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.