Tuesday, January 12, 2010

What I've Read This Week

What I've Read This Week . . .

Remove Formatting from selection The Underneath by Kathi Appelt and David Small -- Children's fiction National Book Award Finalist, Newberry Honor Book
The Underneath is a safe haven under a titled house in the bayou on the Texas/Louisiana border where Ranger, an old abused hound dog lies waiting for his owner to throw him some scraps of food. Along comes a calico cat, heavy with kittens and abandoned by her owners. Ranger invites the cat to share his space Underneath. Ranger, the calico cat and her two kittens, Sabine and Puck, are a happy little family, hiding from Gar Face, Ranger's neglectful, abusive owner. It's safe in the Underneath and the kittens are warned never to leave. Meanwhile, deep under an old pine lies a creature, trapped in a clay jar for 1000 years, waiting for revenge. In the bayou lives an old alligator, hungry for flesh. The stories intertwine to tell a haunting story about love, loss and betrayal. This is a dark book, probably not suited for young children. Nothing much happy occurs in the plot, just lots and lots of misery. The subplots are confusing until they come together in the end and I found the book kind of boring and unmemorable. I wish I could like this book, but I just couldn't. It took me several days to finish it, if that tells you anything. I think the author would do a better job writing for adults.

The Squire's Quest (The Squire's Tales) by Gerald Morris -- Middle Grades Fantasy
The latest in the series of Arthurian legends based on little-known French tales. It's ten years after Terence first comes to Camelot and he's still a squire. He's served Arthur faithfully and will continue to stay in Camelot as long as Arthur remains king. Terence feels uneasy because he hasn't had any contact with the Other World for a long time and fears that a wicked enchantment may be preventing the connection and he distrusts Mordred, a young man with a secret past who has come to Camelot in hopes of becoming a knight. King Arthur admires Mordred's diplomatic ways but Terence can't help but feel something is not right. Alexander, Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire comes to Camelot and makes a nuisance of himself by falling in love with Terence's friend Lady Sarah, but also proves himself to be a loyal and just friend. Alexander's brother, Cligés claims his own subplot as the minstrels songs about courtly love influence the young man and his uncle's young bride to act the part of star-crossed lovers to the detriment of the Empire. Terence's adventures takes him all over the Empire and to the Greek underworld before he discovers the fate of his beloved Arthur and Camelot. This book is the ninth in the series and if you haven't read the others, you may not like this one very much. Though Morris has the characters explain past events, the current events are a bit confusing without knowing the characters and their backgrounds. Like the previous books in the series, this one is irreverent and there's lots of bawdy humor and crude jokes. This story is darker and bloodier than all the rest and I didn't care for the battle scenes or the strange mixing of mythologies. What I liked best about the previous books, and what's missing in this one, is the tongue-in-cheek humor that's the hallmark of Morris's writing. I was a little disappointed in this latest (final?) chapter of the Squire's Tales.

The Sisters Club: Rule of Three by Megan McDonald -- Middle Grades Contemporary Fiction
Sisters, Blisters and Tongue Twisters! The Reel sisters are back in a new book. Oldest sister Alex, the drama queen is excited to try out for the school play but this time she has competition from middle sister Stevie, who has a much better singing voice but hates to act! Stevie is also thinking of entering a cake bake-off. Will she be able to do both? Little sister Joey is obsessed with Little Women and mom is in danger of losing her cooking show, Fondue Sue. The tension rises as the sisters compete against each other for the starring role in Once Upon a Mattress while Joey is placed in the middle. May the best sister win! Stevie shares the ups and downs of sisterhood as Alex's thoughts come in the form of a script and Jo's (don't call her Joey!) as notebook lists and doodles. This charming little book is sort of a contemporary Little Women. It's very much a story about sisters, first and foremost, with the plot secondary in importance. The Reel sisters are incredibly believable and I can relate to sensible Stevie as my sister is a DRAMA QUEEN! I loved Joey's obsession with Little Women and how she's able to relate situations involving her own sisters to the novel. Though this is a sequel, it works fine as a stand-alone novel. The Sisters Club stories are a nice break from the angst and drama of typical pre-teen and teenage literature these days. I highly recommend them and hope to see more about the Reel sisters in the future!

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