book review, Children's Fiction

A Sliver of Stardust

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A Sliver of Stardust

Marissa Burt
Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, 2015

From the dust jacket: “I am a gold lock./ I am a gold key./ However high and low you hunt,/ You’ll never find me.
“Wren Matthews outgrew nursery rhymes a long time ago. Little did she know that songs of twinkling little stars and four-and-twenty blackbirds are the key to the ancient magic of stardust—a magic that only a few people can see and use. And Wren is one of them.
“Wren has always preferred to stick to herself. But when she is invited to the faraway mountain fortress where an ancient order has long studied and guarded stardust, she doesn’t hesitate to accept.
“Soon Wren is swept up in strange dreams, buried secrets, and rumors that an old enemy is plotting his return. As she tries to master her new abilities, Wren knows only one thing for sure. There’s magic in the world—and it’s waiting for her.”

 

This book for youth is another one of many Harry Potter knock-offs. (Where would the world of youth fiction be without the brilliance and originality of J. K. Rowling?) The author does take a different viewpoint but the overall theme is the same – young person, aged 11-13, a bit disenfranchised from kids his/her own age, discovers they’ve been chosen to learn to use magic, off they go to a place away from parents to learn their new magic skills only to find out that some evil magic-user who everyone thought had gone away for good comes back with more evil stuff to do. And in the case of this book, Wren, like Harry, finds she has a connection with the bad guy and he attempts to use her. Hmmm. Maybe I should have said spoiler alert!!! I’m really not giving anything away – the first time the evil dude makes contact with Wren you know it’s the evil dude.

All of that similarity doesn’t mean the book is a bad book. (Are there any bad books?) It just means I’m tired of reading the same basic storyline and will have to look harder for more original books to enjoy. That said, the book ended so abruptly with a cliffhanger, I will be reading the sequel; hopefully this series will be just the two books.

So, do I recommend it? Of course – it’s a story of magic, good versus evil with a different twist involving nursery rhymes and it has a strong female main character. But beware: there is a scene toward the end of the book that was hard for me to read – it involved killing animals. The action doesn’t focus on the gory scene too long – it’s more of a byline, which makes me feel it was a bit gratuitous and unnecessary. I still think most kids will enjoy it; I, however, mostly tolerated it.

3 daises

Rating: 3 out of 5 daisies because while it is a fairly good H.P. knock-off, I was able to stop reading it for 2 days before finally finishing it.

Reviewer:Debby 2 Debby

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book review, Fiction

Shades of Grey: The Road to High Saffron

shades-of-greyShades of Grey: the Road to High Saffron

Jasper Fforde
Viking Penguin, 2009

Excerpt from the dust jacket: “It’s summer, it’s hot, it’s our world, but not as we know it. Entire cities lie buried beneath overgrown fields and forests. Technology from another time litters the landscape, and there is evidence of great upheaval. Welcome to Chromatacia, where for as long as anyone can remember society has been ruled by a Colortocracy. From the underground feedpipes that keep the municipal park green, to the healing hues viewed to cure illness, to a social hierarchy based upon one’s limited color perception, society is dominated by color. In this world, you are what you can see. … In a world of enforced simplification, answers are in short supply, and every question begets another: What was the “Something That Happened”? Why does no one ever return from the long-abandoned village of High Saffron? Where did all the spoons go? Is there more to color than just color? … Utterly original, bizarre, entertaining and thought-provoking, the world and characters in this new work confirm Fforde’s place as one of the most brazen and original literary fantasists of our time.”

So, tell me, did you even understand any of the above? This reading has been the 3rd time I’ve read this book (my first review of it, however) and I still have questions. There are also subtleties I picked up on for the first time during this reading. Maybe to make it easier, let me explain: society is divided by the color you can perceive. Everybody sees in shades of grey with the exception of one color, either primary (red, blue, yellow) or complementary (green, purple, orange). For those unlucky enough to not see any color at all (or minimal color), those folks are the worker-drones of society and are called Greys. The more of your familial color you can see the higher up in society you are – meaning more powerful, more money, more of everything. Marriages are not based on love but on enriching the family hue (the ability to see color fades with each generation unless one of the partners can see a lot of color).

But all is not well in this post-apocalyptic utopia (as few utopias actually are) and the main character, Eddie Russet (a Red) is turning 20 and about to have his whole life planned for him – marriage, career, residence, etc. until he meets a Grey named Jane and she alters his whole life and his perception of society in four short days.

I love this book – as I love all Jasper Fforde’s books. He has a brilliant imagination and he’s the kind of writer that if you like your fiction firmly rooted in reality, you might as well skip him. I finished the book the other afternoon and am still pondering it days later. If you liked Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake series and The Handmaid’s Tale, you’ll probably like this book. My only disappointment is that there are two follow-up books planned but they haven’t been published yet. It’s been a long wait since 2009. But don’t let that stop you from checking out this book. It can stand just fine on its own.

5 daisies a definite 5-daisy rating!!

Debby 2 Debby

book review

Big Little Lies

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My guilty pleasure read recently was Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty. Based in Australia, Moriarty has a gift for women’s fiction.  I first discovered this author when I read, The Perfect Husband.  In many of her books Moriarty explores those the relationships we hold dear.  She opens the closed doors behind which our most private moments are hidden. Moriarty’s books allow us to experience both the humor and tragedy of her characters while helping us have more empathy and compassion in our own relationships.

In Big Little Lies we visit a lovely coastal town where most of the people who live there are well off, and the mothers of the Perouee Preschool have plenty of time to focus on getting the best schooling for their little ones even if it means excluding those mothers and children they feel are inferior.  The story focuses on three mothers: beautiful and feisty Madeline whose wit and temper make her a formidable opponent when the ‘blond bobs’ begin to harass her new friend Jane and her small son Ziggy.  Jane is the youngest of the mothers at the preschool. She is a loner struggling with her own self-worth and is surprised when she is taken under Madeline’s wing.  Finally there is Madeline’s best friend Celeste, with breathtakingly stunning good looks, a handsome, successful husband and the mother of two identical twin sons. Celeste holds a secret so terrible she would rather die than admit it, even to Madeline.

Big Little Lies steps apart from a ‘typical’ chick lit book by also being, at its’ heart, a mystery.  As the story opens we find that a shocking death has occurred: murder or accident? It’s anyone’s guess. Nothing is revealed until the conclusion: you won’t know exactly what happened, who was involved, or even who died.  Each chapter begins with a Greek chorus of sorts:  various witnesses, interviewed by the police, gossiping their way through the book.  The book was fun to read, and gives us a peek into mob mentality in its worst form. And yes, it happened in a preschool.

I loved Big Little Lies and look forward to the HBO special coming out in 2017.  Nicole Kidman optioned this book and will star as Madeline, along with Reese Witherspoon, and Shailene Woodley.

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4 daisy rating

Reviewed by Leigh

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book review, Children's Fiction, murder, Young Adult Fiction, youth fiction

The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches

This Flavia de Luce novel was a bit different from the rest – and it was because of that I found it difficult to get through. The previous three books were fun and exciting – even if it involved solving a murder. But this one, was dark and somber, mostly because it was centered on Harriet coming home. Harriet, who had been missing for ten years, had been found, long-since frozen on a Himalayan mountainside and the sudden realization that her mother was dead forever sent Flavia into an emotional tail spin of epic proportions. Her father, who had always been morose, and her spiteful sisters were also plunged even further into the depths of despair.  This isn’t to say the book wasn’t excellent – it was – the subject of Harriet’s death and subsequent burial were unexpected and depressing.

 

The book did end on a positive note so that was good. The murder was caught and unfortunately killed in their escape (in a particularly spectacular way, only a teensy bit gruesome.) If you have trouble thinking about interacting with corpses, you may want to skip the part where Flavia opens her mother’s coffin and gives Harriet a kiss.  At first I was troubled by Flavia’s plan to resurrect her mother from the dead with a chemical injection of thiamine and ATP (adenosine triphosphate), but then I remembered when you’re eleven, you believe anything is possible, and, especially because, “It was a brilliant idea, and because it was scientific, it simply could not fail.”

 

Rating  4 daisy rating

 

Debby 2Reviewer: Debby

 

book review, family, Memoir, mental illness, Nonfiction Review, psychology, self-help

Codependent No More

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I will never stop reading this book. Codependent No More reminds me to nurture the person I am and not feel guilty about that. To take care of myself. To remember I cannot control others no matter how much I may think I know what’s best for them.

I know. It’s ridiculous. I sound like I’m nuts. But sometimes my family makes me nuts.  Codependent No More – How to Stop Controlling Others And Start Caring For Yourself was originally written from the prospective of a former alcoholic married to an alcoholic.  Melody Beattie is very frank about her background and knows where of she speaks.

However, this book for any one who is in a relationship that seems out of control. Is your teen acting out or your adult child abusing drugs? Are you are overeating, overexercising, overspending while you seethe and obsess about ways to solve the problem or what advice you want to give?   Is your spouse taking advantage of your good nature and you are doing all you can to keep the peace while inside you feel resentful and used?

It’s natural for us to want to help. The problem is sometimes things have to run their course. Sometimes we really Can. Not. Help. Still we feel compelled to try. And nothing happens. Or the person we tried to help doesn’t appreciate us. Or they don’t want our help. We feel frustrated. Angry. Hurt. Victimized.

Being codependent isn’t always about alcoholics, drug users, or someone living an extreme lifestyle, though it can be, and if that is your life then this book is for you.  But it is also about people-pleasers like me, who care too much when it is actually ourselves for whom we should be caring.

Read Melody’s book. She will make you feel good about yourself, help you embrace the strong wonderful person you are, and in the long run, help you develop healthy relationships with all your loved ones.

4-daisy-rating

Reviewed by Leigh

leigh-21

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Melody Beattie

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