Friday, February 20, 2015

The Witch's Daughter, Paula Brackston

* I wrote this and read this book quite a while ago, but for some reason hadn't published it.
3.5 out of 5 stars
I had had this book on my "to read" list for awhile. So long that I can no longer remember who recommended it or why I felt compelled to add it to my list.

So....things I didn't like: explicit sexual content. It wasn't excessive by any means, but what WAS there was highly disturbing; a couple rape scenes and a devil worship turned orgasmic scene. I almost stopped reading after the latter scene, but kept going. I am glad I did.

Things I liked: the notion that even if you find yourself in the context of something typically evil, you can choose to be good and do good. You don't have to be a slave to your title or the box you've been put in.

It also covers post black plague witch hunts. When people are hurt, they seek to lay blame and innocent women lost their lives. This is a fact of history. It also gave me a better understanding of what people who are Wiccan might believe or how they choose to do what they do.

Being LDS, we do not condone the practice of witchcraft (or wiccan ways). I think this is because we believe that true healing power comes from God in the form of His Holy Priesthood and any mimicry of it is of the devil. Yes, the devil CAN give power to do things that appear good, but his ultimatum is to imitate God to the point where people will reject God. One example being Moses in the Old Testament and the 10 plagues on Egypt leading up to the release of the Isrealite people. The Egyptian magicians and sorcerers were able to replicate the first few miracles that Moses did (rod to serpant, water to blood, and frogs, I believe). But that was the extent of their abilities. So in short, religiously, I don't support the use of pagan magic even if the intent is good, because I feel that should be God's right and privilege.

On a strictly entertainment point, however, I do like the perspective that Bess, who felt like her only out was a certain direction was at one end evil would choose to use her powers only for good and for healing. I do like the distinction between being an herbalist and being a witch, that just knowing how to mix herbs, oils, and use plants for healing does NOT make you a witch or anything close to evil. That stuff isn't magic. In fact, I believe that is using what God has placed on the Earth and our knowledge to our benefit. (Although I wouldn't consider myself a naturalist or anything. I personally use a combination of modern medicine and natural remedies, whichever I feel intuitively is needed for any given situation).

In some ways, it even felt reminiscent of The Book Thief in that Bess, as an immortal witch witnessing a war marvels on man's ability to inflict pain and death on man is the same as the perspective Death has in The Book Thief. And the concept that death is not always a bad thing. Also, one LDS belief is that death is a necessary part of our eternal progression, we are spirit beings, we come to earth, gain a physical body, have the two separated by death and the later reunited through resurrection. A lesson I also learned from Tuck Everlasting, that sometimes death is definitely NOT the worst thing that could happen.

Artemis Fowl, the Arctic Incident, Eoin Colfer

My book cover didn't look like this. But the URL worked for the link, so there ya go!

I enjoyed this novel's twists and turns. I'm reading these as my daughter is reading them. We've decided once we finish Fabelhaven that instead of reading out loud together all the time, we'll read the same book at the same time and then talk about it at night. She's almost 10, so I figure it might be a good way to discuss *interesting* topics in a hypothetical situation of fictional characters that might help with real life situations in a round about way.

Anyhow....I enjoyed the development of Artemis' character and how he slowly is realizing that he is not God's ONLY gift to intelligent life. He's now willing to admit that he's one of the best on Earth.

I like how Artemis problems solves and strategizes and makes calculated risks. There are some very real things that we do in life that require us to take risks, but there are differences between risk that are well researched and those that are not. It's kind of nice to see a glimpse of his thought process as I think it could be helpful for young readers when trying to make decisions of their own or trying to figure out a hard problem they are facing.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The Rithmatist, Brandon Sanderson

Taking place in an alternate world of the US Isles, I kept trying to place the exact time and really couldn't. The technology was COMPLETELY different. They had things that all worked on wind up springs and gears. There were gears in their coins to verify authenticity, gears that wind up to turn on lights, to run mechanical horses to pull carriages etc. But they have no high tech stuff like telephones. So it's weird to see what KINDS of technology are different.
There is no discussion on how the United States became the United Isles, which is why I'm thinking this is not post apocalyptic but alternant universe because it just always has been this way.

These people are plagued by something really dark. Reminiscent of petroglyphs, there are drawings that come to life. They are still 2 dimensional, but they can move and they can kill people. They are called chalklings because they are drawn out of chalk. No one knows where or how they originated. But somehow, by some miracle, the ability to be a Rithmatist is discovered. A Rithmatist is someone who has the ability to draw chalk lines and have them have physical properties. They can also draw chalklings of attack and defense for dueling purposes. But they are not taught the "glyph" of rendering which gives a chalkling a mind of its own, so to speak. At 8 years old, every child is brought to the church where the Vicar provides them with and Inception Ceremony. The inception ceremony is similar to a baptism, because the priest sprinkles water over the children's head and also anoints with oil. Then they go into the room of Inception and who knows what happens? Those who don't become Rithmatist's don't report anything of note from their trip into the room while those who ARE chosen are not allowed to speak of what happened. When they come out, they draw a Line of Forbiddance. If the Master has chosen them to a Rithmatist they will have the ability for that Line of Forbiddance to do what it should, and create an invisible wall that cannot be penetrated. If the invisible wall isn't there, they are not going to become a Rithmatist. Those who are chosen go to a Rithmatist school to learn the art of lines and defenses so that once they are done, they will spend their last year of training in Nebrask and then 10 years of service and then they can retire. In Nebrask, all the wild chalklings are being contained by a giant chalk circle several thousand feet in diameter being defended by all of the Rithmatists in the country. The number of Rithmatists is carefully controlled and there can be no more or less per year to replace those retiring or who have fallen. Very few who are chosen ever get formally dismissed to pursue other vocations.

The story follows Joel, a student who isn't a Rithmatist, but his father was a chalk maker and he was fascinated with Rithmatics and passed that fascination on to Joel. But many places do not allow non-Rithmatists to study anything about Rithmatics. So Joel tries to find ways to learn more about it. He also gains an unlikely friend in Melody, a Rithamtics student who is in remedial summer classes because her circles are not perfect enough to be a good defense and she is nearing the end of her formal education. Usually those who are Rithmatists do not fraternize (and are discouraged from all interactions) with those who are not Rithmatists. It creates a kind of "elitist" category, whether real or perceived is up to you.

This book was really slow getting going for me, as the beginning of each chapter is introduced with a drawing of different Rithmatic Defence drawings and explanations, like a text book. That was a little hard for me to wrap my head around. But the story line picked up and the drawings started to make more sense, so it was a page turner by the end.

Rithmatic students are being kidnapped and no one knows why. Joel finds himself in a position to help with the investigation and you follow him along as you follow lead after lead. There are plot twists and turns that are REALLY engaging.

This book is going to be a series, and this is the first book, so if you want to wait for the rest to come out before delving in, I'd totally understand!

Friday, February 6, 2015

Walk Two Moons, Sharon Creech

This book was on a list of Mayor's Book Club books from Kuna library for older elementary grades. As you can see, it's also a medal winner.

I LOVED this book. It was beautiful and sad and comforting all at the same time. The bulk of this story is told as Salamanca (Sal) tells a story to her grandparents on a long road trip to Idaho. She is 13 and cannot accept that her Mother left her Father years ago. So her grandparents bring her on this road trip. They ask her to tell a story, so she tells the story of her new friend Pheobe (who gran keeps calling Peeby) and how her life with her parents was incredibly prim and proper and full of only the best healthy things. Their house is always in order and they don't eat cholesterol. They also always act in a proper way, like civilized people. Then they start getting notes about things on the door which shakes up the whole family.

There's also Sal's dad who has become really good friends with a Mrs. Cadaver, who Pheobe is certain killed her first husband (with a name like that, who wouldn't suspect a thing?), who lives with her mother who is blind but tends to see more than most sighted people.

One thing I absolutely LOVED was the take on race. Sal's mother is Native American. Although she (and apparently others of that lineage according to this book) actually really don't like that term. Her mom liked American Indian better because she thought it felt more exotic. She talks about how in school they want you to say "Native American". Ah, good old political correctness! On the road trip, Sal goes to the Black Hills and sees Native American's (or whatever you want to call them) mining. She asks one "Are you Native American?" and he response "I'm a person." And she says, "Well, are you a Native American person?" because she is, by heritage Native as well. But in that short interchange you realize that maybe we shouldn't be so hell bent on classifying people. Obviously, it's wonderful to celebrate different cultures and different ancestry, but if we can see people first as PEOPLE, maybe we can make things better. But of course, not every person of native descent prefers the term Indian, some DO want to be known as Native American, it's very hard. I know I've caught myself trying to be more respectful and end up overly cautious and politically correct. It's a sticky situation we've got these days.

It's hard to tell much more about this book without giving away plot details, so if you haven't read it and don't want anything spoiled, then stop reading right here!

There were several times when I wondered if Sal's mom was dead or if she really had left them. I was definitely kept guessing. She had experienced a horrible miscarriage/still birth that Sal felt was her fault because she had fallen out of a tree and her mother had to carry her while very pregnant for a good distance. But because of this uncertainty, it really felt like you were inside Sal, because SHE herself had not accepted reality yet, so you can see her indecision of whether or not her mom was still around, but toying with the idea of death as an option. But not one she would accept until she saw things for herself. We also deal with new fresh grief towards the end of the book as well. I feel that it was handled really well, and would make for a really good discussion. I'm not sure this is a book that I'd let my 9 year old read yet, maybe I'd wait until she was closer in age to Sal.

Artemis Fowl, Eoin Colfer

This was a book that I had on a list to read and my older daughter is reading them too.

Artemis is a rich, spoiled Irish boy whose father went missing nearly two years before in an exploit that was ironically perfectly legal (as opposed to all previous business ventures being of the illegal, yet more profitable variety). His mother had nearly gone mad, retreating inwardly rather than dealing with reality. So Artemis has himself and his body guard protector Butler to launch all sorts of schemes.

In this one he goes about attempting to prove the existence of Fairy People in order to exploit them for monetary gain. To get the "gold at the end of the rainbow" as it were (although it is definitely not at the end of a rainbow).

It's a split narrative between Artemis and his ventures and a fairy by the name of Holly Short. The only female member of the LEP, a policing body of the People.

What ensues is a tale that is highly entertaining. It's a series, so there are MANY facets of Artemis that are hidden, which I hope are revealed further down the road. He is highly intelligent, yet rather unfeeling. He thinks through MOST things; because he is so well researched, he can usually find a way around things or out of things and doesn't tend to go rushing into things. Although he usually leaves room for improvisation in sticky situations, he usually doesn't need to.

I'm definitely looking forward to reading more!