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.