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!