Archive for January, 2012

Jane Austen: A Life Revealed

[openbook booknumber=”0547370210″][rating:4/5]

Jane Austen’s popularity never seems to fade. She has hordes of devoted fans, and there have been numerous adaptations of her life and work. But who was Jane Austen? The writer herself has long remained a mystery. And despite the resonance her work continues to have for teens, there has never been a young adult trade biography on Austen.

Catherine Reef changes that with this highly readable account. She takes an intimate peek at Austen’s life and innermost feelings, interweaving her narrative with well-crafted digests of each of Austen’s published novels. The end result is a book that is almost as much fun to read as Jane’s own work—and truly a life revealed.

This book caught my eye for its clean, well styled cover and hooked me with its promise of a simple and concise biography of Jane Austen written for young adults. I love Jane Austen and am a huge fan of her novels, their movies, and their many spin offs. But, aside from what I knew from watching Becoming Jane, I didn’t know too much about the author herself. This book was the perfect toe in the pool and revealed Jane Austen in a way that was engaging and interesting and left me eager to re-read her novels again with this new information in mind.

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East of the Sun, West of the Moon Book List

East of the Sun, West of the Moon is a fantastic Norwegian fairy tale. For those unfamiliar with the story, it and Beauty and the Beast are both inspired by the myth of Cupid and Psyche and so share many similar elements. A girl is whisked away to a castle with invisible servants. Her husband is a monster in some way or form and she must save him by making him human again through many trials.

What follows is a book list of stories spun off of stories, much like the fairy tale East of the Sun, West of the Moon is a fairy tale spun off from a myth. The first book is the text of the original fairy tale, beautifully illustrated. The next three are re-tellings of the fairy tale, either to expand on the original or to give it a more modern spin. The last book mentions this fairy tale among others in a book a troubled man’s mother wrote and it becomes pivotal to the plot in a story about the power of fairy tales.

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Little Jack Horner

Like most fairy tales or nursery rhymes that feature a character named Jack “Little Jack Horner” is up to no good.

In this famous nursery rhyme we have a short tale on opportunism and the reward and gloating that goes along with managing to acquire something valued, in this case a plum.

The text is short and simple enough.

Little Jack Horner

Sat in the corner,

Eating his Christmas pie;

He put in his thumb,

And pulled out a plum,

And said, “What a good boy am I!”

Many interpretations of this nursery rhyme simply stuck with the opportunistic undertones and the rhyme was often used as social commentary on various people throughout history that took advantage of a situation for personal gain. Remember most nursery rhymes were deliberately vague and written and recited during a time when outright social commentary that named names was at best not a politically smart move and at worst a good way to get yourself be-headed.

It wasn’t until the nineteenth century that scholars began to assign the nursery rhyme to a particular event during the Tudor era. King Henry VIII was attempting to divorce his first wife Catherine of Aragon and getting a lot of trouble for it from the Catholic church (after all they gave him special dispensation to marry her in the first place, since she was his brother’s widow). As a result he made himself head of the Church of England and declared England a Protestant nation so that he could divorce and marry who he pleased.

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The Last Worders

by Karen Joy Fowler


“The Last Worders” is a fantasical story with some horror elements that definitely leaves you with a chill at the power of words. The short story was published in The Years Best Fantasy and Horror 2008. The story centers around twin sisters who have journeyed to the fictional town of San Margais chasing after a boy they have both fallen in love with to make him choose between them. On the journey we learn more about the twins, the town, and the poetry that seems to bind them together in a mesmerizing and faintly eerie story that is ultimately about the power of words to unify and to destroy us all.

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From Far Away Volume 2

[openbook booknumber=”1591166012″] [rating:4/5]

Transported into a fantastical world of high adventure, a confused and frightened teenager discovers she holds the key to a profound power born of an age-old prophecy.

Scared and on the run, Noriko strikes up an alliance with a mysterious rogue swordsman named Izark. But now, weakened from a recent battle, this swordsman has become dependent on his young charge to nurse him back to health.

Trapped in a strange world and unable to speak the native language, Noriko must find a way to save her fallen warrior… and save herself, too!

I was expecting things to maybe slow down a little and we step back and really get to see this world poor Noriko has gotten plunked down into but unfortunately for the characters, and fortunately for us, the adventure picks up. Izark is struck by a strange, sudden illness and Noriko finds herself floundering in her attempts to help him because of the language barrier in place. She is forced to mime her intentions and more often than not she misinterprets what is being said around her and reacts inappropriately.

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