Book Review || Through the Skylight

Author: Ian Baucom

Publishers: Simon & Schuster

Release Year: 2013

My Summary

Siblings Jared, Shireen, and Miranda are staying in Venice with their parents, and they’re bored. Life suddenly becomes more interesting when they happen upon an old Venetian shopkeeper, who lets each of them pick out a treasure from a bag— two rings for Shireen and Miranda, and a wooden die for Jared. Once home, however, they realize that these aren’t just any rings or dice. In fact, they just might be magic. That night, their father begins reading to them from an old book, a tale from A Thousand and One Nights, that the shopkeeper had also given them. The book tells the story of a boy named Rashid, as well as two girls, Maria and Francesca. Slowly, Jared and his sisters begin to realize that the power of their treasures may be connected to the children in the book. And then…

A stone lion awakens.
A cat speaks to them.
A painted faun comes to life.

So the adventure commences! The lives of Jared, Shireen, and Miranda become intertwined with those of three other children; children who were alive centuries ago. The very ones whose names are mentioned in the book. Reading the book further, they discover a sinister plot, and it’s up to them to stop it! With the help of Silvio the faun, Maldini the cat, and Lorenzo il Piccolo the stone lion, they join forces with Rashid, Maria, and Francesca and use their magic relics to try save Venice— and hopefully making it out unscathed.

My Thoughts

Through the Skylight is a suspenseful adventure story rich with detail— both historically and culturally. Blending elements of magic, fantasy, and real history, it creates quite the journey for Jared, Shireen, and Miranda. So, let’s start off by saying this: though I found this book to be a little uneven at times, I thought that it was overall a fun, interesting read. Venice was definitely the right choice for the setting; what better backdrop than a city so full of culture and whimsy? through the skylight.jpgThe characters were also an interesting bunch— two adopted kids from India, their blonde little sister, a wine-guzzling faun, a surly stone lion, a wise black cat, an evil monk, plus three children from the past who are in grave danger. It was refreshing to see such a diverse cast, though some characters felt a bit two-dimensional once in a while (*cough*Jared*cough*). The concept of the plot was intriguing as well but felt overwhelming and confusing at times since new obstacles and ideas kept cropping up as I read. I did, however, like that, without being too preachy, the book indirectly addresses ideas of prejudice and co-existing with people from different faiths, nationalities, and even time periods. If you’re a fan of enchanted quests and a historical-modern mix, then Through the Skylight is for you! 🙂


Book Review || What the Moon Saw

Author: Laura Resau

Publishers: Delacorte Press

Release Year: 2006

My Summary

Clara Luna’s name means “Clear Moon” in Spanish, but lately her thoughts have been anything but clear. Questions are taking over her mind like tangled weeds— Who is she, really? Where does she come from? After all, Clara doesn’t know much about her father’s side: he had run away from his native home in rural Mexico to cross the border into America as a teenager. Just as Clara is restlessly wondering about her roots and her life, a letter comes in the mail.

Querida Clara:

La invitamos a nuestra casa por el verano. Vamos a esperarla el dÍa de la luna llena, en junio, en el aeropuerto de Oaxaca.

Con cariño,

Sus abuelos

Dear Clara,
We invite you to our home for the summer. We will wait for you on the day of the full moon, in June, at the Oaxaca airport.
your grandparents

Now Clara is even more puzzled. Should she go? What are her grandparents like? She’s never met them. Her father is lost in the land of memories, her mother is super-enthusiastic, urging her to discover her history, and Clara is balanced on the edge of a cliff, peering over. She decides to go. And so begins the journey of a lifetime.

Clara’s grandparents await her at the Oaxaca airport— calm, knowing Abuelita and cheerful, good-natured Abuelo. yucuyoo.jpgThey board a bus that will take them to the village of Yucuyoo, and when they finally arrive, it’s not as Clara expected at all. Though at first Clara is apprehensive, she soon grows used to the wooden little home with the tin roof they live in, the fact that they have no technology at all, the sounds of the jungle nearby, and the delicious food Abuelita prepares fresh everyday. Clara looks and listens and learns. Listens to Pedro, the goat boy’s, beautiful voice and song. To the sound of the mystery spirit waterfall, which is heard but never seen. To Abuelita’s stories of her childhood and learning to be a healer. Slowly but surely, Clara realizes the magic within Yucuyoo, the Hill of the Moon, within her grandparents, and even within herself.

My Thoughts

This debut novel from Laura Resau is an enchanting, lyrical book that I absolutely LOVED. Thought-provoking and moving, What the Moon Saw explores the themes of finding one’s self and culture, reconnecting with family, and learning that living simply opens your mind and heart to the magic and beauty of the world. The writing almost takes you to another dimension and paints an intricate and detailed scene of life in rural Mexico, and the characters are all so solid and real. Clara is just an average girl who lives a privileged life in America, and the contrast between Pedro, who grew up in Yucuyoo, and Clara’s lifestyles made for interesting interactions between them. Clara at times has to explain simple technology to her grandparents, and their amazement at the habits of  those who have access to modern-day gadgets truly opened my eyes.

Guys, so many people around the world don’t have these things— they don’t have phones, computers, washing machines, cars, refrigerators; things that many of us take for granted. But guess what? You don’t need these to be happy. Clara’s grandparents are perfectly content to live in their village, talk to their neighbours, farm their land. Those of us who do own this technology should use it to make other happy too, don’t you think?

All in all, I thought that this was a beautiful novel. The two narrators, Clara Luna and Abuelita telling the tales of her past, will truly inspire you, and leave you will a heartful of spirit waterfalls, beautiful, wild nature, stories of healing, and hope for all. Definitely a must read.

(On a side note, I am back from my mini-hiatus! Isn’t it funny how you can be so busy when you least expect it?)

❤ Yasimone

Book Chat #5: Mothers!

Happy (late) Mother’s Day everyone! 🙂 Presenting a Book Chat focusing on mothers everywhere, both fictional and real!

To All the Real Mothers Out There:

First of all, thank you.

Thank you for being so loving and so supportive.

Thank you for giving up everything for us to have the best life possible.

Thank you for pushing us to our limits, and encouraging us to always do our chat pic

Thank you for cheering us on when we thought we couldn’t do it.

Thank you for tucking us into bed at night and holding us tight when we were scared.

Thank you for believing in us when even we didn’t believe in ourselves.

Thank you for always having patience during the years of temper-tantrums and food-throwing.

Thank you for showering us with kindness.

And most of all, thank you for making us the people we are today.

We love you so much!

To All the Fictional Mothers Out There:

Literature is chockfull of strong mother figures who are extremely brave, kind, generous, and inspiring. (Just like real ones!) 😀 Here are some of my all-time favourite mothers found in books!

  • Natalie Prior from Divergent- Natalie is Tris’s mother, and extremely courageous! First of all, she supports Tris’s decision to switch to the Dauntless faction without a second thought. She also saves Tris from danger multiple times throughout “Divergent,” and in the end, dies protecting her daughter. Natalie Prior is amazing. (To take a peek at my Divergent reviews, check ’em out here and here.)
  • Lily Potter from Harry Potter- Harry Potter’s mum, Lily Potter died while protecting a baby Harry from Voldemort’s killing curse. (“Avada Kedavra!”) In The Sorcerer’s Stone, Harry cannot be touched by Voldemort because Lily’s love for him is so strong. Not to mention that her love also vanquished Voldemort for ten years.
  • Marmee from Little Women- Marmee is the mother of four girls who couldn’t be more different from each other, but love each other very much. She guides her daughters through hard times and happy times, playdates and weddings as they grow up. Marmee also teachers her daughters to be thankful for everything they have, to help others, to control their tempers. Her daughters Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy try their best to please her and truly take her advice, which often turns out to be true.
  • Aunt Polly from Tom Sawyer- Well, technically, Aunt Polly is not Tom Sawyer’s mum, but she does take care of him as her own child. She may act gruff at times, but she does her best, (after all, it can be quite hard to take care of an extremely mischievous boy) and Tom realizes that deep in her heart, Aunt Polly really loves and cares about him.
  • Caroline Ingalls from Little House on the Prairie- From their time in the Big Woods to their time in Indian territory to their time at Plum Creek, Caroline, or Ma, took care of Laura, Mary, Carrie, and Grace. She’s protected the house while Pa was away, punched a bear, took the girls on their first train ride, helped everyone move out West, and supported her girls and husband all those years.

There you have it! Once again, thank you to all those great mamas (both real and fictional) who continue to inspire us all each and every day!

❤ Yasimone

Book Review || Heidi

Author: Johanna Spyri

Publishers: Currently being published by many companies, one of the most well-known being Puffin Classics

Release Year: 1880

My Summary

Heidi is an orphaned little girl, living with her aunt in Switzerland. Aunt Dete decides that she no longer wishes to take care of the child, and brings her to the Swiss Alps to live with her reclusive grandfather, Alm-Uncle, who lives up on the mountain by himself. Although Alm-Uncle is not very pleased to have a little 5-year-old to take care of, Heidi’s cheerfulness and bubbly personality soon earn his true affection for her. Heidi is eager to explore her new home and befriends all that she meets— the shepherd boy Peter, Peter’s blind grandmother, and all of the goats that Peter herds. She is amazed by the beauty of the mountains and loves her grandfather with all her heart. However, after a few years, Dete returns and takes Heidi away from Alm-Uncle to be a hired companion of sorts for a wealthy, handicapped girl named Clara Sessemen in Frankfurt. Heidi agrees to go if only she can bring back some white bread for Peter’s grandmother. Once in Frankfurt, Clara and Heidi become fast friends. Clara is very entertained by Heidi’s antics as she tries to get used to the dreary, busy city life of Frankfurt, but the house-keeper, Fräulein Rottenmeier is disapproves very much. Slowly but surely, homesickness and loneliness sets in and Heidi wastes away. Can she ever get back home?

My Thoughts

Ah, Heidi. The little girl has found the way to my heart. ❤

It’s no secret that I adore classics, but Heidi is something else. It literally transports you to the Alps, where the air is pure, where you can eat as much fresh goat cheese and bread as you want to, where the sun says goodbye to the mountains at dusk, where gruff grandfathers learn to love again, where disabled children are cured by the sheer beauty of it all, and where you want to stay forever and never leave.

An illustration from my copy of Heidi.
An illustration from my copy of Heidi.

Such vivid, lively writing. I tear up so much whenever I read it. Behind those lovely, sentimental words, however, lies an important lesson to stay with you all your life: If you love, if you forgive, if you believe, if you let go, if you ask, and if you apologize, then you will be truly happy.

And the characters, oh, the characters! Heidi, a young girl who brings joy into the hearts of all she meets. Alm-Uncle, a tenderhearted yet brusque old man. Peter, a fiercely devoted friend who loathes to share Heidi with Clara. The Doctor, who decides that Heidi must return to her home with Alm-Uncle. Clara, who delights in drinking goat milk and leaving behind her wheelchair. Clara’s Grandmamma, who teaches Heidi that even in the darkest of times, you must ask and hope. And Peter’s Grandmother, who although blind, who loves Heidi as her own. What a wonderful cast.

Once you’ve read this book, though, there’s no going back. You will forever long to go to the Alps and live in a cabin on top of the mountain, sharing a simple meal of bread, cheese, and goat’s milk with Heidi and her grandfather. Someday I hope to visit Switzerland, but until then, those beautiful mountains will remain safe in my heart.

I hope you liked that! It’s the first book review that I’ve done by request, and it’s a book I really, really love. Happy May, everybody!

❤ Yasimone