Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Books & Authors from My Childhood - Part Three

Little House series

What other books were dearly loved in my childhood? The Little House series - and I'm not just talking about the books that tell about the growing up of Laura Ingalls Wilder, but also about the other girls in her family. To be precise, there are five different series within the Little House. They are:

- Martha Years, four books written by Melissa Wiley
- Charlotte Years, four books written by Melissa Wiley
- Caroline Years, seven books written by  Maria D.Wilkes (#1-4) and Celia Wilkins (#5-7)
- Laura Years, nine books written by Laura Ingalls Wilder
- Rose Years, eight books written by Roger Lea MacBride

There are also other books, such as the Lost Years, a spin-off series, etc. but these are the main books of the series.

The Martha Years is about a girl (Laura's great-grandmother, to be precise) living on the highlands of Scotland. The Charlotte Years is about Martha's daughter living in the United States of America. The Caroline Years tells the story of Laura's mother, the gentle girl who lost her father but gained another. Then, of course, we have the Laura Years - the story of how Laura and her family travelled from one place on the prairie to the next, either being kicked out by the government or by hard times that none of softies (including myself) today would be able to endure. Finally, we have the Rose Years - the story of Laura's daughter growing up in the Ozarks - becoming a young lady quite different than her ancestors would expect.

The stories of these five girls are both interesting to read about and also absolutely lovely. There are moments that will make you laugh or cry, moments that will make you shocked or feel happy inside.

Which of these series is the best? Without a doubt, it is the original books - the Laura Years, written by Laura Ingalls Wilder herself. While the other books are all partly fiction because they are just based on letters, biographies, etc., we know that the events in the Laura books are close to how they really happened. There are some exceptions, as there are to most rules. For example, the age gap between Laura and her husband Almanzo was shortened in the books (except for the last book in the series); I'm guessing it was changed to avoid shock at how large it really was (about ten years). However, the reason of the more accurate information is not my reason for picking the Laura Years as having the best books. It is because of the stories themselves. My mom would agree with me, I'm sure - she loves the Laura books.

Are any of the Little House books disappointing? If there are any, I would name the last book in the Rose series because Rose chooses a path in life that is very different from what I was expecting/hoped.

Alyianna's rating: 9 out 10 (it would be 10 out 10 if I was just looking at the Laura Years)

Sunday, February 24, 2013

My Life in Pink & Green Book Review

My reason for reading this book was to see if it was appropriate for my sister, as she received it as a gift and  neither my dad nor I could find any helpful reviews for it.

Lucy's life isn't going too well. The pharmacy that her family has owned for as long as she can remember may be forced into non-existence because of the larger stores that people shop at, in addition to the bills that her mother cannot find the money to pay. Her mother and grandmother keep getting into fights about what they should do about this problem. Her best friend has her head in the clouds about some boy in their class. If the pharmacy can be saved, it looks like it's up to Lucy to do it. Could her makeovers possibly help?

Surprisingly, I didn't find this book too boring, seeing that this book is meant for girls around the age of twelve. I liked that, even though Lucy is a "makeup genius", she firmly believes (and tells others) that makeup isn't what makes a girl beautiful. Lucy believes that makeup is good because it can make a girl feel more confident about her own beauty, which I found a good message for this book. I also liked how each chapter started with either a business or a makeup tip or quote, which I found both cute and interesting.

There are three elements to this book. One of these is the part about saving the pharmacy. The second is about being "green" and saving the earth, but it wasn't too pushy, so I tolerated it. The third is a mini-romance element. Lucy helps boost her East Indian friend's confidence about a boy that she is crushing on. Then, towards the end of the book, Lucy herself develops a crush on her friend's brother. The romance part wasn't too big and wasn't inappropriate or anything like that (in fact, it was kind of cute), but one has to realize that it is the other element that makes up this book. It isn't teeny-tiny and pretty much nonexistent like some reviews had me believe before I read the book.

Any inappropriateness? There are a couple of times when God's name is used in vain, as in the exclamation that all teens nowadays seem to use (and all of us have heard at one time or another). There also is a mention of Lucy's parents being separated; also of a realtor who wants Lucy's mother to date his son. However, Lucy's mother has no intention of dating this other guy, so I don't think this element is too much of a problem. Another thing for parents to know is that the grade twelve girls who go to Lucy for makeovers call her a "makeup goddess".

All in all, this book wasn't bad. I will give this book a rating of:

Alyianna's rating: 8 out 10

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Movie Review

I am very happy to be writing this review. Why? Well, it means that I've finally been able to watch the first Hobbit movie. It also means that I don't have to feel guilty for reading spoilers. And it means I can start fangirling over some aspect of Middle Earth again. *cough cough*

Before I start, I thought I would just let you know that I have written another Hobbit review/analysis. It's on my blog called Password to Middle Earth, it's full of spoilers, and the link to it will be at the bottom of this post. On the other hand, this post will be as spoiler-free as I can make it; so if you haven't seen the movie yet, you can read away without ruining anything for yourself.

Ready to go? Then let's start!

Film director: Peter Jackson
Running Time: 169 minutes

The first question some of you may have (or at least, I would have) is - is the movie true to the books? I knew coming into the movies that not everything was going to be the same. The question was, how much would be changed?

The answer is, yes, there are some things that Peter Jackson changed that were pretty dumb (at least, according to my dad and I). But there were also some scenes that weren't in the books, but were so much like something that Tolkien would write, it didn't matter. And then, of course, there are plenty of the good 'ole scenes that us fans have laughed and cried over. Peter Jackson is brilliant at adding humour that is very much Tolkien-style, and keeping the old humour, as well.

All in all, I think the movie was very enjoyable. I didn't like The Hobbit as much as I enjoyed the Rings trilogy, but it was still pretty good. Reading the book, I always regarded Bilbo as that odd little hobbit, who goes on an adventure with dwarves...but that still doesn't stop him from making squeaking noises and making a nuisance of himself at times. After watching the movie...let's just say I understand Bilbo a lot more. *wink wink*

If you like humour, adventure, fantasy, tear-jerking moments, or perhaps all of them combined, I definitely recommend The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey to you.

I would not recommend this movie to anyone under 13. The PG-13 rating is not there for nothing, the same as The Lord of the Rings. I have met several people who have told me that no, they don't like The Lord of the Rings because they watched the movie when they were six or seven and were very scared by it. There's no point in ruining a wonderful movie for oneself just because you think you can watch a violent movie when you are young.

Alyianna's rating: 8 out 10 (because of the things changed I didn't like)

An In-depth Analysis of The Hobbit

Spoiler-ish comment: 
(Oh, and by the way, the whole thing of Frodo always calling Bilbo "uncle" is really starting to get on my nerves.)

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Books & Authors From My Childhood - Part Two

Enid Blyton's stories

Enid Blyton was another of my favourite authors as a child. I still have several stacks of her books in my sister's bookshelf (because I don't have space in mine :P).

"Wait a second..." you say. "Stacks of books by Enid Blyton? How long did she live?!" For your information, she was around seventy when she did, writing about eight hundred books in forty years. "Woah..." you reply. Yeah, exactly!

If I were to categorize all of Enid's books that I have read, there would be several different groups. I will summarize each category below.

The Fantasy Books
Enid's fantasy books have some whimsicial charm about them. Two series I distinctly recall are The Wishing-Chair series and The Magic Faraway Tree series. In the first book of the former series, The Wishing Chair, Molly and Peter go into an antique shop to find a gift for their mother. Here they come across, entirely by accident, a chair that can grow little wings and fly! In the rest of this book, and in the others, Molly and Peter go on many adventures with the wishing chair, including the rescue of a pixie from a giant who can't do math. This series is innocently fun and has good values, such as shown by what happens to a boy who makes rude faces. (I'll keep you in suspense on that one. ;))

The Farway Tree series - Jo, Bessie, and Fanny move to a new house near a forest. In this forest they discover the magic Farway Tree, which reaches up so high that its topmost braches are in the clouds. Here, the three siblings meet several strange and wonderful creatures, such as Moon-Face (who does have the face of a moon, just so you know), Silky the fairy, Mr. Whatzisname, and Dame Washalot. They also discover that if they climb the tree, they will find a land at the top of this tree. The lands at the top of this tree change, sometimes being very pleasant, sometimes very nasty. There also is a trick to this tree-climbing and land-exploring...if one doesn't get out of the land before it changes, that unfortunate person will be stuck there until the land moves back to the Farway Tree. This series also has good values (as do all of Enid Blyton's books that I have read EXCEPT for her boarding school books, as you shall read below).

Enid Blyton's very best fantasy book (and probably the best book she ever wrote) is The Land of Far-Beyond, a book like the Pilgrim's Progress.

Alyianna's rating: 8.5 out of 10

The Boarding School Books
The only disappointments when it comes to Enid Blyton's books is her boarding school stories. The stories as themselves are good, but the characters (usually girls) aren't exactly the type that I would want my own children someday be friends with. For example, take the girls of Enid Blyton's St. Clare's series. While the girls themselves claim that they are so honourable and just and are horified at people who "tattle tale", the girls are very cruel when it comes to people who they believe are stuck-up and need to be taught a lesson (there is always one such girl who is stuck-up in every book in the series). In most cases, the girls who give the other a bad time are displayed to be in the right. I find a big problem with this being shown as good. Bullying is NOT right. The girls also like to play tricks on teachers (which I do have to admit are funny even though the girls are being cruel) and hold midnight feasts to celebrate birthdays (which are not allowed).

The Mallory Towers series is a little better. The girls still play tricks on teachers and hold midnight feasts, but the bullying isn't as prevalent as in the St. Clare's series. There are some good values, such as the main character, Darell, learning to control her temper, and Alicia, the class clown, learning the importance of putting some effort in school and sports.

The quality of writing also falls in this category of Enid's books. This is due to the cliches that Enid herself makes - almost every single book in her boarding school series has the "good girls", the spoiled brat and outcast, a class clown who leads the tricks on teachers (usually the French teacher), and one midnight feast. These stories can get a little boring with this set template used every time. I didn't find this so uninteresting when I was a kid. :)

Alyianna's rating: 7.5 out of 10

The Mystery Books
If you have never heard of the Famous Five or the Secret Seven series, I feel very sorry for you. Children's mysteries is really the genre where Enid shines. As you can probably already guess, the Famous Five is about a group of five children (all cousins), and the same for the Secret Seven (except it's about seven children, obviously). The Famous Five series is the best of all of Enid Blyton's series, but the Secret Seven is also up there. These aren't Enid Blyton's only mystery series, though; I also remember the Five Find-Outers, the Adventure Series, the Secret Series, and the Barney Mystery series as being very good, as well.

From the TV show of Famous Five

Alyianna's rating: 9 out of 10

Books for Younger Children
Enid Blyton has also written books for younger children, including some books of short stories for young children. The stories are cute and good for children.

Alyianna's rating: 8 out of 10

Here is a website where you can find all about Enid Blyton and her books. :)
Enid Blyton Society

Until next time!
- Alyianna

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Books & Authors from my Childhood - Part One

Kit Pearson's Guests of War trilogy

This trilogy contains three of the most-loved books of my childhood. Part of the reason is that I loved (and still) love reading about the War, the other part being that I loved Kit Pearson's stories. Besides The Lord of the Rings, this is the one other book (let's just count it as one book for the moment) that I've read so many times that I've lost count.

In the first book, The Sky Is Falling, we are introduced to the main character, ten-year-old Norah. She lives with her Mum, Dad, and little brother Gavin. Children from her village have already started being evacuated, but Norah believes that her parents would never do that to her. However, her hopes are dashed, and she and Gavin are packed off to stay in Canada. The situation is worsened by who Norah and Gavin have two stay with - two older ladies, one being sweet and understanding, the other bossy and quite the other way around, insisting that the two siblings call her Aunt Florence. Even worse, Gavin seems to adjust to his new life right away when all Norah wants is for the war to be over so that she can go home.

The second book, Looking at the Moon, continues with Norah's story. Norah is now thirteen, somewhat adjusted with her new life, and ready for a fun-filled summer at the Olgvie's family island. However, things seem to take a turn for the worse when all of her new girl "cousins" can seem to ever think or talk about is love. But then Norah herself is introduced to this new world of puberty and first love.

Three years later, we return to this continuing story with The Lights Go On Again (the title alluding to the end of the war when there were no more black-outs). However, we have a new main character - Gavin - and he's certainly got problems, and that's even ignoring the fact of the school bully. His grandfather, who Gavin does not even remember, suddenly turns up and wants to take Norah and Gavin home. Aunt Florence, however, is ready to bribe in any way to keep her darling Gavin with her. Gavin will have to make a choice between his new family and his old - a choice that will decide his future.

These three books are completely appropriate. They have good values, such as as the consequences of disobedience (The Sky Is Falling) and lying (The Lights Go On Again). These are great historical fiction books for kids (and may I hint that older kids may like them, too?). I would give these books to any kid from around the age of 10 and older. Eight and nine are probably okay to read these, too, as long as you're fine with your kids reading about girl puberty stuff in the second book and a small amount of romance in books two and three.

Alyianna's rating: 9 out 10