Friday, October 23, 2009

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

How do I describe this book? Even I, as an avid fantasy reader, found the summary of the book weird when I read the jacket flap. As an infant Nobody Owens escaped the fate of his family, who were all murdered by a man named Jack. Finding protection in a nearby graveyard the ghosts there raise him, and teach him many things. His guardian Silas tries to protect him as well as he can. Yet, Jack the man who murdered Nobody’s family, is still trying to find him so he can fulfill his old contract to kill him.

So despite the odd description I really enjoyed reading this book. Bod (short for nobody) spends his childhood exploring the graveyard. He finds an indigo man deep under the earth in an old barrow, falls in with a dangerous set of ghouls, makes friends with the ghost of a witch, and explores old mausoleums. I found that the book focused a lot on developing the setting and characters in the graveyard, and I enjoyed discovering its nooks and crannies along with bod. I enjoyed meeting the different ghost characters and following their story arcs, while the overall plot line lurked in the background, waiting to be exposed. Maybe I enjoyed this book so much because I’ve always had a secret fascination with graveyards, especially big old ones. I’ve always wanted to know about the people buried beneath those mysterious headstones.

Such a deep exploration of the setting is precisely what my husband didn’t like about the book. He felt that the plot line with Jack should have been bigger, more dangerous, and more exciting. He didn’t like all the forays into the graveyard dramas. I was left wanting when it came to the background of Jack, but in a good way. In a way that made my imagination run with possibilities, scenarios, and questions. So, while I would have loved to hear more of a background story, what was in the text was sufficient. I would recommend.

Neil Gaiman's Website

Friday, October 16, 2009

A Curse Dark as Gold by Elizabeth C Bunce

A Curse Dark as Gold by Elizabeth C. Bunce

Elizabeth C. Bunce has several surprises in store for her unique retelling of “Rumpelstiltskin.” There are no greedy kings, nor castles but instead she weaves a historical portrait of a small village struggling to survive in the birth of an Industrial Revolution. The author states that the world of Charlotte Miller is “Strongly influenced by the real woolen industries of Britain during the early years of the industrial revolution (for our purposes the late 1700’s).” The tale opens after Charlotte’s father has died, and left Stirwaters, the family woolen mill, to her. Her task is to surmount the enormous mountain of debt that her father left behind.

If that isn’t enough of a burden things at Stirwaters haven’t been right for a long time. The building has cracks in the floor, crumbling plaster, and is falling into disrepair, but Charlotte is not at fault for neglecting the building. Indeed, instead the building seems to reject such caretaking, as if it is cursed. Evidence of the curse is founded scattered through out the Miller’s history. Never has the son of Miller inherited the place, passing to uncles, cousins, and finally to Charlotte and her sister—daughters.

At first Charlotte is skeptical of this history, chalking it all up to bad luck, until in dire need her sister summons up a sort of dark fairy. A Jack Spinner who agrees to spin a roomful of straw into gold. Selling the gold will give Charlotte the funds she needs to save the mill. His price—a gold ring of her mothers, merely a trinket in comparison. As each new catastrophe comes to the mill Charlotte grows suspicious, but she is desperate until, at last, the man Jack Spinner asks a price too high.

Charlotte must either part with those things dearest to her, or break the curse. There in lies another twist for the reader. The tale becomes more than just discovering a name, but the reason why. Not only an airy fairy-tale, but a story about discovering the secrets of the past. The story is rich with mystery, romance, and enough fairy tale and folk lore to enchant many a reader.

This story is a bit more thick and dark than the typical Fairy Tale retelling, but I still found it to be a delightful read.

Author's Offical Website

Friday, October 9, 2009

Finding Faith By Terri Ferran

Finding Faith by Terri Ferran

Kit’s father finds a teaching position at a university in Utah, and suddenly her family is moving from Ventura, California to a small little valley in Mormondom. It takes her a long while to adjust to the strange new culture. She finally finds a friend in Janet, whose huge family take her in and makes her feel at home. Kit really begins to like Janet’s brother Adam, and find he feels the same way about her. They begin to date, and become really close. Adam has been telling her that he plans to serve a mission, but when he receives his call, Kit can’t really believe that he is leaving her.

She doesn’t understand why he would give up two years of his life to God, or if God even exists. He leaves her with a challenge to read the Book of Mormon and take the missionary discussions. She loves Adam and his entire family, and so reluctantly agrees. Janet slowly learns about faith and God’s plans for his children. She agrees to be baptized, but as her faith slowly grows a terrible accident threatens to crush it. Kit must learn how to trust in God’s will and plan even when bad things happen.

I know that some people are going to label this book as too preachy. The truth is it is kind of annoying to have doctrine re-taught to the reader while the main character learns about the gospel. We already know this stuff. We want a story and not a Sunday school lesson is the cry. Yet, if this aspect of LDS Fiction doesn’t bother you than you might find that you really like this book. All preachy scenes aside, I really liked Kit. She is really against learning about the church or god in general, but it is interesting to watch her grow, to witness her first prayer. I love the Janet’s family just as much as she does, and I cared about what happened to them. I also want to see what happens between Kit and Adam when Adam returns from his mission. I am curious to see how the author will portray the obvious changes they have each experienced and watch how it forces them to reevaluate their relationship. So, though the book is a little preachy, it has redeeming qualities, and I am interested in picking up the sequel Finding Hope.

Friday, October 2, 2009

The Princess and the Bear by Mette Ivie Harrison

The Princess and the Bear by Mette Ivie Harrison

"He was once a king, turned into a bear as punishment for his cruel and selfish deeds.

She was a once a princess, now living in the form of a hound.
Wary companions, they are sent—in human form—back to a time when magic went terribly astray. Together they must right the wrongs caused by this devastating power—if only they can find a way to trust each other.

But even as each becomes aware of an ever-growing attraction, the stakes are rising and they must find a way to eliminate this evil force—or risk losing each other forever."*

(*summary from jacket flap)

The Princess and the Bear is a sequel to The Princess and the Hound, which I read last summer. The main characters of the last novel Prince George and Princess Marit do appear briefly, but the story is mainly about the Hound that used to belong to Princess Marit, and the Bear, King Richon. I think I enjoyed this sequel more than I did the first book, though I did feel that the tone of the first book felt more magical. I love how real Harrison makes the hound’s point-of-view feel. I love how she thinks differently than humans, and how she’s fierce, wild, and strong. Harrison also has a way of portraying humans and their foibles in an honest, intelligent way that makes you think about why we are such weird creatures. I love the animal magic. I love how Richon desires to avoid becoming who he was in the past, and we get to watch him grow into a person the really deserves the title of King. I love how the book fosters and appreciation for all those things beautiful and precious in nature. As, you can see I really loved this book—a lot. I would recommend it to all girls with a love for fantasy, animals, and nature.

Mette Harrison Author's Website