Sunday, November 28, 2010

Murder at Midnight by Avi

Fabrizio is an orphan boy who has just been taken into the home of Mangus the Magician and his wife, Mistress Sophia.  While Sophia has become attached to the boy, Mangus thinks ill of Fabrizio and wants him to go.  When Mistress Sophia leaves to see her ill sister, she asks Fabrizio to try to win a place in the old magician's heart so that he can always live with them.  Fabrizio prepares himself to perform the tasks needed and to do his best so his master will love him.  Fabrizio goes to his master's next magic show; however, it is overshadowed by a man in a black cloak approaching him to warn him that his master is in danger.  Knowing that real magic is outlawed in Pergamontio, Fabrizio is worried about his master's safety.  However, when Pergamontio's Primo Magistrato comes to their door, accusing Mangus of publishing papers that spoke against the king, magically, Fabrizio's worry has only just begun.

I'm not impressed.
I'm not even a bit excited about this book.  After about 175 pages, I began skimming, hoping it would end well.
I was quite disappointed.
Avi has always been a wonderful author.  My favorite of his is The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, but he has written others such as Poppy, Ragweed, and The End of the Beginning.  However, it was the mastery and cleverness of Midnight Magic that made me want to read this book.  Midnight Magic is about Mangus and Fabrizio, but can be read as a prequal, sequal, or stand-alone book next to Muder at Midnight.  Midnight Magic was full of complicated mysteries, great twists and believable characters.  Murder at Midnight held a mystery that can easily be explained, nothing to look forward to, and flat characters.  I was surprised and bummed that it wasn't better, especially after such great experiences with Avi's works of art.
But don't let this review stop you from reading Avi's other fantastic books.  Enjoy them, relish them, and let them inspire you.  Get caught up in the magic of his stories.  I can only hope he hasn't lost his charm for the future...

Thursday, November 25, 2010

North and South, Quotes

I love the imagery in this paragraph.

Margaret went along the walk under the pear tree wall. She had never been along it since she paced it at Henry Lennox's side. Here, at this bed of thyme, he began to speak of what she must not think now. Her eyes were on that late-blowing rose as she was trying to answer: and she had caught the idea of the vivid beauty of the feathery leaves of the carrots in the very middle of his last sentence. Only a fortnight ago! And all so changed! Where was he now? In London - doing through the old round; dining with the old Harley Street set, or with gayer young friends of his own. Even now, while she walked, sadly through that damp and drear garden in the dusk, with everything falling and fading, and turning to decay around her, he might be gladly putting away his law-books after a day of satisfactory toil, by a run in the Temple Gardens, taking in the while the grandinarticulate mighty roar of tens of thousands of busy men, nigh at hand, but not seen, and catching ever, at his quick turns, glimpses of the lights of the city coming up out of the depths of the river. He had often spoken to Margaret of these hasty walks, snatched in the intervals between study and dinner. At his best times and in his best moods had he spoken of them; and the thought of them had struck upon her fancy. Here there was no sound. The robin had gone away into the vast stillness of night. Now and then, a cottage door in the distance was opened and shut, as if to admit the tired labourer to his home; but the sound among the crisp fallen leaves of the forest, beyond the garden, seemed almost close at hand. Margaret knew it was some poacher. Sitting up in her bedroom this past autumn, with the light of her candle extinguished, and purely revelling in the solemn beauty of the heavens and the earth, se had many a time seen the light noiseless leap of the poachers over the garden fence, their quick tramp across the dewy moonlit lawn, their disappearance in the black still shadow beyond. The wild adventurous freedom of their life had taken her fancy; she felt inclined to wish them success; she had no fear of them. But tonight she was afraid, she knew not why. She heard Charlotte shutting the windows, and fastening up for the night, unconscious that anyone had gone out into the garden. A small branch - it might be of rotten wood, or it might be broken by force - came heavily down in the nearest part of the forest; Margaret ran, swift as Camilla, down the window, and rapped at it with a hurrie tremulousness which startled Charlotte within.

- North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
Chapter 6, Pages 62-63

I love this book. :)

The Bad Queen: Rules and Instructions fo Marie-Antoinette by Carolyn Meyer

I learned a lot from this book.  About history, about the personal life of Marie-Antoinette, about human nature.  There were so many facts, so many interesting ideas and concepts.  So many statements that could have been true, so many affairs that might not have been true.  Marie-Antoinette and her story are one big puzzle - one that will always be difficult to solve and sort through.  (And one that will always be worth it in the end.)  No one can know which facts are true and which are not; many have been deemed false.  The most famous of Marie-Antoinette's quotes - "Let them eat cake!" - has been studied by many historians over time and most agree that is was one of the (many) lies told about her.

Marie-Antoinette was raised in Austria until she was fifteen years old, where she grew up the youngest of fifteen children.  Most had been married long before, and now was time to watch the last few sisters and brothers leave and marry the man or woman who would best protect the Austrian throne.  Antonia, as she was called in Austria, is to be married off to the dauphin of France - the next in line to the French throne.  With all the work to do to get Antonia presentable to her future husband, Antonia has no time - nor the desire - to think about what lies ahead.
When she is ready to be married, Marie-Antoinette is sent to France, where she begins her life as the dauphine of France.  But what she finds there is not what she was expecting.  At first life is rocky - adjusting to the new rules, such as wearing stays and no riding horses, and learning who it "looks good" to talk to and who it doesn't.  Then it is smooth - as soon as she gets a hang of French life, no matter how much she dislikes it, Marie-Antoinette begins to live life like she believed she was entitled to as queen of France.  She builds theaters, designs lavish gardens, makes beautiful dresses and order the most expensive of jewels.  She commits herself to gambling, wasting her husband's money away for the sake of a desire that could not be quelled.

This is only the beginning - the beginning of her downfall.  While she trying to build herself up, Marie-Antoinette only paves the way for a major failure.  After falling in love with Count Axel von Fersen but staying faithful to her husband (or so this book claims), the country begins to decline.  The people of France are poor, they have no bread, and they blame it on the gambling, wasteful queen, Marie-Antoinette.  The rumor on the streets is that when asked what to do with the poor, starving French men and women at the gates of Verseilles, the bad queen answered, "Let them eat cake!"  The people are furious, enraged, and they are going to have vengeance.

The story does not end happily.  If you are looking for sappy romance with an ending that makes everyone warm and fuzzy inside, not read this book.  However, I highly recommend it.  For those of you who like historical novels, this is a treat.  And for those of you who dislike historical novels but like romance, adventure, and intrigue, this is a treat.  The only thing that I would say against this book is that it is probably not a young man's first pick...but that's ok.  Not every book is.  And this book, while being excellently written and planned out, is not for young readers.  Marie-Antoinette's life is very PG-13...from the things she did to the things that people said she did to the things that happened to her.  Not only is this book fairly violent (more than I was expecting, that's for sure), but it holds some mild sexual comments and issues that should be considered.  Marie-Antoinette's married life and court life mostly revolved around the fact that her husband would not visit her bed, and how she didn't become pregnant until she'd been married for around seven years.  Her husband's lack of desire and actual fear of "the act" (as it is called) is often discussed; and Marie-Antoinette's almost-affair with Count Fersen is touched up on a bit.  Menstrual cycles and other couples' happiness in marriage (or unhappiness, for that matter) are alluded to.  These topics are crucial to the story and the facts of Marie-Antoinette's life, and Meyers handles them with great care.  However, because they are more mature topics, I think this book is geared toward teens fifteen and older.

If I could sum up this entire book in one word, I'd choose the word chilling.  It was excellent, but it made my heart race and goosebumps form on my arms.  Especially the end.  I couldn't believe the incredible ability with which Carolyn Meyers relates the last few years of Marie-Antoinette's life.  It was cold, depressing, and full of sorrow.  It really happened.  The life of this bad queen was not meant to end happy, and the way Carolyn Meyers portrays it is so realistic that I cannot help but believe that this is almost exactly how the queen of France and her family must have felt as she and her husband faced their deaths at the dreaded Madame la Guillotine.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

...And I'm back already

Since that last post I've made a trip to the book store.

It was eventful.

As usual.

My sister bought The Museum Thieves by Lian Tanner
I bought The Clockwork Three by Matthew J. Kirby

VERY excited about both of them!!

And since then I've read more of Murder at Midnight.  Not my favorite...I may put it down and read one of my new books or Hood.  It's just not worth my time when I want to be reading things that will stay consistent and always inspiring.  Ugh...

Anyways.  I will have my next review out hopefully tomorrow or Friday... Maybe even tonight.  The Bad Queen = very good book. :)

Happy reading!

Update for the end of November

I've been reading, but at the same time I haven't.  I took a break from North and South to read The Bad Queen, but now I am back with North and South and I looooove it.  I am also reading a children's mystery called Muder at Midnight by Avi.  It is good but not amazing.  (Not as good as the first one.  The first one, Midnight Magic, was much better and took me only 8 hours to read, during a road trip.)

In any case, I'm reading more now that I'm on break for Thanksgiving.  I have a few books from the library that I hope to read soon.  Some of them I picked up just because they were there - it may take me a couple of weeks to get around to them, especially with some books I have on my shelf that I haven't read or what to re-read.

Found by Margaret Peterson Haddix;
Dark Life by Kat Falls;
A Kiss in Time by Alex Flinn.

All look good, but I may end up only reading one.  Or none.

The one book I have that I really want to read at the moment is Hood by Stephen Lawhead.  My re-reads include The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles by Julie Andrews Edwards.  And I have probably 6 books on hold at the library.  Some will take a while to come in but eventually...

And that is my update.  However, don't count on everything turning out just the way I've written it.  The other day I had two reading moments:  one, I was wanting to read the three books I brought home from the library; the next, I was wanting to read the book on my shelf.  I never know what I'm actually going to read until I open it and get sucked in.  If I don't right away, I put it down and make a promise to try again later.
It's just my mood today, I tell myself.  I'll be sure to read it eventually...

Sigh.  If only there was enough time to actually read all these wonderful stories.  They're so inviting and warm and inspiring.  Someday, I'll have a book of my own out there.  Glorious, thinking about it.

Until my next review, The Bad Queen by Carolyn Meyer...

Happy Reading and Happy Thanksgiving! :)

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Bad Queen, Quotes

"Madame, you have given us a fine dauphine!" said my husband, who had stayed by my side.
I turned my head away.  So it was a girl after all.  I knew that everyone was disappointed, especially Louis.  But I was not.  A son would have belonged to France; he'd have been taken away from me immediately to be raised in the traditional manner.  But a daughter - a daughter was different.  I could bring her up as I liked, in a completely natural way.
When the newborn infant was swaddled and laid in my arms, I whispered fervently into her tiny pink ear, "My poor little girl, you are certainly not what was so much wanted, but you are no less precious to me because of it.  You shall be mine, and you shall have ht ebest care I can offer you.  I will feed you the milk of my own breasts.  You will share my every happiness and help me to bear every pain."  And then I kissed her downy litle head and allowed her to be carried away by Marie-Louise de Guemene, once my partner in gambling but now appointed the lofty governess to the Children of France.
We named out daughter Marie-Therese-Charlotte, on Mama's orders.  The first girl born to each of my children must be named in my honor, she wrote.
Now all I had to do was to get my strength back and get pregnant again as soon as possible.  The next child would surely be the right kind - a boy, a dauphin.

-- The Bad Queen by Carolyn Meyer
No. 39:  The child must be named in my honor,  pages 228-229

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde

Jack:  A young man with no parents.  Has a ward - the daughter of the man who brought him up.  Is entirely overprotective of her.  Has a made-up brother named Earnest, a troublemaker who never actually existed and is, in fact, Jack.  Is in love with his best friend's cousin, Gwendolyn.
Algernon:  A young man whose parents have died.  Has an aunt and a cousin, Lady Bracknell and the aforesaid Gwendolyn.  Has a made-up friend, Bunbury, and sometimes tours the country in the guise of this Mr. Bunbury.  Falls in love with Jack's ward and decides to meet her as soon as he can - putting aside the fake name of Bunbury and taking on the name of Earnest, stealing Jack's place as Jack's brother.
In this wonderful romantic comedy, nothing is what it seems, and Jack and Algernon must dig their way out of the little mess they've made for themselves so they can marry the women they love.

I read this play for school, but I would easily read it again...maybe, now.  I was super impressed by the hilarity and perfection of this story.  I laughed out loud at the quirky statements that make these characters who they are.  I couldn't help but fall in love with Jack.  I loved the simplicity and lightheartedness.  Without a doubt, this is one of my all time favorite plays.

Using two words that I've already used, this book is "simply hilarious."  I highly recommend it to ages fifteen and up.  The reason for this is because I tried reading it in 9th grade and didn't get it at all.  It makes much more sense now and I laughed so hard at a few statements that I remembered as boring and stupid.  But at the right age, it is definitely worthy and easy read.

Enjoy! :)

I am here.

Here I am.

It's been a very long time.  Three weeks.  Too long.  I have so many things to write, things I need to update.  I've read a lot for school, and a little bit on free time.  I've been busy with drama (which was an incredible experience...being Maria in Sound of Music is a "favorite thing").  But now I have lots of quotes to catch up on, and a few reviews to write.

Now that I have free time again, I am realizing again the amazing feeling of being able to sit and read.  I'm so happy it's Thanksgiving break so I can read read read and enjoy it!

Until my next post....  Happy Reading! :)