Monday, March 31, 2014

Pilgrim's Wilderness

This is the true story of a family homesteading in Alaska. Papa Pilgrim brought his wife and fifteen children to Alaska to live in a simpler way. He claimed to live a peaceful christian life with old values. Soon after their arrival it became clear there was more to this family than they presented. They started a confrontation with the National Park Service after bulldozing National Park land. Their neighbors were caught in a conflict about individual rights and rights of the government. The family is also not as ideal as they present to their neighbors. Horrible abuses happen in their home.

I had a hard time connecting to the lives and struggles presented in this book. It was almost as if the writer had two voices while writing. There is the dry telling of conflict with the government over land issues in the Alaska national park, and one where the tone becomes more personal with the intimate portrayal of the family and the abuse Pilgrim put them through, and how he used religion to control them. The two different narratives did not flow well together.

It was a drawn out story about a political battle between the park service and this family. The abuses that this family suffered were horrible, and interspersed throughout the political conflicts the family was having. The same information could have been presented in a shorter book. The background portion of the book was detailed, but went on too long. I would have preferred less details about Pilgrim's time in Texas and less about the conflict with the National Park.

People interested in Alaska or National Parks might find this more interesting than I did.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014


Hild is a young woman living in seventh century Britain. She is the niece of King Edwin, who is trying  to unite the kingdom under his rule. She is considered a seer, which gives her a powerful position in the King's household, but it is also very risky for her. If she gives the wrong advice, she could be killed. She tries to protect those she loves with her position, which increases the risk and pressure to provide the information the king needs. 

This is the first book in a fictional series about St. Hild of Whitby's life. It focuses on her early life, and how she came to serve the king as a seer. It is amazing what she accomplishes from a young age. I did not want this book to end, so I hope the next book is released soon. I am looking forward to discovering what happens to Hild as she gets older. I liked this book so much, I added it to My Favorite Books List.

I really enjoyed reading Hild. I could not put it down. I had to discover what happened with Hild and her family. I liked that Hild's powers are not derived from some mysterious source, but are achieved from being smart and paying attention to details. There are some battle scenes and a lot of intrigue that Hild must survive, which was fascinating to read.

I thought Griffith did an excellent job with the historical details for the time. It was a well researched book. She also filled in what is not known about that period or Hild's life in a believable way. The world and characters were expertly created and it was a pleasure to read this book.

If you like historical fiction or English history, I highly recommend reading this book.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Peace Walker: The Legend Of Hiawatha And Tekanawita

It is a time of great suffering for the five Iroquois nations. They are living under the brutal leadership of Chief Atotarho. No one can stand up to him and live. Hiawatha, longing for peace tries to stand against the cruelty of Chief Atotarho. Enduring great suffering, Hiawatha goes into the wilderness to find the peace he longs for. He meets Tekanawita and they return to stop Chief Atotarho.

I thought this was a compelling combination of myth and history. This legend of Hiawatha will inspire you to learn more about the Iroquois nation and their stories. It is a short chapter book meant for children age eight and over. I still enjoyed the reading the story. It is a great introduction to Hiawatha. I also really liked the artwork in this book. I think my two favorite pictures were of Chief Atotarho.

I like that Taylor included some history of the Iroquois confederacy. It is important for Americans to realize how the Iroquois inspired Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson and others forming the American government. I found the historical part of this book very interesting, but it is short. I will have to find some books to read more about the history.

If you like reading different myths and legends, I would recommend this book. Particularly if you are looking for some legends to read with a child. 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Jim Henson: The Biography

This biography of Jim Henson was written with the cooperation of his family. Starting with Jim Henson's childhood, we learn how creativity was a huge part of his family's life. The gradual rise of Jim Henson in show business culminating in his success, was a large portion of the biography. There was some information on his personal life, but the focus was mostly on his career.

It was fun to read how the Muppets came to be. It was surprising to learn how some Muppets came to be the main characters. They were often chosen by who was doing which Muppet's voice, and how popular that character was. As Kermit became popular, Rowlf had to be used less as Jim Henson did both of their voices. It would be too difficult to control multiple puppets and do their voices at the same time.

I was also delighted to learn more about the creative efforts Henson put into The Dark Crystal and The Labyrinth. I loved these movies growing up, and I did not know how mixed the reviews had been when they were originally released. It was interesting to learn how many different programs Jim Henson was a part of before the success of Sesame Street and the Muppets. He continued with his creativity and trying to make his work a success despite constant setbacks.

Although there were engaging portions, I thought the biography got too bogged down in the facts. There needed to be some filtering on what was really necessary to tell Henson's life story. Particularly the portions that had to do with his business, there was no distinction between what was important and what was superfluous to our understanding of his life.

If you like Jim Henson's creations, you will find something interesting in this biography.

Monday, March 17, 2014

1001 Nights Of Snowfall

While traveling in Arabia to make allies for the Fables against the Adversary, Snow discovers her ambassador status will not protect her from marriage to the Sultan and death in the morning. The Sultan has married and killed the women of his kingdom, and the Wazir must offer his own daughter Scheherazade in marriage. He decides to offer Snow in her place. Snow discovers too late what has happened and decides to try and delay execution by entertaining the Sultan with stories from her life.

This is the prequel to the series Fables. Some of the major characters from the series are introduced through Snow's tales. We learn about Snow, Red Rose, the Frog Prince, Old King Cole, Frau Totenkinder, and many others. I liked learning more about some of these characters. Having some of their background makes you appreciate more how these characters are being presented in this series. Their stories are not all happy, they are rather dark. The series is meant for adults, but it is also because Snow picks these stories to try and win sympathy from the Sultan. She is there as an ambassador.

The artwork is beautiful, and does an excellent job depicting the emotions of the tales. Some are exquisitely drawn while others are simpler with lots of colors. Each is well suited to the story they convey. It is a pleasure to read this book and the rest of the series simply for the incredible artwork that is included.

This is an excellent introduction to the Fables series. It gives the reader a sense of how the tales are brought together to create a magnificent retelling of the classic fairy tales. There are some clever mixing of the characters and tales, which I appreciate. I do not want to give away anything, so I won't go into detail, but I do not think anyone will be disappointed in the way the stories are presented.

I highly recommend reading this book and continuing on with the series. 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014


Jonathan Harker goes on a business trip to Transylvania. He ends up imprisoned by Count Dracula who is not what he seems to be. Mounting a daring escape to return home to his fiancee Mina, he returns to find Dracula in England reeking havoc with his friends. He decides to put aside his fears to join Van Helsing and his friends to stop Dracula. They embark on a dangerous mission where all will not survive.

This book is absolutely riveting! A few years ago, I decided to read Dracula. I thought I should read this classic tale. I had no idea how it would capture my imagination, and how completely this tale would engross me. I now reread this book every year. It is a suspense filled tale. Dracula is a refreshingly subtle vampire tale. It does not have the modern vampire issues of the vampire with the tormented soul. Dracula embraces what he has become.

Dracula is told in epistolary form. This gives a more intimate feel to the story as the writers of the diaries and letters record their private thoughts and feelings. We live the horror and confusion the characters experience as Dracula enters their lives. I like getting to know the characters in this way.

This edition has beautiful artwork that perfectly illustrates the horror of the story. Sometimes the image came slightly before what was being depicted happened in the book, which was alright for me because I had read the book before. I do not think the pictures give huge parts away, but it might clue readers in before they are ready.

Dracula has become one of my favorite books. It is a story that never gets old. I highly recommend reading this book.

Monday, March 10, 2014


The world has turned to ice. Only a chosen few survived the cleansing floods engulfed the earth, leaving people stranded in a cold, ice covered world. The Lex is clear about what happened, and how society should be run to prevent such a catastrophe from occurring again. Societal roles are clearly defined, and rules are strictly enforced.

Eva has just lost her twin brother. He was suppose to leave for the testing to prove his worthiness to become the next Argon. She puts her name forward in his memory. There is some surprise and disproval. Women do not usually test, it is not forbidden, but it hasn't happened in over 150 years. The testing is rigorous, and there are always some that do not survive. Will Eva be capable of surviving the testing?

I liked that part of the test in digging in the ice for artifacts from before the floods. When they find an artifact they have to research their object and explain how it was part of the downfall of society. Finding a unique item or one that is considered one of the worst of the old society is key to gaining social standing.

I received a copy from Soho Presswhich was exciting because the book looked promising. It was a unique dystopian tale. I wish it moved a little faster. I also wanted more information about some things, but as it is the first book in a series, I think that information will come in later books. It was an easy read, and has the potential to be a decent series. 

If you like dystopian tales you should give this one a try.

* Soho Press does not require a review or stipulate what kind of review should be given if you are inclined to review the book. It was simply part of a promotional event for their book. Winning this book does not change my review. It merely provides me with a book I might not have heard about or gotten to as soon.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Chronicles Of The Crusades

Chronicles Of The Crusades includes two very different accounts of the crusades. The Conquest Of Constantinople is written by Geoffrey of Villehardouin. His account details the controversial nature of the fourth crusade 1199-1207, as crusaders attack the Eastern Christians in Byzantium. Villehardouin was appointed to the position of Marshal of Champagne. In 1199 he took the cross and was appointed as an envoy to leaders of the fourth crusade, which provided him with first hand knowledge of decisions being made by leaders of the crusade. John of Joinville writes about the French King Louis IX, also known as Saint Louis. Joinville was in the unique position of being close to King Louis, and having an intimate knowledge of some of the decisions he made during the sixth and seventh crusades 1226-1270. He became a close friend of King Louis during the crusades. He wrote The Life Of Saint Louis to establish the king's sanctity by recording his holy words and deeds.

Villehardouin's account shows the political side of the crusades. Negotiations for supplies, ships, and armies are a major concern as the crusaders try to get to Jerusalem. There is some fighting in his account, but a lot of his work is concerned with getting what is needed for the army, and dealing with uprisings.

Learning about some of the saintly acts of King Louis was slightly horrifying. He had severe punishments for those that took the Lord's name in vain. For example, he had a man's lips burned off for committing this crime. Louis is often indecisive, and it is surprising that he leaves on a second crusade.

There was some interesting information about Medieval warfare. What weapons they had, battle machines, armor, and strategies. It was intriguing to read their perspectives as they traveled and saw new places and cultures. There are some decent battle scenes. The crusaders do not end up as the saintly liberators they set out to be.

The accounts could get a little dry and repetitive at some points, but were still very interesting to read. If you are interested in Medieval warfare or the crusades, I recommend reading this book.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Legend Of Sigurd and Gudrun

J. R. R. Tolkien composed his own version of The Saga Of The Volsungs and the Poetic Edda. He splits these legends into two poems. In the Legend Of Sigurd, Sigurd's ancestry is given. It also tells of his defeating the dragon Fafnir. Sigurd takes Fafnir's cursed treasure for his own, which causes problems for him. He awakens the Valkyrie Brynhild, and is betrothed to her. In the Legend of Gudrun, we learn of Gudrun's fate after Sigurd dies.

Along with Tolkien's poems, we are given pieces of his lectures that he wrote down for classes he would teach on Norse mythology. It was interesting to learn what Tolkien thought about this topic. The notes provided help the reader put the poems in context. His notes also give details about parts of the myths that were left out or only partially included in his poems, making it easier for the reader to understand what was going on.

I found his poetic versions of these sagas to be very moving. Parts of the stories were condensed, but I really enjoyed reading it. There was a lot of intense emotions and action in these poems. I read most of it aloud, and this really helped me feel the power of these poems. This is a book I cannot wait to reread. It is easy to feel Tolkien's passion for these Sagas, and to see what inspired him from these tales in his own work. I liked this book so much, it made it onto My Favorite Books list.

I highly recommend this to fans of Tolkien or the Sagas. 

Monday, March 3, 2014

The Book Thief

Liesel is a foster girl that has gone to live just outside Munich in 1939. She lives with an accordion player and his wife. She begins stealing with other children in the village. They start out stealing food. Her foster father starts teaching her to read, and as she discovers books, she cannot stop stealing them. During bombing raids, Liesel reads the books she has stolen to her neighbors. She also reads with the Jewish man her foster parents are hiding in the basement.

I did not understand all of the hype about this book. I found the writing to be choppy. The use of death as the narrator would normally be an interesting element to the story, but it was executed poorly. Death seemed obsessed with interrupting the story to provide facts to the reader they either already knew, or should have been able to read as part of the story in a more natural way. Death also gave away the ending several times, which lessened the impact of the ending.

The main characters were suppose to garner sympathy, yet I could not move past my irritation with the way the characters and their story were being presented to feel anything for them. There was a shallowness to the characters that could have easily been fixed. Repeating a scenario or a saying does not help the reader know the character.

I found it annoying to have everything repeated so many times without learning any new information. The things the characters said were repeated incessantly. Their actions were repeated throughout the book. Even the ending which should have only been told once, was given away by the narrator several times. The story could have been told in a quarter of the length of this book.

While reading, it seemed like the author was trying too hard. There were a lot of attempts to use metaphors to illustrate the characters feelings and experiences, but they seemed out of place, and often did not make sense. If the author had relaxed and focused more on the story and not trying to make it something it was not, the story would have flowed much better.

I have read a lot of books about World War II, so I was interested in reading a book set in that period that had received so much attention. I did not care for this book, and would recommend reading a different book about a young adult's experience during World War II.