Monday, November 24, 2014

A Modern Cinderella

Title: A Modern Cinderella or, The Little Old Shoe and Other Stories 

Series: None 

Year: 2012 (republication) 

Author: Louisa May Alcott 

Summary: This book contains four short stories by Louisa May Alcott: A Modern Cinderella, Debby's Debut, The Brothers, and Nelly's Hospital. (from Goodreads)

Main Characters:
~ Nan
~ Debby Wilder
~ Miss Dane
~ Nelly

Review: This collection of short stories from Louisa May Alcott is sweet. It didn't take me long to read through the entire Kindle version, and I enjoyed it. Usually, I'm not a huge fan of short stories, but I'm glad I picked this one up. My main interest in this collection came entirely from its title: A Modern Cinderella. Looking up whatever Cinderella retellings I could, and being a fan of L.M. Alcott, I decided this should go on my list.

A Modern Cinderella tells the tale of... well, a modern Cinderella. Nan is our heroine, and her story is very much in the style of Alcott's most famous work, Little Women. It's light and sweet, and the differences played from the original Cinderella tale are refreshing. Nan's father is still alive, yet suffers from health problems; her sisters allow her to play the servant, but that's only because they're so busy in their own hobbies/interests that they don't often notice her working hard in the background. But for all their faults, they love her to pieces. One of my favorite things about this short story was the portrayal of the shoe. No, Nan didn't lose it at the ball, but I really enjoyed how Alcott worked it into the plot.

Debby's Debut is basically a coming-out story, and I think it's safe to say that this was my favorite of the four. Yes, they were all good, but this one seemed to have a little more wit and spice than the others. Debby, or Dora, as her aunt Pen calls her, is a young lady getting ready for grand society. She's used to being a country girl but now faces the arduous task of coming out at the beach under Aunt Pen's strict eye. Debby's not very good at flirting, and her country manners, though charming, and not refined enough for society's taste. Even though she appreciates her aunt's intervention, Debby doesn't agree with everything that society wishes her to do.

The Brothers is the darkest tale of the collection, pulling some of Alcott's wartime nursing experience into the plot. Miss Dane is an accomplished nurse to whom the doctor entrusts the care of two wounded men when the hospital beds overflow. One man is a white Rebel who is broken down with a horrible fever; the other, a mulatto man with some facial wounds. Miss Dane cares for them both, but finds surprise when she discovers the two men are connected in a very strange, but bitter, way. She thought she was to save their lives from their illnesses/injuries... not from each other.

Nelly's Hospital brings the collection to an end, and such a sweet end it is, too. Nelly is a young girl whose only desire is to lend a hand at the hospital. Her brother has just come home from the war and, seeing how he suffered, Nelly wants to offer compassion and assistance to others like him. She's too young to help in a real hospital, but her mother heartily approves of her setting up a miniature Sanitary Ambulance to help ailing creatures and other small pets. Together with her friend Tony, Nelly becomes the nurse she's always dreamed of being and makes a bigger impact than even she thought possible.

Advisory: Some profanity in The Brothers as characters vent their emotions.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Click here to buy A Modern Cinderella on Amazon!
It's currently free on Kindle!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Spirit Fighter (Son of Angels)

Title: Spirit Fighter

Series: Son of Angels (Book #1)

Year: 2012

Author: Jerel Law

Summary: Your mom always said you were an angel. What if she was right? 

Jonah Stone has always thought of himself as average, but in seventh grade he learns a fascinating family secret, and his world turns upside down. Jonah’s mom is a nephilim, the daughter of a human and a fallen angel, which makes Jonah one-quarter angel. When his mom is kidnapped by fallen angels, it’s up to Jonah and his sister Eliza to rescue her. Guided by prayer and a guardian angel, Jonah and Eliza embark on an epic adventure through the streets of New York and come to understand that God plans in ways they never could have imagined. Spirit Fighter, Book 1 in the Son of Angels: Jonah Stone series, is an imaginative adventure that is based on scripture in the book of Genesis. (from Goodreads)

Main Characters:
~ Jonah Stone
~ Eliza Stone

Review: I found this book via Goodreads, and as it was advertised as a "Christian" Percy Jackson, I'd thought I'd try it out. And as far as the advertising goes, I think it's right on the head. Jonah Stone is just what you'd want him to be.

Jonah just wants to be a normal teenager. However, being normal is far from the family he was born into. Nope, his mother is half angel (what is called a nephilim), and Jonah and his two siblings are quarter angels. And then his mom is kidnapped, and Jonah learns that he and Eliza have been chosen to go after her. They each have their angel powers to help protect them, and accompanying them is their family's guardian angel, Henry.

In some ways, this book reminded me greatly of Percy Jackson. Ready for some similarities? 
  • Kidnapped mother (duh, that's a given)
  • Super cool powers (Percy has water powers, while Jonah has super strength and speed)
  • Fights with creatures no normal person can see (Percy - mythological creatures; Jonah - fallen angels)
  • Creepy old ladies with knitting needles
  • New York
  • Trouble in school
  • And so on...
See? Very Percy Jackson-ish. Even the writing style was light and fun like Rick Riordan's. But for Jerel Law's credit, he did a good job in creating something that seemed familiar, but was unique in a special way. The whole plot revolved around the kidnapping of Jonah's mother, a nephilim. The fallen angels have a dark plan in which they require her specifically, and Jonah and Eliza must rescue her before that big plan can go into action. No, I'm not going to tell you the plan, because that would be spoilers, and because only half of the plan is released in book one. I need to read the second book, Fire Prophet, and discover what happens next!

From what I've heard about Frank Peretti's Piercing the Darkness (I have yet to read that book, but I will get around to it one of these days), I think this book would fall under that same sort of genre. It's set in the real world, yet it clearly shows that there's a spiritual battle going on that not many people are aware of. Within our world is a spiritual realm in which angels battle the Fallen. The motive? Men's souls. The angels guide and encourage, while the Fallen yearn to bring men down into the pit of darkness. It's a very deep topic, yet I think the author did a wonderful job here introducing this to young readers. 

Now, I did give this book only three stars. Please note that I thoroughly enjoyed it, but... well, it just wasn't a favorite for me. I liked it well enough to want to finish the series, but I don't know that I'll re-read them. But that's just me. I've read some reviews in which readers had no qualms about giving this book a full five stars.

Advisory: Action as Jonah and Eliza battle angels of darkness and their cohorts. In one scene, they encounter a large octopus of sorts (I forget what it was called -- it's pictured on the cover). 

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars 
Click here to buy Spirit Fighter on Amazon!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Just Ella (The Palace Chronicles)

Title: Just Ella

Series: The Palace Chronicles (Book #1)

Year: 2001

Author: Margaret Peterson Haddix

Summary: "Princess, nobody can stop those rumors. People would rather believe in fairy godmothers...than think that you took charge of your own destiny."

Like every commoner in the land, Ella dreams of going to the ball and marrying Prince Charming. But after she is chosen to marry the prince, life with the royal family is not the "happily ever after" that Ella imagined. Pitiless and cold, the royals try to mold her into their vision of a princess. Ella's life becomes a meaningless schedule of protocol, which she fears she will never grasp. And Prince Charming's beautiful face hides a vacant soul.

Even as her life turns to misery, the stories persist that Ella's fairy godmother sent her to the ball: How else could the poor girl wear a beautiful gown, arrive in a coach, and dance in those glass slippers? But there is no fairy godmother to help Ella escape the deadening life of the castle. Can she do it on her own?

Margaret Peterson Haddix's reconstruction of the Cinderella legend without the magic -- how a commoner could have married the prince -- is a story as richly fascinating as the classic tale. (from Goodreads)

Main Characters:
~ Ella Brown
~ Madame Bisset
~ Prince Charming
~ Jed Reston

Review: Just Ella is a popular retelling of the fairy tale everyone loves: Cinderella. I was pretty excited when I discovered it and added to my growing list of Cinderella stories to read. The plot sounded really good -- after the ball, Cinderella discovers that "happily ever after" may not be all that it's cracked up to be. What could be more interesting?

But reading this book, I found myself quickly disappointed. Ella does nothing but complain in the palace, and though you can hardly blame her (she suffers through hours of needlepoint, boring conversations, and iron corsets, for cat's sake!), it quickly got on my nerves. She was only fifteen years old, but alternated between acting like a five year old and an old grump. The life of the royal court was greatly exaggerated for the sake of the fairy tale, but at times (in those rare instances when luck finally won out), it grew to be humorous. Most of the characters were really shallow, and it was hard to connect with them. I got irritated with some of the plot twists, as characters were doing things out of character, in a sense. 

I've seen other reviews of this book that say this story would have been more satisfactory if the author had given more of a decided ending. Haddix continues a bit of Ella's story in the second book of the Palace Chronicles, Palace of Mirrors (which I read a few years ago). I didn't even know it was part of a series, as both books tend to stand alone, save for a few mentions of Ella in the second. On the whole, while I found the ideas very interesting, I wasn't very impressed with either of the books.

Advisory: There were quite a few crude and "adult" comments that I was greatly displeased over, and for that, I don't think I could recommend the book for readers under 14. I'm 20 and I was disgusted reading them.

For romance -- there is one kiss when Ella "falls in love" with the prince, and she thinks about cuddling a lot, but I didn't notice anything other than that.

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Click here to buy Just Ella on Amazon!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Cindy's Story (An Amish Fairy Tale Novelette)

Title: Cindy's Story

Series: Amish Fairy Tale Novellete (Book #1)

Year: 2013

Author: J.E.B. Spredemann

Summary: He's running from his past. She's hiding from her present. But God has a plan for their future. (from Goodreads)

Main Characters:
~ Cindy
~ Nathaniel

Review: I surprised myself in picking this book up. I found it free on the Kindle one day, and since it was portrayed as a fairy tale retelling/novelette, I decided I'd give it a go. Personally, I don't prefer romance novels, and I've never actually ventured into the Amish genre for multiple reasons. But it was based on Cinderella. Another retelling? I'll try it!

Cindy is an Amish girl who is treated like a servant by her stepmother and two stepsisters. She does her best not to complain about her circumstances, but who would want to live like that forever? She's not allowed to go out, so it's a surprise to young Nathaniel when he meets her in the woods. They start up a friendship and Nathaniel soon finds himself in love with Cindy. Yet, she doesn't seem to know what love is. She's rather backwards on most Amish customs. Nathaniel doesn't understand why Cindy's stepmother is so insistent that Cindy remain invisible. Selfishness or love? Which will win out?

In truth, it's a short, sweet, modern tale of Cinderella. But, in comparison to the original tale, there's not much that links Cindy to Cinderella save for the typical rags-to-riches plot. Cindy had an old dress of her mothers, but if my memory serves me correctly, there was no mention of any shoes. If you like a sweet romance, a short Amish story, or just everything Cinderella in general, then this is a story for you. Personally, I liked it, but not enough to garner a second read.

Advisory: A kiss or two, but the romance doesn't really go farther than that. 

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Click here to buy Cindy's Story on Amazon!