Book Reviews

Review: Someday I’ll Be Redeemed by Kelly Blanchard

Kelly Blanchard’s Someday I’ll Be Redeemed is a clever conglomerate of epic high fantasy and fascinating science fiction. It chronicles the return of Prince Lorrek after his ten-year disappearance and delves into the long-lasting consequences that events long past can have on relationships and on nations. Through strategically placed flashbacks, the introduction of a vast cast of characters, and annoyingly persistent rumours circling Lorrek’s disappearance, Blanchard keeps the reader guessing as to the answer to one question: what did Lorrek do all those years ago?

Blanchard employs what she calls “cinematographic writing;” this style creates many memorable and powerful moments in her novel. This style is one that attempts to create scenes in a cinematic way, so that the reader can clearly see the action of the story and is left with those visual impressions long after they close the book, much in the same way that a cinematographer would manipulate a scene in a movie for ultimate impact.

Though there are multiple moments in Someday I’ll Be Redeemed in which this technique works, the necessity of multiple info-dumps throughout the novel (due to its high fantasy aspects and complex nature) sometimes cuts into these movie-like moments and slows down the pace. In the first half of the book especially, there are so many characters and places introduced that it is difficult to follow on first reading, let alone keep track of alliances and relationships. The reader must be on alert at all times to catch any detail that might turn out to be important later in the novel.

Though there are multiple moments in Someday I’ll Be Redeemed in which this technique works, the necessity of multiple info-dumps throughout the novel (due to its high fantasy aspects and complex nature) sometimes cuts into these movie-like moments and slows down the pace. In the first half of the book especially, there are so many characters and places introduced that it is difficult to follow on first reading, let alone keep track of alliances and relationships. The reader must be on alert at all times to catch any detail that might turn out to be important later in the novel.

This changes with the second half of the book, where Blanchard finally hits her stride and delivers a fast-paced and high-stakes narrative that gets us to cheer for characters we previously cared little about and even become sympathetic for characters that we previously despised. No one is a hero, no one is a villain. Everyone has a complexity that is continuously shaped by their experiences and the choices that they make.

Despite pacing issues and unclear direction in the first half, Someday I’ll Be Redeemed is an enjoyable novel throughout that kicks it into high gear in the second half and ends on a note that manages to satisfy the reader while exciting them for the next book in the Chronicles of Lorrek. It excels beyond other novels in the science fantasy genre and is even better upon a second or third reading.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Book Reviews, Children's Books

Review: Inkheart by Cornelia Funke

Every reader at some point wishes that they had the ability to read a favorite character to life. Unfortunately for Mortimer, this ability is all too real, and his and his daughter Meggie’s lives are drastically changed when he accidentally reads characters out of the epic fantasy drama Inkheart. Though Mortimer tries to shelter Meggie from the truth of what happened that night nine years ago, it all comes back to haunt him when one of the characters shows up in the middle of the night with a warning and a secret.

Inkheart is full of intriguing and unique characters, from the cranky bookworm Elinor to Dustfinger the fire-eater to the somewhat narcissistic author of Inkheart, Fenoglio. Most of the story follows Meggie, a twelve-year-old girl who loves books almost as much as she loves her father, who is forced to uncover the secrets her father has been keeping from her. Though her father’s ability to read characters off of a page is the cause of their troubles, Inkheart teems with enough magic and wonder that the reader will wish they possessed the ability as well.

The magnificence of Inkheart comes from the relationships and complexity of each character. Meggie quickly learns that no one is completely good, everyone keeps secrets, and magic always has consequences. But even when it seems that everything she thinks she knows is wrong, there will always be people she can depend on to set things right again.

FOR THE PARENTS:

Inkheart contains mild swearing and violence. At around 150,000 words (a length somewhere between the third and fourth Harry Potter books), Inkheart is larger than most children’s books, but the story is so well-written that it is still doable for many kids. My first experience with this book was when I was nine years old and my mother read it aloud to me and my brother; if you have the time to read this book to your kid(s), I highly recommend it. It was, and still is, my all-time favorite book.

Inkheart by Cornelia Funke (translated from German by Anthea Bell)

Children's Corner

The Value in Not-So-Happy Endings

Everyone seems to love a happy ending. In fairy tales and princess stories, the narrator usually tells us the heroes lived “happily ever after”. The prince and the princess get married, all the characters learn an important life lesson, and any fights that happened between characters are resolved at the end.

For any book lover, there comes a day when they flip to the last page of a book, excited to find out how all the strings get tied neatly together, only to discover that this particular book does not have such a neat ending. This is never a pleasant discovery, but it is a necessary one. My first book of that type was The Tale of Despereaux. It is one of my favorite books, and it certainly doesn’t end horribly, but Kate DiCamillo herself tells the reader that it’s not necessarily a “happily ever after” ending, because those kind of endings don’t happen in “real life”.

Then there are the Tragic Books. These are the ones that take the reader’s heart, promising to take care of it, then throw it on the ground and stomp all over it. Spoiling a good book is never a good idea, so my first Tragic Book will remain nameless. My mother is the one who suggested I read it, so I did. The two main characters were lovable, and they played imagination games like the ones I played with my friends. Then the author went and killed one of the characters just when I thought everything was going perfectly well. I was furious at the author, but I didn’t know her personally so I had to resort to being furious at my mother instead. I refused to eat dinner and huddled under the blankets on the family room’s couch, sobbing my eyes out.

Reading books with endings like that don’t make you feel good. They make you feel sad, or frustrated, or angry. But that’s what is so good about them. Happiness isn’t the only emotion a person can feel. We also feel sadness, and frustration, and anger, and many other things. When I think back on the tragic book I was so angry about, I realize that it wasn’t really so tragic after all. It was upsetting for a beloved character to die, but the important thing was the reaction of the other character; the one who lived. He felt grief in his own way, and therefore I felt his grief too. When he later found a way to honor his friend’s memory, I felt the peace that he was able to come to. I felt betrayed by my mother and the author for making me feel “bad” feelings in the first place, but now I know that the author was trying to teach me how to let myself feel those feelings, and how to let them go.

If you haven’t yet read a book like this, you will some time in your future. Don’t shy away from the things it makes you feel. If you think it’s too much for you to handle, that is okay. Talk to an adult about the things you’re feeling, and if you still don’t know how to handle the emotions the book is throwing at you, set it down. You can pick it up later.

And, of course, there will always be Happily Ever After Books to read when you need them.

Children's Corner

Exploring the Genres

Here at Books and Quills, we have this thing we like to call “Genre of the Month”. We post puzzles, prompts, and articles about that month’s genre. This October, for example, was Horror month. So, what is a genre?

When we describe a book’s “genre”, we are talking about the type of story it is telling. A book can be a romance, a fantasy novel, historical fiction, or something else entirely. There are many genres in the literary world, but these are a few of the most common ones for children’s books.

Fantasy

Supernatural creatures, funny names, and magic galore; fantasy books use all of these and more to tell stories of heroes, villains, and quests that could never happen in real life. Some fantasy stories take place in other worlds, like The Chronicles of Narnia and The Hobbit. Others, like Harry Potter, use a magical version of our own world to tell their stories.

Science Fiction

Science fiction (or sci-fi for short) is similar to fantasy in that it uses people or things that are fantastical and beyond our understanding. However, instead of using magic to explain these things, sci-fi stories use science. This means that aliens, time travel, and advanced robots are all elements of sci-fi stories, since they are all subjects explored by science and might one day be discovered or created by scientists. Books like The Giver and Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH are examples of sci-fi books.

Realistic Fiction

Fantasy uses magic, sci-fi uses futuristic science. Realistic fiction uses the world as we know it today. These stories are still made-up, but they mimic real life. Many of Andrew Clements’s books, like Frindle and The Landry News, are realistic fiction. Holes (Louis Sachar) and Because of Winn-Dixie (Kate DiCamillo) are also examples of realistic fiction.

Historical Fiction

Historical fiction books are like realistic fiction except that they take place in the past. They are usually about a specific time period or event, like the 1920s or World War II. Walk Two Moons (Sharon Creech) and Goodnight Mr. Tom (Michelle Magorian) are examples of historical fiction. Some novels, like The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett), were not historical fiction when they were published but are now historical fiction because they take place in our past.

Mystery

Some stories are about a character or a group trying to solve a mystery. These mystery-solvers can be detectives, or they can be any person who stumbles on a mysterious event. The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew are examples of characters in mystery novels.

Nonfiction

All of the books mentioned so far are fictional, or books that involve made-up characters and plots. Nonfiction, on the other hand, deals with real life. This is different than realistic fiction because though realistic fiction takes inspiration from real life and they all seem very real, the characters are still made up. The Little House on the Prairie series is an example of a nonfiction series. They are memoirs: stories written by a person about their own life, with little exaggerations here and there.

There are many other genres, sub-genres (genres within genres), and stories that have more than one genre. Some authors write all of their stories in one genre. Others write in many genres. Many write most of their stories in one genre but step out of their comfort zone to try something new.

We as readers can be like that as well. Take some time to figure out what genre you read the most. Why do you like that genre? Are there genres that you avoid? If there are, try to find a book in that genre that you like. It is okay to prefer one genre (I personally am very fond of fantasy novels), but if you never explore what’s out there, you never know what you might be missing.

News

A Series of Unfortunate Events Comes to Netflix

There is one thing that most readers seem to agree on: the book is always better than the movie. And yet, we watch them anyway, and sometimes we even enjoy them. A highly anticipated movie that disappointed many fans was the A Series of Unfortunate Events movie that attempted to cover the first three books in a limited amount of time. Not only that, but it also changed some key plot points and somewhat lightened the mood.

Now that it’s getting a second chance with a television series on Netflix, fans are excited to see what changes Netflix will make and how close to the source material it will stick. Instead of squashing three books into less than two hours, the Netflix series will dedicate two episodes to each book (with each episode lasting about an hour). According to Neil Patrick Harris, who plays the villainous Count Olaf, this take on the series will be “super dark” much like the books are. Usually, “darker” shows are for older audiences, but Harris promises that the creators of the show “want it to be for kids” as well as for adults.

A Series of Unfortunate Events drops on Netflix on January 13th of next year (which is, of course, a Friday). That gives us two months to reread the books that those eight episodes will cover: The Bad Beginning, The Reptile Room, The Wide Window, and The Miserable Mill. For anyone who has not read the books, or if you need a refresher, the series follows the lives of the Baudelaire children (Klaus, Violet, and Sunny) after their parents are mysteriously killed in a fire. In each book, they are taken in by a new adult who may or may not be working with the evil Count Olaf, who is obsessed with obtaining the Baudelaire’s inheritance. The books are much darker than most kid’s books, but Lemony Snicket’s amusing voice and unconventional writing style make them fun to read and reread. My favorite example of this is when Snicket is discussing the concept of deja vu. In book nine, instead of simply defining deja vu for the reader, he repeats a page with no explanation, giving the reader the feeling of deja vu. The first time I read that book, it took me a minute to realize I hadn’t just accidentally flipped back a page and it wasn’t a publishing mistake.

What is your favorite part of A Series of Unfortunate Events? Of the first four books, which do you most look forward to seeing on the silver screen? What do you most hope to see happen on the show? Don’t forget to check out the teaser trailer that dropped November 3rd.

Because the show is not yet rated, make sure to get your parents’ or an adult’s permission before watching it on January 13th, 2017.

Children's Books

Book Review: Saffy’s Angel by Hilary McKay

AGE: 8-12

Saffy’s Angel, by Hilary McKay, is one of my favorite books. Its innocent yet truthful depiction of a dysfunctional family is surprisingly cheery and inviting while still telling the flaws in both human beings and in familial relationships. The Casson family is a small group consisting of Bill and Eve (the artistic and sometimes neglectful parents), Cadmium Gold (the eldest daughter), Saffron, Indigo, and Permanent Rose. After a family loss, Saffron (or Saffy, as everyone calls her) begins a search for the angel that’s meant just for her. In the process she hopes to find the validation that she is right where she belongs.

Book Reviews

Book Review: Redwall by Brian Jacques

Full of old-fashioned heroism and hordes of villains, Brian Jacques’s Redwall is an exciting read at any age. Its enormous cast of characters delightfully introduces the reader to the world of Redwall Abbey, Mossflower Woods, and beyond. This is a world inhabited by animals: loyal mice, villainous rats, a dangerous but trustworthy badger, and a militaristic and always-famished hare, just to name a few. Our main hero is Matthias, a young Redwall mouse who must find the warrior within himself in order to save his beloved home from Cluny the Scourge and his vast army.