice, so I felt I had to read it. I am so glad that I did! I loved the story's imagery as well as the message of friendship that it portrayed. There are other books written by this author that I hope to read in the future.

The Hiding Place by Corrie Tan Boom
This was another book club pick. I loved the positive attitude that is portrayed throughout this story. Also, It was kind of eye opening for me - it's not often that you read about Nazi horror stories that take place outside of Germany, France or Russia. I enjoyed the history as well as the chance it gave me to to reflect on my own attitudes about trials I face.

The Tale of Despereaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup and a Spool of Thread by Kate DiCamillo
I drove my husband crazy while I was reading this story because I just wanted to share everything that happened with him. I love Despereaux (even though he has a hard name!) and couldn't help rooting for him through out. There is a great scene where Despereaux falls in love with the princess and tells her something along the lines of "I will be your hero" that makes me smile every time I think about it.

The Princess Academy by Shannon Hale
This was the first Shannon Hale book that I read (I have since read several more, and have the others on hold at the library), and I loved it. Hale's style of writing is so smooth easy to read. I also really enjoyed watching Miri as she struggled to figure out what it was that she wanted. I really liked the way that the ending played out, and everyone got their "happily ever after."

The High King by Lloyd Alexander
After much badgering from my husband, I finally read the Prydain Chronicles. In complete honesty, I thought the first book (The Book of Three) was rather boring, but I continued to plug through, and I am so glad that I did. I enjoyed the story progression, particularly as Taran and Eilonwy got less annoying, and I just loved the conclusion in The High King. It's a story I've thought a lot about since and can't wait to share it with others.

While those were my top 10, there were other books that I enjoyed for the first time last year Here is a list of the runner's up:

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
The Icebound Land (Ranger's Apprentice Book 3) by John Flanagan
The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

The biggest disappointment of 2007 was definitely Gregor and the Code of Claw by Suzanne Collins. I thought this was a terrible ending to a kid's series. I felt like Collins could have made her point without having to make Gregor be a miserable outcast for the rest of his life.

Finally, here is a list of the top five sequels that I am looking forward to in 2008:

Inkdeath by Cornelia Funke, book 3 in the Inkheart Trilogy
The Battle for Skandia by John Flanagan, book 4 in the Ranger's Apprentice series
Battle of the Labrynth by Rick Riordan, book 4 in the Percy Jackson series
Queste by Angie Sage, book 4 of the Septimus Heap series
(still unnamed) by Christopher Paolini, book 3 in the Eragon un-trilogy

Here's too a bunch of great reading in 2008!

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

In the beginning

I am not sure about this whole blogging thing yet. Isn't that how everyone starts their blog? At least for now, I plan to use this to talk about books I've read. It will give me a way to track how many books I read and to express thoughts as I read...We'll see how it all goes.