Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliff

Cover Art for The eagle of the Ninth Here is another long lost jewel of a book.  Marcus Aquila is a young Roman centurion on his first assignment.  He is charged with leading a legion to a Roman outpost in Britain.  During his first year there, the outpost is attacked by Druids, and through great personal bravery he is able to repel the attack.  He is wounded in the process, and must retire from service.  Once his leg begins to recover, he agrees to undertake a dangerous mission to try to recover the lost eagle standard of his father's legion, which had disappeared without a trace 20 years earlier.  He takes with him his freed slave, Esca, and together they enter the world of semi-primitive Celtic tribes. This was written by Rosemary Sutcliff back in 1954. It is shelved in the Children's department, but the story contains no children.  It made me think about other older children's novels.  Swiss Family Robinson, Robison Carouso, and even The Hobbit are books written with children in mind, but are about the adventures of adults.  At what point did publishers decide that all children's books had to be about children?  I could totally see a child, probably a boy, reading this book, and then wanting to pretend to be a Roman Centurion at all his recess games for the next month or more.  It is a wonderful adventure, and both Marcus and Esca are tremendously heroic and noble characters.  The story is full of action, adventure and danger, but devoid of any really graphic violence.  Even when Marcus is injured, he merely passes out in battle and wakes up with a massive leg wound.  Anyway,  if there were a family with boys ages 8, 10, and 12, this would be a great story to read together as a family, a chapter per night.  I would not, however recommend the recorded book version to the same family.  For some reason the publisher decided to insert 30 seconds of random classical music between each chapter.  The music doesn't match the story very well, and slows down the action.  Sadly the book has a most unfortunate cover.  I am not sure what 10 year old would ever pick it up and read it.  The recorded book cover is somewhat better. (291 p.)

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Path of Beasts by Lian Tanner

Cover Art for Path of beasts This is the third in the series that began with the Museum of Thieves. Overall it has been quite a good series. Even though the same people have been fighting the same villains in all three books, Tanner has kept the story fresh and interesting with a different internal conflict for the main character, Goldie, in each book.  In this one Goldie is struggling to balance her own personality with the presence of Princess Fresia, which she acquired in the previous book.  The warrior princess's spirit somehow lives on in Goldie, and her thoughts jump into Goldie's mind if she is not careful.  Goldie benefits, from time to time, from Fresia's battle savvy and skill, especially as she and her friends battle the evil Fugleman and has hired mercenaries.  But Goldie does not like Fresia's ruthless personality and she is afraid she is going mad.  Her internal struggle, in some ways, mirrors the struggle of the city and the Museum, as they rise up against the tyranny of the Fugleman. All the favorite characters from the first two books are reunited in this one, and the reader gets to meet a few new and interesting characters. Tanner concludes that series in this book, and the ending is appropriate to the story and satisfying. (377 p)

Saturday, March 16, 2013

The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: The Unseen Guest by Maryrose Wood

This was just what I needed this week: A purely silly and delightful read to put a smile on my face.  This is the third in the Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place series.  The premise for the series is that a poor but well educated Victorian girl, Miss Penelope Lumley, is hired to be a nanny for three children who had been raised in the woods by wolves.  The children are the wards of a wealthy English gentleman named Ashton, and the children and their governess live on his extensive estate.  In this installment Lord Ashton's widowed mother arrives at Ashton place with an admirer, Admiral Faucet, in tow.  Admire Faucet has a plan to introduce ostrich racing to England, but his ostrich has been "accidentally" set loose on in the forest near Ashton Place. The Admiral is fascinated by the three Incorrigible children and enlists their help in tracking the lost ostrich.  For the first time since coming under Miss Lumley's care, the children have a chance to visit the place where they were raised, and Miss Lumley, who has insisted on accompanying them there, is amazed at what she discovers. Meanwhile, as Admiral Faucet watches the children as they exhibit their canine tendencies, he hatches a new nefarious plan to make the children a part of another money-making scheme. This volume advances, but does not completely answer the questions raised in the second book about Mrs Lumley's past, and the connection between the children and Lord Ashton. I was dismayed when I realized that I will have to wait for the next in the series, since it has not yet been published. (340 p)

Sunday, March 10, 2013

What Happened on Fox Street by Tricia Springstubb

I must be ready to take a break from Realistic Fiction for a while.  I found this book a little hard to get through.  Ten-year-old Mo Wren lives on a dead end street where she knows everyone and everyone knows her and her family. At the beginning of the book, she is looking forward to the arrival of her best friend, Mercedes, who comes to Fox street to live with her Grandmother every summer.  Mo wants it to be like always, but things are changing on Fox Street.  Mercedes has a new step father who can afford to buy her popular-girl clothes. Mercedes's grandmother is getting to old to keep her house up, and Mo's father is hoping for an opportunity to quit his blue collar job and buy a diner. Mo resists every change and nothing really happy happens to her all summer.  Things just get gloomier and gloomier, and she gets crankier and crankier.  That is why I had a hard time reading the book.  I have said it before.  Writers need to give the readers emotional rest stops every once in a while.  What this book really needed was some comic relief.  There was opportunity. Springstubb suggested a little romance between Mo and one of the neighbor boys, but every time then met, Mo was just rude to him. Reading the book was a little like a boilthe misery of the story just got bigger and more painful until when it finally popped at the end, I was so glad to have it over, it almost seemed like a happy ending.  It wasn't really a happy ending.  It was just a cessation of misery.  

That said, the writing wasn't bad.  The voicing of Mo as a ten-year-old was convincing, and the different characters in the little community were interesting and endearing. The good qualities are not enough to tempt me to read the sequel, not unless there is some week that I am in the mood to be melancholy for a few days.  (218 p)