Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Plain Kate by Erin Bow

Title: Plain Kate
Author: Erin Bow
Reviewer: Karen
Genre: YA Fiction/Fantasy
Rating: Like
Alerts/Warnings: violence associated with witches and witch hunts
Premise: "Plain Kate lives in a world of superstitions and curses, where a song can heal a wound and a shadow can work deep magic. As the wood-carver's daughter, Kate held a carving knife before a spoon, and her wooden charms are so fine that some even call her "witch-blade" -- a dangerous nick name in a town where witches are hunted and burned in the square. For Kate and her village have fallen on hard times. Kate's father has died, leaving her alone in the world. And a mysterious fog now covers the countryside, ruining the crops and spreading fear of hunger and sickness. The townspeople are looking for someone to blame, and their eyes have fallen on Kate. Enter Linay, a stranger with a proposition: In exchange for her shadow, he'll give Kate the means to escape the town that seems set to burn her, and what's more, he'll grant her heart's wish/ It's a chance for her to start over, to find a home, a family, a place to belong. But Kate soon realized that she can't live shadowless forever -- and that Linay's designs are darker than she ever dreamed (As written on book jacket)."
Opinions: I do not know what it is lately with me and the choice of books that I've read. I've read several in the last few weeks that I either did not like at all or something occurred in the book that made me feel uncomfortable with posting a review. So when I came across this I had a very large roadblock of doubt to overcome. With that said, overall I really enjoyed reading this book. The writing is very well done and you quickly connect with Kate through her experiences. Though Kate is an interesting girl in her own right, I was more drawn to the character of her cat --Taggles. Through magic Taggles is given the ability to speak and I must say that the author does an incredible job translating a cat's traits and superiority through in the way Taggle moves, speaks, and acts. I LOVED him. He made the entire story for me.

My one warning in regards to this book is that, though done as tastefully as possible considering the situation, some of the scenes in regards to mob mentality and the way people can act upon suspicions made me cringe and gave me goosebumps. So if your teenager is reading this book, please read it with them or before them so that you can talk about it as you see fit.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Famous Family Nights by Anne Bradshaw

Title:Famous Family Nights
Author: Anne Bradshaw
Reviewer: Karen
Genre: Religious Non-Fiction
Alerts/Warnings: None
Premise: "Touching, inspiring, and often hilarious, the personal experiences in Famous Family Nights highlight family home evening as a priceless tool for building strong, faith-centered families, despite the many obstacles of modern life. The 91 contributors sharing their stories are moms and dads in various fields of entertainment and the community." (Good Reads)
Opinions: Anne Bradshaw contacted members of all professions that happen to be LDS and asked them what they remembered most about Family Home Evenings (Family Nights) growing up or with their current families. Stories from people like Alan Osmond, Josi S. Kilpak, Matthew Buckley, Rachel Ann Nunes, Lynn Gardner and many, many more helped me to understand that I am not the only one who struggles trying to create quality, consistent family experiences. The stories in this book helped me to generate new ideas, dump old ones, and learn from people of ages and careers. I learned from the experiences of people who were single, married, divorced, doctors, singers, actors, authors, scholars, homemakers and more about how they found joy in upholding Family Night (even if your family consists of a group of friends or just you and your spouse).

One of the great benefits of this book was that because it is a compilation of stories from different individuals I would pick it up while something was simmering on the stove or I was waiting in the doctor's office and I would find a quick pick-me-up within its pages. No matter what religion you are, if you are looking for ideas of how to connect with your family or friends on a more personal level through family time, then this book is for you.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Shapechanger's Song by Jennifer Roberson

Title: Shapechanger's Song (Chronicles of the Cheysuli Book 1)
Author: Jennifer Roberson
Reviewer: Karen
Genre: Adult Fantasy
Rating: Like
Alerts/Warnings: Scenes of violence related to battle, mildly graphic almost sexual assults
Premise: Long out of print (originally written in 1953), "The Chronicles of Cheysuli" is the sprawling saga of the exiles, and return, of a warrior race of shapechangers, whose magical odyssey begin in these two novels together in one volume: "Shapechangers" and "The Song of Homana". (King County Library System)
Opinions: Long ago, in a different part of my life I read this entire series of books and loved it. I just reread the first book in the series, Shapechangers Song and still loved the fantastical elements of this story, but found myself highly frustrated by some of the main character's actions and conflicted as to how I truly feel about the story.

I love to read books with strong female characters. In many ways, Alix (the main character) fulfills that request, though sometimes her stubbornness even drives me nuts. I can understand some of the frustration she experiences, being kidnapped from the home she loves only to learn that the truth of her past ties her fate in with a race of people being systematically executed by her own people. However, when Alix doesn't get her way she seems to turn into a two-year old who stamps her feet and throws a tantrum. The author does explain some of this away by saying that she comes by it honestly. However, it can get old. I would like to also warn to any parents whose teens might want to read this book that, though the story is good and the fantasy elements imaginative, this book often fades into more romance fiction written for adults before returning to fantasy fiction. There is also a lot of discussion of what is acceptable in a society in regarding to if it's acceptable to have a wife as well as a "light woman" (mistress).

So are you confused yet by my review? So am I. In the end I'll just say it is an enjoyable read with an amazing world and fascinating characters, but watch out for some minor, too in-depth moments of detail (or hinting of detail), that may make you blush if your kids read it. In the meantime, I personally choose to forgo reading the rest of the series this time around.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Elantris by Brandon Sanderson

THIS IS A MUST READ!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (Just saying)

Title: Elantirs
Author: Brandon Sanderson
Reviewer: Karen
Genre: Adult Fantasy
Rating: FABULOUS!!!!!!!
Alerts/Warnings: Some graphic scenes (but done well)
Premise: "Elantris: gigantic, beautiful, literally radiant, filled with benevolent beings who used their powerful magical abilities to benefit all the people of Arelon. Yet each of these godlike beings had been an ordinary person until touched by the mysterious transforming power of the Shaod. Then, ten years ago, without warning, the magic failed. Elantrians became wizened, feeble, leper-like creatures, and Elantris itself dark, filthy, and crumbling. The Shaod became a curse." "Arelon's new capital city, Kae, crouches in the shadow of Elantris, which its people do their best to ignore. Princess Sarene of Teod has come to Kae for a marriage of state with Crown Prince Raoden, hoping - based on their correspondence - also to find love. She finds instead that Raoden has died, and she is considered his widow. Both Teod and Arelon are under threat as the last remaining holdouts against the imperial ambitions of the ruthless religious fanatics of Fjordell. Sarene decides to make the best of a sad situation and use her position to oppose the machinations of Hrathen, a Fjordell high priest who has come to convert Arelon and claim it for his emperor and his god." "But neither Sarene nor Hrathen suspects the truth about Prince Raoden's disappearance. Taken by the same strange malady that struck the fallen gods of Elantris, Raoden was secretly imprisoned within the dark city. His struggle to create a society for the wretches trapped there begins a series of events that will bring hope to Arelon, and perhaps even reveal the secret of Elantris itself"--Book jacket.
Opinions: Oh my gosh!!! Oh my gosh!!! Oh my gosh!!! I know I'm behind the times and all, but Brandon Sanderson is now one of my all times FAVORITE authors. WAHOO!!! I've been reading fantasy for only 9 years so far, but have fallen in love with the genre, for adult, but more so for young adult. Right now the market in YA Fantasy is humungous and there are a large number of incredibly talented authors out there producing amazing work. As far as adult fantasy I've read some Tracy Hickman and Margarat Wise, one Orson Scott Card, and of course the Wheel of Time Series by Robert Jordan. Once Mr. Jordan past away his wife requested that Brandon Sanderson help to finish his legacy. Now I can see why.

Elantris was Brandon's first published novel, and for a first time author (actually make that for any author) the work he does in Elantris is outstanding. The world he creates is vivid, imaginative, and intricate. The complexity of his stories and the details that he weaves throughout the plot are fantastic. One of my favorite aspects of Elantris is his female character Sarene. She can give every male character a run for her money, but she realizes her shortcomings and is constantly battling to improve herself. I connected deeply to her as a character and even her struggles. As I have only been reading fantasy for less than a decade I worried at how few really strong female characters are established in adult fantasy. I'm glad to see that Brandon Sanderson has alleviated some of my fears. Yet, the male characters of Elantris are just as fascinating, complex, and unique.

I loved his young adult series Alactraz Versus the Evil Librarians, and now I'm in love with his Adult Fantasy works. I cannot wait to get to the library and to check out anything and everything that he has written so that I can catch up with the rest of the world.