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).

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.

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.”

The Silver Blade by Sally Gardener

It’s that time of year again! Scholastic Book Fair. I had to be picky with my choices this year, as I could not afford $357.00 worth of books this year (or ever, I’m pretty sure, at one go). So I cut it down to half but the one book that bought wholly for myself and not my students was The Silver Blade by Sally Gardener. It is the sequel to The Red Necklace, which I reviewed here:

I’m very excited because I didn’t know that Gardener was actually going to write a sequel to the book, or, if I knew, I just forgot over the course of the year. So, yes, this book was wholly for me and not my students; though they got the rest of the $186.00 that I did end up spending at the Book Fair this year. And there’s always the spring one with two-for-one books. ^_~

In case you were wondering, I have a problem, and, no, I don’t want help. ^_^

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

I started this book before the end of last school year and quickly became distracted with the end-of-year goings on and then summer. I have picked it up again at the behest of some of my new students and I am very much enjoying it.

I am currently finishing up the Tribute Interviews and I think that I am falling in love with Cinna, Katniss’s stylist for the Games. She notes that, unlike almost everyone else in the Capitol, he seems to be normal. I like his quiet demeanor, there’s almost a charm in it that I am fast coming to like. I like Katniss, too, with her “sullen and hostile” nature; who wouldn’t be in a case like this?

Collins is painting her world very well and I’m dying to know what happens next! 🙂

I am glad that my students are urging me to read this book, this series, since the last book in the trilogy comes out in three days. So…why am I still on here? My book is waiting for me!

Finished, 8/20/2010: DONE! I loved the story and all its pain and planning and difficulty. I cannot wait to pick up Catching Fire tomorrow and Mockingjay next week. 🙂

Contest Link:

The Captive Queen by Alison Weir

Having adored Alison’s portrayal of one of the most underwritten young women of the Tudor Era, Jane Grey, I was very excited when I saw Captive Queen on the shelves at Target.  I grabbed it up immediately and began reading as soon as we got back to the car.

You are launched into the thick of things in Eleanor’s 29th year and at the end of her marriage to King Louis VII. Eleanor is passionate – emotionally, physically, mentally – and, at first, you think she is making the worst mistake of her life when she spies Henry FitzEmpress, Duke of the Normans, and falls instantly in lust with him, regardless of the fact that she had a quick and torrid affair with his father several months before.

As the story progresses, we see Eleanor’s court of Poitiers as the birthplace of the idea of the troubadour and courtly love, much to Henry’s chagrin but it is most interest to see and hear defenses made for the tradition.

I am enjoying this book thus far and will hopefully finish it before school begins and starts cutting into my time again. ^_^

Finished, 8/18/2010: I truly enjoyed this book. There was so much turmoil and emotion and at times you cannot believe that things could be as hard and sad as they were for Eleanor at times but the triumph of her spirit is amazing.

Weir certainly triumphed with this book and I take my hat off to her once again.

A Favorite: The Inheritance by Louisa May Alcott

My mother bought me this book around the age of 14 or 15. I had fallen in love with Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women at age 12 and adored her prose, her beautiful stories. Mom had also begun buying me the collections of Alcott’s sensation stories and was very excited when she found this on a vacation with her friends. It’s beautiful, beautiful little book.  Written at sixteen, it is quite a romantic little tale, though the characters rather 1-dimensional and archetypal. Still it’s very prettily written.

I read this book whenever I need a sweet little story to raise my spirits, thus why I picked it up off my shelf last night. It was a very rough night for me so i picked up The Inheritance and lost myself in the rich descriptions of the first three or four chapters. It settled my spirit and calmed my mind and I was able to drift off to sleep with a measure of peace.

Alcott’s story revolves around a beautiful, dark-haired, liquid-eyed young woman named Edith Adelon. Orphaned, poor, and friendless, Edit has spent half of her life as companion and governess to young Amy Hamilton, daughter off highborn Lady Hamilton and loving sister to young Lord Arthur Hamilton. Edith is the very model of purity, kindness, love, and endurance. All she desires in life is love and friendship. Riches and rank are not in her scope of vision, unlike Lady Ida Clare, cousin to the young Hamiltons. That is all she desires and despises young Edith for the friends that she wins, thinking that they only like the young woman because she is beautiful. So when handsome, highborn, and wealthy Lord Percy comes to visit for the summer, Ida quickly and clearly sets her cap for him. Will she win the pure-hearted nobleman?

As I said, the characters are a bit 1-dimensional and archetypal but very gorgeously written. I enjoy this book and will continue to do so for many years to come.

Author Spotlight: Emma Donoghue

I own four of Emma Donoghue’s books: Slammerkin, Life Mask, Kissing A Witch, and The Woman Who Gave Birth to Rabbits. Donoghue’s writing is rich and rife with emotions and portraits of people who we quickly become obsessed with. She is well-versed in her history and fashion and her descriptions are so rich as to draw the reader into the world she is working with. You do not read Donoghue’s work, you inhabit it.

Her imagination is also to be lauded. As a lesbian writer, Donogue manages to infuse the lifestyle into the very fabric of the story, weaving it almost seamlessly, complete with all the joys and consequences of the taboo. In her book Kissing The Witch: Old Stories in New Skins, Donoghue rewrites the best known fairytales of our time, connecting them one with the other and changing the ending slightly. Rapunzel does not find her Prince but weeps over the fallen Witch and asks, “Who were you before you bought me for a handful of radishes? And she said, Will I tell you my own story? It is the tale of a brother.” And those lines lead us into the next story, that of the Snow Queen. It is artful the way that she ties each story the one before it and the one after it. I adore fairytales and I adore this book.

Donoghue is an excellent writer with an imagination of color and characters who, even centuries old, happily and willingly become all her own.

Legacy by Cayla Kluver

A new publishing by a 16-hyear-old, the style of the book’s cover is what capture me when I saw in in Meijer, I must confess. I’ve read the first chapter and found Kluver’s writing to be interesting. I am not yet impressed but her descriptions are rather nice. ^_^ We shall see how it goes, no?

Update, 6/8/2010: I handed this book over to one of my students this school year and she greatly enjoyed it and it waiting most impatiently for the sequel. So, Ms. Kluver, wherever you are, I can tell you that you have at least one loyal fan awaiting more from you. 🙂