Fairest

Fairest, by Gail Carson Levine, is a kind of spin off of Snow White, except the heroine, instead of being the fairest, is not at all pretty in a kingdom where beauty is almost prized as much as a beautiful singing voice. Fortunately, though, Aza does have an unusual talent with her voice, but she doesn’t really appreciate it because of her deep-set desires of becoming becoming. Aza lives with her adopted family at an inn, where she learns exactly how unusual her voice is. Then, by some twist of fate, she finds herself on her way to the castle at the country’s capital for the king’s wedding where her adventures finally begin.

Gail Carson Levine is an amazing author. I don’t know how she can get old fairy tales and turn them into something so spellbinding –ah ha– and original. I was first introduced to her by Ella Enchanted, her rendition of Cinderella, which I absolutely loved. All of her books have healthy doses of adventure, mystery, ogres,  gnomes, princesses and romance.  I really liked this book because it follows the same basic story line of Snow White, but it’s different enough that it isn’t completely predictable. And there is a certain bit of irony in this book, like Aza not being fair, and her dislike of apples, which I found humorous.

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Princess Academy

Princess Academy, by Shannon Hale, is about a Miri, a girl who lives in the on a mountain and whose only dream is to work in a mine with the rest of her village. But for an unknown reason, her father won’t let her. Then news arrives at the village that the new princess will be found on the mountain and that all the girls from twelve to seventeen must go to a kind of school to learn how to become a princess for the upcoming ball where the prince will choose one of the girls to become the next princess.

I loved this book! I probably like it a lot more than I would have if I hadn’t read After a few hours before I read this. I really like stories with a kind of medieval school setting, like Hogwarts and the school in the Protector of the Small series, and this one was kind of like those, minus the moving stairs and secret passageways like the ones in Hogwarts. One of the great things about this book is that it’s funny. I love books with at least a little humor in them. I really liked how Miri reacted to different situations (like finding  a rat trying to nest in her hair), and went through the different choices put to her. She felt like a real girl growing up and having very real feelings.

After

After, by Francine Prose, is another one of the books I got at the library last week. It’s a fictional story that takes place after a high school shooting fifty miles away from the high school where the protagonist, Tom Bishop, goes. But when a grief and crisis counselor is sent to the school, he starts taking over the school, and students that have nothing wrong with them are sent to a kind of camp called Operation Turnaround, as if there was something wrong with them, and teachers who try to help them mysteriously disappear.

I got the book under the impression that it was an exciting mystery. It wasn’t. I was expecting some sort of resolution at the end, or at least some kind of conflict. There wasn’t. All that happens is that Tom finds out what is going on, tells his dad, and they run away. The end. It was very depressing, and I didn’t really like it. But it was well written, and the characters reacted believably to the hardships they went through, so it wasn’t terrible, I just didn’t like the story.

My Very First Post

Well, I am very excited about getting a blog again, as my last one rather fell apart. I hope to right as often as I can. Before I really begin, I would just like to say that the main point of this blog is for me to share my opinion of the books I have read recently. Now, to begin!

Last Monday or Tuesday (I don’t really remember) I went to the library and checked out five books, two of which were from a series of seven that I had started before hand. I’ll start with them. The others can wait till later posts.

The series is called Keys to the Kingdom by the Australian author Garth Nix (I just have to say that is one of the coolest names ever, and it isn’t even a pen name!). As the series is quite confusing to a beginning reader, and I have no hope of actually explaining what happens and not giving things away, but making it comprehensible, I will just borrow the summary found on Wikipedia which I have read and I am sure that it contains no spoilers (not to mention, I’ve just read the first three). Well, not as many spoilers than found on the covers of the books themselves. But, of course, those readers that have already read them can feel free to skip this next quote. (I hope not to do this often, quoting from wiki, but I feel it very necessary to do it on this occasion, seeing as how much one has to learn about this world while reading the books)

“The series’ protagonist is an asthmatic 12-year-old boy, Arther Penhaligon. The series begins on a Monday, with the main events starting a week later on the next Monday. Each book moves onto the next day of the week, over the course of about three weeks in Earth time, concluding on a Sunday. Each day features beings, collectively known as the Trustees, who each govern a portion of the House, which is the center of the Universe. The seven demesnes of the House are, in the order Arthur visits them: the Lower House, the Far Reaches, the Border Sea, the Great Maze, the Middle House, the Upper House, and the Incomparable Gardens.

In the beginning of the first book, Arthur lives a relatively normal life as an adopted child in a large and caring family. An asthma attack on a Monday that should have killed him brings him into contact with Mister Monday, who rules the Lower House. He eventually finds his way to the Lower House himself, where he is to find the cure to a plague brought to his world by its agents. By convenience, he is declared Heir to the Kingdom and given the Lesser Half of the First Key, which is shaped like the minute hand of a clock. Because of this Key’s magical properties, Arthur is relieved of his asthma while in contact with the Key or in the House, and proceeds to a strange and dangerous set of adventures.

As Arthur discovers, the Will of the Architect (creator of the House and the “Secondary Realms” that surround it) was not fulfilled as it should have been. Instead, it was broken into seven pieces by the Architect’s Trustees, the self-named Morrow Days. The Will was forced to act on its own, and its First Part chooses Arthur to be the Heir to the Kingdom. It thus becomes Arthur’s responsibility to recover each of the missing pieces of the Will, defeat each Trustee – each of whom has been afflicted with one of the seven deadly sins – claim their domains by taking each Key, and ultimately fulfill the Will.”

Now that was rather long… Anyways! Time for what I think of it. I really have been enjoying the series so far, although it is a little confusing, and some (or most) of the scenarios are rather out of the ordinary even for fantasy. Garth Nix has quite the imagination. I understood what was going on at all times, and the characters were quite believable. I also found it very hard to put the book down (mind you, I’ve always had a hard time putting books down, even if I didn’t really like them) and I really wanted to know what was happening next. This book was definitely meant for younger readers (i.e. teenagers, like myself), but I suppose older readers would enjoy it too. But as I’m not an older reader, I wouldn’t really know, would I?