Saturday, February 28, 2009

Promises to Keep by Dean Hughes

Promises to Keep: Diane’s Story by Dean Hughes.

Dean Hughes’ popular series Hearts of the Children left Diane’s open enough that fans kept bugging him for the rest of her story. This novel tells what happened to Diane’s life after she left her abusive husband with her young daughter Jenny. Diane is a working single mom raising her daughter the best she can. Her ex-husband Greg refuses to pay child support, but will buy Jenny extravagant gifts. Jenny wants to believe that her father is a good man, and accepts the explanations that he gives for his faults. This causes a rift between Diane and her daughter, Jenny, who wants more independence. Diane has tried to play the dating game, but has repeatedly failed. Then she meets a soft-spoken businessman named Spencer, whose wife died of cancer. They are interested in one another, but with their children pulling them in different directions it looks like they will never be together.

I really love Dean Hughes style! He’s one of my favorite historical authors. He adds small, social details that make his characters feel authentic to the time period. Basically, I could go on about how I really love how he characterizes his characters, but that would bore you probably. So, I’ll just say that I really enjoyed this read, and couldn’t wait to see how Diane’s life turned out. I also cared about Jenny, and was worried she’d never get the clue about what her dad was really like. I was mildly annoyed at the ending because it was still a bit of a cliffhanger, but I don’t think it is Hughes style to solve everything perfectly like a really predictable romance novel. Alas. If you love the Hearts of the Children series then you’ll enjoy this one too.

Friday, February 20, 2009

The Edge on the Sword by Rebecca Tingle

The Edge on the Sword by Rebecca Tingle

Flaed has grown into a young lady, old enough to start learning how to read in the scriptorium. She has a knack for learning letters, and catches on quickly. She regrets that her study takes her away from wandering the forests and fields with her little brother. Yet, she regrets more that she will have to leave him at the end of the summer for her father has promised her to marry his ally, Ethelred of Mercia. Her father assigns her a bodyguard to keep her safe until she can be wed. Flaed thinks this is pointless until she runs away, and is almost kidnapped by strange men. Her bodyguard thinks that the best plan is to teach Flaed to defend herself, and so she learns to become a warrior. She never would have predicted that her skill would save not only her life, but the life of her men.

This book is a historical “what if?” book. The main character is based off of a woman named Aethelflaed, who lived in England during the 800’s. The author’s note at the end of the book labels her as “the greatest woman in Old English military history.” Historical texts apparently laude her role as a great queen, and successful war leader, but very little is told about her younger years, this story is imagined by the author in place of that void in the text. The author asked herself what stories a younger Aethelflaed might be involved in, and wrote this tale.

I really enjoyed reading this book, though I kind of worried about if I would like it when I read the plot on the jacket cover. I hoped it wouldn’t turn into a clichĂ© romance novel when I read that Flaed’s father arranged a marriage for her, and set a bodyguard over her. I expected a love triangle, but there was none. In fact the romance was really low key, and more realistic than most arranged marriage stories. The story really was about Flaed, and how she developed into a woman of courage, strength, and skill. I loved the relationship she had with her brother because it reminds me of my brother and me. We used to hang out, and capture lizards, go fishing, and build forts together. Then we just kind of grew apart when we took different academic tracks. I miss those old fort building days. I refused to tell my hubby the plot of this book because I knew if I tried to explain it to him he would never read it. Yet, I got him to start reading it and he didn’t put it down until he finished it. Great little historical novel with a strong, intelligent female character, and heroic, noble men. I would totally recommend.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Sweethearts by Sara Zarr

Sweethearts by Sara Zarr

Jenna Vaughn feels like she is living a lie. She goes to a small private school, has a cute boyfriend, and has tons of friends. Yet, she has squished a small part of her old self into a place no one can see—the small nine-year-old fat girl, who used to cry, and love Cameron Quick is gone. She buried that part of herself when her dearest friend Cameron left her for good. That is until Cameron reappears at her high school reminding her of her not only of her old-self, but old pains and hurts they shared in the past.

I totally shouldn’t have liked this book. It gets several checks on the “I don’t like read this type of book” list. Yet, I was hooked in the very first chapter, and couldn’t put the book down. I love how Jena describes the memories of her childhood, because I could relate. I remember the weird friends you had, but never really remember the details of how you can up with psycho schemes. I remember my friend and I tried to use umbrellas to fly away on the wind. It was pretty funny and never worked(those dang umbrellas always broke), and then one day she missed school, and I cried cause I was sad that she wasn’t there to try to fly away on umbrellas at recess. I was a weird kid, huh?

Another thing I loved was Karl the stepfather figure in the story. He is such a good guy, which is totally against the stereotype in these stories. This story is intense, emotional, and has flashbacks to a child abuse scene, which I skipped in large chunks, as it appears in various parts of the book. I really hate reading abuse stories. A lot. I usually stop reading them, because they make me really depressed. Yet, this one really drew me in and touched me, because the author portrays the Jena as a courageous little creature, with a brave and loving heart. The trick is that she has to remember that, while she comes to terms with her past, and figure out what is between her and her good friend Cameron.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Whitney Awards Announced....

So, I checked the whitney awards website at 7:05 am this morning to see the winners, and then had to rush off to work. I'm way excited. I know I should be more excited about, you know, the Newbery's that recently were announced. Yet, I'm more excited about this announcement. I want the LDS fiction market to get better and I think this award is a big step. So go check out the best LDS books of 2008

Should I try to read them all? How many of you out there are going to try and read them all? I've read several, but I counted and I'd need to read 21 and some of them are in the middle of a seires. For example the Wyrmling Horde by Dave Farland is the tenth book in a series, I think. I don't know how that will work. I hate reading in the middle of a seires. I have a thing with reading them all in order.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Rapunzel’s Revenge by Shannon Hale

I have to admit I was hesitant to read Rapunzel’s revenge. Not so much because it is a graphic novel, but because Rapunzel looks like a cowgirl on the front cover. I don’t have anything against westerns, but Rapunzel is supposed to be romantic, classical, and sort of renaissance-ish. Definitely, not a western. So, though I love Shannon Hale, I hesitated. Then I just needed to read something new, and a little different. I haven’t been able to get into reading lately. Working a lot, and snatching bits of a novel at lunch break kind of ruins the reading experience.

So, I decided to try Rapunzel’s revenge, and I really loved it. I picked up the book and couldn’t put it down until I finished. What a wonderful thing! I finished a book in one sitting (okay there are lots of pictures…I know.). Still three hours later and I was finished. (This may be long by some standards, but I read more slowly than reading maniacs, like my husband, who finish 500 page novels in a day.) It was really fun.

The book starts out with Rapunzel wandering a beautiful villa, having nothing to do but practice rope tricks with some of the servants. She lives with her mother, or who she thinks is her mother. With nothing to do, Rapunzel naturally wants to see over the huge wall that surrounds the villa, and decides to sneak over it one day. She doesn’t expect to find that the land beyond the wall looks like a wasted desert, full of slaves, who work the mines. She also meets someone important to her from her past, and learns that she was deceived. Rapunzel is so angry that she takes on Mother Gothel, and lands herself up in a tall tree tower. She determines to find a way out, so she stop Gothel from exploiting her subjects, and save those she cares about.

This book is way fun, and it is cool to see Rapunzel whip her braids around, and take down outlaws, wild beasts, and evil fake-mothers. There were a few cheesy parts, but this book is an overall winner. I hope you take the time to read it.