Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Woody's Roundup: June 2010.

"woody's roundup come on, gather round
woody's roundup where nobody wears a frown"

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So maybe I am a little too excited to see Toy Story 3 this weekend. But isn't everyone? Don't tell what happens if you have already seen it! I do NOT want to be spoiled at all! *covers ears* I wanted to have an end of the month feature, to wrangle up and lasso down everything I have done, reading wise, for the month. Woody's Roundup just sort of fit as the proper name. I figured I would list the books I have read for the month (you can find a list for the whole year under 'Reviews') and list the books I have received this month. I weekly post of In My Mailbox seems a little silly, since I never get enough books to post every week.

Read in June:
1. Innocent Traitor by Alison Weir
2. The Off Season by Catherine Gilbert Murdock
3. Song of the Sparrow by Lisa Sandell (Reread)
4. A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin
5. The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula K. Le Guin

Books Read So Far in 2010: 36. I thought I would read more this month, but obviosuly not. May was a much better month in terms of reading quantity. Probably quality as well, but I can't really decide. It is about even.

Favorite book: This is a tough one, but I am going to have to give it to The Off Season. The Dairy Queen books are just fantastic. My reread, Song of the Sparrow, doesn't count because it is obviously already a favorite. If it was in the running, it would be a tough call indeed. While I did not like the second installment of the D.J. trilogy as much as the first, they really are in a league of their own and can't compare to anything else.

Received in June:
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Anne of Green Gables, L.M Montgomery (local bookstore)
Can you believe I don't own Anne of Green Gables already? Actually I can't remember most of the storyline, only that its epic. I read the Anne books when I was many years younger, and the most I can remember is from the movies I rented mutiple times after I finished the books. My mom adores these books, and I can't wait to crack them open now that I am old enough to actually remember what I am reading.

Lirael, Garth Nix (paperbackswap)
Seeing as how I flipped for Sabriel, it isn't a big leap to imagine how quickly I snagged up a copy of Lirael when I saw it floating around paperback swap. I definately plan on reading this one soon, especially since I have heard some people mention they like it more than Sabriel. More? Can you imagine such a thing?

Song of the Sparrow, Lisa Sandell (paperbackswap)
An amazing retelling of the Lady of Shalott, the Arthurian legend about a cursed young woman who must never leave her tower or die, told completely in verse. I absolutely adore King Arthur, and I loved this book so much when it first came out. I remember as soon as I had closed the pages, and I had forced my mom to read it too. She wasn't as appreciative of its beauty. I had forgotten about it but decided I wanted a copy to treasure forever.

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, N.K. Jemision (library)
I just picked these one up at the library and decided to add it to the pile, so it didn't look quite so small and pathetic. I am FREAKIN' excited about this one. I have so many good things, and it sounds in-depth and amazing.

Next month, I promise there will be many more because Book Closeouts is having a summer fiction sale, and you know who jumped on that bandwagon.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin.

"the island of gont, a single mountain that lifts its peak a mile above the storm-racked northeast sea, is a land famous for wizards."

A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin
192 pages (Paperback)
Published: First Published in 1968
Publisher: Spectra
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Series: First in a Series
Goodreads Rating: 3.92/5
Amazon Rating: 4.1/5
Shelfari Rating: 4/5

Ged was the greatest sorcerer in all Earthsea, but once he was called Sparrowhawk, a reckless youth, hungry for power and knowledge, who tampered with long-held secrets and loosed a terrible shadow upon the world. This is the tale of his testing, how he mastered the mighty words of power, tamed an ancient dragon, and crossed death's threshold to restore the balance. -from

I never thought that a 144 page story would take me SO LONG TO READ. Yikes. I planned to read the first three books of the Earthsea series for Jawas Read, Too!'s Summer of Series, but once again I fear I will fail at a challenge. Maybe if I'm lucky the Tombs of Atuan review will be up tomorrow. Fingers crossed. There are a few good, sensible excuses for my painfully long reading of A Wizard of Earthsea: I recently got a summer job and my hours have gone up lately, especially weekend hours which is prime reading time for me, and I have taken a few vacations in which reading was impossible. But then there is the fact of this book simply did not want me to read it quickly. It refused to be read for more than 20 minutes at a time. I blame Ged.

I have been wanting to read a Le Guin book for many moons now. I have heard from a couple people that she is a classic, and everyone must read her before they die. I did some scouting around, like I normally do when I hear such a thing, to see what she has written and if they sound like my thing. The Earthsea trilogy definately sounded like my thing, along with a few of her other books I might pick up later. I put the series of my To Be Read list, but since there were no copies available at my local libraries, I forgot about them. Then I heard about Jawas' Summer of Series. And I found an omnibus edition of the series on Paperback Swap. The stars were aligned. In my defense, I did only receive the omnibus in the middle of June and this challenge is only for the month of June. So there.

Ged was born on the island of Gont, an island known for housing powerful and prominent wizards. Not many from Ged's poor village suspected the great things that he would someday come to do. They couldn't foresee that one day songs would be song of the little ruffian running among the goats. One day, a great wizard living on Gont comes and takes Ged away to live with him. There he tries to show Ged what it means to be a wizard, but he is a slow teacher. Ged soon goes bored, and when he is asked to go to a school for wizards on Roke island, he goes. At the school, he learns tought lessons that shape the rest of his life. He learns one lesson too late and unleashes a dark burden on Earthsea that he must vanquish at once or die trying.

A Wizard of Earthsea is told as a folk tale or legend. The reader is told a certain amount at the beginning of the story about how things will end. I really dislike this way of storytelling because I like a certain amount of mystery in my stories. I know that things will more than likely end up happy. And I know that the protagonist will be superfantasticamazing because if there weren't going to end up being a somebody, why write a story about them? No one wants to read a story about a wizard who sits on his couch all day, using magic to change the channels. But I still want to pretend to be surprised when things work out this way. I like the warm and fuzzy feeling I get when the characters defeat the evil and head back home to their family and friends. This didn't happen to me in a Wizard of Earthsea because I had known all along what would happen.

Despite the feeling of being spoiled, I thought the story was original and entertaining to read. Ged begins his real studies as a wizard with a patient and mysterious wizard called Ogion. I loved Ogion, obviously. How could you not? He was the typical kindly old wizard who knows more than he cares to tell, but only for the good of those around him. He is conscious of the great power he could yield, but he also knows the consequences of everything he does. The greatest part of the story for me was the trials Ged had to go through to learn that exact lesson of consequences and being at peace with oneself as Ogion was. I appreciated how it wasn't an easy thing for him to learn, but how in learning it would make it him an great and powerful user of magic. Some parts of the story, especially towards the end, were very profound and philosophical when discussing the lessons Ged had learned. I think these parts showed what a fantastic author Ms. Le Guin is.

I found Ged to be a complex character, but I did not have much attachment to him. My problem with this was the distance that telling the story as a legend put between the reader and the protagonist. Legends are not too concerned with thoughts and feelings. The story is explained as, "Something happens, Ged reacts, reason he reacts is explained." The reasons were more told than shown in my opinion. Not only that, but important building years of Ged's life are simply skipped over. I couldn't feel a connection with Ged even though I did feel he was a great character; it was an odd feeling. I loved how he wasn't an innocent viction when it came to his school boy enemy, Jasper. He was as much to blame, if not more so, in creating an enemy in Jasper. He imagined things that weren't there, or things that could have easily been overlooked, he brought to the forefront of his mind and obsessed over. These obsessions came to a head when the two boys took their growing power too far because they didn't understand the consequences of what they were doing yet.

The worldbuilding of Earthsea is elaborately over-the-top, and I ate it up. When I first heard if the name Earthsea, I scoffed at its absurdity. I found myself thinking, "Could this author be any more unoriginal? Earth and sea, I wonder where she got those two words from?" I now swallow those words. I love that name now. It makes perfect sense when you create a world filled with only with hundreds and thousands of tiny islands. I found myself thinking that an in-depth look at the politics of these islands would be fantastic, and I thoroughly enjoyed the little snippets Le Guin gave us of each island's world. I was also overjoyed with the close up maps that were interspersed within the book; I needed them desperately. The little islands were sometimes hard to find in the big map, and I like to know exactly where I am in the world. Another important part of the Earthsea world are names. Every single thing, from a wave to an insect, has a true name which you must know to control it. Names are sometimes important parts in fantasy novels involving magic; books like Eragon come to mind. A Wizard if Earthsea took this theme to the extreme. A person, if they wanted to control a person, had to work to find out a person's name, because surely a person would guard that secret with everything they had. It was an interesting concept and added another layer to Le Guin's theme that no power comes without working.

Rating: 7 out of 10. I agree that A Wizard of Earthsea is a classic in the fantasy genre. I have heard some say it paved the way for Harry Potter, which I can, loosely, see. I had a few problems with the story, the main one being how slow going it was for me. I could read the whole Harry Potter series in less days than it took me to read this one book. I will definately pick up more Le Guin books, and I can already tell you that I enjoy the Tombs of Atuan much more.

Source for copy: Traded (for the omnibus edition).

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Off Season by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

"every labor day, the jorgensens--they own jorgensens' ice cream--set up a little ice cream stand right in their yard..."

The Off Season by Catherine Gilbert Murdock
288 pages (Paperback)
Published: March 18, 2008
Publisher: Graphia
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Young Adult
Series: Second in a Trilogy
Goodreads Rating: 3.96/5
Amazon Rating: 4.6/5
Shelfari Rating: 4/5


Life is looking up for D.J. Schwenk. She's in eleventh grade, finally. After a rocky summer, she's reconnecting in a big way with her best friend, Amber. She's got kind of a thing going with Brian Nelson, who's cute and popular and smart but seems to like her anyway. And then there's the fact she's starting for the Red Bend High School football team—the first girl linebacker in northern Wisconsin, probably. Which just shows you can't predict the future. As autumn progresses, D.J. struggles to understand Amber, Schwenk Farm, her relationship with Brian, and most of all her family. As a whole herd of trouble comes her way, she discovers she's a lot stronger than she—or anyone—ever thought. This hilarious, heartbreaking and triumphant sequel to the critically acclaimed Dairy Queen takes D.J. and all the Schwenks from Labor Day to a Thanksgiving football game that you will never forget. -from

This review may come off sounding like nothing more than a whole fangirl squeal. Because I LOVEEEE Catherine Gilbert Murdock. And D.J. Schwenck. And these books. I read Dairy Queen during my long hiatus, and it was like a breath of fresh air. The book was exactly what I needed, and I wish every book could be like Dairy Queen. It might just be my absolute favorite book of the year. But the verdict is still out. I don't read contemporary fiction very often. If I deign to pick one up, its only those that have been most highly praised. I have exactly 4 contemporaries on my shelves. One is a John Green and one is 13 Reasons Why. Both are highly touted among contemporary lovers. I really only picked up Dairy Queen because of the gorgeous cover (Those blue skies! That green grass!), and I vaguely remembered hearing about it around the blogosphere.

Everything in D.J. Schwenk's life is looking bright since we last saw her in Dairy Queen. She has made it onto her school's football team. Not only made it but playing, pretty darn good if she would say so herself. It looks like she will have a great season, one in which her time might actually beat their long-time rivals. That means a chance to play against Brian Nelson, but he is actually understanding about that now. He might even have a thing going with D.J. Along with what might be a new boyfriend, she also regains her friendship with her best friend Amber. Work on the farm and communication with her family is starting to look up as well, now that Brian has taught her to speak up for herself. At least, she thinks she has learned that lesson. Until things begin to start sliding downhill again. As things begin to fall apart. D.J. starts to understand that she has many more lessons to learn about life.

The Off Season was an amazing book. It was spectacular in its own right, especially with how it holds up to other books I have read this year or during my whole life. But compared to Dairy Queen, it was as great. Don't get my wrong, I loved this book as I'm sure I will love Front and Center when I get around to it, but Dairy Queen was just something else with how out of this world it was. One of the reasons I adored Dairy Queen was the perfect feeling of being in the country and living in a small town. It actually made me love being a country girl, something I never would have found myself being proud of before. The cows grazing in the fields; the long dusty roads leading no where; the weekends filled with nothing but going to the movies and sleepovers; the feeling of being trapped by your surroundings; and especially the rush of friday night football are all such an important part of D.J.'s, and any country girl's, life. I loved how they were all added into the storyline, either subtly or obviously. In The Off Season, I felt like I didn't get enough of this feeling. It was there for sure, but it took a backseat to other elements, and I wasn't too crazy about these other elements.

The part of the plot where I found the down home country feel most prevalent was in D.J.'s relationship with her best friend Amber. After Amber comes out as lesbian to D.J. in Dairy Queen, their friendship is not what it used to be. But Amber begins to repair the broken ties when she starts dating for the first time in The Off Season. Things become tough for her at school when everyone in their small town notices her spending a lot of time with a girl and makes their own assumptions. When the stares became too much, Amber makes some decisions that probably aren't the best for her. Her decisions are extremely common in my area. I haven't done too much study on the subject, so I will only speak for my community. I liked how Ms. Murdock handled the situation. D.J. never condemned Amber's decisions and supported her as only a best friend can when she doesn't exactly agree. However, the choices weren't praised and, in my opinion, were subtly shown to be bad because they didn't solve anything. The series also does a great job with Amber's coming out story. Malindo Lo has a great list of young adult books with strong queer characters, and guess which series made the list?

Another one of my favorite parts of Dairy Queen was D.J.'s humor. These books crack me up like I had previously thought only Louise Rennison could. Everything D.J. says is so funny because it is so true. She words things in ways I never would have thought to say it, but they fit perfectly. One of my favorite parts from Dairy Queen was her awkward and embarrasing first kiss because first kisses are awkward. Maybe not nose bleed embarrassing, but still not angst-filled or heartbreakingly tender like some young adult novels like to potray them. I would like to give you a little tidbit of D.J. humor from one my favorite paragraphs:
I hadn't really been alone with Brian-not counting the barn, which I don't because Dad's there all the time and also the straw is super itchy-since the Mall of America, and while I hadn't Done Anything Stupid, I wasn't sure where exactly I stood on the whole subject. I mean, it's not that I wanted to do anything Really Stupid, but I wouldn't be so against doing something Kind of Stupid-something A Little Silly, maybe. (pg. 102)

D.J. is an amazing narrator because her voice is so informal. Usually this doesn't work for me, but somehow I love it when D.J. talks. But there were so many times throughout this book when I wanted to reach through the pages and slap D.J. across the face. The whole premise of Dairy Queen was "When you don't talk, there is alot that ends up not being said." Many times during The Off Season, it felt D.J. was back to square one. She would not speak up for herself, even if talking would get her out of a sticky situation or explain a miscommunication. I definately understand that this is the whole point of the series: D.J. learns to speak for herself. But sometimes it is so hard to just sit there as someone is screwing up their life when there is a simple fix: talking. Then there was her relationship with Brian, which made me hate Brian Nelson with a passion even though I thought he was a pretty nice guy in Dairy Queen. For three-fourths of the novel, I was steaming because I believed things between D.J. and Brian were going to end up in a very unhealthy situation. But I should never have doubt D.J. or Ms. Murdock; things worked themselves out exactly as the should have for the second book in the trilogy. What I love about these stories is how they show that without communcation, relationships die. I think thats an important lesson to learn. The stories don't shove the lesson down your throat, but time and time again when talking fails, the relationship fails.

I think the number one reason I couldn't fully adore The Off Season as much as Dairy Queen was because of Win and his accident. D.J.'s brother Win plays college football, and during the course of the novel he becomes injured. After the tragic accident, most of the story is focused on Win's recovery and how D.J. helps him and her family through it. The story took a turn towards cheesy during this point. It felt a little too Hallmark family movie, and while I like watching Hallmark, I know I'm watching it for cheeserific tears and not because it is movie greatness. I wanted The Off Season to contain only greatness, and for this reason and maybe only for this reason I didn't enjoy it quite as much as I loved Dairy Queen.

Rating: 8 out of 10. An amazing read standing on its own, but compared to Dairy Queen, fell a little short. D.J. is a funny as ever, and her relationships begin to take shape and gain strength in this second installment. However certain aspects felt sappy to me, and I hate sappy more than anything. Maybe that's one of the reasons I don't read much contemporary fiction, because most of the plots play like Hallmark movies.

Source for copy: Bought (for 50 cents at a Half Price Bookstore! Sorry, just had to share my gleeful steal.)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Start Spreading the News

I am now officially back from my vacation, extremely sun burnt and bone tired. I epically failed at trying to finish the Wizard of Earthsea, but I did make progress on it. I will finish and review it this week, I promise. Scout's honor. My review of The Off Season by Catherine Gilbert Murdock should be up this week as well. This week will be rather slow because I still have packing to do, not to mention I have to work more to make up for the hours I missed last week. And I couldn't read hardly anything last week, which means I don't really have anything to review. Oh my...

I wanted to share a few trailers I have seen lately with you that have me very excited. I get a little apprehensive about my favorite books being turned into movies. There is so much that can go wrong, and I nitpick about everything that gets cut from the book. Harry Potter drives me crazy for this reason, even though lately the movies have been awesome as movies in their own right. We shall see, Deathly Hallows, we shall see.

The next one is for Flipped, a book I remember reading in elementary school. The book is so sweet and adorable, I absolutely flipped for it (hahaha). I highly recommend reading the book before seeing the movie (if you're that kind of person) even though the book is aimed for younger audiences. The movie looks sweet as candy, and I love the 50s look. Also, Stand By Me and When Harry Meet Sally are some of my favorite movies. I have high hopes for Flipped.

I have loved the previous Chronicles of Narnia movies, and the Dawn Treader trailer promises another fangirl squee coming from my corner of the theater when I see it. But I have a confession: I skipped over the Dawn Treader when I read the Chronicles of Narnia. I have the whole omnibus of the series, so I will definately be travelling back and finally finishing this one. I can't be out of the loop while I'm watching the movie. Hate that. Also, Lucy is SO OLD! OMG!

The next trailer is for a book I have never read, Never Let Me Go. I have had it on my To Be Read list for ages, it seems. However after seeing this trailer, I rushed over to my library's website and put it on hold. This trailer is amazing, and this book/movie has Amelia written all over it, in capital lettes in permanent marker. I usually adore everything Keira Knightley is in. She isn't my favorite actor, but she sure chooses amazing movies to act in.

I am obsessed with movies, so its a sure thing that I will see this eventually. Until then, I will be seeing Toy Story 3. I'll wait until Eclipse hits the dollar theater. It just isn't worth the full price. Obviously.

Maybe you are the one blog reader who hasn't heard of the anthology coming out later this year, Zombies vs. Unicorns. April of Good Books & Good Wine (Team Unicorn) and Sharon of Sharon Loves Books and Cats (Team Zombie) are battling it out this week over the classic debate of Zombies vs. Unicorns. For now, I am tentatively Team Unicorn because I have loved unicorns the longest. I really only began liking zombies when I watching Resident Evil two years ago. Before that time, I hated zombies with a passion.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Taking Woodstock, Kinda

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Concert Time

It's summer time, and you know what that means? Vacations. I will be gone for four days, Thursday through Sunday. I'm headed for an outdoor concert, complete with tents and camping and all. I have heard the joke many times, 'It's a PG-rated Woodstock'. So I'm heading out to rough it in the hot, hot heat. Hopefully it will be barrels of fun.

If everything goes as planned, I will have my Wizard of Earthsea review up when I get back and Tombs of Atuan to boot. I had hoped to finish it before I leave, but c'est la vie. All questions/comments/hollas at your girl will be answered promptly when I get back.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Innocent Traitor by Alison Weir

"my travail begins as I am enjoying a walk in the garden."

Innocent Traitor by Alison Weir
416 pages (Hardcover)
Published: February 27, 2007
Publisher: Ballatine Books
Genre: Historical Fiction
Series: Stand Alone
Goodreads Rating: 3.83/5
Amazon Rating: 4/5
Shelfari Rating: 4/5

I am now a condemned traitor . . . I am to die when I have hardly begun to live.

Historical expertise marries page-turning fiction in Alison Weir’s enthralling debut novel, breathing new life into one of the most significant and tumultuous periods of the English monarchy. It is the story of Lady Jane Grey–“the Nine Days’ Queen”–a fifteen-year-old girl who unwittingly finds herself at the center of the religious and civil unrest that nearly toppled the fabled House of Tudor during the sixteenth century.

The child of a scheming father and a ruthless mother, for whom she is merely a pawn in a dynastic game with the highest stakes, Jane Grey was born during the harrowingly turbulent period between Anne Boleyn’s beheading and the demise of Jane’s infamous great-uncle, King Henry VIII. With the premature passing of Jane’s adolescent cousin, and Henry’s successor, King Edward VI, comes a struggle for supremacy fueled by political machinations and lethal religious fervor.

Unabashedly honest and exceptionally intelligent, Jane possesses a sound strength of character beyond her years that equips her to weather the vicious storm. And though she has no ambitions to rule, preferring to immerse herself in books and religious studies, she is forced to accept the crown, and by so doing sets off a firestorm of intrigue, betrayal, and tragedy. -from

I have always adored the Tudors and England. When I was younger, I thought living in that time period would be the best thing in the world. I known better now, but I used to devour books and movies about any and all of the Tudors. My reading tastes changed towards fantasy when I picked up Tamora Pierce for the first time. I gradually reduced my Tudor searching, and I can't remember when I stopped looking for them altogether. I still have a few lonely middle grade books about Elizabeth and Mary on my shelves. However when my mother picked Innocent Traitor up from the library, I was very interested. And when she recommended it after she was finished, I immediately resolved to start my Tudor frenzy up again.

Lady Jane Grey is best remember for her tragic control of the crown for only nine days. Her reign was cut short by Mary, who seized the crown and beheaded Jane and her supporters. But what of this young girl's childhood? What led her to her fate? This novel explores Jane's past, as she continues to defy her controlling parents only to give under their cruel punishments. It shows her relationships with the royalty she would one day move against in the powerful political game they all played.

When I cracked open Innocent Traitor, I wasn't too thrilled with how the story first progressed. The first two chapters contain nothing but Jane's mother and the current Queen giving birth. I know its a natural thing and yadda yadda yadda, but if you have read one birthing scene, you have read them all. There are a number of births described in Innocent Traitor, all of which I wanted to skim over. One of them is particularly gruesome, and it leaves the woman basically mutilated and her baby a hunchback. The other stories of Jane's childhood, which are also told in the first part of the book, describe Jane's demeaning abuse at the hands of her parents, especially her domineering mother. I could understand how this related to future events and Jane's character being defined, but it was hard to read at times. All I wanted to do was scoop Jane up and rescue her from her life.

The feeling I have when I read historical novels from this period, especially about people who end up rather headless, is the same feeling I have when I read Shakepseare's tragedies. I know what the end result will be going into the book. I already know how the main character will end up, the same character I expect to became emotionally invested in. And of course, I do become emotionally attached, and I do find myself hoping against hope that history will change before I finish the story. Like a Shakepeare tragedy, there are always heaps of foreboding and foreshadowing found inside the story. I find that foreshadowing is always fun for me to read, sort of like a 'Where's Waldo' for me to sniff out and spot.

Alison Weir writes Innocent Traitor in alternating view points for each chapter. I usually don't enjoy this approach. It wasn't my favorite way to read the book, and I still think it could have been written solely from Jane's perspective and the story wouldn't have suffered. However I do think it was a great way for the reader do learn everyone's hidden agenda and polticial plans, something that reading from the Jane's perspective wouldn't have been made clear.

One apsect that completely surprised me was how big a role religion played in Jane's story. I realize that this was a turbulent time for England in terms of religious freedom. I knew Mary especially was a staunch supporter of Catholicism, against the rest of her family's wishes. Somehow I expected Catholicism versus Protestantism to play a smaller role. However, Jane herself is extremely devout in Protestantism from a young age. She clings to her religion throughout the whole novel and roughly defends her faith to people twice her age. From Ms. Weir's point of view, Jane's religion played a large role in her undoing. It was extremely interesting to me how Catholics and Protestants fought over such tiny things, things I don't even remember discussing too often or in much detail in my Catholic Religion class or in my Protestant church.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10. Recommended for historical lovers, especially those with a strong adoration of all things Tudor (and I don't just mean the steamy HBO show). It was a rather sad novel about a young girl whose life was cut short too soon. I felt like the fate of these people led them, instead of these people taking control of their own destinies. Their fates were hard to read about, especially since young women like Jane had little control over their lives unless their parents or husband gave it to them. It was informative and heart-wrenching, but to say it was entertaining would just be cruel.

Source for copy: Borrowed.

A middle grade book I read on Lady Jane Gray when I was younger was Nine Days a Queen by Ann Rinaldi. I don't remember much about it, except that I liked it enough to buy it. If that fact means anything to you, maybe you will like the book too. I do remember its very PG, as PG as a book can get when it involves Tudor England and beheading.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Sabriel by Garth Nix

"it was little more than three miles from the wall into the old kingdom, but that was enough."

Sabriel By Garth Nix
304 pages (Hardcover)
Published: October 30, 1996
Publisher: HarperTeen
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Series: Book One of Four
Goodreads Rating: 4.19/5
Amazon Rating: 4.7/5
Shelfari Rating: 4.1/5

For many years Sabriel has lived outside the walls of the Old Kingdom, away from the random power of Free Magic, and away from the Dead who won't stay dead. But now her father, the Charter-Mage Abhorsen, is missing, and to find him Sabriel must cross back into that world.

Though her journey begins alone, she soon finds companions: Mogget, whose seemingly harmless feline form hides a powerful --- and perhaps malevolent --- spirit, and Touchstone, a Charter-Mage long imprisoned by magic, now free in body but still trapped by painful memories.

With threats on all sides and only each other to trust, the three of them must travel deep into the Old Kingdom, toward a battle that will pit them against the true forces of life and death --- and bring Sabriel face-to-face with her own hidden destiny.

A tale of dark secrets, deep love, and dangerous magic! -from

I am actually surprised (and more than a little angry) that I had never picked up Sabriel before. More surprisingly, I had never even heard of Sabriel before this year. Yeah, I know. That revelation is almost a crime against readamanity. Sabriel is a fantasy about a strong teenage girl who has magical powers. Everything about this book sounds right up my alley. So why wasn't I aware of this book? I have sucky friends who have never read anything published before Twilight.

Sabriel has been raised in a small land called Ancelstierre, which is eerily similar to England by the way, far from the Wall and the menancing beings of the Old Kingdom. For the most part, she has been oblivious of the doings and history of that part of her world. Unfortunately, this dangerous countryside holds the house of her father, who must remain there to carry out his work. Her father is Abhorsen, the famed necromancer who binds the dead back to the land of the dead. When her father does not show up for his moonly meeting with Sabriel, she fears he has gone missing. She must take her powers and travel into the Old Kingdom, a place she is knows little about, to find her father. To help her with her journey, a cat and perhaps malicious spirit named Mogget and a man named Touchstone join her.

When I was updating my layout, I started going through authors' websites to add to my blogroll. One of these authors was the lovely Catherine Gilbert Murdock, who wrote what may be my favorite read of the year and possibly my whole life. She has a list of her favorite books, which I suggest you meander on over and look at, and Sabriel just happened to be on the list. Catherine had an amazing quote about the series that struck me as so correct that I had to share it here:
Years after reading Sabriel, I remain awed by his ability to drop readers in the middle of this foreign world – plop! – and expect us to soldier along until things explain themselves.

I almost jumped up and down, squeeing, "OMG! She gets me, she gets me! Catherine & I are BFFS because we shared a brainwave!" -gigglesnort- This is exactly how I felt in the beginning of the story. Garth Nix makes understanding his world nigh impossible without just girding your loins and shouldering through the book. I had no idea what the frack Free Magic was, or Charter Magic was, or what the different types of death creatures were, or what a Charter Stone was, or or or. You see I could go on for days. But I am perfectly fine with being confused with a world, and I could feel it in my bones that Sabriel would be a winner if I kept with it for a little while longer. Boy, was I right. I appreciated the fact that Sabriel knew next to nothing about the Old Kingdom. Her ignorance was part of the reason of the little explanation given. The author was waiting to reveal all of the Big.Secrets until Sabriel was ready. The two different magic concepts were explained, quite literally, on the run as Sabriel used one type of magic against the evil forces, who were using the other type, while she tried to reach her destination.

One interesting aspect of the story hit me on the head while I was reading reviews on Goodreads, after I had finished the book. Sabriel has ZOMBIES. Like big, scary, people-eating, back from the dead ZOMBIES! I hadn't put together that some people might see the creatures that came back from the realm of dead as zombies. I didn't see the relation at all while I was obliviously reading. For hardcore zombies fanatics out there, I wouldn't necessarily be putting Sabriel automatically on my to be read list because the of the zombies. Maybe I didn't think of zombies right away because I don't think of zombies as intelligent. They have a desire to feed, and that's all they have. They don't recognize power or hierachies, while the creatures in Sabriel are intelligent, without a doubt. They can think and reason. They know why they have to feed. They know they must follow creatures more powerful than themselves. A brain does not a zombie have. And they devour souls, not body parts. But potatoes, patatoes.

The character of Sabriel is ahmazing. She is strong and capable of handling herself, while still taking care of those around her or that may have gotten between her and her enemies. She is never TSTL, which I always appreciate in any character. She is an independent woman and worthy of admiring. I would have liked to see more of the women in her world, for comparison. Its hard to tell if the world in which Sabriel inhabits accepts more 'modern' women and if Sabriel's attitude would be commonplace in the Old Kingdom or Ancelstierre. Somehow I guess not, but that is just my experience with most fantasies set in monarchies such as the Old Kingdom. However, my favorite character, without a doubt, was Mogget. An evil spirit wrapped up in a snarky cat. Can I spell amazing and wonderful any more ways? I loved how Garth Nix portayed him as mysterious and shady. The wool was pulled over my eyes completely. I was so willing to believe Mogget was not malacious. Even when he attacks Sabriel, I was shaking my head, saying to myself, "There must be some better explanation of this attack." Yeah, I am an idiot. Even then, it's wonderful how Sabriel must lean on Mogget after he has tried to get rid of her forever.

The only character who I felt was a little lacking, was Touchstone. He didn't seem real enough for me, and therefore the romance wasn't my favorite. It's easy to call, seeing as how there is basically only one boy and one girl throughout the entire novel. And the first time Sabriel sees him, Touchstone is naked. That always signifies smexy time and helps things along.

Rating: 9 out of 10. Sabriel is a fantastic novel, and I can't sing its praises enough. I wish everyone would pick it up, especially lovers of stong heroines and fantasy. I'll probably being ordering my copy of Lirael soon and adding the Abhorsen books to my library.

Source for copy: Borrowed.


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