Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Hero's Song

Author: Edith Pattou
Number of Pages: 333
Reading Level: 6th grade and up
Series: The Songs of Eirren #1
Reading Time: 6 days

Collun has lived peacefully with his family in the kingdom of Eirren for his entire life. A shy, quiet young man, he prefers tending his garden to swordplay or fighting.

But Collun must leave his comfortable world behind when his sister Nessa is kidnapped. Joined on his journey by an aspiring bard, a mysterious archer, and a mystical Ellyl (the equivalent of an elf), Collun must traverse the kingdom, uncovering dark secrets and facing even darker forces.

When I first started reading this book, I did not like it one bit. To me, it was the stolen world of J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle Earth. And, indeed, that didn't change throughout the story. There were Ellyl (elves), morgs (orcs), and the old wizard guide Crann (Gandalf). However, as I kept reading and resigned to the fact that this world was going to be uncannily similar to that of Lord of the Rings, I began to be able to appreciate the story.

Collun, himself, was actually one of my favorite parts. He strays for the normal archetype of the hero. He wasn't brave or strong, impulsive and hotheaded. Collun was shy, scared, and unsure of himself. He loved gardening and reading. One of the most fantastic journeys of the story was Collun learning how to be brave.

The writing was fair, and I enjoyed Hero's Song on the whole. I would suggest, though, that if you are to read any of Edith Pattou's books, it be East. I thought her writing and storytelling in that book was far better than in this one.

A Note to Parents:
This book was completely clean. Given the plot, it wasn't very gory or violent. The characters often drink mead or wine and get lightheaded (although, that is very common in fantasy world settings). For parents that don't like their children having anything to do with witchcraft or magic, though, I will warn that this book did have both a wizard and the equivalent of an evil sorceress.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Fiddler's Green

Author: A.S. Peterson
Number of Pages: 323
Reading Level: 9th grade and up
Series: Fin's Revolution #2
Reading Time: 4 days

It is the middle of the Revolutionary War and all Fin Button wants is to go home. Unfortunately, she is wanted for piracy by the British and for mutiny by the Americans. The American congress, though, is prepared to offer her a deal: rescue a kidnapped French countess to spur the French into fighting with America, and get a full pardon for all crimes committed.

Determined to be pardoned so that she can go home, Fin and her crew set off for the Barbary Coast, where they face more dangers than ever before. And, in the midst of all this, Fin is forced to realize that she has changed drastically.

I didn't think this book could possibly be better than The Fiddler's Gun, but I was mistaken. Fiddler's Green was more exciting, more touching, more beautiful, more rollicking, and more fun to read than even the first book.

I truly loved it. Fin is a character everyone can relate to - she's sometimes scared, she doesn't like that she's changing, she sometimes lets her anger get the better of her, and she can fall prey to pride. Fin is human, and that's why she's so appealing.

There are lots of new characters in the second book. Some wonderful, some confounding, and some that you just love to hate. My personal favorite of the newcomers was Jeannot, a Frenchman Knight of Malta, sworn to protect the Mediterranean from pirates and rescue those who are slaves to them. In fact, I wish there was an entirely different book just about Jeannot's life.

I've said it before for The Fiddler's Gun and I'll say it again for Fiddler's Green - A.S. Peterson's prose is phenomenal. He has a power over words that most people only dream of. His descriptive language is mind-blowing, and the pictures he draws of characters, places, battles are so very lifelike. This book deserves to be read if only to experience the beauty of Peterson's writing.

I'm saddened that there are only two books in this series. All the easier to reread, I suppose. And I certainly will be rereading this.

A Note to Parents:
Like The Fiddler's Gun before it, Fiddler's Green is not a children's book. But, as far as teenager/young adult novels go, this one is relatively clean. There are cuss words interspersed (well, they are pirates). There is the occasional mention of whores or a brothel. The biggest standout for me, though, as far as parental guidance goes, would be the gore of it. This book is not for the weak of stomach. A man has to have his leg sawed off, another gets whipped until his back is a bloody mess, and still more are emaciated and grotesque from years of slavery. Overall, though, I would say it's one of the more appropriate books for teens these days.

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Fiddler's Gun

Author: A.S. Peterson
Number of Pages: 293
Reading Level: 9th grade and up
Series: Fin's Revolution #1
Reading Time: 3 days

Seventeen-year-old Fin Button is fed up with orphanage life. She's tired of the old sisters bossing her around and telling her to act like a "lady." She's tired of the monotony. She misses her fiancée Peter, who left the orphanage to establish a home for them. In fact, the only good thing about the orphanage is her growing relationship with the old cook, Bartimaeus.

But when an incredible turn of events lands her on a privateer's ship, running from the law with a dark secret, she's scared that her life will never be how she wanted it to be.

I've been reading so many children's books lately that it was nice to get into a book that was geared toward adults. A.S. Peterson's writing is phenomenal. I found myself getting pulled along by the lull of the language. It was almost poetic. When he writes, you can feel the ocean surging underneath you, hear the clang of swords in battle, and smell the smoke from freshly shot cannons.

More than the story itself though, I loved the protagonist. Fin Button is an incredible character. She's one of those characters that feels like a friend right off the bat. In a world where feminism has taken off, I was afraid that Fin would be just another tomboyish, never-getting-married, take-care-of-myself girl that has become all to stereotypical these days. She wasn't though. Fin desperately wanted to get married. She was tough and confident without coming off as feminist.

The other characters were just as endearing. In fact, one of my favorites was Armand Defain, the Frenchman of dubious intent and even more questionable roots. You really know nothing about him, but you love how suave he is, how gentlemanly on the outside when you know from the glint in his eye that he is not all he seems.

I don't read a lot of historical fiction, but A.S. Peterson's book really pulled me in. I can't wait to read the next one.

A Note to Parents:
Most likely, by the time your kid's in high school, they can choose what they want to read, and choose wisely. This book, while it does have cussing, drinking, murder, treachery, and mention of rape, is far preferable to many of the other choices your teen has. The romance is wise and pure and beautiful. The writing is elegant and lyrical. The only iffy thing about it would be that Fin decides midway that God doesn't care about her, and is described as not being "on good terms with the Lord." All this set aside, though, I'd say this is one of the cleaner choices one can make in a book these days.

Saturday, October 20, 2012


Author: Cynthia Lord
Number of Pages: 224
Reading Level: 4th grade and up
Reading Time: 2 days

Chew with your mouth closed.

If someone says "hi," you say "hi" back.

Not everything worth keeping has to be useful.

Sometimes people laugh when they like you. But sometimes they laugh to hurt you.

These are all rules that Catherine has written down for her little brother, David, who has autism. She loves her brother dearly, but sometimes she wishes he could just be normal.

As the summer starts out, Catherine makes two new potential friends. There's Kristi, the new girl who moved in next door, and Jason, the boy she sees at Occupational Therapy with David. Jason is in a wheelchair, and can't talk, so he uses cards with pictures and words on them to communicate.

Catherine, living in a world that most people will never fully understand, wrestles with how much she loves her brother and how she's embarrassed of him at the same time. She is frustrated that, in her family, it always has to be about David, never about her. And most of all, she asks herself the question: What is normal?

This book was phenomenal. As a girl who has two little siblings with special needs, one with autism, Catherine's story really resonated with me. I've felt the frustration that Catherine has felt in David never being "normal." I've experienced everyone getting invited except us. I've had times when I felt it was all about my little brother and nobody thought that I mattered. This is a brilliant book to read for anyone who knows someone with special needs or knows someone who has a family member with special needs. It gives you this tremendous sense of not being alone.

I would also recommend this book to people who have had little or no contact with special needs. Sometimes people do things as jokes or say things in passing that hurt. Maybe they didn't mean to be mean or hurtful, but they were. This book gives you a glimpse into what a family member of someone with special needs goes through and feels when someone, knowingly or unknowingly, insults their sibling or child.

This was a beautiful, touching book. One that I would say everyone needs to read.

A Note to Parents:
I found nothing remotely inappropriate in this book. In fact, I would say make your kids read it.

The Moorchild

Author: Eloise McGraw
Number of Pages: 256
Reading Level: 6th grade and up
Reading Time: 4 days

Born half-Folk and half-human, Moql was raised in the Mound on the moor with the rest of the Moorfolk. But soon, the Folk began to see that Moql was different. She couldn't do all of the things that Folk could do.

Thinking her to be a danger to their society, the Folk 'changed' Moql, stealing a human baby and putting her in its place. Because time runs different in the Mound, Moql is a baby again as soon as she's set in the cradle. And, soon, she forgets all about the Moorfolk.

Moql, now Saaski, as her human parents name her) has never been a normal child. The other children are cruel to her, and the elders in the town gossip about her, calling her a 'changeling.' In fact, the only place Saaski seems to fit in is on the moor, playing her father's bagpipes.

When bad things start happening around the town, the people blame it on Saaski. They get meaner and bolder. Saaski and her parents are terrified at what they will do...

This book was surprisingly good. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that I loved it. The voice of the book pulls you into Scottish culture. I even found myself reading in a Scottish accent. You get such a beautiful picture of Scotland - its landscapes, its people, its folklore. Every day, I'd listen to the soundtracks of Brave and The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep because I was so enthralled with the Scottish influence in the book.

Besides the wonderfully rich culture, though, the story was also really good. There is hardly a person in the world who has never felt that they were different from everyone else, and not known how to "fix it." The reader easily relates to Saaski, and the story is so full of magic and superstition that it pulls you in hard.

I'm actually really sad that I never read this as a child - I think I would've loved it even more then.

A Note to Parents:
This is an excellent children's book, especially for kids who really like fantasy. So much of preteen/older child fantasy these days is laden with sappy romance and creepy, devilish creatures. This book is clever, informative, and truly magical. It would be a great introduction to learning about Scotland, and a fantastic conversation opener about superstition or inclusion. The only possibly negative aspects: in the Mound, babies are taken away from their mothers and the mother has no particular feeling toward the child (although, personally, I thought this was fascinating). Saaski's parents weren't married (I don't think the Folk marry at all...), and her human dad obviously wasn't there for her. There are numerous mentions of drinking and drunkenness.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Throne of Fire

Author: Rick Riordan
Number of Pages: 452
Reading Level: 5th grade and up
Series: Kane Chronicles #2
Reading Time: 10 days

If you've ever in your life found Egypt or Egyptian mythology remotely interesting, this series is for you.

The second book in Rick Riordan's Kane Chronicles picks up about three months after The Red Pyramid ended. Carter and Sadie are running the Twenty-First Nome with their Uncle Amos, where they have recruited many kids both older and younger than themselves to follow the path of the gods. The most notable of the new recruits being:

a) Walt - An attractive young man (according to Sadie) and her new crush, since her old flame Anubis is, after all, the god of the dead.

b) Jaz - A girl following the path of Sekhmet, the goddess of causing and healing disease.

c) Felix - A young boy, only nine years old, whose main use for magic is summoning penguins from Antarctica. Alright, so he's really not that important (at least not yet), but I thought he was hilarious.

The premise of the book is Sadie and Carter's journey to find the book of Ra and then awaken the sun god. This causes much controversy within the House of Life (who are still trying to deny the path of the gods), which makes the Kanes' mission that much harder. Even the gods are unsure of it.

The danger is that Ra could be old and senile - not brilliant characteristics for the leader of the movement against Apophis, lord of chaos. Nevertheless, Sadie and Carter embark on their journey.

Meanwhile, Zia is still missing. I must say, I really missed Zia. She was sort of cold and haughty (well, she was a fake clay figure) in the last book, but I liked her all the same for it. It's sad to have your favorite character missing.

Overall, it was a pretty good book. Not as good as the first in the series. And, let's be real, not nearly as good as the Percy Jackson and the Olympians or the Heroes of Olympus series. But it was a solid second installment, and it did leave me wanting to read the third, though not with the sense of urgency that... ahem... The Son of Neptune did.

A Note to Parents:
I'd say that this book is a clean read, as long as you're okay with your child reading books in which Egyptian gods are "real." Sadie sometimes thinks about the physical attractiveness of Walt and Anubis. There is mention of a shirt coming off. There are also a few instances of God's name being taken in vain.