Thursday, February 14, 2013

#50BookPledge: James Potter and the Vault of Destinies

Book number two on my 2013 #50BookPledge was James Potter and the Vault of Destinies.  This is the third book by G. Norman Lippert in the James Potter series, a fan-fiction spin off from Harry Potter.

I found the first of the James Potter series on Goodreads.  I don't even really remember how I came upon them; but, there they were for the reading.  You can actually read the books right from the Goodreads site on your desktop/laptop or mobile device.  I was skeptical about the books going in, I mean really how good is fan-fiction? 
Obviously, I enjoyed the first book enough to read more.  Before I started into the rest of the series, I googled Mr. Lippert and found his James Potter world.  It was here I learned Mr. Lippert writes these books and makes them free for download in either EPub or Mobi formats.  There is a disclaimer at the end of each of the James Potter books asking that readers purchase the other works of fiction written by Mr. Lippert so that he may continue writing the James Potter books we have come to enjoy. 

Like the Harry Potter books by JK Rowling, the James Potter series sees each book tying together the story of the young Mr. Potter.  Without giving away too much from the previous books, the third book, James Potter and the Vault of Destinies was, by-far, my favourite.  James reconnects with some original characters and really seems to come into his own.  I thoroughly enjoyed learning more about the American wizarding world and meeting new characters that I wouldn't be surprised to find in future James Potter books.
For every similarity between the Harry Potter series and the James Potter series, there is an equal difference that makes the reader want to continue reading and following James along his journey of self-discovery. 

I have just learned that a fourth book in the series is due to release this Spring. I'll be sure to add it to my reading list as I'm quite intrigued by the challenges ahead of Mr. James Potter.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

10 Things I Want My Daughter to Know Before She Turns Ten

Grace is rounding the curve to ten.  I am not sure how this is possible. I feel ever more aware of her girlhood and looming adolescence, and of all the things I want her to know, as if I could somehow instill values and beliefs into her, like pressing a penny into soft clay.  I know I can't; the best I can do is to keep saying them, keep writing them, keep living them.
Ten things I want my 10-year-old daughter to know:
1. It is not your job to keep the people you love happy.  Not me, not Daddy, not your brother, not your friends.  I promise, it's not.  The hard truth is that you can't, anyway.
2. Your physical fearlessness is a strength. Please continue using your body in the world: run, jump, climb, throw.  I love watching you streaking down the soccer field, or swinging proudly along a row of monkey bars, or climbing into the high branches of a tree.  There is both health and a sense of mastery in physical activity and challenges.
3. You should never be afraid to share your passions. You are sometimes embarrassed that you still like to play with dolls, for example, and you worry that your friends will make fun of you.  Anyone who teases you for what you love to do is not a true friend.  This is hard to realize, but essential.
4. It is okay to disagree with me, and others. You are old enough to have a point of view, and I want to hear it.  So do those who love you.  Don't pick fights for the sake of it, of course, but when you really feel I'm wrong, please say so.  You have heard me say that you are right, and you've heard me apologize for my behavior or point of view when I realize they were wrong.  Your perspective is both valid and valuable.  Don't shy away from expressing it.
5. You are so very beautiful. Your face now holds the baby you were and the young woman you are rapidly becoming.  My eyes and cleft chin and your father's coloring combine into someone unique, someone purely you.  I can see the clouds of society's beauty myth hovering, manifest in your own growing self-consciousness.  I beg of you not to lose sight with your own beauty, so much of which comes from the fact that your spirit runs so close to the surface.
6. Reading is essential.  It is the central leisure-time joy of my life, as you know.  I am immensely proud and pleased to see that you seem to share it.  That identification you feel with characters, that sense of slipping into another world, of getting lost there in the best possible way?  Those never go away.  Welcome.
7. You are not me. We are very alike, but you are your own person, entirely, completely, fully.  I know this, I promise, even when I lose sight of it.  I know that separation from me is one of the fundamental tasks of your adolescence, which I can see glinting over the horizon.  I dread it like ice in my stomach, that space, that distance, that essential cleaving, but I want you to know I know how vital it is.  I'm going to be here, no matter what, Grace.  The red string that ties us together will stretch.  I know it will.  And once the transition is accomplished there will be a new, even better closeness.  I know that too.
8. It is almost never about you. What I mean is that when people act in a way that hurts or makes you feel insecure, it is almost certainly about something happening inside of them, and not about you.  I struggle with this one mightily, and I have tried very, very hard never once to tell you you are being "too sensitive" or to "get over it" when you feel hurt.  Believe me, I know how feelings can slice your heart, even if your head knows otherwise.  But maybe, just maybe, it will help to remember that almost always other people are struggling with their own demons, even if they bump into you by accident.
9. There is no single person who can be your everything. Be very careful about bestowing this power on any one person.  I suspect you are trying to fill a gnawing loneliness, and if you are you inherited it from me.  That feeling, Woolf's "emptiness about the heart of life," is just part of the deal.  Trying to fill that ache with other people (or with anything else, like food, alcohol, numbing behaviors of a zillion sorts you don't even know of yet) is a lost cause, and nobody will be up to the task.  You will feel let down, and, worse, that loneliness will be there no matter what.  I'm learning to embrace it, to accept it as part of who I am.  I hope to help you do the same.
10. I am trying my best.  I know I'm not good enough and not the mother you deserve.  I am impatient and fallible and I raise my voice.  I am sorry.  I love you and your brother more than I love anyone else in the entire world and I always wish I could be better for you.  I'll admit I don't always love your behavior, and I'm quick to tell you that.  But every single day, I love you with every fiber of my being.  No matter what.

Monday, February 4, 2013

The Painted Girls

Late 19th Century Paris, a family struggling with circumstance. The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan tells a story of three sisters, forced to make moral compromises when their father dies and Maman turns to absinthe, dooming them to a life in squalor.

The story is told from the point of view of Antoinette and Marie. Antoinette, the oldest of the three sisters, feels it is her duty to look out for the younger girls. She knows that their best chance of survival lies in the ballet and having attended the school herself, she manipulates an audition for the younger girls. Marie and Charlotte are both accepted in the dance school much to Antoinette’s delight; but, while waiting for her sisters she meets Émile Abadie and her world begins a downward spiral.

Marie, reluctant to leave her studies, joins the Paris Opéra where it becomes evident she has an incredible gift for dance. It is there, that she encounters Edgar Degas and begins modeling, often in the nude, for a meager yet vital income. Marie’s intelligence and strong spirit are what guide her. She refuses to become another statistic and works diligently to build a better life for herself; until one fateful day when she is faced with a decision that ultimately becomes her undoing.

The Painted Girls will capture the reader from the start. Buchanan dives right in painting a scene that leaves the reader wanting more. How will the girls survive? Will they be successful at the Opéra? Will Marie succeed in creating a better future for herself, and will Antoinette finally realize Émile for what he really is?

As a work of historical fiction, Buchanan does an amazing job of incorporating tidbits of reality making it easier for the reader to relate to the characters and their circumstances. We bond with the girls and find ourselves routing for them and wanting to help them. The ending is, in my opinion, exactly what it should be. It closes off the story nicely and the reader feels complete, not left wanting more.

This book is suitable for young adults, ages 14 and older, and may contain mild uses of violence and/or profanity, sexual content and/or mature themes within the context of the story.

I would give this book a 4 star rating.

*Originally written for publication on the Girl Guides of Canada blog.