Song of the Deep by Brian Hastings

January 2017 – 2.5 out of 5 stars

My first completed book for 2017 is the book Song of the Deep by Brian Hastings. This illustrated novelization is based on the video game of the same name and tells the story of Merryn, a little girl who sets off on a quest through the depths of the sea searching for her father who fails to return home from his daily fishing one day, led only by a dream and the stories and lullabies she grew up hearing.

Merryn’s mother is dead to begin with. She died when Merryn was little, though the exact memory of how is lost to her when the story begins. What Merry does retain are the lullabies and stories that her mother used to sing at her bedside and the smell of orchids from when her mother would weave necklaces from their fragrant petals.

When Merryn’s fisherman father does not return home after a full day and night since he left for his daily course on the sea, the girl finds herself refusing to accept that the sea has claimed her father. Instead, she mines the piles of sea junk that he often catches in his nets and has allowed her to keep. Cannibalizing these parts, in the course of a day, she builds herself a submarine (sans any heavy machinery or sophisticated tools, unless she was hiding a welding torch under her raincoat that I missed).

Here is where the story stretches even my suspension of disbelief to the point of breaking. Merry sets out in her little homemade submarine with no food, no water, no way of knowing which way to go, and no way to breathe/recycle air in her remarkably airtight sub (though Hastings does provide manner of explanation for this fairly quickly). I understand the fact that this is a novel for children based on a video game, which by bent of its media format rarely offers explanations for just how things happen, but I still believe that novelizations require a degree of realism or at least believability. Not once does the book note that Merryn eats on this journey, though she harvests food for someone else (so I suppose that it is feasible that she ate some of the food herself, too). There are events that are noted as being impossible that later do in fact happen with no explanation at all as to how.

Now, for the positives: this little book is beautiful. There are ink-line illustrations and prettily drawn borders. The songs and stories are lovely and lilting, and I think it’s a nice companion piece to the video game (which my husband bought the same day that I bought this book). On its own, however, the book just doesn’t hold substantial water (pun intended).

My 2016 Reading List (So Far)

For The Love by Jen Hatmaker

More than a Good Bible Study Girl by Lysa TerKeurst (my online book study for January)

Taming the Queen by Philippa Gregory

Nobody’s Cuter Than You by Melanie Shankle

Hands-Free Life by Rachel Macy Stafford

If You Find This Letter… by Hannah Brencher

The Four Loves by CS Lewis

Vols 19-22 of Fables


The Snatchabook by Helen and Thomas Docherty

I have found my new favorite children’s storybook – The Snatchabook. This is a story about a little bunny named Eliza Brown and all her friends in Burrow Down. Every evening, they all cuddle down in their little homes at bedtime and listen excitedly to their bedtime stories. Then, suddenly, one night, the story books start to disappear, right out of their hands, flying out the windows and disappearing. Poor Eliza Brown is shocked but determined to find out what is happening. So she lays a trap and, when the thief comes for the pile of story books she has set out, Eliza confronts them! It turns out that the thief is a little creature called a Snatchabook (looks like a kangaroo mouse with dragonfly wings), and it has been stealing books because it has no one to read to it. Poor thing!

Eliza Brown takes pity on the Snatchabook and, together, they come up with a plan to return everyone’s books. Afterward, Eliza gathers her friends and explains the situation and, after that, the Snatchabook is welcomed to storytime in everyone’s home.

Written and illustrated by Helen and Thomas Docherty, a husband and wife team from Wales, this is a simply lovely storybook, composed of lush illustrations and a beautiful story written in lilting rhyme, perfect for a little ones. I thoroughly enjoy reading this to my 2-year-old daughter and, sometimes, I even take it down to read just to myself.

Steadfast by Mercedes Lackey (Elemental Masters)

1-9-15 –I know, I know. Another review of me happily gushing over Mercedes Lackey and her Elemental Masters series. But, as this is the first book that I have read in 2015, it rather does deserve pride of place.

Based on the Steadfast Tin Soldier, this the tale of Katie Langford, a circus acrobat under the fist of an abusive strongman husband who takes her fate into her own hands and runs away. After spending time with Travelers (of whom her mother was one), she makes her way to the seaside town of Brighton. There, assisted by (what else?) magic, she lands a position as a magician’s assistant at a dance hall. What Katie does not know is that Lionel, her new employer, is also an elemental Air magician. Not only that, but the doorman of the dance hall, Jack, is also one, though his element is Fire. Together these two men realize early on that something is different about Katie and there very much is. She is attuned to Fire, the most emotional of the elements. Lionel and Jack take it upon themselves to, firstly, convince Katie of the existence of magic and, secondly, to train her in her newfound abilities. Lionel was taught from childhood by his father in the skill of his element and so takes over Katie’s initial training, then transferring her over to Jack in the specifics of her element. The friendship that blossoms between these three is wonderful to read, the three different lives represented by Lionel, Katie, and Jack making a wonderful tapestry against which this story is set. What is also beautiful is the camaraderie that develops between Katie and the Fire Elementals, a strong relationship for a magician so young in her abilities.

As Fire is the most emotional of the elements, the emotion of this book is high and deep. It will make your heart swell, leap into your throat, and wring tears from yours eyes. And, of all the stories that I have read thus far, it ends in such a lovely fairy tale fashion that Disney should be quite jealous indeed.

Battle Magic by Tamora Pierce

6-20-14 – Finally and at long last! Ever since reading Pierce’s Melting Stones several years ago, I have hungered for more of Evumeimei Dingzai’s story. I really should have readStone Magic, as it currently sits on my shelf, the beginning of her story in that she was discovered by Briar, but I shall simply chalk it up to working backwards through Evvy’s trilogy. Now, at last, I have Battle Magic, the story of the war between Yanjing and Gyongxe that is so often referenced in Melting Stones.

Battle Magic was my birthday gift from my husband and I have fallen in love with Pierce’s writing all over again, devouring more than half the book in only two days of reading. I know, I know, it’s pittance to my old reading habits but, believe me, that’s saying a LOT in these days of an active eighteen-month-old girl. 🙂

The newest character to me from these books is undoubtedly Briar Mos, the one who discovered Evumeimei and her ability first of all in Stone Magic and the mage who discovers the power is the mage who must train the power. Briar, at the tender age of sixteen, is a fully-certified mage under the Winding Circle Temple. I greatly enjoy the relationship between Briar and his mentor Rosethorn, about whom I know as little, having not read The Circle Opens quartet, nor far enough into The Will of the Empress to know her very well. She is very interesting to me, though, and I have a feeling that I will be expanding my Pierce collection even more after I finish Battle Magic and Stone Magic.

And Luvo! I can’t really say more than that but….squee!!! Luvo! That moment alone made me hug my Kindle as I read on the plane.

I shall return with updates soon!

9-26-14 – I LOVED this book! I finished it a few days ago and actually hugged the book when I was through with it. The first book I have actually finished in about a year or so and I regretted that it was over, though that means that I can now move on to Stone Magic, the beginning of Evvy’s story, which is awesome. Thank you, Tamora, for telling us this story. It was well worth the wait. ^_^

You Will Be My Friend by Peter Brown

I LOVED this book! It was quick enough for me to read to my fifteen-month-old daughter and the pictures were bright and colorful. Lucy Bear’s dialogue is easy to act out and made my daughter smiled for the entire reading and, moreover, stand still for most of it. 🙂

Lucy Bear wakes up one morning and decides that she WILL make a new friend today, by hook or by crook. She tries, and I mean, REALLY tries.  She even gets to the point of blackmailing critters to be her friend – “You won’t get any snacks unless you start liking me RIGHT NOW!” But, of course, the main point is that, to make friends, just be yourself and the right friend will come along when you least expect it.

Oh, and to quote Peter Brown, “Do not yell “You WILL be my friend!” at people. Trust me, it never works.”

Bellman & Black by Diane Setterfield

Begun 1/7/2014  – It’s been seven years in the waiting but, finally, the newest novel by Diane Setterfield is here! I adored The Thirteen Tale and have been waiting for more work by Setterfield ever since. So my Christmas was quite wonderful as this book was gifted to me. 🙂 Setterfield’s newest work, released in November 2013, Bellman & Black begins very promisingly, starting out with a boyhood proof of prowess, which leads to the death of an innocent rook and the enigmatic guilt settling upon the shoulders of the boy responsible: William Bellman. A boy in black, not to mention the strange parish of rooks, regards William from the hill where the rook fell beneath his slingshot, sending a chill over the ten-year-old boy as he runs home and applies his mind to its most difficult task to date: forgetting. But, as most would tell you, one act can haunt you for an entire lifetime.
Fast forward seven years and William Bellman is a comely young man of seventeen, talented, sharp-witted, admirable. After church one Sunday, his mother Dora is approached by her brother-in-law, her absconded husband’s brother, to request her blessing in his current idea: to invite William to work with him at Bellman’s Mill. Dora has no dealings with the Bellman family for the most part, as Phillip’s marriage to her went against their wishes. She is against the idea of William going into the business of the family that rejected him but he is excited and wishes to give it a try. As with almost everything else in his life, he is successful at each task to which he turns his hand, proving himself a hard and intelligent worker. There are but two tasks in the mill which he declines to even try, one of them being the dye house. Mr. Lowe, the head dyer, has no use for the prodigal Bellman boy, or pretty much anyone else for that matter. But William has ideas and enthusiasm. Within a year, William has accomplished the one thing that Bellman Mill was never able to produce: a good crimson fabric. As his uncle Paul wonders, the boy has been there only a year. What could he do if given free reign?
I love Diane’s writing style. It flows so well that the pages fly by. In a short amount of time, I had sped through 51 pages of this novel, ten chapters.  She modulates the length of chapters based on what needs to be said in each and, while some of them are exceedingly short, the effect is quite intense and poignant. I am already half in love with the character of William Bellman and appreciate his uncles conscientious consideration of the situations and ideas put before her. I also like the character of Dora, sad and bitter though she may be; her love for her son is undeniable.
I am looking forward to hiding away with this book once more…after my baby girl goes to bed. 😉
2/9/2014 – I have entered the part of the book where the title comes into play. I find myself fascinated with Bellman’s eye for color, specifically for black. Setterfield’s manner of describing how immersed in all shades of black Bellman has become that he has begun to view the colors of the world oddly – the azure sky of a summer day he now considers to be vulgar, the green grass so bright as to be improper. It’s a fabulous reversal of his previous position, starting out at Bellman Mill where he worked so hard to make sure that they would produce the more vibrant and sanguine  crimson fabric.
The attention to detail and knowledge of profession is staggering to me., truthfully. I am constantly impressed with the level of research and integration of information in Setterfield’s work. It is a level that I, as a writer, aspire to. 🙂

The Wonder of Story

Have you ever held a new book in your hands, fresh and clean and so ripe with possibilities? You want to start reading, immediately, leap into its pages, but you don’t know where to start, as silly as that may sound. This is one of those books.  For those of you who may not know (or have forgotten), I am in love with Mercedes Lackey’s Elemental Masters books. So when her first anthology of fellow-author-written stories based in the world of Edwardian England under the veil of the White Lodge (Elemental Magic) was published, I was ecstatic. I bought a hard copy, as well as an e-copy on my Kindle. I read it to my infant daughter to put her down for  naps and thrilled at it in the quiet of my private time.

And, then, this morning – Christmas morning – I unwrap a gift from my husband to find this particular beauty waiting for me. I was wide-eyed, slack-jawed, and absolutely thrilled. I jumped up, ran to the bookshelf, and picked up the previous anthology to make sure that they were indeed different, and then I did a little happy dance in the living room and told my husband that he is simply amazing (which is very true). But I cannot describe the butterflies in my stomach as sit here with this book next to me. It’s like I want to rip into it but, at the same time, I want it to be the right time. The right time when I can have a substantial amount of time to myself to dive into these stories properly. I just can’t wait!

BabyLit Books

I made the greatest discovery in Books-a-Million the other day. BabyLit books. These books are the classics, re-purposed for toddlers and early learners. I love this idea! These books are beautifully designed and illustrated board books, re-titled as “primers” on different early learning subjects. For example, Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky is labeled as a nonsense primer. I have already bought three of these for my daughter: Pride & Prejudice, Jabberwocky (for reading time with Daddy), and Sherlock Holmes and the Hound of the Baskervilles. So she has counting, nonsense, and sound primers so far.

I’m very excited to collect the rest of these books and start instilling an interest in the classic with my daughter early on, just as Wishbone did for me as a kid. And I’ll tell you a secret: I ended up reading every one of them. 🙂

The White Princess by Philippa Gregory

Ah, the discovery. The day that you walk through the bookstore, minding you own business, only to find that a book that you have been anticipating slipped through its release date without you even noticing. That was me and The White Princess, Gregory’s latest addition to The Cousins’ War. I was being so good, purchasing only what was on my list and making record time to boot, and here was this beauty just calling to me. So I used the last of an anniversary gift to purchase it for myself and have been enjoying it in the short spurts that I get to read for myself in the midst of raising an 8-month-old. This also happens to coincide with the premiere of the Starz production of “The White Queen” series, which is based upon The White Queen, The Red Queen, and The White Princess.

As I began to read, having only recently finished The Kingmaker’s Daughter, I instantly had the urge to lay all four books of The Cousins’ War side by side and see how seamlessly Gregory moves from one character’s point of view and emotional space to another’s. Anne Neville saw Princess Elizabeth of York as plying her wiles to steal Richard III away from her, to remove Anne from her place and cement her own position. In Anne’s eyes, it had naught to do with love but was merely a ploy well-used by the Woodville women in the past. As you begin The White Princess, however, you see Elizabeth in deep and painful mourning for the man she loved, the selfsame RIchard III. She gives each character an original voice and their own, defensible position. Doesn’t matter if you’ve read the same story from three different viewpoints already, you instantly feel for Elizabeth, especially in the light of her sister Cecily’s spite, though poor Cecily herself has been ill-used by Richard III. Well, at least her own mind, if no one else thinks so. Now Elizabeth must cement her position again and marry Henry Tudor. He needs her to solidify his throne and the beginning of his dynasty; she needs him to save her family and restore them to a position of pride and power. She must do her duty as the daughter of Edward IV and as a Woodville woman.

I am looking forward to diving ever deeper into this book and losing myself in the world of the Roses once again.