Friday, March 11, 2011

The Penderwicks by: Jeanne Birdsall

A summer tale of four sisters, two rabbits, and a very interesting boy.

The four Penderwicks sisters, Rosalind, Skye, Jane, and Batty, find themselves staying on a beautiful estate called Arundel for the summer holidays. Each girl is very different.
Brown-eyed Rosalind, the prettiest of the sisters, is a mother to her four sisters after their own mother died many years ago. Skye, the next in line, is a sarcastic blond with blue eyes. Jane dreams of being an author and often lets her imagination wander. And finally, the youngest, Batty. Batty is a shy girl who wears a tacky pair of wings everywhere she goes and will not talk to strangers at all. She loves animals and is the only one in the family who understands their dog, Hound, when he is trying to tell them something.

Together the four sisters have wonderful adventures, and some not so wonderful ones. Skye mistakenly insults Jeffrey Tifton's mother and Jeffrey himself. Jane has her heart set on having a professional editor read the book that she's written. But in the end, the editor says it's horrible. Jane feels bad until she learns that he is not a real professional book editor at all. Rosalind has a bad fall and injures her head. But despite all this, good things happen too. The girls meet Cagney, a friendly teenager who is usually wearing a baseball cap. Batty makes friends with some rabbits. And the girls, after much indecision as what to do, finally decide to go to Jeffrey and apologize for insulting him. That was the best part of the summer for all the girls, meeting Jeffrey.

Jeffrey is forced to invite the girls to his birthday party by Churchie, the maid, and the girls have to wear Jeffrey's mother's old clothes since they don't own anything fancy enough. Fortunately for them, Mrs. Tifton doesn't recognize the Penderwick's clothes as once being her own, or does she? The party ends in complete failure when the girls spy Mrs. Tifton and her boyfriend discussing marriage. They also are discussing sending Jeffrey off to a boarding school where he will learn to be a soldier. Jeffrey actually wants to pursue music, but his mother wants him to follow in his grandfather's footsteps.

Batty and Skye overhear Mrs. Tifton talking to her son, Jeffrey, about all the Penderwick's faults. Skye rushes in and yells at Mrs. Tifton about how all the things she said were wrong. But if the girls keep making mistakes and insulting Mrs. Tifton, they will no longer be able to play with Jeffrey anymore. The Penderwicks already were found play-wrestling in the piano room, they ruined Mrs. Tifton's garden show, and their dog got into her plants. Then the girls decide to help Jeffrey run away, but Mr. Penderwick thinks it would be better to have Jeffrey stand up to his mother and tell her the truth, he wants to go to music school.

My thoughts:

The Penderwicks are a close knit family that enjoy being with each other and making new friends. But Mrs. Tifton thinks they are a wild family that their father doesn't have enough control over.

I don't know who my favourite character is, but my favourite person from the Penderwick family is either Rosalind or Jane. Jane loves to write books, particularly books about a girl named "Sabrina Starr", and often lets her mind wander. Sometimes Jane will be sitting there and suddenly quote things from books she's read or written. Rosalind is pretty, good with kids, and takes care of her family, mainly Batty, since their mother died.


At first Mrs. Tifton may seem mean, but in the end she shows her good side and proves that she does care a great deal about Jeffrey, who is her only child.

The Penderwick girls are very nice, even if they do sometimes get out of hand. Usually when they get out of hand it's all in fun and they are just a little excited.


Mrs. Tifton's boyfriend, Mr. Dexter Dupree, doesn't really seem to have a good side. He is mean to Jane about her book. As soon as he marries Mrs. Tifton, he wants to get rid of Jeffrey and send him to boarding school. He doesn't like the Penderwick girls. He hit their dog, and called Batty crazy.

9/10 stars

Monday, March 7, 2011

By Darkness Hid by: Jill Williamson

*This book is a three parter. The second book it titled "To Darkness Fled." The third one is "From Darkness Won."

What is bloodvoicing?
It's a mind communication gift that is passed down through royal blood. If you can bloodvoice, you can talk to people with your mind. You can also tell what people are thinking.

Achan Cham's story:

Achan is a slave in the kitchens. Actually, he is worse than that. Achan's a stray. Being a stray is the absolute lowest class he, or anyone else for that matter, can be in. If you are a stray, you get branded on your right shoulder. Achan was branded on his left shoulder. No one can ever figure out why.

But when Sir Gavin meets Achan, he senses something special about him. Achan can bloodvoice. Lord Nathak knows that Achan bloodvoices too, and he worries that with bloodvoicing, Achan will find out his secret. Lord Nathak's secret would make him look pretty bad if it was found it. So he forces Achan to drink a foul tasting potion every day to silence the bloodvoices in his head. But Sir Gavin wants to put a stop to this. He takes Achan on as his squire and teaches him how to use a sword. But then Achan is forced to go to prison for supposedly trying to assassinate the prince. In prison he meets Vrell Sparrow. Vrell cares for Achan and the two are soon friends. But when Vrell reads a note that Achan's old friend, Gren, wrote to him, Achan doesn't know whether he wants to forgive Vrell. In the meantime, Sir Gavin finds out something about Achan that Achan doesn't know. It endangers Achan's life. This important piece of information could change Achan's life forever.

Vrell Sparrow's story:

Vrell Sparrow must disguise herself as a boy to avoid marrying Prince Gidon, soon to be King Gidon. As desperately as some people wanted to be queen, not many would sink low enough to marry Gidon, a lazy, selfish boy who only thought of himself. Worse yet, since the only person who knows that Vrell is a girl is away, she is forced to go be apprenticed to Master Hadar, who will teach her bloodvoicing techniques.

Vrell is a very strong bloodvoicer, but tries to hide her gift, which is very hard when you are around bloodvoicers a lot. Vrell has a journey to take before she goes to be apprenticed. And the people Vrell is traveling with don't know that she is a girl, or so she thinks. If Khai, one of the men she was travelling with, found out her secret, she would be in great danger. Khai would try to sell her, or, still worse, tell Gidon that Vrell is the girl whom he tried to marry. Then Vrell meets Achan and tries to help him. Achan is in prison for supposedly trying to murder the Prince, when he was actually trying to help the prince by forcing him into a tree. Vrell needs help. And she needs it fast. The person she is apprenticed to, Master Hadar, turns out to be untrustwory. She is worried that he's plotting something evil. And then Khai discovers her secret, it looks like things couldn't get worse. Or could they?

My thoughts:

I don't read a lot of fantasy, but this book is excellent! Oryus {review HERE} used to be my favourite fantasy book, but I think I've found my new favourite! And they only get better!
Highly, highly, highly recommend.

Here's a link to the author's website.

My favourite character is Vrell. Vrell is smart and brave. She manages to hide her true identity until the end of the book. And she's nice when she helps Achan out. Achan can be a bit sarcastic and he teases a lot. And since he doesn't realize that Vrell is a girl, he doesn't act at all mannerly. I highly reccomend this book!
Religious content:
Though most people in this book don't, Vrell believes in God and knows that the others are fake.
Achan hears God's voice in his head.
Many of the people in this book believe in false gods and sacrifice to them.

10/10 stars

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Persecutor by: Sergei Kourdakov

Sergei Kourdakov (the author of this book) died on January 1, 1973, at the age of only twenty-two. Sergei was found dead in a hotel room, assassinated by the Soviet secret police for his failure to keep silent about the Soviet Union and his testimony. He was killed by a bullet from a gun.
And I want to make a quick little note that Sergei's birthday was yesterday. He was born March 1st, 1951.

Sergei Kourdakov was the king everywhere he went. He domineered in the boarding schools he went to. His father was killed by the communist government and his mother died shortly after of grief. One thing that deeply effected his life in those boarding schools was the death of his friend, Sasha, who died of starvation and lack of food and care.

"Of all that took place at Barysevo, [Sasha's death] had the greatest impact on me in changing my attitude and outlook on life. From Sasha's death, I realized many things. First, of all, that life is the survival of the fittest. It is a jungle. The strong will live. The tough will make it. The weak will lose or die. I walked out of that room vowing that if this is how life is, I will be the toughest, the strongest, the smartest."

Sergei had no religion, so he was easily influenced by the communist teachings and was persuaded to join. After he became a communist, he was an active member of the communist groups. All his boarding school friends were left far behind him. Most of his friends pursued drug selling and illegal work. Sergei could have, but he wanted to go far in life. In school he did well, in the communist group he had joined, he was the best. He attacked the projects and excelled in everything. He was a model pupil. It was because of Sergei's perfect record that he was honored on television as the number one communist youth in his province. Later, at age seventeen, he was paid by the secret police to head up a group of twenty strong men. Their job was simple. To inflict terror on Christians. And they did it well.

"At last she gave in and began sobbing. When I was so exhausted I couldn't raise my arm for even one more blow, and her backside was a mass of raw flesh, I pushed her off the table, and she collapsed on the floor." It was the girl he was beating that later changed his life.

"As my arm was raised, I heard her words: 'God, forgive this young man. Show him the true Way. Open his eyes and help him, dear God'. I was stunned. Why doesn't she ask help for herself instead of me? She's the one about to be finished off. I was angered that she, a nobody, would be praying for me, a leader of the Communist Youth League! In a flash of rage, I gripped my club tighter and prepared to smash it against her head. I was going to hit her with all my might, enough to kill her. I started to swing. Then the strangest thing happened. Someone grabbed my wrist and jerked it back. I was startled. It was hurting. It was not imaginary. It was a real squeezing on my wrist until it actually pained. I thought it was a Believer, and I turned around to hit him. But there was no one there! I looked back. Nobody could have grabbed my arm. And yet, somebody had grabbed me! I still felt the pain. I stood there in shock. The blood rushed to my head. I felt hot as fright swept over me. This was beyond me. It was confusing, unreal. Then I forgot everything. Dropping my club, I ran out, with the blood rushing to my head and a hot, flushed feeling in my face. Tears began flowing down my cheeks. I was too tough to cry, I thought. Crying was a sign of weakness. But now, as I ran from that nightmare scene, I was crying! I was bewildered, lost. I ran and walked, then ran some more, not remembering a thing. Hours passed. I can't recall anything beyond running and crying. But when I came to myself, it was dark. I realized I was carrying a heavy psychological load, which I cannot explain. It was as if my heart had been replaced by a heavy rock, pressing me down. There was something very wrong with life, with me. But I told no one."

Sergei realized something in his life was wrong. He knew he had to escape. He wanted to leave his job in the secret police and go to Canada. So that was what he planned to do. His plan was simple, or maybe not so simple. He decided to join the crew on a ship as a naval officer and swim to Canada once they were close enough to the shore. He needed to have endurance and strength for the many hours he would be in the freezing water trying to get to Canada's shores. And once he got to Canada, if he got there, would they (Canada) send him back to his home where he had run away from? Where he would be possibly beaten and friendless? His friends were probably mad at him for leaving, and he would most likely not be hired back to his job with the secret police. They wouldn't trust him now that he'd tried to escape. Was Canada to be his new home?(The picture of Sergei below is him sharing his story on television)

My thoughts:

I really enjoyed this book. It's a very fascinating book about a boy with no parents who wants to make something of himself. Actually, in the The Persecutor, someone wants to make Sergei's life into a book, but Sergei doesn't think the story would be interesting enough. Also, it would expose all the things he and his friends did. And his friends didn't like that.

One thing I learned from this book is how fortunate we are to be able to worship God openly, without the worry of police and being beaten.

My favourite character was Natasha (The girl mentioned in the quote above, second from the top). Even after she was beaten she continued to worship God openly and go to meetings. Sergei ends his book with these final words...

"And finally, to Natasha, whom I beat terribly and was willing to be beated a third time for her faith, I want to say, Natasha, largely because of you, my life is now changed and I am a fellow Believer in Christ with you. I have a new life before me. God has forgiven me; I hope you can also. Thank you, Natasha, wherever you are. I will never, never forget you!"