Monday, March 30, 2009


Meg Cabot once wrote that she dedicated a book to a traffic court officer. I might not have that exactly right, but it's enough for me (read: I don't want to find the source). I think she now dedicates everything to one person who might be HWSNBNITB. Anyhow, I love dedications.

Here are two of my favourites
Host by Stephanie Meyer: To my mother, Candy, who taught me that love is the best part of any story.

Austenland by Shannon Hale: For Colin Firth, you're a really great guy, but I'm married, so I think we should just be friends.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Linda Sue Park: A Single Shard

One of my goals is to read all the Newberry Award winning books, and the Newberry Honors as well. A Single Shard won in 2002. The writing is simple and philosphic. Is buddistic a word? In fact it is infused with moral lessons delivered so mildly that it's like a loving grandparent crafted the tale just for me. A Single Shard is about a boy, Tree Ear, who lives under a bridge in a potter's village in 12th Century Korea. The text is full of authentic details about Celadon Pottery from that era, which served as a parable about the virtue of taking time to do something right (how do you say that in fewer words?). Really though, I like stories that tell how ordinary people used to live while more important historic events were unfolding, elsewhere. There is no high adventure in this story; however, like other juvenile lit heros Tree-Ear is an orphan, he's on the cusp of manhood, he lives in a remote place, he has a wizened old friend, he has a unique/great talent, he's loyal, and he saves the day. So, of course it's a good book.


juvenile lit books full of detail about everyday life in the middleages:

Catherine Called Birdy by Karen Cushman
The Midwifes Apprentice by Karen Cushman
The Seeing Stone by Kevin Crossley-Holland
Crispin by Avi
Good Masters! Sweet Ladies: Voices from a Medieval Villiage by Laura Amy Schlitz
Daughter of Venice by Donna Jo Napoli

other juvenile lit heros

Will (from The Dark is Rising, although he's not an orphan), Luke Skywalker, Harry Potter, Eragon, Taran (from Chronicles of Prydain)

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Georgette Heyer: Lady of Quality

Umm, it was probably too soon for another Regency Romance. Or Georgette only has one story that she writes over and over again. With the exception of Friday's Child, I think the other 4 novels I read are the same. I'm even getting tired of phrases like, "Doing it a little too brown" or "awake on ever suit". And I wish the men would put away their everlasting quizzing glasses. Besides, I really don't care what they wore anymore, inevitably it's pink overlain with silver net. Furthermore, I really can't believe a person could reach the age of 29, and not have been a little in love and then fall completely inlove with so little fanfare. Hows that for a set down! So no more Georgette Heyer for at least 3 months.

Rick Van Noy: A Natural Sense of Wonder [Connecting Kids with Nature through the Seasons]

At first I thought this book was a series of selfcongratulatory essays written by the worlds greatest tree hugging dad. I'm ashamed to own such meaness of spirit, but I am please to admit I was wrong. Anyhow I am now motivated to read Thoreau, to invest in maps and field guides, to find a place to swim outdoors, to learn to ski, to buy rubber boots, to hike the east coast. Really though I just want to be outdoors with my kids more. Van Noy shares some of his triumphs, and some of his mistakes. He tells about all the cool adventures his famly has had, and reveals that his kids still have mundane toys and watch too much TV. He admits to mistakes, and swearing, and yelling. He offers practical advice and he subtly hints that raising kids outdoors takes work. Plus the Notes at the end of the book is great place to look for more reading ideas.

While Van Noy wants parents to turn off the TV and even park the car more often so that children can connect with nature, he's also concerned about the health of our planet. He believes that if our children learn from nature and love the natural world they'll take better care of it. I agree with him.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Diana Wynne Jones: House of Many Ways

I heartily recommend all Diana Wynne Jones. It’s fun, adventurous, twisty, and obviously magical. House of Many Ways is a sequel to Howl’s Moving Castle. But the story doesn’t revolve around Howl, Sophie, or Calcifer; although they do save the day in the end (kind of like Castle in the Air- an earlier sequel). Instead this story is about Charmain, often called Charming, which she isn’t. She’s got a temper. She’s critical. She’s impatient. She's matter of fact. She doesn’t know how to do anything for herself, and she isn’t bothered to learn either; so long as she’s got food and a book and no interruptions. Charmain is my kind of hero. Anyhow, read the book and learn how she helped save the kingdom from the Lubbock.

I liked this book. I probably wont read it again.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Gayle Friesen: The Isabel Factor

I took this book off the shelf thinking it was by the same author as Nobody’s Princess. In short, I liked this book. I like stories about girls who grow into themselves a little bit, or a lot. The author is from Canada too. Her writing is very fast and smart. I think I’ll read her first novel, Janey’s Girl. It won two awards in Canada.

One thing I really like about YA fiction is that I can finish a book in a few hours*, not have to think too deeply**, grow up all over again***, experience a happy ending****, and still take care of my family. It’s perfect.

*Sometimes I skip whole paragraphs. Especially if I’m reading Meg Cabot, she repeats herself, like a teenager, a lot.
**I choose not to worry about the unlikeliness of some story lines
***with a minimum of pain and embarrassment
****except if I’m reading anything by MT Andersen. He believes in reality.

Esther M. Friesner: Nobody's Princess

My mother-in-law (affectionately known as Mama Snow) really likes this book. I finally gave into her badgering and read it. Um, I didn’t really like it. I’m all for powerful female lead characters, so I should like this book right? Sorry. Well, it's about Helen, pre Troy and she certainly knows how to take control of her own destiny. She’s smart, strong, determined, kind… and beautiful. Although she doesn’t seem to know, believe, or care. About being beautiful. Is it true; are there people in the world completely divorced from their looks? Anyhow, Helen is almost perfect. Everyone likes her and her family is suspiciously functional. It’s annoying. On the other hand it was refreshing to read about Helen sans vanity and malice. I liked that she escaped into the wild and had some adventures. BUT (you were waiting for it, weren't you) I’m tired of reading about strong female characters that disdain traditional female pursuits. What’s wrong with sitting at a loom all day? Or doing a host of other 'female' activities that require skill, patience, artistry, and a lot of work? It’s fine to want to do something else, but I draw the line at dismissing people and their occupations simply because they are or it is too feminine (or masculine). Holy cow, I’ll get off my soap box… so I didn’t like the book, but bravo to the author for conceiving a non traditional Helen of Troy.

Incidentally I wont be reading the sequel, Nobody's Prize or some of her other writings (ie, Chicks in Chain Mail).

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Lois McMaster Bujold:The Hallowed Hunt

Interesting, but not great and sometimes down right ridiculous or worse, boring. This book didn't get interesting until just before the end, when the main character suddenly changed his stripes. Ingrey started out as your typical anti-hero hero, except he was also kind of dumb AND then he fell in love. After which he devolped a sense of humour, started to participate in his own life and began to take an active roll in the politcal arena. AND typical of fantasy novels he attained magical powers, with almost no effort. Indeed, as if by magic he turned shaman overnight. Although it might have made the book harder to finish if becoming a shaman took longer, or some training. Did I mention the romance? Nevermind. Another aspect of the book I didn't like was the over abundance of the italicized double thinks that were supposed to lend an air of political intrigue. Or just drive a person crazy.
Anyhow, there were some really fun characters that are probably found in other stories. This book I read is number 3 in Bujold's World of Chalion Series. And despite my not liking it, I might give the first two a try. Paladin of Souls (#2 in series) won the Hugo Award for best Novel. And I did read a Barnes and Noble review, which indicated The Hallowed Hunt isn't the best. Also a few weeks ago I stopped into a used book store (Hole in the Wall) and Bujold was strongly recommended to me. I read The Spirit Ring, and I really liked it. I can't give up on her after one not so great book.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Georgette Heyer: Sylvester

This week I have read 4 Georgette Heyer novels. Sylvester was the first, and I liked it so much I checked out 3 more of Heyer's books. Friday's child, Black Sheep and Frederica. Now I love Jane Austen and I love regency romance, but I think four was a little excessive. Actually it was a lot excessive. Technically I haven't even finished Frederica however I'm bored with it for the moment and can't get through the last 120 pages. I just can't. Eventually I will pick it up, with relish, because Regency romance (RR) is my particular guilty pleasure and I will probably work my way through all 50 of Heyer's novels this year. I gather from the short biography I read about her that she is the queen of Regency romance.

What I like best about RR, after all the neat little social rules, is the dialogue. I like how people spoke 200 years ago. It sounds so refined, even the slang. Dickens and Twain capture dialect in their writing too, only it not as charming or as easy to understand. It probably has to do with social class...

Anyhow, another book that I liked for the dialogue was Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns. It takes place in a town in rural Georia in the early 1900's. It also has a rambling quality that I found very relaxing. Incidently Heyer's writing rambles a bit as well. Come to think of L.M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables works the same nostalgic magic on me too . Hmmm, there might be something about early 20th century female authors to think on. Nevertheless, Cold Sassy Tree: I liked it, I will read it again.