The Sleeper and the Spindle

The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman is a unique twist on the Sleeping Beauty story.  Sleeping Beauty and the people in her castle have been asleep for years. However, this sleeping sickness seems to be spreading. First, the nearby villages fall asleep, then the villages near them, and so on. Soon, the entire kingdom is asleep, and it’s up to three dwarfs and the queen of the neighboring kingdom to figure out how to put an end to the curse.

This story has an ingenious blend of fairy tales. For instance, the queen is a character from another story. I’ll just say that she is someone who has also been asleep for a long time and let you figure out who she is. There are also additional elements to the story that help flesh it out. Those who are asleep do more than sleep, an old woman who is trapped inside the castle and immune to the curse, and the more one delves into the story, the more it becomes apparent that the details of the Sleeping Beauty that appear in each retelling are not what they seem. Not to mention that the ending will leave you thinking, “Wait, what? What just happened?” Overall, this is a quick read that goes more in-depth than one would think the amount of pages would allow.

Genre: Fantasy

Setting: A fairy tale land in an unspecified historical era.

Number of pages: 66

Objectionable content? A small amount of violence, one death, an occasional corpse, and unsettling factors (i.e. the sleepers)

Can children read this? Yes, as long as they are not easily upset by unsettling elements in stories. However, this book is best for teenagers and adults.

Who would enjoy this? Anyone who enjoys Neil Gaiman’s other works, and anyone who enjoys fairy tale remakes.

Themes: Beauty, power, loss, choices, strong women, and the need to control other’s emotions vs. the strength of only feeling your emotions.

Rating: Five stars

Minecraft: The Unlikely Tale of Markus “Notch” Persson and the Game That Changed Everything

Minecraft: The Unlikely Tale of Markus “Notch” Persson and the Game That Changed Everything by Daniel Goldberg is a biography of Persson that focuses on how he came to be the creator of Minecraft, and how it changed his life. This book discusses how Persson was fascinated by programming since his early childhood. Despite a guidance counselor who did not support his career goals, a family that was breaking down, and a few jobs that limited his ability to program games freely, he began to brainstorm and program the beginnings of Minecraft. What started as a side job that almost no one knew about quickly developed into a company that was worth millions. Minecraft went from a game that was only played by a handful of people to a game that attracted thousands of people to conventions before it was even fully released.

Why did Minecraft have such sudden and overwhelming popularity? It is at least partly due to the creativity that the game allows. People are able to create their own goals and alter the game’s world in any way that they choose. The book goes even deeper into Persson’s life and the aspects of the game and is definitely worth reading. The book also paints a picture of the world of online gaming, gaming corporations, and indie developers, as well as certain aspects that contribute to designing a good game.

We also have several other Minecraft books for you to read!

Minecraft: The Survivor’s Book of Secrets by Stephanie Milton is a new book that contains many tips and strategies that have been tested by people who have played Minecraft since it was first released.

 

 

Minecraft: Top 35 Minecraft Mods You Should Know by Joseph Joyner is an unofficial guide to different mods that can be added to Minecraft.

 

 

Minecraft: Guide to Building by Josh Gregory is a guide to building materials,  locations, and ideas. There are also several other similar books that are guides on other aspects of Minecraft, such as animals, mining, and farming.

 

The Making of Minecraft by Jennifer Zeiger is a book on a similar topic to the one reviewed at the beginning of this blog. It discusses the beginnings of Minecraft, and how it quickly grew into the phenomenon that it is today.

 

Quest for the Golden Apple: an unofficial graphic novel for Minecrafters by Megan Miller is the first in a series about the adventures of Phoenix and her brother in the world of Minecraft.

 

 

Click here to view the second edition of the reviewed book above. This edition has extra content that focuses on Microsoft’s purchase of Minecraft, Persson’s last days at Mojang, and what happened to Mojang afterwards.

Finding Wonders

Finding Wonders by Jeannine Harris is a fictional children’s book based on three real girls, Maria Sibylla Merian, Mary Anning, and Maria Mitchell, who made scientific contributions. Told with poems, each girl’s story begins with her childhood. Each girl learned to look beyond what other people took for granted or mistrusted. Each girl overcame the biases and challenges of her time for the sake of learning. These stories are an inspiration to anyone who has ever wanted to try something new despite the people around them. These girls were told they could not, should not, and would not, but they did anyway.

Genre: Children’s historical fiction

Setting: 1600s Germany, Amsterdam, and Suriname, 1800s England, 1800s Massachusetts

Number of pages: 195

Objectionable content? Several characters die, both adults and children, and religion is portrayed in a negative manner in some parts of the book.

Can children read this? Yes. This book is well-suited for elementary school children and up.

Themes: Learning, independent women, science, curiosity, restrictions

Rating: Five stars

Chocolat by Joanne Harris

chocolatIn Chocolat, Vianne is trying to break  away from her mother’s nomadic way of life. Determined to make a new life for herself and her daughter Anouk, Vianne settles down in a French village and opens a chocolate shop. However, the villagers and priest are less than thrilled with her presence since she has very different ideas on life. She does not attend the local church, she was never married to Anouk’s father, and she seems set on bringing about changes that will affect everyone’s lives.

This book was well-written and very enjoyable. It mostly takes place from  Vianne’s point of view as she becomes a driving force in the changes that come to the town. The writing style keeps you involved from the beginning, and the characters are fully developed. As you progress through the book, you delve into the pasts of the characters, learning how they came to the positions they currently occupy. You learn why Vianne wants to settle down, why Jacqueline is trapped in her marriage, and why the priest is against everything Vianne stands for. In addition, the protagonist is an intelligent woman who is very independent and strong-willed, which is part of what makes this book so interesting. Note: You will crave chocolate while reading this.

Genre: Fiction, but it is not truly a romance, despite the cover.

Setting: Twentieth-century French village called Lansquenet.

Is this good for a book club? Yes. It is a good length and allows for plenty of discussion, including character analysis, recurring themes, and what could potentially happen to everyone after the book ends.

Is there a movie version? Yes, but it is different enough from the book that it would provide a good comparison. Personally, I did not enjoy the movie because I felt that it took the characters and overall tone in directions that the author did not intend. However, you should watch it to see what you think. Click here for the movie version.

Themes: Including, but not limited to, letting go and moving on with life, overcoming feelings of powerlessness, retaining one’s morality, religion, and friction between people of different classes and walks of life.

Objectionable content? Very little, and nothing explicit. Some people may not like that the antagonist is a Catholic priest. However, despite being the antagonist, he is not a villainous character.

Can children read this? Teens would enjoy this.

 Who would like this? Anyone who enjoys reading fiction that involves good character development and a non-traditional protagonist.

Rating: Five stars. I highly recommend Chocolat.

Jane Austen Spinoffs

If one way to measure the popularity of an author is to note the number of spinoffs that his or her work has created, then Jane Austen is high on the popularity list!

longbourn Longbourn by Jo Baker
This is the story of Sarah, the Bennet’s housemaid in Pride and Prejudice, as she serves in their household while the events of the classic unfold. However, the downstairs is just as eventful as the upstairs, especially when a new footman arrives.

 

prideandprejudiceandzombiesPride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith
This is a retelling of Pride and Prejudice during a zombie apocalypse. Elizabeth Bennett is fighting off the zombie infestation after a plague has settled on the village. However, she also finds herself fighting Mr. Darcy after his arrival.

 

scargravemanorJane Austen and the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor by Stephanie Barron
This is the first book in a mystery series about Jane Austen as a detective. In this book, Jane’s friend Isobel is newly wed to a man who is many years her senior. Then, during the night, her new husband dies. Soon after his death, Isobel’s maid accuses Isobel of murdering her husband and committing adultery with her late husband’s nephew.

anassemblysuchasthisAn Assembly Such as This by Pamela Aidan
This is the story of Pride and Prejudice, told from the point of view of Fitzwilliam Darcy. This is the book to read if you wish to know more about the mysterious man and his view of the events in the classic novel.

 

janeaustenThe Mysterious Death of Miss Jane Austen by Lindsay Ashford
Anne Sharp was Jane Austen’s governess. Ever since Jane’s death twenty-six years earlier, Anne has held onto a lock of Jane’s hair. However, Anne is following up on a suspicion that she has carried with her all this time. Jane may have been murdered, and the lock of hair may prove it.

 

missingmanuscriptofjaneaustenThe Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen by Syrie James
Samantha McDonough finds a letter that laments a missing manuscript at an estate in Devonshire. The author of both the letter and the manuscript is thought to be none other than Jane Austen. All that that Samantha needs to do is figure out a way of working with Anthony Whitaker, the handsome owner of the estate.

 

emmaEmma: A Modern Retelling by Alexander McCall Smith
As the title describes, this is the modern version of the classic novel about a young woman who interferes in the lives of those around her. Fresh from college, Emma is kept busy by running her own business, caring for her father, and playing matchmaker.

 

northangerabbeyNorthanger Abbey by Val McDermid
This is a modern retelling of Northanger Abbey. Cat Morland, who loves to read novels, constantly fantasizes about experiencing adventures. So, when she travels to Edinburgh to attend a festival, she begins to wonder about the mysterious Northanger Abbey and its seemingly perfect residents, one of whom is very handsome.