Sunday, August 30, 2015

The Tales of Beedle the Bard

Those of you familiar with the world of Harry Potter have undoubtedly heard of and/or read The Tales of Beedle The Bard.  This cute, fun collection of stories is based in the wizarding world. 

There are five stories in this book:
*The Wizard and the Hopping Pot
*The Fountain of Fair Fortune
*The Warlock's Hairy Heart
*Babbity Rabbity and her Cackling Stump
*The Tale of the three Brothers

The stories are read to wizard kids in the hopes of presenting wizards in a good light, since so many muggle stories tend to make witches and wizards look bad.  The stories fit well with the rest of the Harry Potter books, and give the reader some more insight into what the wizarding world is like.

The Wizard and the Hopping Pot is about a wizard whose father has passed away.  The wizard does not want to help people the way his father did.  He learns, however, through soe magical events with his cauldron, that helping others is really the best thing he can do!

The Fountain of Fair Fortune teaches kids about love and perseverance.  It's a wonderful tale for kids of all ages.

The Warlock's Hairy Heart is a tale about greed and hate, and is best read by more mature readers.

Babbity Rabbity and Her Cackling Stump teaches kids about the importance of helping others and teaches that we should not be arrogant about what we can achieve or who we are.

The Tale of the Three Brothers is a story that any Harry Potter fan is familiar with.  It is a great story that teaches that we all pass sometimes and that we should help each other however we can.

These are stories I would recommend to any Harry Potter fan, young or old! 

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Lizzie & Jane - Katherine Reay

I just finished reading Lizzy & Jane, by Katherine Reay.  I can honestly say this is one of the first books in a long time that I've had to force myself to finish. 

The story is about two sisters and their... stilted relationship with each other.  Jane, older than Lizzie by eight years, left town as soon as she could and stayed away even when their mother was sick with and died from cancer.  Lizzy, one the other hand, was home because she was 17 and still in high school.  She was there through the whole time her mom was sick, and was the only sister/daughter at the funeral.  However, as soon as she graduated, Lizzy, who now goes by Elizabeth, moved to New York.  She went to a culinary institute and now works at a restaurant named Feast.  Jane, on the other hand, has moved back to Seattle with her husband and two kids.  They see Jane's dad on a regular basis, and have grown to love the area. 

Around the time that Jane is diagnosed with cancer, Elizabeth starts having troubles with her restaurant.  Elizabeth finally resigns herself to the fact that she may, in fact, need a vacation.  Her investor and boss, Paul, brings in a guest chef named Trent.  They work together for a few days before Elizabeth makes the decision to go to Seattle for a few weeks.  While in Seattle, Elizabeth learns many things, not only about herself, but about her family.

This had the potential to be a great story, potential being the keyword.  There was minimal plot or character development and the storyline was weak.  Both Jane and Elizabeth are selfish, shallow women who don't care about anyone other than themselves.  That doesn't change by the end of the novel.  The only difference is that now they get to be shallow and selfish in the same city. 

Jane's husband, Peter, isn't much better.  He only thinks about himself and doesn't really seem to care that his wife may die.  Nick, Elizabeths love interest, may just be the only saving grace in the entire book.  He is charming and genuinely seems to care about other people.  If only we could have had more of him, then maybe the book would have been better. 

The thing that irritated me most of all was that when Elizabeth decided to start cooking food for cancer patients, it took her too long to think about them, because all she thought about was what she might want.  She never thought that some foods might not taste good to them, or that each person might have different foods they like. 

I would give this book a solid D-.  Save your time and read something else.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

The Winner's Crime - Marie Rutkoski

****SPOILERS**** I usually have a few spoilers that make their way into my reviews.  So, if this is on your must read list and you want to be totally surprised, save this review for later.  If you don't mind a few spoilers, read on.
If you have read The Winner's Curse, you know that the novel ends with Kestrel becoming engaged to the emporer's son. It should come as no surprise that this is purely a political move, one made in an attempt to save the man and the land that she really loves. 
We find ourselves, in the beginning of The Winner's Crime. with the emporer making attempts to feel out Kestrel.  They have breakfast together, meet together in his office, talk political strategy.  All of this is simply so that the emporer can determine where Kestrel's allegiance lies.  My opinion: Kestrel is loyal to nobody but herself.  She may love Arin, but when all is said and done, she is who she wants to please.
Throughout the novel, many events are held in honor of Kestrel's engagement to Verex, including a ball that lasts through the night.  Arin, claiming he couldn't come, sends another Herrani to the ball, only to show up later and engage in a tryst with Kestrel behind the curtains in her bedroom.  Kestrel hides her tryst well, or so she thinks, but you can imagine that there is some fallout from her behavior.  In addition to this hidden event, Kestrel also manages to offend Jess to such a degree that Jess removes herself from the emporer's home with no goodbye and refuses to speak to Kestrel ever again.
The remainder of the novel is mostly political ploys and games designed to keep us guessing as to whom is on whose side, and making us wonder who loves whom.  There are spies created, allies made, and friendships broken, but what would be the point of a shaky revolution without all that?  
To be honest, this is a slower moving novel than The Winner's Curse.  There is not as much action.  There is no revolution, not as much meeting of the hidden lovers.  But, there is intrigue.  There is a blackmail feel to the relationship between Kestrel and the emporer that will make you want to keep reading.  I loved this book, and I loved the political intrigue in it.  I loved learning about the new characters and their land - Dacra.  (There are three lands here - Valoria, Herran, and Dacra.)  I think it was brilliant the way that all the characters secrets are revealed slowly (and some not at all.) 
Overall, this book is a must-read, so add it to your list!  I give it 4.5 stars all the way!

Monday, August 3, 2015

The Wizard of Oz


The Wizard of Oz is one of the books on my Classics Club reading list, and let me tell you - if you've never read it, you're in for a surprise.  It's a lot different than the movie, and that's okay!  After all, what book isn't than its movie counterpart?!
The book does have the flying monkeys, the tin wood man, the lion, the scarecrow, Glinda, the wicked witch, and the Winkies (munchkins in the movie.)  The lion, as expectedmm has no courage.  The scarecrow is not a very smart scarecrow.  And, as you can imagine, the tin woodman rusts easily. 
When Dorothy arrives in Oz, she is understandably scared and confused.  Luckily, she has Toto with her. 
Things that are different: The shoes in the book are silver, not red.  Also, the flying monkeys have to do three things for whomever currently controls the golden cap.  When Dorothy gets the cap, she asks the monkeys to bring her and her friends to the Emerald City.
There are many other differences throughout the book, but I'll leave them for you as a surprise.  This book is absolutely magical, and I can understand why it has been read over and over by people for years.  I love the characters, the development of the plot, the cuteness.  Everything in this book is fantastic.  If you've never read the book, however, I would caution that some things in the book might not be appropriate for kids under 10. 
Overall, though, this is a book that can be enjoyed by anyone.  A+ all the way!