Monday, January 18, 2010

Reading Recap!

How many books did you read last week?

I read 2 1/2 - I know, "whoop!" right? I wish I could bump the number up to 3 - but I finished The Spook's Apprentice last night, which technically counts as this week. Oh well.

I also want to develop some kind of accurate rating system - it's one thing to say "I give this book 4 stars!" but what exactly does that mean?! So hopefully I'll have that hashed out sometime this week.

For now, the three books I read from Monday-Saturday were:

Cold indeed is the heart not made warm by this bubbly fairy-rale romance...Kirkus Reviews
Well said, Kirkus! I never thought I'd find "over-the-top" so funny and refreshing! Take all the things considered necessary for a good book nowadays - complex, complicated and ultra-flawed characters, excessive backstories, social commentaries, and sad, morbid endings - and flip them over like a flapjack, and you'll have a good idea of what Once Upon a Marigold is! Yes, the characters are lovably simple, yes the story is a bit on the predictable side (that's the nature of fairytales, after all!) and yes, there is a (da-da-dum) HAPPY ENDING! And I loved it all, and so will you! Here's the setup: a commoner raised by a troll who falls in love with a princess and must rescue said princess when the evil queen plots to take over the throne! Exciting! No, I'm not being sarcastic, it's truly exciting! Somehow, the fact that Jean Ferris wrote this book specifically as a good'ol fairytale story makes everything so much easier to digest. You know going in that this is going to be a fun and uplifting read. This story is like Lean Cuisine: it tastes good and it's good for you! In fact, while reading this book I was reminded of the "Comedy Tonight" song from A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum: "Something familiar, Something peculiar, Something for everyone - a comedy tonight!" This is a book that definitely wants to be read! I was in Borders about a month ago, minding my own business, when my eyes fell on this title and its sequel (which I will be starting straight away), and I just had to buy it. It's like it wanted me to find it (kind of like the Ring, only not as evil and creepy). So I would recommend this book to anyone who likes being happy! It's a simple read (less than 300 pages) and only took me 2 nights... "No royal curse, No Trojan horse, and a happy ending, of course!" (Actually, there is a royal curse in this story, but whatever, you get the point!) This book has just made me giddy-happy, can you tell? Too much realism is bad for the soul! And the stomach! Read Once Upon a Marigold!

Rating: 5/5. This book has all the ingredients for an awesome, near-perfect read! A very fun experience!

I finished the book late last night, and I still haven't entirely gathered my thoughts about it. While I really liked Jean Ferris' writing style, and while I found a lot of the things she had to say cute and uplifting, this book just really didn't measure up to the first. Both books are supposed to be light and fluffy and over-the-top, but somehow this one seemed (at times) almost shallow. I liked the idea of having a sequel (the cutie-patootie ending of Once Upon a Marigold certainly allowed for a second installment) so it's not like I was against the idea of continuing the story. The story that she crafted, however, didnt quite work for me. For example, the two main characters - Christian and Marigold - are practically in the background until about the second half of the book, and the perspective follows the main villain, Olympia, almost exclusively in the beginning. That got real old, real fast. And also: her characterizations seem a bit wackier in, these are the same characters from her original story and yet they're not quite the same. Christian and Marigold have suddenly become crabby, and Olympia goes from being a cold-and-calculating kind of evil villain to a spazzy, hyperactive banshee evil villain in the second novel - stuff like that. It just made me frown. And a lot of her conversations seemed really forced - like she was poking her characters with a stick in order to get a reaction out of them! And above all, this book was not NEAR as readable as the first one. Ironically, there's a quote on pg 111 that reads "The next few days passed very, very s-l-o-w-l-y..." and that about sums up my reading experience for the most part. I literally had to *force* myself to keep chugging along, and that annoyed me. I've got to force myself as it is to read class assignments, and I don't particularly like having to do it in my spare reading. The first book flowed so simply; this book was a much rockier ride. - So why am I still giving this 4 stars instead of 3? It has to do with Jean Ferris' quality of writing. There were several flecks of gold in the rocky boulders of this story and some really cute messages to be learned as well. Often nowadays, books are really superficial: there's no lesson to be learned and nothing to be gained once the story ends, but in keeping with fairytale fashion, there are lessons in Twice Upon a Marigold and you just have to admire that. Her characters grew on me - the old ones and the new ones - and by the end of the book, I had my warm, fuzzy feeling again. I would NOT discourage ANYONE from reading Twice Upon a Marigold, but rather I would caution not to expect the same level of superb storytelling found in the first book.

Final Rating: 3.5 Stars. This book will still be likable to fans of the original - just so long as they're aware that it's not as good as the first.

Excellent! Excellent! Excellent! I have a very, very good feeling about the rest of the books in the Wardstone Chronicles after completing this book (it's called Revenge of the Witch in the US)... - First of all, a very, very engaging and rather original plot! It's similar to HARRY POTTER in this: both take place in England, and both have a lot to do with folkoric creatures and legends: witches, boggarts, and the like. But there's where the similarities end. You can read the synopsis up at the top and know that this will be the story of Thomas J. Ward, the seventh son of a seventh son (hey Angie Sage--that's like your story!) who becomes the apprentice of the County's Spook (hold your horses - fellow Americans! That's the dude's title) and through all sorts of adventures learns the lessons of the trade. - Second, I am a new, big fan of Joseph Delaney's writing style. His prose is simple (not highfalutin' like some other authors out there!) and yet incredibly descriptive; he draws you fully into the world of his story. Every word is engaging, every word flows with ease to create an image in your mind. - With that in mind, I do want to make a declaration: I READ THIS BOOK AFTER DARK! The book warns readers specifically not to do that. And I huffed and I puffed and I said, "this book won't be scary! I'm 21 years old now!" and within a few minutes I was opening up my rommmate's door just to make sure I wasn't alone. So this book isn't really *scary* so much as it's incredibly eerie in some sections. There are parts that read like a good'ol fashion ghost story. In my opinion, Delaney doesnt overdo himself and really hammer home what's going on - rather he paces everything so that you are drawn in to the suspicion and the intensity of the story and you can't put the book down! - Now here's my fine-print: I think this book would be enjoyed best by the +13 crowd. I got the number 13 just because that's the age of the main character and I personally think that anyone lower than maybe 7th-8th grade might potentially have a hard time with some details of the story. However, I didnt find anything "inappropriate" per see, and if there are any fellow religious people out there, this info is for you: there are a couple parts where characters speak critically of priests. Not God, priests. It all seems reasonable within the story, and if it didnt bother an ultra-sensitive person like me, it probably won't bother you, either. :) So CHECK OUT this book!!!! Again, in America, it's called Revenge of the Witch and it's part of the Last Apprentice series.

Rating: 4.5 Stars Nearly every aspect was perfect! The mature content prevents a perfect rating, though. Definitely recommended to the 13+ crowd!

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