Getting Caught up/Four Wrap-up Reviews

Thursday, February 4, 2010

I have been reading nonstop since beginning my blog and have gotten so far behind in my reviews lately that I am feeling pressured to get caught up.  Therefore, I am going to try to alleviate some of the pressure by doing some short wrap ups of the last four books I have completed. Hopefully, this will help my writer's block and get me back on track. First up:

Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow by Jessica Day George

Blessed—or cursed—with an ability to understand animals, the Lass (as she’s known to her family) has always been an oddball. And when an isbjorn (polar bear) seeks her out, and promises that her family will become rich if only the Lass will accompany him to his castle, she doesn’t hesitate. But the bear is not what he seems, nor is his castle, which is made of ice and inhabited by a silent staff of servants. Only a grueling journey on the backs of the four winds will reveal the truth: the bear is really a prince who’s been enchanted by a troll queen, and the Lass must come up with a way to free him before he’s forced to marry a troll princess. From Goodreads

While I have always loved fairy tales, one of the elements about them I do not like is they lack character development. George’s retelling of the Norwegian fairytale East of the Sun and West of the Moon does have a certain amount of character development, although not as much as you would find in other novels. The Lass is most dynamic, which of course you would expect since she is the protagonist. George also provides some important background information about the Lass’ older brother, Hans. However, the other characters are for the most part static and flat, but they do offer insight into the Lass’ personality.

What I did find in the story was a more complicated plot than the original fairy tale. The story flowed well and offered a lot more details. However, a few details left me wondering why exactly they were added. For example at the beginning, the Lass rescues a white reindeer, which according to legend if caught must grant a wish to his captor. The Lass asks the reindeer to heal her brother, Hans, but is told that her wish was beyond his ability. Instead, he provides the Lass with a name of her own, and also gives her the ability to talk to animals. Throughout the rest of the story, I was expecting something to come from the girl receiving a name, but it never came. Although this is a small detail and did not adversely affect the story, it felt like an oversight in the construction of the plot.

I really did find this an enchanting novel. George’s description of various setting are vivid and her knowledge of Norwegian lore extensive. She uses that knowledge to breath life into fantastical creatures like the isobjorn, trolls, faun, pixies, and other creatures central to her setting and plot. If you like fairy tales or retelling of fairy tales, then you should not hesitate to read Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow, because it is a lovely story.

Next is Savvy by Ingrid Law

For generations, the Beaumont family has harbored a magical secret. They each possess a "savvy"--a special supernatural power that strikes when they turn thirteen. Grandpa Bomba moves mountains, her older brothers create hurricanes and spark electricity . . . and now it's the eve of Mibs's big day.

As if waiting weren't hard enough, the family gets scary news two days before Mibs's birthday: Poppa has been in a terrible accident. Mibs develops the singular mission to get to the hospital and prove that her new power can save her dad. So she sneaks onto a salesman's bus . . . only to find the bus heading in the opposite direction. Suddenly Mibs finds herself on an unforgettable odyssey that will force her to make sense of growing up--and of other people, who might also have a few secrets hidden just beneath the skin.  From Goodreads

Savvy is one of those books that is impossible not to love. The unique premise of the book gives it a leg up on interesting, and makes me wish I had a savvy of my own. The pace fits the story nicely (like riding on a bus), slow but steady with engaging stops along the way. The ending, while hardly what I expected, is perfect with the whole tenor of the plot.

But to be sure it is the characters especially Mibs that truly makes Savvy a book to remembered.  Mibs devotion to her family, her gumption, and her spunk combine to make her unforgettable. Mibs' voice is quite distinct as the narrator. For example:

Maybe it's like that for everyone, I thought. Maybe we all have other people's voices running higgledy-piggledy through our heads all the time. I though how my poppa and momma were there inside my head with me, telling me right from wron, Or how the voices of Ashley Bing and Emma Flint sometimes got stuck under my skin, taunting me and making me feel low, even when they weren't around. I began to realize how hard it was to separate out all the voices to hear the single, strong one that came just from me. 

I also loved Bobbi and Will, who follow Mibs on her quest to get to Poppa and save him. Bobbi is a rebellious sixteen-year-old pastor's daughter whose snarky smile hides her insecurities and loneliness. Will, Bobbi's brother, is wonderfully accepting and often the voice of reason, and Lester, the Bible selling wimp unwittingly provides lots of comic relief.

Finally, Savvy offers an important theme about acceptance that I found irresistible. I highly recommend this one and will be nominating it for next years book battle list.

The Dragonfly Pool by Eva Ibbotson was the third book I finished recently and have had a difficult time reviewing.

At first Tally doesn’t want to go to the boarding school called Delderton. But she soon discovers that it is a wonderful place where freedom and self-expression are valued. Tally organizes a ragtag dance troupe so the school can participate in an international folk dancing festival in Bergania in the summer of 1939. There she befriends Karil, the crown prince, who would love nothing more than to have ordinary friends and attend a school like Delderton. When Karil’s father is assassinated, it is up to Tally and her friends to help Karil escape the Nazis and the bleak future he has inherited. From Goodreads

Eva Ibbotson's writing is vividly descriptive, and her characters are well-drawn and quirky. The pace of the book is slow, however, and yet I really wanted to find out what was going to happen next. I really loved Tally as a character even though I found her to be too good to be true. The setting was very different and certainly played a large part in the plot. While I really didn't love this book, I did like it. This is the first Ibbotson book I have read and I will have to read some more as she is truly a fine writer.

Atherton House of Power by Patrick Carmen completes the reviews that I have been laxed in writing.

From the creator of The Land of Elyon comes a riveting adventure set in an extraordinary satellite world--created as a refuge from a dying Earth--that begins to collapse and forever change the lives of its inhabitants. Edgar, a gifted climber, is a lonely boy scaling the perilous cliffs that separate the three realms of Atherton: a humble fig grove; a mysterious highland world of untold beauty and sinister secrets; and a vast wasteland where he must confront an unspeakable danger that could destroy the people of Atherton. When Edgar discovers a book which contains the history of Atherton's origins and ultimate apocalypse, his world--quite literally--begins to turn inside out. From Goodreads

I was suppose to read this book last summer in order to write questions for the book battle. I have to admit I started the book and was not too excited about the beginning. I only read a couple of chapters, before putting it down forgetting that I was committed to write the questions. So last week I started again, and once I got past the first couple of chapters I actually found myself involved in the plot. 

The elements I like most about the book were the illustrations Carmen provides to help you visualize the planet, the creative nature of the conflicts, which were all related to the planets creation, and the strong female characters, one of which is actually a minor character. Since this is book one, the ending leaves you hanging, but I am not sure that the story grabbed me enough to read the other two.     

2 Delicious Comments:

Shweta said...

I have two books to review of Ibbotson and I am sure you will find her other books more satisfying than you did with his book. Will definitely look for Jessica Day George books

Kathy Martin said...

Have you read Beauty by Robin McKinley? That is a fairy tale retelling that doesn't short change character development. I do like the books by Jessica Day George but I haven't read this one yet. I'll have to add it to my list. The other books sound interesting too.

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