Thursday, May 28, 2009

Book Review: Beastly

Ever wonder what it was like for the Beast? When I first started reading this book, I planned to write a review describing it as "a refreshing, modern-day retelling of 'Beauty and the Beast' from the Beast's point of view." While that's essentially accurate, after finishing it I'm much more inclined to tell people that it's simply one of my "new favorite books." Alex Flinn is a new author to me, and I was fairly pleased with the way she handled this take on a classic story.

The son of a wealthy news anchor, Kyle Kingsbury is one of the "Beautiful People" at his high school. He's just about to be elected prince of the ninth-grade dance, and most people--including himself-- seem to think that he deserves it. He's gorgeous, after all. Unfortunately, Kyle is also a jerk. He asks a "fat girl" named Kendra to be his date to the dance-- all the while planning to embarrass her by ditching her when he shows up to the dance with his real date, Sloane Hagen, the hottest babe in school. Sloane is all for Kyle's ditching goth-chick Kendra, and is happy to go along with it so that Kendra will actually show up. Both girls want corsages: Sloane wants a purple orchid to go with her barely-there black dress, and Kendra wants a white rose. "For purity," she says. However, when the night of the big dance comes, the new maid has messed up and gotten just a white rose. Sloane is seriously ticked and refuses to wear it. Unsure what to do with it, Kyle gives it to the girl selling tickets at the door. (She's thrilled.)

Unfortunately for Kyle, Kendra turns out to be a witch-- and extremely good looking, even if she does have green hair. To teach Kyle a lesson, she transforms him into a beast. Since looks are all he values in people, he needs to learn what it is to be beautiful on the inside. Kendra tells him that because he performed one small act of kindness--giving the rose to the girl at the ticket booth-- that he can have a second chance. To break the spell, he must find a girl within two years that can look past the fur and claws and love him for who he is (and kiss him to prove it), and what's more, Kyle has to truly love her back.

When I first picked up Beastly, I was just planning to read the first few pages to get a taste of what I'd be in for. However, the presentation of the story was so intriguing and new to me that I couldn't put it down. (I think I finished it in about 3.5-4 hours, straight through.) I'll have to read it again to be sure, but I think I just might have to buy a copy of this one.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Book Review: Dragondrums

It's been about three years since the last book, and Piemur's voice is changing. Having lost his famous soprano voice, Masterharper Robinton decides it's time to put Piemur to good use with his other abilities. Piemur's primary other talents include picking up important snippets of information and putting them together to see the whole of whatever's going on, and dissembling. So Master Robinton secretly makes Piemur his new apprentice, and assigns him to the drumheights (the primary message center). This way, Piemur will be in a position to send and recieve messages, as well as covertly perform any other tasks the Masterharper might wish.

This is my least favorite book in the Harper Hall trilogy. I like Piemur, but as the other two books are about Menolly, I would have expected her to be more important in this book than she actually turns out to be.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Book Review: Dragonsinger

The second book in Anne McCaffrey's Harper Hall trilogy, Dragonsinger, chronicles Menolly's eventful first week as a harper apprentice.

Menolly and her nine fire lizards have come to stay at their new home, the Harper Hall. Initially she is put in the small cottage with the other girls--paying customers--but most of the girls make life miserable for Menolly because of their envy. It doesn't help that the cotholder Dunca hates the sight of Menolly and fears her fire lizards. When a message to Menolly about her classes is withheld by Dunca, Menolly is given a room of her own within the male-dominated Harper Hall and becomes Masterharper Robinton's apprentice.

After a few initial trials and tribulations, Menolly is befriended by the mischievious young boy Piemur and Master Robinton's journeyman, Sebell. Piemur's clear soprano voice earned him a place as an apprentice harper at an unusually young age, and he proves a true friend to Menolly (and not just because he wants a fire lizard of his own someday).

Monday, May 25, 2009

Book Review: Dragonsong

This book is a longtime favorite of mine, and for quite awhile I was not aware that it was actually part of a trilogy. It can be read alone, but works fairly well with the other two books also.

Anne McCaffrey's Dragonsong is about a girl named Menolly who lives in Half-Circle Sea Hold on the planet known as Pern. Menolly's one true joy in life is music. She has talent, and was singled out and taught by the Hold's harper Petiron. In this society, songs are used to teach Pern's history and school the children, among many other things. After Petiron's death, Menolly is the only one able to sing and play properly, and must take over schooling the children until the new Harper arrives. However, her strict, tradition-abiding father, Yanus, is the Sea Holder, and anything musical is considered "harper's business" and therefore a man's job. (Traditionally, only men can become harpers.)

After an unfortunate accident and the increasing unfairness of her parents in denying her music, Menolly leaves the Hold-- a daring and dangerous thing to do, because of something known as Thread. When a wayward red star passes close enough to Pern, it drops deadly spores that eat through anything living. Metal and rock are the only things that stop Thread, so one must have shelter during Threadfall. The inhabitants of Pern have come up with a way to combat Thread: huge dragonlike creatures are ridden by specially chosen human beings--dragonriders--and together, they char Thread into ash midair. Menolly's leaving her Hold and living without shelter is dangerous, but she finds a cave in time. Inside the cave, a clutch of fire lizards (similar to dragons, but much smaller) are about to hatch, and from there, all her adventures begin...

Book Review: The Complete Robot

A collection of all the robot stories by Isaac Asimov, The Complete Robot includes the stories found in I, Robot as well as in other works. (Also included are stories not found anywhere else.) The collection was refreshing and entertaining, and each short story worked individually because of the strong ideas portrayed within each one. Some of my favorites were "Robbie," "Sally," and "Light Verse." Included in the end is Bicentennial Man, a quick-read version of The Positronic Man, though not as skillfully written. The beginning stories can be read in no particular order, though the last several are about Susan Calvin and should be read in order for the full effect. Overall: excellent!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Book Review: The Positronic Man

This book by Isaac Asimov and Robert Silverberg is actually what the movie Bicentennial Man was based off of. (However, the movie takes it in a different direction.) The Positronic Man is the story of a robot named Andrew who embarks on a 200-year quest to "become human." Throughout his two hundred years, he discovers what it means to be human and aspires to become one himself.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Book Review: The Outlaws of Sherwood

Robin McKinley's take on the classic story of Robin Hood is an exciting and unusual read. I'm most familiar with the Disney version of events, and while I was aware that Robin Hood was not really a fox, the ending was somewhat disappointing. (You mean there are consequences at the end of robbing the rich to feed the poor?) It was still an enjoyable book, however, and I will definitely be reading it again.