Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Lord of the Flies, by William Golding, was published in 1954 by Faber and Faber.

At the dawn of the next world war, a plane crashes on an uncharted island, stranding a group of schoolboys. At first, with no adult supervision, their freedom is something to celebrate. This farm from civilization they can do anything they want. Anything. But as order collapses, as strange howls echo in the night, as terror begins its reign, the hope of adventure seems as far removed from reality as the hope of being rescued…

Rating: 4/5

Despite Lord of the Flies being one of the more popular books to assign in high school, I never actually read it until now. Of course, I knew what it was about—a group of boys are abandoned on an island and end up killing each other. But knowing about something and reading it, experiencing it, are two completely different things. I also read this book right when it was announced that there’s apparently going to be a female version of Lord of the Flies developed as a film. More on that in a minute.

I can’t say that I liked Lord of the Flies. Can anyone really enjoy reading a book about young boys resorting to savagery and vicious murder, simply because of the loss of authority and civilization? But I did like the way Golding used all of the symbolism, some subtle, most overt, to point out this descent. The decaying pig head, Piggy’s glasses, the conch shell, the fire…they’re perhaps too obvious, but perhaps that’s best in a book aimed at high-schoolers, who are still learning to decipher figurative language and symbolism.

The descent of the boys into violence is really well-done, creepy in all the right places and in all the right tones (the killing of the sow is especially cloaked in terms that could easily apply to something else, which makes the whole scene even darker). And the killing of the sow is only the beginning, as the boys give in to their bloodlust to commit even more vile acts. Even Ralph, the symbol of leadership and authority in the novel, falls prey to the mob—only Piggy (the intellect) and Simon (not sure what he is supposed to symbolize, to be honest—some suggest he is the opposite of the Lord of the Flies/Beelzebub/Satan, which would make him a Christ figure) resist.

Then, of course, there’s the ending, which demonstrates, again, Golding’s point that a loss of authority and intellect leads to barbarism, a “devolution” if you will. And he’s not wrong, to an extent, though I would like to think that some people would rise to the occasion and resist—though, I suppose, Ralph, Piggy, and Simon do resist.

After reading this book, I now think a Lord of the Flies with all females would not work at all. Let’s face it—women react differently than men. Girls in a situation like what the boys faced would react differently. You can’t make a female Lord of the Flies like the book at all. It would be something completely different. And maybe that’s what the movie will be—since it was just announced, I obviously have no idea. But trying to force it into a carbon copy of the book would not work at all.

Lord of the Flies is an excellent case study of what the lack of authority and rules can bring. The subtle increase and inclination towards violence is portrayed nicely through the use of symbolism, and gets increasingly creepy and dark as the novel goes on. I can’t say I liked it, or enjoyed it, but I can see why it’s assigned reading in many (most?) schools.

Recommended Age Range: 14+

Warnings: Violence, some graphic descriptions, swearing.

Genre: Young Adult, Realistic

“We used his specs,” said Simon, smearing a black cheek with his forearm. “He helped that way.”

“I got the conch,” said Piggy indignantly. “You let me speak!”

“The conch doesn’t count on top of the mountain,” said Jack, “so you shut up.”

“I got the conch in my hand.”

“Put on green branches,” said Maurice. “That’s the best way to make smoke.”

“I got the conch—”

Jack turned fiercely.

“You shut up!”

You can buy this book here: http://amzn.to/2BIav2j

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Death at Thorburn Hall by Julianna Deering

Disclaimer: Death at Thorburn Hall, by Julianna Deering, was provided by Bethany House. I received a free copy from the publisher. No review, positive or otherwise, was required—all opinions are my own.

Drew Farthering arrives in idyllic Scotland for the 1935 British Open at Muirfield, hoping for a relaxing holiday with his wife, Madeline, and friend Nick. But death meets him once again when Lord Rainsby, their host at Thorburn Hall, is killed in a suspicious riding accident—only days after confiding in Drew his fears that his business partner was embezzling funds. Thorburn Hall is filled with guests, and as Drew continues to dig, he realizes that each appears to have dark motives for wanting Rainsby out of the way. Together with Madeline and Nick, he must sort through shady business dealings, international intrigue, and family tensions to find a killer who always seems to be one step ahead.

My rating: 3/5 

Luckily for me, it is not required to have read any other Drew Farthering mystery before reading Death at Thorburn Hall. It may have helped me get a better grasp of the characters, but I was able to understand enough that reading the previous books wasn’t a prerequisite to understanding this one.

First of all, I’d just like to quickly say how much I enjoy the cover art for this book. I love the vibe and the “old-timey mystery” feel it gives off.

Anyway, back to the important stuff. The mystery of the book wasn’t anything too special—definitely no Agatha Christie—but there’s lot of red herrings and rabbit trails for Drew to explore, and lots of speculation as to the various suspects and motives, which I appreciate in a mystery. However, while I wouldn’t say the killer is obvious, the revelation of the killer left a lot to be desired, and I couldn’t help but feel disappointed at the lack of complexity to the whole thing.

Reading the previous books definitely would have helped me to be able to better understand the characters, especially Nick and Carrie, who seemed to be in the book to further their own personal plotline, rather than contribute anything to the plot of the book. However, as I mentioned above, there’s enough mentioned about each character and each situation for a new reader to get a good grasp of what’s going on. I wish that I had experienced everything from the beginning, but at the same time, the book didn’t thrill me so much that I’m dying to start from the beginning.

Death at Thorburn Hall is a decent mystery, though my Agatha Christie-loving bones wished for a bit more complexity to the whole mystery. The villain isn’t obvious, though the revelation is a bit disappointing, and I wish some of the characters had been more important to the mystery, and contributed more, rather than just there to further their own storylines. Overall, though, Death at Thorburn Hall is not bad at all.

Warnings: Some violence.

Genre: Christian, Historical Fiction, Mystery

You can buy this here: http://amzn.to/2AUBYB0

1956 Newbery Medal: Carry On, Mr. Bowditch by Jean Lee Latham

Carry On, Mr. Bowditch, by Jean Lee Latham, was published in 1955 by Houghton.

Nathaniel Bowditch grew up in a sailor’s world—Salem in the early days, when tall-masted ships from foreign ports crowded the wharves. But Nat didn’t promise to have the makings of a sailor; he was too physically small. Nat may have been slight of build, but no one guessed that he had the persistence and determination to master sea navigation in the days when men sailed only by “log, lead, and lookout.” Nat’s long hours of study and observation, collected in his famous work, The American Practical Navigator (also known as the “Sailors’ Bible”), stunned the sailing community and made him a New England hero.

Rating: 5/5

There are so many historical events and figures I wouldn’t have known if it wasn’t for literature. Ruta Sepetys’s Salt to the Sea taught me about the wreck of the Kaiser Wilhem, and that one review copy I read taught me about Dunkirk. I learned about the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, the harsh child labor and factory work in England, Stalin’s “cleansing” of the Baltic states, and many more things. Carry On, Mr. Bowditch, continues that tradition, with its story of Nathaniel Bowditch.

Nathaniel Bowditch wrote The American Practical Navigator, a book that is still used on Navy ships today. He stopped going to school when he was ten, but taught himself calculus, Latin, French, and Spanish. He figured out a new way of calculating navigation using the moon and the stars, and taught it to the crews he sailed with. He found many mistakes in the current navigation book of the time and wrote his own book as a result. He translated books that helped developed astronomy in America. Basically, Nathaniel Bowditch was an awesome person that for some reason I’d never heard of before.

I’m not sure how much of Latham’s account is fictionalized and how much is reality, but at least the bones of it are grounded in history. The book is actually quite humorous, which is needed because of all the death that occurs. I think maybe ten named people die in this book, as well as a few members of the “faceless masses.” Seriously, Bowditch had a ton of tragedy in his life—reminiscent of the dangers of that day in occupation, as well as in the lack of life-saving medicinal discoveries. And while there’s certainly enough death to be concerned about younger readers, it’s a good opportunity to discuss the perils of the day and why people back then so often died of “consumption” (aka tuberculosis).

It’s also a great book to emphasize how a lack of education doesn’t necessarily spell doom. I mean, Bowditch had no schooling past the age of 10, yet he taught himself calculus and four different languages. Self-teaching and self-motivation are huge factors in educational/intellectual success.

Carry On, Mr. Bowditch, while written simply, is a wonderful portrait of a man who before this I’d never even heard about. The eighteenth century was a great time of discovery and this book highlights a little of the enthusiasm and determination that carried inventors and discoverers through all life’s hardships to better the lives of the people around them.

Recommended Age Range: 8+

Warnings: None.

Genre: Historical Fiction, Children’s

He whistled while he found his slate and pencil. He whistled until he was out of the house and up the street. Then the whistle died.

All the way to Mr. Walsh’s house Nat’s feet seemed to beat out the words: Nine years…nine years…nine years…

Two or three months to study bookkeeping. Then no more school—ever.

Indentured: Nathaniel Bowditch.

You can buy this book here: http://amzn.to/2BBZ4tE

Dragon’s Blood by Jane Yolen

Dragon’s Blood, by Jane Yolen, was published in 1982 by Delacorte.

Jakkin is fifteen and a bond servant, which is little better than a slave. He labors for Master Sarkkhan in the dragon barns, tending to the beautiful beasts who are raised to fight in the pits. Jakkin’s only hope of freedom is to steal a hatchling, secretly train it as a fighter, and win gold enough to pay his way out of bondage. But does he know enough to train his dragon to become a true champion?

Rating: 2/5

Clearly influenced by Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern, Dragon’s Blood is a science-fiction/fantasy that didn’t turn out to be anything I was expecting when I picked it up. I thought it would be a fun dragon book (How to Train Your Dragon still makes me squeal in excitement); I was not expecting something akin to McCaffrey’s works. I’m not saying that it’s a bad thing—it just caught me off guard.

I’m not a huge fan of science fiction, especially this kind, where strange terms and words are introduced and everything is described in detail—but sometimes not until midway through the book, where it seems strange. So I didn’t love Dragon’s Blood. I have nothing against Yolen’s worldbuilding or plot; there was some neat stuff at the end and as a whole the world made sense and the plot was pretty strong, though perhaps a bit rushed at the end. I simply don’t really like science fiction.

I can’t even say I dislike Dragon’s Blood for being such an obvious tribute/imitation of McCaffrey. I have read some of McCaffrey and liked it, but I had the same problems with it as I do with Dragon’s Blood. I like my dragons in fantasy, not science fiction. I like my worlds less meticulously and strangely described, or perhaps at least more smooth integrations of infodumping. This is a genre issue, not a particular issue with characters, world, etc. In fact, I didn’t even really dislike Dragon’s Blood at all—I just didn’t really love it.

Science fiction. It’s just not my thing.

Recommended Age Range: 14+

Warnings: Some innuendo, breeding terminology.

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Science Fiction

All dragons, he reminded himself with the conventional trainer’s wisdom, all dragons are feral, even though they have been domesticated for over two centuries. And especially dragons like Blood Brother.

As if hearing his name, Brother jerked his head up. Deep inside the black eyes there was an iridescent flicker, the sign of a fighter. Involuntarily Slakk stepped back. Errikkin stood his ground. Only Jakkin went forward, holding out a hand.

“Hush, hush, beauty,” he crooned, letting Brother sniff his hand. “It’s the baths for you.”

You can buy this book here: http://amzn.to/2nja7oG

Standing in the Light by Mary Pope Osborne

Standing in the Light: The Captive Diary of Catharine Carey Logan, by Mary Pope Osborne, was published in 1998 by Scholastic.

Catharine Carey Logan and her family have enjoyed a peaceful and prosperous life as the Quakers and Delaware Indians share a mutually trusting relationship. Recently, however, this friendship has been threatened by violence against the Indians. Then, Catharine and her brother are taken captive by the Lenape in retaliation. At first, Catharine is afraid of her captors. But when a handsome brave begins to teach her about the ways of the Lenape, she comes to see that all people share the same joys, hopes, and fears.

Rating: 3/5

I feel as if Standing in the Light was written for the sole purpose of portraying Native Americans in a different light than early American narratives, specifically “captive narratives” such as the one written by Mary Rowlandson. Or perhaps Osborne’s hope was to portray a captive narrative in a way that would respect both the thoughts and feelings of a captive English person and the thoughts and feelings of the Native Americans.

Osborne does a good job of showing both the Native Americans’ feelings towards the British—specifically the Lenape tribe—and the varying feelings of the British towards the Native Americans. Mention is made of William Penn’s friendship with the tribes in Pennsylvania and the treaty he made with them that was later broken by different leaders. While Osborne highlights more of the British negative treatment towards the Native Americans, she does at least mention some of the Native American aggressions towards the British—it’s good to show both sides and she handles the cause and effect nicely, showing how quickly things spiral out of control and how helpless people are to stop it.

My one complaint about Standing in the Light is that it’s rather boring. Its informational value is good, but the plot itself is predictable, even cliché. Catharine is a boring, cardboard character, solely there to be the voice of Osborne. It’s not a particularly memorable book, especially since it doesn’t cover a significant period of American history—it doesn’t take place during the French and Indian War or anything. It’s just a little “slice of life,” the story of a Quaker girl who gets captured by Native Americans. Perhaps interesting to some, but not particularly to me.

Standing in the Light does a good job of portraying both sides of the Native American-British conflict that was ongoing through the 1700s. I just wish the plot was less predictable and Catherine was a more memorable protagonist. Dear America has always been a series that stands out in its portrayals of historical events, but Standing in the Light is definitely one of its weak links.

Recommended Age Range: 8+

Warnings: None.

Genre: Historical Fiction, Children’s

The Reverend wants Papa and other Quaker Friends to ride to Lancaster tomorrow and help protect the frightened Indians on their sad march to Philadelphia.

We passed the Sabbath in much silence and prayer. When Papa began to read, “The Lord preserveth all them that love Him,” he stopped and could not read further. I think his heart especially aches for the little Indian children.

You can buy this book here:

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The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart by Stephanie Burgis

The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart, by Stephanie Burgis, was published in 2017 by Bloomsbury.

All Aventurine wants to do is explore the world outside her family’s mountain cave. But as a young dragon, her tough scales haven’t fully developed yet, and the outside is too perilous—or so her family says. Aventurine is determined to fly on her own and prove them wrong by capturing the most dangerous prey of all: a human. But when that human tricks her into drinking enchanted hot chocolate, Aventurine is transformed into a puny human girl—no sharp teeth, no fire breath, no claws. Still, she’s the fiercest creature in these mountains, and she’s found her true passion: chocolate. All she has to do is get to the human city to find herself an apprenticeship (whatever that is) in a chocolate house (which sounds delicious), and she’ll be conquering new territory in no time…won’t she?

Rating: 4/5

The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart is a charming story for both dragon-lovers and chocolate-lovers. I’m not a huge fan of the title, but the cover art is amazing and this book revived my interest in Burgis’s works (if you recall, I strongly disliked her Kat, Incorrigible series). Fierce girl (who is actually a dragon; hence, why she is fierce) works much better in a made-up fantasy world than in Regency England.

The plot is fairly formulaic, but Aventurine’s bumbles (and successes) as she struggles to make sense of human life rapidly endear her to the reader. Plus, there’s lots and lots of chocolate involved, which is a bonus. Perhaps some things were overdone—Aventurine wallows a little too long in self-inflicted misery, there’s one too many appearances from cruel-woman-who-sets-protagonist’s-teeth-on-edge, and it’s a little eyebrow-raising that so much drama could revolve around one little chocolate house—but the likeable protagonist, the interesting setting and the engaging plot help offset those.

I could have done without the constant reminders of Silke’s clothing, though. I really don’t understand why a girl wearing men’s clothes is supposed to be so empowering or different. I get it, in this fantasy world, women wear dresses, men wear pants, etc., so a girl wearing pants is supposed to scream forthrightness and strength and standing-up-against-the-man-ness. But all I could think about was how boring and formulaic a character Silke was, whose characterization was built on “she wears pants” and nothing else. I would much rather have a well-written female character in a dress than a boring, cliché female character in pants, but I guess the public wants the latter so that’s what authors are giving them.

The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart has some flaws, but overall it’s a charming story with an interesting protagonist, a good plot, and a well-built world. I enjoyed reading it, despite my dislike of Silke, and the book has lifted my opinion of Burgis overall. I hope she writes more books like this one, and less like Kat, Incorrigible.

Recommended Age Range: 12+

Warnings: None.

Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade

Chocolate houses were nothing like I’d expected.

When the scent of chocolate, growing stronger and stronger, led me to the open doorway of yet another yellow-and-white building, I stopped just outside it in disbelief.

Two humans nearly bumped into me from behind….I gave them both a narrow-eyed, accusing glance. “This building isn’t made of chocolate!”

You can buy this book here: http://amzn.to/2j35ud3

The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck by Bethany Turner

Disclaimer: The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck, by Bethany Turner, was provided by Revell. I received a free copy from the publisher. No review, positive or otherwise, was required—all opinions are my own.

Note: No back cover summary on this review, as the publisher prefers that reviewers not post it.

My rating: 2/5 

I’ve never experienced a book that started out mildly interesting and then quickly devolved into incredibly annoying quite like The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck. It started out a little bit intriguing and humorous, and then, right around the time Sarah ran into her pastor and fell in insta-love with the “lean, muscular” (of course, because they all are, because apparently that’s the only body type that exists) perfect man, it quickly became frustrating.

I appreciate that Turner is willing to address some things more openly than other Christian novels have done, but the amount of cringing I did while reading this book because of the ridiculous amount of attention spent on attraction and intimacy is more than I’ve ever cringed before. It’s almost the only thing they talk about, oftentimes in cheesy, cringe-worthy ways, and the whole relationship comes across as more of a physical attraction than anything else.

To add to the ridiculous amount of time spent on talking about sex (not explicitly, of course, but way more than I’m used to a Christian novel addressing it—again, props to Turner, but perhaps a more less in-your-face approach would have been better), we have the perfect pastor and perfect man Ben, of the “lean and muscular” build, who is flawless, always says the right things, and is about as interesting as my left shoe. Then we have the melodramatic plot, complete with “who’s the father of my baby?” drama, that ends with Ben being completely unconcerned that the church he’s pastoring is going under, leaving its congregation to find new places of worship, an event that’s literally almost shrugged off by the characters, when in real life something like that would be slightly more devastating, or at least difficult to adjust to.

Did I mention that all Ben and Sarah talk about are how much they want to get married so they can get around to having babies? And you might be thinking I’m exaggerating, and I am, a little, but they literally spend pages talking about it.

The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck has insta-love (my least favorite), the typical Christian-fiction love interest (lean, muscular, perfect, always says the right things), dialogue and conversation topics that would have been refreshing if they hadn’t been so prevalent and blunt (Christian fiction tends to avoid intimate language; Turner has way too much), and a plot that’s melodramatic and cliché. If Turner had been more original in her characters and in her plot, I think the book would have been vastly improved.

Warnings: Sex is mentioned a lot. Nothing explicit or necessarily in poor taste, though.

Genre: Christian, Realistic

You can buy this here: http://amzn.to/2yQvhvA

Hello, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle by Betty MacDonald

Hello, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, by Betty MacDonald, was published in 1957 by Harper. It is the sequel to Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle.

Have you ever heard of Leadership Pills? Or Crybaby Tonic? Or Whisper Sticks? You won’t find them in your corner drugstore. The only way to get these magical medicines is to call Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle. When Phillip Carmody turns into a Show-off, and Nicholas Semicolon acts like a Bully, and Harbin Quadrangle becomes a Slowpoke, their desperate parents pick up the phone and consult Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle. She has an old sea chest full of magic cures for children (left to her by her husband the pirate) and can supply the perfect remedy every time. Of course, although they’re very efficient, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle’s cures have some comical consequences, too…making these remarkable adventures of her young friends a cheerful prescription for just about anyone.

Rating: 3/5

Let me confess something here: Hello, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle is not technically the sequel to Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle. It’s actually the sequel to Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle’s Farm, the third book in the series, and thus actually the fourth book. But growing up, I read Hello, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle as if it was the second book, not the fourth, and, to be honest, I think it makes much more sense to do so. One reason is that in Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle’s Farm, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle has relocated to, well, a farm, whereas in this book she is apparently back in her old house.

Of course, reading the books out of order like this does make for an odd juxtaposition. Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle was full of “cures” for poor behavior, but those cures were sensible things: labeling all of your selfish kid’s things, letting your messy child get away with not cleaning his room, letting your kids who don’t want to go bed to stay up as long as they want. The only cure not particularly “realistic” was the Radish Cure. Hello, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, however, does away with sensible cures and makes the cures completely magical instead. It’s an odd switch, but I’m guessing the actual second book, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle’s Magic is thus named so as to let you know that things would be taking the turn for the fantastic.

The only reason I can think of for making Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle’s cures magical is that Betty MacDonald was afraid parents would actually prescribe her cures to their own children, so she made them magical so as to gainsay that. Or she thought it would appeal to children more if there was magic in there. Whatever the case, I thought some of the delight and charm from the first book became a little bit lost in Hello, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, if only because magical cures are a little more banal to me than ones that are more realistic. Of course, I could also be still affected by my childhood, where Hello, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle was my least favorite book (although I still know this book basically by heart). Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle’s Magic was my favorite, though, so we’ll see if I still feel that way when I read that one next.

Even though I thought that the magical cures were an abrupt, strange departure from the first book (perhaps as a result of me purposefully reading the books out of order), Hello, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle still carries a tremendous amount of nostalgia for me. I read these books so many times growing up that even now, after not having read them for ten or more years, I still practically know them by heart—they feel familiar and comforting to me. Hello, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle is not my favorite Piggle-Wiggle book, but it’s still a good book for children, and a dearly loved book of my childhood.

Recommended Age Range: 6+

Warnings: None.

Genre: Children’s

Phillip took the broom, held it up over his shoulders and began making loud zooming noises. “Hey, Mom,” he yelled, “watch me, I’m a jet plane. Here I go for a take-off.”

As he said “Watch me,” he began to disappear—with “take-off” he was gone.

Humming contentedly his mother took the lid off the steam and poked the brown bread.

You can buy this book here: http://amzn.to/2ihjtwe

2005 Newbery Medal: Kira-Kira by Cynthia Kadohata

Kira-Kira, by Cynthia Kadohata, was published in 2004 by Houghton.

Glittering. That’s how Katie Takeshima’s sister, Lynn, makes everything seem. The sky is kira-kira because its color is deep but see-through at the same time. The sea is kira-kira for the same reason. And so are people’s eyes. When Katie and her family move from a Japanese community in Iowa to the Deep South of Georgia, it’s Lynn who explains to her why people stop on the street to stare. And it’s Lynn who, with her special way of viewing the world, teaches Kati to look beyond tomorrow. But when Lynn becomes desperately ill, and the whole family beings to fall apart, it is up to Katie to find a way to remind them all that there is always something glittering—kira-kira—in the future.

Rating: 3/5

Kira-Kira is all Newbery Medal—the “slice of life” plot, the heartbreaking incidents, and the slight philosophical/poetical angle encompassed by the word “kira-kira.” It’s a good story, although I found it perhaps a little too disjointed at times. The problem with “slice of life” stories is that they jump around from event to event and sometimes do not do a good job of connecting them enough, leaving a particular scene feeling random.

Katie is a typical “Newbery” protagonist—a middle child who feels slightly out of place in her family, with the older sibling that she feels she can’t live up to. Nothing is really surprising in this book, least of all Katie’s development. I don’t want to seem that I’m putting down “slice of life” books, because many of them are done well and they are very effective at what they do when they are done well, and Kadohata does portray Katie’s life effectively—the alienation of being one of only a few Japanese people in the community, the effect on her parents of their long, hard hours at a factory, the difficulty of having an ill sister and the emotions that come with that. Some of the events described just seem haphazardly placed.

I am surprised that Kadohata did not portray anything about the aftereffects of World War II on Katie’s family. Perhaps that was supposed to be implied in the community’s treatment of the Kadohata’s, but this was a country that was fresh from having Japanese internment camps. I don’t know—perhaps things were as mild as they seemed in the novel. I obviously was not alive during that time. One comment by a girl in their classroom, however, seemed a bit of an understatement. Or, again, perhaps she meant it more to be implied in the alienation as a whole, and the factory jobs of Katie’s parents.

Kira-Kira ticks off all the “Newbery Medal” boxes: a “slice of life,” coming-of-age novel with some sort of sad plotline attached. I felt as if some of the scenes in the book were jarring and random, and nothing really stood out to me as particularly memorable, but it’s a decent enough book that does a good job of showing aspects of a different culture.

Recommended Age Range: 10+

Warnings: Death.

Genre: Children’s, Historical Fiction

We sat cross-legged on the floor in our room and held hands and closed our eyes while she chanted, “Mind meld, mind meld, mind meld.” That was our friendship chant.

She gazed at me solemnly. “No matter what happens, someday when we’re each married, we’ll own houses down the block from each other. We’ll live by the sea in California.”

That sounded okay with me. “If y’all are going to live by the sea, I will too,” I said. I had never seen the California sea, but I imagined it was very pretty.

You can buy this book here: http://amzn.to/2yQNQDO

Child of the Prophecy by Juliet Marillier

Child of the Prophecy, by Juliet Marillier, was published in 2002 by Tor. It is the sequel to Son of the Shadows.

Magic is fading…and the ways of Man are conspiring to drive all the Old Ones to the West, beyond the ken of humankind. The ancient groves are being destroyed, and with their loss the land will lose an essential core if nothing is done. The prophecies that were foretold so long ago say that there is a way to prevent this horror and it is the Sevenwaters clan that the spirits of Eire look to for salvation. They are a family bound into the very lifeblood of the land…and their promise to preserve the magic has been the cause of great joy—and sorrow—to them. For in truth, the ways of prophecies are never easy…and there are those who would use power for their own ends. It is left at last to Fainne, daughter of Niamh (the sister that was lost to the clan so long ago), to solve the riddles of power among the gods. A shy child of a reclusive sorcerer, she finds that her way is hard. For she is the granddaughter of the wicked sorceress Oonagh, who has emerged from the shadows of power and seeks to destroy all that the Sevenwaters have striven for…and who will use Fainne most cruelly to accomplish this fate. Will Fainne be strong enough to battle this evil and save those she has come to love?

Rating: 3/5

Child of the Prophecy is a satisfying end to the Sevenwaters trilogy, though perhaps not as enthralling or lovely as the first two. Everything is sorted out; characters from the previous two books return and have decent roles to play; we get resolution in many different quarters. Fainne is a fine protagonist; her inner turmoil gets a little hard to bear at times but at least it’s understandable considering her situation.

I think where the book fell the most flat for me was the ending, which was an “arena battle” (two or more characters face off and battle it out while the crowd looks on and gasps) and dragged on a little too long. It started to feel too melodramatic and cheesy after a while; it’s hard to keep tension like that going without the scene starting to feel like a script. I mean, it was satisfying in that it neatly resolved the book and all the plot threads, but it felt a little clumsy at times.

Another thing that I felt was a step down from the previous two books was the romance. I adored Liadan and Bran in Son of the Shadows (and they steal the show again here), so Fianne’s romantic arc was a little disappointing.  I don’t really have anything against her love interest as a character, except that he’s much more underdeveloped than either Bran or Red were. To be honest, I thought Marillier did a better job of explaining Eamonn’s feelings than Darragh’s—not that I wanted Fainne with Eamonn, but I understood Eamonn as a character better than slightly-boring Darragh. I’m also really sick of characters denying that they like someone when they clearly do, which is what Fainne did the entire novel.

I know that there are three more books after this one, but Child of the Prophecy wrapped up the plotline of the first three books neatly. I didn’t think it was as good as Daughter of the Forest or Son of the Shadows, but it was still engaging, compelling, and satisfying despite its flaws. It’s hard for me to find adult fantasy that I like, but Marillier has crafted a beautiful world and her talents as a writer are clearly seen in her works. I may or may not pick up the other Sevenwaters books, but I’ve enjoyed the time I spent reading the first three.

Recommended Age Range: 16+

Warnings: Violence, death, sensual/sexual (non-explicit) situations.

Genre: Fantasy, Fairy Tale

I stood in the doorway, watching, as the old woman took three steps into my father’s secret room.

“He won’t be happy,” I said tightly.

“He won’t know,” she replied coolly. “Ciarán’s gone. You won’t see him again until we’re quite finished here, child; not until next summer nears its end. It’s just not possible for him to stay, not with me here. No place can hold the two of us. It’s better this way. You and I have a great deal of work to do, Fainne.”

I stood frozen, feeling the shock of what she had told me like a wound to the heart. How could Father do this? Where had he gone? How could he leave me alone with this dreadful old woman?

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