Category Archives: Book Recommendation

Being Rich can be a Dangerous Occupation

Book Stats: The Pale Assassin

Author: Patricia Elliott

Age group: 14-17

Best Place to Buy: Barnesandnoble.com

Length: 336 pages

Rating: 7 out of 10

I read this book over the summer and while I was in the campus bookstore today I saw it again. I decided to write a post about it. We have all heard of the French Revolution but we rarely get to see it from the point of view of a teenage girl. At least, this is the first time I have read a book from this perspective.

Summary: Eugenie de Boncoeur is a spoiled young aristocrat in living in Paris. She is looked over by her guardian and her older brother, Armand. Months before her sixteenth birthday she finds out she has been betrothed to Le Fantome, a creepy man, and will marry him after her birthday. Little does she know that she will be marrying the man who killed her father years before.

Her upcoming marriage is small beans compared to the unrest among the Paris proletariat (service people). It isn’t long before one protest turns into a government overthrow. The poor French are angry at anyone that represents wealth. Aristocrats, whether guilty or not, are soon the target of radical revolutionists. It becomes unsafe for Eugenie to stay in Paris as herself.

For a short time her brother finds her places to hide, with kind friends who take her in. She is often confined to the homes of these people and soon her adventurous spirit brings her to escape. In the meantime La Fantome has grown worried that his bargain for Eugenie will not be honored. When Eugenie goes out one of his spies sees her and reports back to him. It is not long before it becomes clear that if La Fantome cannot have her, now, no one will, ever.

Not only does Eugenie fear for her life from the French revolutionaries, growing more dangerous every day, she now has to worry about staying out of the hands of La Fantome. This is a story of danger, intrigue, revolution and even a little romance. Eugenie has to deal, not only with the normal pressures of teen years but also political unrest and avoiding an unwanted, and persistent, suitor.

Reason for the rating: While I enjoyed this book to some degree, I found it hard to connect to the pompous Eugenie. I felt more connected with the people who took her in than to her. I felt for her, of course, but I didn’t get as into the book as I usually do. The plot is potentially suspenseful but often disappoints.

This is the first book I have read by Patricia Elliott and I am reserving judgment on her writing until I read more. I will probably read the sequel to this book but I might not buy it. Her other books appear to be more in the realm of fantasy than historic fiction. Once I have read some of that I will see if I think she should stick to one genre. It can be hard to go outside your comfort zone.

Recommendation: I would still recommend this book, but it might be a good idea to read it before deciding whether or not to buy it. This may be a good way to help teens get interested in the French Revolution and the events that led up to it.

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Harnessing the Dragon Within

Book Stats: Eon

Author: Alison Goodman

Age group: 15-19

Best place to buy: Barnesandnoble.com

Length: 544 pages

Rating: 9 out of 10

So, I lied, I finished one last book before finals week really started. I couldn’t help it, it was impossible to put down. It was all I could think about and I knew I had to finish it before I got any real work done. I can hardly wait for the sequel to come out in April.

Summary: Eon by Alison Goodman is a long book, but a fast read. Eon is a candidate to become a Dragoneye apprentice and eventually a Dragoneye. Dragoneyes have a connection to the twelve energy dragons that control their own point of the compass and each have their own year of increased power. The energy dragons help to keep balance in the land and bring good fortune to the people. Candidates are boys born in the year of the dragon they hope to connect with. They undergo training before the New Year celebration, during which the dragon chooses the next apprentice.

Eon is unlike the other candidates, not just because of a crippled hip. Eon is really Eona, a sixteen year old girl masquerading as a boy because girls are not allowed to use dragon magic, something she already shows an affinity for. Her master, a former Dragoneye, has placed all his fortune and hope on her being chosen by the Rat Dragon.

Eon must struggle to hide her secret; if found it would result in her death. This becomes harder as she is thrown into a fight for the empire, the Dragoneye way of life and her identity. Will she have the bravery to own her true identity? Pick up this must read to find out.

Reasons for the rating: As I mentioned earlier, I found this book hard to put down. From page one I was hooked and wanted to know more about this girl desperately trying to make it in a man’s field, as a man. I think one reason I liked this book was how it reminded me of Tamora Pierce’s series, Song of the Lioness. The main character in that series starts out taking her brother’s place in training to become a knight, hiding her feminine identity. It also interested me to see a quote from Pierce, saying how much she liked it, on the front of the book. I really enjoyed Pierce’s books when I was younger and I was interested to see a book endorsed so enthusiastically by her. Eon has a voice reminiscent of Pierce’s earlier books while still holding its own.

This book has elements very reminiscent of Chinese culture. Where Pierce bases her books in the time of knights in the medieval period; Goodman bases hers in the dynasty age of ancient China.  Goodman takes the Chinese calendar and uses the concept of the twelve animals to represent the energy dragons of the story. The empire and palace are quite like something one would find in the dynasty age of China, complete with a guarded harem, eunuchs and extravagant design. It is obvious a great deal of research went into this book but she finds a balance between description and plot movement.

Recommendation: I would recommend this book to older teens and young adults. There are some mature parts in the book that I know most moms wouldn’t want their 12-year-old reading. Also, given the length, older teens tend to have a slightly longer attention span. This is a great way to learn a little more about an ancient culture (of course much is fictional) and enjoy a great plot at the same time. Fans of Tamora Pierce and new readers alike will love this book. I can see myself reading more by Alison Goodman and going back to my favorites of Tamora Pierce.

*Note: This book is apparently known under three other names; Eon: Dragoneye Reborn; Eon: Rise of the Dragoneye and The Two Pearls of Wisdom

Elizabethan England with a Magical Twist

Book Stats: Snow White and Rose Red

Author: Patricia Wrede

Age group: 15-17

Best place to buy: BarnesandNoble.com ($8.09)

Length: 288

Rating: 8 out of 10

Duh Duh Da! I read book number 4. Actually I finished it last week but this week is the week before finals, when all the big projects are due. I’ve been focusing on that, but now it’s crunch time because I still need to have 20 posts by next Thursday. Sorry, but next time we will be back to books I read before this semester until after finals when I will have time to read again. We’ll get through this together.

Summary: Snow White and Rose Red, written by Patricia Wrede, is another classic fairy-tale retold in an imaginative way. The widow and her two daughters live outside their village at the edge of the woods. The widow is an herbalist and she uses her daughters, Blanche and Rosamunde to gather the herbs.

Within the woods lies the border of Fairy, the magical world where fairies dwell.  The Fairy Queen’s two sons, John and Hugh, are half mortal but John feels more connection with the mortal world than Hugh. The daughters gather some herbs from Fairy for their special properties.

Two local wizards use All Hallows Eve to conduct a spell on fairy, affecting one of the fairy brothers. The other brother searches desperately for a cure for the spell that turned his brother into a bear and stole his fairy powers.

The Bear, forgetting his new form, comes to the door of the widow’s cabin. With their experience with Fairy, the widow and her daughters allow the strangely intelligent bear to spend the evenings in their home, warm while winter swarms outside.

The Widow reveals that she knows some witchcraft, the benevolent kind, spurring her and her daughters to work to find a cure for the bear themselves. They unknowingly pit themselves against the wizards who cast the original spell.

Finding a cure turns out to be too much for this humble witch and her daughters. They must face failure, unexpected collaborations and even fairy interference. Will they ever help the bear return to his original form and find their way to the fairy-tale ending? You will have to read it to find out.

Reasons for the Rating: This book was a good escape for me from homework into a land of fantasy. It was interesting to have this tale set in Elizabethan England, a time that usually reminds me of Shakespeare. Patricia Wrede definitely did her homework about the time period, even using period dialog.

The story is imaginative and detailed, down to the herbs used for the spells. That may be a hindrance in some ways, making the plot move slowly and taking more time to read. Once I edited a manuscript with a scene that included desert snakes in a pit. Little detail was given, yet when I verified the facts, the writer was right on. In other words, writers should do the research but they don’t have to share every little detail with the reader.

Outside of that flaw I enjoyed the book. I tend to enjoy Patricia Wrede and her writing style. We all go overboard sometimes, right? One small problem does not ruin a book. Besides, I might just be a bit impatient.

Recommendation: I would recommend this book to both young adult readers and even some older ones. I think everyone can enjoy a good fairy tale once and a while. So, go out, read a fairy tale, escape the world, and enjoy a happy ending. Maybe it will melt some of the stress away.

Assassins, Betrayal and a Splash of Romance

Book Stats: Aurelia

Author: Anne Osterlund

Age group: 14-18

Where to buy: Amazon.com or BarnesandNoble.com

Length: 246

Rating: 7 out of 10

My third choice of book was inspired by a viewing of a fairy tale movie that came out in theaters this last week. I wanted a princess story and lucky for me I had already bought one in my shopping spree.

Aurelia is the willful and outspoken crown princess of Tyralt. While she worries about an itchy ankle at her sister’s coming out party something much more sinister goes on behind the scenes. The body of Aurelia’s taster is quietly taken away, another assassination attempt kept from the princess.

The next day the son of the king’s former spy master returns to the palace to investigate the attempts on her life. Robert once went to school with Aurelia in the palace and easily renews their friendship. Most importantly he is determined to protect her and discover who is behind the plot on her life.

Soon he is forced to tell her of the danger just to get her to stop foolishly putting her life in danger. Yet even with her help will he be able to discover the culprit before it is too late?

Betrayal comes from the most unexpected places in Anne Osterlund’s first novel. The plot will keep you guessing even as a tentative romance develops between Aurelia and Robert.

I enjoyed this book for the most part. Osterlund shows her story telling abilities well in this novel, weaving a mystery that does not reveal itself until the last moment. The romance felt a bit forced to me and the changing perspectives between Robert and Aurelia was sometimes confusing.

The part that probably bothered me the most was Aurelia’s habit of running away when something bothered her. Everything from an unintentional insult to an unexpected kiss sends her running. I wished to see her grow up a bit more in the course of the book.

Thank goodness Osterlund wrote a sequel, to come out in April of next year. Otherwise I would want to toss the book at a wall for the way it left so many questions unanswered.

It is an interesting coming of age story with a good mix of mystery, intrigue and romance. Aurelia sees more and more in the story how she would like to lead her country and how tradition can sometimes stand in the way of progress. She grows some but I am interested to see how she will grow in the sequel to come. I’ll have to let you know how I feel after I have a chance to read it.

Until then I would still recommend this book. I think many young readers can enjoy the writing style of Osterlund and her development of the plot. By April I hope to not be the only person awaiting the publication of the sequel: Exile.

Move Over Mr. Darcy, Here Comes Captain Williams

Book Stats: I Was Jane Austen’s Best Friend

Author: Cora Harrison

Age group:14-18 (or older)

Where to buy: Amazon.com or BarnesandNoble.com

Length: 342

Rating: 7 out of 10

Book number two of six has been read. I decided to read I was Jane Austen’s Best Friend by Cora Harrison next, partially to get in the spirit for the Jane Austen Yule Ball Saturday next. (That’s Austen speak for the Saturday after this one.)

I have long loved Jane Austen’s works and the movie adaptations. What girl doesn’t love an old fashioned romance? Obviously Cora Harrison is a fan herself; it was the inspiration for writing this book.

Not much is known about Jane Austen’s teenage years, only clippings of her writings from that time and details of a few key events. One such event was an illness she suffered while at boarding school in Southampton. Her courageous cousin Jane Cooper (changed to Jenny in the book for clarity’s sake) went against the orders of the headmaster to tell Mrs. Austen of Jane’s illness. Without the intervention of her mother, it is believed, Jane could have died from this illness.

In the book Jenny is not just disobeying orders but goes out past midnight to deliver the letter to the post. In her adventures on the street she meets a dashing young captain by the name of Thomas Williams. He escorts her to the post and back, keeping her safe from the riffraff that roam the streets that time of night.

For the rest of the book a horrible fear plagues Jenny, if her midnight adventure were to be discovered her reputation would be ruined. Yet even with this fear she enjoys many of the exciting opportunities chronicled in Austen’s books.

Jenny and Jane share a room and gossip over their pillows. They go to balls, choose new dresses and wonder which men will take an interest in them. Many of the people and events in this book are true to actual history, including Captain Williams, who comes back later in the book.

While the book was sometimes a little slow moving I found it quite enjoyable. It added a modern flair to Austen’s style of writing. I personally think all of Jane Austen’s books take a bit of time to get to the exciting things so in that regard Cora Harrison had it spot on.

This book would make a great introduction for teen girls into the world of Jane Austen. It explains some of the customs and attitudes of the time which would make understanding Jane Austen easier. I would still recommend it to older teens though, mostly because younger teens might not understand the obsession with marriage that was so ever present at that time. Mature young teenagers may also be able to handle it.

Cora Harrison has produced a work about real people in a slightly fictional situation, written in a way that Jane Austen could be proud of. Austenites and regular folks alike can enjoy this book. I know I did.

Frozen in an Internal War

Book Stats: Wintergirls

Author: Laurie Halse Anderson

Age group: 12-20

Where to buy: Amazon.com or BarnesandNoble.com

Length: 278 pages

Rating: 9 out of 10

The first book I chose to read out of my six book shopping spree was Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson. Anderson continues her great work of bringing important but often sensitive subjects to a wide audience. She has a gift for making these subjects something that everyone can relate to, even if they have never gone through it.

The subject of this book is one every young girl should know about, eating disorders. Eating disorders are very hard to explain to people who have not been through it or known someone who has. There are many misconceptions and snap judgments made about people with these disorders.

Lia is an 18 year old girl struggling with anorexia. The book opens as she finds out about the death of her best friend, Cassie, who died due to complications from bulimia.

Could Lia have saved her?

“You’re not dead, but you’re not alive. You’re a Wintergirl…”

Will Lia have the strength to save herself?

Haunted by the ghost of her friend and fighting an evil cycle of self hate and deception, Lia must find a way to live, before it is too late.

Nothing anyone says can save her, until she chooses to save herself.

The Miami Herald is quoted on the back as saying, “If you’re a teenage girl, Wintergirls might just save your life.”

I think this book is a must read for all teenage girls. Little is said about eating disorders yet girls are constantly bombarded with images of skinny models, weight loss tricks and diet fads. If asked would any girl know the causes or symptoms of an eating disorder?

Laurie Halse Anderson has brought this subject to her audience in an easy to understand way. Awareness may just be the key to keeping our youth from following others down this destructive and dangerous path. Even I, an overweight young adult, felt myself connect to Lia and her struggles. Imagine what this book could do for a girl about to go over the edge.

All I can really say is read it!

Dragon Training 101

Book Stats: How to Train Your Dragon

Author: Cressida Cowell

Age group: 9-14

Where to buy: Amazon.com

Length: 213

Rating: 7 out of 10

With the recent release of a movie of the same name on dvd I decided to read the book that inspired it. Within moments of starting to read I realized how very different the two of them are.

The book starts with Hiccup and his fellow young tribesmen standing at the bottom of a cliff. They are told that today is an important day, the day they steal their dragons. In Hiccup’s tribe the stealing and subsequent training of a dragon is how they become full-fledged members of the tribe.

Hiccup barely makes it out of the cave with a dragon after another youth wakes the 3000 dragons hibernating in the cave. With their dragons procured the hard job of training them begins.

The only book on the subject suggests yelling at their dragons to train them. Hiccup cannot yell, not effectively. So he uses his skills with the dragon language to teach his small reluctant dragon.

In the end it is this skill with “dragonese” and ability to lead that saves the islanders from certain death. For the first time in his life his father is proud of him and his peers respect him.

This book felt a bit young for me but I still enjoyed it. I felt for Hiccup and enjoyed the rebelliousness of Toothless. I plan on reading the rest of the books in the series.

This was one of the few times I enjoyed the book without it ruining the movie for me. I feel that both can stand on their own. The movie plot was better suited to the big screen than the book plot. Either way Hiccup saves the day.

You can watch the movie and read the book. Both are worth the time invested.