Friday, March 26, 2010

Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier

Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier

This story is a loose retelling of the twelve dancing princesses. The number of sisters is cut down, but the basic premise is the same. The girls sneak out in the middle of the night to go dance in a fairy realm under the light of the moon. The story takes place in a haunted Romanian forest, and Jena the main character is forced to run her father’s house during a long winter since her father went away to a milder climate on account of ill health. During this time she must thwart the evil intentions of her cousin, protect her fairy friends, and protect her sister from the night people (vampires) that have recently come to the area.

At first I was a little bit bored with this book, but I really came to like Jena and her strong character. Jena had a really cute romance story that I liked, but one of her sisters falls in love with a vampire. I really didn’t like that twist, because I hate reading about vampires in general. I never got into the whole Twilight series. Yet, I ended up liking her story too, though she was really annoying most of the time, because it had a few twists that I didn’t expect. I had seen this book recommended on a clean reads blog, and so was surprised by one scene where Jena’s cousin is drunk and tires to seduce her rather clumsily. Jena totally stands up to him and puts him in his place, but I found the scene creepy enough to give readers of this blog a heads up. The story plot also focuses on why Jena and her sisters are able to dance with the fairies, and how her cousin tries to find the entrance into their realm to destroy them. All in all it was a decent read, but not one of my favorite fairy tale retellings.

Wildwood Dancing is a decently complex fairy tale retelling and therefore will appeal more to a teen audience. I’d say girls 14 and up.

Julie Mariller's website

Friday, March 19, 2010

Band of Sisters by Annette Lyon

Band of Sisters by Annette Lyon

“When the war on terror calls their husbands to duty, five LDS women are left behind to fight battles of their own: Kim, newlywed and pregnant, frightened of what the future might bring. Brenda, struggling to manage three unruly boys and a crippling bout of depression. Jessie, secretly grappling with mixed feelings about her crumbling marriage. Marianne, wrestling with a rebellious teenage daughter. And Nora, the seasoned Army wife with perfect hair, an immaculate home—and an ill-tempered mother dying of cancer.
Knowing the separation of deployment is extremely difficult, Nora gathers the wives every week to share lunches and burdens. In good company, they worry over safety in the field and stability at home and offer one another counsel and comfort.

But as their personal crises build, each woman faces the risks of forming deep bonds of trust. And when tragedy strikes, they must confront the painful realities of war that pull families apart and bring friends together as sisters.” (Summary from Author’s website)

I read this book just at the right time. I have been feeling lately that I’m in a huge reading rut. I don’t know if I’m just burned out on YA novels or what, but I’ve been frustrated with the books I’ve picked up lately. So, I feel very happy to be able to say that I really enjoyed reading this book! It took a little while for me to get to know the characters and their situations enough to keep them straight, but once I got into the story I was hooked.

Each of the five women are at a different stage of life, ranging from a newlywed 20 year old on her first pregnancy all the way to a classy older woman experiencing her grandmother years. The woman in between these two extremes of the age line experience the struggles that come from rearing infants, toddlers, and teenagers. In short, these woman’s stories individually and collectively explore a lifetime of experiences. I related most with the 20 year old, Kim, who was just starting out her life as a mother and wife. I remember so clearly what that first year of marriage was like, and still feeling like a teenager almost.

I think this aspect of the book results in a work that would lend itself to being re-read every few years. I wonder to myself which character I would relate with most in five years, ten years, fifteen? It would be excellent for Relief Society book clubs, which often have women of all ages reading the same book. It was refreshing to read a book that looked at life from so many different perspectives.

Each woman struggles with their husband’s deployment in their own way, and the book focuses on the struggles that they each face. The author takes great care in showing that each woman has a burden to bear, and their own hang-ups. Sometimes it is easy for the woman to judge each other and evaluate who has got life easier, but in the end they all have trials. They all wonder how they are going to survive the year, and make it through each day.

It is rewarding to watch these woman band together and form a little support group for themselves, but the book isn’t just a pep talk on how to get through a hard life. It really does deal with serious issues, and is sometimes a little depressing. Don’t go into it expecting a fluffy, chick-lit, type novel. Although the book is sad it is ultimately uplifting, and enjoyable.

Check out Annette's website or blog to find ways that you can help families affected by military deployment.
Annette Lyon's website
The Lyon's Tale

Friday, March 12, 2010

Midnighters Book 3: Blue Moon by Scott Westerfeld

Midnighters Book 3: Blue Moon by Scott Westerfeld

When the world freezes into “blue time” in the middle of the day instead of in the middle of the night The Midnighters are confused and a bit panicked. Soon they find out that there is a rift between the Midnight Realm and the real world. The Rift is getting larger and causes “blue time” to happen at strange time. It also causes a little girl to become captured by the darklings. So, the crew must go and rescue the girl before she becomes darkling food. During the rescue Rex realizes that his new powers cause the darklings to recognize him as one of their own. This results in Rex being tempted to join the darklings, but also in them sharing their plans with him another night while they are trapped in the middle of the desert. Rex has trouble remembering the plans, as the old-darklings hid them in his mind, but the Midnighters know that they must work hard to close the rift or humans will once again become prey to huge army of darklings.

The way I feel about Blue Noon is much similar to the way I feel about the other books in the series. The characters were solid, consistent, and strong, the plot kept me engaged, and had a few twists. The setting continued to throw the characters for a few loops. After all, Bixby may look ordinary, but really it’s the strangest place on Earth. I really liked how all the characters had to work together to pull of winning the darklings. Each of their powers is crucial at some point in the book to their success against the darklings. I sort of didn’t where all the characters ended up at the end of the book, but there is a sense that the Midnighers continue. They start to reach outside of Bixby with their new knowledge of the midnight time and contact other Midnighers.

Midnighters is still not my favorite series written by Westerfeld, Blue Noon didn’t absolutely blow me away, but it remains, as the others in the series, a pretty enjoyable YA read for sci-fi/fantasy lovers of either gender.

Scott Westerfeld's website

Friday, March 5, 2010

Two girls of Gettysburg by Lisa Klein

“Lizzie and Rosanna are cousins and best friends, but when the Civil War breaks out, Lizzie finds herself committed to the Union cause, while Rosanna is swept up in the passions of the Old South--and in her love for a dashing young Confederate officer. Torn in their alliances, each girl finds herself grappling with the senseless brutality of war and the sacrifices that must be made in order to survive. It will take one of the war's bloodiest battles--fought on the farmlands and streets of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania--to reunite them. And in its aftermath, their lives are changed forever.” (summary from author’s website)

I thought that the friendship of Lizzie and Rosanne was a bit odd, because they seem so different at first. Rosanne seems mysterious and sort of withdrawn from Lizzie, and I thought that was strange. Lizzie’s point-of-view is normal first person narrative style, but later on in the book Rosanna’s point-of-view is conveyed through her first person journal entries. She begins her journal after she runs away from Gettysburg back to Richmond, and it chronicles the story from the southern perspective. I liked that both Lizzie and Rosanne had surprises in store for their characters. I never would have guessed that Roseanne would have become a war nurse, and reading her experiences was sad, but also interesting. I liked watching Lizzie grow into liking the boy that worked at her family’s butcher shop.
This was a slower paced read for me. I felt like the book was really long and the plot was a little slow. It wasn’t my favorite book, but I enjoyed reading about the characters. I think it also showed a unique perspective of the battle of Gettysburg. It focused more on how it affected the town then on battle, tactics, and soldiers.

Author Lisa Klein's Website