Terrier

This book is a usual girl-power book by Tamora Pierce, but I loved it! My favorite series is the Wild Magic Series, but this one is very excellent as well (they all are, I mean, it’s Tamora Pierce). It is the first series, chronologically, but if you read the Alanna books (Song of the Lioness, technically) first, some stuff is ironically funny. (Like, you find out the origin of the Court of the Rouge name and such). I loved it! Yay!

“Sixteen-year-old Beka Cooper lives far removed from knights, palaces, and the nobility. Her world revolves around thieves, beggars, taverns, and the lowest of the low. She’s a trainee for the Provost’s Guard (Dogs, as they’re called, which makes Beka a Puppy); a rookie cop assigned to police the city’s worst slum.

Beka has always wanted to be a Dog, but she has one problem – she’s shy. Painfully shy. Not the best way to make a first impression or command the respect of the public. But she also has talent, and a strange kind of magic that allows her to hear the voices of the dead – and they have plenty to say. Soon she hears whispers of two vicious sets of crimes and Puppy or no, once Beka gets a case in her teeth, she doesn’t let go.”

This book is in the form of Beka’s diary, and the first entry is her first day in training. Since the guards are “Dogs,” all the trainees are called “Puppies.” I think it’s cute. She’s paired with Clara “Clary” Goodwin, and Matthis “Mattes” Tunstall. Neither of them really want a Puppy, but they take her and go. Her education in the process of keeping the peace is really fun to read, even going back several times to read it again. Sometimes the whole diary thing doesn’t go well, but this is really good and easy to read. I love the first person, and since it’s a diary, we hear everything about Beka’s day like we were there with her.

Beka’s siblings are all trying to rise up in the world, and they all look down on her for choosing to become a Dog. Kind of sad, actually. Who protects them when their on the streets? Certainly not stablehands, messengers, maids, or seamstresses, that’s for sure. Her family doing that to her ALMOST made me cry. I have siblings, and I can’t image all of them looking at me like I was dirt like that! The way the whole story just works together is really good. I thought there might be some boring parts in the middle, because how interesting can a Puppy’s life be, even with murders? It was so good, though! There was a wonderful mix of training, murder solving, friend having, and the barest (and I mean barest) dash of romance. Excellent!

Now, I love feminist empowerment books, so this was great! Beka is George’s (from the Song of the Lioness series) ancestor from 200 years ago. Kind of funny how Beka, a very loyal Provost Dog, would end up eventually begetting an excellent thief and the country’s spymaster… Anyway! Beka is an amazing character, and I love her sooooooo much! But you know how all characters have to have flaws of they’re just annoying? Beka’s only flaw (that I thought worth noting) was kind of obviously her flaw. Shyness, obviously, you can tell by the synopsis. That’s my one beef.

In the book, Beka is only vain about one thing: her gorgeous, long, red hair. I love that, because I’m also kind of vain about my hair. I used to wish it was red, and then I realized how stupid I would look with red hair (I’m too tan for it).

On to my favorite part of books: romance! This novel is SORELY lacking in romance, though there is some. Rosto, a skilled rouge from Scanra, comes down to take over the Court of the Rouge! The current king is old and not doing his job and he’s a jerk! Rosto is tall, muscular, pale (he IS from Scanra), has beautiful dark eyes, and white blond hair. Gorgeous, right? Well, Beka can’t get over the fact that he’s a criminal. Yes, that would indeed interfere with her work, but to sacrifice love for your job? I think not! Then again, she does love the Lord Provost, so I guess it’s kinda the same thing… (Loves him in a way that a child loves her father, by the way. Nothing funny.)

Still, Rosto is my favorite character besides Pounce! (Pounce is a black, purple eyed cat that befriends Beka in her childhood and follows her everywhere. And she can speak telepathically. Can we say goddess-possessed cat? Song of the Lioness anyone?) He’s funny, and the Love Interest, so of course I love him! Any author worth her salt can make me fall in love with their male lead. (I’m kind of a Hopeless Romantic. We need an Anonymous club for us…) Anyway! Beka is great and all, but she is kind of annoying sometimes about Rosto and Pounce.

End really didn’t have a Gasp Factor. A 0/10. Maybe a 1/10 because of a certain event I will not disclose. It really ended, though there was room open for another book. Which did happen, by the way! Bloodhound came out in 2009, and the third book (supposedly the last one), Mastiff, comes out this year! Yay! More Rosto, please!

Page Count: 592 (Long, but interesting all the way through.)

Until next time,

Madalyn

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Matched

Matched by Ally Condie was better than I had expected. It came out in 2010, and Madalyn grabbed it because the cover was so interesting. It’s of a girl in a green dress in a bubble. The dress being green does actually function in the story as a minor plot device, and it was nice to see the cover make some sort of sense.

“In the Society, Officials decide. Who you love. Where you work. When you die.

Cassia has always trusted their choices. It’s hardly any price to pay for a long life, the perfect job, the ideal mate. So when her best friend appears on the Matching screen, Cassia knows with complete certainty that he is the one… until she sees another face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black. Now Cassia is faced with impossible choices: between Xander and Ky, between the only life she’s known and a path no one else has ever dared follow — between perfection and passion.”

The premise of the story is that society became the Society, around 70 years ago. Daily life was restructured, food became regulated, people were only taught exactly what they needed to force everyone to work together. Additionally, the Officials decided that life was too cluttered, so committees were formed to pick the Hundred Poems, Paintings, Songs, History Lessons, etc. Anything not included in the Hundred was destroyed. Cassia’s grandmother was on the committee that chose the Hundred Poems.

Sometime in everyone’s 17th year, they are called to the Match Banquet at City Hall. Each girl gets to pick her dress for the banquet-Cassia picks the green one and is the only one to do so. At the Banquet, each girl is called alphabetically by last name, stands, and watches a big black screen. In many (hundreds?) of other cities across the Society, similar banquets are happening. When each girl’s name is called, the Match, the person they will marry, appears in a live feed on screen. But no boy appears on screen for Cassia. That means the statistical improbability of her already knowing her Match has happened. It turns out to be her best friend since childhood, Xander.

Obviously in books like these, and especially since Madalyn liked it, there has to be issues. Condie works the second Love Interest into the story in a sensical manner and shows the dwindling of Cassia’s faith in the Society in a believable manner.

I’m pretty sure I prefer Xander over the other boy, Ky. Ky seemed a bad influence on Cassia, whereas Xander was familiar and steady. But this is the big argument around the books that even the author won’t weigh in on.

The ending was rather odd. It’s obvious that there is going to be another book (Crossed, coming out in October 2011), but it ends slowly. The gasp factor would be around a 2/10, because the real climax of the story happens earlier and it gets around a 6.5/10. Maybe it was because I was expecting around 90% of plot twists, thanks to Madalyn. I don’t mind. It made the parts she left out so much better. I actually cried at one point, which doesn’t happen often.

366 pages, and I read it in under 2 hours.

http://www.allysoncondie.com/

~Sara

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Blogging and Other Aspects of Life

Hullo there, everyone! This is my first blog post! I’ve never blogged before, so this is quite exciting.

Let me start by getting out some general information about myself. I’m from Alabama (yay for Southern Pride!). I’m in high school still. I’m in show choir, flag corps, and a bunch of other stuff. Superfun, right? I love to read, and I also LOVE to write! Sara doesn’t, but that’s alright. I’m actually working on stuff now! Yay! One is a fanfiction (I am SUCH a nerd…) and the other is actually something remotely legit! Aren’t I so interesting?

This is my high school… Lol, totally not. I may live in Alabama, but we’re not all a bunch of ignorant hillbillies. Actually, that term is terribly inaccurate. Only the northernmost counties in Alabama even have hills. Know your geography before you invent in insult, I always say!

Anyway, that’s pretty basic stuff about me. I’ll tell you more later, whether anyone wants it on the Internet or not. This is blogging. No one can stop me!

You’ll be hearing more from me,

Madalyn

P.S.- The South has beaches that are actually pretty! Take that!

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Abandon

Abandon by Meg Cabot was an excellent book! I loved it so much! I sing my praises to Meg Cabot! She has written so many books, and all of the ones I’ve read have been phenomenal. (I’ll do her 1-800-Where-Are-You and Mediator series’ eventually…)

In Abandon, best-selling author Meg Cabot offers up a darkly romantic modern retelling that is almost straight out of Greek mythology. Pierce Oliviera died when she was 15, but she fought her way out of a dreary Underworld ruled by a seductively handsome older boy named John. Nobody believed Pierce when she told them what she had seen, and everyone–including her parents–thought she needed therapy.

Now in the small town of Isla Huesos, Pierce and her mother are getting a fresh new start. Making friends with her classmates proves difficult for Pierce because of her family name and the rumors about Pierce that followed her to the island. And although it has been two years since she last saw John, he keeps appearing before her. Afraid that he wants to take her back with him to the Underworld, Pierce tries to deny herself of the one thing she wants most: his love.

That was the synopsis! I adored this book! My favorite character is the main character. Pierce is smart, clever, and spunky, but she’s so real. It felt like I could walk down the street and maybe meet a normal girl like her. I picked up this book at random because the story sounded interesting (a sort of re-telling of Persephone?) and the cover was really pretty (the picture I have is good, but get it and follow the bumblebee flying dots around the book! It’s so cool!)

I’m not going to SPOIL anything for you, but I will say a few things. John is an awesome LI (Love Interest. Oh yeah, I have lingo), and Pierce is just the girl to balance him out. When she feels like he’s being too overprotective, she will absolutely tell him everything he’s doing wrong and how to fix it (which she does. Quite emphatically. All I’m saying!). When she feels like he’s being unreasonable, she goes right on and tells him. One thing I love about Pierce: she WILL speak her mind, and be wary to those who try and keep her from doing so!

Gasp Rating (on the ending): 7/10 (then again, ask my friends and they’ll tell you I say all movies are “the best movie ever”… Which may be true, but I like a lot of movies!)

I will definitely be keeping my stalker radar on Meg Cabot for the next book in this awesome trilogy!

Hardcover: 320 pages

Go to http://www.megcabot.com for more info!

Until next review,

Madalyn

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Band of Brothers

Band of Brothers by Stephen E. Ambrose. This book was amazing. I’ve never seen the miniseries, but the book was magnificent. It follows Easy Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, U.S. Army from training camp to the end of the war and beyond. I don’t really know what to say about this book. I can’t talk about characters because it’s about real people. I can’t talk about plot because Ambrose wrote it directly from interviews with the soldiers and letters and journals. I can say that Band of Brothers is the story of a group of heroes that is expertly crafted.

The thing about having never seen the tv version is that I had no clue, while reading the book, which soldiers survived the war. I could tell occasionally, when there would be direct quotes but it was an eyeopener. My favorite chapter, for some reason, was the “They’ve got us surrounded-the Poor Bastards”; Bastogne from December 19-31, 1944. In history, we spent three days of World War 2, but he talked about Bastogne.

Best map I could find. Germany is the orange, Allies are the light yellow. But Bastogne should also be light yellow, because the group followed in Band of Brothers was there and didn’t give in.

I also really liked in the end, once the troops got to the Eagle’s Nest, how they dealt with all Hitler’s stuff. He had some really nice cars, alcohol, etc, and once the higher-ups got there, the lowly soldiers had to turn the loot over. But that didn’t mean they couldn’t test the bullet resistance of the glass of the windshields first.

It’s strange, when I read this book, to remember that the people portrayed in it were born in the 1910s and 20s.

Anyways, I highly recommend  this book to anyone who likes history or just a good read. It’s quick, it’s 312 pages, and it’s so good.

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Fullmetal Alchemist 1

Fullmetal Alchemist is a series of manga by Hiromu Arakawa. I recently read the first one (I think 25 or so have come out in America in English) based on a recommendation by a friend. Okay, so it’s manga. I’ve read manga before, Fruitsbasket, D. Grey Man, some InuYasha, and Blackbird, but for some reason I’ve always avoided Fullmetal Alchemist. I guess because of how closely it’s associated with the anime. Yeah, the others have anime made of them, but FMA was more well known. I’m not a fan of anime. Too much Japanese.

Anyways, Vol. 1 is four chapters, each, I assume, separately published in magazines in Japan before being put together, and eventually translated. The story follows two brothers, Edward and Alphonse Elric who, after using alchemy to try to revive the dead, had to pay the consequences. Now the elder brother is missing an arm and a leg, and the the younger brother is nothing more than a soul in a metal suit. The elder brother, Edward, is the state alchemist-incredibly powerful, both alchemy-wise and politically. Both brothers are after the one thing that might be able to restore them to their original bodies, the Philosopher’s Stone. Fans of Harry Potter should recognize that, but the concept is different in this series. The stone lets alchemists transmute matter without paying attention to the unwritten laws of conservation and consequences. The Elric brothers need that to succeed in their quest.

So, the author said that she was sorta inspired by B-rate movies. She tried to bring the over-the-top aspect into the manga. I think she succeeded. It jumps right into action, cleverly weaving in flaskbacks to fill in backstory. The plot seems well developed, with unanswered questions requiring the reader to get more volumes. If the library has Vol. 2, I’ll read it.

180 pages.

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Tortall and Other Lands

Tortall and Other Lands by Tamora Pierce is a collection of 11 short stories by Tamora Pierce. I’ll do it story by story.

First: Student of Ostriches. This story was about a girl in a male dominated society, (big surprise, it’s Tamora Pierce-girl power, and all that) who ends up about to be trained at a martial arts master. It’s a style called Shang, and each practitioner is known as the animal that their fighting is styled after. The main character of this story learns to fight by watching ostriches, so I assume she’ll be the Shang Ostrich. One of my favorite characters in some of the other Tortall books is the Shang Dragon, Liam. But he wasn’t in this story.

2. Elder Brother. In one of the Daine books, I don’t remember which, Numair turns an enemy into a tree. He remarks that, now somewhere on the otherside of the world, a tree has become a man. This, due to many requests on her website, is the story of that tree/man. He ends up being named Qiom. He was planted in a country where women and girls are expected to stay veiled all the time. He meets this young boy who is actually nice to him, and they have stuff happen to them. Poor Qiom is so helpless as a man.

The Hidden Girl. A different view of ‘Elder Brother’, this story is from the PoV of a girl in the town that Qiom and the boy, Fadal, go to. She and her father travel around and teach the other half of the religion that respects women. Obviously, the priests don’t let that half be widely known.

4. Nawat is one of the longer stories, I think. At the end of Trickster’s Queen, Aly is pregnant. In ‘Nawat’, Aly has her baby. Then another. Then another. Triplets! And they were only expecting one? Can’t you tell? Anyway, Nawat has issues because the crows of the city flock are deciding that he and his war band are becoming too human to remain crows and might kick them out of the flock. This really disturbs him because the word for ‘crow’ in Crow isn’t singular, it implies a flock. The problem partly came when one of his crows had a child with a human that had a disability. In the flock’s mindset, a messed up nestling needs to be dropped out of the nest and killed before it has a chance to grow up and eat more food and cause problems. Nawat is worried one of his kids will be messed up and he’d have to kill it. He’s worried about what Aly would do to him. And, then of course, one is, but it turns out well.

Fifth, The Dragon’s Tale. This is about Daine’s dragon, Kitten. Kit can’t speak yet because she’s so young, so she’s really bored on a tour of Carthage. She finds this girl hiding from the town and her child. Kit wants to help the girl because she wants to be helpful, and then magic and giant dragon and confusion. Some parts of this story definitely came out of nowhere, at least to me. It really was strange.

6. Lost. Ohh, I liked this one. It had darkings in it, which are my absolute favorite Tortall things.There’s a girl in a male dominated society, mostly, and she’s a math genius. But her father is oppressive. But with the help of some darkings, she succeeds.

Seventh. Time of Proving. This one was interesting. Basically, Youngish girl is out on her own for a year and when she returns to her desert people, she’ll be a full woman. Her name is Arimu! Name I remember for once! At some random point in the year, she meets this random guy who’s utterly useless and she helps him survive. And  then, ends up going with him for a bit. This one wasn’t Tortall universe, I’m pretty sure.

8. Plain Magic. Don’t remember what this one is about. The bit on the back of the books says ‘What happens when you lose a lethal lottery?’ I remember now. Small village. Traveling gypsy-type magic woman comes and does random small magic, but people, except this one girl don’t notice. She notices because she’s also vaguely magical. Then, Dragon! And the (male) priest says the only way to get rid of it is to sacrifice a young girl. Obviously, that one girl draws the short stick. But the magic lady rescues her, Yay! The magic in that story is very similar to the magic done by the witches in Terry Prachett’s Discworld books.

(Got distracted looking to see if Ysandra’s father in Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey had the same name as  Lady Embeth’s deceased husband in The Wayfareer Redemption/BattleAxe by Sara Douglass. I think so.)

9. Mimic. Ri ends up with this strange little lizard thing that she’s nursing back to health, but it ends up being a dragon type thing! Confusing bits included the random pact with the birds and her grandfather.

Tenth: Huntress. Oh this one was strange. There’s a girl who’s never had any friends because her mom is big into Goddess worship (why did I feel the need to capitalize that?). And then, she changes schools and runs track and gets into the ‘in’ crowd. But they’re not what you expect. Outside of school, she starts hearing about criminals dying on the streets, and she’s confused. But then, the popular track team members invite her to join in. They are meeting in Central Park, finding criminals, and chasing them down to kill them. The main character resists, because she finds the game morally wrong (Yay for her) but then, she becomes the prey. Then it’s like a giant game of tag among people who really know how to run, with deadly results. And finally, she prays to the Goddess for help. Quite bloody.

Finally, Testing is the only non-fantasy story in the collection. It pulls from Pierce’s own experience being a housemother and follows some girls as they test the limits of the new housemother they get. Reminded me of the beginning parts of The Sound of Music.

369 pages.

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