|Shadow Magic, by Joshua Khan
This book was provided for free by Disney Press through NetGalley
in exchange for a fair and honest review
|Red: The True Story of Red Riding Hood, by Liesl Shurtliff
ARC provided by Random House Children’s through NetGalley
in exchange for a fair and honest review
This book is the third in Shurtliff’s fairy tale universe and apparently pick up where her book Rump leaves off. I haven’t read Jack or Rump, and I’d say this is pretty much a stand-alone book.
Reason for Reading: My nephew loved this series 🙂
Genre: Children’s Fantasy Graphic Novel
In this second book of the widely popular children’s graphic novel series Amulet (see the review for the first book here), Emily and Navin’s mother is still in a poison-induced coma, and the kids must journey to a dangerous forest to find the cure. They are led by a fox-man Leon Redbeard, who says that it is his job to bring them safely to a lost city of guardians. They are chased by the Elf King’s son Trellis, whose loyalties are questionable. This was a cute second book in the series – though the plot is still very childish and light. The kids (especially boys!) love it. 🙂
James and the Giant Peach, by Roald Dahl
Reason for Reading: To keep up with my nephew’s book reports
Genre: Children’s Adventure / Fantasy
After the tragic death of his parents, James has been living with his horrible neglectful, hateful aunts Sponge and Spiker. One day James is given a magical bag by a mysterious stranger – and in his excitement he trips on the root of a peach tree and dumps all the magic on the tree. Soon a peach larger than a house has grown out of the tree. James crawls into the peach and begins the adventure of a life-time.
This is another classic kids story that I read as a child and haven’t picked up since. I’m glad I had a reason to pick it up again, because it was really funny and silly and it had a lot of nostalgia for me. Dahl has just the right amount of humor and whimsy in his books. 🙂
After reading the book, my nephew and I watched the 1996 stop-action movie. It was a cute movie that followed the basic story-line well enough. But it was a bit too sentimental and it lacked the dark humor of Roald Dahl’s story. Cute for an hour’s entertainment, but nothing I’m going to watch again and again.
Reason for Reading: Helping my nephew with his book report.
When their father dies, Emily and Navin must move with their mother to a run-down house in the middle of nowhere – an inheritance from a great uncle they’ve never met. On their first night in the disturbing old house, their mother is kidnapped by a gigantic squid-thing and the kids must rescue her with the help of a talking amulet that they’ve found in a dusty room.
I read this because my nephew really loved it, and he’s a very reluctant reader. I can see why he liked it – there’s lots of pretty pictures and very few words. It’s a book appropriate for middle-graders both in vocabulary and in plot. It was a cute, fast read, and I’m sure I’ll read the rest in the series. However, it’s not a book that would appeal to me for any other reason than bonding with my nephew. The premise and plot are simply too unsophisticated to be of much interest to most older kids or adults. On the other hand, the book seems to be VERY popular with the younger crowd, and I highly recommend The Stonekeeper for reluctant readers.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Written by J. K. Rowling, Narrated by Jim Dale
Reason for Reading: Re-reading the Harry Potter series in audio format.
(Contains spoilers from earlier books in series)
The Ministry of Magic has finally admitted that Voldemort has returned, and Dumbledore has returned as Hogwarts Headmaster. Furthermore, Dumbledore has realized that it was a huge mistake to leave Harry in the dark for so long. He and Harry become much closer in Harry’s sixth year at Hogwarts, as Dumbledore reveals much of what he knows of Voldemort’s history and motivations to Harry. Harry is also kept busy with his new obsession that Draco Malfoy is up to new levels of “no good.” Ron and Hermione poo-poo his suspicions and keep themselves busy with escalating romantic tension.
Altogether, this book has a LOT going on, yet it’s more compact than the previous two books. Overall, I think this is Rowling’s best written book in the series, even if my favorites are the first four. I really enjoyed this re-read of the 6th book in the Harry Potter series – it’s only my second time reading this book, and I had forgotten a lot of it. The romantic tension between Ron and Hermione is my favorite part of the book, since it’d been building for SO long and was finally let loose terrifically. 🙂
Jim Dale’s reading, as usual, is excellent. It took some getting used to, but after the first or second book it really grew on me. I know all his voices for the characters, and that really ads to my enjoyment of the story.
Written by Mercedes Lackey, Narrated by Kate Reading
Reason for Reading: This was meant to be included in a fairy tale challenge in February, but that didn’t work out for me too well. But I’m still going to finish up my Donkeyskin books, regardless!
When Earth Master Richard Whitestone’s wife dies in childbirth, he discards their newborn daughter Suzanne in a fit of rage. Suzanne is raised as a servant of the household, while her father wastes away in his chambers. After many years, Whitestone develops a new passion – necromancy. When he sees his daughter wandering his lands, he realizes she is the perfect vessel in which to trap his dead wife’s spirit. Suzanne must flee her father, and hide in the guise of a servant in another household. But her skill in Earth magic is difficult to hide…
This is a non-canonical retelling of the fairy tale Donkeyskin, and is part of Lakey’s Elemental Master series. Although it certainly has charm and originality, it is not my favorite of the Donkeyskin retellings, nor of the Elemental Master series. I felt the premise of the book – a necromantic father, Elemental Masters fighting in WWI, with a touch of romance – had promise. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t delivered as well as it could have been. The romance seemed forced, and the war sections uninteresting. Not that it was a terrible book, but it could have been so much better. Lackey is better than this.
But, if you’re looking for a fluffy-quick read, or an original fairy tale retelling, this book will certainly deliver that. 🙂 The narration by Kate Reading was quite good. She did the voices well, and had good timing.
The Last Unicorn, by Peter S. Beagle
Reason for Reading: Group read on LibraryThing’s Green Dragon
When a unicorn realizes that she may be the last remaining unicorn, she leaves her peaceful home on a quest to find out what happened to all her brothers and sisters. Along the way, she picks up bumbling magician seeking his talent and a dour cook looking for her lost innocence. The unicorn soon discovers that the world has changed since she last ventured out. Humans have lost their youthful innocence, and they are no longer able to see things as they truly are – humans have excelled in the art of deceiving themselves.
When I originally picked up this book, I’d expected a cute young adult tale, but never expected such depth. The Last Unicorn is a multi-layered allegory: about lost innocence, self-fulfilling prophecies, and self-deception. But these cynical themes aren’t the main point. The main point is that only in fully understanding humans can the ethereal unicorns save themselves. Only by sacrificing a piece of their ineffable essence can they form a closer bond to humans. And this closer bond can lead humans to do wonderful things.
Yes, it is a Christian allegory by my interpretation. But I think it’s amazing the way Beagle didn’t just throw in a Christ Figure and be done with it….The allegory of Beagle’s unicorn isn’t uniquely Christian – it defies religious boundaries. It is a story of love and innocence that mixes cynicism and hope. Quite extraordinary! 🙂
I was also a HUGE fan of the bumbling wizard Schmendrick who (in my opinion) was only fooling himself into believing he wasn’t a capable wizard. He’s like the Lion, the Scarecrow, and the Tin Man in Wizard of Oz – just the fact that he wanted so badly to be a wizard made him into one. He could laugh at all the people who deceived themselves, as he unconsciously deceived his own self. He reminded me of myself when I’m in a glum mood thinking I’m not capable of anything when, of course, I’m quite capable if I’d stop expecting so little of myself. 😉 This book was a good reminder to have faith in yourself and think about the consequences of your beliefs. 🙂
Reason for Reading: Group read with Simpler Pastimes
This classic fairy-tale-style story is set in a land where the Goblins and Humans have had a “cold war” for many, many years. Long ago, the Goblins threatened that some day they will steal a princess…and their day finally comes when Princess Irene’s nurse accidentally keeps the Princess out after sunset. Luckily, they are rescued by a miner’s boy, Curdie – but now the Goblins know where the Princess lives and what she looks like. When the Goblins hatch a devious plot, Curdie and Irene become fast-friends as they act in turn as heroes. First and foremost, this is a fairy-tale. But it is also an allegory about faith. Princess Irene has a great-great-grandmother – a mysterious and heavenly woman that only she can see. Irene’s very-great grandmother gives the Princess a magical string and tells her to follow the string whenever she’s afraid – never doubting it or deviating from it, regardless of where it may take her. Irene must learn to have faith even when she thinks that the string has led her astray. And Curdie must learn to have faith in a very-great grandmother that he has never seen. This is a sweet story, nice for reading aloud to young children.