Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Birth House by Ami McKay

The Birth House by Ami McKay
In 1916, Dora Rare, age 17 begins working with Mrs. B, the midwife in their town in Nova Scotia. The story chronicles her life as a doctor comes to town touting medicated births and paid "assurance" - an early form of health insurance. Many of the town's men leave to fight in WWI, Dora continues to help women with their female ailments, gets married, and is diagnosed with "hysteria" by the doctor who "treats" the "ailment" with a vibrator. Dora gets an up close view of the women's sufferage movement and eventually continues working as a midwife.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

This is definitely a different type of dragon book. Despite the dragon on the cover of the book, the book really is about people and relationships, prejudice, politics and religion. Set in a world where dragons have the ability to morph into human form, people and dragons have lived under an uneasy truce for the past forty years. Despite the truce, dragons are feared and hated and treated as second class citizens, forced to stay in their "saarantras" - human form - around humans, and wear a bell to warn humans that they are really dragons. In this book, the dragons are very logical creatures, considering emotion to be a human weakness and detriment to "ard" - order or correctness.
There is a glossary and cast of characters at the end of the book - I think it would have been better placed at the beginning.

Seraphina is a half-breed - her mother was a dragon who died in childbirth, and her father is human. Her father never knew that his wife was really a dragon until her death and he has struggled with this fact since then. Had her true parentage been known, Seraphina would have been killed, so her father lied and hid the facts about his first wife - even from Seraphina herself until she began having visions and grew scales on her arm and torso. At that time she learned that her teacher Orma, was actually a dragon and her uncle and he instructed her in both music and dragon facts and tried to help her to cope with her oddities.

Due to the extreme prejudice and religious taboo, Seraphina must constantly lie and hide her true self and she believes that she is the only one of her kind in existence.
She has inherited an extreme talent in music from her mother and at age 16 becomes assistant to the court music director and teaches music to the 15 year old princess Glisselda.

Seraphina becomes involved in the political turmoil surrounding the truce between dragons and humans, falls in love with Prince Kiggs, and discovers that she can communicate mentally with other half-breeds.  I found it a bit disturbing that some of the other half-breeds suffered from much more severe physical deformities than Seraphina, thus lending credence to the taboo and ban on inter-species relationships although this point was not developed in the book.

The politics/religion/prejudice reminded me a bit of the politics and talking animal rights issues in the book Wicked (although not nearly as boring and overdone as in Wicked). 
I really enjoyed reading this book and look forward to the next book that the author writes.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Treachery of Beautiful Things

The Treachery of Beautiful Things by Ruth Frances Long
When Jenny was 10 years old, she and her brother Tom were taking a shortcut home past a forest and she saw the trees grab him, pull him into the ground and swallow him up. After seven years of therapy and life, she feels herself drawn to the forest again to put things behind her and go on. Instead, she crosses over into the realm of Faerie where her brother is known as the Piper and he serves the cruel Queen. Jack, a handsome young man, of course, tries to help her to leave the realm while she intends to stay there and find her brother and bring him home. The forest is beautiful, yet treacherous filled with magical and cruel creatures. Jenny falls in love with Jack and is determined to save both him and Tom. The story is a great read and kept me captivated, but I was not thrilled with the ending. It left too many things unexplained, mainly, what the effect on the forest realm was after all that transpired in the story. If you like the faerie/fantasy/romance genre, you will enjoy this book.

Inkdeath by Cornelia Funke

Inkdeath by Cornelia Funke
This is a fantastic ending to a fantastic fantasy trilogy! As the story seems to be writing itself,Fenoglio and Orpheus try to re-write it, Orpheus to benefit himself, and Fenoglio to help it to go properly. Dustfinger befriends Death, Elinor and Darius also come to Inkworld and they try to defeat the Adderhead, a cruel tyrant. This is the longest book in the trilogy and it brings in many new themes and concepts. This spellbinding adventure is a wonderful read!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Inkspell by Cornelia Funke

Inkspell by Cornelia Funke
This second book of the Inkheart trilogy is set a year after the first book. Dustfinger and Farid have been wandering around while Meggie and her parents and Darius, have been living happily with Aunt Elinor. Meggie, having learned much about Inkworld from her mother, longs to read herself into the book. When Farid shows up and tells them that Basta and Mortola have had a man named Orpheus read Dustfinger into the book, leaving him behind, Farid asks Meggie to read him into the story so that he can warn Dustfinger and save him from Basta and Mortola. Meggie reads herself and Farid into the story and the adventure takes a dangerous turn. What is reality and what is the story? Why can't Fenoglio make his characters behave the way he wants them to? Can a writer bring a character back from the dead? Fantastic book and I look forward to reading hte last one!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Inkheart by Cornelia Funke

Inkheart by Cornelia Funke
What if the characters that you read about in books could come to life?  Meggie's father, Mo, has the ability to read characters and items right out of books.  Unfortunately, they trade places with someone or something from our world, which he found out when he read aloud the book Inkheart and his wife disappeared into it and some villians and other book characters appeared in his living room.  Ten years later, Mo still has not told Meggie of his ability, but when Dustfinger, a fire eater from the book Inkheart shows up, Meggie and Mo, and Meggie's aunt Elinor are drawn into the story as well in a surrealistic adventure to send the villian back and bring Meggie's mother home.  This is a fantastic book and I look forward to reading the other two books in the trilogy.

Monday, August 13, 2012

On the Backroad to Heaven: Old Order Hutterites, Mennonites, Amish, and Brethren by Donald B. Kraybill and Carl F. Bowman

On the Backroad to Heaven by Donald B. Kraybill

The authors of this book take a look at four Old Order Anabaptist groups and explain the history, beliefs and practices of the groups, their similarities and differences and why they chose to live the way that they do. The Old Order groups are the most extreme in their beliefs and separation from modern society. Some eschew automobiles and electricity while others allow some modern devices while denying others such as the Bretheren's use of automobiles as long as the radios are removed.
I found this book to be very informative and well researched.
I chose to read this book for several reasons.
I have recently read books about the Amish and have read about the Hutterites in the past, but did not know much about the Mennonites or the Bretheren. I was most interested in the Bretheren because I am aware that many of their teachings and practices have influenced the Christian group that I meet with, the Lord's Recovery. While there are many differences, I did see many things in the beliefs and practices of the Brethren that are definite influences on those of the Lord's Recovery. Some of those include the practice of meeting with the church according to locality, having no bishops, having an attitude that "worldly" activities should be shunned, and a focus on the inner transformation of the believers.