Gone-Away Lake: Summer Exploring Is The Best Exploring

Gone-Away Lake is written by Elizabeth Enright. It was first published in 1957. You can find more information about Enright here.

Summary/Blurb:

“When Portia sets out for a visit with her cousin Julian, she expects fun and adventure, but of the usual kind: exploring in the woods near Julian’s house, collecting stones and bugs, playing games throughout the long, lazy days.

But this summer is different.

On their first day exploring, Portia and Julian discover an enormous boulder with a mysterious message, a swamp choked with reeds and quicksand, and on the far side of the swamp…a ghost town.

Once upon a time the swamp was a splendid lake, and the fallen houses along its shore an elegant resort community. But though the lake is long gone and the resort faded away, the houses still hold a secret life: two people who have never left Gone-away…and who can tell the story of what happened there.”

~Back Cover

What I Liked:

If you want to read classic children’s literature, Elizabeth Enright is one of the authors to read. Gone-Away Lake is one of my favorites by her, mostly because the images of idyllic summer, exploration and history are so wonderful to read. This book makes me want to explore the countryside and discover a ghost town. This is something that classic children’s lit does so much better than modern, because in this day and age children don’t really explore by themselves anymore as they did in Enright’s day and earlier. There’s no technology and very little traffic or business in Gone-Away Lake, which means that the book is completely devoted to nature and exploration. And it is wonderful because of it.

This book is also quite funny; Portia and Julian have some amusing dialogue and Enright has some humorous descriptions. The stories Aunt Minniehaha and Uncle Pin tell are wonderful, and the discoveries Portia and Julian make are perfectly described as well as quite stimulating to at least my imagination. That’s one thing to call this book: stimulating.

Again, I just love the explore/discovery aspect of the book. The discovery of the Villa Caprice at the end hints at a sequel, which I probably like even better than this one. But more on that when I review it.

What I Didn’t Like:

Nothing.

Rating: 5/5

Recommended Age Range: 8+

Warnings: None.

Genre: Children’s, Realistic, Classic

Passages/Quotes:

They both climbed up on the little hulk and looked out over the tops of the reeds, a sea of reeds, beyond which, and all around, grew the dark woods. But that was not all. Portia and Julian drew in a breath of surprise at exactly the same instant, because at the northeast end of the swamp, between the reeds and the woods, and quite near to them, they saw a row of wrecked old houses. There were perhaps a dozen of them; all large and shabby, though once they must have been quite elaborate, adorned as they were with balconies, turrets, widows’ walks, and lacy wooden trimming. But now the balconies were sagging and the turrets tipsy; the shutters were crooked or gone, and large sections of wooden trimming had broken off. There was a tree sticking out of the one of the windows, not into it but out of it. And everything was as still as death.

~Enright 31-32

“Do you know what I would like to offer you, children?” said Mrs. Cheever, tying another apron over the one she was already wearing. “Pin, do you know what I would like to offer them?” She paused dramatically. “A house!” she said. “Here are all these old houses! Nothing ever uses them but bats and birds, and some of them are still quite safe. You could pick a safe one and have it for a clubhouse; bring your friends if you wanted. Oh, Pin, wouldn’t it be nice to hear children’s voices here at Tarrigo again? Though perhaps they wouldn’t care for the idea—” she added hesitantly, looking at them.

But Portia, clasping a dish towel to her wishbone, cried: “Heavenly! Oh, Mrs. Cheever, what a heavenly idea!”

And Julian said: “Brother! Would that be neat!”

~Enright 99-100

Overall Review:

Gone-Away Lake will have you longing for the type of idyllic summer that Portia and Julian end up having. Exploration and discovery, especially of the countryside and old houses, are some of my favorite things to read about, and this book is what caused me to love it. This book, and any Enright book, are a definite recommendation for any child; it’s one of the pinnacles of classic children’s lit.

You can buy this book here: Gone-Away Lake (Gone-Away Lake Books)

Archer’s Goon: In Case You Need Any More Evidence About My Love For Diana Wynne Jones

[My blog schedule is wacky at the moment and I apologize. I also realize that I completely forgot to upload Sunday's Redwall review.]

Archer’s Goon is written by Diana Wynne Jones. It was first published in 1984 by Methuen Children’s Books. Jones’ website can be found here.

Summary/Blurb:

“When Howard Sykes comes home and finds the Goon taking up all the available space in the kitchen, life turns upside down. The Goon refuses to leave without “Archer’s two thousand” owed, he says, by Howard’s father.

But Mr. Sykes doesn’t owe anything as simple as money. As Howard desperately tries to unravel the mystery of the disappearing words, he uncovers all sorts of incredible things about Archer, his crazy family, and who is really running the town where he lives.”

~Back Cover

What I Liked:

This is one of the last Jones books that I ever read, and yet it impressed me as much as any of her others. While perhaps not on the same level as Howl’s Moving Castle or Fire and Hemlock or a few other of her novels, it’s still quintessentially DWJ, which means it’s pretty much golden as far as I’m concerned. There are only a couple of DWJ books that I don’t really like, and this is not one of them.

The two reveals about Erskine and Venturus were completely unexpected and surprising, and, as I’ve said before, almost nothing really surprises me anymore in literature, so when it does happen, it makes me love the book that much more. DWJ is so great at including twists in her plot: just the right amount of foreshadowing to have it not come completely out of left field, but not enough to make it obvious.

One of the things I love about DWJ is that she never talks down to her readers. She never waters down the plot because of her audience. It makes adults like me able to read and enjoy and appreciate her books just as much as children; they do not have quite as much of a “children’s book” feel to them even though they’re marketed to children. It’s quite wonderful (there’s nothing wrong with children’s books; I happen to love lots of them. They just read like children’s books).

What I Didn’t Like:

Nothing, really. Awful is a little annoying, but then, she’s awful.

I also admit that perhaps I didn’t find really anything wrong because I have a very strong bias for DWJ books (although that didn’t help out Aunt Maria).

Rating: 5/5

Recommended Age Range: 10+

Warnings: None.

Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade

I love that there is fan art for this book!

Passages/Quotes:

“Who is Archer?” said Howard.

The Goon shrugged his huge shoulders. “Archer farms this part of town. Your dad pays, Archer doesn’t make trouble.” He grinned, almost sweetly, and sucked the last bit of bread off the point of his knife. “Got trouble now. Got me.”

“Phone the police,” said Awful.

The Goon’s smile broadened. He took his knife by its point and wagged it at Awful. “Better not,” he said. “Really bett’n’t had.” They exchanged looks again. It seemed to all of them, even Awful, that the Goon’s advice was good. The Goon nodded when he saw them look and held his mug out for more tea. “Quite peaceful really,” he remarked placidly. “Like this house. Civilised.”

~Jones 14

“Are they really from Shine?” asked Awful.

“Have to be,” said the Goon, “the way they keep after you.”

“What’s Shine like?” asked Awful.

“Vicious,” said the Goon. He thought. “Plays fairer than Dillian. Acts up like Torquil sometimes. Likes shooting people.”

Awful skipped along, happily ignoring the shouts from Hind’s gang. “I might like Shine,” she decided. “What’s Erskine like?”

The Goon gave that tremendous thought. “Don’t know. Smelly.”

“Now tell me about Venturus,” said Awful.

The Goon seemed to find that hard to do, too. “Bit like Archer,” he said at last. “Brains and all.”

~Jones 147

Overall Review:

Diana Wynne Jones is just too good at writing books with great plot, decent character development, and unique worlds and magic. Archer’s Goon is no exception, and it has two wonderful twists that completely surprised me. I love DWJ; that is all.

You can buy this book here: Archer’s Goon

Summer of Redwall: Lord Brocktree

Lord Brocktree is the thirteenth book in the Redwall series by Brian Jacques. It was published in 2000 by Philomel. Chronologically, it is the very first book of Redwall, making it the prequel to everything. The Redwall wiki (spoilers!) can be found here, and info about Brian Jacques can be found here.

Summary/Blurb:

“The brazen, young haremaid Dotti and the badger-warrior Lord Brocktree—unlikely comrades—set out for Salamandastron together only to discover the legendary mountain has been captured by the wild cat Ungatt Trunn and his Blue Hordes.

This is not what they expected! Seized by rage, the badger knows bloodwrath is not enough. To face the Blue Hordes, the two must rally an army—hares and otters, shrews and moles, mice and squirrels—and execute a plan that makes up in cleverness what it lacks in force!”

~Inside Flap

What I Liked:

Lord Brocktree is probably the cleverest Badger Lord and throughout the book relies more on his brain than his brawn. It’s a nice departure from the usual, especially since many of Jacques’ characters all start sounding the same after a while. Another nice departure was the antagonism between Fleetscut and Jukka and the maidenry (is that a word?) of Dotti. Her emphasis on proper manners just to rile her opponents made for some of the funniest scenes in the book, and let’s not forget all the times she called herself a “kingess.”

All of the Redwall books have fighting in them, and most have some sort of war, but I think that this book has the best depiction in terms of siege, battle plans, etc. Like I said above, Brocktree is smart, and we get to see him both come up with and carry out his plans. That being said, while Brocktree is the hero of the story, he’s much more like an Aragorn hero and not like the typical Redwall hero. The only other way I can think to describe him is that he’s kingly. Compare him to Sunflash, the badger hero of Outcast of Redwall, and you’ll see what I mean.

For some reason, I thought the ending of the book was really well done. The army breaking up and going their separate ways on their ships was just really touching. Also, Rulango is the best heron ever.

What I Didn’t Like:

There was absolutely no reason to include Skittles. None. I am 100% certain that he was only included to continue the formula of “adorable, precocious (more like annoying) baby.”

At this point in the series, I’m starting to notice even more the same-ness of everything in Redwall. This one had some unique features (acquiring the army from Bucko, the defense, siege, counter-attack, etc. of Salamandastron), but thirteen books in, this series is starting to drag a bit.

Rating: 3/5

Recommended Age Range: 12+

Warnings: Fighting/violence, death.

Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade

Fan art!

Passages/Quotes:

It was a crude sketch, done with a piece of burnt wood from last night’s fire. There was an arrow pointing downstream and a depiction of herself sitting on the boat. By a sharp bend in the stream, Ruff and Brocktree were drawn, apparently waiting for her. Also there was some sketchy writing, obviously Ruff’s: “See U att noone.”

The haremaid studied it, still chunnering to herself.

“See me at noon where the stream bends, eh? Well, how flippin’ nice to let a body know, blinkin’ deserters! Tchah! Is that supposed t’be a picture of me? Just look at those miserable ears. Mine are a jolly sight prettier than that, wot! Hmph! No wonder that otter’s folks chucked him out—his spellin’s dreadful!”

She found the burn stick and corrected it all to her satisfaction, drawing a huge stomach on Ruff and an ugly drooping snout on the Badger Lord. Finally, after adding many touches to make the likeness of herself more beautiful, Dotti gave Ruff a black mark for his spelling.

~Jacques 55-56

Ruff squeezed Dotti’s paw as the hare’s boat pulled upstream, his face wreathed in a big smile. “Full marks, miss. You was magnificent!”

Dotti kept up the pose, simpering and fluttering her lids. “Why thank you, my good fellow. Did it earn one perhaps a smidgen of that woodland trifle which Gurth made, wot?”

The otter shook his head firmly. “’Fraid not, miss.”

“Yah, go an’ boil your beastly head, y’great slabsided boatnosed planktailed excuse for a wrothless water-walloper!”

~Jacques 216

Overall Review:

Lord Brocktree is markedly different from other Redwall heroes, a nice feature in a book where all the characters are starting to sound the same as iterations of their species in previous books. The strategy part of the battle was great, and the ending is one of the more poignant in the series. However, Skittles was unnecessary and annoying, and the Redwall-formula is starting to wear thin.

You can buy this book here: Lord Brocktree: A Novel of Redwall

The Hound of Rowan: A Little Too Much Like Harry Potter, But Has Potential

The Hound of Rowan is written by Henry H. Neff. It is the first book in The Tapestry series. It was published in 2007 by Random House. Neff’s website can be found here.

Summary/Blurb:

“Max McDaniels lives a quiet life in the suburbs of Chicago until the day he stumbles upon a mysterious Celtic tapestry depicting the mythic Cattle Raid of Cooley. Now many strange people are interested in Max and his tapestry. His discovery will lead him to Rowan Academy, a secret school where great things await: fantastic creatures, rigorous training, and his very own observatory within a mansion by the sea.

But dark things are waiting, too. When Max learns that priceless artworks and gifted children are disappearing from around the globe, he finds himself in the crossfire of an ancient struggle between good and evil. To survive, he’ll have to rely on a shadowy network of agents and mystics, the genius of his roommate, and the frightening power awakening within him.”

~Inside Flap

What I Liked:

Well, this wasn’t too bad for a Harry Potter look-alike. It is a sad fact of life that you cannot write a book about someone going to a magical school without treading onto Harry Potter ground. This book was a bit more science-fiction-y and a bit more mythological, but it’s still straight-up Harry Potter. The one thing that intrigued me was that Max is not “the savior,” but his roommate, David, appears to be. Max is some weird incarnation of an Irish hero, or something.

The creatures are interesting, and the classes and activities based around the magic system Neff is setting up are well-developed. I especially liked the soccer field that changes its topography and the virtual reality simulator. Decent worldbuilding, all around.

I think this is one series where I really have to read some more, because right now I’m in the “it-has-potential-but-ehhhhh” stage, and I don’t want to dismiss it just because it shares similarities with Harry Potter.

What I Didn’t Like:

Wait, why is it called The Hound of Rowan? We only see the hound once.

Really, I read this book and all I thought was “Harry Potter.”

David’s too perfect. This is only the first book, but still—throw in some flaws! Also, is there something significant about his coughing or am I just paranoid?

A big NO to the twelve-year-old and the fourteen-year-old romance going on (it’s as bad as Aang and Katara).

It has potential, but ehhhhhhh. I’ll hold off on pronouncing stronger judgment until I read at least one more in the series.

Recommended Age Range: 12+

Rating: 3/5

Genre: Fantasy, Realistic, Middle Grade, Science Fiction

Warnings: Violence

Passages/Quotes:

“Mum? Bob? It’s Ndidi. Could you come out, please, and meet the new class?”

The pear-shaped boy scurried to the back as the woman’s voice cackled and shrieked. “Oh, they’re here, they’re here! The darlings are here!”

The door flew open, flattening Miss Awolowo. The children screamed as a panting, gray-skinned woman as short and stout as a pot-bellied stove burst from the kitchen to envelop Jesse in a fierce embrace. Jesse’s legs buckled; he fainted in to her arms. Her shiny face looked the children over, grinning hideously to reveal a mouthful of smooth crocodile teeth.

“Oh, Ndidi! You’ve outdone yourself. They’re wonderful! Oh, they’re so wonderful and plump!”

~Neff 79

Lanterns bobbed about the dark grounds in pairs as the faculty combed the orchard, lawns, and gardens. Away in the woods, Max saw more lanterns peeking from among the trees. He whispered to a Second Year standing next to him.

“Have you guys seen anything?”

The Second Year shook his head and motioned for quiet. Suddenly, someone at the end gasped, “Something’s happening!”

Max was smooshed against the window as the crowd surged forward. Below, the lanterns bobbed wildly, rapidly converging at a point near the orchard’s edge. A huge plume of flame erupted at the spot. Max and the other boys gave out a yell.

Something monstrous and wolf-shaped was illuminated by the sudden burst of light. It took several hunched, uneven steps on its hind legs before dropping to all fours and racing across the lawn toward the forest and the road.

“Get back in your rooms!”

~Neff 181

Overall Review:

The Hound of Rowan has some decent worldbuilding and interesting components at Hog—I mean, Rowan Academy. I do like the science-fiction-y feel to the fantasy, as well as the underlying mythology. I’ll probably continue reading the series, because this book has me intrigued, but it’s way too similar to Harry Potter for me to really love it.

You can buy this book here: The Hound of Rowan: Book One of The Tapestry

Ranking the Pixar Films

I absolutely love Pixar. Their movies are some of my favorite movies of all time, and definitely some of the best computer-animated films of all time (the How to Train Your Dragon movies, especially the second one, and some of Disney’s films are also on the list). I recently watched all of their animated films, in order, and decided to give them my own ranking. They’re loosely ordered from “most favorite” to “least favorite” but other factors affected my ratings, too, such as technique/animation, plot, setting, and story. Many of the middle films on the list (the ones with the 4 rating) are interchangeable.

What are your favorite Pixar movies?

1. Wall-E

Who knew a movie about robots with barely any dialogue (at least in the beginning) could be so charming and sweet? I absolutely love the opening music and the beginning exposition—the newspapers, holograms, advertisements, little snippets like that. The nonverbal exposition completely matches the nonverbal nature of the (first part of the) film. The choice of music from Hello, Dolly! is utterly perfect; it embodies that element of nostalgia that just would not have been as powerful with a more recent film. And yes, Wall-E does not go home before he kisses the girl. 5/5

 

2. Ratatouille

The Incredibles is my favorite Pixar movie, but stylistically I think Ratatouille is superior. And it stands out even more after the lackluster Cars (the movie that came out the year before). It’s a film about food and cooking, but its simplicity is fleshed out into a wonderful story, with some beautiful scenery and great moments—like the rats taking out the health inspector and Chef Skinner. 5/5

 

3. The Incredibles

This may be my favorite Pixar movie. Not only is it a fun, action-filled superhero movie, but it also has a fantastic message on the importance of family and on not living in the past. We all have some sort of “Glory Days” of our own, but, like Bob, we have to learn not to dwell on them so much that we ignore the people around us. We need people, and we need family. 5/5

4. Brave

I think I might like Brave better if it wasn’t a rebellious princess story (and those who regularly read my blog know that I don’t like rebellious princess stories) and if the message was less generic. However, the animation is gorgeous (Merida’s hair, oh my goodness), and Queen Elinor is awesome. Walking through a room and making fighting people get out of her way, her hilarious time as a bear, and that fantastic bear fight with Mordu…definitely the best character. 4/5

5. Up

I know, I know, you’re probably wondering why Up isn’t higher up on the list. Let me just say, first, that Up has a fantastic story—it punches you in the stomach in all the right places, it makes you cry, it’s about family, letting go of the past and of unimportant belongings, and letting people into your life. It’s visually gorgeous and Russell is a gem. However, I’ve always found the premise of this movie a bit hard to swallow. It just feels unrealistic to me, and most of what happens in the last quarter of the movie is extremely over the top as to be farcical. 4/5

6. Finding Nemo

To be fair, I’m not sure if I like Finding Nemo or Monsters, Inc. more. I like the message behind Finding Nemo more (family, not stifling your children, letting them explore and figure things out for themselves, overcoming tragedy) but I like the world of Monsters, Inc. more. Anyway, one of the things that stands out the most to me in Finding Nemo is how colorful it is. It’s a visually beautiful movie, and the different character attributes of the different ocean species (especially the seagulls (Mine! Mine!)) are so memorable. It’s also a very quotable movie, with dialogue that just sticks in your mind. 4/5

7. Monsters, Inc.

This movie has a fantastic world as its premise. Building the concept of “monsters in your closet” into a literal world is amazing; the added twist of monsters actually being scared of children at heart is genius. The rollercoaster of doors is still something that I wish to see implemented in real life at an amusement park. Also, Billy Crystal as Mike Wazowski makes this movie. And Boo is adorable. 4/5.

 

8. Toy Story 2

Toy Story 2 takes everything good about Toy Story and expands it, making a hilariously fun, rootin’ tootin’ adventure that has toys running through airports and driving cars. The Star Wars references are slightly random, but extremely memorable, and the Toy Story films in general are very good at poignancy and with the overall theme of friendship and sticking together. This movie, I think, is really when Pixar starts hitting its stride. 4/5.

9. Toy Story 3

One thing I noticed while watching this is the precision and exactness of the animation for each toy. The toys move exactly how you think they would, and I think this is especially noticeable during Ken’s “fashion show.” As for the plot, the prison break is hilarious and so is Spanish Buzz; the ending makes me cry; and it’s a great way to end the “trilogy” with the continued theme of “getting back to Andy” with the addition of a message about growing up. This might have ranked higher on the list, but I like Toy Story 2 better. 4/5

10.  A Bug’s Life

For some reason, A Bug’s Life seems to be on the bottom of people’s lists when referring to Pixar films. It always seems to be referred to in some negative fashion. I don’t understand this, personally. As a child, I watched A Bug’s Life more times than I can count. The soundtrack is so wonderful and memorable to me, and the world of the film itself is so much bigger than that of Toy Story’s. The film is also hilariously funny and has some quite memorable bits of dialogue, in my opinion. 4/5.

11. Toy Story

I don’t think Toy Story was as revolutionary as Walt Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, but it was still the first computer-animated feature length film (I think) and received a ton of critical acclaim, and its story and animation makes Pixar stand out. It also shows how much further animation in this style has come since 1995 (the year the movie came out). The plot is fairly simple, but the story itself is heartwarming and the scenes with Sid continue to be some of the creepiest I’ve seen. 4/5

12. Monsters University

The main problem I had with this movie was that it was completely unnecessary, not to mention Pixar actually retconned Monsters, Inc. A whole movie based around whether or not Mike Wazowski is scary? Come on, Pixar. You can do better than that (Okay, yes, I understand that it’s also about how Mike and Sully became friends, but even that’s not necessary, especially since it just led to retconning Monsters, Inc.). I did, however, love the animation, the college references, and the awesome moment when Mike pauses before opening the door to see his roommate and it’s not who the audience is expecting. 3/5

13. Cars

Cars isn’t a bad movie, but there’s definitely something missing when you compare it to the movies that come before (and after) it. It doesn’t have that extra oomph that movies like Finding Nemo or The Incredibles have. I do, however, love the ending. It’s always nice to see arrogance turn into compassion. 3/5

14. Cars 2

I can’t even begin to describe how boring, mediocre and just plain bad I thought this movie was. This is not a Pixar-worthy story. Sure, it has its fun moments, but the simplicity of the message just screams “kids movie,” while the rest of Pixar’s films are much more nuanced. I actually found this movie painful to watch. 1/5

Emerald Green: All The Time-Traveling Shenanigans You Could Want

Emerald Green is written by Kerstin Gier. It was first published in 2010 in Germany and then in 2013 by Henry Holt, translated by Anthea Bell. It is the third and final book in a trilogy, of which the first two books I reviewed here and here. Gier’s website can be found here.

Summary/Blurb:

“Gwen has a destiny to fulfill, but no one will tell her what it is.

She’s only recently learned that she is the Ruby, the final member of the time-traveling Circle of Twelve, and since then nothing has been going right. She suspects the founder of the Circle, Count Saint-Germain, is up to something nefarious, but nobody believes her. And she’s just learned that her charming time-traveling partner, Gideon, has probably been using her all along.”

~Inside Flap

What I Liked:

Okay, so remember all those doubts I discussed in my review of Sapphire Blue? I am happy to say that none of them came true, and that this book is an amazing finish to the trilogy. Tons of things happen (including, yes, Gwen delivering the note, helping to conk Gideon over the head, and stopping herself from being discovered), the romance is cute, there are some truly hilarious moments (check the second quote below for one of my favorites) and the ending reveal was pretty surprising!

So, first things first. The time travel was so well-executed here, and really has been throughout the trilogy. I loved the “crossing the streams”/Back to the Future aspect and all the little plot advances made. It’s so interesting to have Gwen’s second visit to Lady Tilney happen four years before her first visit to Lady Tilney, so really she’s meeting Lady Tilney for the first time in her second trip rather than her first. Also, it’s never explicitly mentioned, but I have to mention it because I thought Lucy/Paul/Gideon/Gwen’s plan with the chronograph was brilliant—the reason Lady Tilney gave Gideon her blood was obviously because however many years before they had come up with the plan and she had to give her blood to complete it. It’s mind-boggling stuff, and it’s great!

I was hesitant about the romance in the first two books because I was afraid it was overshadowing the plot, but Gideon’s “Gwenny’s” won me over. Also, it wasn’t overshadowing the plot, after all. And they’re cute.

As I said, the end reveal was pretty surprising; I was definitely not expecting it. I like the unexpected!

It was also super cute to see a different side of Lady Arista when Lucas was still alive.

What I Didn’t Like:

Um, so, what’s up with that immortality thing? That was random. And a little cliché and convenient.

Rating: 4/5

Recommended Age Range: 14+

Warnings: Violence, swearing.

Genre: Realistic, Science Fiction, Supernatural, Historical Fiction, Young Adult

For some reason, I LOVE the German cover art

Passages/Quotes:

My grandfather wiped the palms of his hands on his trousers. “I’m beginning to feel too old for these adventures,” he said.

My eyes went to the chronograph. To me, it looked exactly like the one that had sent me here, a complicated device full of flaps, levers, little drawers, cogwheels, and knobs, covered all over with miniature drawings.

“I don’t object if you contradict me,” said Lucas, sounding slightly injured. “Something along the lines of but you’re much too young to feel old!”

“Oh. Yes, of course you are. Although that moustache makes you look decades older.”

“Arista says it makes me look serious and statesmanlike.”

~Gier 84-85

“Don’t be scared,” said a voice behind me.

Those must certainly fall into the category of Famous Last Words, the sort that are the last thing you hear before your death. (Along with “it isn’t loaded” and “he only wants to play.”) Of course I was terribly scared.

~Gier 194

Overall Review:

Emerald Green ends the time-traveling trilogy with all the twists, time-traveling shenanigans, and cunning plots you could want. Gideon and Gwen are really cute, and Gwen proves she’s not just a clumsy, mediocre girl. The immortality was strange and felt a little cliché and out of place, but otherwise, a fun trilogy.

You can buy this here: Emerald Green (Ruby Red)

Summer of Redwall: The Legend of Luke (And My 200th Book Review!)

If I counted correctly, this is my 200th book review! Wow!

The Legend of Luke is the twelfth book in the Redwall series by Brian Jacques. It is the sequel to Mossflower, but also the prequel to Martin the Warrior. It was published in 1999/2000 by Philomel.

Summary/Blurb:

“In this twelfth book of the masterful Redwall epic, storyteller Brian Jacques goes back in time to the days before Redwall, revealing with dramatic poignancy the legend of the first of the magnificent Redwall warriors—Luke, father of Martin.

Joined by Trimp the Hedgehog, Dinny Foremole, and Gonff—the ever-mischievous Prince of Mousethieves—it is that legend Martin hopes to discover when he embarks on a perilous journey to the northland shore, where his father abandoned him as a child. There, within the carcass of a great red ship—broken in half and wedged high up between pillars of stone—he finally uncovers what he has been searching for: the true story of the evil pirate stoat, Vilu Daskar, and the valiant warrior who pursued him relentlessly over the high seas, seeking to destroy Vilu at all costs, even if it meant deserting his only son.”

~Inside Flap

What I Liked:

This book contains a unique format for Redwall: the story-within-a-story. The first and third parts are about Martin first traveling towards and then returning from the northern caves. The second part is Luke’s story, and what it shows above all is that Jacques was certainly capable of compacting a story when he wanted to. “In the Wake of the Red Ship,” as the characters call the tale, is essentially a novella, and it is probably the most concise story in all of Redwall. In fact, it makes the long, rambling journey of Martin, especially afterwards, seem boring and uneventful in comparison. I’ve always wondered why Jacques cuts out the return trip of the heroes in his books, and now I know why: after the meat of the story, such a long denouement is a bit…boring.

I love the character of Folgrim. We’ve had “gray” bad guys before, but Folgrim is maybe the closest we’ll get to a “gray” good guy, unless I’m mistaken. I’ve always liked otter characters and Folgrim is an especially interesting one. It’s always the unusual, abnormal quirky characters that are the most enticing in Redwall, it seems.

As much as I thought Martin’s journey was really flat compared to the fast-pace of Luke’s story, I did think that the dynamic between the characters was great—especially because there were so many on the journey. But Martin and Co. all sounded like old friends, and they interacted like old friends, and despite the large amount of people, nobody was lost in the mix. This might have been the best group dynamic in Redwall so far, even.

Cover Art

What I Didn’t Like:

Like I mentioned, Martin’s journey, especially the one back to Redwall, seems incredibly dim next to the bright and shining awesomeness of Luke’s. It’s nice to see his reaction to finally knowing what happened to his father, but the adventures he has are rather generic and almost take away from his introspections.

Rating: 4/5

Recommended Age Range: 12+

Warnings: Violence/fighting, death, war.

Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade

Luke saying goodbye to Martin

Passages/Quotes:

“I’m Martin of Redwall, son of Luke the Warrior. Whom have I the pleasure of addressing, sir?”

The hare shook his hoary silver head, returning the smile. “Knew y’father well, sah. Excellent chap! I’m Beauhair Fethringham Cosfortingsol. No I ain’t, I’m Beausol Fethringhair Cosfortingclair. No I ain’t, wait a tick. I’m Beauham Fethringclair Confounditall. Tchah! I’m so old I’ve forgotten me own name. What a disgrace, wot!”

~Jacques 145

“What would you sooner do, Vurg, freeze t’death, drown t’death, or starve t’death?”

The mouse opened one eye and murmured, “You didn’t say wot wot.”

“Wot wot? Why the deuce should I say wot wot?”

Vurg smiled sleepily. “’Cos you always say wot wot!”

Beau’s ears stood rigid with indignation. “I beg your very pardon, sir, I do not. Wot wot?”

~Jacques 303

Overall Review:

“In the Wake of the Red Ship” is pretty brilliant, Redwall-wise. The other two parts are interesting, with a really good group dynamic and some interesting characters, but they unfortunately pale in comparison to the middle part. If only Jacques wrote every Redwall book like he wrote Luke’s story, because if you remember, the more concise the plot of a Redwall tale is, the better the Redwall tale is.

You can buy this here: Legend Of Luke (Redwall)

Summer of Redwall: Marlfox

 Marlfox is the eleventh book in the Redwall series by Brian Jacques. It is the sequel to The Long Patrol. It was published in 1998 by Philomel. The Redwall wiki (spoilers!) can be found here, and info about Brian Jacques can be found here.

Summary/Blurb:

“A villainous new presence is aprowl in Mossflower Woods—the Marlfoxes. Stealthy, mysterious, they can disappear at any time, in any place, and they are out to plunder and destroy everything in their path. And when they reach Redwall Abbey? They ruthlessly steal the most precious treasure of all—the tapestry of Martin the Warrior. It takes Dann Reguba and Song Swifteye, children of warrior squirrels, to follow in their fathers’ heroic footsteps, and together with the young shrew Dippler, and Burble the brave watervole, they embark upon the seemingly impossible quest to recover the famous tapestry.

Enemies and danger greet their every move as they make their way to the ominous island domain of the evil Marlfox leader, Queen Silth, and her children. But they are met most dramatically by themselves, as they prove their own courage and worth and discover the hero’s spirit that lives within each one of them.”

~Inside Flap

What I Liked:

Once again, a focused plot without irrelevant side-plots makes for a good Redwall book. I enjoyed the uniqueness, for Redwall, of the “family” villains, although I still don’t like the fact that none of the villains seem capable of love (a topic that will come up again in Taggerung, which has sort of the opposite type of mechanic than Outcast of Redwall). I also found the quick demise of Lantur, after all her scheming, amusing.

Song and Dann (and Dippler and Burble) are probably the most endearing heroes that come from Redwall in a while. They’re not bland or flat, like Samkim was, and they’re not forgettable like Dandin. For once, theirs is a group that actually has a good dynamic and isn’t overshadowed by one character or the other. None of them seem to be simply tagging along for the purpose of having another character (i.e. Arula and whoever it was that was with Bryony that was probably a mole). I suppose that Burble is there simply for comic relief, but the other three actually have character development.

Speaking of comic relief, Jacques usually uses the hares for that and it’s especially noticeable here. Florian is probably one of my least favorite hares, but his inclusion makes for some of the funnier parts of the book.

Once again, I much prefer the UK cover art

What I Didn’t Like:

Dibbuns! They’re cute in the first five or so books, but then they just keep getting more and more annoying with their way of speaking and their antics. Dwopple…sigh. Also, why don’t we ever see vermin babies?

More retconning from Jacques, although that’s pretty much old news by now. Or maybe for this one he did it on purpose, to illustrate the way that legends change over time? Anyway, this time, when describing the history of Marlfox Island, Cregga mentions that Urthstripe (from Salamandastron) went to the island, met his brother Urthwyte, and then traveled back to Salamandastron with him where they fought Ferahgo. Uh, well, it was Mara who found Urthwyte, and the two brothers never actually met face-to-face. But it makes for a good legend, I guess.

Rating: 4/5

Recommended Age Range: 12+

Warnings: War, violence/fighting, death

Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade

Our heroes!

Passages/Quotes:

Janglur Swifteye gazed in awe and admiration at the tapestry hanging on the west wall of the Abbey’s Great Hall. It depicted vermin fleeing in all directions from the figure standing boldly at its center, Martin the Warrior. The armor-clad mouse leaned upon the hilt of his fabulous sword, a friendly reckless smile on his striking features.

Janglur whistled softly. “Now there stands a warrior among warriors, by the seasons! He looks so confident an’ strong, small wonder those vermin are fleein’ for their lives, mate!”

Rusvul pointed to the name embroidered on the border. “Aye, that’s Martin the Warrior. He was the creature who freed Mossflower from tyranny an’ helped to found this Abbey of Redwall. I felt just as you do, when I first saw him. This tapestry means a great deal to any creature calling itself a Redwaller.”

~Jacques 66

Deesum picked him up, comforting Dwopple and castigating Florian in the same breath. “There there now, my little soldier, did the cruel rabbit steal your paddle, nasty wicked beast!”

“Madam! Cruel, nasty an’ jolly well wicked I may be, but I am a hare, marm, not a rabbit!”

“Indeed, sir? Well, you show all the sense of a rabbit, a two-day-old one. You are not fit to command that paddle you have stolen!”

Florian sat down dispiritedly upon the floorstones, staring about at the empty hall. “Huh! Bloomin’ paddle’s about all I’ve got left to command, wot!”

~Jacques 164

Overall Review:

Marlfox has some of the better heroes in the series (of those that come from Redwall) and a unique set of villains. I still think Redwall is at its best when Jacques doesn’t try to take on too much at once in regards to plot, and so far all the books that have one main plot are the best, Marlfox included. The Dibbuns are still annoying, though, alas.

You can buy this here: Marlfox: A Tale from Redwall

The Seer and the Sword: Do People Who Write The Book Summaries Even Read The Books?

The Seer and the Sword is written by Victoria Hanley. It was published in 2000 by Holiday House. Hanley’s website can be found here.

Summary/Blurb:

“Princess Torina lives a charmed life in the kingdom of Archeld. Then her father, King Kareed, seizes the peaceful kingdom of Bellandra—and its legendary sword, rumored able to defeat any enemy. On his return, he offers Torina two gifts: a beautiful crystal and the defeated king’s son, Landen, as a slave. Both prove to be more precious than she could ever imagine. For with them Torina makes two discoveries: She is a seer, able to glimpse the future in her crystal, and Landen is not a servant but a peer, a noble spirit who matches her in wits, humor, and character.

But all is not well in Archeld. Beneath the seemingly orderly surface lurk greed, revenge—and plots against the king’s life. Fingers point at Landen, but Torina cannot believe he would harm her or her family. Can she use her newfound powers to save her beleaguered kingdom? Or must the seer take up the sword?”

~Inside Flap

What I Liked:

The second part of the book was way better than the first. Fast pacing, decent action and suspense, heists, intrigue, mystery…a nice finish to the book.

The plot was fairly decent overall, although the worldbuilding was nothing special. I thought Torina’s character was interesting because Hanley made it appear as if she would be one of those rebel warrior princesses or something, but instead the focus is more on the dampening of her spirit rather than the fulfilling of it. She doesn’t form a band or shock everyone with her archery skills or whatever; she spends her time hiding in a cottage. Definitely not what I was expecting there. I mean, there is that one part with the archery at the very end, but the fact that she doesn’t spend the entire book doing things like that makes it even better, in my opinion, because it’s not the same tired trope as many other fantasy books.

Cover Art

What I Didn’t Like:

The writing was not that great; in fact, I almost stopped reading it about two chapters in (it did get better, or maybe the plot just got better so I could ignore the writing more). How do you glide from a horse’s back, anyway?

Talk about a deceptive blurb. “Must the seer take up the sword?” The sword in the title has nothing to do with the seer, and no, she doesn’t fight at all or even consider it. It’s Landen who has the fighting angst, not Torina.

I have to say, I rolled my eyes when at the very beginning Torina, at the tender age of nine, thought, “I can never live that way!” You’re nine years old, kid. Stop being so dramatic. Also, you’ve hardly developed anything at that age, much less a permanent goal or personality.

Did not like Irene, who’s all “I’m going to let the guard grope me because he’s handsome.” Um, no. No, no, no. Irene is also working with the bad guys, which makes it even worse (it’s the “All Bad Girls Are Promiscuous” trope, but I’m sorry, Bad Girls should not let themselves be treated that way).

Rating: 2/5

Recommended Age Range: 16+

Warnings: Violence, death.

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult

Fan art! (by enchantedgiraffe)

Passages/Quotes:

“Will you be glad to hear I’m leaving your kingdom?”

“Leaving Archeld? Why?”

He took her hand, rubbing the fingers. “Because there are rumors that say I’ll kill the king.”

Shock cleared her head. “Kill my father? Why?”

Landen’s chest heaved. “To avenge Bellandra.”

“But Landen,” she said. “That was so long ago.”

“I haven’t forgotten.”

~Hanley 86

Anna set to work. “My dear, we must at least know our name, or what will we call you?”

Torina considered. “Vineda. Call me Vineda.”

~Hanley 167

Overall Review:

The Seer and the Sword has a decent plot, but it’s poorly developed in terms of worldbuilding and characterization. The writing is not that great, although I did get used to it near the end. It’s a very obvious trope fantasy and the characters are flat and one-dimensional. There’s the usual “oh no! Fighting and killing!” angst (not making light of the angst itself, just the trope, which I think is incredibly overused) and it’s simply a mediocre novel.

You can buy this book here: The Seer and the Sword

Summer of Redwall: The Long Patrol

The Long Patrol is the tenth book in the Redwall series by Brian Jacques. It is the sequel to Pearls of Lutra. It was published in 1997 by Philomel.

Summary/Blurb:

“The murderous Rapscallion army is on the move. Dealt a humiliating defeat by Lady Cregga Rose Eyes, the Badger Lady of Salamandastron, who still pursues them, the Rapscallions are heading inland to take an even greater prize: the peaceful Abbey of Redwall.

The Long Patrol, that fighting unit of perilous hares, is called out to draw them off—and fight them to the death if need be!

It is the young hare Tammo, who has always dreamt of being a member of the Long Patrol, who gets his chance, and who, by fate and happenstance, takes up the lead sword in one of the most ferocious battles Redwall has ever faced. Eulallllllllia is his cry.”

~Inside Flap

What I Liked:

Keep up the overarching plots, Jacques, because it’s working well! The Redwall sidebar was slightly irrelevant (well, the Tansy and Co.: Adventures in Kotir was), but overall, once again Jacques maintained a tight focus. There was also an awesome sense of urgency created by the collapsing wall that made for some nice tension.

Hares! So many hares! So many hares that they were hard to tell apart, but hares are probably my favorite creatures in Redwall so a whole book devoted to them is a plus. What is unique about this book is that, for once, the main hero is not someone who carries the Sword of Martin. Tammo is the main hero (well, all the hares are, really); Arven carries the Sword but is really not even focused on all that much.

Cover Art

What I Didn’t Like:

So, what with Russa carrying on about Tammo not being a killer and that he doesn’t have to join the Long Patrol, you would think that at the end of the book Tammo would not join the LP. That’s how these things usually work. But he does, and it just left me confused. Maybe that was just Russa seeing her past self in Tammo?

Damug has probably the most anticlimactic villain exit ever. Cregga just grabs him and jumps; he doesn’t even get a prolonged fight or taunt.

Rating: 4/5

Recommended Age Range: 12+

Warnings: Violence/fighting, war, death

Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade

Fan art!

Passages/Quotes:

Tansy drew herself up grandly, spikes abristle and eyes alight. “Nonsense! Show me the wall this instant!”

The group wandered up and down the length of the high battlemented south wall for the remainder of the afternoon, talking and debating and pointing earnestly. The final conclusion was inescapable. The wall was sinking, bellying inward too. They probed the mortar between the stone joints, stood on top of the wall, and swung a weighted plumb line from top to bottom. Then, placing their faces flat to the wall surface and each one squinting with one eye, they gauged the extent of the stone warp. Whichever way they looked at it there was only one thing all were agreed upon. The south wall was crumbling!

~Jacques 50

The Sergeant’s tone was almost an outraged squeal. “Get those dirty great sweaty dustridden paws out o’ that water! It’s for drinkin’, not sloshin’ about in. Trowbaggs, what’n the name o’ seasons are you up to, bucko?”

“Wrappin’ m’self up in me groundsheet, Sarge. Good night!”

Veins stood out on the Sergeant’s brow as he roared at the hapless blunderer, “Sleepin’? Who said you could sleep, sah? Get that equipment cleaned, lay out yore mess kit, line up for supper! Forget sleep, Trowbaggs, stay awake! Yore on second watch!”

~Jacques 183

Overall Review:

The Long Patrol is a great blend of humor, tension, and action with the ever-memorable hares as the stars and the continuation of a focused, overarching plot that has made certain Redwall books shine for me. However, Damug had a bit of a lackluster exit and some of Tammo’s development didn’t make much sense to me.

You can buy this here: Long Patrol (Redwall)

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