I fell in love with Eva Ibbotson’s Which Witch years ago, but I didn’t realize just how many other books she had written. For the past few years, I’ve...moreI fell in love with Eva Ibbotson’s Which Witch years ago, but I didn’t realize just how many other books she had written. For the past few years, I’ve been going to the public library every so often to borrow one of her works, and very often polishing it off that very day. Ibbotson’s style is so very unique. She writes about ghouls, witches, and monsters and manages to make them all lovable, deep characters. She achieves this all without resorting to hokum by creating characters who are misunderstood or strive to attain a goal that any reader might understand.
In this story, three children are sent to live with their aunts and uncle, who live in a dilapidated castle on the verge of ruin. The only thing that keeps them there is a herd of wild, beautiful white cattle. The children arrive, already unhappy, but soon become enchanted with the castle and learn to love their well-intentioned relatives. They conspire to save the castle, and actually begin to succeed. But then, danger comes in the form of a neighboring industrialist who wants no more than to buy up the castle and turn it into a theme park.
As with many of Ibbotson’s books, there is adventure, rescue, and a lot of the supernatural involved. I have given this only three stars however, because I felt it was not as engaging as some of her other works. Still, it is an enjoyable read, and I look forward to listening to the audiobook, as it is read by David Tennant. (less)
When I was in high school, I read a great deal of fan fiction, mostly in the Harry Potter fandom (quite simply because I couldn't get enough of that w...moreWhen I was in high school, I read a great deal of fan fiction, mostly in the Harry Potter fandom (quite simply because I couldn't get enough of that world). One of my favorite authors was Maya, who was the penname of Sarah Rees Brennan. Unlike another fanfic writer to published author (*cough*Cassandra Clare*cough), her published works do not resemble her fanfics in the way of plot or characterizations. Brennan keeps her lovely writing style and ability to build a world, but invents wholly new characters to inhabit that world.
This novel, the first in a trilogy, tells the story of the Ryves brothers, Nick and Alan, who are on the run from magicians along with their mentally disturbed mother. Their father was killed by said magicians when the boys were young, and they have been running to try and protect their mother, who is in possession of a talisman that a magician named Black Arthur (who was her ex-lover) desperately wants. At least that is what Nick thinks, until two strangers enter their lives asking for help, and his entire world is turned around based on the revelations that occur.
I strongly respected Brennan's decision to tell the story through Nick's eyes. He is not the typical narrator one sees in these kinds of books. Yes, he is magically gifted (for a reason) and handsome and confident. But he can also be cruel, selfish, and unable to understand other people's emotions, even those closest to him. Readers of fantasy are used to protagonists that are obviously good, but Nick struggles throughout the whole book with his dark side. In the end, we understand why he is the way he is, and Brennan's reveal is well foreshadowed yet still shocking.
I listened to this book as read by James Langdon, and I thought he did a good job. I'm looking forward to reading the second in this series. (less)
This is the book that started the longest pop culture obsession of my life so far. I grew up with Harry Potter, literally, as I was 11 years old when...moreThis is the book that started the longest pop culture obsession of my life so far. I grew up with Harry Potter, literally, as I was 11 years old when the series became popular. Waiting for the later books in the series defined my teenage years. I went to midnight screenings of all the movies, snagged the books as soon as they were released, and spent hours upon hours on Potter websites.
I recently decided to listen to the wonderful Stephen Fry version of the audiobook because I needed something comforting and utterly familiar. Having read this book at least 10 times previous, it was an obvious choice. Stephen Fry does a fantastic job and gives a different voice and spirit to every character.
As to the story itself, I'd forgotten certain plot elements that weren't in the movie, such as Harry and Draco's midnight duel, and Harry and Hermione sending Norbert off with Charlie's friends. Those scenes were such lovely surprises. I also really appreciated Rowling's skill at writing adventure, action, and funny but realistic dialogue. I was not surprised that I enjoyed listening to this book just as much as I loved reading it the first time around. Pure magic. (less)
After her first rollicking, wild adventure in the land of the elves, Tiffany Aching is finally getting the training she needs. As a young witch, that...moreAfter her first rollicking, wild adventure in the land of the elves, Tiffany Aching is finally getting the training she needs. As a young witch, that mostly involves taking care of an older witch named Miss Level, who turns out to have one mind in two bodies. In addition to Miss Level, we are also introduced to a gaggle of young witches in training. There's Petulia, who has an affinity with pigs, and Annagramma, a snobby witch obsessed with the flashier side of witchery. Annagramma humiliates Tiffany constantly, making fun of her imaginary witch's hat and leaving her open to the attack of a malevolent ball of evil.
Soon enough, Miss Level and the Nac Mac Feegle start noticing strange behaviors in Tiffany. She steals from an elderly man she's supposed to be caring for, frightens the other apprentices, and causes all manner of chaos.
The Nac Mac Feegle, led by Rob Anybody, decide to help Tiffany in the only way they know how, with violence and lots of swearing. In the end though, the fight is in Tiffany's mind, and she has to confront the evil presence in it, and teach it her own brand of humanity.
I thought this was an great sequel which continued to build the excellent and unique character of Tiffany Aching. (less)
The Goose Girl is a retelling of a lesser-known fairy tale of the same name. The original Brothers Grimm story is quite, well, grim. The heroine of th...moreThe Goose Girl is a retelling of a lesser-known fairy tale of the same name. The original Brothers Grimm story is quite, well, grim. The heroine of the story is sent by her mother to wed another kingdom's prince. She sets off with her maid, a talking horse named Falada, and a handkerchief with three drops of her mother's blood for protection. During the journey, she loses the handkerchief and her maid betrays her, forcing her to switch places. When they get to the palace, the maid marries the prince and the princess is given the job of goose girl.
I won't spoil the ending, but you can read the original story here.
The adaptation is very faithful to the fairy tale, and adds in the bonus of giving names to the main characters. Some of the more improbable elements of the story are explained away, and Hale creates a very convincing world. The main character, Princess Anidori-Kiladra Talianna Isilee of Kildenree is very easy to relate to, and you end up really rooting for her.
I listed to an audio version of this book, with the characters acted out by a full cast. I must say this really added to the experience of the novel, and helped me to connect to the characters even more. (less)
One of my favorite books as a kid was an illustrated version of the Grimm's Fairy Tales. "Maid Maleen" was one of my favorite stories from the selecti...moreOne of my favorite books as a kid was an illustrated version of the Grimm's Fairy Tales. "Maid Maleen" was one of my favorite stories from the selection and I've always thought it was an extremely underrated tale. It tells the story of a princess who gets shut into a tower by her father for seven years when she refuses to marry a man she doesn't love. When she comes out of the tower she makes her way in poverty and distress to her beloved's country, where he is about to marry someone else.
Shannon Hale once reinvented another relatively unknown tale, "The Goose Girl" to great effect by inventing an entire world around it, filled with interesting peoples and countries. She is likewise successful with this book, inventing a Mongolian-like civilization and grounding her characters in fantastic sounding kingdoms like Titor's Garden, Thoughts of Under, and Song for Evela (all named for gods in a completely believable religion).
Hale made a conscious decision to tell the story through the eyes of Dashti, the princess' maid. It's a good choice. In the original fairy tale, we learn barely anything about the maid, why does she agree to stay with the poor princess, where does she disappear to halfway through the story? Hale also convincingly writes about the impossibility of the story (the food that is supposed to last Dashti and the princess for seven years is gone in less than four), and the toll it takes on both of them. Dashti is blessed with the healing power of singing, so she emerges from the tower with her sanity intact. The princess is not so fortunate. Throughout the novel we get glimpses of the princess' fear and slipping mind, and it makes Dashti's fortitude and strength that much more impressive.
I listened to this book as a full-cast audio production, and I must say it was wonderfully produced. The voices were spot on, and the musical elements definitely added to the experience. One sick day I listened to the bulk of the novel and absolutely fell in love with it. I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys smart and well-told fairy tale adaptations. (less)