Friday, November 13, 2009

Almost raining, heavy clouds, lighter gray skies out over the Sound. Birds are at the feeder, the cat is in the window doing a little chirruping, and I am looking forward to spending the day reading now that the dishes are washed and the floors are swept.

Sunrise was at 7:12, sunset will be 4:35. I would like to experience, at least once, a day that has no light and a night that has no dark; to see the sun slip toward, but not dip below, the horizon, to be in a place where the landscape is so broad that, could you stay awake that long, you could turn and follow the sun barely lightening the night sky or never completely going down.

It would be so cool to spend a year in a place where the changes in the day and in the seasons are severe, experiencing the anticipation of the longer days and the disappearance of the sun. Do you think the sociology of people who live in those areas would be different from those who live in places where the tipping away of the earth from the sun is not quite as obvious?

I have read many books about teenaged girls this week: Forest Born, by Shannon Hale; Hold Still, by Nina LaCour; Lonely Hearts Club, by Elizabeth Euhlberg; Ever After, by Amy Huntley; Lips Touch Three Times, by Laini Taylor; and After, by Amy Efaw. Wow. These are pretty amazing books and, for teachers, librarians and parents looking for interesting and timely books for teens, this clutch would make a nice, current, wide ranging selection. They deal with everything from the pleasure of seduction to the taking of and the taking control of your own life. They deal with friendship, family and loss. They are all very well-written and each one will pluck a string of recognition in the reader.

I won't review each one in this particular blog entry - I tend to use this blog as a kind of book list (I have a really hard time keeping track of what I read and I don't do Good Reads well. Yet.) so I just need to get the titles down so I have something to reference later.

Forest Born
, by Shannon Hale, is the fourth book in her Books of Bayern series. The series began with Goose Girl, many years ago (and if you are going to search the books out, look for the editions with the Alison Jay covers), and continues with a character from each of the books as the main character in the following ones.

In Forest Born we are reunited with Razo, Isi,Dasha, and Enna, and we get to know Razo's sister, Rin. Rin is a girl who knows a lot about the people in the forest where she lives. She can tell by the way they act whether they are lying or can be trusted. She is also a child of the forest: she can hunt, climb, travel quietly through the woods, and the trees offer her solace.

When Rin compels a young man to do what she wants, when she realizes that she is able to make people do things against their will, it makes her feel both extraordinarily powerful and sick at heart. When she takes to the trees to calm herself, she feels a wave of sickness and darkness settle into her soul. Sure that even the trees hate her for what she can do, she leaves the forest for the city, hoping she can find her true self there, away from the people she is sure to hurt.

She becomes a handmaid to the queen, a woman she would like to emulate for her strength, simplicity and incisiveness. The politics, intrigue and jealousy of being at court are even more complex than trying to find out what her role in the world could be. And then war comes to Bayern.

Rin and her new friends, Isi, Dasha, and Enna, head off to Kel to fight the new queen, a woman with the ability to people-read. This is the ability to read desire and need and then use that to make her subjects do what she wants, binding them to her with her voice.

On the way to Kel, Rin begins to find her way through the maze that is the woman she will someday become as she and her friends talk and fight and tell tales about the abilities they have to call the wind, fire and rain.

Forest Born is a really good book. The story is exciting and funny and you really don't have to read the others first (you will want to, but you don't have to). There are battles of wits, words, and weapons, there are bullies and lovers, there is great romance and deep despair. It is a book of fantasy and true-speak about how hard it is to grow up and take responsibility for what you do and who you are.
Ages 12 an up. Bloomsbury Children's Books. Hardcover, $17.99.

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