Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Redheaded Princess

by Ann Rinaldi
ISBN: 9780060733742

This book is about Queen Elizabeth I before she was queen. It is historical fiction.

This was the first book I had read by Ann Rinaldi, and I was impressed by the way she brings in actual facts into her story in an understandable way. She really weaves them into the plot.

This book was very interesting to me although I did not see very much hope or redemption. The time of Henry VIII was a brutal and sad time, even for the royalty in Europe. There was the Spanish Inquisition as well as poor King Henry killing all his billions of wives. Therefore the book was pretty dark, detailing the troubles Elizabeth had with her family members all trying to scheme and plot to take the throne.

Despite all of this sadness this was a pretty good book. I definitely learned new things about that time period, and bringing in the perspective of a young royal girl helped shed a new light on the topic. Recommended for ages 14 and up.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Princess Ben

by Catherine Gilbert Murdock
ISBN: 9780618959716

I found this book to be a perfect mix of princesses, magic, powerful women characters, and redemption.

"Ben" is third in line to the throne when her parents and the king are attacked by enemies. She is orphaned and left to learn all about being a queen from the regent queen, her aunt. Ben is upset and confused and rebellious. She has never been properly trained and the queen is afraid she will be unacceptable as heir.

The first few chapters were quite despairing and hardships kept hurting the princess, but I was VERY encouraged by the end. This is really a coming-of-age book and would easily be applied to any young girl who feels that her life is just not fair and that the world is conspiring against her. Thankfully the book reminds us that sometimes we just have to push through and conquer our problems.

Special note: The princess is often referred to as fat, and towards the end does slim down but is still not "skinny" or "slim". I was happy to see the way the author handled conquering a food addiction in a healthful manner, and realistically many girls these days are confronted with self-image problems at an early age.

Recommended for age 13 and up.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Staircase

by Ann Rinaldi
ISBN 0152024301

Ann Rinaldi writes historical fiction for young adults. This particular novel was about a young girl who moves to a convent shortly after the Civil War. She does not want to be there, especially because she is Methodist, but also because she is grieving the loss of her mother and really would rather be on adventures with her father.

The convent was in Santa Fe, New Mexico territory. I was very surprised to see how interesting the culture of that area was at the time. The author portrayed a town full of Mexican, Indian, and Catholic superstitions, culture, and customs. At times the children in the book encountered graveyards, witches, vicious townspeople, and failed prayers. The protagonist has a healthy suspicion of Catholic beliefs and would rather just be Methodist.

I thought that though religion was not always portrayed in a positive light, there were some truths and hopeful characters. It was an engaging story about a real legend from the area.

Recommended for ages 13 and up.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Up and Down the Scratchy Mountains

by Laurel Snyder
ISBN 9780375947196

Lucy the milkmaid is friends with Wynston, a prince. As she grieves the loss of her mother and solves a mystery surrounding her disappearance, she also goes through a coming-of-age time where she re-evaluates her life and expectations for the future.

On her journey to find her mother she meets new and interesting people and has to use her smarts and abilities to find her way.

Aside from the concerning problem of her running away and not really having any consequences for those actions this was a light, humorous, and tender book. Recommended for ages 10-14.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Aedyn Chronicles: Chosen Ones

by Alister McGrath
ISBN 9780310718123

Fiction, fantasy, young adult

The Chosen Ones is an allegorical fantasy showing us the battle that people go through when deciding whether to be on God's team or not.

This was the first in a series, and I was glad to see that it did not end in a cliff hanger. The writing was simplistic and unpolished. I found the story to be an okay plot, but I am fairly picky in my fantasy expectations.

Two children find a pool in the backyard of their vacation home and fall through it into another world. They are assigned a quest to save the kingdom and even have a prophecy about them.

There were a few typos and it really wasn't a book that I would read again, but if you are looking for a light fantasy this is a good choice for you.

Thanks to Pam at Zondervan for providing a copy of this book for me to review.

Friday, July 02, 2010

A Bump in the Road: From Happy Hour to Baby Shower by Maureen Lipinski

I have made the comment recently that I read more fiction than non. After reading A Bump in the Road: From Happy Hour to Baby Shower by Maureen Lipinski, I think I need to clarify that statement.

I don't tend to finish fiction. Why? Because most of what I read is terrible. Bad plots, badly drawn characters, and the worst offense--authors who cannot put their main characters in peril. Fiction is supposed to be cathartic, allow readers to experience things we would be too scared to otherwise or would never have the opportunity to. Nothing irritates me more than when an author is too gentle with the plot for the sake of the main character.

Yes, Stephanie Meyer, I am calling you out.

So lately, I have been gravitating towards memoir because it feels more authentic. However, Jen Lancaster made some fiction suggestions on her summer reading list. Looking for a change, I decided to try some out. First up was Lipinski's book, a story about a young woman in Chicago, still enjoying her marriage's honeymoon stage, who accidentally gets pregnant. The novel follows Claire through each trimester as she struggles with the sudden changes, the morning sickness, managing her life, and coming to terms with the fact that nothing will be the same again.

At first I struggled to get into the book. I found Claire to be silly and unrealistic (really, who can drink that much?), but once she got pregnant, I could relate to her much better. This novel reminded me of my own unexpected pregnancy in so many ways. This novel excels because it has just enough realism and outlandish moments combined.

Now, it's not perfect. There are some cliches, some characters who aren't fully developed (overbearing mother-in-law, perfectionist friend with bad marriage, slutty friend with heart of gold, etc.) But it's good enough for me to look forward to the sequel I requested from the library.

I recommend this book for non-literary snobs, especially women. I don't see guys getting into this. Well, it's not really for them anyways.

Hillary