Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Tortall Series: Song of the Lioness Quartet

Author: Tamora Pierce

Books in Quartet: Alanna: The First Adventure, In the Hand of the Goddess, The Woman Who Rides Like a Man, Lioness Rampant

Tortall Series: Song of the Lioness is the first quartet in a larger series of books called the Tortall Series. Each quartet is related in that they take place in the same land and the charcters often know each other or are inter-related, however, each quartet is about a different person. After Song of the Lioness, the next quartet is called The Immortals Series, and it's about a girl named Daine. After that is Protector of the Small, about a girl named Kel, and then you have Trickster's Queen,  and Trickster's Choice, which are about Alanna's daughter. The Beka Cooper trilogy technically is set years and years before Alanna, but from what I've heard, it stands on its own without much need of reading the others, so you can go for those at whatever point. Just a bit of information in case you wanted to make sure you're reading them all in the right order.

Pages: Book 1 - 274
Book 2 - 264
Book 3 -284
Book 4 -384

Rating: PG, however Alanna does have sex in books 2,3,and 4, but it's not graphic AT ALL. It's extremely vague. Basically, there's a point where in one sentence she wonders what it would be like to have sex, and then it says a few chapters later that she continues to work hard on her lessons by day, and "at night, --------- taught her about loving." (I left out the name so as not to give it away). And then in book three it's clear that she is sleeping with a certain person, but nothing explicitly says that they're having sex, other than one time where she says she feels best when they make love. Same with book 4. She calls him her lover, and it says they share a bedroll. But there is no description whatsoever. The books are not romances. I did not feel uncomfortable with it at all, but it's up to you.

Summary: Book One - Call it fate, call it intuition, or just call it common sense, but somehow young Alanna knows she isn't meant to become some proper lady cloistered in a convent. Instead, she wants to be a great warrior maiden--a female knight. But in the land of Tortall, women aren't allowed to train as warriors. So Alanna finds a way to switch places with her twin, Thom, and take his place as a knight in training at the palace of King Roald. Disguising herself as a boy, Alanna begins her training as a page in the royal court. Soon, she is garnering the admiration of all around her, including the crown prince, with her strong work ethic and her thirst for knowledge. But all the while, she is haunted by the recurring vision of a black stone city that emanates evil... somehow she knows it is her fate to purge that place of its wickedness. But how will she find it? And can she fulfill her destiny while keeping her gender a secret?

Book Two -
Still disguised as a boy, Alanna becomes a squire to none other than the prince of the realm. Prince Jonathan is not only Alanna's liege lord, he is also her best friend -- and one of the few who knows the secret of her true identity. But when a mysterious sorceror threatens the prince's life, it will take all of Alanna's skill, strength, and magical power to protect him -- even at the risk of revealing who she really is...
Filled with swords and sorcery, adventure and intrigue, good and evil, Alanna's second adventure continues the saga of a girl who dares to follow her dreams -- and the magical destiny that awaits her.

Book Three - Newly knighted, Alanna of Trebond seeks adventure in the vast desert of Tortall. Captured by fierce desert dwellers, she is forced to prove herself in a duel to the death -- either she will be killed or she will be inducted into the tribe. Although she triumphs, dire challenges lie ahead. As her mythic fate would have it, Alanna soon becomes the tribe's first female shaman -- despite the desert dwellers' grave fear of the foreign woman warrior. Alanna must fight to change the ancient tribal customs of the desert tribes -- for their sake and for the sake of all Tortall.

Book Four - Having achieved her dream of becoming the first female knight errant, Alanna of Trebond is not sure what to do next. Perhaps being a knight errant is not all that Alanna needs....But Alanna must push her uncertainty aside when a new challenge arises. She must recover the Dominion Jewel, a legendary gem with enormous power for good -- but only in the right hands. And she must work quickly. Tortall is in great danger, and Alanna's archenemy, Duke Roger, is back -- and more powerful than ever. In this final book of the Song of the Lioness quartet, Alanna discovers that she indeed has a future worthy of her mythic past -- both as a warrior and as a woman.

My Thoughts: I read these books for the first time when I was in middle school, and I have to say they are just as addicting now that I'm an adult. The books are rather small, so the 200 pages goes by really quickly. It probably took me about 4 hours to read each book. Since the books are about a girl proving herself in a man's world, you can definitely say that there is a feministic agenda about them, but it's not to the point where it's annoying or anything. To me, the message that is really evident is that you can be anything you want to be, and you shouldn't let anyone hold you back. You shouldn't let your gender or any other aspect of who you are keep you from following your dreams and achieving them. They're fun girl power books. It's nice to read about a girl who kicks butt and is just so awesome.

The books also move really quickly. You definitely never get bored, and it doesn't feel like you've run a marathon after you're done with them. In fact, the books are short enough, that you're basically dying to read the next one because the first one was just over too soon!

For all you sci-fi/fantasy freaks out there, the books are also filled with magic. Some people in the books have it, some do not, but if they do it is called "The Gift" and it's just something inside of them. They do have to learn to use it and control it, and control how much they use, because if they use too much at once, they can die. If they drain themselves of magic, they can't stay alive. Alanna doesn't just learn how to fight with swords and bows and arrows, she also learns how to use her magic.

 The people in Tortall have a variety of Gods, similar to Ancient Greece.The people kind of pick and choose which God is their personal favorite or whatever, but there are two main ones, a male and a female: Mithros, and the Great Mother Goddess. Alanna specifically  is a favorite of the Goddess, and her path in life is helped along by this Goddess. For me, it's all just fictional and good, and there are still some good messages in there, like when Alanna finds out that she is going to have to deal with her monthly period. She is extremely unhappy about this, and wants to change it, but the healer woman tells her that it's none of her business changing who the Gods wanted her to be. Here's the quote. "Your place in life you can always change, whether you have the Gift or not. But you cannot change what the gods have made you. The sooner you accept that, the happier you will be."

I love these books. They are great fun, they have some good messages, and they are pretty clean. You just have to get past the fact that Alanna has pre-marital sex, but for me it wasn't that hard to do, because it was not even the tiniest bit graphic, and it's certainly not the main focus of the story. It's just something that happens, but it's a background thing. It's not really a love story. Alanna does need to learn to be a woman and love, and that is why the sex is thrown in there, but it's really vague.

Book 3 is probably the least action packed, since it's kind of an in-between book. It's just the bridge between exciting things happening. But don't skip it. You need the background of the 3rd book to help you understand what is happening in the 4th one. I still read more than half the 3rd book in less than 2 hours. And then the 4th one has a nice satisfying ending, AND a long battle scene with lots of action. So it's very exciting. I highly recommend this series!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Zig Zag

Author: Ellen Wittlinger

Pages: 264

Rating: PG-13, but just barely. There's a little language, but not much, and at the beginning it's clear that Robin does have sex with her boyfriend, but there are no graphic sex scenes. They just have a conversation about what their parents would think if they knew. But since the book is not really about Robin's relationship with Chris, I don't really think you should let that fact keep you from reading the book.

Summary:Robin can't believe it when her boyfriend, Chris, tells her that his parents have enrolled him in a summer program in Rome. It's their last summer together before he goes away to college, and now they won't even have that time together. It feels like the worst thing that's ever happened to her.

Since Chris is leaving, Robin agrees to join her aunt and cousins on a cross-country road trip, in spite of her reservations -- she and her younger cousins have never really gotten along, and since their father's death they've become even more problematic than before.

Soon the four of them are zigzagging through the West on an eye-opening journey. They explore parts of the country Robin never dreamed existed -- and she discovers inner resources she never imagined she had.

My Thoughts: This book was one of my high school favorites, and I still liked it. It brought back a lot of nostalgia at the beginning when Robin feels like it's the end of the world that her boyfriend is leaving and that she is nothing without him. I totally remember feeling that way when my high school boyfriend went off to college and left me behind.

Robin is really funny, and her cousins, Iris and Marshall, have lots of problems. They're such real characters though. They are trying to deal with a huge tragedy, and they each choose different ways to deal with it. Marshall draws violent pictures, and Iris is just snotty all the time and she's hovering on the verge of bulimia. Robin is thrown in the mix to somehow get them all through the summer, and she ends up acting like the family's therapist. Robin ends up handling the whole mess extremely well. She's such a strong character, even though she has very little faith in herself. She learns a lot along the way, and she grows up a lot too.

It's not your average dopey teenage love story or anything. These kids have real issues, and the trip helps them to heal and come closer together. That's part of why I like this book. It has a lot of lessons written into an easy to read story about a family on a road trip across the USA.