Friday, June 15, 2018
Fatal Throne has SEVEN authors! Candace Fleming coordinated this collaborative effort and enlisted six female authors to each write a chapter telling the story of an individual wife of Henry VIII. MT Anderson did the Henry sections that appear between each wife. What an interesting way to craft a novel!
Not only was Henry a good catch because he was King, but for his time, he was handsome, athletic and quite charismatic. Later in life he suffered from a rather disgusting leg wound and gained a LOT of weight. Not so handsome and athletic then. (But still he was the king!)
Most of his wives initially served as ladies to the previous wife, which makes the intrigue of being a court rather venomous. But, at least in this fictionalized account, each of Henry's wives thought that they were truly different, that they truly loved Henry, and that the outcome of their marriage would indeed be different. We know how that ends. I should include here that King Henry was most interested in having an heir to the throne. That combined with his lustful personality means that there is some sexual content in these pages.
The timeline of the story is a bit convoluted. Each wife begins at the end of their reign and then jumps back to when they met Henry, so there is quite a bit of back and forth. Some wives (authors) told a better tale as well. I learned the most about Anna of Cleves, wife number four. She was considered ugly and the marriage was never consummated. But I liked her best! She ends her story this way and it is a great summary of the book:
Once upon a time, there were six Queens who married the same man, one after another.
The first was a beauty, with red hair, blue eyes, and ivory skin. She gave the King a child, but it was a girl. So he banished the Queen and took her child from her.
The second, whose beauty was as dark as her soul, also gave the King a daughter. And for this, he cut off her head.
The third, as mild as milk, gave the King a precious son, and oh, how he loved her for it. But the womb that gave life to the boy stole life from the mother. She died of childbed fever.
The fourth Queen... ah, the fourth Queen. The King called her ugly and put her aside.
The fifth Queen was young and the fairest of them all. Her eyes sparkled. He laughter was music. The King adored her, but she love another. So he cut off her head, too. The sixth Queen was learned and the King did not like it. He would've cut off her head, but she begged his forgiveness for being clever and he let her live.
They are all dead now, those beautiful Queens, all dead. And the King is dead. All his men, too. And the precious son for whom he remade the world.
But the ugly Queen? Ah, she lived child. She lived.
Thursday, June 14, 2018
Recently I read The Girl with Seven Names, about a young girl who defected from North Korea. For me, Nothing to Envy is background material for that story. Demick, the author, is a journalist based in Beijing, which gave her more access to Koreans than most writers. Nothing to Envy dives into the lives of six North Koreans to illustrate what living in the North Korean hermit kingdom is really like. Some of her subjects are quite loyal to the regime. Eventually, they all come to see how their beloved homeland has betrayed their loyalty.
Ironically, I finished this book on the day that Trump and Kim Jong Un had their historic meeting in Singapore. I understand a bit more how the people of North Korea will view this event and how the summit will be "spun" in America and in both Koreas.
Nothing to Envy is often considered the non-fiction, modern version of 1984. It would make very interesting reading for comparison in a class. It was written in 2009... and the regime continues. Watch a well-done trailer HERE. And a longer feature including defector interviews HERE.
Monday, June 11, 2018
Lexile = ?
Juliet's mother isn't around much. She is a photojournalist, traveling the world. She has developed a little tradition with her Juliet - they write letters to each other. Real letters that take some time to find their destination. When Juliet's mother is killed in a car accident, Juliet continues the tradition in order to remember her mother, except she leaves the letters at the cemetery where her mother is buried. Letters to the Lost begins when someone begins reading and then responding to these letters.
This is all about anger and grief and healing. But it also delves into making connections with people that you think you can't. HERE is a video review (done by another YA author, Chris Russell)
Letters to the Lost is on the nomination list for the Beehive Book Award.... Utah students pick their favorites! See all the current picks HERE.
Friday, June 8, 2018
Lexile = ?
Violent Viking Fantasy. There. I am done. Well, there is a touch of romance. But this is pretty gory..... Lots of axes and scabbards and innards spilling out. Really.
Here's the story, and it is a good one. Eelyn lives with her Father in a society that goes to war every five years with a similar Nordic tribe. The intervening years are all about training and preparation for the coming warring season. Eelyn lost her brother, Iri, in the last battle season. She witnessed his death. Fast forward to the current fighting season. Eelyn is "saved" by an encounter with a warrior who she thinks is Iri. But that can't be, right? The villagers believe that Iri's spirit has returned to honor and spare his sister in battle. But Eelyn knows better.
The societies depicted in Sky in the Deep are profoundly religious. I liked the descriptions of their worship houses, their deities, and their ceremonies. That all felt very authentic. I liked the characters, especially the warrior women. Reminded me a bit of the recent Wonder Woman movie. But I think this book will appeal to boy readers as well as girls. Themes of loyalty, friendship and familial bonding make this story both a good read and an opportunity to consider what you would do to defend those you love.
Watch the official book trailer HERE. Although I think the costume doesn't look very authentic... too modern looking.
Wednesday, June 6, 2018
Lexile = 740
Britta's father has been killed. He was a bounty hunter for the king and trained Britta in his ways of tracking and hunting. He also had an apprentice... Cohen. The King captures Britta and tells her she can have her freedom (and her home and land) if she tracks Cohen and turns him over to the Crown. So that is the set up. What follows is an adventure like Ranger's Apprentice, Ruined by Amy Tintera, or others along that line. All super popular right now.
Summerill visited Ridgeline in mid-May. Until then I hadn't read her books. One thing she said in her presentations has stuck with me. It was along the lines of the protagonist has to "want something" and the whole plot is getting him or her to that something. Thinking on that has made me a bit more analytical as I read. "Why is this scene here?" "What does the character want now?" or... "How does this chapter move the character towards what he or she wants?"
Ever the Hunted is first in a trilogy, so there is the obligatory cliffhanger ending here. Definitely all worth a read. Solid story, well-done characters and just a touch of romance.
Watch a (very cheerful) review HERE.
Ever the Hunted is on the nomination list for the Beehive Book Award.... Utah students pick their favorites! See all the current picks HERE.
Wednesday, May 30, 2018
Lexile = ?
Another winner by Amor Towles, the author of Rules of Civility that I just reviewed HERE. Like Rules, A Gentleman in Moscow is a historical time capsule. Covering the years of 1922 - 1954, it tells of the exile of Count Rostov, who was "imprisoned" in the Metropol Hotel for writing a poem that is seen as critical of the Russian Revolutionaries. (Note t self: don't skip that map, poem, and transcript of the court appearance that appears in the first few pages of the book!)
The Metropol is a real place... and its opulence survived the revolution! Here is a vintage postcard.
Anyway, the Count is under house arrest and can't leave the hotel, but this is BIG hotel. He never leaves, but is able to create a life even with his newly restricted status. What follows is a slow character development... and watch out for all the people who flit in and out of his life..... they are important to the plot!
I didn't LOVE this book.... until the end... when it all came together and I had several "Ah ha!" moments as I realized why each part of the book propelled the reader toward the end. And now I want to stay at the Metropol:
This actual restaurant (check out the ceiling!) is a major part of the book! Enjoy!
Monday, May 28, 2018
Lexile = ?
I'm approaching a dilemma here in the Ridgeline Library, and it's all about that question mark you see above. When a book I post here doesn't have a Lexile number, it's because it isn't a "kids" book.... Lexiles indicate reading level and they are super helpful in schools when a reader is looking for an appropriate book. Here's the problem: the collection here seems to be straddling two (or maybe three) worlds. You can see from the green labels at the right that I have books that are around 400 reading level... that is about 2nd grade reading! Granted, the subject matter is NOT appropriate for elementary, but still.
So, who do I buy books for? Well, ALL OF YOU, but that leaves the library straddling. All of this leads me to The Rules of Civility. It's an adult read... not because of of inappropriate content, but because it has a slower pace, more textual development and adult themes. (no one is going to the prom in this type of book!)
Katey is living in New York City and happens to meet Tinker Grey on New Years Eve. He is a charming and successful banker. Katey and her friend, Evelyn, begin to spend time with Tinker. Well, because of unforeseen circumstances, Tinker and Evelyn end up together. Where does this leave Katey? The rest of the novel is untangling the mess. Again, slow character building. People I thought were minor characters suddenly explode into major plot movers. I felt like I could write a great AP type essay on so many aspects of this book! But it isn't a difficult read.... just intriguing and thoughtful.
Lots of memorable quotes here, as well:
"I'm willing to be under anything...as long as it isn't somebody's thumb."
"If we only fell in love with people who were perfect for us, then there wouldn’t be so much fuss about love in the first place."
“If you could relive one year in your life, which one would it be? [...] The upcoming one.”
Rules of Civility has been compared to The Great Gatsby, and I wonder this this may just be a "classic" some day as well.
Watch a short video of the author describing the book HERE.