Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Secret of the Fortune Wookie

     After getting suspended, Dwight is going to a new school where everyone thinks he is "special."  His mom has put Origami Yoda in a glass frame on his wall so Dwight can't use him anymore.  The kids at McQuarrie Middle School are desperate to get Origami Yoda back, but realize they also miss Dwight.  Fortune Wookie offers good advice, but Tommy, Kellen, and Harvey are determined to show Dwight how amazing he really is.
     I loved this book!  I especially loved that Fortune Wookie was only able to growl like a wookie, so Han Foldo would appear on Sara's hand to translate Han Solo's quotes from the movie.  Fortune Wookie gave awesome advice from the Star Wars movies that also fit well with the kids' situations, even though it didn't seem like it at first glance.
     I also loved the moral of the story that everyone is "special," but we lose our specialness when we try to be what everyone else wants us to be.  The kids who used to bully Dwight and think he was too weird, now see that he brought excitement and fun to their school.  Dwight tries to fit in with the new kids at his new school because it is "easier," but Tommy shows him how important it is to be yourself, even when it's harder.
     This book is an easy read with lots of illustrations, easy words, and humor.  It is great for reluctant readers, especially kids who like Star Wars.  Although you can read the book without having read the other books in the series first, some parts will be difficult to understand.  You will also miss much of the humor if you do not have background knowledge on Star Wars.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Darth Paper Strikes Back

     In the sequel to The Strange Case of Origami Yoda, Harvey creates Darth Paper to duel Origami Yoda.  The dark side of the force is too strong for Origami Yoda and Dwight gets kicked out of school.  The kids are lost without Yoda's wisdom and begin a case file to convince the school board that Dwight and Origami Yoda have helped them.  Harvey tricks Tommy into giving him the file so he can make a strong case for keeping Dwight out of school.  Things look hopeless know that Darth Paper has arrived.  Is there any chance Darth Paper has a good side under his helmet?
     I loved this book.  The Star Wars puns were original and funny.  The pictures the kids drew in the case file are cute, especially the Star Wars' characters.  The characters are realistic and act like middle schoolers desperate to figure out their lives and willing to believe any advice - even from Origami puppets.  There is a good moral to the story, but it isn't heavy handed.  It's a quick read with lots of pictures, so it is a good choice for reluctant readers.  It is also a good choice for boys.  

Sunday, June 9, 2013

The Forgotten Garden

     A little girl stands alone on a dock with a suitcase and a book of fairy tales.  The dockmaster and his wife adopt her and raise her as their own.  On the eve of her twenty-first birthday, the man she thought was her father tells her the true story of her arrival.  The secret devastates Nell.  She spends the rest of her life trying to unravel the secret of her childhood and the authoress who haunts her memories.  The secrets lead to Cliff Cottage, but she gives up the search to raise her granddaughter Cassandra.
     When Nell dies, Cassandra is shocked to find out about Nell's past and even more surprised to learn about her inheritance of Cliff Cottage.  She travels to England to unravel the secrets and dark mysteries of her family that stretch through three countries and a century of time.
     This is a beautiful story that reads like a fairy tale.  It is one of my favorite books.  The writing was exquisite.  The world came alive in every location and every time period.  The characters were well developed, interesting, and believable.  I loved the way the decisions, mistakes, and tragedies of each generation impacted the next generation so profoundly.  It made the tragedies more heartbreaking and the grace in the face of evil even more beautiful.  This book changed me and made me a better person.
     This book has limited action and tells the story from many perspectives and time periods, so it may be frustrating for some readers.

The Mermaid Chair

     Jessie Sullivan had an idyllic childhood on Egret Island until her father died.  As soon as she could, Jessie left the island.  When Jessie's mom deliberately cuts off her finger, Jessie leaves her husband Hugh and returns to the island.  While caring for her mother, Jessie falls in love with Brother Thomas who is months away from taking his final vows.  Their affair destroys her marriage and tears brother Thomas' faith in the life he has chosen.
     While on the island, Jessie rediscovers the mermaid chair that she loved as a child.  The legend of the mermaid who becomes a saint has always resonated with Jessie.  She doesn't know that the chair is intricately linked to her father's death and her mother's self mutilation.  Jessie needs to find the truth that will set her, and her mother, free.
     I liked this book, but it wasn't one of my favorites.  The affair with Brother Thomas was difficult for me to understand, and made me look at biases I was not aware of having.  Brother Thomas was an interesting character and I liked his thoughts about God and religion.
     The legend of the mermaid chair was beautiful.  It was an interesting way to bring the past and present together in the story.    

Between Sisters

     Meghann Dontess learned long ago that love can break you in ways you never recover.  Her sister Claire learned long ago that a sister's love is one of the most powerful, even when it's gone.  Meghann and Claire try to build a new relationship from the ruins of their childhood, but they can't seem to find their way.
     When Meghann is nearly killed, she is forced to reassess her life and her beliefs about love.  Claire just found her happily ever after just in time for her own tragic ending.  She needs her sister more than ever.  Will Meghann be able to make up for the mistakes she made in the past and be the sister Claire needs?
     You have to suspend your disbelief a lot in this book as coincidences are a major part of the plot.  The writing is average.  However, some of the characters are well developed and make the book worth reading.   I loved her other book, The Winter Garden, but I don't think this book is as good.