Monday, June 29, 2009

Right under your nose

Title: The Warrior Heir
Author: Cinda Williams Chima
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 432
Genre: Young Adult/Fantasy
Series #: 1 of 3
Date Started: June 27, 2009
Date Finished: June 28, 2009

Rating: A+

Description (from B&N): Before he knew about the Roses, 16-year-old Jack lived an unremarkable life in the small Ohio town of Trinity. Only the medicine he has to take daily and the thick scar above his heart set him apart from the other high-schoolers. Then one day Jack skips his medicine. Suddenly, he is stronger, fiercer, and more confident than ever before. And it feels great until he loses control of his own strength and nearly kills another player during soccer team tryouts. Soon, Jack learns the startling truth about himself: He is Weirlind; part of an underground society of magical people who live among us. At the head of this magical society sit the feuding houses of the Red Rose and the White Rose, whose power is determined by playing The Game a magical tournament in which each house sponsors a warrior to fight to the death. The winning house rules the Weir. As if his bizarre magical heritage isn’t enough, Jack finds out that he’s not just another member of Weirlind he’s one of the last of the warriors at a time when both houses are scouting for a player. Jack’s performance on the soccer field has alerted the entire magical community to the fact that he’s in Trinity. And until one of the houses is declared Jack’s official sponsor, they’ll stop at nothing to get Jack to fight for them.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Imagine you've just discovered that you possess magic powers. What would your first reaction be? Fear? Excitement? Disbelief? Acceptance? Cinda Williams Chima does a magnificent job in her debut novel at portraying the emotions of a confused teenager who's just learned he's a magical being and that he's marked for death. Jack is convincing as the average high-schooler literally thrown into a war between two wizarding factions. You feel his disbelief, his wonder, and his pain. His two best friends, Will & Fitch, are also believable and likable. Fitch is probably my favorite character.

I love stories about societies and worlds and powers that are hidden in the everyday life and setting of Earth. It's just fun to imagine the possibilities. Stories like this, and The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan, instead of creating entirely new worlds that require ample explanation and description, use the backdrop of the world live in so there's less time spent on making the setting real, and more time spent on weaving a complex and exciting story.

This story didn't fail to entertain or surprise. While my sister did say that some of the ending was a bit cliched, there were plenty of twists that neither one of us was expecting. Well-written, gripping, and fun, Warrior Heir was a too-exciting-to-put-it-down book, and I can't wait to read the next two books. A+

Disappointing, to say the least

Title: The Dragon Princess
Author: E.D. Baker
Format: Harcover
Pages: 224
Genre: Young Adult/Fantasy
Series #: 6 of 6
Date Started: June 27, 2009
Date Finished: June 27, 2009

Rating: C

Description (from B&N): Meet Millie, the charming but somewhat cursed daughter of Princess Emma and Prince Eadric. Why cursed? You see, every time Millie gets mad (and she gets mad a little too often) she turns into a dragon. And not a cute little pink dragon either. She is a full-on, green-scaled, huge-winged, fire-breathing dragon. Enough to scare the petticoats off her own friends, family…and of course, potential suitors who come to see about her hand in marriage.

It’s embarrassing…even maddening, that this has to happen, but no one seems to have any answers for her…until she hears about a witch in the far reaches of the Frozen North, a witch guarded by a frightening brigade of polar bears, bears who have no interest in helping a princess in distress...

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

All I can say about this book is that it was a big disappointment. I've loved most of the books in this series, even when Baker's choppy writing style bugged me. But this book annoyed me for completely different reasons.

  1. The story was boring... it got exciting at some points, but for the most part, there wasn't a lot of action. The story just didn't seem to flow and to move. It just kind of jumped from one point to another without any transitions. And the characters weren't as easy to connect with as Emma and Eadric had been, especially since they didn't seem to connect with each other. They just weren't developed at all. The author kept repeating physical traits in order to make the characters more real, but it only annoyed me. I must have read the same description of Millie's friend Zoe over and over again. And her cousin had even less description, if that's even possible. It was also boring because for the most part, it lacked the humor and the fun that made the other books so enjoyable.
  2. It felt like half the book was just recapping everything that happened in the last 5 books. I understand that it's important for your readers to remember what happened in a previous story in order for some things to make sense. That doesn't mean you have to practically retell the other 5 books throughout the 6th book. A big problem that series writers have is that they can't write their books so that one could stand on its own if someone accidentally read the series out of order. I love Chris Paolini and Cornelia Funke because they just throw a quick summary of the earlier books in the beginning of their later books so if you need a reminder or if you've never read the other books, you can still understand most of what's happening without having to endure recap after recap. And the recaps wouldn't have been so bad if Baker hadn't used the same two plot devices over and over again to include them.
  3. The book was a lot shorter than it should have been. When you consider how much of the story was made up of recapping the past, Millie's story should have been longer to make up for it. And to end the story before she makes it back home and has to face her parents and grandparents was even more maddening.
  4. Personal issue: I miss Emma & Eadric. They were such great characters, and I wish I could have read about their adventures with the sea monsters, instead of their daughter's rather uninteresting adventure to control her temper.
Only two redeeming qualities for this book-- Audun, the frost dragon, and the Blue Witch. They pretty much saved this book. Otherwise, I wouldn't read this book again unless I was rereading the series. C

The Second Dragon War

Title: Dragon Flight
Author: Jessica Day George
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 272
Genre: Young Adult/Fantasy
Series #: 2 of 3
Date Started: June 27, 2009
Date Finished: June 27, 2009

Rating: A

Description (from B&N): With the Dragon Wars over, Creel finds herself bored with life as a seamstress. Then word comes that a bordering country has been breeding dragons in preparation for an invasion. Never one to sit around, Creel throws herself headlong into an adventure that will reunite her with her dragon friend Shardas, pit her against a vicious new enemy and perhaps rekindle a friendship with Prince Luka that seems to have gone cold.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

First of all, I disagree with the synopsis. Her relationship with Luka has not "gone cold," so don't be misled by that little tidbit. And now on to the review of the book.

This book was a great follow-up to Dragon Slippers. All of the great main characters in the last book came together again for a whole new adventure, along with a few new characters. I loved that Marta played a much bigger role in this book, and her character was fleshed out more. She was one of my favorite characters in the first book, and it disappointed me that she played such a secondary role. But in Dragon Flight, Marta and Creel were the primary characters, instead of Creel and Luka. There were also some great new dragons, and new romances as well.

The story had a great plot, and the ending (at least the dragons' part of the ending) was completely unexpected. Creel, Luka, and Marta's ending in the book was expected, but very sweet all the same. This was a great read for a Saturday afternoon, and I look forward to the final book in the trilogy. A

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Miniseries rock!!

Title: Tin Man
Format: DVD/Miniseries
Rating: A-

I am officially hooked on miniseries! Pride & Prejudice, The 10th Kingdom, Lost in Austen, and now Tin Man. I can't wait to see what's next!

Description (from Barnes & Noble): Produced for the Sci-Fi Channel, this twisted variation on L. Frank Baum's classic tale follows a young girl named D.G. and her newfound friends as they embark on a wondrous adventure through the Outer Zone (O.Z.) on a mission to locate a powerful wizard known as the Mystic Man, and break the spell of the wicked sorceress Azkadellia. An ordinary girl suddenly thrust into an extraordinary world, D.G. arrives on the Outer Zone prepared to follow the fabled Old Road and fulfill her destiny. When D.G. discovers that the evil Azkadellia has cast an oppressive spell over the Outer Zone, she enlists the aid of half-brained eccentric Glitch, kindly-but-cowardly beast Raw, and heartbroken former lawman Cain in seeking out the wisdom of the fabled Mystic Man who lives at the end of the Old Road. With the future of the Outer Zone hanging in the balance, this adventurous group ventures down a perilous road that will find them doing battle with nightmarish flying monkey bats and Azkadellia's malevolent henchmen as they attempt to break a spell with the power to destroy them all. Perhaps before their journey is over, D.G. and her new friends will discover a few things that they never even knew about themselves as well.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

First, I must say Thank You to my coworker Lori for lending this to me! This miniseries was awesome! Complex characters, a great story, plot twists, and a beautiful setting. It was so good, that as soon as I finished it, I watched it again with my sister (who also loved it).

Some fun quotes:

Glitch: Even with half a brain, I can tell we gotta get out of here.

Azkadellia: Well if it isn't the great and terrible blah blah blah himself.

Cain: You know, sometimes it amazes me that you were once an adviser to the queen.
Glitch: I know, me too!

Glitch: I actually don't like heights.
DG: When I first met you, you were hanging from a ceiling.

Zooey Deschanel is perfect as the wide-eyed heroine, thrust into a strange world that seems oddly familiar to her, trying to save this world while also trying to figure out who she is. I loved her reactions to everything going on around her and her interactions with the other characters. I was a little disappointed with the lack of romance, but the series is so exciting, I didn't feel like it was missing anything important.

Her fellow adventurers are also great. Alan Cumming as the "scarecrow" character Glitch is hilarious. He actually reminds me of Dug, from Disney-Pixar's Up. And Neal McDonough as the Tin Man... amazing! By far, he is my favorite character. His storyline within the movie was just as exciting as DG's, and I could have watched this movie if it was all just about him.

The story's main adversary, Azkedellia, was the perfect combination of evil and cunning. Her facial expressions and the way she talked just exuded maliciousness. I loved the series' portrayal of the flying monkeys as well.

I think the best part of the film was seeing how the SciFi channel interpreted the story of the Wizard of Oz. Modern touches, like contemporary clothing and complex machines, and new interpretations, such as the Tin Man being a human cop (which is why he's called a tin man) and the scarecrow being a human too, only he's actually missing half of his brain-- these new additions mixed in with the old magic of the original story made this a thrilling adventure to take part in.

My complaint is the same as most of my others. Please edit out the one or two scenes that make it impossible for me to share this with the whole family. Otherwise, it's perfect. A-

My first C!

Title: Chasing Harry Winston
Author: Lauren Weisberger
Format: Paperback
Pages: 288
Genre: Chick Lit
Date Started: June 14, 2009
Date Finished: June 17, 2009

Rating: C-/D+

Description (from Barnes & Noble):
Emmy is newly single, and not by choice. She was this close to the ring and the baby she's wanted her whole life when her boyfriend left her for his twenty-three-year-old personal trainer — whose fees are paid by Emmy. With her plans for the perfect white wedding in the trash, Emmy is now ordering takeout for one. Her friends insist an around-the-world sex-fueled adventure will solve all her problems — could they be right?
Leigh, a young star in the publishing business, is within striking distance of landing her dream job as senior editor and marrying her dream guy. And to top it all off, she has just purchased her dream apartment. Only when Leigh begins to edit the enfant terrible of the literary world, the brilliant and brooding Jesse Chapman, does she start to notice some cracks in her perfect life...
Adriana is the drop-dead-gorgeous daughter of a famous supermodel. She possesses the kind of feminine wiles made only in Brazil, and she never hesitates to use them. But she's about to turn thirty and — as her mother keeps reminding her — she won't have her pick of the men forever. Everyone knows beauty is ephemeral and there's always someone younger and prettier right around the corner. Suddenly she's wondering...does Mother know best?
These three very different girls have been best friends for a decade in the greatest city on earth. As they near thirty, they're looking toward their future...but despite all they've earned —first-class travel, career promotions, invites to all the right parties, and luxuries small and large — they're not quite sure they like what they see...
One Saturday night at the Waverly Inn, Adriana and Emmy make a pact: within a single year, each will drastically change her life. Leigh watches from the sidelines, not making any promises, but she'll soon discover she has the most to lose. Their friendship is forever, but everything else is on the table. Three best friends. Two resolutions. One year to pull it off.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

A very long but intriguing description for a very mediocre book. I should have known that this book would not be much better than The Devil Wears Prada. But I read it anyway after a fellow blogger, who also didn't like DWP, wrote that this book was a huge improvement. I respectfully disagree. Weisberger's main characters, in both books, are selfish, immoral, and pathetic. I think this is why I tend to avoid chick lit. (Plus I don't like romace smut, but it's usually toned-down and less frequent in chick lit than in romance novels.)

I really didn't connect with any of the characters. The entire book was them whining. "My boyfriend dumped me." "My fiance is smothering me." "He won't sleep with me." "He doesn't love me." "I don't love him." "I don't want to be monogamous." "I have to edit this jerk's book." "My parents are so annoying." "My fiance is perfect, my life is perfect... and I hate it."


And by the end of the book, have any of them solved any of their problems? No.

In the end, there is a possibility, a hint that Emmy will be happy. Adriana's still a slut, but she's got a job, so that must make everything okay. Leigh's dumped her perfect life to have an affair, and that makes her happy. The moral of the story seems to be "If it makes you happy, do it, even if it is morally or ethically wrong."

The only thing that saved this book was a few of the secondary characters. Emmy's sister and brother-in-law are wonderful people who have discovered happiness in marriage and successful, if stressful, careers. I wish I'd gotten to read more of their storyline, rather than Emmy's. I also loved Leigh's fiance. That girl was so stupid to not be in love with him. And I adored the parrot. The parrot steals all the scenes it's in.

Overall, I wouldn't recommend this to anyone; I won't reread it (it's going on today); but I can't say that I completely hated it, thanks to the secondary characters. So... C-/D+

Library Run

Three new books from the library!!
  • Dragon Flight by Jessica Day George
  • Dragon Princess by E.D. Baker
  • Warrior Heir by Cinda Willams Chima
I wish my town's library was bigger and had more of a selection. All three of these books had to be ordered from other libraries. Our library would fit into the children's section of my cousin's library.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Sewing Stained Glass Windows

Title: Dragon Slippers
Author: Jessica Day George
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 336
Genre: Young Adult/Fantasy
Series #: 1 of 3
Date Started: June 14, 2009
Date Finished: June 14, 2009

Rating: A

Description (from Barnes & Noble): When an orphan girl named Creel befriends a dragon, she unknowingly inherits a pair of slippers that could be used to save her kingdom, or destroy it. Perfect for fans of Shannon Hale and Cornelia Funke’s Dragon Rider, the light tone and charming characterizations bring this heartwarming fantasy to life. Older middle grade readers and young teens alike will appreciate the adventure, fun, and dragon-drenched action!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Really short review today, because writer's block is a terrible affliction.

I love fantasy (obviously), but I really love dragons, and I love stories about dragons, which means I'm very biased towards any book that includes even a single dragon in it. So this book was absolutely perfect for me! The human characters were fun, if somewhat cliched. But the dragons were awesome! I love that the author decided to take the traditional view of dragons as vicious, fire-breathing treasure stealers amd completely throw it out the window. She even mentions the stereotype in the book, and it was great that she made her dragons her own.

So if you're into fantasy or dragons, read this book. A

Tuesday, June 9, 2009


Title: Up
Format: Drive-In Theater
Rating: A+

Pixar has done it again!

Description (from official movie website): From Disney-Pixar comes Up, a comedy adventure about 78-year-old balloon salesman Carl Fredricksen, who finally fulfills his lifelong dream of a great adventure when he ties thousands of balloons to his house and flies away to the wilds of South America. But he discovers all too late that his biggest nightmare has stowed away on the trip: an overly optimistic 8-year-old Wilderness Explorer named Russell. Disney-Pixar's Up invites you on a hilarious journey into a lost world, with the least likely duo on Earth.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I don't want to give anything away, because this movie is still out in theaters, so I'll avoid discussing the plot. All I will say is that it was a great concept that was fun and exciting and silly. A Disney-Pixar masterpiece.

I saw this on Saturday too, the other half of the double feature at Warwick Drive-In. This was the movie that brought in the crowds that night. And now I understand why.

The characters of Up seem so real, so true to reality that you can't help connecting with them on a personal level. After watching Carl's married-life sequence in the beginning of the movie (which, I'll admit it, I cried during), you feel as if you know everything about him. You can understand why he reacts certain ways. And Russell is your average 8-year-old Boy Scout- curious, silly, completely lacking in tact, but equipped with a heart of gold that just wants to help his friends.

And then there's Dug. Dug is the best part of the whole movie. The best! The idea of giving dogs specialized collars so we can understand what they're really saying when they speak could have been a mistake, if they had made the dogs too intelligent and completely coherent. Anyone who has a dog knows that the voice coming out of that collar needed to be gullible, loving, and suffering from a severe form of A.D.H.D. Dug definitely embodies all of those, and I just couldn't help loving him.

Some totally awesome quotes:

Dug: "My name is Dug. I have just met you, and I love you."
Carl: "Wha..."
Dug: "My master made me this collar. He is a good and smart master and he made me this collar so that I may speak. Squirrel!!........... My master is good and smart."

Carl: "Do you want to play a game? It's called See Who Can Go the Longest Without Saying Anything."
Russell: "Cool! My mom loves that game!"

Carl: "What a joke."
Dug: "Hey, I know a joke! A squirrel walks up to a tree and says, 'I forgot to gather acorns for the winter and now I am dead.' Ha ha! It's funny because the squirrel gets dead."

I would recommend this movie to... everyone! A+

Monday, June 8, 2009

A fun, frolicking follow-up :)

Title: Night at the Museum 2: Battle of the Smithsonian
Format: Drive-In Theater
Rating: B+

A great sequel. Better than the typical straight-to-DVD sequels every production company is spewing out. Not as good as the first, but seriously, how often does a sequel surpass the original?

Description (from Barnes & Noble): The good-hearted dreamer Larry Daley must say good-bye to his famous friends from history who magically came to life during closing hours at New York's Natural History Museum. They are being replaced by virtual hologram exhibits, and the originals have been packed up and shipped off to the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. Then, Larry learns that the ancient Egyptian tablet of Ahkmenrah was also shipped by mistake, which allows the new acquisitions to come back to life! Among them are an evil ancient pharaoh, Ivan the Terrible of Czarist Russia, the American gangster Al Capone, France's Emperor Napoleon, and the famous woman pilot Amelia Earhart. It's Larry's job to stop a nefarious plot by evil-doers in that group. Fortunately, Larry gets vital help from Amelia Earhart. Here's a delightful concoction of comedy, adventure, and fantasy.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I saw this Saturday night, one half of the double feature playing at the Warwick Drive-In. The theater was packed! It got so crowded, people were parking in the exits, leaving no way out. A safety nightmare.

I really liked this movie, despite what "the critics" have to say. But really, who cares what they think? (Warning: If you like "the critics," as in the nationally published and revered like Ebert, don't read the rest of this paragraph. Or this whole blog for that matter.) After all, "the critics" liked Atonement... Atonement! Why do "the critics" love slit-your-wrists, unhappy-ending, I-think-I'll-go-cry-myself-to-sleep movies? Do they actually enjoy sitting through those morbid and/or depressing movies? Are they like the Academy members who think to themselves, "Let's take the most depressing, and usually unheard of, film and give it an award"? I think the Academy and "the critics" are being paid off by the industry so that these slit-your-wrist, artsy, unknown films get press and therefore make more money than they would have originally. Why is it so difficult for them to like the popular, funny, happy, and yes, somewhat cheesy family fun? Because that's exactly what Night at the Museum 2 was.

This movie took several of the major characters of the last movie and moved them to a new setting so they could bring in a whole new set of characters. And having the movie take place in D.C. at the Smithsonian was a great idea. The Smithsonian's size and range of exhibits helped separate this film from the last. The Museum of Natural History was primarily full of stuffed animals, wax figures of varying sizes, and dummies. The Smithsonian had those too, but it also had statues, pieces of art, machines, toys, puppets.

The plot wasn't brilliant; cheesy is the perfect word to describe it. But we all need a little cheesiness in our lives, and it was perfect for a movie focused towards kids. I think people tend to forget that when they see these movies. They write the movie off as sappy and dumb, because they're no longer at that humor level. (Although I will never undertand how anyone can claim that kids' movies are too cheesy, and then say with a straight face that Will Ferrell and Jim Carrey comedies aren't cheesy; they're "classic." I'm so sorry to disillusion you, but Dumb & Dumber is stupid and cheesy, and there are about a thousand family/kids movies that surpass it in quality and humor.) If you're an adult going to see this film, you can really get into it and enjoy it, as long as you remember that the movie you're about to see is geared towards children, not you.

There is some crude humor thrown in there just for the grown-ups though, stuff that hopefully flies right over the kids' heads, as well as character references that only an adult would know. I did notice that the amount of the crude/sexual humor increased for this movie, which was disappointing for me. I'm still a kid at heart, and I don't think a movie needs to throw that kind of stuff in to make the older audience happy.

Overall, I think this movie was pretty good. It brought back all of my favorite characters from the first movie, introduced a bunch of hilarious new ones (the lisping pharoah is one of the best), had a little romance, threw in a little lesson, and did a great job at keeping us entertained with its cheesiness. B+

Not what I expected

Title: The Wednesday Letters
By: Jason F. Wright
Format: Paperback
Pages: 288
Genre: Fiction/Christian Fiction
Date Started: June 4, 2009
Date Finished: June 4, 2009

Rating: ??? Not sure

Description (from Barnes & Noble): Their story begins with one letter on their wedding night, a letter from the groom, promising to write his bride every week-for as long they both shall live.

Thirty-nine years later, Jack and Laurel Cooper die in each other's arms. And when their grown children return to the family B&B to arrange the funeral, they discover thousands of letters.

The letters they read tell of surprising joys and sorrows. They also hint at a shocking family secret-and ultimately force the children to confront a life-changing moment of truth . . .

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I read this book because I saw it on several other blogs, and it was highly recommended. This usually tends to work out badly for me. The more something is praised and recommended, the higher my expectations become. And if the book isn't as good as everyone says it is, I end up disappointed. That isn't exactly what happened here. Reading the reviews and the description online led me to believe that this book was a love story with a shocking secret. I expected there to be a lot more letters; I actually expected most of the book to be only letters, with a little of the other characters thrown in. I think this book would have been amazing if it had just been Jack's letters (the concept is a great idea I hope my future husband, whoever he is, will try). So I was pretty surprised to discover that the book was more about the character development of the Cooper children, not Jack & Laurel's romance.

The writing wasn't amazing either. I had to force myself to keep reading at one point, before the Coopers' letters were found. The letters were the only part Wright wrote really well, and the rest was so-so. My creative writing professor and advisor used one phrase in every single class: "Show; don't tell." He was so emphatic on this point that he even wrote it on the wall during class. It is so important to allow emotions and reactions and events to be shown through the actions of the character, rather than just saying the person felt one way or another. This book did a lot of telling. So much so that before I was halfway through the book, I had already guessed the ending that everyone else found to be a surprise.

And if you have any issue reading about sexual abuse, sexual assault, and/or rape, don't read this book. It dealt with these subjects, and if you can't handle those, you need to stay away from this story. Even though it wasn't graphic, abuse of any kind is a very intense topic. It's because of this that I'm not sure if my reaction to the book isn't entirely based on my reaction to this subject. I read the book in one sitting, unable to put the book down. But I don't think it was because I particularly enjoyed the book. I think it was because the subject matter was so intense, I couldn't just go to sleep without knowing what sort of resolution there might be to such a painful and nightmare-inducing series of events.

So I can't say if I enjoyed the book or not. The bits of romance thrown in here and there and the few letters the Coopers did read were sweet but infrequent. Still, I couldn't stop reading it. It was just so intense (it really is the best word to describe it) that I really didn't have any sort of feeling afterwards. I was mostly numb and didn't have any solid opinion about the book except that I wouldn't read it again for a long time, and that I wanted to watch a mindless comedy afterwards to try to clear my head of the whole thing before going to bed.

Friday, June 5, 2009

"Trolls?" "Piece of cake." "Mother-in-law?" "RUN!"

Title: No Place for Magic
By: E.D. Baker
Format: Paperback
Pages: 272
Genre: Young Adult/Fantasy
Series #: 4 of 6
Date Started: June 3, 2009
Date Finished: June 3, 2009

Rating: A-

Description (from Barnes & Noble): Emma and Eadric are finally ready to get married, but Eadric’s parents are not so sure about having a witch in the family! The two set out for Upper Montevista, Eadric’s homeland to try to make a case for their love, but first Eadric’s irritating little brother, Bradston, needs rescuing from some horrible trolls. In a charming twist on the classic fairy tale rescue story, E. D. Baker’s hilarious style succeeds in this story tailor-made for her emailing fans who have been demanding “Please can we see the wedding!?”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

What would you do if the mother of your true love hated your magical ability so much she tried to convince her son to marry someone else... while you're standing next to him? What would you do if you had to put aside planning your wedding to save a future relative... who happens to be a spoiled prince bent on making your life miserable? What would you do if you found yourself face-to-face with an army of trolls... and you couldn't use magic against them? These are some of the questions Emma asks herself during this next adventure.

This book ties with Dragon's Breath for favorite book of the series. No Place for Magic is the next big step in Eadric & Emma's relationship, where they finally move from betrothed to married, despite all of the obstacles that come their way. A kidnapping, a controlling mother, a disapproving mother-in-law, jealous local beauties, a troll desperate to get married-- all to be faced with almost no magical assistance. One of my favorite parts was the cockatrices; Emma proves that you don't always need magic, just brains, to get yourself out of danger. And Eadric is wonderful as the peacemaker, attempting to soothe the obvious discord between his mother and his bride. This book also marks the return of Sheldon the crab from Dragon's Breath, a character most would probably place in the same rank as Jar-Jar Binks, but I love him. Another interesting secondary storyline was the relationship between Li'l the bat and her "husband" Garrid the vampire. It seems that even bats hit rocky spots when it comes to in-laws.

Of course the best part of the book was the wedding. I wish that part of the book had lasted longer, but since Emma's parents kind of threw everything together while Emma was on a quest with Eadric, it was rushed for the bride and groom too. Rushed or not, the wedding is beautiful. Especially after Emma gets her revenge on her M-I-L and Eadric's little brat, I mean, brother.

No Place for Magic was a wonderful development in the Frog Princess series. And despite my issues with Baker's choppy moments, I love this book. A-

A prequel for a sequel

Title: The Salamander Spell
By: E.D. Baker
Format: Paperback
Pages: 272
Genre: Young Adult/Fantasy
Series #: 5 of 6
Date Started: June 2, 2009
Date Finished: June 3, 2009

Rating: B+

Description (from Barnes & Noble): Grassina has always lived in the shadow of her perfect older sister, Chartreuse. But when a terrible spell leaves the Kingdom of Greater Greensward in great danger, it is Grassina who finds the magic to set things right. This hilarious prequel to The Tales of the Frog Princess series introduces new characters and brings back familiar fan favorites.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I know I read the series out of order, but since this is a prequel, it doesn't really matter anyway. I liked this book more than Once Upon A Curse, but less than the other series. Perhaps if the characters of Grassina & Chartreuse hadn't been so similar to Hazel & her sister Millie from that book, and if I hadn't read them back to back, Salamander Spell wouldn't have seemed quite as unoriginal and stale as it did.

Like Hazel, Chartreuse is the beautiful older princess with many suitors and proper decorum. The only difference between her and Hazel is that Chartreuse doesn't have any magical ability. But she's just as much of a spoiled brat and just as mean to her sister. Like Millie, Grassina is the younger sister who's not as pretty and keeps getting shoved to the background. Also like Millie, it is Grassina who has the magic, and who wants to use it to help her kingdom.

The little differences between the characters helped to make this book seem a little more original than the other. Unlike Hazel, Chartreuse has someone who truly loves her, and she isn't always the wicked sister. Plus, her mom actually puts her in her place once in a while, although her methods are extreme. And unlike Millie, Grassina has more spunk and doesn't wait for her love to come to her. On top of that, while there's no Eadric or Emma or Li'l or Ralf, there is a Pippa and a Haywood and a manticore and a pack of werewolves to change things.

I wish I had read this book first, because it would have helped me understand Haywood's reactions in the other book. I had a hard time dealing with the fact that he seemed so weak, and I thought it might have been caused by the curse that had been placed on him earlier in the series. But once I read that Haywood had always been reclusive and shy, his grown-up persona made more sense. Honestly, this book really didn't feel exciting until Grassina ran off to the swamp and stayed there with Haywood. That's when all of the really good stuff happened, when Chartreuse and the sisterly catfight elements were less frequent, and when her mom's acid personality was removed.

However, I'm sure if I'd read this book first, I'd be complaining how unorginal Once Upon a Curse is. There is only so much cliche a person can take in two days. Thank goodness for Haywood and the swamp scenes, or this book would have gotten a lower rating than it did. B+

Swamp Fairies are people too

Title: Once Upon a Curse
By: E.D. Baker
: Paperback
Pages: 256
Genre: Young Adult/Fantasy
Series #: 3 of 6
Date Started: June 2, 2009
Date Finished: June 2, 2009

Rating: B

Description (from Barnes & Noble): Many years ago a slighted fairy placed a curse on a beautiful young princess--a curse that caused her and all her female descendants to turn into mean, ugly witches if they ever touched a flower after turning sixteen. Now, Princess Emma, who is about to turn sixteen herself, is determined to break the spell once and for all. Emma travels back in time to the day the curse was placed on her ancestor in the hope of preventing the curse from being cast. Unfortunately she isn't successful in her efforts, but she does learn how to break it. Armed with this knowledge, Emma returns to her own time full of hope. But disaster ensues and Emma is about to give up completely--until true love shows itself in the most unexpected place of all.

With a bit of courage, a pinch of luck, and of course, a healthy dose of magic, Princess Emma charms her way through the third hilarious adventure in the Tales of the Frog Princess series.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

So I'm kind of torn on this book. I liked it, but I didn't like it as much as the others in the series. For one thing, one of my favorite characters disappointed me. Not Eadric thankfully; he still rocks! And Emma's grandfather was amazing. But Haywood, Grassina's lover, frustrated me. If he truly loved Grassina as much as he had originally professed, then breaking the curse should have been easy. Grassina would have fought an army of trolls for him, but he wasn't even able to face up to one person, even if that person was her. He just gave up; he came across as wavering and helpless. I wish I had read the fifth book before this one, because his meekness wouldn't have been so shocking.

Also, some of the plot devices were extremely obvious and weak. If you transport back in time to see your ancestors and arrive in a different era's clothing, don't you think someone will notice. And then you say you're the child of someone else at the castle, but no one, not even that person, questions it. I think I'd be the first one to speak up if somebody, who looks nothing like me, claimed to be my kid. And last but not least, Princess Hazel and her sister were extremely cliched. The beautiful blonde princess is a complete brat, flirting with all the princes who dote on her, but in the end, it's the less attractive but sweeter sister who wins the day and who has unexpectedly wooed the only really good prince among the bunch.

The ending though was pretty amazing. It was a twist I didn't expect. And the introduction of Eadric's parents was great. You only have to hear his mother's name-- Frazzella-- to get an idea of what kind of M-I-L she'll be to Emma. And of course, the romance between Emma & Eadric was just as sweet as ever, and a surprising new romance bloomed.

Overall, the book could have used some more originality. And I wish Haywood hadn't been such a wuss. But it was still sweet and a stepping stone from to the wedding. B

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Title: Inkdeath
By: Cornelia Funke
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 683
Genre: Young Adult/Fantasy
(Age range says 8 to 12; I disagree.)
Series #: 3 of 3
Date Started: May 21, 2009
Date Finished: June 1, 2009

Rating: A+

Description (from Barnes & Noble): The Adderhead--his immortality bound in a book by Meggie's father, Mo--has ordered his henchmen to plunder the villages. The peasants' only defense is a band of outlaws led by the Bluejay--Mo's fictitious double, whose identity he has reluctantly adopted. But the Book of Immortality is unraveling, and the Adderhead again fears the White Women of Death. To bring the renegade Bluejay back to repair the book, the Adderhead kidnaps all the children in the kingdom, dooming them to slavery in his silver mines unless Mo surrends. First Dustfinger, now Mo: Can anyone save this cursed story?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

OMG! What an amazing final book! I loved the first two books, so when I started reading this one, I purposefully paced myself and kept myself from pulling an all-nighter to finish it. I so desperately didn't want the story to be over. Finishing this book was like saying goodbye to a group of friends. The Black Prince, Mo & Meggie, Dustfinger, the Adderhead, Fenoglio, Elinor-- I will miss them and their adventures in the Inkworld.

Cornelia Funke really outdid herself with Inkdeath. Like most trilogies, the first book, Inkheart, was great, with complex characters and an exciting story, and made you thirsty for more. The next book was good, although not as good as the first or third. This series' second book, Inkspell, was different from most middle books though, because unlike those others that are merely stepping stones from the first to the third book, Inkspell held enough adventure and character development and had such an intricate plot that it was more than just a bridge between books. New characters and worlds and deaths- Inkspell stands on its own. But like the typical trilogy, the final book, Inkdeath, was the best of the series. Every loose end is tied up. Every character is given a chance to blossom and grow. Every chapter leaves you hanging. And the very end is left a little open, as if someday Funke might write more... or maybe because, as she has said through Mo, "Stories never really end...even if the books like to pretend they do. Stories always go on. They don't end on the last page, any more than they begin on the first page."

Funke's writing is beautifully descriptive in this book. Every creature comes to life, and the settings are so real, I feel like I could step into them. Her style definitely improved in this book, and she has a real flair for color.

"Blue as the evening sky, blue as cranesbill flowers, blue as the lips of drowned men and the heart of a blaze burning with too hot a flame. Yes, sometimes it was hot in this world, too. Hot and cold, light and dark, terrible and beautiful, it was everything all at once. It wasn't true that you felt nothing in the land of Death. You felt and heard and smelled and saw, but your heart remained strangely calm, as if it were resting before the dance began again.

Peace. Was that the word?"

I also loved the little things thrown into the background. Hints at possible romances, secondary storylines, short-lived but memorable creatures- they all worked together with the main storyline and the main characters to present a fascinating story. And with so many twists and turns and characters and storylines, this book could have been a very jumbled and confusing mess. But Funke handled the multiple stories very well, jumping from one character in one chapter to another character in the next without completely losing you along the way. I was a little sad about one particular storyline; it just didn't end up the way I had hoped it would. I won't say which story, but here's a hint:

"'I wish you luck,' she said, kissing him on the cheek. He still had the most beautiful eyes of any boy she'd ever seen. But now her heart beat so much faster for someone else."

*Sigh* Nevertheless, this book was worth staying up so late last night to finish. If I hadn't held myself back from finishing it too soon, I probably would have read it all in a day. But then the story would have been over, and I never would have experienced the suspense I felt each time I put the book down. I think if I'd rushed this story I would have missed out on all those little moments hidden in the background of the main story; I would have become lost in the complexity of a plot involving so many characters. This book was even better because it was read slowly with breaks that allowed me to think and imagine the possibilities ahead. Well done, Ms. Funke. A+

"Some books should be tasted,
some devoured,
but only a few
should be chewed and digested thoroughly."
~ Francis Bacon, quoted in Inkheart