Monthly Archives: January 2014

Speaking From Among The Bones

Speaking from Among the Bones

In the fifth book by Alan Bradley, Flavia returns again – witty, sharp, and precocious. I just love her!  She’s like a young Sherlock Holmes.

When the organist is found dead in a crypt of the church (discovered as the Vicar and workmen are set to exhume the remains of Saint Tancred), Flavia once again has a murder to solve. She races to figure it out before Inspector Hewitt or two new rivals. With a backdrop of their ongoing family tensions (including the aging manor house Buckshaw), Flavia is in her element.  Aside from chemistry, Flavia does snooping very well!

There is a gasp moment!  I can’t wait for the next installment in the Buckshaw Chronicles!

4 / 5

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A Kiss In Time

A kiss in time

Sleeping beauty is a very creepy story when you go by the version where the beauty is sleeping for hundreds of years and is awoken by a stranger’s kiss. Luckily, this is more of a charming retelling of the classic tale than a creepy one.

Talia is a rather bratty princess who has been watched all her life and constantly warned to avoid spindles.

Three hundred years later, Jack is a teenage boy desperate for the attention an approval of his parents. Given to partying, he affects boredom with his life, until he stumbles across Talia.

Malvolia is a witch bent on revenge.

What follows is a fun modern fairy tale which gracefully inserts magic into today’s day and age. You’ve got some timeless worries (e.g. child seeking approval of parent), a love story, and the amusement of someone from the past discovering the modern world.  On that last note, I didn’t think Talia’s reactions to modern conveniences were very realistic.  On the other hand, this IS a retelling of a fairy tale.

4 / 5

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The Straw, the Coal, and the Bean

Fairy Tale Tuesdays

It’s Tuesday again ALREADY?  Time flies I find!

Black-Eyed-BeansHT

This week is another tale from the Brother’s Grimm called The Straw, The Coal, and The Bean.

Once upon a time there was an old woman.  She gathered a dish of beans and wanted to cook them so she made a fire in the hearth.  To make it burn faster, the woman used a handful of straw.  When she was pouring the beans into her pan, one dropped.  The woman did not notice the bean, nor a stray straw lying on the ground.  Soon afterward, a burning coal dropped down from the fire to join the two.

The straw said, “How did you come to be here?” to the others.

“I am lucky to have dropped out of the fire.  If I had not escaped, I would have certainly died and been burnt to ashes!” exclaimed the coal.

The bean then replied, “I am also lucky to have escaped.  If the old woman had gotten me into the pan, I would have been made into broth like my brothers and would have certainly died!”

“My fate was similar,” said the straw, “for if I had been put into the hearth, I would have burnt to ash as well and would have certainly died!”

“What do we do now?” asked the coal.

“Since we have been fortunate and have escaped death,” ventured the bean, “we should keep together.  To avoid further misfortune here, let us go away together.”

The other two supported this idea, and the three set out.  Soon they came to a little brook. There was no bridge in sight, so they did not know how to get across.

“I have an idea,” said the straw, “I will lay myself straight across and then you can walk over me like a bridge!” The straw then lay himself down and stretched handily from one bank to the other.

The coal walked boldly onto the straw’s back, but when she reached the middle and heard the water rushing below, the coal became scared and would go no further.  The poor straw began to burn and broke into two pieces, plunging both of them into the stream. The bean, who had stayed behind on the shore, laughed heartily at this spectacle.  The bean laughed and laughed until she burst.

Luckily for the bean, a tailor who was traveling in search of work, had stopped nearby.  He kindly took the bean and sewed her together with his needle and thread. The bean thanked him prettily.  The tailor used black thread, so all beans since them have a black seam.

What a funny little fable!

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I am half-sick of shadows

I am half-sick of Shadows

Alan Bradley is brilliant. Flavia de Luce is an eleven year old budding chemist residing at Buckshaw – an old Manor house in England with her father, Colonel de Luce, her two elder sisters (Ophelia/Feely and Daphne/Daffy), Dogger (a man-of-all-trades on staff) and old Mrs. Mullet (the cook). Flavian is delightful, hilarious, and precocious. I salute Alan Bradley for creating such a believable voice for his narrator and protagonist, Flavia. I like her more and more with every installment in The Buckshaw Chronicles. I Am Half-Sick Of Shadows is the fourth.

This book takes place over Christmas. Buckshaw is being partially rented out by a film crew. The day before Christmas Eve, a bunch of Parishioners come to see a charity show the Vicar has arranged at Buckshaw. Unfortunately a huge storm blows in, and the guests are snowed in. A grisly murder is discovered, and Flavia bounces between planning a trap for Father Christmas and trying to figure out whodunit.

I just love Flavia. She is QUITE the character! I can’t believe it took me so long to get to this book! (I definitely loved the first three).

My only complaint was that it felt really SHORT. I felt like I got to the climax in record time and was almost surprised that it was all being wrapped up so soon!!

4 / 5

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Fairy Tale Tuesdays – The White Snake

Fairy Tale Tuesdays

white-snake1

Another tale from the Grimm Brothers: The White Snake. My summary:

Once upon a time there was a wise king.  His wisdom was known to all, and he seemed to know even the most secret things.  Every night, after the table was cleared from dinner and no one remained but the King, a trusty servant brought him one more covered dish. No one knew what was under the cover, not even the servant, and the King never took off the cover until he was quite alone.

One day, the servant, overcome with curiosity, brought the dish to his room after the King was finished.  He carefully locked the door and set the dish upon the table.  Under the cover there was a white snake lying on the dish.  The servant could not help himself from cutting off a small piece and taking a taste. As soon as the flesh touched his tongue, the servant heard strange whispering outside his window.  When he went to listen, he noticed that there were sparrows outside.  The birds were chatting and spoke of what they had seen in the woods and fields. Consuming the snake conveyed the power to understand the speech of animals.

On that very day, the Queen lost her most beautiful ring.  She suspected the trusty servant, for he was allowed everywhere.  The servant was brought before the King and warned that if he could not point out the thief before the sun rose tomorrow that he would be considered guilty and put to death. The servant declared his innocence but the King was unmoving.

The servant went to the courtyard, fretting and fearing for his life.  Nearby were some ducks, who were sitting quietly together and chatting.  The servant listened to the ducks and their conversation.

“Something is heavy in my stomach,” said one of the ducks sorrowfully, “in my haste to eat this morning, I swallowed a ring from under the Queen’s window. It is most uncomfortable.”  No sooner had the duck finished this declaration than the trusty servant grasped her about the neck and carried her to the cook to be slaughtered.

“Please kill this fine duck,” said the servant to the cook.

“Certainly,” said the cook, “for this fine duck is nice and fat and ready for roasting.”  The cook chopped off the duck’s head.  As Cook prepared the duck for dressing, the Queen’s ring was found inside.

The King, who saw the servant’s innocence, wished to make amends for his error in accusing the servant.  Though the King promised the best place in the court and all that the servant could wish for, the servant wanted only a horse and some money for traveling.

His request was granted, and the servant soon set off to see the world.  One day, this young man came upon a pond where there were three fish caught in the reeds.  He heard the fish moaning and crying piteously that they were dying a miserable death.  The youth, who was a kind man at heart, got off his horse and freed the fish from the reeds.  The fish were ecstatic, and called, “We will remember you and repay you if we can!”

The young man rode on and after some time he heard a voice near the ground.

“Why can’t people and their clumsy beasts be more careful? They trod on my people! This horse, with his heavy hooves, has stepped on my people without mercy!” cried the Ant King.  Hearing this, the young man turned his horse onto a side path to avoid the ants. the Ant King saw and called, “We will remember you, and repay you if we can!”

The servant followed the side path into a wood, where there were two old ravens standing beside their nest.  The ravens were throwing out their young ones, exclaiming, “Out! Out! We cannot find food for you any longer, you are big enough to provide for yourselves!”

The young ravens flopped on the ground, where they lamented, “Oh! Whatever should we do? We cannot yet fly, so how can we eat? We will lie here and starve!”

The young man, hearing this, dismounted.  He drew his sword and swiftly killed his horse so the young ravens could eat it for food. They hopped over and cried, “Thank you! We will remember you and repay you if we can!”

The young man continued on his way, this time by walking.  After a long while, he came across a large bustling city.  The crowds were noisy and thick, but the youth saw a man ride through the streets on horseback calling, “The King’s daughter wants a husband, but whomever wishes for her hand must perform a difficult feat or forfeit his life!”

Many had already attempted this task in vain, but when the young man saw the King’s daughter he was overwhelmed by her beauty.  Forgetting all danger, he went to the King to declare himself a suitor.

The youth was led to the sea, and a gold ring was thrown into the water.  The King ordered the young man, “Fetch me the gold ring from the bottom of the sea.  If you some up again without it, you will be thrown in again, and again until you perish.”  The spectators were sad for the handsome young man, and went away to leave him alone by the sea.

The youth stood on the shore thinking. Suddenly, he saw three fish swimming toward him.  They were the fish he’d saved from the reeds.  The middle fish carried a mussel in his mouth, which he laid at the feet of the youth.  The fish swam away as the youth picked up the mussel and opened it, only to find a gold ring lying inside the shell.  The youth happily returned to the King to deliver the gold ring.

The princess, who was proud as well as beautiful, saw that the young man was not her equal in birth.  She turned up her nose and set him another task.  The princess went into the garden with ten sacks full of millet seed which she spread upon the grass. “You have until sunrise tomorrow morning to pick up every grain. Not a single grain can be missing,” the princess informed the youth.

The young man sat in the garden thinking but could conceive of nothing to help him in his predicament. When the sun rose, the youth was shocked to see ten bags of millet standing full.  The Ant King had come with his subjects and helped in the night.  The multitudes of ants returned all the seed to the sacks.  Not a single grain was missing.

The King’s daughter came to the garden and was shocked to see that the task was complete.  Still proud, she declared, “Though you have completed both tasks set for you, you shall not be my husband until you bring an apple from the Tree of Life.”

The Youth set out at once, although he did not know the location of this tree.  He had no hope of finding it, but still went on and on in search.  After wandering through three kingdoms, one evening he came to a wood where he lay down under a tree to sleep. Before his eyes could shut, a golden apple fell from the rustling branches into his hand.  Amazed, he looked up and saw three ravens.  They said, “you saved us from starving when we were young.  We’re grown now, and heard of your quest. We flew over the sea to the end of the world, where the Tree of Life grows.  We have brought you and apple from that tree.”  The youth thanked the ravens and joyfully set off on his return.

The young man brought the golden apple to the King’s beautiful daughter, who had no more excuses.  She cut the Golden Apple in two and they ate it together.  Her heart filled with love, and they lived happily ever after.

I like the moral of this tale: good deeds will be returned.

Although I have to say, if this guy could listen to animals, how cruel is it that he KILLED HIS HORSE?  You’d think that he’d be able to hear the horse too!!

Also, finally a beautiful princess who isn’t perfect! (Though I’m glad she does get over her pride eventually).

Happy Tuesday!!

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Avalon High

Avalon-High

I’d read Avalon High by Meg Cabot once before and thought it was okay but not amazing. Then the other day I happened to watch the movie and I was outraged by how TERRIBLE. The movie was and how they deviated horrendously from the plot of the book. So I decided to re-read the book as I couldn’t remember all the details of the story.

I enjoyed it much more the second go around! Though it is pretty predictable and hokey, I really liked Ellie (the main character) and I loved the writing style.

Basically, Ellie’s parents are both professors who are on Sabbatical. They’ve moved for the year to a new town and Ellie enrolls at Avalon high. There she is befriended by Will. The story follows the tales of King Arthur – complete with Lance (Lancelot) and Jennifer (Guinevere), Marco (Mordred), and Ellie herself. Dark vs. Evil, teenage love triangles and family drama abound. It gets pretty far fetched.

In case you are interested, the movie deviates on the identity of certain characters (namely the main one and Merlin) and although I appreciate the nod toward girl power, no. Just no.

Although I enjoyed the book, I still would give this one a 3 / 5.

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Happy New Year!!

2013-12-31 19.38.40

Wishing you and yours a fantastic year!  I have a feeling 2014 is going to be amazing!  (Even if it did start out by the side mirror of my car BREAKING thanks to an automatic car wash).

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