Thursday, April 22, 2010

Dealing With Dragons, April 22

I have just reread an excellent book by Patricia C. Wrede called Calling on Dragons. Although I have already read it, I am still impressed with Wrede's very witty and clever writing style and I am always eager to "wrede" more. I've always wanted to be like the main character, Cimorene, even before I had read the book! I think this is a J-R book because I understand it, but I still can like it without thinking it is too childish.
One of the characters that definitely changed was Alianora, Cimorene's friend. At first, like when he and the other dragons' princesses came to Kazul's (the dragon that kept Cimorene) cave, she was timid. I also thought she was sort of being held back by Keredwel and Hanahh, the other two princesses. However, by the end she was very sure of herself, and helped stop the plot by the wizards. Cimorene changes later on in the series, but not so much now. Someone who really changed was the stone price. He seemed rather silly and didn't know what to do without orders (which I thought weird for a prince) but near the end he showed quick thinking when he melted Zemenar, and he was pretty self-confident (though stuff like that takes time), even when threatened by Antorell.
I liked how the resolution was solved, with Woraug the traitor turned into a frog and the wizards melted but not defeated and everyone living happily ever after. There isn't much I would like to change about the book; it's just too good, but I thought that the court philosopher claiming magic was trickery and smoke and mirrors and the like, given the fact the kingdom was on the edge of an enchanted forest, but I guess some people are like that.
I think the author's message is that rocking the boat is sometimes good.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Civil War Get on Board

I just read a great book called Get on Board by Jim Haskins. It was very interesting and I was endlessly surprised by Harriet Tubman and the other "conductors'" bravery. What was really amazing is was that Harriet Tubman went into the "Deep South" disguised as a tradesman and spirited off a few slaves in the night, transporting many of them all the way to Canada, and with a debilitating illness too! This really impressed me and showed me Harriet Tubman really wanted freedom for all people. She owned a gun, not to use, but to frighten her passengers into staying with her and not running back to their plantations, which was obviously a big issue.
However, Harriet Tubman was not the only "conductor" on the Underground Railroad. Another notable one was Frederick Douglass, (both Douglass and Tubman were former slaves, whose names were generally given by their masters) who, when he found freedom, learned how to write and wrote a book about his life. He then began multiple trips back to the South to escort other slaves to the North or even Canada. Quite possibly, these notable abolitionists were inspired by their own experience of the hardships and just plain wrongness of slavery, and of how to escape it.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Absolutely Normal Chaos March 7

I have just finished an excellent book by Sharon Creech, by the name of Absolutely Normal Chaos. I had high expectations because of Sharon Creech's previous novel the superb Walk Two Moons that were pleasantly fulfilled. It was a very deep book. There isn't much I can connect to however, except for when Mr. Furtz died and Mary Lou (the main character) was so worried about her parents because Mr. Furtz, who lived across the street, died so suddenly. I would worry about my parents too if something happened to a neighbor like that. I'm glad I'm lucky enough that stuff like that hasn't happened. That's how I could understand her feelings. It's a just-right book because I could see that it in fact was quite deep in some parts and I could understand it.
When Carl Ray came to stay over the summer to find a job, Mary Lou was not happy. Carl Ray ate like a horse, never spoke, and didn't make his bed (she had to do it!). However, her feelings toward her cousin changed. It probably first started when their neighbor Mr. Furtz died suddenly, in the hospital during a routine checkup. Carl Ray started being a little more involved, as well as being surprising. Who would have thought Carl Ray had read The Odyssey, just like Mary Lou was right now. Eventually, after a pretty long while (involving Mary Lou starting to go out with a boy named Alex Cheevey and being forbidden by her mother to say "God!", "stupid" and "stuff". She finds all these harebrained (ha ha ha) synonyms that never really fit) Carl Ray even invited Mary Lou to stay for a week at his house in West Virginia! Mary Lou accepted (with help from Carl Ray's mother) and went two days later. Carl Ray hadn't moved out of his parents farmhouse, so when they got there his mom, brothers and sisters (not his dad because for some reason they had a pretty awkward relationship) all crowded around. There were a lot of stereotypical questions about 'The City' and after only a few days, Mary Lou had been embarrassed, frightened and grossed out and altogether wishing she could leave already. She convinced Carl Ray let her leave early, but he wanted to tell his mom and dad something about the strange, anonymous gift of lots of money and a ring with the initials C. F. The next day he drove her home and told her that his real father was Mr. Furtz, and he gave him the money and the ring. A couple of days later Carl Ray drove into a ditch and broke his arm and both his legs. Mary Lou was very frightened and hoped he would be OK. When he finally did wake up, she was very happy and they seemed to be the best of friends. That's how she changed about Carl Ray.
The problem of the story was resolved around when Carl Ray woke up and Alex Cheevey returned home. It was a very satisfying ending, in my opinion, not climactic, but a nice and quiet ending. If I could change a part of the book I would change how annoying Beth Ann is because I think Mary Lou has enough to deal with already. I think the author's message is to never give up.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Wow. I've just read The Color of Magic by Terry Pratchet, and I'm alive to write about. With the explosively good writing in there, I almost didn't make it! The storyline was superb and the hilarious twists make me constantly rolling in the aisles. Definitely a completely satisfactory read. A connection I had to it? Well. Throughout the book Twoflower, the first tourist on The Continent is noted to have certain technology people who live on The Continent have never heard of. One of them is a camera. Owning a camera myself I can understand more about it. This in part shows that it is a Just Right book. Most words, ideas, and actions I understand (when intended to, this a very weird book) but some, such as the word skewbald, I did not understand. A friend has enlightened me, telling me that skewbald is a color of horse with chestnut and white patches on coat, mane and tail.

Well, I know for a start that Rincewind the (totally failed) magician changed. In the start he was a pretty down to earth, realistic person, who knew that adventures were not fun and that his life was probably more important than gold. Being a coward as well, he was of the opinion that it was more important than anyone else's. But as the story progresses, first with meeting Twoflower with his magic box, then being hired as his guide in the money of Twoflower's country, the pure, solid, epic gold the rhinu. Twoflower on his continent is middle class. On The Continent, he's as rich as a king. Rincewind, sustained on this phenominal money, leads Twoflower far and wide, more and more becoming daring and brave. He almost uses the one spell he knew, which was powerful beyond imagining, ingrained in his brain by a magical force, on an evil demon who nearly destroyed them and the barbarian who started to accompany them. Then they pretty much become friends and sail of into distant oceans together, where they get captured by the Krulls and very narrowly escape, but then it ends. They are tragically separated, Rincewind sailing of the Edge of the World and fall onto a toe of the Great Turtle A'tuin the planet rests on. Then Death comes for him, an evil presence walking towards him who throws back his hood and reveals... Scrofula. The scourge of almost nothing in the Discworld. Rincewind protests, saying he didn't even have scrofula but it's too late. Rincewind is thrown into the sky, out of the Universe, and, in a final act of tremendous bravery that brings us to the end of the book, jumps back in.

If there was something I could change, I would change the part in Shal-Shamaroth's temple. The evil demon dies from a single syllable of Rincewind's terrible (and only) spell, which I find rather inconsistent. When he accidentally slipped out a syllable on the inverted mountain of Dragonwyrm, only an insubstantial dragon or two died. Hardly the same effect. It might have been the huge magical field in the Dragonwyrm, but there was an octaring field over at Shal-Shamaroth's. Still, I really liked it. It really showed me transitions of people to radically different things and that people can change. What a stellar book!

~Condensed tale 3

Monday, November 30, 2009

The Sign of the Beaver by Elizibeth Goerge Speare

Matt has been left with a big job: taking care of the cabin while his dad gets Mom, the new baby, and Matt's little sister. This historical fiction novel starts off with slightly resigned goodbye when Matt's dad leaves Matt with two gifts: a rifle, that gets stolen by a stranger after Matt's dad leaves, and a watch. When a bear steals Matt's honey maybe two weeks after the parting, Matt climbs a bee-tree and gets stung, only to be saved from drowning in a pond by an Native American, an old man who makes a deal with Matt in return for saving him. Matt teaches the man's grandson who is around the same age as Matt how to read English! They don't really become friends until Matt saves the dog that Attean (the boy) owns, winning Attean's grandmother's respect too, but they go hunting and learning (on Matt's part) together. But then they part for a time while Attean goes out to find his "manitou", the spirit that comes to inhabit him to make him a man and a hunter that Attean believes in.

But the worst is when they say they have to leave. Matt is so sad he almost accepts they're offer to come with and be a brother of Attean, an honor so high for a white boy he can barely believe it, but he has faith that his family will come, so he has to stay. His strength paid off when his family really does come back, minus the baby. It died three days into the journey.

I think this is kind of a morbid ending but it all pretty much ends well, with Matt's family back, and I think the tribe will eventually check on Matt, perhaps three months after the book ends. The entire book spanned for a little less than a year, but three months seems pretty much like when they would come. I just feel like that tribe really is sort of the kind of tribe that would do that.

~Condensed story 2

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Whipping Boy by Sid Fleishman

The Whipping Boy starts off with Prince Horace, fairly aliased 'Prince Brat' by by almost everyone in the kingdom, gluing the wigs of many different nobles to the backs of their chairs. This act prompted the 'whipping boy' to be sent in, a boy who, because it was illegal to whip a prince, got whipped instead. Many months later, the prince, this rebel who is truly a brat, decides to run away. He takes the Whipping boy with him. When they get caught by cutthroats, Jemmy-from-the-streets, the whipping boy, saves both of them. When they escape to the town and go down to the sewers, Jemmy leads the prince. The first time, Prince Brat doesn't even say thanks. But by the escape to the sewers, they are almost friends. Both of them change, both for the better. And though this is kind of cliched, yes, they lived happily ever after.

~Condensed tale 1.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Fledgling

Reading The Fledgling has been a great experience. The characters are deep, believable and quirky and the settings are beautiful and rich. Jane Langton did a great job. I have a definite connection to a character in the story, Georgie: I've always wanted to fly like a bird too. I know this is a Just Right book because I got some of the deepest connections, but I don't think all, though I wouldn't know 'cause I haven't gotten them! Also, there was one word I didn't know, "piebald" which I now know and have mastered use of via the all-powerful college dictionary.

The book starts out with Goergie trying to fly down the stairs. She, in the beginning of the story, can only think about one thing. I think she is a very straight-minded and a "one thing at a time that should be at this time now" kind of person. She really is very delicate but her wanting to fly really over-powers how serious she takes things. Then she meets the mysterious goose who can talk to her. In exchange for friendship, she starts flying, leaving out the window every night and flying with what she calls the "Goose Prince." He (I can't say it) is a really nice person and she learns a lot from him. He is very special to her and she becomes more happy since she really wished she could fly and found she couldn't. But now, she learns how to fly from him. But the plot twisted here. Two specific neighbors are getting suspicious. They are Madam Prawn and her boss, Mr. Preek. The devout and hard-working Prawn thinks she is either a devil or a saint, and is always cautious but trying to find out which, and Preek, only seeing her at night while flying, thinks she is a duck. Eventually he injures her arm with birdshot and her family makes sure that she is not going to go out flying again. Then something terrible happens that changes Goergie completely. Mr. Preek the bank manager kills the Goose Prince. The only thing left to Goergie is a little glittering thing. And she loses it in the confusion.

The solution of this story takes place in a bush. Actually, I find this setting quite satisfying, because in fact she first saw the geese in this very same bush. While playing dols in the little hollow area under the bush she finds a little glittering ball. She immediately knows it's the Goose's 'present' that she never got to see very clearly before. Then at night she looks at it and it turns into a little image of the earth. The book ends with Goergie remembering the last words of the dying Goose Prince. I think I should end my reading response with them too.
"Take care of it..."