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.

The Night Children by Kit Reed

Plot: groups of homeless children live in the enormous, ever-expanding MegaMall, sleeping by day, coming out at night. They know where the surveillance cameras are, where to get the best food, how to get everything they need. The MegaMall is their home, and it's the only place they're safe. Or is it?..

Comments: this book is good for someone who needs a distraction from daily problems. It poses a bigger, yet surreal problem than you normally face on a day-to-day basis, and it's entertaining enough to suck you in and make you forget your worries. I like most of the characters, and they're well described. The plot is good, and easily followed, as long as you pay attention when you read. I don't like how the main girl, Jule, obeys the orders of Tick, the main boy, as if he were her superior. He orders everyone around and they follow him. I understand that he's the leader of the group, but it annoys me that no one can do anything for themselves.

I think the sentence structures could have been varied a bit more. For example, throughout the book, a lot of dialogue had something to do with finishing ("'~~' Tick finished." or "'~~' He finishes..."). The sentences were often almost repetitive, especially in the end; it seems as if Amos's speech is said at least three times, with slightly different words. The ending was not satisfying for me, either. I think it could have been more creative.

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

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Battle of the Labyrinth by Rick Riordan

Book Four in the Percy Jackson & The Olympians series.

Plot: Percy and his friends need to travel through the endless Labyrinth underground to stop Kronos's invasion on Camp Half-Blood. They meet up with plenty of friendly monsters along the way--friendly meaning, of course, bloodthirsty and evil--and try to find the creator of the Labyrinth.

Comments: A good book for a day when you need some laughs. I always love Percy Jackson's character; he's funny, easy to mistake for a real person, and not exactly the first person you think of when you hear the word "hero". All the characters are really well-rounded and easily imaginable. I like how they all have extremely different traits and personalities. The plot was interesting and the storyline easy to follow. The book explains whenever it introduces a Greek mythological creature, like a Hundred-Handed One, so it's easy to understand. It's hard to put this book down and it's fun to read.

Good hook, makes me want to read it (as if I wouldn't anyways, but whatever), an ending that is both a good finish to a book and makes me want to read the next--and last--book in the series. I think that the characters could be a little less predictable, however.

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

Dark Power Collection by Bill Myers

Books: The Society, The Deceived, and The Spell.

Plot: these books are about the power of God vs. the power of the devil. If you don't believe in God, I suggest you don't read these books, because they're all about His power and strength over the devil. Two teenagers fight with God's power to overcome the devil in their high school.

Comments: These books are okay, but I thought they were a little bit too focused on religion. I realize that that's what the books were supposed to be about, but they were too religious for my personal taste. I read books to get away from life, and this just helped remind me of it. The characters are well-rounded and likable, and I like the way they are introduced into their new school. The plot is okay, though as I said, it's completely focused on God's power vanquishing the devil's power. The storyline is pretty good, nice and smooth reading.

Rating: I give this collection of books a six out of ten.

Keeper of the Grail by Michael P. Spradlin

Book One in The Youngest Templar series.

Plot: a teenage boy living in a abbey becomes a knight named Sir Thomas's squire and rides off to war. He keeps hearing hints about who he really is, but the few who know the secret will not tell him anything. He immediately makes an enemy of the scheming Sir Hugh who knows the secret and resents the boy. The boy is entrusted with a treasure both dangerous and priceless, and Sir Hugh would give anything to have it.

Comments: A pretty good book, good for something relatively lighthearted. I'm getting extremely tired of Crusader books, but this book focuses not on the war but on the people, and I like that. This book is confusing because of the names of people and places, and also because of words no longer used, the meaning of which I don't know. This book was good at portraying the setting and time of the story.

Some characters are well-rounded, and other's aren't. Most of the main characters are easy to imagine. The plot for this story was good, and I like how though it's about Crusaders and Templars it doesn't focus just on the war. The twists and plot lines in this novel were creative and original.

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

Crystal Doors by Rebecca Moesta and Kevin J. Anderson

Book One in the Crystal Doors trilogy. Click here for book two and click here for book three.

Plot: two cousins, Gwen and Vic, are transported to another world by their uncle's experiment with crystals. They have no idea where they are or how they got there. The teenagers have arrived at the beginning of a huge war and decide to fight. But meanwhile, they soon start uncovering bits of their past...

Comments: a good fantasy story, great for when you need something lighthearted. The characters are pretty well rounded. I like how there are problems within bigger problems; smaller dilemas that don't matter as much but make the story more like real life. For example, how Vic has a crush on two different girls, and how Orpheon for some reason is always nasty to the cousins. All in all, this was entertaining and had an interesting plot.

I don't particularily like Gwen's character. I like that she's smart and responsible, but she also loves pink and princess-themed things. It's definitely a contrast, and I know I'm not going to love everything about everyone, but she's a main character and I don't think her personality had enough thought put into it.

The story doesn't have a very good hook; if I hadn't read the back and inside cover, I wouldn't have continued reading it. The ending isn't exactly a cliff-hanger, but it's stopped at a good place to make the reader want to get the next book. (By the way, I think books shouldn't end with cliff-hangers; leave the reader interested and excited to keep reading, yes. Cut them off right before something extremely important happens, no. When that happens, I get annoyed and I boycott the sequel. Weird and sad, but satisfying.)

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