Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A New Cinderella Story
Gregory Maguire
There are many Cinderella stories from cultures around the world. The Golden Sandal is a Cinderella story from the Middle East. Yeh-Shen is the Chinese Cinderella. The Rough-Face Girl is a Native American Cinderella tale. There are many of these Cinderella stories. Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister is a new kind of Cinderella story.
Gregory Maguire is the author of Confessions Of An Ugly Stepsister. He has also written several other books, both for adults and for children. His adult books are generally new retellings of fairytales.
Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister isn't your traditional Cinderella story. It is set in Holland, during the seventeenth century and the craze of the Tulip Mania. The story is told from the point of view of Iris, who has just moved from England to Holland with her strong-willed mother Margerethe and her slow older sister Ruth. Dark atmosphere abounds in this enjoyable retelling of the classic Cinderella story. The book will leave you guessing which magic is real, which is only real in a child's imagination, and whether it even matters.

Friday, May 25, 2012

A Tale of Two Cities

Charles Dickens
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens is definitely one of my favorite books of all time.
For one thing, I enjoy Dickens' writing style. Dickens was an English writer of the early 1800's. He is very descriptive without being boring or tedious. He is the author of such greats as Great Expectations, Oliver Twist, and the seasonal favorite, A Christmas Carol.
A Tale of Two Cities begins with the famous quote: "It was the best of times; it was the worst of times." This refers to the setting before and during the French Revolution. The story centers around Lucie Manette, who is the daughter of a Bastille prisoner. While in England, she marries Charles Darnay, also a Frenchman by birth. This leaves the lovesick Darnay lookalike Sydney Carton desolate and heartbroken. When her husband returns to France during the turbulent times of the French Revolution, an ugly past rears its head. The book's ending will make you want to burst into tears.
You can buy A Tale of Two Cities here. For those Dickens-lovers in the California area, there is an essay contest at University of California Santa Cruz.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

His Majesty's Dragon

His Majesty's Dragon, also published by the name of Temeraire, was written by Naomi Novik. The novel is set during an alternate history's Napoleonic Wars. This book would not be appropriate for young readers. His Majesty's Dragon follows Will Laurence, a Navy officer whose ship captures a dragon egg from a hostile French ship. Normally this would bring them a fine bounty, but the egg is ready to hatch. If the dragon is not harnessed immediately, it will be feral and worthless. Laurence considers it his duty to the crown that the attempt is made to harness the dragonet. When Laurence harnesses the young dragon Temeraire, his life is changed forever. He enters the world of aviators, which is quite different from his previous naval experiences. His Majesty's Dragon is the first of at least seven novels in the Temeraire series.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

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Sunday, May 6, 2012

Beaches: A love/hate relationship

I have a complicated relationship with beaches.

Reasons to hate:
1. Jellyfish - For one reason, they float around in the water where they are basically invisible, but are out to kill you. For a second reason, they wash up on the shore and die so that you are happily walking along and then realize you almost stepped in a jellyfish. Jellyfish make two reasons to hate beaches; they are outright detestable.
3. Sand - It's everywhere, including inside your swimsuit. Some sand will inevitably come home with you.
4. Sharks, rays, and live water creatures - Sharks may not venture into shallow water, but their babies do. Rays also live underwater. There are all sorts of monstrous creatures living underwater that you don't want to run into.
5. UUO's - Have you ever stepped on some unidentified underwater object? Maybe it was a piece of seaweed. Maybe it was some sort of live mollusk. Maybe it is a giant clam that is now going to close on your foot! I really don't like that you can't see what you're stepping on.

Reasons to Love:
1. Scenery - Beaches always have beautiful sunsets. There are always wonderful views of the ocean and the waves.
2. Ghost Crabs - Going hunting for ghost crabs is a ton of fun. It's always one of my favorite things to do at the beach.
3. Sand - Sand may be everywhere, but it's fun to play in.
This is what I did on my most recent beach trip. It is a tribute to the Nazca lines of South America.
4. Vacation - When you're at the beach, you're on vacation. That means relaxation, not work. I like being able to do fun stuff, instead of work or school.
5. Shells - I love collecting shells. There are so many different colors and shapes. Some people enjoy identifying their shells; I just like to find the prettiest ones.

So far, it's a tie. How do you feel about the beach?