Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner

Note: The Queen of Attolia is the sequel to The Thief

Plot: Eugenides, the Thief of Eddis, has taunted the queen of neighboring kingdom, Attolia, too many times. He cleverly steals items from Queen Attolia's strongholds and places them around her castle for her to find, sure that he will never be caught. But the Queen of Attolia is furious, and determined to capture and punish the Thief once and for all. Eugenides has heard the stories of what prisoners in her palace endure, and rarely survive, but he is cocky, and confident that he is under the protection of the gods. But will the gods protect Eugenides from fate, and from his own destiny?

Comments: I loved this book! I read the whole thing in one night (which I really wasn't planning on), and only after I had gotten hooked did I realize - there was a prequel. Oops. So, I read The Queen of Attolia before The Thief, but there really wasn't much I didn't understand. I suggest reading the books in order, but I'm sorry I can't give you a review on the first book before the second book's review. This is a great adventure book, and I recommend for reading all at once (it's hard not to).

Reading the inside cover, I thought this book would be focused on the queen attempting to capture the Thief, and the Thief doing his best to escape. But really the story is more about the Thief's struggles back at home and the political war going on between multiple empires. I like reading about the political games the enemies play and the meaning hidden among polite words exchanged between them. Don't think, however, that this book is about politics - definitely not! But a big part of the story is the witty, clever tactics used in war, and I had a good time imagining the plot unfolding.

I can easily imagine all the characters, especially Eugenides. I can't necessarily relate to all of them, but the different traits and personalities often remind me of people I know, which made it more fun and easier to imagine the people. I love the different personalities, from witty, dry Eugenides to mature, strong Queen Eddis. The variation of characters makes for a colorful setting.

Rating: I rate this book a seven and a half out of ten.

On Fortune's Wheel by Cynthia Voigt

Plot: Birle, a soon-to-be-married innkeeper's daughter, spots a figure making away with one of the village boats. In chasing the thief, she ends up in the same boat, floating downriver. When Birle discovers that the stranger is a Lord, she begs to accompany him on his secretive journey throughout the lands. They leave the kingdom, but soon Birle begins to wonder if she'll ever get home...

Comments: this book is best for reading a chapter or two at a time, being a rather long story, is somewhat difficult to read all at once. If you do read it all in an afternoon, I suggest setting a timer so you don't forget to eat (this happens to me all the time, and then I'm all light-headed and my stomach's growling when I turn the last page). This book isn't necessarily light-hearted reading, but it's definitely not dark or heavy reading. I consider it a good life-like tale, with happy bits and sad bits, but it's a relatively easy read and falls into the fiction/fantasy genre.

The plot was well thought-out and interesting, but I think the general idea could have evolved into a better story than it did. I could relate to and easily imagine some of the characters, see their faces and hear their voices, but with others I found it hard to picture them. Not just what they look like: with several characters, I didn't feel like I knew them; I couldn't feel them living through the story, as if they were just a sentence or a frown instead of an entire person. The characters interacted well, but I had a hard time relating to Birle's relationship with the Lord. She's very formal and humble around him, and the Lord is completely aware that she is "inferior" to him, and he acts as if she is his servant - which, in the ways of the Kingdom, she technically is. I don't like the way he treats her, though I understand that's how life works in the Kingdom. It's an interesting perspective, and it makes me appreciate the equality we have in America.

I like the way Cynthia Voigt wrote the dialogue, with the speech being different from modern day English. The storyline is easy to follow, and the plot has twists and turns so you stay interested. All in all, this was a good book, with some unexpected bits that liven up the story and make you wonder.

Rate: I rate this book a six out of ten. Good, but not great.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Gideon the Cutpurse by Linda Buckley-Archer

Book one in the Time Quake Trilogy

Plot: modern day kids Peter and Kate, different as could be, are accidentally transported to the 18th century by a mishap with an anti-gravity machine. They are completely baffled and have no idea what just happened and where they were. However, they do know that they need to get the anti-gravity machine back from a notorious thief named the Tar Man. A young man named Gideon makes their acquaintance and helps them find their way to a nearby city, where they attempt to track down the thief. Will Kate and Peter get back to the 21st century, or will they be stuck in the 1700's for the rest of their lives?

Comments: this book was fun and an interesting adventure, but I'm not sure why the title is focused on Gideon. Really, he wasn't in it much, and the main characters were Peter and Kate. That had me kind of confused, because when the book started talking about Gideon, I thought "aha! Here comes the main character!" but it kept focusing on the two kids. After a bit I realized my mistake, and started paying more attention to the time-travelers. The characters are extremely easy to imagine, especially the scornful looks Sidney dishes out, and the booming laugh of the friendly parson. Though I don't know much about England in the 1700's, it's rather simple to picture the streets and carriages and clothes as the story unfolds.

The plot is an original one, and it's a very nice effect to show what's happening back in the 21st century as Peter and Kate cope in the 18th. I think the story focused more on Kate's parents, however, or at least her dad. True, he was discovering things he didn't want the police to know, things that were important for getting Kate and Peter back, but it felt like in most scenes, Peter's parents are worried and upset in the background as Kate's dad is the main focus. Just saying. The ending was unexpected (though I guess I should have realized something of the sort would happen, as how else would the trilogy continue?) but fitting. I mean, it made sense, and I can't wait to read the next book, The Time Thief!

Rating: I'm rating this book a six and a half out of ten.

The Nation by Terry Pratchett

Plot: a young boy is the only survivor in his village (and the whole island) after a huge tsunami strikes. He soon meets a young European girl whose ship was washed ashore during the storm, and she is also the only survivor. Soon, survivors of the tsunami come from other islands, trying to find somewhere safe from the cannibal Raiders. Everyone must work together to create a new life, a new home, a new future.

Comments: I really enjoyed reading this book, and I think it's a great read. Probably best for reading a few chapters at a time (I would have read it all at once, but it's a bit too large for that). Try reading it on a weekend, maybe. I was surprised that the author of this book is Terry Pratchett, simply because it didn't seem like something he would write. I don't mean that he should only write certain kinds of books - definitely not! I just mean that I've read a lot of other books by Terry Pratchett, and they seem more fantasy books, while this seems all very real. Anyways, the plot of this story was unlike any I've read before. It's original and very creative. I love the tremendous detail Pratchett puts into all the religion and culture of the natives!

The characters are not necessarily easy to relate to, as most of them are natives and have a completely different way of thinking, talking, and in general, living. But I can imagine them pretty well, even how they look. I like how everyone adapts to the situation fast, taking charge or obeying orders quick as you please. A tsunami is hard to get over, but working together, the "Nation" gets life as back to normal as it could get, given the circumstances. I understood the ending and appreciated Pratchett's honesty about life and the world. I didn't necessarily like it at first, but I'm glad the last bit is rather long, so that I could get used to the idea and realize it fit the story.

Rating: I shall rate this book a seven out of ten. A great read!

The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey by Trenton Lee Stewart

Book two in the Mysterious Benedict Society series. See The Mysterious Benedict Society.

Plot: Reynie, Sticky, Constance, and Kate are back, and they can't believe it's been six months! Their first mission was to save the world from the evil Ledroptha Curtain taking over everyone's brains, but this time, he's trying to...make everyone fall asleep? The Mysterious Benedict Society members are on their own this time, and they're in a race to the finish. Can they find Curtain and stop his evil plans in time?

Comments: I think I liked the first book better, but this was still a good book. I recommend this book for reading all at once. I have to confess: I picked up this book at 11pm one night and didn't put it down until I was finished. Looking at the clock, I realizes it was 3am, and I had to go to school the same day. Oops. Therefore, I suggest reading this early in the day, or on a weekend. The plot is very different from the prequel. The Mysterious Benedict Society was focused mainly in one place, but The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey is all over the world. The characters don't normally spend enough time in one place to establish much of a setting. Sometimes the different places they go gets a little hard to follow, but all in all it's okay.

I already know all the characters, so the author doesn't need to describe them much. I can relate to all of them in different ways, and I think they cover a wide variety of people and fit together well. However, it felt like I was watching a play where I didn't really know the roles the actors were playing. Everything was kind of distant, as if I could only observe them instead of relate to them. I felt like there were too many secrets, too many things going on I couldn't understand. I also had trouble with new, minor characters, because it was hard to tell if someone was going to turn out to be on Curtain's side or not. Not exactly confusing, but it made me feel suspicious of everyone.

Rating: I rate this book a six and three-fourths out of ten.

Firehorse by Diane Lee Wilson

Plot: when horse-loving teenager, Rachel, has to move to Boston in the year 1872, she is forced to leave behind her beloved horse, Peaches. Rachel does not think she'll like Boston very much, but soon she discovers a new horse, The Governor's Girl. The Girl is a firehorse, and was burned badly in a huge blaze. Rachel takes her in and cares for her, but her father has strict ideas on where women belong - in the home. Will The Governor's Girl be left for dead, thrown out by Rachel's father?

Comments: this book was a great read, probably best for reading all at once on a lazy afternoon or a rainy Saturday. This is a sound fictional tale, good for all kinds of readers. I've never been one for horse-focused stories, but I think the dilemma of the injured horse is nicely weaved in with Rachel's daily life and problems in 1872 Boston. The characters are easy to imagine, simply because I can either relate to them or compare them with someone I know. I don't know whether the characters are modeled after real people or not, but I can definitely think of them as real people. Everything seems so real, as if this is an official narrative written by an American in the late 1800's. I know that the author is writing about real problems in Boston (the contagious horse disease "distemper" spread through the city, striking at least thirty thousand horses) and getting little details from a diary she found, but it's all very well-written.

I have virtually no experience with anything horse-related, but in my opinion, it's very informative and easy to understand. It wasn't completely focused on horses, more on the people around them. I like the point of the view the book is written in, and I can relate to the main character, Rachel. No, I don't want to become a veterinary, and no, I don't have a strict, sexist (not then, I suppose) father, but I like her attitude and the way she won't give up on what she believes in. This book teaches an important lesson; be who YOU want to be, and do what YOU want to do.

Rating: I rate this book a seven out of ten. Interesting plot, nice moral, all in all a nice read.

A Girl Named Disaster by Nancy Farmer

Plot: a young girl living in an impoverished village with her deceased mother's relatives is being married off to a stranger. Worse yet, he already has two wives! Frantic to escape this unearned punishment, Nhamo runs away to find her long-lost father's family in distant Zimbabwe.

Comments: this book was very interesting, and had a viewpoint unlike one I'd ever seen. The plot could have been based on a true story (actually, I think it was), it was so real. The descriptions of the setting were well-written, and though I've never been any of the places the story took place in (or, indeed, seen many pictures of them), I could easily imagine what everything looked like. The characters fit into the story well, and they were definitely easy to imagine. Nhamo's grouchy grandpa yelling at the boys, her young cousin smiling sweetly, her stingy aunt glaring at her. I like the wide variety of characters, as well. They help to show me what life in her village - and beyond it - was like. I especially like the name of the main character, Nhamo. I wonder why anyone would have named her Nhamo, knowing that it means "disaster". It doesn't seem like a very big deal in the story, being named "disaster".

The plot was an original idea. A young girl has to run away and survive on her own in the middle of nowhere to avoid an arranged marriage. It was a mixture of an adventure story and a survival novel, almost guaranteeing a curious read. She faced all kinds of danger, such as drowning, being attacked by a wild animal, and starvation. Nhamo had to adapt to each problem and cope as best as she could. The spirit concept was very interesting, with all the water spirits, animal spirits, gods, etc. I learned a bit about different cultures, reading this book. I think that the book went on too long, however. Large sections in the middle didn't keep me very captivated, and I was constantly on the verge of putting the book down for a while. I think Nancy Farmer could have cut down a little bit, because after a while, it seemed like nothing new was happening. But it was a good beginning, a satisfying ending, and an interesting middle, and I recommend this book for reading a chapter at a time.

Rating: I rate this book a six out of ten.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Pearls of Lutra by Brian Jacques

A book in the Redwall series (not necessarily to be read in a specific order, but I suggest at least reading the book Redwall first).

Plot: a group of Redwall creatures go on a treasure hunt following some clues written in the form of riddles. The treasure? Six priceless, rose-colored pearls! Unfortunately, an evil warlord named Ublaz is also searching for the pearls, and will do anything to get them, including murder an entire village of peaceful creatures, save one. This grudge-holding warrior searches for Ublaz to get her revenge.

Comments: I like this book and the entire series (there's a lot of books) very much. This would be counted as fiction, but partly fantasy, I suppose, because the main characters are all animals. Mice, hares, moles, and squirrels are some of the people at Redwall, and the pirates and thieves of the land are generally ferrets, rats, and foxes. This is a creative way to write stories, and you forget after a while that the characters aren't human. The descriptions and imagery makes me imagine humanized animals. Strange, but very interesting. The plot's strong and easy to follow, especially if you've already read books from the Redwall series.

I sometimes get annoyed at the lack of some human traits in the characters, though they aren't exactly characteristics to envy. For example, the Redwall creatures apologize for saying things I hadn't considered rude, or for interrupting. I understand that they are meant to be good, kind people, but it gets annoying when they always are completely gentle, respectful, and unreal. I have a really hard time imagining anyone THAT polite, and it makes me feel weird.

Rating: I'm rating this book a six out of ten.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Enchantress From the Stars by Sylvia Louise Engdahl

Plot: Elana, a young woman from an advanced civilization, takes a job with her father and boyfriend trying to evict colonists from an already occupied planet. The planet the colonists land on is not technologically advanced, and have no idea that there are other worlds and civilizations in space. It's Elana and her companions's duty to make the space-traveling colonists find an uninhabited planet--without revealing their own identities.

Comments: this book was interesting and creative, and I think it's good for reading at night before you go to bed. The plot is original--certainly I've never read anything like it before. The characters are easy to imagine, but in my case, not easy to relate to. Elana's father has wisdom and a sense of duty from his life experiences. Elana's boyfriend is...just not very prominent throughout the book. And while Elana is gentle and kind, she is obedient, soft, and thinks in different ways as I. Perhaps it's just me, but I didn't feel very much in the story. Though it was first-person point of view from Elana, it felt like I was watching the whole thing, which all in all is not very exciting.

I like the way the three get the natives to make the colonists move (so that their presence is not betrayed to the colonists) without letting the natives know anything they shouldn't. The tests and ways they convince them of magic is very clever, but it started getting pretty predictable. Even the natives they chose knew Elana was setting up the tests, and it all seemed kind of fake. I started losing interest, and only kept reading because I wanted to know the ending. It's true that I didn't entirely expect the ending, but the general concept was obvious, and I wasn't very entertained.

Rating: I rate this book a five and three quarters out of ten. Okay, but it lacked the something to keep me interested.

The Devil's Arithmetic by Jane Yolen

Plot: a teenage girl, Hannah, is transported to 1942 Poland while celebrating Passover. The world is in chaos as World War II rages on, and she is caught in the middle of it. Ending up in a concentration camp with people she doesn't know in a time far in the past, Hannah learns the importance that remembering has for the Jewish.

Comments: I wasn't convinced I would like this book, and when I started it, I still didn't expect much. But the way this story is told and the things it shows you drew me in, and I closed the book with a new understanding of World War II. Jane Yolen skillfully tells the somber tale of Jews being rounded up and forcefully put into concentration camps. It felt like I was there, in the story, but I know I can never truly understand what they went through. The characters are easy to imagine and easy to relate to. You become attached to every one, and their pain is your pain. Simple language, easy to read.

The imagery Yolen uses to describe the happy village and the cruel concentration camp is simple, but colorful. The horror of the concentration camp is great enough that you don't need descriptive words or photos; plain facts and statements would have sufficed. I can only imagine what the camps were actually like, but I can get a glimpse of them in this story.

The plot is relatively simple, and the concept--though appalling--is easy to understand. The strength of the bonds between the young girls in this story is bittersweet, and the end is the same. I felt satisfied, yet sad, at the way things ended, and I thought it was very fitting and noble. The lesson this novel teaches us, the things it shows us, are things we need to know and need to remember. Never will we forget.

Rating: I rate this book a six and a half out of ten.

Hatching Magic by Ann Downer

Book One (the sequel is The Dragon of Never-Was)

Plot: 13th century wizard, Gideon, has a pet wyvern (a dragon-like creature) that is going to lay an egg soon. However, when looking for a good nesting place, she goes through a bolthole and ends up in modern day Boston! Gideon goes searching for her and discovers the key to finding his pet, Theodora Oglethorpe, a young girl obsessed with the trading card game Wizards and Wyverns.

Comments: I liked this book, but it was a pretty easy read. Not the longest novel in the world, it's probably best for reading all at once. Very easy words/language, simple to read. The characters are uncomplicated and easy to imagine as real people. I can relate to Theodora, and it's very easy to think of her and Mikko (the housekeeper) eating Popsicles and going shopping in Boston. The way the characters all interact is very real, but I think sometimes the reactions are too controlled. For example, when Theodora is not allowed to come with her father on his exploration, she protests but doesn't seem properly mad, and she is ashamed when her father tells her to stop arguing. I don't think she really acted like a young girl just then. And when...well, that would give a big part of it away. Not that you won't guess it's coming.

Parts of this book were pretty predictable, but maybe that's because this was meant for younger readers. I don't know. But I almost always knew what was happening when the characters didn't, or what would happen before it happened. The plot is original and creative, and I liked it very much. The antagonist and his servant fit perfectly into the story, and I was happy with the way the author had the servant's story end. I think it was fitting. All in all, this was a nice book, and I recommend it, but I personally would have preferred a more advanced novel with the same plot, characters, etc.

Rating: I rate this book a six out of ten.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Power That Preserves by Stephen R. Donaldson

Book Three in The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever trilogy

Plot: the final battle between the dying Land and the despicable Lord Foul commences, with or without the reluctant Covenant. Though there is no hope without him, the Unbeliever continues to resist the Lords' efforts to persuade him to help. But something changes him, and Covenant begins to realize that he must attempt to do what he had been avoiding all along.

Comments: I think I liked this book best out of the three, and mostly likely because Covenant turns into a passable human being, if not a particularly decent one. He finally accepts the fact that the Land and its people need help, and that he is the one to help. I like that the trilogy didn't end with the Land being crushed under Lord Foul's heel while Covenant walked away. Of course, it might still have been crushed, but maybe Covenant was being crushed too. Or something. Just read it. :P

Again, the language is superb and formal, and the characters are all very polite and respectful. Unless they're in the middle of a crisis, but it's hard to be polite when an army is charging and your warriors are not where they should be. Covenant tries to help, which is a change, but there's not much he can do, since he still doesn't know how to use his white magic. But it's the thought that counts, and it makes me feel better just knowing that he's trying. The ending was fitting, but bitter-sweet. A lot of people died in the war; races endangered, leaders overpowered, friends lost. I thought the ending worked out pretty well, considering how gloomy and depressing the story was. But it was nice, and it left me wanting more. It made me smile.

Rating: I rate this book a six and a half out of ten.

The Illearth War by Stephen R. Donaldson

Book Two in The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever trilogy

Note: the title is the "illearth" war.

Plot: Covenant has been summoned again, and the timing is perfectly wrong on his part. He demands to be sent back, and does not care that the Land needs his help more than ever. Forty years had passed in the Land, and only about two weeks on Earth. He meets the High Lord Elena, and all his past companions, much older than they had been. War has grayed them all, and Covenant seems to be the last hope.

Comments: this book was less focused on Covenant than Lord Foul's Bane. There were several chapters focused on a new character, which was unexpected, but was maybe a nice change. It had a lot of warfare, and was more focused on the war and fighting than the ultimate goal, it seemed. At least, it did when the story focused on Warmark Troy. It seemed that every man killed, every tactic considered, and every day of marching was included in the story. I appreciate the detail, but I hadn't thought the story would focus so much on the war and so little on Covenant.
You see a new side of Covenant when he's traveling with High Lord Elena, and though it's not all that prominent, it's nice to know he's not all "hellfire" and grimness. The relationship between the two was confusing, and though I understand where they stood in the end, somewhere in the middle was a bit blurry. The ending of the book was sad, and it seemed as if all hope was lost. Very fitting.

Rating: I rate this book a six and a fourth. I prefer it when Covenant is the main character.

Lord Foul's Bane by Stephen R. Donaldson

Book One in The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever trilogy

Plot: Thomas Covenant had a loving wife, a beautiful baby, and a happy life, until the unthinkable happened. He contracted leprosy. Thomas lost everything; his wife fled with their son to escape the fatal disease, his neighbors stayed away, he lost his will to write. So when he is abruptly transported from Earth to a foreign land that desperately needs his help, he is not so quick to accept.

Comments: this book is not meant for young readers. I would rate it PG13 because of some swearing and "romance", but that's not the only reason. This book is very dark and grim, and very difficult to read. It is NOT a book to read if you want to pass time, or for a rainy night, or to take your mind off things. Thomas Covenant is not a perfect person, very far from it, and he does things--and doesn't do things--that could make you feel pretty angry at him. So beware, and don't be depressed at the contents of this book. Remember, it's only a story.

I love the way all the people speak in this book. It's all very formal, very refined, and everyone speaks fluidly and prettily (compared to our modern speech) no matter if they are plain villagers or Lords of Magic. Sometimes the length of the conversations was a little tedious, and I often skipped a paragraph or two that were rather dull. However, this was probably what lead to my constant use of the glossary in the back. There's a lot of names of people, places, and things, so either pay strict attention to every detail, or use the glossary.

I was angry with Covenant for not helping the Land at all, but towards the end he was a little better. I don't really understand why he won't help, but I think that's part of the point. His story is so sad, and bits of him didn't survive the harsh treatment from his neighbors and the constantly aching hole where his heart used to be.

Rating: I rate this book a six and a half out of ten.

Leven Thumps and the Gateway to Foo by Obert Skye

Leven Thumps Book One

Plot: Leven Thumps, a young boy, grows up in an undesirable position; he lives with his mother's uncaring half sister and her abusive, useless husband, unwanted and isolated. Winter Frore had a family somewhat similar, her only relative being her tyrant of a mother. They are somehow connected, though they have never met. However, as soon as the danger begins and their special gifts emerge, the two children are thrust together into a confusing world of fate and choices.

Comments: I liked this book, but I considered it a bit of an easy read. It's a nice adventure, and I recommend it best for reading all at one time, because it gets kind of confusing. The characters are easy to imagine, and I can relate to them pretty well. I think the story is too focused on Leven, though. I mean, I know he's the main character and everything, but there isn't much room left for character development. Even when he's not present, the other characters are talking/thinking about him. It's kind of annoying.
I think the plot was creative and original, but a little predictable towards the end. The storyline is easy to follow, and in general, this book is very easy to understand and read. I personally prefer more difficult books, so I may be prejudiced in my opinion about this book.

Rating: I rate this book a six out of ten.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Godwulf Manuscript by Robert B. Parker

Book One in the Spenser novels

Plot: private detective Spenser is hired to find a priceless manuscript stolen from a college museum. Though there is virtually no information to lead off of, Spenser takes the case and is immediately thrust into the hazy world of college students and secretive cults. As suspects emerge and theories unfold, an unexpected crime changes everything.

Comments: I accidentally read the twenty-somethingth book in this series without knowing it. It's the kind of series where you really don't need to read them all. In fact, I didn't realize that there were any books before Now and Then until after I had finished it. But whether you read the twenty-fifth first or start from book one, I recommend this series. It's meant for a mature audience; not exactly middle school material. There is swearing, violence, murder, and romance (if you know what I mean). I really like these books, but I would rate them PG13.

This particular book was probably different than it should have been, since I read it after the twenty-seventh (I think). But I really like the way Robert B. Parker writes. I absolutely love the main character, Spenser, mainly for his quick wit, but also because of his lion-hearted courage and good heart. He charges into danger to save other people and gives no thought to his own health. Granted, he's not running around checking to make sure everyone's okay, but he's always there when people need him.

This mystery was interesting in that the plot soon...died, and another one began. I mean, there was a main focus in the beginning of the book--the stolen manuscript--but then it changed to something else, and the manuscript is practically forgotten. It's something different, to change topics halfway through the story. But I like it. Everything runs smoothly, and it's not confusing. I like the language and the interactions between characters. Everyone is different, and I can easily imagine people like them eating lunch at a cafe or dashing to classes at a college. I have the strange sense that all this actually happened.

Rating: I rate this book a six and a half out of ten.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Mostly Harmless by Douglas Adams

The last book in the "Increasingly Misnamed Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Trilogy". This number five?

Plot: Arthur is once again far away from his own home, Earth, and he's also lost Fenchurch. He soon settles down on a peaceful little planet, feeling pretty happy (except for the fact that he recently lost the love of his life). Then Ford Prefect dashes back into the picture, bringing a bit of action and cuss words to the story. Other things intruding on Arthur's newfound happiness: a new edition of the Guide, a daughter he didn't know he had, and ultimately, his eventual death.

Comments: I liked this book, but my favorite in this "trilogy" is still the very first book. Not really much to say that I haven't before, and I don't want to repeat myself. So then, I'll be finishing this entry pretty quickly. It's all random and jumbled up (but that's nothing new) so make sure you read carefully. I had to go back a few times and reread a sentence or two.

I didn't anticipate this ending. I really didn't. I'd thought there was one more book in the series, too, so I doubly didn't expect it. It completely caught me by surprise, and I felt kind of sad now that I'm done with the books. No more Arthur Dent, no more Ford Prefect, no more Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters. Great. Now I'm feeling unhappy. You better be worth it. Anyways, I think the ending fits. I had to think about it, since I was teetering on the line separating "fitting" and "dissatisfying". But in the end, I decided it fits, and though I'm not completely at peace about this series--and never will be--I am willing to accept the ending.

Rating: I rate this book a six and a half out of ten.
I rate this series a seven and a half. Recommend it to almost anyone. JUST READ EM! : )

Maximum Ride by James Patterson

Book five, I think. Maybe.

Plot: once again, Max and her flock are trying to save the world. They're busy trying to promote being environmentally-friendly, when all of a sudden, some one else pops up that wants to kill everyone. Didn't see that one coming. Anyways, can they save the world, or will this be their story of failure?

Comments: I really liked the first book in this series best. As the series progresses, the books become more and more repetitive. I mean, I know it's hard when you keep the same general concept through-out several books to NOT repeat some stuff. But when I read this book, I was constantly able to correctly guess what would happen next. And knowing what's going to happen kind of takes away the whole enjoyment thing. All right, I might be exaggerating a little, but I really could guess ahead--a LOT--and I was feeling a bunch of de ja vu. If James Patterson writes another, I won't bother reading it. I like the way he writes, I love the characters, and the action, and the attitude. But it just feels too similar these days. So if you want to read the whole series, I suggest you check the library every once in a while for something new. If I notice there's another book, I might put it in here. Maybe.

As I was saying, I love the characters and the way James Patterson writes. I like Max's personality, and her frank, get-to-the-point attitude. You feel like you're a part of the whole adventure, and you get really involved. It's fun reading the books, and I definitely recommend at least the first three books. If you want more after the trilogy, you know where to look!

Rating: I rate this book a six. It wasn't a bad book--it just feels like I've read it before.

Monday, November 2, 2009

So Long, And Thanks For All The Fish by Douglas Adams

Note: Read the first three books of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy books first.

Plot: Arthur Dent is back on Earth, and it seems as if the past eight years had never happened. But when he finds a gift-wrapped fishbowl as a goodbye gift from the dolphins, he knows not all is the same on his planet. Then he meets a young woman named Fenny, and his world is turned upside down again! What will happen next in this strange, wild thing we call Life?

Comments: This book was pretty good, but I think I liked the first three better. This book didn't have much of a plot--okay, none of them do. So sue me. Anyways, it was all very slow and unhurried. Which was fine, just saying. This is not a good book for people who like action, because there really isn't much in this story. It's good if you want to hear more about Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect, and best if you don't have much else to do. A good relaxing book.

I love the characters! They're all so realistic and quirky--every single one of them. Even the characters you don't know much about and aren't in the story for more than a couple sentences have a sense of personality to them. I loved Marvin, the depressed robot. I was so sad at the ending...but I still thought it was funny how they just brushed it off as if nothing unusual had happened. Arthur is different in this book, because of Fenny, and I like that. I love Arthur, and I'm glad he found someone. I'm confused about the dolphins though. Obviously, I shouldn't have expected there to be some importance or relevancy to the whole mammals-gone-missing thing. These books are fun reads because of their lack of plot, but it sometimes gets a little boring. I suggest reading books in between the novels in this series, to switch up the type of writing.

Rating: I rate this book a six out of ten. Not very captivating.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Messenger by Lois Lowry

Note: read The Giver and Gathering Blue before this book.

Plot: Matt is back, and he's better than ever--seriously. He doesn't steal or lie (at least, not really), he's living with the Seer, and he's happy. But when the peaceful little village starts to change, Matt may be their only hope.

Comments: not a bad book, good for fantasy readers. I think this book is best for when you have some time on your hands and you want to start and finish a book all in one sitting. I liked this book, better than Gathering Blue. The characters are well described in this book, which I think is necessary. You need to know the people better to see how they're changing. The characters are well described, and I feel like I know them after a few sentences. Lois Lowry painted a good picture of how the village used to be, and shows the reader how dangerous this change is.

The story line is very easy to follow, and it's never confusing. The way the story unfolds from the very beginning allows you to learn about the setting and characters while the plot is already starting, so that you don't have to sit through a boring introduction. I liked the ending; though it was a bit sad, I thought it was fitting. There are some good lessons in this story, and I like the choices the characters make.

Rating: I rate this book a six and a half out of ten.

The Giver by Lois Lowry

Note: after this book, read Gathering Blue, and then The Messenger

Plot: a young boy is growing up in a futuristic society completely different from ours. There are rules for everything, and secrets hidden everywhere. Jonas is excited for his 12th birthday, because then he'll be given a job to contribute to the community. But what Jonas is to be trained for is not what he expected. Will Jonas accept his new role as the most important person in the entire village?

Comments: this book is good for fantasy readers, but I don't necessarily consider it a fantasy novel. Also good for reading bits of whenever you can. This book has a very interesting concept. It shows a different view of things, what the world would be like if we were always polite, always did what we were told, and everything was the same. Now, at first I thought "That's such a stupid idea! I would hate not having differences and individuality!" But I eventually acknowledged the logic of the idea. I still stand by my claim that everyone should be unique, and everyone should be able to make some choices, but I also think some things were good. For example, there was no such thing as drugs or alcohol in this world. Anyways, I really like that this novel makes you ask yourself questions like "what is really important?"

The characters weren't described very well, but in this story, they didn't really need to be. The book was written skillfully, so that you really don't need to know what people look like or how they act. Everything about everyone is reflected in all that they do. One thing I didn't like about this book is that it felt like the plot started towards the end of the book. It felt like most of the book was just introducing you to the story.

Rating: I rate this book a six out of ten.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Fall of a Kingdom by Hilari Bell

Book One in the Farsala Trilogy

Plot: The kingdom of Farsala has seen no war for thousands of years, and when a new enemy threatens the borders, they are confident of victory. However, the enemy has been taking over countries right and left, and have never been defeated. Three young people aren't quite so confident; Jiaan, Soraya, and Kavi, all linked together in some way. They don't know that it'll be up to them to save Farsala...

Comments: this book is good for fantasy/adventure readers, and I think it's good for just a lazy afternoon. It's not very fast-paced, so it's also good for reading snatches of whenever you can. I like the plot and the way the story plays out, showing you a bit more about each character as the story progresses. Even though the characters are separated for most of the story, their individual stories add up smoothly to create a bigger story. The characters are easy to imagine, but not necessarily easy to relate to. Two out of the three main characters aren't people I exactly aspire to be like, but I think I can at least understand them, if not relate to them. I like the way this author writes, and how everything is very smooth and well explained.

However, I felt like this story was merely an introduction to the other two books. Through-out the entire story, I was waiting for the plot to begin, for the action to start, for things to start happening. When the book ended, it felt like I had just started reading. I knew a lot about what had happened, but at the same time it felt like nothing at all had happened. I think the author could have done a better job at having important things, unexpected things happen throughout the story, instead of just at the end.

I rate this book a six out of ten. I occasionally had to force myself to keep reading.

Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry

Note: read The Giver before this book and The Messenger after.

Plot: a poor weaver dies of sickness, leaving her daughter, Kira, all alone. Kira has a talent for weaving too, and the council decides not to cast her out of the village, in exchange for Kira's work. Kira must restore stitches on the Singer's robe, and she learns the art of thread dyeing from an old woman. But Kira soon discovers that the robe hids a secret, and so does the council...

Comments: this book is good for fantasy-lovers, though it doesn't necessarily have magic. It's a story of secrets, and of family, and I thought it was pretty good. I thought it could have been a little longer, though. I felt like the plot was just beginning when I turned the last page. I didn't know about the book The Giver when I read this book, and I've heard that The Giver would have helped me better understand Gathering Blue. So now I'm reading The Giver, and then The Messenger, which is the third book.

The characters in this book aren't very well described, in my opinion. I felt like I didn't know them throughout most of the story. Maybe reading The Giver would have helped with that, and maybe not. But it was like I was reading a story about strangers, or as if I walked into a movie theater halfway through the movie and had no idea who everyone was. Ok, maybe that's a little bit of an exaggeration, but I really didn't know much about the characters. The plot was good and story line well-thought out, but I think there could have been more action, more stuff happening. I'm not saying I want some fights to break out; I mean I would have liked to have mroe stuff going on to keep me interested.

Rating: I rate this book a six out of ten. Just barely.

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Grounding of Group 6 by Julian F. Thompson

Plot: five students show up at their new boarding school only to find that their advisor was hired to kill them. And guess who was paying? Their own parents. Luckily, their advisor never had any intent to murder teenagers, and he takes them to a remote cabin in the woods. But with the school staff searching for them and supplies limited, how long can they possibly remain hidden?

Comments: This book is a mixture of adventure and a story of love; I do not recommend this book for anyone under 14 years of age. It's a detailed love story, and it gets somewhat explicit at times. However, maturity level aside, this story has a very creative and interesting plot. It takes a little while to introduce the characters and explain their background, but I like the way it's all spread out and not too much to remember all at once. You have to wait a little while for the actual story to start though, so just bear with the first couple chapters.

I like the characters and how different they all are. The way they interact is life like and makes for some interesting scenes. I like the whole love story side of this book, but I think it could have been less explicit. I didn't need nearly as many details as were included in this book, and I admit I often skipped paragraphs I could tell would be too...graphic for my tastes. I think that could have been a bit more innocent, a little more about the love part than what the people in love do. I like the way Group 6 get together and make bases, maps, storage units, sentries, etc. It's very responsible and well-thought out, though mostly that's because of Nat.

Rating: I will give this book a six and a half out of ten. (Penalty for mushy stuff.)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Heir Apparent by Vivian Vande Velde

Plot: a girl goes to the arcade for half an hour of a virtual reality game, a new medieval world called Heir Apparent. But something goes wrong, and Giannine is stuck in the virtual reality until she either completes the game--a seemingly impossible feat--or her body overloads and she becomes a vegetable. Unfortunately, this game was designed to take several visits to complete, and Giannine is running out of time...

Comments: I really liked this book! Great for fantasy lovers, or someone willing to use their imagination a bit. I loved the way the medieval story was tied to real life (or at least, what could be real life in the future) and the book showed all kinds of ways things didn't work out. The whole game theme allowed the characters to change with each life, which was sometimes confusing, but overly. It was fun how if something went wrong, Giannine could start over and I could see the story from a whole new perspective.

The plot for this book was extremely creative and well-thought out. It's complicated and but it doesn't need a lot of details, and the reader experiences all the feelings that Giannine does (well, most of them, in my opinion). I appreciate how Vivian Vande Veede generally speeds up the parts you've already gone through and will go through several times (if you haven't read this book, this shouldn't make sense to you). It definitely helps keep the story interesting and prevents it from being repetitive. This book was clever and the main character easy to relate to. I recommend this book for a bit of light reading, funny with a dash of decision-making.

Rating: I rate this book an eight out of ten.

The Lost Queen by Frewin Jones

Book Two of the Faerie Path

Plot: Anita has come to accept her Faerie life and realizes she really is Tania, lost Faerie princess. Now she travels back to Earth with Edric to find her mother, the queen. But Tania immediately has to deal with challenges when her parents forbid her to see Edric. She has to struggle to continue the search for her real mother without losing her parents' trust.

Comments: I preferred The Faerie Path to The Lost Queen, but I'm not altogether certain why. The characters are different in this story; there is less detail about their different personalities. That's most likely because the readers already know the characters, but it felt like there was a little bit more life in the first book. The characters were a lot more familiar with each other, and I liked the feeling of everyone working together and always being there for each other. But it still lacked some emotion, I think. I didn't feel a whole lot of emotion between Tania and Edric, for example. They said they loved each other and everything, but there was nothing new, nothing proving it wasn't just a failing high school relationship.

The story line was a lot easier to follow than in the first book, but I admit there is some good in having the story be a little mysterious. The plot was straightforward, with interesting details and troublesome problems to keep you from getting bored. I thought the search for the queen could have been more of the center of the story. It felt like that part was big, but not the story, and that's what I had been expecting. It also seemed too easy. I mean, they searched for a while, and couldn't find anything, but that's not what I'm talking about. When they finally found out who the queen was on Earth, it was easy for them to find out everything else, and it seemed like something else should have made it harder.

Rating: I rate this book a seven out of ten.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart

Plot: when an ad shows up in the paper asking "Are you a gifted child looking for special opportunities?", a young boy named Reynie decided to go see what it's all about. This decision results in a dangerous and top-secret adventure with three other children, in which the fate of the world is rested on their shoulders! Will they be able to unravel the secrets in time?

Comments: I loved this book! It's great for someone who can handle a lot of thinking and puzzles. This is an adventure novel, but it's not so much adventure as it is a cleverly written puzzle with a good deal of risk involved. Mind you, this is most certainly NOT an action novel. The characters in this book are very life-like, and I like the way they are described. I can imagine them easily, and the way they interact with each other--the way they support each other, fight all the time, etc.--is easy to relate to and recognize, so they feel familiar. I like how each person has a secret, and how there isn't a lot of information coming at you all at once. Everything is slowly given to you, bit by bit, your store of information building up, until you realize you have quite a good picture of what’s going on.

The plot was quite creative; I’ve never read anything like it. I like the rather formal, old-fashioned way the characters have of speaking, though occasionally a bit of slang slips through so you remember they aren’t adults. The story line is easy to follow and it written so well that it’s difficult to be confused. Except for in the parts where you are meant to be confused, of course.

Rating: I shall rate this book a seven and a half out of ten.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Goose Chase by Patrice Kindl

Plot: a young goose girl, due to the manners her mother had taught her, is suddenly locked in a tower with two royal, unrelenting suitors both clamoring after her hand. She plans to escape and find somewhere quiet to stay and tend her geese, but that is much more difficult than she had thought. Accompanied by one she'd just as soon not have met, the goose girl begins an adventure that will lead her all round the country.

Comments: This book was a nice story, a nice light-hearted book for a peaceful afternoon. Best, I think, for someone with some sense of imagination. Though the characters were often difficult to relate to or imagine, they fit in well with the story line. I like the way the people talk in the old-fashioned sense, and I appreciate how tedious it must have been for the author. The plot was similar to other books I have read, but lead to something completely different. I like the descriptions of the characters, and I can relate to the goose girl in the way she thinks and acts towards others. I think they depend too much on the goose girl's special gift (not telling) to get out of trouble. It certainly got her into enough trouble, but I think the characters could have been a bit more clever, allowing them to work their way out of trouble by themselves. I didn't expect the ending, but I think the whole explanation part could have been a bit more graceful.

Rating: I shall give this book a seven out of ten.

Life, the Universe, and Everything by Douglas Adams

Book three in Hitchhiker's Trilogy (sequel to The Restaurant at the End of the Universe)

Plot: Arthur and the rest have gone separate ways and they continue along different paths for a while. But when the universe needs saving again, it's up to this odd motley of characters to try not to think about what they're doing and jump back into the fray.

Comments: This is my least favorite book in the trilogy, though I still really liked it. I'm not sure why I prefer the older books, but I think this story was less funny and more...well, serious. I didn't laugh as much while reading this book, but there were still hilarious patches that almost make up for an inconsistent amusement factor. Again, the scientific stuff is very interesting and I like to read about it, though of course, most of it's not based on true facts as we Earthlings know them.

The characters evolve a bit in this story; I noticed some changes in personality. Arthur is almost as confused as ever, but he steps up to the plate nicely. Ford just kind of loses his courage and sense of responsibility. Zaphod never had a sense of responsibility in the first place, and he eventually gains a bit. Trillian becomes somewhat irresponsible for a while, but she soon snaps out of it. The characters aren't together much in this book. Life, the Universe, and Everything is more focused on Arthur, Ford, and Slartibartfast, while Trillian and Zaphod kind of fade into the background, which I must say is fine with me.
I'm afraid I didn't like the ending to this book. It fits, I suppose, but I still wished there had been something more. It felt like it ended--not abruptly, but rather unfinished. I had a strong sense that there was more to come.

Rating: I rate this book a seven and a fourth out of ten.

Note: there IS more to come. I now have So Long and Thanks for all the Fish and Mostly Harmless on my blog. Take a look!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Foxes of Firstdark by Garry Kilworth

Plot: the story of a fox growing up and living in a forest doomed by humankind. O-ha the female fox falls in love with a young fox and they make their way through the world together. Avoiding terrifying hunting dogs and their gun-toting humans, scavenging enough food for the both of them, and making a life together, this story is cute and a good lesson on what humans look like through animals' eyes.

Comments: Though this story is told in third person, you feel like you're experiencing this as a fox yourself. I liked this story, and it taught me something about hunting and animal cruelty. It made me feel pretty bad when I read about all the foxes and other animals that died in this book for humans' fun. The way the story is written makes it easy to understand, and the different names and stories inside this story make it interesting. The plot is somewhat simple, yet interesting, and I like the mini twists that come along between big changes to vary it a bit.

This story of love and life is very sweet, and it's a lot different from human life. The legends, names, and characteristics are very creative, and the way the animals interact is a lot like how humans interact, making it feel like the story is that more real. Sometimes the story got a little dry, maybe a bit tedious, and I didn't often feel the urge to keep reading. This book is good for an afternoon, or for reading snatches of whenever you get the chance.

Rating: I rate this book a six and a half out of ten.

The Restaurant at the End of the Universe by Douglas Adams

Sequel to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Plot: Arthur and his rag-tag group of oddities are back, and they're hungry! They are somehow transported to the Restaurant at the End of the Universe, a very popular, very expensive restaurant millions and millions of years in the future, where every night the universe ends as a grand finale.

Comments: I didn't quite like this book as much as the book before it, but it was still a great novel. The characters are the same odd creatures they always have been, saying the strangest things and doing things that are even stranger. They lead the story line in a wild and mad dance around your overheating brain, while you just barely control your sanity. Once again, this book made me laugh out loud, and also often cock my head to the side and stare off into space (that phrase is quite appropriate, wouldn't you say?) while I try to wrap my head round a concept I had read in this story. The twists and turns and jumping ahead and behind in time is often confusing, but I suppose part of the idea is to make you think a bit harder.

The plot is interesting, though I think perhaps a bit too focused on the actual restaurant. I like the way things are described, and I get the sense that the person telling the story has quite the interesting personality. Never thought I would like sci-fi, but I'm very glad I tried this series. I haven't thought so hard since last week's geometry homework! : )

Rating: I rate this book a seven and four fifths out of ten. Almost as good as the last book, but not quite.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Book One in the series

Plot: Arthur Dent's beloved Earth is demolished by creatures he had never known existed, and the only reason he survived is because his friend, Ford Prefect, is not as human as he looks. Arthur soon becomes a part of a wild adventure through space and time with Ford, a researcher for a new edition of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and a whole cast of wacky characters.

Comments: Such a great book! It's a wonderfully written science fiction novel, and it made me laugh out loud more times than I can count! The characters are immensely weird, but that's all part of the fun. I like the different odd quirks that the people have, and it makes for an interesting scene when the personalities collide. This book is best for people with a big imagination, because this story stretches your mind to the very limits and beyond, with wild plots and hard-to-grasp concepts, mixed in with a few so-called "impossible" things.

The plot is wild, active, and rather confusing at times. You have to read this book very carefully so you don't miss anything, because the tiniest little detail could be the difference between a complicated but understood scene and utter confusion. A few times I had to reread bits to understand what was going on. The names of planets and species can get extremely disorientating, so I suggest you don't pay too much attention to them. It's not necessary for you to memorize the many different names, and if you try, you'll probably just mix them up anyways. I love the way the characters talk and interact with each other. They're just so odd, it's hilarious!

Rating: I rate this book an eight out of ten. A must-read!

Monday, September 21, 2009

City of Masks by Mary Hoffman

Book one in the Stravaganza trilogy

Plot: a young cancer patient discovers a new world filled with adventure, mystery, and, best of all, health. Lucien can travel to this magical Venice-like city while he sleeps, and he is miraculously free of sickness as long as he stays in the new world. But there is always the risk that he won't be able to get back home...

Comments: This book is good for fantasy-lovers, a fun and magical story for light reading. I like the characters; they seem very realistic and easy to imagine. Different characteristics, and they don't seem exactly like the average Joe, but they fit together well, and I like the way they interact. The descriptions of the scenery is good. I can easily imagine the city as it's described, so beautiful, with elaborate decoration, the shining canal. Though the city is apparently a lot like Venice, I've never been to Venice, so I'm not merely using those images to supply my information. Sometimes the clothes were hard to imagine, but that's probably because they're old-fashioned and I'm not familiar with them. The plot is creative, and interesting. I've never read anything like this before, and the way the story line twisted was well done. I was sad at the ending, and I wish it hadn't ended like that. Maybe it makes more sense for the next two books or something, or maybe the author just wanted a dramatic surprise. I don't know, but I still didn't like it. This book made me laugh, and I recommend it for a boring afternoon or a sick day in bed.

Rating: I rate this book a six and a half out of ten.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Plot: a young girl nicknamed Scout grows up during the Great Depression with her older brother Jem and her father Atticus. This is her story of growing up and learning lessons the hard way.

Comments: I can't believe I hadn't thought of reading this book earlier. Of course I'd heard about it, and knew it was a classic, but I'd never actually read it until now. This story is amazing. The characters are all very realistic, and I love how every person is portrayed from a young girl's point of view. Scout is so innocent and sweet, you can't help but fall in love with her. The story of her adventures with Jem and their friend Dill is creative, interesting, and heart-warming.

I like the way there are a lot of different stories inside this one big story, and it makes it feel a lot like life. There are plenty of life lessons in this book, and you get to watch as Scout matures and learns about the world. One thing I can't get over is how smart Scout is! At the start of the story, she's only six years old, and she's saying things and reasoning things I had no idea of when I was her age! It's amazing how times have changed. If you haven't read this book yet, you should.

Rating: I rate this book an eight and a half out of ten.

Maximum Ride Trilogy by James Patterson

The Maximum Ride Trilogy: The Angel Experiment, School's Out--Forever, and Saving the World and Other Extreme Sports

Plot: this trilogy is about a girl, Max, and her adopted family of children. But these are not ordinary children. The whole family, all six of them, have wings. They were only babies when a secret organization experimented on them, adding wings and allowing them to fly. But the bird-children managed to escape, and now Max looks after them all. They have amazing, dangerous, adventures, trying to stay hidden from the School while attempting to find out who they really are and why there are here.

Comments: I loved this trilogy! Very well-written books, and an interesting array of characters. The plot is creative and well thought out, twisting and turning easily without confusion. I like the way you learn about the children's story in bits, when Max is thinking about her past. The different characters and places the family goes to keeps the story interesting, and I appreciate the effort to make each meeting with enemies (called Erasers) different from the last. The characters are very different, and I feel like part of the flock. The way James Patterson describes flying, it seems as if he has wings too, and has been flying himself. I have always wished to fly, and I like the book's description of it.

Sometimes this trilogy is confusing, because they switch back and forth between places and characters, and so you have to keep reading and guess who you're reading about. Sometimes it's confusing because you aren't supposed to know what's going on, and that's both good and bad; it keeps you interested, but I really want to know what's happening! I think Max sometimes only thinks about herself, but the rest of the time she's completely selfless. It's a little disorientating, when one moment she'll be looking after her family, and the next she's worrying about what it is she has to do.

Rating: I'm rating this entire trilogy a seven and a half out of ten.

Emmy and the Incredible Shrinking Rat by Lynne Jonell

Plot: a young girl named Emmy gets the best grades, has the best manners, lives in the best part of the city. She takes dancing and music lessons, has a truckload of expensive toys, and absolutely hates her life. Her parents are always on vacation somewhere distant, and her dreadful nanny controls her every move. Emmy is tired of not having any friends, and she's tired of being good. Then she meets the Rat.

Comments: I really liked this story, and it's great for someone who doesn't prefer fantasy but still has a good imagination. The characters were very easy to imagine, and I felt like I knew them myself. Emmy is a sweet little girl that no one notices, and when she meets the Rat, her life turns upside down. The Rat was funny and also easy to imagine. I like the plot, and the way the story isn't over even when you think it is. This is a cute story of friendship and growing up, and I'm glad I read it. I felt like I was Emmy (even though this is written in a third-person point of view). I like the way the characters interact, and the different characteristics in different characters help make the story seem real. The Rat at first seems an antagonist, but he soon evolves into a friend. This book taught some good lessons about making difficult decisions, and doing the right thing when you really don't want to.

Rating: I shall give this book a six and half out of ten.

Lamplighter by D. M. Cornish

Book 2 in the Monster Blood Tattoo trilogy

Plot: Rossamund finally made it to the lamplighter academy where he was due, only just in time! He soon adjusts to the life of a lamplighter apprentice, and he knows now that lamplighters are the bravest, smartest, strangest people you will ever find. He learns to avoid the dangers of the open roads, and how to protect himself from the monsters he will find on his lonely patrols. But soon, a mystery surfaces, along with a young girl lamplighter. Will Rossamund be able to answer his confusing questions before it is too late?

Comments: I liked this book a bit more than Foundling, the prequel, but there are some things I didn't like about Lamplighter. There are a lot more characters, and I was often confusing names and people, but that got better as I read further in. Rossamund seems quieter, more refined, and very observant. I like that he makes friends with the oddest people, and that he puts up with someone no one else could. But I don't like how he never stands up for himself, never says a word.
The plot is captivating and interesting, and very complicated. I appreciate how the story line is cleverly twisted and looped around itself, unexpected turns around each corner. The characters develop nicely, and you get to know them better. Sometimes the different monsters got confusing, and I used the glossary a lot--a smart idea to include one.

Rating: I rate this book a seven out of ten.

Foundling by D. M. Cornish

Book 1 in the Monster Blood Tattoo trilogy

Plot: a young orphanage boy sets out on his own to become an apprentice lamplighter, a dull-sounding job he is not looking forward to. His adventure begins immediately following a bad mistake on his part, and he is thrust into a world of monsters, thieves, and death.

Comments: this book is great for a fantasy/fiction lover, and it's perfect for someone with a big imagination. At first, you may have to flip back and forth from the story to the glossary, to look up a foreign word, but you soon get used to the different ideas and names. I liked the way the characters were described, and the pictures were very nice, too. I can easily imagine this story unfolding as I read through the chapters. The variation of characteristics is amusing, the way the different people interact is realistic. The plot is different from what I had expected when I began reading, and it follows a twisted, action-packed story line.

I like the way the main character (Rossamund, a boy with a girl's name) thinks differently from everyone else. I like how he isn't just the average person on the street. He adds an interesting perspective to the story, and the contrast between his opinions and the other characters' opinions makes the story that much more enjoyable.

Rating: I rate this book a seven out of ten.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Princess Ben by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

Plot: When her royal father, mother, and uncle are killed, supposedly by their neighboring kingdom, Princess Ben (or Benevolence) is left in the care of Queen Sophia, her formal, unapproachable aunt. Ben finds a secret chamber with a book of magic spells and begins to practice magic. But when danger threatens to overthrow Ben's beloved country, Ben is forced to make a decision she never saw coming.

Comments: When I first started reading this book, I only got a few pages in before I put it down again. I was not very interested in the hook, and the main character, Ben, was not the kind of person I enjoy reading about. She was whiny and childish, very immature for her fifteen years of age. But later I began reading again, and I found that the book quickly became more interesting. The plot started, important characters were introduced, the story had begun. I really liked the plot in this book; it's unlike what I've ever read before. Of course I've read stories about princesses and princes and the royal life, but there were certain details that made this story completely different. I really liked Ben's way of thinking. She seemed so real, not just something made up.

The characters in this book were easy to remember and to imagine. I like the way they are portrayed so that you feel as if you know them personally. The twists in this story were mostly unexpected, and time after time I was surprised at what had happened. It was refreshing to not know what was going to happen ages before the main character finally realized it. It was as if I was Princess Ben myself. I must admit that the ending was somewhat confusing. A few details hadn't been cleared up between Ben and Prince Florian, and their sudden turn of emotion at the end was surprising and perhaps even a bit unbelievable. But all in all, the ending was satisfying and allows the story to continue on past the last pages in my imagination.

Rating: I rate this book a seven and a half out of ten.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

City of Dogs by Livi Michael

Plot: a dog from the world of ancient Norse mythology is transported to modern day Europe in the midst of a disaster. An ancient evil is about to take over all the worlds, and it's up to poor Jenny and her crew of dogs to stop it. Will the dogs be able to overcome their greatest fears and defeat the monsters or will the worlds be enslaved forever?

Comments: I loved how the Norse mythology was mixed in with modern day life. It was an interesting lesson on mythology, and I actually learned a little about different legends and monsters and even a constellation! The dogs were easy to imagine, and they all had very different characteristics. There were six dogs, all completely unique, all good friends working together to save the day! I appreciate the different perspective, and for once a story where the hero isn't a human. It's nice to switch things up a little.

I thought Jenny was a little too serious and all-knowing in this story. I know she was smarter and the leader and did know more than the other dogs, but she acted too aloof and different for my liking. Some parts of this story were confusing, with a lot of names being tossed around and the story switching back and forth between dogs, but it was pretty easy to understand most of the time. It's especially easier when you have some knowledge of Norse mythology; you don't need to be an expert, but having read a few stories and being able to recognize some characters helps a lot. All in all this book was very entertaining, a good story of normal people (ok, dogs) being able to try and save the world against huge odds. I loved the characters, especially the innocent and courageous Boris.

Rating: I give this book a rating of seven out of ten.

Ariel by Grace Tiffany

Plot: a spirit born of a dying sailor's imagination becomes the sole inhabitant of the Bermuda Triangle in which she is confined. She is powerful and creates animals, light shows, friends, whatever she wants. When humans wash upon her island's shore, she quickly bends their will to her own. She manipulates them and plants images in their minds, and soon they will take her out of the Triangle to ultimately become the ruler of the world. Can the humans break free of her spells before they become completely possessed?

Comments: Reading the inside cover of this book, I had anticipated the man whom Ariel was focusing on to fight her a little more. I had thought that the plot of the book was him trying not to fall under her spell. But really, it's more about what he does when he's under her influence. That was a surprise, and it wasn't much fun reading about her whispering into his ear, telling him what to do and say. It was an interesting story though, about an evil, immortal sprite that has no heart and no sense of love or compassion.

The characters in this story aren't very well-rounded; I can't imagine them as real people. They seem...2D, like they aren't completely whole. The characteristics they have make them interesting, but they don't have many, and that could be the problem. But with a bit of imagination, anything can happen! The hook in this story definitely made me want to read more, and the ending was interesting, yet not a cliff-hanger. I liked the way this story ended, but I think the last day or so in the story took too long to play out.

Rating: I rate this book a six out of ten.

The Kite Rider by Geraldine McCaughrean

Not to be confused with The Kite Runner.

Plot: A young boy's father dies, leaving his in charge of his beautiful grieving mother and his baby sister. Haoyou decides to join the circus, flying high into the sky on a big red kite to make money for his family. But when he sends his generous salary home to his mother, his gambling great-uncle wastes the whole lot, and then comes to the circus to take the rest of the young kite rider's money. Will Haoyou choose to be an obedient son or a rebellious adventurer?

Comments: I liked the plot of this book a lot, but like another book I started reading recently, the main character kind of ruined it for me. The twists and turns of losing a family member, protecting his mother from an evil suitor, and riding kites for a living was unique and imaginative. However, Haoyou did not change throughout the story as I think characters should develop. He was obedient and humble, always doing whatever his great-uncle told him to do. I hated how no matter how he felt and no matter what he thought, his great-uncle's priorities came before his own.

I liked the way different characters are in the spotlight at different times. One chapter, a certain few characters will be more prominent in the story, and the next, a new character will become the more important. The way the characters interact and speak to each other is a lot how I imagine Asia was in ancient times (I believe this story is based in China). The descriptions of the different places and people were detailed and painted a picture in my head. The ending was complicated and intricate, but I liked how the story turned out, and it left plenty of room for imagining.

Rating: I rate this book a six and a half out of ten.

The Explosionist by Jenny Davidson

Plot: in the middle of a war, two teenage friends, Sophie and Mikael, work together to solve a great mystery. It involves a dead medium, messages from the dead, and Mikael's missing brother. Can they put all the puzzle pieces together before it's too late?

Comments: I had a hard time convincing myself to keep reading after the first page, because the hook was not very interesting. But I'm glad I continued reading the story, and I really enjoyed it. The plot was interesting and relatively easy to follow, though once in I while I was a bit disoriented. The characters are very well portrayed, and I can easily imagine them as real people living their lives as in this book. The characteristics of the characters are extremely different, so every person is unique and an individual instead of blending into the background. I was a little confused about IRYLNS and Brothers of the Northern Liberties and who was on who's side. The position they were in because of the war was unclear; maybe a minor detail, but it's still a big part of the setting and background information.

Sometimes this story was a little bit boring to me, mostly because of the dialogue. It seemed as if there was much more talking than actual action, more like someone was narrating a scene rather than actually seeing it for yourself. But all in all, I very much liked this book, and it was a cute story about two teens with some danger and politics mixed in.

Rating: I shall give this book a seven out of ten.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Middleworld by J & P Voelkel

The Jaguar Stones: Book One [of three]

Plot: a typical American teenager somehow ends up running for his life in a tropical rain forest with a modern Maya girl, Lola. They are trying to find both his parents lost on an archaeological dig, and the five powerful Jaguar Stones. Can Max and Lola unravel the clues and find what they're searching for before it's too late?

Comments: I didn't like this book very much, unfortunately. It sounded really interesting, with a story about both the ancient and modern Maya civilizations and a life-or-death race to the finish. The plot was detailed and well thought-out, and the contrast between living in a busy American city and surviving in a rain forest definitely shook things up a little. I liked the feeling of continuous action and the dialogue, too. I could imagine the chapters happening before my eyes, since the details fit together well. But the one thing I didn't like at all was Max's character.

Max was an only child used to living in a big city with job-crazy parents that were never around. His mom and dad would give him expensive presents to make up for canceled vacations or even birthday parties, and he saw the mysterious housekeeper, Zia, more often than his own family. At first, I understood his character, or so I thought. He was a bit spoiled (though that's not necessarily his fault) and was never very loving towards his parents, but then, they were constantly letting him down to the point where even a promise would not be enough. And further on, when he went to stay with his uncle, he was angry because of his parents not contacting him, not allowing him to go with them, and in general sulking and feeling sorry for himself. Still later, I started to get annoyed, especially when he met up with Lola. He soon proved to be a selfish, greedy little pig that only thought of himself, and I was highly disappointed. He was always complaining, never seemed to be able to help himself, and was constantly insulting the Maya villagers that thought so much of him. At one point, when I was about halfway through the book, I couldn't force myself to read a page more. Max had just insulted his hosts by wasting a precious meal and then almost eating one man's entire day's worth of food, and I couldn't take it any longer.

I'm sure that Max gets better as the book goes on, and that's what I had been counting on as I continued to read, page after page. But he could never become a good enough person to make up for reading all this horrible stuff he does. It's too bad, because if it weren't for Max's bad attitude, this would have been a wonderful book.

Rating: I rate this book (or the half I read) a five out of ten. Not worth reading unless you think you can handle half a book's worth of priggishness.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Bloodline by Katy Moran

Plot: a young boy's father leaves him behind at a small village to grow up with strangers. Then war begins brewing, and the boy Essa has grown into a young man. He must fight to survive among traitors, enemies, and family he had never known.

Comments: I liked the plot of this book a lot, but I think it wasn't used to the best it could have been. The way the characters are linked together is interesting, the different bonds they have, but I don't like how some characters interact. For example, I hated the way Essa would always end up completely obedient to his father, no matter what he would do to Essa. Essa was always bowing his head and doing what his father told him to like a little puppy trailing at his master's heels. I wish Essa had been a person with a spine, someone with a little more self-confidence. I would have liked Essa a lot more if he was more willing to stand up for his own opinions and thoughts. I hated how weak he always acted.

As I said, the plot was good, but it could have been used better. The ending was abrupt and yet not, but it didn't finish the story, and left me with more questions than even my imagination could cope with.

Rating: I give this book a six out of ten.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Evil Genius by Catherine Jinks

Plot: a young boy with a genius IQ and a criminal mastermind father begins to attend a secret school specially made for honing the skills of criminals. Cadel's passion is computers, and to make a little money, he creates a website that supposedly pairs people with their perfect match. He soon becomes fascinated by a customer, a brilliant woman by the name of Kay-Lee, and he starts to realize how much he wishes he had a normal life. Will he ever be able to throw off the chains of his manipulating father and start a new life, or will he be drawn into the darkness of pure evil?

Comments: this book was fun to read, and had a very interesting plot that rendered me unable to put Evil Genius down. The characters are not very well-rounded, and I have a hard time imagining their lives stretching beyond the plot of this story. However, there is a unique mixture of weird quirks and personalities in this book that help keep it interesting as the characters develop and interact with each other.

This book was easy to read and to understand through most of the book, but at the end it was a whirlwind of fast-paced, very confusing action that had me reading and rereading sections of the book just to keep up.

The plot of this book is unique, and I've never read a story like it before. The way Cadel speaks is unlike what I've ever heard, but it fits his character very well. I like the way the book is written, with tiny little mysteries here and there, such as the story of Com, the computer-human. I like how everything fits together, and how the story is like a series of dominoes knocking each other down.

Rating: I rate this book a seven and a half out of ten.

The Last Olympian by Rick Riordan

Book five in the Percy Jackson series. The final book.

Plot: Kronos and his army are closing in on Manhattan, and Percy is beginning to lose hope. He has finally heard the entire Great Prophecy, and it doesn't sound good. Together with his small defending force of half-bloods, can Percy destroy the monsters and defeat Kronos's plan to rule the world?

Comments: I love this series. The books have such great plots, separate, yet tied together into one big story. I appreciate the way Rick Riordan writes, with both seriousness and a great sense of humor. Reading these books, I've laughed out loud more times than I can count.
In this series, Percy Jackson has grown up. He's made some hard decisions, lost too many friends, and gone through more than any teenager should be able to handle, yet he's managed to keep hold of his sense of humor. I like that in this book he's less of a joker, more sure of himself, a good leader. But it's sad that all the half-bloods that fought in this war against Kronos grew up too fast.

I've always liked how I feel I can relate to the characters in this series, even some of the more minor characters. I appreciate how you feel you know everyone, and can imagine their lives continuing on past the end of this book, this series. This series has a lot of good life lessons about perseverance, love, and sacrifice. I loved the ending, even though I was sad the series had ended.

Rating: I rate this book an eight out of ten. I rate the series a seven and a half out of ten.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Ocean Realm by Rebecca Moesta and Kevin J. Anderson

Book two in the Crystal Doors series. Click here for book three and click here for book one.

Plot: The five friends are back, and are captured by the merlons, not a month after winning a battle against their sea serpent. They are taken to the underground palace and meet both King Barak and the evil sorcerer Azric, who has the king eating out of the palm of his hand. The friend learn about a massive, lethal weapon that the merlons will soon launch against Elantya, and is sure to overcome and sink the island full of peaceful villagers. They begin to plan an escape...

Comments: I liked this book more than Crystal Doors, the first book, though I'm not sure why. I think it might be because in this book the plot is more straightforward and the main characters fit in more. I mean, they've transformed from a couple cousins that want to go home to a couple kid warriors defending a home. I also like the change of setting. It keeps the plot interesting, as does the new characters and, of course, new problems. The characters don't develop much in this book, except for Sharif. I like how I get to know him better, and his relationship with Piri.
I still don't particularily like the way everyone talks, but I guess that's just me. They sound older, yet younger...

Rating: I rate this book a six and a half out of ten.

Tamar by Mal Peet

Plot: a spy for the United Nations is parachuted into Holland with the code name Tamar, along with his friend Dart (also a code name) during World War II. They assume new lives and report by radio back to the base, gathering whatever information they can. Tamar has been to this town before, and is returning to his love, Marijke. Unfortunately, Dart quickly falls in love with Marijke. Will his jealousy of Tamar and Marijke's relationship make him forget his duty and uncover Tamar and his own real identities?

Comments: I really liked this book, because it taught me a little about life during WWII, and because it was cast in a light of danger and espionage. I love books about espionage, because one wrong move and it's over. Unfortunately, this means I have to read the book all at once, because if I put it down, my head is full of thoughts and I can't concentrate on anything else. Even worse, this book is pretty long, so I was forced to close it a lot to go to sleep--or try, at least.

The characters are all full of different emotions and have different sides to themselves, very well rounded. I don't relate to them that well, partly because they're all adults and in the middle of a war, and partly because the main characters are in love. It's confusing sometimes when they react in a completely different way than I expect, but that's most likely because they're under so much more pressure and stress than I can imagine. I like the way the plot twists and turns, though it can get confusing, especially with all the foreign names and places.

There is a lot of real danger in this book; plenty of encounters with German soldiers, a few times when a secret is almost revealed, etc. This book was really entertaining and exciting. A great story. I didn't like the ending, though. Actually, I kind of hated it. Funnily enough, I guessed the ending before I was halfway through the book, but whether it was a complete guess or too much shadowing, I don't know. I was unpleasantly surprised but yet unsurprised when I read the ending. However, I think in this case, a happy ending doesn't fit. It's about a war, and betrayal, and love, so I think the ending needed to be sad, because it reminds you that live isn't fair. So I hated it, but I understood it, and I actually prefer this to a happily-ever-after ending.

Rating: I shall give this book an eight out of ten.

The Frost Child by Eoin McNamee

Book three of The Navigator Trilogy

Plot: Owen, his friend Cati, and the army of the Resistors together battle the Harsh, an evil, chilling people (literally). The Harsh have complete power over the cold, and if touched by a Harsh warrior, you freeze to death immediately. Owen is the Navigator, master of the time-traveling boat the Wayfarer, and is the only hope to defeat the Harsh. The final battle against the Harsh is close at hand, and the Harsh have been recruiting for their army. The Resistors are losing hope fast, Owen among them. Can Owen find a way to defeat the Harsh or will the world become a vast frozen wasteland forever?

Comments: These books are not exactly fantasy, but they include different worlds, some interesting theories on time, and some magic. I liked this book, but I considered the first book, The Navigator, the best, and The City of Time (the second book) second best. I don’t think Owen as a character developed much in this series, though it seems that this kind of experience would make someone a little wiser, a little older. The characters are all easy to relate to—well, the good people are, not the Harsh or anything—and I like recognizing different traits as familiar characteristics. I can easily imagine the Resistors, and I like how everything is clearly laid out and described, though not in a tedious, uninteresting way. The plot flows smoothly enough, a little confusing at times, though that may be because it’s been a while since I read the first two books.

Rating: I rate this book a six and a half out of ten.

Erec Rex: The Search for Truth by Kaza Kingsley

Book three in the Erec Rex series. Book one is Erec Rex: The Dragon’s Eye and book two is Erec Rex: The Monsters of Otherness.

Plot: Erec Rex is in the running to becoming King of Alypium, a magical world that the occupants of Upper Earth (Earth, as we call it) know nothing about. To become king, he must complete a series of quests and somehow fend off the attacks from his competitors, the three sons of the evil sorcerer Baskania. So far he has completed both of the first two quests before his enemies could, and he’s about to embark upon a couple more, with the help of his friends Bethany, the practical math genius, and Jam, the polite, humble butler.

Comments: I really liked this book, and so far the series makes a really good read. The characters are very well created, very life-like. Some characters are harder to imagine, like Jack and Oscar, but that’s probably because I had to wait a while to read this book, so I kind of forgot the characters, and Oscar and Jack don’t show up much in this book. I relate well to Bethany, and it’s always nice to feel like you know what a character feels like. Empathy, right? It makes me feel more involved in the story, getting me more interested. I don’t relate well to Erec, probably because I’m not a guy, but I think his way of talking is different from what I know, and I don’t like his apparent lack of self-control. He’s always blurting stuff out without thinking, being rude or unfeeling. I mean, plenty of people don’t think before they speak, but he also can’t ever control his craving to hold the king’s scepter. Maybe it overrules any control over himself, but I think his character needs to work on being a little more…aware of himself.

I like the way the plot flows smoothly, even when it jumps from scene to scene, because I don't ever think: “Whoa, what just happened? What’s happening now?” The quests so far have all been different and creative. There were a few unexpected surprises in this book, real whoppers that made me go back and reread to make sure I read it right. That will be very hard to keep up if there’s a book for every two quests, since there’s four down and eight to go…I like how any characters that come in for a sort of guest appearance, just small parts in this one book, are completely different and help to spice up the story. Very creative characteristics!

Rating: I rate this book a seven and a half.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Dragonfly Pool by Eva Ibbotson

Plot: a girl is sent away to a boarding school, an odd place called Delderton. At Delderton, the students are encouraged to express themselves and find their way in life. When the school receives an invitation to an international folk dance festival in Bergania, she puts together a folk-dancing group. In Bergania, the unthinkable happens, and Tally's newfound friend, the prince of Bergania, needs her help to survive.

Comments: this is a good book for a lazy day when you need something to do. I like the characters, who are very well rounded, and I can easily imagine them in real life. The plot is creative and well done, nice and smooth. I love the difference in the characters; some are wild and curious, some are snobby and rich, some are shy and thoughtful, etc. I also love the bond between those in the folk dancing festival. Even though they can't speak the same language, they all become great friends and are willing to do whatever it takes to help the prince.

I like the smaller problems within the plot that give a real-life quality to the story, such as Julia's mother and Kit's reluctance to be at Delderton. I don't like how Karil seems to forget about Tally, and I would have preferred to know of his plan beforehand. He went very far with his plan, and it was upsetting to think that he had turned into a snobby, exiled prince. I also wish Tally had reacted more to her problem with Karil. Some of the time it seemed as if she didn't care, but maybe she was just trying to hide her feelings. This story was entertaining and touchingly sweet.

Rating: I give this book a seven out of ten.

The Mark of Solomon Series by Elizabeth E. Wein

There is a story before this story, in The Sunbird, so you might want to read that first.

Note: I'm rating books One and Two in The Mark of Solomon series together, as a single book. Book One is The Lion Hunter, and Book Two is The Empty Kingdom.

Plot: after recovering from his horrific ordeal as a government spy in the illegal salt mines, Telemakos, now twelve, has a bad accident in the royal lion's den. He eventually heals, but from that moment on, his life is changed forever. Soon he and his baby sister Athena are sent to live with their uncle, a long ways away in Afar. His uncle is manipulative and mysterious, and he has plans to use Athena and Telemakos for his own good. Can Telemakos protect both himself and his baby sister?

Comments: I liked these books a lot, and they were very good for when you just need something to fill up your time with. I had already started reading The Lion Hunter when I realized that there were books--or a book--before it. The Lion Hunter was so well written, however, that I had no need to find the story before it. Everything was explained in helpful, interesting intervals at different parts in the story. The characters are well rounded and interesting, but the names are extremely confusing at some points, because they're nothing like I've ever heard before, so they're easy to mix up. The plot is creative, and I like reading about the political games the royal characters play (not games for fun; when I say political game, I mean the discreet ways political figures insult and test each other). I don't like how Telemakos is always so humble and obedient to his uncle. If Telemakos does something on purpose that he knows the Abreha won't like, he'll kneel and suck up to him with a silver tongue and seems to have no sense of pride.

Rating: I rate these books with a seven and a half out of ten.

Fight Game by Kate Wild

Plot: A gypsy boy lives with his sister and her little girls in trailers, wherever they can find a place to park. He uses his natural fighting instincts to protect his family against anyone who dares provoke them. When the police want him to infiltrate an illegal bare-fisted fighting business, he has to choose to either work for those he's avoided all his years or earn money for a house by taking part in the fighting.

Comments: this book is good for when you want to read something real yet surreal, something entertaining and dangerous. This book had action, a plot, and well rounded characters. I like the main character, Freedom; I like the way he talks, how he acts, and the decisions he makes. His nieces add something sweet and innocent to a story that would otherwise be all action and a fast-paced, dangerous plot. Some characters aren't easy to imagine, however, like Wren, and Freedom's brother-in-law.

The plot is very creative and it poses a problem that could very well be real, and probably is or was. It's an interesting mix of plain, dirty, illegal boxing and elaborate, cruel, illegal experiments. Science and macho-ness. I like the ending, but I think Wren changes sides too often and there isn't a whole lot of room for Java to be in the story after the book (not a sequel, just carrying on the story).

Rating: I shall give this book a seven and a half out of ten.

Mariah Mundi: The Midas Box by G. P. Taylor

Plot: a boy, Mariah, and a girl, Sacha, working at a famous hotel discover a dark secret that the hotel owner is hiding. They begin to realize why all the boys previously working in Mariah's position disappear, unfailingly, and where they have all gone. Meanwhile, the hotel owner finds out they are close to learning his secret, and begins a mad chase to the finish.

Comments: I liked this book, and it's good for a rainy day. The characters are mostly well rounded, easy to imagine, and life-like. The plot was very creative and interesting, and there were a few twists and turns I had not forseen, creating a sense of mystery. I can easily imagine that this book is really a story that actually happened, which I like. The character names are occasionally confusing, especially in the beginning, since in my experience, Mariah is a girl's name.

The secret is very interesting, and fits nicely into the puzzle of the plot. In my opinion, some of the questions were not answered at the ending, which left it a little bit confusing. This book was entertaining and witty, and it made me smile.

Rating: I rate this book a seven and a half out of ten.

The Tiger's Apprentice by Laurence Yep

Book One in The Tiger's Apprentice series.

Plot: A Chinese-American boy, a tiger, a monkey, and a dragon together guard a powerful talisman from an evil being. If the artifact falls into the wrong hands, the world would be destroyed.

Comments: this book was ok, good for a lazy day with nothing to do. The characters were pretty well rounded, and I like how some characters were pulled from different stories (namely the monkey, from a famous old Asian story). I don't like how the boy reacts to all that happens. He doesn't want to help guard the talisman, and he's rude and ungrateful to the sacrifices that others make.

The descriptions of the characters and setting were good, and I could imagine myself in the story, watching the plot unfold in front of me. The plot is creative, but I think it begins too fast. The reader knows nothing when they are plunged into a battle at the start of the story, and though that's purposeful, it's a little annoying. All in all, this book was not very entertaining.

Rating: I rate this book a five and a half out of ten.