The Hollow Kingdom (The Hollow Kingdom Trilogy #1)
Author: Clare B. Dunkle
Publication Date: 9/19/06
Publisher: Henry Holt and Company
Blurb(GR): "She had never screamed before, not when she overturned the rowboat and almost drowned, not even when Lightfoot bucked her off and she felt her leg break underneath her with an agonizing crunch. But now she screamed long and loud, with all her breath."
Hallow Hill has a strange and tragic history. For thousands of years, young women have been vanishing from the estate, never to be seen again. Now Kate and Emily have come to live at Hallow Hill. Brought up in a civilized age, they have no idea of the land's dreadful heritage-until, that is, Marak decides to tell them himself.
Intelligent, pleasant, and completely pitiless, Marak is a powerful magician who claims to be a king-and he has very specific plans for the two new girls who have trespassed into his kingdom. The Hollow Kingdom is a 2004 Bank Street - Best Children's Book of the Year.
This book is exactly the type of fairy tale that I love the most. Now, I know that I have been outspoken in the past about my dislike of fantasies featuring caveman, bad-boy type hero characters. However, I think that I know and respect dozens of women who melt in the presence of these guys. Do I look down on my friends for their fantasy preferences? Absolutely not, because guess what? We all have a fantasy weakness. We all have that certain fairy tale that bypasses every logical part of our brains and just makes us feel giddy and excited. So, you can safely assume that mine is decidedly not the perfect specimen, territorial, alpha male. This book keys into the fairy tale that’s always turned me into a puddle of goo:
He’s ugly (but only on the outside, of course), a bit ruthless, desperate, smart, and he has one hell of a library. Except that in this book, he’s comfortable in his own skin, and he doesn’t turn into a foppish, effeminate prince in the end (which is what I always wished would happen).
This book is not going to go down in history as one of the greatest works of all time, but I can feasibly see myself re-reading it whenever I need a bit of comfort. It’s like the literary equivalent of a grilled cheese sandwich. I was completely drawn in by
the prologue, and by the time the intelligent, practical, and resourceful heroine Kate and her plucky little sister Emily run into the Goblin King Marak I knew that this would become a favorite of mine.
Marak is the ruler of a colorful, dangerous race of goblins, dwarves, and elves who live within Hollow Hill. It is a long and traditional practice for the Goblin King to steal a human or elf bride and imprison her underground until the next King is born and his people are secure. When Kate inherits Hollow Hill after her father’s death, she and her sister become the wards of two elderly great aunts and a shady, pretentious cousin. Kate and her sister soon catch the eye of the Goblin King, but Kate is revolted and determined to escape his grasp at all costs.
As Kate and Marak engage in a battle of wills and wits, this book actually began to remind me of Pride and Prejudice. These two characters have a lot of preconceived notions and ideas about each other, and their verbal sparring is charged and exhilarating. Here is one of my favorite scenes:”’Indeed it is, Kate,’ Marak agreed. ‘It’s time to plan your revenge. Goblins just adore revenge.’ He grinned. ‘Do you have anything in mind?’
Kate was taken aback. ‘Revenge is wrong,’ she told him solemnly. ‘Vengeance belongs to God.’
The goblin put his head to one side and watched her through narrowed eyes. ‘You won’t even give God a little help?’ he asked softly.”
Kate is independent and powerful, but not unrealistically so. She’s a proper Englishwoman who reacts in realistic ways to her surroundings and the hideous goblin court. And by the end of this book, she fits the specs for all of my favorite female heroines: she’s determined, powerful, a bit merciless and bloodthirsty, and she has a sword (plus the most entertaining magical charm around).
My only “thirty year old woman” type gripe is that this book, despite being what I would class as a romance novel, is
clean enough to give to a ten year old. Which is actually great for when my daughters get a bit older, but the lack of anything even mildly suggestive felt like a big gaping omission to me.Perfect Musical Pairing
Joshua Radin – The Fear You Won’t Fall
This sugary sweet song is not something that I like to listen to all the time, but it’s a definite comfort food song for me. This is a song about falling harder than you thought you could for someone, who may or may not love you back.4/5 Stars
Plain KateAuthor: Erin BowPublication Date: 9/1/10Publisher: Arthur A. LevineBlurb (GR): The drizzle had broken into patches as they walked. As Drina scooped up the pale sand, Kate found herself standing in the smudge of shadow cast by the deadfall. She had never before noticed the way shadows gave things weight, made them look heavy and real and connected to the ground. Without hers...
She edged into the light.
Her shadow looked strange and thinned. It seemed not cast against the ground, but floating above it, like a fog. What Linay had said was true: No one would notice this, at first. It was just an uneasy little change, like the half-felt movement of a boat that slowly induces a great sickness.
Plain Kate lives in a world of superstitions and curses, where a song can heal a wound and a shadow can work deep magic. As the wood-carver's daughter, Kate held a carving knife before a spoon, and her wooden talismans are so fine that some even call her “witch-blade”: a dangerous nickname in a country where witches are hunted and burned in the square.
For Kate and her village have fallen on hard times. Kate’s father has died, leaving her alone in the world. And a mysterious fog now covers the countryside, ruining crops and spreading fear of hunger and sickness. The townspeople are looking for someone to blame, and their eyes have fallen on Kate.
Enter Linay, a stranger with a proposition: In exchange for her shadow, he’ll give Kate the means to escape the angry town, and what’s more, he’ll grant her heart’s wish. It’s a chance for her to start over, to find a home, a family, a place to belong. But Kate soon realizes she can't live shadowless forever -- and that Linay's designs are darker than she ever dreamed .Review:
I cannot believe this is Erin Bow
's first novel. In the acknowledgments she mentions that she worked on this book for six years--it shows. From the first page, the author drops you into the story and there honestly was no drag throughout the entire book. We are introduced to Kate and her father, both woodcarvers who live in Similae. The surrounding communities have been plagued with death, torrential rains, and crop damage and the people of Kate's town, as well as other towns, are on the lookout for witches who could be causing the troubles. After Kate's father passes away, she is left quite alone in the world. This book follows her in her journey to survive and, geez, does Kate have it rough.
The ease and accessibility of reading this book, as well as Kate's age indicate that this is more of a middle reader book. However, the themes of this book are very dark--murder, hanging witches, raising the dead. death. dying. just tons of dying. *sigh* But Kate is one of the most upbeat and scrappy characters I've ever read. She stands up for herself and is loyal to her friends. Speaking of friends, Kate has a speaking cat, Taggle, who is a total highlight of this work. He is hilarious and their friendship seems more realistic than many human friendships I've read as of late. There is really no romance to speak of and I'm glad of it--it would feel inappropriate in this case and the story supports itself without a romantic element.
Erin Bow's writing style is lovely--informative and descriptive without bogging the story down. (like when you think about reading Tolkien and then decide that you'd like to actually get somewhere on the journey instead of reading a description of a mossy rock for a whole page. Fine, you caught me, I'm exaggerating, but you get my point!) I will definitely read anything she writes in the future. I hope she makes the jump up to YA or even to adult fantasy. 4/5 stars
Author: Marissa Meyer
Publication Date: 1/3/12
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. . . .
Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.Review:
Let me first give credit where credit is due. A cyborg Cinderella
? Wow! It's a bold premise. I applaud Marissa Meyer
for thinking this up.
In this re-envisioning of the fairy tale, Lihn Cinder is a cyborg, meaning, she is almost half mechanical - she has prosthetic hands and a foot, a big chunk of her internal organs are wired into her body. Cinder is a mechanic in New Beijing, the capital of the Eastern Commonwealth, a country ravaged by plague outbreaks. One day, the heir to the throne of the Commonwealth, Prince Kai, steps into Cinder's shop to get his android fixed, and everything changes for Cinder. She falls in love, she becomes a center of multiple intrigues, she discovers her own well hidden (even from her) secrets.
As much as I appreciate an author willing to think outside the box, I am afraid in this case Marissa Meyer
bit off more than she could chew. The world of Cinder
is very imaginative and full of potential. New Beijing, royalty, plague, cyborg falling in love, a war with the Lunar (Moon) Empire. I mean, just think about the possibilities here. Too bad, these possibilities are never explored to their best advantage.
Let's take Cinder, for example. She is almost half robot, there is stuff wired into her brain and body. Is she a human? Does she have artificial intelligence? Does she think of herself as human? How can she love? Are her emotions real or programmed? None of this is explained with any kind of depth. I compare this book to The Adoration of Jenna Fox
, and Cinder
How about the setting? New Beijing! Futuristic China! Is there any Chinese flavor in this story? Any infusion of Eastern cultures, customs? Not really.
Ok, maybe there is something to this Lunar business then? Who or what are these Lunar people? How did they get there? How do they live on the Moon? Why exactly are they at war with Earth? I still have no clue.
My general impression after finishing Cinder
is that every good idea in this story is developed very superficially. It's like Cinder
is... Ship Breaker
's ugly cousin. What Paolo Bacigalupi
managed to do in his fairly short book with great depth - the world ruined by environmental changes, genetically altered human beings, poverty - is all done here, but in the most shallow way, as if the author was determined to keep the plot moving at a break-neck pace, afraid that any paragraph spent on layering the world or characters' personalities would bore readers.
There is still some entertainments value in Cinder
, and I did get all the way through it to find out how the story would unfold. (BTW, you can predict the novel's outcome at about page 50 and it all ends with a cliffhanger.) But the novel fails miserably at being thought-provoking, challenging or truly engaging, even though the ideas are all there. Squandered potential. 2/5 stars
Lips Touch: Three Time
Author: Laini Taylor
Publication Date: 10/1/09
Three tales of supernatural love, each pivoting on a kiss that is no mere kiss, but an action with profound consequences for the kissers' souls:
Goblin Fruit: In Victorian times, goblin men had only to offer young girls sumptuous fruits to tempt them to sell their souls. But what does it take to tempt today's savvy girls?
Spicy Little Curses: A demon and the ambassador to Hell tussle over the soul of a beautiful English girl in India. Matters become complicated when she falls in love and decides to test her curse.
Hatchling: Six days before Esme's fourteenth birthday, her left eye turns from brown to blue. She little suspects what the change heralds, but her small safe life begins to unravel at once. What does the beautiful, fanged man want with her, and how is her fate connected to a mysterious race of demons?Review:
I am familiar with YA literature enough to know how horribly, horribly wrong a collection of short stories about kissing can go (see, for example, The Eternal Kiss: 13 Vampire Tales of Blood and Desire
and Kisses from Hell
). Let me tell you, "Lips Touch" is not that
kind of book. This book is simply magical.
Laini Taylor grabs your attention with the first lines: There is a certain kind of girl the goblins crave. You could walk across a high school campus and point them out: not her, not her, her. The pert, lovely ones with butterfly tattoos in secret places, sitting on their boyfriends' laps? No, not them. The girls watching the lovely ones sitting on their boyfriends' laps? Yes. Them. The goblins want girls who dream so hard about being pretty their yearning leaves a palpable trail, a scent goblin can follow like sharks on a soft bloom of blood. The girls with hungry eyes who pray each night to wake up as someone else. Urgent, unkissed, wishful girls. Like Kizzy.
How can you possibly resist this gorgeous writing? I know I couldn't.
The book consists of 3 stories, or rather, fairy tales based on Irish, Hindu, and Zoroastrian folklore. Each tale is about a kiss, the kind of kiss that changes lives, turns the world upside down, a kiss that can kill or bring you back to life.
The writing is superb, the descriptions are gorgeous and the mythologies Laini creates are unique and enchanting. There is passion and love and tenderness in these stories. I remember shivering and smiling at the end of each one.
The book is also beautifully illustrated. The fairy tales are preceded by short graphic stories which do not reveal the content on the tales themselves, but serve as sort of pre-stories whose details are revealed in the main tales.
My only complaint about "Lips Touch" is that there isn't more, otherwise the fairy tales are irresistible and delicious as the kisses they are about. This book is definitely one of the best I've read this year so far.5/5 stars