"A house without books is like a room without windows." -Horace Mann

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Goblin Secrets

by William Alexander

Randomly came across this book while browsing the library shelves, and thoroughly glad I did.  The National Book Award Winner sticker on the cover caught my eye.  This book is all about masks, and how they change people.  In this book, that is taken in a literal sense.  Rownie is a young boy who serves a witch who sounds a lot like the "Baba Yaga" from old fairy tales.  He wants to find his brother who has disappeared so he escapes from the witch, but runs into trouble with the "law" when he gets involved with a traveling troupe of goblins who put on plays with masks, even though it is against the law.  Rownie then discovers the masks are much more than just make-believe and he has an important part to play.

The atmosphere of this book was mysterious, intriguing, and beautiful.  The landscape set by the words was mesmerizing and really drew me into the town.  The "scary" element was indeed scary, especially with the masks, and it really kept me on the edge of my seat wondering what was going to happen, and it was all very mysterious until the end.  I liked the juxtaposition of an "old world" feel of witches and magic, with the "new world" feel of mechanisms and motors.  I'm hoping there are sequels to this book, because the end leaves a little mystery still to be told.  This book feels very much like sitting down to watch a play in a dark and magical theater, with musical and strange colors all around you.

Princess Academy

by Shannon Hale

This book was recommended by my sister, and it was a joy to read.  Miri is a young girl who works in a remote village high up on a mountain, where the livelihood of everyone depends on work in the nearby quarry.  Miri doesn't feel that she fits in and is of no use to her father.  When she hears that the prince will choose a bride from this village, Miri believes this is her chance to show her father what she can do.  She, along with the other girls of the village, are taught how to be princesses.  They compete but also learn to work together.  Miri comes to learn more about herself and just what she means to her family and her father.  She also learns of an important talent that helps save her friends when trouble comes along.

I like this story because based on the title, one might thinks its a "fairy-tale" type story, but it is not.  The end comes to a good conclusions for the girls, but it is not what you expect.  Miri is a strong main character who is believable and also inspiring, as are many of the other girls, who together give the book a rich mixture of personalities.  The setting of the book is also written well, with the feeling of this place embedded into the story throughout.

There is a bit of a magical element to the story as well, which is not overdone, but simple and interwoven into the story very quietly.  I enjoyed that it felt natural that this would occur, though it was a book that I wouldn't necessarily consider a "fantasy".  I think this would be an especially good read for young female readers.  You don't usually go wrong with a Newbery Honor Book.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

52 Books for 52 Weeks - My Year in Review

Happy New Year!  One of my discoveries in 2012 was the website goodreads.com.  It speaks to my love of books, my love of recommending books, my love of getting recommendations from people I trust, and my love of organizing and tracking books!  At the beginning of the year the website encouraged me to set myself a reading challenge goal, so I did.  I figured one book a week wouldn't be too hard. Well, my consistency went up and down, but I finished my 52nd book with 5 days to spare! 

For my own benefit (and perhaps yours if you are interested), I'd like to do a quick review of the year in book terms.

I started the year off by reading The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury.  And just so you know, I do not know that because I remembered, only because goodreads tracks it for me.  Anyway, I was excited to find that I started the year off with an excellent classic, a book of sci-fi short stories that were both mesmerizing and haunting. Some were funny, others were disturbing.  All were mind-opening.

Some of the books I enjoyed the most included:

Caleb's Crossing, by Geraldine Brooks
Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers, by Mary Roach
The Chosen, by Chaim Potok
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, by William Kamkwamba
The Penderwicks, by Jeanne Birdsall

Brandon Sanderson, author
My favorite of the year was not a single book, but multiple books by Brandon Sanderson.  I can't believe it took me this long to discover such a fabulous author!  Thanks once again goes to my friend Emily for the recommendation.  First I started with the Mistborn trilogy, then read a couple of his other books like Elantris and Warbreaker (good but not as good as Mistborn), and finally finished with the first book in his "Stormlight Archive" called The Way of Kings.  Sanderson has an amazing ability to write realistic systems of magic that aren't just conjured out of thin air.  Only problem now is that I've run of of books by this author.  He is projecting that The Way of Kings will be followed by NINE other books in the series, so now I have to WAIT!  I'm already waiting for the final installment of the Kingkiller Chronicles to come out, and now I've got another set to anticipate.  My only comfort is that I have introduced these books to a number of family members who are enjoying them as much as I am.  Success!

I also wanted to note a few of my favorite picture books that the kids and I came across this year.  Most of them are our favorites because of great artwork combined with fun and interesting words.
Happy by Mies van Hout
Jump! by Scott M. Fischer 
Skippyjon Jones in Mummy Trouble by Judy Schachner
The Wide-Mouthed Frog by Keith Faulkner
A Hat for Minerva Louise by Janet Morgan Stoeke

I finished the year off with a children's book called Goblin Secrets by William Alexander, all about goblins and witches, secrets, and the wearing of masks.  Not to mention a National Book Award Winner.  A nice laid-back way to end the year, especially after the busy holidays.

I haven't decided what my reading goals will be this year, so what do you think?  What are your reading plans for 2013?

It's been a good year all around and I'm looking forward to many more adventures next year, both in my world, and in the many worlds between many pages.  Hopefully I will see you there!