Monday, April 2, 2012

March Reads

1. The Tale of Two Castles by Gail Carson Levine.  I really enjoyed this story.  I'd say it was geared toward late elementary and middle school.  The main character goes to the city of Two Castles for an acting apprenticeship only to discover that the laws have been changed and she does not have the finances to apprentice.  Stuck, penniless, in a strange city this young girl finds herself a friendship among an ogre and a dragon, and a mystery to solve.  I loved that the main character was naive, but not stupid.  Gail Carson Levine always portrays young girls so realistically. I hope there is a sequel.

Source: Republic of Pemberly
2. Jane Austen for Dummies by Joan Elizabeth Klingel Ray PhD. It seems like every spring I get on this Jane Austen jag.  This book provides a bit of historical and cultural background to the setting of the Jane Austen books.  It was a bit dry in some parts, but that was just because I wasn't interested in all the topics covered in the books.  A good read if you are a fan of the books or the movies.

3. Fairest of All: A Tale of the Wicked Queen by  Serena Valentino.  I bought this book last spring for my best friend when we went to Disney World.  I had heard nothing about the book, but thought that she would like it as she is a fan of the villains (or as Blockette used to say, "The Mean.")  The story tells the back story of how Snow White's stepmother turned evil.  It was a fun little quick read, but it seemed to have a few holes in the plot.  Like who were the 3 cousins? How did they come to own the Queen's mother's soul?  Why were they evil?  If they already owned the Queen's soul, why did they waste time turning her into a crone?  I'm sure I'm missing some other things.  While the bones of the story was great, it would have been better if the best and most interesting parts had been fleshed out a bit more.

4.Midnight in Austenland by Shannon Hale.  This was a sequel of sorts to Austenland.  It's set in the same sort of Austen - based resort/LARP (live action role play).  This story was a bit different as it was set in more of a gothic mystery.  I was wondering how they were going to make this sequel different from the first book, and the mystery aspect makes the story not feel repetitive.  I must be in a good mood as of late, because I enjoyed and "alls well that ends well" sort of happy ending.  I hope Shannon Hale figures out how to work a third story into this setting.

5.Pemberley Ranch by Jack Caldwell. This story was essentially Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice set in post Civil War Texas.  (Near, of all places Austen, TX of course.)  I'm not normally into Westerns, but I loved this book.  The storyline veered enough from Austen's original to make it interesting, but not so far that it was objectionable.   For example, in this story, I loved it that Charolotte married for love.  I always hated it that she got stuck with Mr. Collins in Pride and Prejudice.    Aside from the well written storyline, I learned something about the Civil War.  I always thought the Civil War started because of slavery.  That's what I was taught in school, and was never given any other explanation.  Turns out Lincoln didn't abolish slavery until 2 years into the war.  The war started, in a nutshell, because congress told the South they could only sell their goods to the Industrialized North, and not other countries.  Then Congress went and taxed those Northern goods so much that they were no longer affordable.  Basically the whole thing was taxation without representation.  I think it's crazy, but great, that this book has gotten me interested in the Civil War, and has this Yankee looking at a great many things in a completely different light.

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