Sunday, March 13, 2011

Sky Realm by Rebecca Moesta and Kevin J. Anderson

Book Three in the Crystal Doors series. Click here for book two and click here for book one.

Plot: Cousins Gwen and Vic continue their adventures with their friends Tiaret, Sharif, and Lyssandra in the strange, magical land Elantya. This time the five friends must travel to a flying city and prevent the evil immortal Azric from taking control. Together they fight, but enemies are everywhere...

Comments: I don't really like the writing in these books. Though the main characters are children, barely teenagers, they speak formally and unrealistically. It all seems very scripted and unnatural. I don't think the authors very well portrayed the teenagers.

I like the general idea of the plot, but it's pretty predictable. The good guys beat the bad guys, and everything's perfect again. I did like the character development of Sharif. He's my favorite character, and I like reading about him. However, it seems like he was a focus in both books two and three, so I'm wondering what happened with the other four main characters. Do they each get a book, too? Anyway, Sharif was basically the highlight of this book. The rest of it was okay.

Rating: I rate this book a six out of ten. Not very good.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Timeline by Michael Crichton

Plot: When Kate, Chris, and Andre are researching the old ruins of a medieval village, they try hard to recreate everything in their minds: the buildings, the people, the speech. But the three friends' research doesn't compare to what they experience when they are sent back in time 600 years. They find plenty of death, politics, and occasions when they must run for their lives. Will their studies allow them to survive this bloody, dangerous era?

Comments: This book started very slowly. It was rather confusing when I looked back after a few chapters, because the story started with several characters all included in a strange medical mystery, but they were soon cast aside to make room for a whole new set of characters. It's all very well to provide background, and obviously the first character introduced is not necessarily the most important, but it took me a while to realize that I needed to be paying attention to the new characters. All the time I'd been thinking the story would switch back to the first set of characters. Once I'd sorted all that out, I liked the characters, especially Chris, for his awkwardness and the way he changed throughout the story.

I wonder how much research the author himself did while writing this story. All the descriptions of the people, buildings, clothes, and speech in the 1300's were very interesting, and seemed to be accurate to me. However, I have little knowledge of this era, so I rather hope I haven't formed some ignorant idea in my head from this story that will later prove completely inaccurate. The brutal killing in this story was shocking at times. Knights seemed to think nothing of slicing off a poor victim's head, even if it was just for fun. I must warn you that this story can get a little gory at times, but it's not a bloodbath. It just seems accurate to the era; power was gained by physical force. I'm glad the main characters weren't totally nonchalant about all the death, because then I wouldn't have really liked them. The characters seemed very real, and acted in a way I think anyone would have, given a similar situation.

Rating: I rate this book a seven and a half out of ten. Good adventure novel, with some science and history (and gore) mixed in.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Night Watch by Terry Pratchett

Plot: Commander Vimes was chasing a sadistic murderer across the rooftops of Ankh-Morpork one second, and the next he was lying naked in the middle of the road. Vimes soon discovers that he was transported back in time, to an Ankh-Morpork decades younger than the one he'd just come from. In the midst of shaping up the unfamiliar Watch and trying to find his way home, Vimes somehow finds time to teach a thing or two to a wet-behind-the-ears Watchman - a young Samuel Vimes.

Comments: Once again, this book was hilarious and witty. Yet another great book by Terry Pratchett! I liked the characters a lot in this book. I connected with them very well, and I was sad to see them go. I wonder if there will be more books back in Vimes' younger days...

One thing that was strange with this book was that the "war" didn't seem very real. It all felt rather detached, or far away, like that big essay due in a couple weeks. I was always rather surprised when there was fighting and live action because I hadn't quite realized that things were actually happening. Also, the whole time traveling concept was confusing. Obviously it's not supposed to be completely clear, but the explanations only distracted me from the story. The monk-like characters weren't very well described, so they didn't feel like real people, adding to the confusion during time travel explanations.

I liked reading about the young Sam Vimes and how the old Sam Vimes dealt with all the problems. I definitely felt like I knew Vimes a lot better by the end of this story. One thing I never quite understood was the lilac. You eventually find out what it represents, but I'm not sure that the event really deserved all their dedication and memories. They were so serious about it, but it didn't really seem all that terrible to me. Maybe I'm just unfeeling.

Rating: I rate this book an eight and a half out of ten.

The Hunger Games Series by Susanne Collins

The Hunger Games series: The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay.

Plot: Katniss Everdeen is your average commoner struggling to survive in the harsh reality of bitter poverty. She supports her family by hunting illegally, and life is manageable - until the Hunger Games change everything.

Comments: As you learn in The Hunger Games, the first book, the Capitol is a controlling, tyrannical government, and they like to show the commoners who's boss. This is how the Hunger Games started; every year, twelve children are chosen randomly, put together in a huge arena, and forced to fight each other to the death. This is the Capitol's sickening way of proving their power. One year, Katniss was chosen as one of the contestants, and this book is about her horrifying ordeal and sudden immersion in dangerous political games. She eventually outsmarts the Capitol to win the Hunger Games, but in doing so, she draws the attention of many powerful figures, both potential allies and enemies. I really liked The Hunger Games, because Katniss is such a strong, self-dependent character, and because the story was very well told.

Catching Fire, the second book, is about Katniss being recalled to a Hunger Game made up of previous winners. It's rather confusing - Katniss doesn't know what's going on, but people keep saying cryptic things and acting strangely, so you know something big is happening. It felt very much like a repeat of the first book, especially because there wasn't much of a plot beyond everybody being almost killed in the arena. I didn't really like this book.

Finally, the long awaited Mockingjay. Because I hadn't enjoyed Catching Fire, I had to push myself to finish the trilogy, but I had hopes that it would end on a high note. Unfortunately, the third book proved to be my least favorite of the three. Though other ratings I have heard from other people were rather good, I really disliked this book. It was confusing - not mysterious; confusing - and felt way too dramatic and tense. The plot had twists and turns in that something newly devastating happened every chapter, like the author was trying to pile on thrill after thrill to make it more interesting. Also, Katniss was constantly having mental problems, and there was a lot of stress over deciding between her long-time best friend Gale or her fellow Hunger Games competitor Peeta. Also, by the end, it just felt like everyone was dying off to try and keep the story alive. I didn't like any part of this book, but I finished it. Katniss was annoying, the plot was twisted and overly-dramatic, and it just wasn't a good read.

Rating: I rate this series a six out of ten. The first book was great, and very promising, but the second and third books weren't nearly as enjoyable.