The Foundling and Other Tales of Prydain was not essential to the understanding of the Prydain Chronicles. However, it was enjoyable and told a little...moreThe Foundling and Other Tales of Prydain was not essential to the understanding of the Prydain Chronicles. However, it was enjoyable and told a little extra that I hungered for after ending the final book of the series. It gives little snapshots of some of the characters that I spent two weeks growing to love (and some that I hated), to satisfy the little craving for more after finishing a good series. (less)
Taran Wanderer is the best book in the Prydain Chronicles. What it lacks in combat and heroism, it makes up for in character building. Taran's questio...moreTaran Wanderer is the best book in the Prydain Chronicles. What it lacks in combat and heroism, it makes up for in character building. Taran's questions are typical of a young man, but, as most men, he does not find the answers he seeks. His guardian, Dallben, tells him as he sets off, "Though you may not find what you seek, you will surely return a little wiser." As he seeks, Orddu strikes on a human coping mechanism when she tells Taran, "Believe what you like. You'll be surprised how comforting it is." Of course, Taran's strength of character will not allow himself to do such a thing.
As his seeking continues, and his troubled heart wonders, he asks his friend, Fflewddur, "Indeed, is a man truly what he sees himself to be?" Fflewddur philosophically responds, "Only if what he sees is true. If there's too great a difference between his opinion and the facts-ah-then, my friend, I should say that such a man has no...substance to him..."
At this point in his life, Taran is not so eager to go into battle or to lay his life on the line. He begins to learn what true courage is, and how foolish he was as a younger man. Fflewddur says of courage, "It's been my experience, from all my wanderings, that the further from the deed, the greater it grows, and the most glorious battle is the one long past. So it's hardly surprising how many heroes you run into."
Speaking to King Smoit, Taran learns something of being a leader. The king said, "A king's strength lies in the will of those he rules." Taran realized, "Indeed, true allegiance is only given willingly."
It's interesting that Taran is constantly surrounded by enchanters and enchantresses, princes and princesses, kings and queens, and tried and proven warriors. He learns the most wisdom and character from hard working people:
Llonio: "If I fret over tomorrow, I'll have little joy today."
Llonio: "Why my luck's no greater than yours or any other man's. You need only sharpen your eyes to see your luck when it comes, and sharpen your wits to use what falls into your hands."
Hevvyd the Smith: "Life's like a forge, say I! Face the pounding; don't fear the proving; and you'll stand well against any hammer and anvil."
Dwyvach the Weaver Woman: "Life's a forge? A loom rather where lives and days intertwine; and he is wise who can learn to see a pattern."
Dwyvach: "Mind you, if life is a loom the pattern you weave is not so easily unraveled."
Annlaw Clay-Shaper: "Stale water is a poor drink. Stale skill is worse. And the man who walks in his own footsteps only ends where he began."
Toward the end of the book, he realizes he has found some answers, even though they weren't the answers he sought. He describes himself: "I saw strength and frailty. Pride and vanity, courage and fear. Of wisdom, a little. Of folly, much. Of intentions, many good ones, but many more left undone. In this, alas, I saw myself a man like any other."
"And the birthright I once sought, I seek it no longer. The folk of the Free Commots taught me well, that manhood is not given, but earned."
During his journey he came to the realization that he wanted a royal birthright, because in his heart he judged those without as inferior. It took hard work and living side to side with those people to see for himself that true character is not a birthright.(less)
**spoiler alert** Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince had a bit of a different feel than the other books in the series. There was a little more pol...more**spoiler alert** Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince had a bit of a different feel than the other books in the series. There was a little more political talk to start off, as well as some insight from the evil side in the initial conversation between Snape, Bellatrix, and Narcissa. It seems like the fun and games part of growing up is over when we get to this book. Quidditch doesn't mean as much anymore. Harry and Malfoy seem to hate each other on a whole new level, far removed from two eleven-year-old kids talking trash to each other.
The book starts off with a change in the Ministry of Magic position. Tough times call for a tough leader. They changed from having a diplomatic leader to having a hard-nosed leader who's not afraid to knock some heads. Not so different from how American presidents are elected.
From the beginning it seemed like Malfoy was going to be the key villain in this story based on the fact that he was supposed to carry out Voldemort's orders. It makes sense now that Snape ended up being the main villain. Snape was more a part of the story than Malfoy, and at a deeper level.
We get some great insight into Voldemort. Harry finds out how much he and Voldemort have in common. I love that we learn bits and pieces of the past that help us to put together this puzzle.
We get small chunks of Dumbledore's wisdom and theories throughout the book. We are led to believe that his theories are always right. His wisdom always leads him the right way. Everything he plans ends up working. We can trust his intuitions. All this seems to be true until the end when it matters most. We have been able to trust every bit of what Dumbledore has put together, except the most crucial piece. When Snape kills Dumbledore, it all comes apart. How could this have happened? How could the voice of wisdom and discernment be led so far down a path of deception by a Death Eater? It doesn't fit. Now I have to change my entire view of Dumbledore. What else was he wrong about? Or...was this some clever part of Dumbledore's plan? No, it couldn't be. I just can't believe he was so wrong. I still want to believe that Dumbledore could not have been wrong on this.
The thing that really made Dumbledore special was his belief in love. "You are protected, in short, by your ability to love! The only protection that can possibly work against the lure of power like Voldemort's! In spite of all of the temptation you have endured, all the suffering, you remain pure of heart..." This belief of Dumbledore's, that love is what is going to defeat Voldemort, is very inspiring...but also very infuriating, now that it got him killed. So how can Harry (or we) still believe that what Dumbledore believed was true? I find it very disheartening (and confusing), after all we've seen, that Dumbledore will not be there in the final book. I'm starting to doubt that Rowling knows what she's doing.
So is this Severus Snape a hard-core Voldemort worshiper, or is he just out for himself? This book has laid the groundwork for Snape playing a big part in the final book. I'm intrigued to find out how all of this can be brought together in one more book. (less)
The Shattering is the cleverly crafted fifth book of the Guardians of Ga'Hoole series. The title refers to the mind of owls who are subjected to the...more The Shattering is the cleverly crafted fifth book of the Guardians of Ga'Hoole series. The title refers to the mind of owls who are subjected to the mind-controlling flecks used as weapons by the pure ones. It is a story that brings to the forefront advanced warfare that is waged not on the body, but within the minds of unsuspecting young victims. The numerous references to shattering with terms such as slivers, shards, splitting, fragmented, piece by piece, and division weave a disturbing theme through a thought provoking tale. There is an eerie foreshadowing in the previous book when Dewlap, the traitor who betrayed Ga'Hoole to the Pure Ones, bans and eventually destroys a seemingly insignificant book. We learn later that the very knowledge in this book is the key to the brutal mind shattering used by the Pure Ones to serve their purposes. The book is torn, tattered, and scattered to the four winds like so many broken shards of Eglantine's mind. It commences when Eglantine herself drops and shatters the egg that is the symbolic hope for the future of the Pure Ones. In the end the story gets back to Dewlap, who suffers something worse than a shattered mind: a broken spirit. In the grand theme of good vs. evil, there is a great contrast between Eglantine and Nyra concerning the egg. Nyra wants to protect the egg out of selfishness and the power it could bring her. Eglantine strives to protect it for the sanctity of life. While there comes a time when Nyra forgets about the egg for self-preservation, Eglantine is willing to die to save the egg. When Nyra discovers the shattered egg, her response is not sadness and mourning, but rage and vengeance. Another great discussion is brought about by the egg. Will the offspring of two evil parents, Kludd and Nyra, be born evil? Could it ever have a chance at a decent life? It prompts the question of how Kludd and Soren could have been born to the same parents. What about all of the nuances of good and evil that are in us all? The argument for a free society is made by the author in chapter 21. She brings up the question of how much respect the leaders of a tyranny really have from their inferiors. They fight because they fear their leaders, while in the free society, the citizens fight for what the feel is worth fighting for. She goes on to note the “fruits of an open free-thinking society.” While the free-thinking society can create so much, Ezylryb is bothered by the new weapons used by the Chaw of Chaws. In fact, he is bothered by warfare altogether, and the direction the Owl World is going. Soren shares Ezylryb's feelings, though he doesn't really understand it yet. He is becoming more and more like his mentor, and one day he will be the old, battle-beaten owl who spends his older years wishing there was a better way than war to solve the problems of owlkind. The Shattering was a fantastic book, and the first great book of this series. It asked tough questions, had great thought-provoking issues, and resolved some of the lingering plotlines, while creating new ones to leave the reader wanting more. It's all building for a great war between the Owls of Ga'Hoole and the Pure Ones with all the flecks in St. Aggies. What kind of warfare will come out of such a clash? (less)
A great opportunity to expose students, ages 12-15ish, to some history and biographical information about some of the most interesting people in histo...moreA great opportunity to expose students, ages 12-15ish, to some history and biographical information about some of the most interesting people in history. Each sketch is very brief and very riveting. I learned a few things I didn't know. This would be great for kids who like facts and trivia.(less)