Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Darklight by Lesley Livingston

Sequel to Wondrous Strange.

Plot: the newly found Faerie princess Kelley is rehearsing for a new play in New York City, while Sonny, the man (mortal) she loves is stuck in the Otherworld chasing the remaining Hunters. Kelley misses Sonny a lot, and he thinks of her everyday, but when Kelley is transported to the Otherworld, their reunion is not exactly sweet. However, they have to work together to defeat their new enemy, an Irish maniac.

Comments: I happened upon this book when I was browsing through the library and snatched it up immediately. And then, realizing I couldn't even remember the main character's name, I also grabbed the first book, Wondrous Strange. So I reread Wondrous Strange, and when I'd finished, I picked up Darklight and started reading that. There's a slight jump timewise between the books, so there was a moment of confusion (especially since I began reading Darklight seconds after I finished rereading Wondrous Strange), but I caught on eventually and it worked out fine.

I must say, this book is a lot more dramatic than its prequel. I liked Wondrous Strange for its mystery and fantasy and shy romance. Darklight has a lot of suspense and makes the reader wonder and want to keep reading. There was especially a lot of romantic drama, and I'm not sure I liked that. It definitely spiced things up and created a lot of mystery and suspense, but I kept imagining different ways the story could go that I was really hoping wouldn't go, like Kelley having an affair or something. Every chapter brought a new possibility, and it was almost overwhelming! I do like the way Lesley Livingston wrote it; out of all the possibilities I thought up, hers was the best (well, I didn't think hers up - it was better than all mine, how's that?).

I liked the continuation of different characters. Not every character from Wondrous Strange played a big part in Darklight - or even a part at all - but those that stayed were used quite nicely. I like the way several characters expanded and became more important, and how I got to know them better. It reminds me of a dance, with partners and couples fading in and out, whirling in circles around each other.

Rating: I rate this book a six and a half out of ten. I hope I don't have to wait another year for the third book!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Dangerous Days of Daniel X by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge

Plot: a highly intelligent boy with incredible powers loses his parents at an early age to...aliens. There are aliens that live on Earth among humans, and he has taken on the dangerous job of Alien Hunter. To revenge his parents' deaths, he works his way up the List of dangerous aliens, and this time he's going up against Number 6. But it turns out, Number 6 is a lot stronger than the other aliens he's used to fighting. Can he overcome Number 6 or will the Earth succumb to the evil alien's will?

Comments: I am almost certain that there is at least one other book before this one, because everything was so confusing. Also because it skipped right to Number 6 and didn't go into other alien fights much. It was as if the whole story started in the middle of everything. I also checked out Daniel X: Watch the Skies, but I was careful about choosing which to read first, and I ended up sure that The Dangerous Days of Daniel X came first. Still, everything was confusing, and too many details were left out.

The characters were luckily easy to imagine, and not too difficult to remember. But though they were different in personality, they didn't stand out very much from each other. It was like Daniel was the only important person, and the rest were just supporting characters (I mean, they were, but...they were like props). And Daniel himself, I didn't much understand his character. I couldn't imagine him very well at all, like he wasn't a real person. I liked his sense of humor, but I didn't like the amount of powers he had. I mean, super speed, super strength, shape-shifting, levitation, ability to make inanimate things talk and move, ability to create "people" out of thin it just me, or is that way too many powers? I got really bored, because he could just conjure anything up and was this total superhero. Not even superheros have that many powers! I think the writers should have stuck with one or two. It felt like he was boasting, because he could just act like superman, spiderman, whatever, no sweat.

The plot was confusing and not very well thought out. Again, everything was confusing and there didn't seem to be a definite storyline. The story was interesting by itself, but with Daniel's powers and somewhat lack of adversity, it was boring. I managed to finish the book, but I don't think I'll be reading any more, including Daniel X: Watch the Skies. I'll just return both books to the library and forget all about them.

Rating: I rate this book a five out of ten. Alternated between confusing and boring.

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

Plot: a teenage girl is murdered one night in the cornfield, and the fruitless search for her murderer begins. Watching from her heaven, the girl wishes she could tell them who it was, but all she can do is observe her family falling apart.

Comments: the story beings immediately in this book. I was shocked at how quickly the plot started, actually. The first sentence introduced me to the character and a glimpse of her personality, and the second sentence introduced me to her murder. Yes, this story is told from the murdered girl's point of view, and while I wouldn't call her omniscient, she can hear some of the thoughts of other people and she sees everything that happens.

I must warn you: this story will shock you, surprise you, disgust you, interest you, make you think, and possibly make you cry. This is not some pretty little story about a girl who lives in heaven; it is a story about a murdered girl watching her family down on Earth try to find her murderer and fall apart in the process. There are a couple swear words, some romantic themes, but I mostly warn you that there are mature concepts. This is about murder, for one thing. Very descriptive murder. This story brings you into the life of the girl's family and gives you a tiny bit of understanding as to what they are going through, and just a little bit may be too much for you. Either read this book all the way to the last page, or don't pick it up at all.

This book really made me think of things, like what I want most in life, and maybe in death. I really like the concept of heaven as Alice Sebold describes it, because it's something new and different and seems peaceful and relaxing. This book also reminded me to live. I don't know what I want in life, so I think I'd better go find out. I don't want to wander through life, I want to chase after something and accomplish a dream. I hope you do, too, after reading this book.

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

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Emperor Mage by Tamora Pierce

Book Four in the Immortals series. Click here for book one and click here for book two.

Plot: Tortall (Daine's country) is attempting to sign a peace treaty with the piratical nation Carthak, and Daine is part of the negotiating company. Meeting the emperor, she sees a man who spares no expense for his animals, a fact that raises him in her eyes. However, she is aware of a sinister feeling hovering around the emperor, and Daine is ready for anything he throws her way. But if she ready for what the gods throw her way?

Comments: this was a good book, but again, I liked the first book better (see Wild Magic). I liked this book better than Wolf-Speaker, however. I loved the descriptions in this story! Since the story is set in a totally different place, everything is new and different, and Tamora Pierce does an amazing job of showing the reader what is there instead of telling. My middle school language arts teacher would always say: Show, don't tell! Her way of describing people, rooms, furniture, is simple, but, coupled with a nice imagination, is truly powerful. I had fun imagining the images she wrote about.

I liked the new character Kaddar, the prince and the emperor's heir. He brought mystery (is he on his uncle's side? is he a love interest for Daine?), flavor (most other people were polite and formal - boring!), and friendship (kind of answered half of my first question...) to the story. I didn't like Varice (Numair's former lover), but I'm sure I was really supposed to. After all, the main character is Daine, and she didn't really take to Varice either. Anyway, it's not like I hated her. It was just a definite dislike, typical of plenty of characters in books I've read. The problem is when you don't like the main character, because after a while they get difficult to put up with.

The new power Daine had was fun and a new twist, but I'm not sure I liked what happened about that in the end. With the G.H. (you'll need to read the book through to understand this one)? But it was nice to have something more that's different. After all, even with the new setting, this book would have been boring if Daine had stayed the same throughout the whole book. In my opinion, most good books' main characters go through some kind of change throughout the course of the story. I'm not saying they need to lose a limb or dye their hair. I'm not talking physical. But I'm also not saying that a good story needs a main character that goes through a huge, dramatically drastic change, like going from a horrible old man to a kind old man. Could be, but it could also be small scale. (Do you notice how often I go off on these extended explanations and trains of thought? I just did. Well, at least it spices it up a little bit, right?)

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

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Wolf Speaker by Tamora Pierce

Book Two in The Immortals series. Click here for book one and click here for book four.

Plot: when Daine receives a message from the wolf pack she had lived with, asking for her help, she returns but finds nothing is the same. The wolves are acting strangely, and there are two-leggers - humans, that is - that are destroying the forest. It's up to Daine to save not only her wolf family, but the entire forest, and maybe even the crown!

Comments: this was a good book, but I liked Wild Magic better - the first book in the series. I had fun reading about Daine's developing powers, and I like seeing from the point of view of animals. I'm not sure why I liked Wild Magic better, I just did.

The new characters were interesting, though I had some trouble remembering which wolf was which. I liked the diversity of the characters; there were so many different kinds! This book had a nice message entwined in the plot: Daine learned not to judge by appearances, and not to generalize. Don't assume everyone is like the one person you meet.

Again, I love Daine's wild spirit and quick tongue. She's the perfect character for this story, and I like how she deals fairly with everyone. Once she learns her lesson, no creature is better in her eyes. This is a good thing to remember, and though Daine stuggles, she succeeds eventually. I liked the hidden plot that was uncovered, the sense that something else was going on behind the scenes, and - BOOM! The secret is revealed! It lent a sense of mystery to the story, which spiced it up a bit.

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

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Judas Goat by Robert B. Parker

Book Five in the Spenser series

Note: I have on my blog the first and second books (The Godwulf Manuscript and God Save the Child), but I was unable to find the third and fourth books (Mortal Stakes and The Promised Land). I will keep trying, but I'm going to skip to the fifth for now.

Plot: a millonaire offers private detective Spenser a job as a headhunter, attempting to bring a group of ameteur terrorists that killed his family to justice. Spenser takes the job and hops a plane to London, where he begins his chase. But it turns out that the terrorists don't like him snooping around...

Comments: this was definitely not my favorite Spenser novel. It was still an okay book, but I wasn't sure I really liked it all that much. I absolutely loved the first book of his that I read, but it was much later in the series (see the comments of The Godwulf Manuscript). I guess Robert B. Parker's writing skill changed over the years. This book was a lot more action, less talk than the book I loved (Then and Now). It seemed more of a...well, guy book to me. It was all about guns and fighting and girls (yes, there were definitely some inappropriate parts). I don't mean to be sexist, saying that only men like books like this one, but it felt to me like this one was written mostly for the enjoyment of men. I mean, it is from a man's point of view, after all, it's written by a male author, and the main character, Spenser, likes to make comments about the different women he meets.

I did like the simplicity of the writing, the way it's laid back, yet sophisticated at the same time. I like Robert B. Parker's way of describing the setting, because I can most of the time imagine the place in my mind, even though I've never been to Europe. The characters are all well described too, and they are all different enough to feel like real people, instead of made-up characters on a 2D page.

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

Friday, March 12, 2010

Bloodhound by Tamora Pierce

Book Two in the Beka Cooper trilogy. Click here for book one.

Plot: Beka Cooper is back, and now she's a Provost's Dog. When the economy of the city is threatening to collapse due to thousands of false silver coins showing up everywhere, Beka is sent with her old trainer, Goodwin, to a city the coins seem to be coming from. But Beka is not known here, and neither is she welcome. Beka needs to find the cole-mongerer - and soon!

Comments: I really liked this book, but unfortunately not quite as much as Terrier. I'm not sure why, either. I think part of it was the romance. I must admit, I hate romance. Let me set something straight: this is definitely not a romance novel! But there was someone...anyway, I don't particularly enjoy reading about feelings such as those, and they were certainly a big part of the book. That's probably just me. Maybe I felt like Beka was above feeling light-headed and giddy, beyond the wiles and flirtations of a handsome man. I guess I liked her better when she was all kick-butt and everything (don't worry - she kicks plenty of butt in here, too).

I also didn't like how so many characters from Terrier were absent in this book. There really weren't any familiar faces when Beka and Goodwin traveled to the other city. Though, once again, it's probably just me. I'm extremely sensitive to change, and I fall in love with characters in stories easily. The new characters introduced in this story were different than the ones I knew, which was refreshing and spiced up the story a little. Tamora Pierce has a knack for weaving words in such a way that they paint a vivid picture - no, they create a person. I can imagine each character as they come along, so well (yet simply) are they described.

I am impressed that this story is in no way similar to Terrier. I commend Tamora Pierce's imagination and writing skills! Some series repeat themselves, which is boring and uncreative, while this book is all new, totally different - and yet the same old Beka Cooper we all love.

Rating: I rate this book a six and three-fourths. A good book, even a great book, but I definitely preferred Terrier.

Note: Unfortunately, I heard the third and final book in the series, Mastiff (formerly titled Elkhound) will not be available until 2011. This means I'll have to reread Terrier (again) and Bloodhound before I can read Mastiff, because by then I'll have forgotten all but Beka's name. Well, maybe I'll have forgotten that too.

Terrier by Tamora Pierce

Book One in the Beka Cooper series. Click here for book two.

Plot: Beka Cooper grew up in the Lower City, so when she becomes a trainee to become a Dog (protectors of the law), she can easily find her way around the place. Catching Rats (criminals) with her Dogs, the famous pair Goodwin and Tunstall, Beka soon becomes caught up in the strange disappearances of children and adults throughout the city. Will she solve the mystery before it's too late?

Comments: I absolutely loved this book! I have read a lot of books written by Tamora Pierce, and this is definitely one of my favorites (though don't actually make me decide which book is best). This book was perfect for me; long (over five hundred pages), but not dragged on, action, adventure, mystery, and fantasy all rolled in one! I love the way Tamora Pierce writes. I feel so included in the action.

There are definitely a lot of characters in this story, and it's pretty easy to get confused. I suggest reading carefully, and don't ignore characters that don't immediatly seem unimportant! Don't worry if you lose track, though: you'll pick it up soon enough. The characters are all easy to imagine, and the characteristics are varied well. No two characters are exactly alike, and I imagined them well enough to hear their voices in my head.

I love Beka Cooper! I appreciate her bravery, cool-headedness, sharp tongue, and quick thinking. I like how quick-witted and smart she is, but I also appreciate that she isn't perfect and still has a lot to learn before she can become a Dog. Every thing about her feels real, and her fiery temper only helps me to relate to her! She is an ideal character, and is perfect for this role.

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

Thursday, March 11, 2010

I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak

Plot: a young taxi driver living with his old, smelly dog and playing cards at night with his friends thinks he's alright with his life. But the day the first card came, his life was instantly transformed. Nothing is what he thought it was. What he doesn't realize is that in slowly changing the lives around him for the better, he is slowly changing his own, until he can't even recognize it.

Comments: I had seen a lot of other people read this book before I finally checked it out of the library. I wasn't sure what to expect (since I had peeked over someone's shoulder once and I now know it was at the least-appropriate part in the book), but I started reading and was hooked immediately. The writing style is so friendly, so easy to understand and relate to, and the characters feel so real! It feels like I'm a part of the story, an unseen observer watching the days go flying by (or trudging along, depending on which part of the story you're reading).

This story has an important message woven into the plot. It reminds you that not everything is what it seems, that anyone can fake a smile and everyone needs a shoulder to lean on sometimes. This story inspired me to look beyond the faces and see what is actually there instead of what's easiest to see. I need to remember that everyone has been through something (that's life, isn't it?) and that everyone has a story to tell. Sometimes all anyone needs is a good listener. I want to be that listener, that shoulder, that friendly face. I want to help people.

This book is funny, interesting, endearing, and wonderful. I highly recommend it, though I would rate it PG13. Definitely a must read! Caution: this book will make you think.

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

Wild Magic by Tamora Pierce

Book One in The Immortals series. Click here for book two and click here for book four.

Plot: A young girl named Daine claims she only has a knack with animals, but it's not until she hires on as an assistant to a horse-master that she begins to realize the truth. Daine has some great power within her, power stronger than had been seen in years. Her training begins when a powerful mage enters her life...

Comments: I have read so many books written by Tamora Pierce; it was only a matter of time before I read this one! I really enjoyed reading Wild Magic. I like the way Tamora Pierce connects all her stories into one never ending story (there's a book called that: The Never Ending Story! I haven't read it though...yet.). Every new series is somehow connected to another series. In this case, you learn about a character named Alanna in the Song of the Lioness series, and she is also a character in the Immortals series, though the events in the Immortals series occur after the Song of the Lioness series. It always makes me smile to recognize something at the beginning of a new story.

There are a lot of characters and sometimes I got confused. I would have to flip back and find out who a certain person was. But I did remember all the important characters, and the characters I did remember, I also imagined. The characters were described well, and I could easily think of them as real people, as history. I love the authentic way they talk and interact, and I quickly grew to love some main characters.

Daine's power was explained very well. I felt like I understood her connection with the animals, the way she loved them. I related well to Daine, and I like how...well, likable she is! I appreciated her scorn of showy mages who use exaggerated hand gestures and dress in finery. Her angry feelings made her feel even more realistic.

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