Thursday, December 30, 2010

Monster Hunter International

Normally I don't blog about the sillier books that I read. Most of the time I don't have much to say other than, yep it was a book. But this one has more going for it than just an entertaining read. The feel of the book is sort of like the Mummy movies, a bit gross but everyone is having a lot of fun and the plot is sort of an after thought. The author writes really good action sequences, the type that keep you turning the pages to see how it all turns out. Much better than a normal, lots of people shoot and here's who's left standing at the end type of thing. I think he has a talent for it. The plot was run of the mill monster-type end of the world plot. It was the little things that had me giggling to myself as I read.

Larry Correia must be Mormon. I didn't know that and I picked it up at the library having heard good things about it, but not that he was from Utah or anything else about his background. He put all sorts of Mormon phrases and ideas into his books. They would pop up at random intervals and I just thought that was hilarious.  I know that my husband wasn't as amused as I was, but it just cracked me up. Phrases like, "preordained", "noble and great ones" and "before this world was organized" might not mean much to other people, but to active LDS people you may as well put a picture of a Book of Mormon on the cover.

I've mentioned before that I wonder what other people think about those things that I pick up because of how I think. This is another case like that. The book itself it pretty violent, (we are talking about killing hordes of undead) and has moderate swearing and lots and lots of guns so I know that a lot of LDS people wouldn't want to read it. It was published as a regular fiction book, you will never find this one on the shelves of Deseret Book, but with all the LDS phrases and ideas it made me feel like I was reading a Tennis Shoes Among the Nephites book for grown-ups. But maybe I'm just odd.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Post-Christmas Update

Having found the cord and the camera, I hereby post some of the more recent pictures. We had a successful holiday and everyone is still playing with the toys they received and I don't think anything is broken yet, so we are doing well.

So here is J. when he got his Arrow of Light.



 


This is the best shot I got of N. and his learning to walk bruises. His eye got really dark after a day or two. The shot is blurry because he keeps getting faster.



Bridget was a sheep in her school's Christmas pageant. Here she is being a sheep (that's what she told me anyway.)




We didn't manage to get a picture of R. with the priesthood people that ordained him. The bishopric ran off and when we got home he was out of his church clothes. This is his 12th birthday and the books that occupied him for a solid week until he read them all.



And finally a shot of the girls playing with their Christmas presents. They combined all the dolls and such and had a good time for most of the day. I would show the boys but a picture of people playing on the computer or video games isn't really all that interesting.  Happy New Year!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Feelings of Christmas

Merry Christmas to all. This year I have been struggling with feeling the Christmas spirit. Being in a new home, money worries, new climate, general grumpiness, all have contributed. I have been fighting these feelings with large doses of Christmas carols. I say carols and not songs because a goodly percentage of the songs played on commercial radio stations are songs, not carols. I'm not 100% sure of the dividing line but any song that was written after I was born doesn't count, as well as one that complains about the holiday. Personally I would get rid of anything that tries to downplay the reason for the holiday but you have to include Rudolph and any song easily sung on someone's porch.

Whatever the definition, I have been trying to listen to as much as possible. Not only does it help me feel like Christmas is coming, but most of the time it helps my mood. So I am sharing some of my favorites with you, as I listen to the LDS.org streaming of Christmas carols by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, one group that knows their carols.

One that I wouldn't say is my favorite, but I love is Breath of Heaven by Amy Grant. Honestly, I avoid it. Having been pregnant for 5 Christmases it still makes me cry when I hear it in a quiet setting. It is a beautiful song, but having been reduced to near hysterical tears by a song is slightly embarrassing. I highly recommend it as long as you are not heavy with child.

The Little Drummer Boy is also one I enjoy. I've always liked the idea of wanting to give something, anything, to the baby Jesus. I also like the percussive styles you get with the various versions. It is one of my favorites.

New this year is Feliz Navidad. I never liked this song until I heard my 5 & 4 yr old girls singing it so happily in the car. Now I think of them and it also makes me happy.

Joy to the World is my favorite though. I've always liked it because it doesn't just talk about Baby Jesus. It proclaims the joy of Christ and all the reasons he came to the Earth. The joy of Christmas has very little to do with babies and everything to do with the adult Christ. I love this songs later verses as they proclaim:

No more will sin and sorrow grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He’ll come and make the blessings flow
Far as the curse was found,
Merry Christmas and a wonderful new year.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Christmas Letter 2010 version


MERRY CHRISTMAS FROM US




Due to a lack of money, time and patience, my card sending has been severely curtailed. So if you have an email or Facebook account, this is it. Sorry. But you do get extra pictures that I didn't print on the physical
copy. Next year I will be back in full card sending mode (I hope). If you would like my new address or phone number send me a message and I will send it to you. Have a wonderful holiday season.





We have had a busy year. We spent the winter experiencing the worst winter Moab had in 30 yrs, which was fun with a wood burning stove.

In the spring we welcomed Nathan Bitner Ward, born on March 30, 2010. He is a healthy, happy and Heavy child and brings joy to our home every day.

 







We did lots of outdoorsy type Moab things until the middle of August, when it became apparent that Arches Audiology would need to close. This was a difficult decision. It led through lots of prayer and fasting to a new job in San Antonio, Texas. We moved to Texas the first week of October and have been learning and adjusting ever since.



 
R. is now in middle school, since he is in 6th grade. It was a big adjustment but he is doing well. He is in the Gifted and Talented program, which we didn’t have in Moab.

J. is in 5th grade. He just received his Arrow of Light and is looking forward to Boy Scouts.

E. was baptized in February, with her cousin Emma. She is in 3rd grade and has already made lots of friends here. She loves Activity days and playing with her friends.

M. is in Kindergarten this year. After a few weeks of half-day in Moab she moved to all day here. This was a bit of a shock but she has adjusted well. She is learning to read and loves doing her homework.

B. is in pre-school and celebrated her 4th birthday just before we moved. She loves to go with Mom and love on her little brother.

N. is 8 months old now and getting into everything. He stood on his own today and is well on his way to walking by Christmas. I'm sure the bruises will fade by the time he reaches pre-school.
.  That's all for now We love you all!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Cultural Codes in C.S. Lewis

I went to see Voyage of the Dawn Treader a few days ago. I liked the movie, though it was quite different than the book. I expected that though. When they announced the movie D. said he didn't want to see it because he didn't think it would make a good plot. The book was just a series of unrelated islands. The movie brought the disparate elements of the islands with an added element to make a unified plot. I thought that it worked very well.

I also discovered, thanks to the generosity of friends, that 3-D is distracting. I enjoyed the movie but I never really got into it because the effects made me very aware that I was watching a movie. Perhaps if you were used to it you could ignore it, but I couldn't. I think I will just do regular movies from now on.

One of the things I like best about these versions of the Narnia series is that they don't remove the Christian symbols and messages from the story. It is easy to justify taking all of the actual meaning out of pop culture versions of things. For example, I recently saw an episode of Go Diego Go (Dora's cousin for those of you not into children's television) talking about Three Kings Day. Parts of Mexico have gifts delivered not by Santa, but by the three kings, on Jan. 6. So they had an entire episode about the three kings, and how the brought presents, and rode these special animals, but no mention of where these kings came from or why they were bringing presents or anything. At least with Santa based shows they don't have to actively ignore things to take the Christian message out.

Which brings me to the title of the post. I'm going to assume you have a familiarity with the story. If you haven't read the Narnia books stop reading this right now and go get them for heaven's sakes. During the movie, the section where Eustace is changed back into being a boy from a dragon is done very quickly. In fact, it was done so quickly that I think if you hadn't been paying attention you might not have understood what was happening. Later in the movie, one of the characters ask him how it felt. He replies (I'm trying to quote but just from memory) " I was trying to do it, but it was something I couldn't do myself. It hurt, but it was a good kind of hurt." Immediately the ideas of Christ's atonement, the power of repentance and redemption flashed into my mind. Those few sentences were as good as a sermon to me.

Yet I have a prepared mind. I have read the books, I understand the symbolism. I have spent a lifetime immersed in the ideas of a Christian faith. So when a movie uses shorthand to communicate those powerful concepts in just a few seconds, I can still catch it. I want to know if everybody else does.
I think that movie reviewers do, because they are trained to catch the symbolism in all the movies. They are as good as English Majors when it comes to reading the meanings not stated. What about the 99% of moviegoers who don't have that kind of background? I think everyone who can see and hear well enough to go to a movie would have picked up on the idea of temptation, and the importance of resisting it, but that is not a uniquely Christian concept and didn't need the idea of Christ to be developed. What about the idea of repentance, and needing Christ to be able to escape from sin completely? Is it also there for everyone to see? It is hard to try and look at the world though other's eyes and I'm not very good at it. I just have questions.

The problem with these questions is I don't have a good way to answer them. The vast majority of people I know are also well versed in Christian thought. Many of the others are well-educated and trained to pick out ;layers of meaning, even if they aren't specifically aware of religious meaning. So should I head out to the mall and ask people at random coming out of the theater? Probably not. I'm not that curious. What have you read, what do you think?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Snuffle snort

With Bridget in pre-school several days a week and the emergencies coming at a sower pace, I decided I would blog more frequently. Then the germs attacked.
I was standing in the church cultural hall, being parently and proud of J. who was getting his Arrow of Light.(pictures posted when I find the camera) I started to sneeze. Repeatedly. Then cough. By the time we got home my eyes were swollen, my ears and jaws and teeth hurt, I couldn't breathe and I ached everywhere. I don't think I've ever gotten a cold this fast.
So all posting ideas I had are now lost in a pea-soup fog of cold medicine and snot. I'll get back to you later.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Deadly Spin

First off, I hate this title. I have reviewed the book on Goodreads as well and every time I see it I cringe. It sounds like some true crime novel. Which I suppose, depending on your political sensibilities, it could be.
I applied for this book through the Goodreads Firstreads program. It amazing the stuff you can get that way. I have had problems with insurance for a while and am always ready to read things that support my already formed prejudices. The following is what I posted on Goodreads.

I think that the information in this book could be very valuable if you were interested in trying to understand what is really going on in today's political environment. It helps not only with the healthcare debate but with how spin is used in every issue where money is a factor-- meaning all of them.
I found the book a bit difficult to get through because of the sea-saw between utter outrage and boredom. What they are doing is outrageous but the details of the PR business were a bit difficult to follow at times.
I do wish that the chapter explaining why the insurance companies can't be sued were printed up for nationwide distribution. If everyone got a copy in their mailbox maybe it would generate enough outrage to get the law changed. With some accountability the heavy-handed tactics of the insurance companies would have to change.
A disturbing and eye-opening read.

It also reinforces what I try and remember and try to teach my children, don't belive the media unless you REALLY trust the source. There are so many forces trying to make us think, feel and spend in certain ways that it is difficult to know what is right. I worry most about unconscious bias. There are certain things I can see and actively fight against in my family and in my own mind, but how much PR are we subject to that we don't even realize? How much gets through our filters because it is subtle or comes from an unexpected direction?
One of my favorite scriptures comes from Ephesians 4:13-15 

13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:
14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;
15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:

 At least I know that one thing is always true and also always looking out for my best interests, Jesus Christ. Though there are some things I cannot prove or trust, I do have one anchor and that makes up for a lot of uncertainty.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

It's Easy

This is one reason I don't post much. N. is determined to make up for lost time and go from slightly behind in crawling to ahead in walking. He is a bit of a menace, especially to books and paper. But that is not the main idea of this post.

I was talking with my DH about life and the normal things you say at the end of the day and I realized that one of the reasons we feel so stressed is because of how easy our lives have been. Every time we have moved it has almost felt as if the Star of Bethlehem was over the house we moved into. The jobs were immediately good and we knew, 100% that things were going as they should.

That is not to say everything is always perfect. I got pregnant right after we moved to Moab, before D. even opened his business. There were conflicts in Las Vegas at work and D even got fired in California. But it always seemed to work out quickly. There would be a week or two of anxiety and then everything would fall into place.

Now we are in a new area and we are still 100% sure that this is where we are supposed to be. We both felt that this was the house to be in and the job is working out. But there are more difficulties that aren't just falling into line. It is a new experience for us.

It is time for us to put into practice those gospel principles we have been studying and teaching to others. Walking by faith is pretty easy when your life is also pretty easy. Discovering exactly how much you have been supported by the Lord is enlightening. Frustrating sometimes, but we are learning a lot, about each other and ourselves.

Not to say that life is awful. The list of blessings would take a long time to write. And things are better than they were when we first moved, though really all that has changed is my perspective. I am grateful for that change in perspective because now I can move on and grow up a little more.

Just because, here is another picture of my kids, Halloween this time. We lost the cable for the camera and I didn't get a chance to share at the time. R. is a candy inspector, if you can't read his tag.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Quick Update




















I have been feeling guilty that I haven't posted anything lately. Things are evening out. I can find my way around and I bought a map of San Antonio, which is helping me feel oriented. The children are making friends, even R.
David and I are speaking in church tomorrow, I might post my talk. I am beginning to feel more able to arrange my life, instead of just respond to each new crisis.
I have read a few good books and I meant to write about them, but I am going to settle for a brief summary because I don't have a lot of time.
Made in America: A Social History was a much more interesting book than I was expecting, especially since I was reading it just before the elections. The book tries to follow social trends in America, like happiness levels, prosperity and our opinions about what is normal and how we should behave. The best thing about this book was the authors earnest attempts to be even handed. So many "Social histories" are liberal polemics and then you get the right making "The truth about. . ." X, Y or Z to try and even it out. The author really tries to show all options about what certain things mean. The end result is the idea that as a people we are still pretty much like we have always been. We like buying new stuff, be it IPhones or chairs instead of stools and we complain that everyone else spends too much. We want to be happy and try all sorts of new ideas to be so. And there have been people saying the nation has abandoned the ideals of the past ever since there was a nation. It made me feel much more hopeful about the common sense of the common people.

The other book I read was Towers of Midnight. I read an 850 page book in just over a day. I like these books. If you don't read fantasy you probably won't. If you do read fantasy you probably already know about these books. They are fast, intense and engrossing and I love them the way I love good chocolate, wonderful but too expensive to have very often. It is good these books only come out once a year or so.


The fact that I have only read two books lately shows how busy I have been, though I have also been watching Monk on Netflix. The baby has been sick and I stay up late and watch TV. I stopped nursing, for various reasons, and he promptly got an ear infection, roseola and a bad head cold. I always knew nursing was good for babies, I've been experiencing the proof.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Is there a limit?

I am sitting in the very nice San Antonio library posting. I had been thinking about describing the last few weeks with the phrase, "Is there a limit to how many days in a row things can go wrong, or does it have the potential to go on forever?" But I actually had a good day today. Honestly, the first one in a month or more.
The litany of minor but day wrecking disasters included a flood from a broken washer hose, taking three days of incessant paperwork and shots to get my kids registered for school, a lost (and gone forever trampoline part), $3000+ work on the van, no internet for two weeks. You get the idea.
I have been going to bed each night determined to have a better day, to get the things done and be cheerful about it, darn it (though in my head I use a bit stronger language). It has been a struggle. None of those things are all that huge, well, the car repair bill is, but collectively it has been piling up.
But I am starting to see some light at last. The internet will be hooked up tonight. The car is fixed and we had the means to pay for it. David is starting to like his job more and I no longer have the vague nightmare that he will quit or get fired, leaving us with no income.
I guess I am just trying to leave a record that my first few weeks here have not been a picnic. So in a few years when I join the "I LOVE San Antonio." club, I will remember that it was hard at first.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Home?

Well, we are in a house, I wouldn't quite call it home yet. When I'm not thinking I still call Moab home. I'm not sure how long it will take for that to go away. I know how to get to the Walmart, and two other grocery stores, the library, church and schools. I could live in our little corner of suburbia forever and not leave. This bothers me because I don't feel like I am living in San Antonio, I could be almost anywhere.
The kids are adjusting to their new schools. They still come home with the same complaints about things being boring, so I guess they aren't behind in anything.
R. is struggling with the adjustment to middle school. He is doing better than I feared: the school has not had to call me, which means he is not having any breakdowns though his troubles. The biggest adjustment is having to be responsible for himself. The teachers don't watch out for him like he is used to. His constant complaint is that the teachers are mean and don't care. I don't know how long it will take for him to realize that they won't come to his rescue without being asked. He does like the freedom of the school lunches however.
They all come home exhausted and cranky which is not making for a happy household because I have been running around like a crazy woman trying to get all the paperwork for school and the house unpacked and all of the other stuff that comes with moving. And my sweet husband is struggling to adjust to his new job (that is turning out to be a much bigger issue that we were expecting). B. is lonely with all the kids in school and no pre-school for her yet. And the baby has stopped sleeping through the night so all I want is a nap.
So the challenges of moving continue. But it is not all bad. The library and playground are close and very good. E. got invited to a birthday party in our neighborhood. Ryan had pizza for lunch and the church has been very friendly and welcoming.
It has been an adjustment, and we are still adjusting, but we will get there in the end.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

What I've been doing


Here is a link to our house listing. I'm not quite sure what to do with myself after the frantic activity of the last few weeks. If you think getting a house ready to sell is easy when you also have six children in your home, come over, I have some babysitting you might enjoy.


We are leaving next week and taking three days to get there. We promised the kids swimming time each night. Thirty years to the day I left Texas (with my family of course) we will be moving back. It seems everyone in the house has pretty mucg gotten past theregret and we are now all anxious to get going. I don't think that excitement will last through the whole 20 hr+ drive, but D. and I are keeping that reluctance to ourselves.

We are doing a moving sale this weekend and hopefully will sell enough to at least pay for dinner, if not a hotel room. I've never done a garage sale before, so hopefully it won't turn out too badly.

Our phone numbers will remain the same and we will send out an email shortly with our new address on it

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Farewell to Summer

I will deal with the farewell to Moab later, when I know more details about exactly when, though right now we are looking to move to San Antonio on Oct. 6th. Which is in less than three weeks, which I don't want to think about now or I will panic a little bit more. So, on to the last activities of summer.
There was a back to school carnival which was enjoyed by all:

Today we also hiked to the Upheaval Dome in Canyonlands National Park. A very cool place, though it did make me nervous having all those kids up there. to find out more about how this impressive place was formed, look here.
And B's fourth birthday was today. Just by chance, Grandpa and Grandma Ward and cousins and aunts and uncles were here, so we had a good little party.


Now I suppose we have to accept that fall is upon us and buckle down to work, but summer was a lot of fun.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Fun friday #13

We went to Canyonlands, just to the visitor center and one overlook. We will go back for a hike later. I've got a sxreaming baby, so I am just going to post the pictures. The sunflowers were amazing, acres of them.And a Moab sunset.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Fun Friday 10, 11 & 12, I think?

It has been a busy couple of weeks, and due to dead batteries and medication, I do not have many pictures. Description and theft will have to make up the difference.

Going back two weeks and a day, we went camping with my side of the family. As far as the DeLapps go, we are wimps at camping as well as amateurs, so we only stayed one night, Friday. My brother and his family we also there that night and we had a good time. We don't often get one on one time with our family in Salt Lake, so it was nice to have that time. The weather was good though cold that night. The campground is near Huntington reservoir and at 9000 ft.
The next morning we went fishing, until it started to rain. This set the tone for the rest of the day. The best quote was from B. who observed, "Look, it's raining rocks!" It only hailed three times. The weather broke long enough to get dinner and almost get everything packed up.
My sister caught a fish and totally disgusted my children by showing them how to gut it. We sat around the campfire a bit, and then left as the next storm rolled in.  Thanks to my mother for putting her pictures on FB for me to steal.

The next week we were in Salt Lake. E. had a doctor appointment at Primary Children's, where it was decided she most likely has juvenile arthritis.  We will be going back in a month for a follow-up visit.We also went to the Discovery Gateway museum, thanks to a free pass one of my boys received during the school year. The kids had a blast, Grandpa Ward came along, thank goodness, because I was feeling very ill and only watched the child that was immobile.

That weekend we also had a slight party at David's parent's house, went to my 20th high school reunion, picked up some camping equipment (including a heater, yea!) from my sister and had lunch with my parents, visited David's Grandpa Barlow and went to the grocery store umpteen million times.

Yesterday we had a surprise visit from these people.
(Picture also stolen from FB) We had a fun chat and enjoyed seeing old friends again.
This was especially helpful to me as my back has been acting up for all three of these Fridays, plus the days in between, so I am either on pain drugs or laying on the floor being useless. The idea of coming up with a Fun Friday for yesterday felt overwhelming. I was very glad to get the phone call announcing our visitors. We do have three more weeks of summer left, so if you are in the mood to come to Moab, feel free to give me a call, especially on a Friday.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Fun Friday 8 & 9

We barely made the FF two weeks ago. We were having a grumpy day and in the early afternoon I piled the kids in the car for a quick trip.  We drove out to the dinosaur tracks, looked at the sign, walked up to the tracks,
took a picture and left. It was HOT! and dinosaur tracks are not impressive when you are roasting.

This last Sat. we tried a hike I'd been meaning to try for a while, Lower Courthouse Wash. It has a canyon that comes into the river just above the bridge into town.
If you follow it all the way up you will reach the main road in Arches National Park. I knew we probably wouldn't hike that far, but it seemed like a fun trip.
It probably would be, if you happen to own a machete and are impervious to mosquitoes. We have had a very wet year and the trail was very overgrown.  It wasn't too bad for D. and I, but the kids had a hard time getting through the bushes.
The trail also crosses the wash in several places and it was still wet and muddy.  In fact, we just stopped when we got to this pool.
It was neat, with frogs and shade and cattails
and millions of hungry mosquitoes. So we turned around and went home.

Next week we will be camping and the week after that up in Salt Lake, so at least those Fun Fridays will come easy.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Trilogies

Fun Friday #8 fizzled. I had three sick people and I wasn't feeling too hot myself. So I went to Radio Shack and bought a wireless router and let the kids watch Netflix on the TV all day. Not having to crowd around the computer is a blessing/curse. Now I have to figure out a TV policy on top of the Wii and computer policies.
I have been doing a ton of reading lately. If you are my friend on Goodreads or FB then you see my reviews pop up. I have read several YA/juvenile trilogies and I thought I'd give my two cents here, since the baby is asleep and the kids aren't fighting me for the computer. And I am ignoring the laundry, dishes and the facts that my sister-in-law will be here in Sat. night and I am not even close to ready. See what I sacrifice to bring you information?

This is a very intense science fiction series from Scott Westerfeld. It has a bit less of a dsytopian feel, at least initially. That was refreshing because most future oriented books tend to be rather bleak. I was surprised at how much the series pulled me in. The first person narrative felt real and brought back memories of my own teen-age years; trying to be yourself and fit it at the same time is a weird path to walk in the best of times. I would recommend this to any teenager and parent of one. There were a lot of interesting ideas that would be great to discuss with someone else that is reading it. Especially what place physical appearance has in our culture in and establishing self-worth.
The ending I thought was a bit silly. The fate of the protagonist had a bit of "Now what do I do with her?" feel but it was still a good read.

I haven't quite finished this series by Michael Scott yet. The fourth book just came out and our library hasn't received their copy yet. This is a younger book, aimed at young teens and older kids. Though I enjoy reading books in this age range when they are well written. The plot is what caught me in these books. It is fast paced, surprising and compelling (look at me, using big words like a real reviewer). What this means in practical terms is that I read them all in a day each. They didn't draw in my husband as much, so I suppose it is a matter of taste.
There was one issue that bothered me enough I almost didn't finish the first book. One of the main characters is tempted by the opposition. He is confused by the competing claims of the good guys and the bad guys. I imagine that some would say this confusion is an accurate portrayal of a teenagers' emotions. I kept thinking,"By their fruits you shall know them." and wondered how anyone could think the person who summons thousands of zombies to terrorize a town could maybe be the good side.
I kept reading and enjoyed the later books, but if being frustrated with a character bothers you, you might want to skip this set.

Though this trilogy was in the children's section, I think it is more of a YA book. It was pretty dark and dsytopian, set in a magical London that made Soviet Russia look like a holiday spot. There was a lot of political and social subtext that most young readers wouldn't understand or notice.
It was also funny, complex and had a narrative device I've never seen before; one of the main characters is the demon. There are a lot of books with demon summoning, even one I can think of where a magician is mistakenly summoned as a demon (Eric by Terry Pratchett) but having the demon give commentary on the magician, and the burden of being a slave to a young magician was novel and intriguing.
Though it never completely removed hope, the book wasn't Pollyanna-ish in how the world was going to be changed. Some, especially those written for young readers, have the hero make a great victory and the assume that the whole rest of society will roll over and usher in a Grand New Day immediately. This one doesn't. Insofar as a fantasy book could be called realistic, this one was. The people acted as real people do, as depressing as it is sometimes. Another series to read together, to talk about the ideas of politics, both national and personal, as they are presented.

I read two series by Tamora Pierce. One I liked, the other I kept reading but had serious issues with.
I found this series, The Circle Opens very fun. They were obviously written to a young audience. Though the books are based on a previous quartet, I had no trouble in catching up and following the story. There are four books, following four young mages who each reach a point where they begin to teach others. Each book was pretty light-weight on its own, but put together they give an interesting picture of what it means to grow up and assume responsibility. Enjoyable as a quick read, when you don't want something huge and substantial.




This series I started after I read the previous one and I was still looking for easy, quick reads. Though this book was easy enough to read, the message it was trying to deliver got more and more annoying as I read. Tamora Pierce is not shy about why she writes the books she does. She is writing to encourage young women. This is something I approve of in general. But heavy-handed double standards get to me after a while. Running off to become a knight is all well and good, but only reserving the discipline of a knight for the military things and then insisting on complete freedom in personal affairs was not only irritating but two-faced and internally inconsistent.
If the main character wanted respect, then sleeping with all three main young male characters wasn't the way to do it. And since the society was supposed to be faintly medieval, the lack of repercussions was ridiculous. I've seen this type of thing in many other books and could overlook it but when she breaks up with the prince because he seems selfish because he resists taking up a heavy responsibility, then says she is not ready to be queen because she doesn't want to feel tied down, the hypocrisy bothered me to the point of ranting at my husband about it. Sorry about that last sentence, there didn't seem to be a good way to write that all.
If you want to write about strong women, go for it, just hold them to the same standards as the men, and let them deal with the consequences of their actions. And let them grow up, not be perennial children, just wanting the next adventure or good time.