I'm already going to have to reread Peter Dickinson's The Ropemaker, because I started it while babysitting and consequently was interrupted too many times to absorb the beginning very well. Once I was able to settle down with it, however, I gobbled it down voraciously. The story is fascinating--a young girl named Tilja must go with her grandmother to discover why the magic is leaving their forest at home, and on the way they learn something quite unusual about Tilja that allows them to overcome all obstacles in their path. The characters are well-defined and interesting, and the writing crisp and clear. Highly recommended.
The unicorns in The Ropemaker got me inspired to reread The Little White Horse, by Elizabeth Goudge, which has long been a favorite of mine. The writing style is wonderfully flowery and verbose, with a dramatic flair that always delighted me. It suits this charming story perfectly, and is done with a masterful hand. Maria Merryweather is an orphan who goes to live with her cousin Sir Benjamin at the family manor, which has long been under a curse due to the quarrelsome nature of the Merryweathers. With the help of Robin the shepherd boy, the godly Old Parson, a well-spoken dwarf named Marmaduke Scarlet, the children of the village, and a menagerie of animals (who all seem to have a touch of magic), Maria charms the frightening Black Men who dominate the forest, reunites two long-separated couples, and solves the mystery that perpetrated the curse years ago. A truly delightful book.
I started reading Protector of the Small: The First Test yesterday afternoon, and found myself unable to put it down until I'd finished it. A long time ago I'd read Tamora Pierce's first book of Tortall, Alanna, and quite enjoyed it, though until recently I didn't know she'd written anything else. Turns out she's fairly prolific, and is working on a new series called Protector of the Small. I'm going to have to go to Borders today and get the rest of the books! Ten years have passed since the proclamation that girls may train to be warriors as well as boys, before ten-year-old Keladry of Mindelan, who has been trained since childhood in the Yamani martial arts, announces her desire to become a warrior. At the request of the master of the academy, she is put on a year's probation, to ensure that she will be able to keep up with the boys and prove her ability. It proves to be the most difficult year of her life, but through sheer determination and the stoicism learned from the Yamanis, she manages to complete the first test and receive an invitation to return.
I also read Cornelia Funke's The Thief Lord, which didn't impress me much. The story was too disjointed and confused, with some things that turned out a little too conveniently to be believable. Hopefully her newest book, Inkheart, will be better. Right now I'm rereading the third Harry Potter in preparation for the movie, and it's as good as I remembered it.