Monday, June 24, 2013

East by Edith Pattou

Anyone who reads my blog can tell there are a few things that I really enjoy reading, Fantasy, Mythology and Fairy Tales.   Well there are others too, but basically give me one of the above three and I am one happy person.  I especially enjoy  when my fairy tales are written with the authors own spin on them.  East by Edith Pattou  is just that, a retelling of a Scandinavian folktale called “East of the Sun West of the Moon.”   So, picture your at an end of year book swap looking for books for your child and you hear  "this is something I know that you would like to read."    After seeing the cover, I had to agree.   


Synopsis from Goodreads, "Rose has always been different.
Since the day she was born, it was clear she had a special fate. Her superstitious mother keeps the unusual circumstances of Rose's birth a secret, hoping to prevent her adventurous daughter from leaving home... but she can't suppress Rose's true nature forever.
So when an enormous white bear shows up one cold autumn evening and asks teenage Rose to come away with it-- in exchange for health and prosperity for her ailing family-- she readily agrees.
Rose travels on the bear's broad back to a distant and empty castle, where she is nightly joined by a mysterious stranger. In discovering his identity, she loses her heart-- and finds her purpose-- and realizes her journey has only just begun."
Overall, East is a beautiful story.  The beginning was a tad slower to read, the author needed this time to get into Rose's mysterious fate, which worked out O.k. for me, but I enjoyed the action more when White Bear finally comes into the story.   Rose and White Bears story are told in the alternating voices of Father, Rose's brother Neddy, the Troll Queen, White Bear and Rose herself.  I found this style worked for me for this particular story.  It gave me a good sense of the various characters and enabled various takes on the situation.  Having White Bear initially speak via poems was also a nice touch.  One of the intriguing concepts in East is the use of compasses and maps.  They played heavily once Rose went on her journey.   Rose comes off as a strong, independent young woman eager to travel to new places and meet different people.   Edith Pattou states that she decided to turn the winds in the original tale of "East of the Sun West of the Moon" into " people who represent the four different points of the compass."  These people end up being guides for Rose, with each person representing the direction and characteristics of that direction.  The other aspect of East that I appreciated was the amount of research that must have gone into the story.  There are  details about weaving, compasses, map making, historic landmarks from Norway, mythology, and the great white bear, to name a few.  All which made for a wonderful story.    

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Tunnels by Roderick Gordon and Brian Williams

Tunnels (Tunnels, #1)
Tunnels is the first book in the series by Roderick Gordon and Brian Williams. Tunnels is broken down into three parts.  The first is Breaking Ground and centers on 14-year old Will Burrows and his archaeology father.  Dr. Burrows and Will have spent many a day excavating below the streets of Highfield,  even finding an underground railroad.  But, when Dr. Burrows begins to behave secretively and then ends up missing, Will enlists the help of his best friend Chester to try and figure out what is going on.  Beneath the Burrows home, Will and Chester find a passage behind a bookshelf.  Slowly they begin to clear it out and find themselves at a doorway into something unknown.   Section two is The Colony and begins around page 164.  For me, this is where the action begins to happen as Will and Chester find themselves in an underground city and end up getting captured.  Will also learns of his link to The Colony.  While Will is set free,  Chester is never allowed to return to the "topsoil."    In Section three,  The Eternal City, Will attempts to rescue Chester while looking for his father.    The story leaves room for a sequel but it resolved one of the main plot points that I kept hoping would not be left for book two.  Overall, I really liked my first jaunt into "Subterranean fiction" Or what Wiki calls " a subgenre of adventure fiction which focuses on underground settings, sometimes at the center of the Earth or otherwise deep below the surface."  Who would have known?  I still have to learn. Silly me, thought it was science-fiction. 

Preview a Book Online: The School for Good and Evil

The School for Good and Evil (The School for Good and Evil, #1)

So who out there is familiar with the First Look Program by Harper Collins?  It doesn't exist anymore but is was my original first stop when I began reviewing books.  They were the ones who also helped me to find my way to Goodreads.  Now,  HarperCollins has changed it into a Browse Inside feature, which I am kinda liking.  It's a nice way of seeing whether a book is a match for you or not.  This was the book on offer at the moment.  The first six chapters are available to read and preview.  Here's the link if you want to check it out.

I'm not going to go into much detail about what it's about, I think the name kinda says it all.  I for one really love the cover.  I saw an interview with Soman Chainani, who said he grew up watching Disney movies and I'm paraphrasing when I say that it had an influence on him writing this story.  I can really see that reflected in the cover art and I'm not just saying that cause of the castles in the background (but the one on the left does make me think of Cinderella).  Overall, I think this book will be popular with middle graders who enjoy fairy-tale retellings.  

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

House of Secrets by Chris Columbus and Ned Vizzini

House of Secrets (House of Secrets, #1)

 House of Secrets begins with the Walker family trying to find a new house.   Mr. Walker recently lost  his job after an "incident" in which he carves a symbol onto one of his patients.   While house hunting,  the Walkers are offered Kristoff House by a real estate agent at a drastically reduced price.  Famous author Denver Kristoff built the house but now it is being sold to a family in need.  It seems like everything is looking up for the Walker family but the Kristoff House does have its secrets and even mysterious statues and shadows are lurking around. When next door neighbor Dahlia shows up, the family soon finds out that she is the daughter of Denver Kristoff.  Dahlia is also very unhappy with the Walker's moving in.  She transforms herself into a Wind Witch and uproots the house into a whole other realm.   The children soon find themselves in the world of Denver Kristoff's books in which a British World War I pilot, giants and pirates make up the characters that they meet.  It is up to the Walker siblings Cordelia (8), Brendan (12) and Eleanor(15) to find a secret book that Dahlia wishes to possess in order to save their parents and themselves.   

After seeing the gorgeous cover and  accompanying illustrations, I knew there was something that spoke mystery and adventure to me.  Yeah, I know the title House of Secrets says that too, but that is seriously one creepy looking house.  I also really wanted to know why the pirates are on the roof and how the house ended up in the water.   Plus when J.K. Rowling calls it " A breakneck roller coaster of an adventure," I  just had to check it out.  House of Secrets is defiantly an adventure story filled with action that feels like watching a movie.  Given Chris Columbus' background in the movie industry, it seems only natural that it would possess that quality.  I did find the intermingling of current American culture (Cell phones, Playstation and even TV/Music icons) into the story line a little off putting at times but I see that this was mostly to add humor.  I think my only issue is whether this book is more Middle Grade or Young Adult?  I think that what I found is that it is very subjective.  My criteria for what is middle grade usually centered around the idea that it is roughly for children 8-12 years old, with length that is somewhat shorter but the focus is on the main characters.   I  purchased House of Secrets out of the middle grade section and as of June 9th  it comes in as tenth on the New York Times best sellers list for Middle Grade. So it probably brings to mind why the concern over middle grade versus young adult.  First,  House of Secrets comes in close to 500 pages but does length usually guide which category it fits in?    If ages of the main characters were any indication of category, the Walker siblings  cover that spectrum too.   Then there is the action itself which moves it from middle grade over into the young adult category for me.  Common Sense Media states "House of Secrets can get gory, too, with talk of live autopsies performed by the pirate captain, a couple of fatal stabbings, kids removing an arrow and stitching up the wound themselves, and an eyeball pierced by an arrow and then plucked out intact."  Ultimately, for me House of Secrets kind of grays the line between the two but personally I really enjoyed the story for its adventure.   Yet, parents may want to check it out for themselves. For a great review check out this one over at the New York Times House of Secrets and Lokis Wolves review by Marjorie Ingall

Coming up next:  Tunnels by British authors Roderick Gordon and Brian Williams.