Saturday, May 29, 2010

Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George

Princess of the Midnight Ball is a retelling of the Grimm's fairy tale "The Twelve Dancing Princesses." It is my first Jessica Day George novel, but probably not my last!

The widowed king is left with his twelve daughters who harbor a secret they can tell no one. Every morning he discovers his daughters' worn out dancing shoes beside their beds. No matter how many guards keep watch, the girls are never caught sneaking out to dance. Finally their father issues a decree that the first prince to discover their secret will win a marriage to the daughter of his choosing and succession to his royal throne. Thankfully there is a handsome soldier, just home from the war, who happens to be in the right place at the right time. Galen also knows how to knit. That just may help him solve this mystery.

I really enjoyed this book! It's a fairy tale with a lovely romance. It captured the ambiance of life in a royal castle without an immense amount of details. (I'm thinking of how The Goose Girl is similar but is much more detailed. Princess of the Midnight Ball is a much shorter read and more fun!) I really enjoyed a modern retelling of a fairy tale that portrayed the man as the hero. Girl power has its place, but it has been overdone.

Beliefs: Catholicism. The setting is Germany is the early 1800s. Catholic terms such as last rites and archbishop are not only used, but are important to the story. Readers will not fully appreciate the plot unless they have some knowledge of Catholicism.

This book was fabulous! I highly recommend it!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Wow. I loved this book.

Clay Jensen receives a package of cassette tapes in the mail. He inserts the first tape and hears a voice that has been silent for two weeks: Hannah Baker's. Hannah Baker committed suicide. Before she died, she recorded, in detail, the thirteen reasons why she decided to kill herself. Her directions are clear. If you receive the package of tapes in the mail, then you are one of the reasons. Listen to them all, and then pass them on to the next person in line.

Hannah's tapes take Clay on a tour of their city, a tour of their schoolmates' cruelty, and a tour of a suicidal girl's breaking heart.

Author Chris Crutcher's critique is on the front cover: "Very clever premise, strong voice, perfect suspense. This one will keep you reading. Jay Asher is a fine storyteller."


Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan

The Sea of Monsters is Book 2 in the Percy Jackson & the Olympians series by Rick Riordan. To review this book, I need to refer to the first book in the series: The Lightning Thief.

In this series, Rick Riordan takes gods, demigods, and monsters from Greek mythology and places them in a completely different setting than we're used to finding them: the United States of America in modern time.

What I like about the books: I am learning Greek mythology. What I don't like about the books: 1) As an English teacher, I disprove of the grammar use. Percy tells us the stories, and he speaks incorrectly (e.g. Annabeth and me hopped on the chariot), 2) They have so much potential to be good literature, but they fall short, 3) They are slow reads. I kept checking to see how much more I had to read. Reading them felt more like an assignment than an enjoyable experience. However, mythology is not a favorite genre of mine, I admit!

Beliefs in the story include: 1) The Greek gods are real. They are alive. And by the way, they procreate with humans to create demigods such as the main character, Percy Jackson. 2) The entrance to Hades is in a recording studio in Hollywood. 3) There is a camp in NYC for demigod children, a place where they train to fight monsters and worse enemies. 4) A "mist" keeps humans from understanding what they see when it comes to encounters with these supernaturals.

On Riordan's website he addresses the issue of learning about Greek mythology. Here is a quote from his interview:

In Western Civilization, we’ve always had an uneasy mix between Classical mythology and Judeo-Christian values. As a culture, we tend to believe in one God, but we also grow up steeped in these wonderful old stories about the Olympians. As long as we recognize them as stories that are part of our heritage and long-since stopped being any kind of serious religion, I don’t see the harm in learning mythology (emphasis mine). If fact, I think you have to know Greek myths to understand where our modern culture came from. It’s part of being an educated member of society.

Click here for the rest of what he had to say.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Last Song by Nicholas Sparks

I first saw the movie with my sister, mom, and best friend. The movie was cheesy and unrealistic. I checked out the book unsure if I'd actually read it or not. I sat down to take a look at it, and it hooked me.

It is a story about finding love in its different forms. Loving a boy. Loving a brother. Loving a father. Loving oneself. Loving God. Ronnie is the main character, a seventeen-year-old girl who is forced to spend the summer at her dad's house on the beach in North Carolina. The summer gives Ronnie first-hand experience at loving.

One of my favorite things about The Last Song is the way it switches point-of-view from chapter to chapter. You experience the story through the lens of Ronnie, Will (her boyfriend), Marcus (the bad guy), and Steve (Ronnie's dad). Therefore, you understand the thoughts and motivations behind characters' actions. The love story between Ronnie and Will is very sweet and likable. More realistic and less cheesy than the movie. (An interesting side is that Nicholas Sparks wrote the screenplay before he wrote the novel.)

Christianity is well represented. Steve reads his Bible, loves his children unconditionally, and forgives. He is grace-giving and kind. He becomes a role model for Will, and Ronnie starts to read her Bible due to his example. Scripture is printed in the book such as the fruit of the Spirit passage.

It was an enjoyable book.

Monday, May 3, 2010

A Step from Heaven by An Na

A Step from Heaven is An Na's first novel. It is marketed as a YA book.

The story is about a Korean family that immigrates to the East Coast and the struggles they face to adapt to a new culture, while keeping their Korean roots.

These kind of stories are prominent right now, and my personal opinion is that once you've read a few of them, you can quit. It's the same theme over and over: the children adapt to the American culture. It is probably good for every white American to read one to gain sympathy and understanding for others. If you've already read something similar, and you've gained sympathy and respect for immigrating families, then you can skip this one. If this is a topic you enjoy, then here is another one for you to add to your list!

My beef with the novel is the way An Na portrays God. As a young girl in Korea, Young's grandmother taught her about Christianity and how to pray to Jesus. Her grandmother was raising her in the faith. Then at age 4, Young and her parents move to America, and the family leaves the grandma and Christianity behind in Korea. Much later in the novel, Young's mom takes the kids to a Christian church in desperation. The mother finds love, acceptance, and a church family, and begins regularly attending church with the kids. If the faith part had ended there, it would be fine.

At the climax of the book, Young's father, in a drunken fit, is beating his mother, and Young fears he may kill her, so she dials 911 but is too scared to talk to the operator. She coaches herself to save her mom and then remembers her grandma's voice saying "Only God can." She hears her mother wail and the text continues: "I am not a child anymore. I do not have time to wait for God. There is only me. I pick up the phone and raise it to my ear..."

Completely disappointing.

I am completely disappointed with this novel.