Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Dragon Heir by Cinda Williams Chima

dragon-heirThe Dragon Heir by Cinda Williams Chima fits into the juvenile fantasy fiction genre and was published in 2008. It is recommended for readers ages 14 and up.



The Dragon Heir was one of the books that I have been anticipating this year and I was not disappointed. Chima not only lived up to the other two in the series but she also surpassed them in terms of conflict and suspense. Dragon Heir takes place a year after Wizard Heir and two years after Warrior Heir. It covers all the main characters of the first two groups but focuses a little more on Madison Moss and Seph McCauley than the other two books did. We learn of Madison's past, her family life, and the way the events at Second Sister changed her life. Also covered is Seph's struggle to please everyone while not running ragged. In the beginning of the book Jason Haley breaks into Raven's Ghyll and discovers, among other things, the dragonheart which he brings back to the sanctuary. The other wizards notice that something has changed after Jason took the dragonheart and this leads to a siege and a war at the sanctuary where everyone must come together in spite of differences to defend their homes and loved ones. In the end the Dragon Heir is found in time to save the sanctuary and the lives of many but not all of the main characters.


Other reviews available:


The Warrior Heir by Cinda Williams Chima



The Wizard Heir by Cinda Williams Chima

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Artemis Fowl: The Time Paradox by Eoin Colfer

time-paradox-theArtemis Fowl: The Time Paradox by Eoin Colfer fits into the juvenile science fiction and fantasy genres and was published in 2008. It is recommended for readers ages 12 and Up.



The Time Paradox is the most recent Artemis Fowl novel and it surely lived up to my expectations and anticipation. Once again we are given a well thought out story with interesting plot twists and unexpected elements. Although no new friends or foes are introduced, the story is not the least bit redundant. In fact it made me want to go back and read the other books with the new perspective I have after completing this one. The story, as is to be expected, follows Artemis Fowl whose mother recently became ill with a magical disease. The only cure for this disease lies in the past and thus Artemis and Holly must travel back in time to get the cure. Unfortunately the cure is something that the ten-year-old Artemis also wants so they must compete with a younger and more ruthless Artemis while struggling against a deadline that if they miss they will be stuck in the past. As always with a plan hatched by Artemis Fowl it seems easy enough but complications arise along with old enemies. Overall it was a extraordinary story filled with a vocabulary and plot that made me feel at the same time intelligent and engaged.

Friday, November 14, 2008

This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald

this-side-of-paradiseThis Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald fits into the historical fiction genre and was first published in 1920. It is recommended for readers 16 and up.



This Side of Paradise takes place around the time of World War I and follows the life of Amory Blaine. There was an amazing lack of plot to this book. Fitzgerald was praised for his realism but I think it's a bit too real for my taste. I imagine that this is what a book about me would be like: a whole lot of nothing. The novel describes a bit about his parents and family life. Then jumps to an incident with a girl when he was fourteen. Then later we jump to when he's in college. There are a lot of chapters and sections about his philosophical ideas about government and personalities. We learn about his love life. He goes to the war. Then comes back and falls in love with Rosalind who breaks his heart when she chooses to marry someone else for money. Amory then goes into a big depressive state and wonders without a job until the end of the book. There are a lot of little things in the book that would make for good discussion like how he takes the hit for his friend when he is found doing something illegal, but overall it's just not my cup of tea. I would rather something with more plot and a little more excitement.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

2001 A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke

2001-a-space-odyssey2001 A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke fits into the science fiction genre and was published in 1968. It is recommended for readers ages 16 and up.


Having never seen the movie I had no idea what I was getting into when I picked up the book. Of course I'd heard of the movie and the theme song but that's where my knowledge base ended. The book started out a little slow for me. It follows the life of the man-ape named Moon-Watcher. The reader learns of his lack of knowledge and vocabulary. Then one night a transparent rectangular slab falls from the sky and teaches him and his friends to use tools and to kill animals for food, thus ending starvation and changing their lives forever. The book shoots ahead a few million years and then follows Dr. Floyd, an astronomer on his way to the moon to investigate what has been labeled TMA-1. It was found during a typical survey of the moon when a peculiar magnetic field alerted the moon colonists to its presence. Again it was a transparent rectangular slab but this time it was buried under the surface of the moon set to alert its creators when the sun touched it. The final shift follows David Bowman and Frank Poole aboard the Discovery as they head out with their intelligent computer Hal to a mission that is secret even to the crew. When things begin to go wrong on the ship David must make quick decisions to save his life and the mission. After the tragic loss of the other members of his crew he is informed of the true mission, to investigate one of the moons of Saturn for signs of alien life. As strange as this mission may seem it is nothing compared to what happens when he actually reaches Saturn. He finds another transparent rectangular slab and through this is magically transported through space and goes through a type of grand central station leading him to a dying sun. He lands on the sun and is suddenly inside a hotel room where he eats mysterious food, takes a shower, and then goes to bed. While sleeping he is magically reversed through time and becomes a baby once more and as a baby travels through space and back to earth in time to prevent a nuclear attack. It was a bit hard for me to not only follow but to swallow the ending. Not having seen the movie I was a little weirded out by how the book ended and found clips of the movie to see if it was a weird as the book. The one major selling point of the book was that it moved much faster than all of the movie clips that I saw today. It was also quite interesting with the random facts and bits of science that Clarke inserted into the book. Overall, I thought it was a good read, even with the odd ending, and something that I think others into science fiction would enjoy.

Digital Fortress by Dan Brown

digital-fortressDigital Fortress by Dan Brown fits into the thriller fiction genre and was published in 1998. It is recommended for adult readers.


Digital Fortress was an excitingly smart thrill that kept and held my attention with ease. Not an especially techno-savvy person myself I was worried that I might not understand much of what was going on but I easily kept up while being amazed at Brown's wealth of knowledge intellectual prowess. Susan Fletcher was headed for a much needed relaxing weekend in the Smokies with her fiancé David Becker when her boss, the head of the NSA cryptography department called her in on an emergency. Since that word had never before left his lips and since her fiancé was mysteriously absent Susan headed into work. What she found there surprised her more than the call itself. NSA is the proud yet secretive owner of the TRANSLTR, an ultra high tech computer that is able to break any code in the world in under three hours. When Susan arrived TRANSLTR had been running for 15 hours straight with no end in sight. The code it was running was a theoretically unbreakable encryption called Digital Fortress designed to keep people safe from the power of the TRANSLTR. The only way to read what has been encrypted is to have the pass key which the creator put up for the highest bidder. David Becker, a college linguistics professor was asked by the NSA to discretely find the pass key and give NSA the most powerful encryption software anyone has ever seen. Unfortunately everything went wrong. Overall it was a great book and not as predictable as some of Brown's other fiction.


Other reviews available:



Deception Point by Dan Brown

Blind Side by Clair M. Poulson

blind-sideBlind Side by Clair M. Poulson fits into the murder mystery fiction genre and was published in 2006. It is recommended for adult readers.


Blind Side was a really fun and refreshing read. I enjoy murder mystery fiction immensely and this book had the added bonus of being the cleanest of the genre that I have ever read. Poulson is an LDS fiction author thus his books have slight LDS undertones. They talk about things common in the church like callings and various leaders. The characters, for the most part, live the standards of the church and thus the book is free of immorality and foul language. Honestly coming into it with those types of constraints I didn't think it would be a good murder mystery but I was pleasantly surprised. The characters were interesting and complex and I was surprised by a few elements, which is difficult with such a prolific reader. The novel follows the story of Noletta Fahr and her dog Taffy. These two went out for a nature walk to look at the changing leaves and came across a murder scene. Unfortunately the murderer was still there and shot Noletta and left her for dead. She did not die but was left blind and thus couldn't identify her attacker. Taffy was trained as a guide dog but was kidnapped around the time when a lot of suspicious people entered Noletta's life. Martin Atkinson was the officer called to the scene to help Noletta find the dog and amazingly also helped her catch the murderer who caused her blindness.

Five Weeks in a Balloon by Jules Verne

five-weeks-in-a-balloonFive Weeks in a Balloon by Jules Verne fits into the adventure fiction genre and was published in 1851. It is recommended for readers ages 16 and up.



This book did not hold my attention quite as well as Around the World in Eighty Days did. It was a little more on the scientific side and less on the adventure side. There were a lot of complex ideas and explanations of the balloon and various other inventions. Also due to the fact that it was written over 150 years ago it is not as politically correct as it could be and some of the words and phrases used to describe the African people were outdated at best. However, there were many interesting incidences that occurred at intervals just close enough to make we want to keep reading. The story follows Dr. Samuel Ferguson, Joe, and Dick Kennedy's journey across the African continent in a balloon. They encounter hostile climates, people, and terrain but for the most part they are able to fly over them with ease in their masterfully crafted balloon. Many people, including Kennedy, said it was an impossible feat and doubted their ability to cross because no one had before them. In the end they made it but not without difficulty and suffering along the way. Overall it was an interesting read, informational and historic but not terribly exciting.




Other reviews available:

Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne

Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne fits into the juvenile adventure fiction genre and was published in 1873. It is recommended for readers ages 14 and up.


Around the World in Eighty Days was a pleasant surprise to me. I loved every page mostly because of the interesting problems and adventures that they contained. Phileas Fogg on a whim and bet decides to prove a newspaper's claim that one could traverse the globe in eighty days. He bet half his fortune to the amount of twenty thousand pounds that he could complete this journey which, in his opinion, included time for unforeseen delays. These unforeseen delays cover the book and the interesting and original nature of them make it such a fun read. The solutions to the problems Mr. Fogg faced were also interesting. When the train track suddenly ended he rode an elephant instead which he purchased for that purpose. The book is also full of little tidbits about geography and history so the book educates as well as entertains. Overall it was a fascinating and intellectual read that someone of any age could enjoy. I recommended ages fourteen and up for those reading to themselves but I think even a younger person would enjoy this book if it was read to them.




Other reviews available:

Five Weeks in a Balloon by Jules Verne

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Nicole by Jack Weyland

Nicole by Jack Weyland fits into the juvenile fiction genre and was published in 1993. It is recommended for readers ages 14 and up.


Jack Weyland writes for a LDS/Mormon audience and thus his books contain phrases and situations that may be unfamiliar to those outside the membership of this church. However, his books are clean in that they don't contain foul language, immorality, or violence and thus they are quite refreshing to read in a world that seems full of such things. This specific book is about Nicole, a Senior in High School who happens upon a relationship with Josh Dutton, the star basketball player of not only her school but also of the state. She was surprised and hesitant at his interest in her at first but in the end they become good friends. Along the way she teaches him how to be a better person through reminders about how he should treat others. Josh also learns on his own through association with Nicole's younger brother Richard who is mentally handicapped. He learns what is important in life and how not to judge others before you know them. This heartwarming story contains many good messages about relationships, service, and families. It is a quick and uplifting read for anyone desiring a change of pace.


Other reviews available:


Megan by Jack Weyland


Brittany by Jack Weyland

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen fits into the juvenile fiction genre and was published in 1814. It is recommended for readers ages 16 and up.




Mansfield Park was an interesting novel and not at all what I expected. It was Austen's third of six novels but the last one I happened upon. Thus with all my previous Austen experience I expected a nice love story with complicated twists and turns and while it did contain a love story it was also filled with heartache, confusion, and neglect. The story follows the life of Fanny Price who, at the age of nine, and at the suggestion of her Aunt Norris was taken in to live with her Uncle Bertram's family in an effort to relieve her mother of the expense and hardship of one of her many children. Her Uncle Bertram's family consists of himself, his wife and four children: two sons and two daughters. Her Aunt Norris also lives close by. While her Aunt and Uncle Bertram are not openly cruel or hurtful to Fanny they do not show her the love and care that a young girl needs and Fanny, as a result, feels alone and miserable in her new home. This lasts until the kindness of her cousin Edmund shows her that she has value to someone and Fanny sees her worth. However, her Aunt Norris (who is the sister of her mother and of her Aunt Bertram) takes it upon herself to continually remind Fanny of her place in life. Mrs. Norris constantly tells Fanny that she is beneath her cousins and that she should be grateful for their kindness. Mrs. Norris also ensures that Fanny is given the worst room in the house, not allowed a fire, and not invited to social events. All these are to serve as a constant reminder that she is not a daughter but a niece of her Uncle Bertram. It is through this ill treatment over a series of years that Fanny becomes a quiet and humble young woman who hides her wishes for herself and her opinion of others in an effort to appear grateful for what she has received. Later in the novel she is pursued by a handsome young man whom her Uncle wishes her to marry. However, through her quiet observance of this young man she is able to discern his true character long before anyone else has any suspicions of his coarse nature. Luckily she is able to avoid attachment with him in spite of constant pleas from him and her family members and she reserves her heart for her real love whom she is able to acquire in the end.


Other reviews available:


Persuasion by Jane Austen

Gap Creek by Robert Morgan

Gap Creek by Robert Morgan fits into the historical fiction genre and was published in 2000. It is recommended for adult readers.


Gap Creek is set in South Carolina and tells the story of a couple newly married at the turn of the century. Julie, the wife, was a hardworking woman who grew up in a house of mainly girls and was often called upon to do the more difficult chores during her father's long illness and then after his death. This hard work prepared her to be a better wife and to work hard at her marriage. Hank, on the other hand, was born prematurely and was often spoiled and given extra portions at meals and less work at chore time. This resulted in his being quick to anger, unable to admit faults, and demanding. Through the novel we learn of the couple's hardships as they try to work through their difficulties that they brought to the marriage and that were inflicted though the deeds of others. They experience poverty, robbery, floods, and death. These experiences lead Hank to become abusive but they lead Julie to become more humble and willing to make allowances for the problems of others. It is only through a tragic experience that Hank is able to join her in this humility and is able to step up as a husband.


I thought that there were many interesting lessons to be learned from this novel. Julie's patience and understanding are foremost in my mind. Her husband Hank is abusive and she works to help him overcome his problems instead of fighting back. Several times through the book she had cause and opportunity to bring up his faults but instead chose a kind answer. I think this shows amazing strength and character and can teach us all a thing or two in our relationships. There are times when it is best to just keep quiet and let life run its course. Julie is humble by choice while Hank is compelled to be so through tragedy but the amazing thing is that he does change. In the end of the book Hank is a different man than from the beginning and he makes the effort to become a better person thus leading to one of the great lessons of this novel; change is possible.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Persuasion by Jane Austen

Persuasion by Jane Austen fits into the Juvenile Fiction genre. It was written between August 1815 and August 1816 and first published in 1817 after the death of Jane Austen. It is recommended for ages 16 and up.



I've had this book on my shelf for a while and I didn't realize that I hadn't read it until last month. I really enjoyed it because I get lost in the language. It is more difficult to read than some of the other things I've read lately because I have to think about what I'm reading instead of just plugging along and turning the pages. However because of this amount of concentration it feels more rewarding to read something like this than a quick read. I feel smarter too for reading a classic that everyone has heard of at least the author if not the title. The plot was interesting enough, Anne Elliot is the second of three girls born to a Baron who cares only about himself and his title. She is generally ignored and while cared for she is not pampered like the eldest. When she was in her late teens she met and got engaged to a man that her family did not approve of and she was persuaded by a good family friend, Lady Russell, to break off the engagement. They were both brokenhearted and Captain Wentworth left to go find his fortune. Eight years later they meet again through Wentworth's sister who was renting the family house which was rented out to save the Elliot family from growing debt. The rest of the book follows their meetings with each other as each of them tries to figure out what the other is thinking and feeling. It ends happily as they decided to forget the persuasion of others and make their own choices.



This book would be great for a discussion group because there is so much to think about. Lady Russell tells Anne not to marry Wentworth. She wasn't trying to be vindictive or to hurt Anne she just thinks that she knows what is best for Anne and her family. At the time Wentworth was a poor man with no position. He was convinced that he could make his fortune but there was a chance that it wouldn't happen. Anne trusted Lady Russell and puts aside the love that she feels but ends up being miserable. If she would have trusted her heart she would have married him earlier but she wouldn't be the same person so which is better? There are more topics of discussion but this is the one that stuck out most to me.


Other reviews available:


Mansfield Park by Jane Austen

Monday, August 4, 2008

Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer

Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer fits into the Juvenile Fantasy Fiction genre. It was first published in 2008 and is recommended for ages 14 and up.


So I'm going to try to review this book without giving away anything that Stephenie didn't give away before the book was published so if it's a little cryptic I'm sorry. If you've read it you'll know what I mean if you haven't read it yet pick it up today!


Breaking Dawn is a masterpiece of emotional and intellectual writing. The story was captivating from the beginning and it is a deserving finale to a truly awe inspiring saga. While there were some typos (like there seem to be in all of her books) they didn't bother me as I was so absorbed in the story line. Before the book was out to the public Stephenie gave away that there would be a wedding. I loved that scene in the book. It was just magical and the emotional detail from not only Bella but also her family made the scene even more real and heartwarming. A little after the wedding something happened that weirded me out, if you've read it you probably know what I mean. It was an interesting plot line and didn't bother me as much as the story developed but when it first came in I wondered how it fit. In the end Meyer pulled it off majestically and created, I think, the best book in her career so far. I think everyone can be happy with not only the ending but the book as a whole. I highly recommend the entire saga for those who love to read especially but also those who haven't read in a while, it will suck you in.



Other reviews available:

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

New Moon by Stephenie Meyer

Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer

The Host by Stephenie Meyer

The Wizard Heir by Cinda Williams Chima

The Wizard Heir by Cinda Williams Chima fits into the Juvenile Fantasy Fiction genre. It was first published in 2007 and is recommended for ages 14 and up.


So often when encountering sequels we compare the books to each other and pick one as better and since this is book two in the Heir series I found myself in the same place. If I had to choose I would pick The Wizard Heir over The Warrior Heir but they are both fabulous. Wizard Heir is a more internal book there is less action and more of a moral struggle. We learn about sixteen-year-old Seph McCauley and his life as a wizard, which has been a struggle when the book opens. He was told that his parents died when he was very young and then his guardian passed away as well. He was kicked out of one school after another when mysterious things kept happening. Seph started a fire that ended up killing one of his friends and he wondered how his life could get any worse. Little did he know that was just the beginning. Seph was transferred to the Havens, a boys school in middle-of-nowhere Maine. The headmaster agreed to teach him magic but after learning the cost Seph refused. The refusal started a unimaginable feud and in the end Seph and his friends were able to take down a large cell of dangerous wizards. Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It stretched my imagination and surprised me with it's attention to detail.


Other reviews available:


The Warrior Heir by Cinda WIlliams Chima


The Dragon Heir by Cinda Williams Chima

The Warrior Heir by Cinda Williams Chima

The Warrior Heir by Cinda Williams Chima fits into the Juvenile Fantasy Fiction genre. It was first published in 2006 and is recommended for ages 14 and up.


This book was full of surprises. I picked it up after a recommendation from my sister but I wasn't too jazzed about reading it. The big sword on the front was a turnoff for me. I know the old saying, “Don't judge a book by it's cover” but I was guilty anyway. After reading the first chapter I was intrigued and after the second I was hooked. The plot is fascinating. It follows the life of sixteen-year-old Jake, a seemingly normal boy whose only difference is he has to take medication daily for his heart, which underwent surgery when he was just a baby. One day he forgot his medication for the first time in his life and weird things happened. He noticed his vision was clearer and he was more powerful than before. Little did he know that this was the start of his new life. He later discovered that he was part of a magical community and was to serve as a warrior in an ancient tournament to determine who would rule that community. Along the way he gets into trouble a lot, trains fiercely, falls in love, and learns the truth about his world. It's a magnificent piece of fiction and a wonderful accomplishment for Chima, a first time writer of juvenile fiction.


Other reviews available:


The Wizard Heir by Cinda Williams Chima


The Dragon Heir by Cinda Williams Chima

Monday, July 14, 2008

Size 12 Is Not Fat by Meg Cabot

Size 12 Is Not Fat by Meg Cabot fits in the Adult Mystery Fiction genre. It was first published in 2006 and is recommended for adult readers.


Admittedly I am a size twelve so I picked this book up for vain reasons, the title flattered me. I have read a lot by Meg Cabot, mostly the Princess Diaries Books, and I enjoyed the shift into adult fiction by an author I already love. Cabot's chatty writing style engages readers as she tells the story much like friends talking on the phone about a life more interesting than mine has ever been. This novel centers around Heather Wells who as a former teen pop star is used to having the world center around her. Heather is a former star because she decided she wanted to sing her own songs and her label didn't agree and decided to drop her. She also lost her figure and her boyfriend at the same time. Thus she is forced to live in the real world where people are always saying, “don't I know you from somewhere” and she's just trying to get on with life. Heather lands a job as an assistant dorm director at a college in New York and she things she's finally getting everything back together until a girl is found dead at the bottom of an elevator shaft. Heather is the only one who is convinced there is foul play and makes it her mission to discover the truth. The twists and turns that follow captured my attention and kept me guessing. I was happily surprised at the ending and can't wait to read the other mystery books that feature Heather Wells.


Other Reviews Available:


Size 14 Is Not Fat Either by Meg Cabot



Big Boned by Meg Cabot

I am the cheese by Robert Cormier


I am the Cheese by Robert Cormier fits into the Juvenile Mystery Fiction genre. It was first published in 1977 and is recommended for ages 14 and up.


In the beginning of “I am the Cheese” we learn that Adam Farmer is on his bike in Monument, Massachusetts on his way to Rutterburg, Vermont but that is about all of the information we are given. As the book unfolds the reader gets more and more as Adam's memories are triggered by interviews with a man named Brint. They have interviews that lead Adam to remember stories and then we get more information. It's a really interesting way to write a book and I was captivated by what I knew and what there was yet to learn. Bit by bit we learn about his life and family. They had a home and a nice life but they left in a hurry one night and never went back. We learn also about his girlfriend Amy Hertz and how they used to play practical jokes together. Further into the book Adam begins to question Brint's motives and get suspicious because all of the interviews focus on certain parts of his life and while


Brint says he's there to help, Adam is sure he's being pumped for information. In the end we learn that almost nothing is as it seems and that Adam has had one exciting life.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Criss Cross by Lynne Rae Perkins

Criss Cross by Lynne Rae Perkins was originally published in 2005.  It fits into the juvenile fiction genre and is recommended for readers ages 10 and up.

Finally there is a Newbery Medal winner that actually deserves the award.  So often when I read them I wonder but Criss Cross has it all.  This realistic and hilarious novel not only captured my attention it made me remember all the joys and frustrations of being a teen.  The story follows the lives of several teens in a town called Seldem.  Mostly we learn about their desire for boyfriends and girlfriends and their oblivion to the possibilities before them.  The laugh-out-loud anecdotes not only brought the characters to life but also told me how they think and what they struggle with.  The book was also filled with illustrations by the author every once in a while that were interesting, enlightening, or just funny.  Over all it was a great book and I would recommended it to anyone and everyone.

Monstrous Regiment by Terry Pratchett

Monstrous Regiment by Terry Pratchett was originally published in 2003.  It fits into the Fantasy genre and is recommended for adult readers.

Monstrous Regiment was a great disappointment to me.  The particular volume I read was covered with reviews that listed of how funny it was and while there were one or two funny lines that I shared with my husband overall it wasn’t anything to rave about.  The plot was interesting enough.  It takes place in the country of Borogravia that takes part in wars continuously with all of the surrounding countries.  Polly Perks decided to join the army disguised as a man to find her brother that joined up a year before and went missing.  Polly, also known as Oscar, found that it was harder than she thought to appear male and was soon discovered my a mysterious someone who instructed her to put a pair of socks in her pants to “bulge where she should”.  Polly/Oscar finds out later that she is not alone in her secret and that everyone in the army has something to hide whether it’s a secret like hers or something else.  Polly and her fellow “men” find out what they are made of and are surprised at what they can accomplish in the end.  Overall it wasn’t great.  I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone but at the same time I don’t think I’d tell people not to read it because it wasn’t bad either it just didn’t wow me.

The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor

The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor was originally published in 2006.  It fits into the Fantasy genre and is recommended for readers ages 10 and up.

The Looking Glass Wars beings in Oxford England in July of 1863 and “Alice in Wonderland” was just published.  Alyss Heart had told the story of her life to a friend she thought she could trust and he twisted the story all around making it sound like a silly children’s story instead of something real, scary, and tragic that happened to her.  Alyss had told other people the story but no one had believed her and the farfetched story by Lewis Carroll only made her feel like more of a fool and she began to wonder if her life in Wonderland actually happened.  From this beginning Beddor shoots off of Carroll’s story and tells his own version of Wonderland where things are not only more exciting but more captivating as well.  Princess Alyss Heart is the heir to the throne of the queendom in Wonderland her parents were killed by her jealous Aunt Redd and Alyss and her bodyguard Hatter Madigan must flee to save themselves from Redd’s assassin the Cat.  They get separated along the way and Alyss gets adopted into a family in England.  In the end Alyss finds her way back to Wonderland to take her place as the rightful heir to the throne from her wicked Aunt Redd.  Overall it was a great book and I can’t wait to read the rest of the trilogy.

Other Reviews Available:

Seeing Redd by Frank Beddor

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Wicked by Gregory Maguire

Wicked by Gregory Maguire was published in 1995 and is recommended for    adult readers.



Wicked by Gregory Maguire chronicles the “life and times of the Wicked Witch of the West”. This interesting and imaginative novel opens with the Witch, also known as Elphaba, watching Dorothy, the Cowardly Lion, the Tin Man, and the Scarecrow on the Yellow Brick Road. The Witch listens to their conversation for a time and then as a storm approached and the group began to leave the Witch saw her sister’s shoes on Dorothy’s feet. This simple thing awoke the anger of the witch, “The shoes should be hers! –hadn’t she endured enough, hadn’t she earned them?” From this captivating and intriguing beginning we flash back to just before the Witch’s birth in Munchkinland. We learn of her parents’ relationship struggles and their differences in personality and also of the odd circumstances surrounding her birth. The novel records the difficulties of one growing up with green skin and odd tendencies. We read about her experiences at college and how she met up with Glinda, the good Witch of the North. Then we ultimately learn of her resistance against the Wizard of Oz and her death at the hand of Dorothy.



While the premise of this novel greatly interested me I think that the actual application left something to be desired. I expected to learn the Witch’s side of the story and while that was included I was also overloaded by the political and religious agenda that seemed to permeate the story. There was too much about the struggles of the government and about the nature of God and the existence of souls. While these things played a large part in the life of Elphaba I think they could have been condensed and served the same purpose. There was also a large amount of sexual conversation, which probably wouldn’t have bothered me if Maguire called it sex, instead he insisted on coming up with odd phrases like, “dragon-snaking” and play with “Uncle Flagpole”. There was also a disturbing sexual scene involving people and animals that was a bit over the top. Overall the story was interesting and while not always a page-turner it did capture my attention and provide an interesting perspective on an old favorite.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Hattie Big Sky By Kirby Larson

Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson fits into the Juvenile Historical Fiction genre. It was first published in 2006 and is recommended for people age 12 and up.

Summary and Review: Hattie Big Sky is the heartwarming Newbery Honor Book that tells the story of Hattie Brooks. Hattie, who was orphaned at age five, had been living with a long line of distant relatives when she got a letter from her dying Uncle Chester who wanted her to come to Montana and prove up on his homestead claim. Unaware of what this really entails and in an effort to escape her life of feeling indebted to everyone Hattie goes out to prove herself. Once she’s there Hattie learns the true meaning of work with the help of a stubborn cow and the never-ending combination of chores and poor weather. While there Hattie writes letters to her Uncle Holt and also to her friend Charlie who is over fighting the Germans. Her uncle showed her letters to a newspaper man and Hattie got paid $15 a month for her tales of life as a homesteader. She also makes some life-long friends, one of which was German born.  In a time where people are leery of anything German Hattie learns what it means to be patriotic in spite of what other people may say, and becomes a strong and independent woman. Larson’s prose is magnificent and full of wit as she describes the troubles and joys common to a Montana homesteader during World War I.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Extras by Scott Westerfeld

Extras by Scott Westerfeld fits into the Juvenile Science Fiction genre. It was first published in 2007 and is recommended for people age 14 and up.

Summary and Review: Like many of you I was surprised by this forth volume in the Uglies trilogy that was dedicated “to everyone who wrote to me to reveal the secret definition of the word ‘trilogy’”. It’s been over three years since the cure for the brain lesions was released and the world is slowly regaining what it has lost. Unlike the first three books we are guided through this gripping adventure by Aya Fuse a fifteen-year-old Japanese girl whose one ambition in life is to be popular by “kicking” an interesting story about something important. In a world were popularity buys you everything including the best house, clothes, and friends Aya must do something great to change her mediocre life. In her search for this amazing story Aya meets up with the Sly Girls. These seemingly ordinary girls live on the wild side by riding on top of a super fast mag-lev train while trying to stay away from the kickers. Aya is forced to sacrifice her hovercam Moggle to be a part of their clique so she can gain access to their story but later rescues Moggle and uses him to unlock the greatest story every kicked. The one problem is that she got it all wrong. She has some help getting it right from her famous brother Hiro, her tech friend Ren, her boyfriend Frizz, the always-helpful David, and three of your favorite cutters and mine, Shay, Fausto, Tally. These eight people discover the truth behind the metal shortage and the inhuman “freaks” while once again trying to save themselves and the world from destruction. Extras is an interesting commentary on a world not far from our own where popularity is literally money and people must discover what matters most to them and what they are willing to do to overcome life as an extra. Westerfeld is spellbinding and awe-inspiring as he takes a different angle in this adventurous book with a hint of love story.

Other reviews available:

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

Pretties by Scott Westerfeld

Specials by Scott Westerfeld

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Specials by Scott Westerfeld

Specials by Scott Westerfeld fits into the Juvenile Science Fiction genre. It was first published in 2006 and is recommended for people age 14 and up.

Summary and Review: Superhuman speed, eyesight and hearing sounds good to me but for Tally, as usual, being not only perfect but a special special just isn’t enough. Specials is the third installment in the Uglies series and begins with Tally, Shay, and their gang (Specials known as the cutters) crashing a party to get more information about the New Smoke. Tally enjoys her new job as a protector of the city more than she expected. The Smokey they were trying to get to made an exciting escape that was full of twists and turns that made for a thrilling and page-turning beginning and the excitement didn’t stop there. Zane, Tally’s boyfriend from Pretties, returns to New Pretty Town after his surgery. Tally and Shay agree to help Zane escape and find the New Smoke, each is unaware of the secret plans of the other two along the way and they all get more than they bargained for. While at times I still tripped over the word choice I am more comfortable with it this go around and find it mildly interesting. Westerfeld continues to capture my attention with his exciting and oddly realistic world from a fantastic future.

Other reviews available:

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

Pretties by Scott Westerfeld

Extras by Scott Westerfeld

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Pretties by Scott Westerfeld

Pretties by Scott Westerfeld fits into the Juvenile Science Fiction genre. It was first published in 2005 and is recommended for people age 14 and up.

Summary and Review: Pretties is the second book in the series that began with Uglies and opens with Tally turned into a pretty. Just as she suspected Tally’s mind was changed with the operation but she remembers little or nothing of her pre-operative life. Even her speech is changed to “pretty talk” which, let’s face it, is really annoying. Words like “brain-missing” and “pretty-making” while they illustrate Westerfeld’s point about how pretties are not all there make me feel like I’m reading well beneath my level. Word choice aside, the plot was interesting enough. Tally is mainly concerned with getting into the clique who call themselves Crims which is short for Criminals. This group was formed for people who didn’t want to give up on the practical jokes and tricks from their Ugly days but it had an added bonus of creating people who saw the world clearly and were able to get past their pretty-mindedness. This is important in a world where everyone is monitored that is strongly reminiscent of the Orwellian 1984 with Big Brother always watching. Zane is the leader of the Crims and becomes Tally’s boyfriend. Together they are able to see clearly and decipher messages that were left for them by the New Smoke. Tally and Zane convince the other Crims to join them on what proved to be the adventure of a lifetime.

Other reviews available:

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

Specials by Scott Westerfeld

Extras by Scott Westerfeld

Friday, May 9, 2008

The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton

The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton fits into the Juvenile Fiction genre. It was first published in 1967 and is recommended for people age 12 and up.

Summary and Review: The Outsiders tells the shockingly realistic story of two gangs, the Greasers and the Socs (as in Socials). Ponyboy Curtis tells the story from the side of the Greasers because, as he puts it, “Someone should tell their side of the story, and maybe people would understand them and wouldn’t be so quick to judge a boy by the amount of hair oil he wore.” Ponyboy is the youngest of the Greasers and is being raised by his two older brothers, the oldest no more than twenty, after the untimely death of their parents. Hinton’s novel had a fresh view on an old topic and it was interesting to read about these boys’ adventures. They stuck together through everything from drive-in movies to murder in self-defense. There are some components of this book that would make people shy away from it but I think it is worth the read for anyone who shows interest. A boy is murdered but it does not dwell on the scene for more than a paragraph, it deals mostly with what happened after. While it was not a page-turner it did go quickly and it was interesting even though it didn’t draw me from the beginning. It reminded me of West Side Story without the love story element.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

The Host by Stephenie Meyer

The Host by Stephenie Meyer

Genre: Science Fiction

Published in 2008

Recommended Age Group: 16 and Up

Summary: The Host begins with the insertion of an alien into a human’s body. Some of the aliens were afraid of using this particular body because Melanie Stryder was part of the resistance that formed after the initial alien invasion. However, it was deemed necessary so they could have access to her memories but they got a lot more than they bargained for. Against the norm Melanie did not fade into obscurity with her memories as the only evidence that she lived. Melanie fought to keep control of her body against the alien Wanderer that now occupied her body. It was only because of their mutual hatred toward their Seeker that they bound together and eventually found a settlement of humans that had escaped the invasion. At first it was hard for the humans to trust that Melanie was still there with Wanderer, nicknamed Wanda by the humans. One by one they started to believe and they saw how she could be helpful. In the human colony they reunite with Jared, Melanie’s companion before the alien encounter. They also meet Ian who becomes their unofficial bodyguard while the other humans get used to the idea of a non-hostile alien. Complications arose because of Jared’s love for Melanie and Ian’s love for Wanda. They could not all have what they wanted. Wanda and Melanie must solve the problem while doing what’s best for everyone, the only question is what will happen to Wanda?

Personal Notes: I don’t know if it’s fair to compare this book to Twilight because they are not even the same genre. However, I think our enjoyment of Twilight is why most of us picked up, or will pick up this book. The Host was an amazing book. It did grab me from the start but not as strongly as Twilight because I actually slept that first night instead of reading it all night long, but I bought it only yesterday and here I am finished so it did grab me. This book was also intended for adults and it has a different feel to it but by no means inferior.  Even though it is written for adults I do not think that I would exclude any age group.  In a recent interview for All Things Girl Stephenie Meyer said, "The only reason it’s considered “adult” is the ages of the characters."

It was an amazingly complex and interesting story. I think it was a stroke of genius to combine the alien and the human in one body so we can get the perspective of both from the same experiences. It was fascinating to see how they could view the same thing so differently. I also enjoyed their internal interactions, the struggles between what is right and wrong and the love they have for different men. Overall it was a captivating story and it surpassed even my high expectations.

Other reviews available:

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

New Moon by Stephenie Meyer

Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer

Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer

Monday, May 5, 2008

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

Genre: Juvenile Science Fiction

Published in 2005

Recommended Age Group: 14 and Up

Summary: Uglies is set about three hundred years in the future and is about a culture where at the age of 16 everyone gets changed from being ugly (or normal) into supermodel beautiful through an operation and then they move to New Pretty Town. We follow the story of Tally, an ugly who is about to change. She and her best friend Peris make a deal that they’ll stay friends even though he gets to change over three months ahead of her. Tally is surprised when he doesn’t keep his end of the bargain and acts weird when she sneaks over to New Pretty Town to see him. On the way back she meets Shay and they spend the next three months becoming fast friends. Tally is surprised at Shay’s lack of enthusiasm about the change but thinks nothing of it until about a week before they are to change Shay tells her about Smoke, a secret city, and her desire to run away and not be pretty. Tally then must pick sides and decide which she wants more, to be pretty or to keep her new friend.

Personal Notes: This book was not at all what I expected it to be but it was much better. My sister recommended it to me and I've been surprised how often it's come up since.  I was pleasantly surprised by the unexpected sci-fi element. I also enjoyed that the plot didn’t go how I anticipated it to. There were surprises along the way that definitely kept me reading with interest. Overall a great read and a captivatingly fresh breeze in the literary world.

Other reviews available:

Pretties by Scott Westerfeld

Specials by Scott Westerfeld

Extras by Scott Westerfeld

Thursday, May 1, 2008

The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

Genre: Fiction

Published in 1989

Recommended Age Group: Adult

Summary: The Pillars of the Earth covers the building of the Kingsbridge cathedral in twelfth century England.  There are five people who guide us through this journey.  Philip, an ambitious monk that serves God through his intelligence; Tom, master builder of the cathedral; Ellen, Tom’s second wife and a practicing witch; Jack, Ellen’s son who later becomes the master builder of the Kingsbridge; and Aliena the destitute daughter of a former Earl who rises unexpectedly to triumph.  It is from these five views, and a few others, that we learn of Kingsbridge and the struggle to build the cathedral amidst threats of weather, poverty, and numerous malicious enemies.

These enemies also play an important role in the book.  The principal villains are: Waleran Bigod, a monk who thinks that the end justifies the means in service to God, and William Hamleigh, a power-hungry man who will stop at nothing to ensure that people fear him because he feels this is the only way to lead.

Through the tale we also learn of the miracles of building of the Middle Ages and the ingenuity of the men at the time.  We are led through time and space on this expedition that not only built a cathedral, but a town.

Personal Notes: I was interesting in the book right from the start.  A friend recommended it to me and wanted me to read it and let her know if it was worth finishing.  This intrigued me because not only do I love recommendations but it was flattering that she wanted to know what I thought.  For me it started well enough but it was slow.  Around 250 pages into it I started reading it because I wanted to and I was thinking about it when I wasn’t reading and thus showing interest.  By page 400 I decided I had to finish because it was so good and I was thoroughly engaged in the story.  It was also at this point that many of the horrible and disturbing scenes with William Hamleigh stopped.  I have to admit that was the only failing the book presented to me.  William rapes quite a few women and I feel that there is needless detail and while it does secure the readers hate for William it also removes some of their virtue.  I feel that the book would have been better if these scenes were smaller because I do see the need for them but not the length.

Overall it was a great book not something to be taken on lightly as it will demand time but it is well worth the effort.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Blood and Chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause

Blood and Chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause

Genre: Juvenile Fiction

Published in 1997

Recommended Age Group: 14 and Up

Summary: Blood and Chocolate is the story of a sixteen-year-old werewolf named Vivian. After the death of her father, who was also the pack leader, the pack moved to the suburbs of Maryland. They have a difficult time deciding on who should be the new leader and the pack fights and bickers constantly. At her new school she meets a human boy named Aiden who is sweet and hangs out with a group of people who rarely bicker and accept Vivian readily. Vivian welcomes the change and spends more time with them than with the pack.

Eventually Vivian realizes she is in love with Aiden and wonders what this will do to the already struggling pack. She wants to reveal herself to Aiden, who loves things like werewolves in books, but at the same time doesn’t want to put the pack in danger. On the night she reveals herself there is a brutal murder. Vivian wonders if she is the murderer because she has no memories from the time that the murder took place. It becomes clear that the murderer is a werewolf and the pack must catch the murderer without revealing the murderer or the pack. In the end a pack leader is chosen, Vivian finds love and peace, and the murderer is brought to justice.

Personal Notes: I devoured this book starting and finishing on the same day. There were many aspects of it that were interesting to me. It shows Vivian’s struggles with acceptance and relationships both in and out of her family/pack. I was captivated by the story and loved that it was told from a werewolf’s perspective instead of the human’s. Many of the books I’ve ready about supernatural creatures are from the human’s point of view and it was a welcome twist. There were some parts that made me uncomfortable while I was reading them, Klause was a little explicit in some of her descriptions and maybe took it a step too far for the age group. There was nothing serious (like descriptions of sexual encounters) but some groping and nakedness in descriptions that never lasted longer than a sentence. Overall it was a great book, exciting, romantic and suspenseful, all the right elements for a teen reader.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Megan by Jack Weyland

megan.jpgMegan by Jack Weyland

Genre: Juvenile Fiction

Published in 2001

Recommended Age Group: 16 and Up

Summary: Megan, seventeen and a senior in high school, was basically a good girl who just wanted to be liked. She went to church and believed in God but did always live the way she thought she should or the way that her parents taught her. One day her best friend Thomas sets her up with a friend named Kurt that graduated from their high school a year before. In an effort to impress Kurt, Megan does things that she’s not comfortable with but wants him to be happy and wants to make sure he has a good time. Eventually with a lot of smooth talking on Kurt’s part and a lot of giving in on Megan’s she gets pregnant. Megan struggles with what to do with the baby. Kurt seemed experienced with this problem and told her about how to get an abortion but Megan decided it wasn’t right for her. Though the support of her family and friends Megan is able to get though the pregnancy and makes the toughest decision ever, who will care for her baby?

Personal Notes: This was a captivating and interesting book and in spite of the difficult subject matter it was enjoyable. Weyland got down to some deep core issues without being preachy. I felt like I could understand and empathize with Megan and her decisions and suffering. It would be a good book for young women to read because of the valuable lessons it teaches about morality and chastity but also how it teaches about forgiveness and the love of God for each one of us.

Other reviews available:

Nicole by Jack Weyland

Brittany by Jack Weyland

Camilla by Madeleine L'Engle

camilla.jpgCamilla by Madeleine L’Engle

Genre: Juvenile Fiction

Published in 1965

Recommended Age Group: 14 and Up

Summary: Camilla is about a 15 year-old girl by the same name. She is at the age where she doesn’t get any of the privileges of adulthood and none of those from childhood. Her life, which was relatively easy, suddenly gets harder when she realizes her parents are not only people but imperfect people at that. Her mother Rose is dating another man while still married but she thinks she is fooling everyone and that no one knows, even though he comes to the house. Her father Rafferty tries to ignore the situation or he blames it on himself. Meanwhile Camilla is becoming a woman and although she knows she wants to be an astronomer she doesn’t know about the rest of her life and the problems with her parents make her unsure that she’ll make the right choices.

Luisa, her best friend, helps Camilla on her way to finding out who she is and what she wants from life but she also gets in the way. When Camilla starts seeing Luisa’s brother Frank Luisa tries to tell her he’s a bad guy and not to spend time with him, but Camilla ignores her. Camilla learns from Frank and Luisa about life, love, and God and in the end decides who she is and that it’s not always possible to know and control everything about anything.

Personal Notes: The summary on the back of this book did not do it justice. I bought it because I am a big fan of Madeleine L’Engle.  I wasn’t too excited about reading it but I loved it. Even though it was written over forty years ago it really ties in to life in today’s society where divorce is so common. It was realistic and true to life. I think a lot of people would relate to how Camilla was trying to find out who she was and how to cope with the problems her parents added to the ones she had herself. It was interesting and entertaining with just the right amount of love story mixed in.

Friday, March 28, 2008

And Both Were Young by Madeleine L'Engle

and-both-were-young.jpgAnd Both Were Young by Madeleine L’Engle

Genre: Juvenile Fiction

Published in 1983

Recommended Age Group: 12 and Up

Summary: And Both Were Young is the story about Philippa Hunter, nicknamed Flip, and her journey toward womanhood with the help of a boarding school and a friend named Paul. Flip’s father takes her to the boarding school along with a friend of her father's named Eunice. Eunice is the one who suggested the boarding school but Flip is not excited and wished she could stay with her father who was touring the world creating illustrations for a new book. Flip also doesn’t like Eunice and feels that she is inappropriate with her father whose wife died not even a year before.

It is because of her mother’s untimely death and Eunice’s infatuation with her father that Flip closes off and isn’t friendly with the girls in her new school and as a result Flip isn’t popular. However, she does meet and get to know Paul, a mysterious boy with a troubled past. It is with his help, and the help of her art teacher Mrs. Perceval that she is able to get past her loneliness and achieve things she never thought possible.

Personal Notes: The many interesting elements made this book more fun to read. The boarding school experience reminded me of my first experiences in college. Another interesting thing was the post World War II time setting. In the boarding school there were German people and Jews but they realized that the problems were caused by the leaders and managed to make friends and get past the pain and suffering caused by the war. I think this was a valuable lesson. Flip taught another lesson when she realized that her popularity problems were as much her fault as they were the fault of the other girls. Overall it was a great book and fun to read.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman

amber-spyglass.jpgThe Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman

Genre: Preteen Fantasy Fiction

Published in 2000

Recommended Age Group: 9 and Up

Summary: The Amber Spyglass is the third book in the His Dark Materials trilogy that began with The Golden Compass. This story opens with Mrs. Coulter in a cave with Lyra in an enchanted sleep. While asleep Lyra dreams about the world of the dead and her friend Roger. While asleep she promises to rescue Roger from the world of the dead.

Meanwhile Will meets up with two Angels who tell him about the Authority and how he came into being. They said that God was a name he gave himself and that he was never a creator, only the first Angel. He was condensed out of Dust and a wiser female came later and found the truth and was banished because of her knowledge (p. 31-32). Will also learns of Metatron, the Authority’s regent (one who rules in place of the true ruler), he is strong, powerful, and creates fear in those who see him.

Will then finds and joins forces with Iorek Byrnison, the armored bear, and together they free Lyra from her enchanted sleep and from Mrs. Coulter. Two miniature people and spies for Lord Asriel, called Gallivespians, also help them escape and follow Will and Lyra into another world and then into the world of the dead. Lyra decides to go to keep her promise to Roger and Will decides to go to speak to his father.  The Gallivespians follow unaware of what they are planning. They find the world of the dead but to get there they must submit to the pain of separating from their daemons. Once in the world of the dead they encountered Harpies who torture them and all the dead. They made a deal with the Harpies that if the dead would tell them true stories they would lead them out of the world of the dead through the hole that Will cut with his knife. They agree and the hole is made and the dead are able to escape.

While they are in the world of the dead Lord Asriel continues with his plan to overthrow the Authority and then those in the Kingdom of Heaven find out and come to make war. Metatron figured the Authority would be safer away from the Kingdom and sends him off in a crystal carriage. Cliff-ghasts saw the carriage and chased it down. Will and Lyra come upon them trying to get at the Authority and chased them away and freed the Authority from the crystal carriage thinking to help and comfort him but he is so old and frail that the wind pulls him apart and he vanishes.

Mrs. Coulter went to Metatron to try and persuade him to join forces with her and overthrow Lord Asriel. Metatron is blinded by her beauty and follows her only later to find that she was on Lord Asriel’s side and she and Lord Asriel combine forces to drag Metatron down to the abyss ending his rule and their lives.
In the end Will and Lyra unite with their daemons and make a great sacrafice to build the Kingdom of Heaven where they belong.

---------------

Personal Notes: It took me a month to read this book, something that’s unheard of in the world of Julie. I just couldn’t get into it at all. When I picked it up it was interesting enough but it didn’t grab me and push me to read more. The parts where Mary is with the Mulefa alone were the hardest for me to push through. It reminded me of The Time Machine by H.G. Wells and I had a hard time getting though that one too. Admittedly the fault could be with me and not with Pullman’s writing but this was not nearly as good as the first two. The plot was also hard to follow. There were a lot of different words for the same things because there were main characters from four different worlds. Thus, it was hard to keep even the basic things straight.

Also there are the problems that people would have from the plot and how it works with their belief system. Lord Asriel’s goal is to destroy God and build a Republic of Heaven in place of the Kingdom of Heaven. I’d heard from the beginning that these were books about killing God so I was a little wary of that but that wasn’t the part that bothered me. They didn’t really kill God. Pullman described God as old and frail with wrinkles and loss of his senses (p. 410). Continuing on that page Pullman talks about how he was destroyed. The wind damaged him he “began to loosen and dissolve” then “their last impression was of those eyes, blinking in wonder, and a sigh of the most profound and exhausted relief”. He wasn’t killed, he dissolved in the wind and he seemed grateful even. Earlier in the book Mrs. Coulter said killing the Authority would be the merciful thing to do because of his age and inability to function. I don’t know if I agree with that but I do know that I definitely got the wrong picture of the God aspect from what other people were saying, probably those who haven’t even read the book.

The part that did bother me was when Mary Malone was talking about when she stopped believing in God. She had been a Nun and was studying physics she said, “I thought Physics could be done to the glory of God, till I saw that there wasn’t any God at all and that physics was more interesting anyway” (p. 441). Later she says that she was a nun but got a glimpse of love and decided that was better and she would be “miserable” as a Nun so God must not exist (p.445). For a scientist it seems like she has faulty logic. Both of these aren’t backed up by anything but her feelings. Maybe life for her would be better with a man in it but that doesn’t mean that there is not a God. A few pages later she admits that she misses God and when she was connected to him she felt connected to the Universe and felt like there was a purpose to life (p. 447). This seems like an argument for religion but somehow because of problems in the past Mary still chooses not to believe and her choice and the way she presented it affected Will and Lyra and probably will affect some readers of this book.

Overall, I was unimpressed. The plot was complex and hard to follow. The parts about religion bothered me and I felt simply incomplete with the ending. I enjoyed the first two books immensely but would not recommend the third.

-- All page numbers are from the hardback edition with isbn: 0-679-87926-9.

Other reviews available:

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman

Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman

subtle-knife.jpgThe Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman

Genre: Preteen Fantasy Fiction

Published in 1997

Recommended Age Group: 9 and Up

Summary: The Subtle Knife (His Dark Materials book 2) begins in our own world and then moves between worlds. In our world we follow the life of William Perry, the son of the famous explorer John Perry who disappeared shortly after Williams birth. William killed a man in his home in an effort to keep his mother and some documents safe. It is when he is on the run that Will finds the window into another world and into a city known as Cittàgazze (shortened to Ci’gazze) that is only inhabited by children. It is while he is in Ci’gazze that he runs into Lyra who crossed a bridge from her world to this one.

Lyra and Will band together and move from world to world trying to get answers. Lyra is looking for information on Dust and Will is trying to find his father. Along the way they meet up with enemies and friends, some new and some old. One of their new friends is Dr. Mary Malone, who comes from our world and is working on Dust, called shadow particles. She gives Lyra some information Dust that helps her in her quest. Will finds more about his father’s disappearance in the library and learns whom to trust.

Serafina Pekkala, the witch who helped save Lyra in the first book, goes to learn what Lord Asriel’s purpose is and discovers that “he’s aiming a rebellion against the highest power of all. He’s gone a-searching for the dwelling place of the Authority Himself, and he’s a-going to destroy Him” (p. 46). Basically he wants to recreate the Great War in heaven and ensure victory for the rebel angles (p. 198). After discovering this Serafina goes of in search of Lyra and finds her and Will being attacked by the children of Ci’gazze. Serafina helps them to escape and they go in search of Lord Asriel with Mrs. Coulter following behind with an army of zombies. In the end Will finds the answers he’s looking for but his joy is cut short and we find out more about Lyra’s purpose and what her and Will are to accomplish.

Personal Notes: This was an amazing book. I read with awe at the scope and magnitude of not only the plot but also changing setting and the underlying story for each main character. It is a truly great and original endeavor. Pullman sets out to recreate history and the war in heaven. Dr. Grumman says, “this time the right side must win… It’s time to start again but properly this time” (p. 319). Most of the main characters side with the rebel angels who were cast out of Heaven into Hell after the last war. They believe that destroying God will give them more knowledge, wisdom, and strength (p. 320). I can’t wait to read the conclusion of this trilogy.

I have a few things for those who are worried about the content of these books affecting their children and their belief in God and His power. There are a few things that are concerning. The fact that the main idea is to destroy God and give power to the devils may not be a message that you want your children to read about. It is also troubling how one of Pullman’s characters describes the Church he says, “That is what the Church does, and every church is the same: control, destroy, obliterate every good feeling” (p. 50). This is an amazing story and one that I don’t think I want my children to miss out on. I think the best thing to do is tell them how you feel about God and your church. Make sure they know how you feel and try to discover how they feel too. Tell them that this is a story and that the power and authority of the real God has never been in question. One of the witches in the books says that she is not worried about their God being destroyed because he is not her God. That is the way I choose to read these books. He’s not my God. He may represent him or sound a lot like him but he’s not the same, thus reading a story about someone killing their God doesn’t bother me. I hope that helped.

-- All page numbers are from the paperback edition with isbn: 0-440-41833-x.

Other reviews available:

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman

Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

golden-compass.jpgThe Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

Genre: Preteen Fantasy Fiction

Published in 1995

Recommended Age Group: 9 and Up

Summary: The Golden Compass is the first book in the series His Dark Materials. It is “set in a universe like ours, but different in many ways.” One of the major differences is that all people have daemons, they are always animals and usually the opposite gender of the person they belong to. Children’s daemons can change shape but once the people get older their daemon assumes a permanent animal. Lyra and her daemon Pantalaimon are our guides through this story which beings with Lyra and Pan at Jordan College in Oxford. Her parents left her at Jordan to be raised by the scholars who worked there and Lyra grew up a half-wild child who learned bits and pieces of everything.

Lyra’s world changed dramatically when her Uncle Asriel came for a visit and brought news about Dust and a mysterious city in the sky up North. Lyra is captivated at once and has thoughts only for going North until the Gobblers strike. The Gobblers kidnap children and though no one knows exactly why everyone ventures a guess. When the Gobblers strike in Oxford and take Lyra’s best friend she decides to go up against them only to discover later that she nearly became one of them. After a few course corrections Lyra finds herself heading North with a group of men sent to reclaim their children and if possible free Lord Asriel who was wrongfully imprisoned. It is on this adventure that Lyra learns the true purpose of the Gobblers and of other unbelievable mysteries.

Personal Notes: I read this book before the movie was made and I enjoyed it a lot. The plot was interesting and there were many fun elements that I hadn’t encountered before which made the book even more exciting. The talking armored bears were a highlight as were the many good guy/bad guy twists. Once I heard all the controversy about Pullman being an atheist and using his books for that cause I had to read it again to see if I missed something on the first go around. After reading it twice I can honestly say let your children read this book and don’t worry. It’s exciting and fun and it has nothing in it about trying to overthrow God. I hear the third book is the one to look out for but I’ll let you know when I get to it. Right now I’m moving on to the second one.

For the reading group the back of the book says ages nine to twelve but I wonder if that’s the best range. There were some parts that I had problems focusing on and a few words that I had to look up. I’m not worried about content I just worry that they might lose interest in the first part of the book. Once it moves on to parts two and three it picks up dramatically and gets more exciting so if you can make it through the first part then you’re home free. Overall it was a whirlwind adventure of suspense and excitement.

Other reviews available:

The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman

The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer

eclipse.jpgEclipse by Stephenie Meyer

Genre: Juvenile Fantasy Fiction

Published in 2007

Recommended Age Group: 14 and Up

Summary: Eclipse is the most recent novel in the Twilight series. This book picks up right about when the last one left off. Bella is back with Edward and wonders what to do about Jacob. She is convinced that they can work something out in spite of the fact that Edward is a vampire and Jacob is a werewolf making them the fiercest of enemies. Edward refuses to let Bella see Jacob so she sneaks away to see him and eventually Edward decides it’s safer if he lets her go. Worried about how she is while she’s there Edward drops her off and picks her up from each of her visits making it feel like a custody agreement and not casual friendship.

The situation gets more complicated when Victoria, the vampire that’s been after Bella since book one, comes back into the scene and threatens Bella. The combination of problems from school, home, friends, and enemies is nearly too much for Bella and a temporary compromise is reached so everyone can work together to keep her safe and happy. In the end she discovers what Jacob already knew, she is in love with him and she must decide which boy’s heart to break and which to keep.

Personal Notes: Like with Meyer’s other two books I lost track of time while reading this one and really immersed myself in the book. It wasn’t as dark as the second one but darker than the first. I enjoyed the conflict with Bella and the two boys. It seemed like such a universal experience but with the fun twist that one is a werewolf and the other a vampire. I also appreciate how clean these books are, as in very little in the way of swear words and the couples only get as far as kissing. It’s definitely something I would recommend to anyone and I know it won’t upset his or her standards or morals.

Other reviews available:

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer


New Moon by Stephenie Meyer

Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer

The Host by Stephenie Meyer

Sunday, February 10, 2008

New Moon by Stephenie Meyer

new-moon.jpgNew Moon by Stephenie Meyer

Genre: Juvenile Fantasy Fiction

Published in 2006

Recommended Age Group: 14 and Up

Summary: New Moon, much like Twilight, begins with a peek at the climax of the novel where Bella is running though a crowded square to save the life of someone she loves. Bella turns eighteen in the first chapter and unlike most people she is upset at the milestone because her boyfriend Edward (a vampire) will always be stuck at age seventeen and she hates the thought of being older than him. Bella tries repeatedly to convince him to change her into a vampire but he refuses convinced that the transformation will cost Bella her soul, an idea that not everyone agrees is the case.

At her Birthday party she cuts her finger and everyone in Edward’s family (also vampires) try not to hurt her and Jasper, the newest member of their group who doesn’t hurt humans, tried to attack her. Shortly after this the whole family decided to leave Forks, Washington afraid that Bella might get hurt and that they would be exposed as vampires.

After they leave Bella falls into a zombie-like state and only her friendship with Jacob Black is able to pull her out of the despair. It is when Jake appears to join a cult and when Edward, thinking he’s lost Bella forever, does something rash that Bella’s world really begins to fall to pieces. Through a bit of luck and the help of a good friend Bella is able to get part of what she wants and also understands that her world and those of the people she loves will never be the same again.

Personal Notes: This second book in the Twilight series was darker than the first but no less enjoyable. There were parts where Bella was a bit depressed and I found myself once again so engrossed in the story that I was feeling what she felt.  I have heard some people say that it was too depressing and that if they were to read them again they would skip this book but I think they are all necessary to understand the story as a whole.  Meyer is a truly captivating writer and creates amazingly round and real characters.  New Moon was so well written and it captures the emotions so well without trying to hide from unhappy things.

Other reviews available:

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer


Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer

Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer

The Host by Stephenie Meyer

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

twilight.jpgTwilight by Stephenie Meyer

Genre: Juvenile Fantasy Fiction

Published in 2005

Recommended Age Group: 14 and Up

Summary: Bella Swan’s parents separated when she was only a few months old. Since then she’d been living in Phoenix and spending the summers with her dad Charlie in the rainiest city in the US, Forks, Washington. When her mom decided to get married again to a minor league ball player named Phil Bella decided to go live with her dad in Forks. She wasn’t excited but knew it was better than watching her mom suffer being without Phil who was almost always on the road. With Bella living with her Dad her Mom was able to travel to the games with Phil. Bella adjusted quicker than she expected and made a lot of new friends that first week. Especially boy friends. One boy in particular made her excited and frustrated all at the same time.

Edward, a member of the Cullen family, was the most gorgeous person Bella had ever seen. Even though he behaved oddly in their first class together, not speaking to her, seeming angry, and barely looking her direction, they soon became nearly inseparable. In spite of his odd behavior and constant warnings that she should stay away from him Bella looked forward to seeing him. She soon realized that he was right about her need to stay away but chose not to and had a lot of mysterious and excited adventures. Along the way she learned that Edward, along with all his family, is a vampire but not your average vampire. Instead of hurting humans they drink from animals. In the end we learn how she got to the odd place she was in the preface and we learn that even though love may not beat everything it’s sure worth the ride.

Personal Notes: I devoured this book. Even with two small children to take care of, a house to clean, and dinner to fix I read it in less than 24 hours. It was like falling in love all over again only with more excitement then I felt the first time, no offense honey. I found myself lost in the writing and felt my heart race along with the characters. The book begins, “I’d never given much thought to how I would die – even though I’d had reason enough in the last few months – but even if I had, I would not have imagined it like this.” Of course my interest was instantly piqued and I had to read on to find out what happened and how it all worked out. I was excited about the ending and loved the romantic and fascinating journey.

Other reviews available:

New Moon by Stephenie Meyer

Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer

Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer

The Host by Stephenie Meyer

Friday, February 8, 2008

Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli

maniac-magee.jpgManiac Magee by Jerry Spinelli

Genre: Juvenile Fiction

Published in 1990

Recommended Age Group: 10 and Up

Summary: Maniac Magee is a Newberry Medal winning book about a legend of the same name. Also known as Jeffery Lionel Magee, Maniac is the hero and unifier of Two Mills, Pennsylvania. When Maniac ran into town there was a great divide between the people. There were the black people who lived on the East End of Hector Street and the white people who lived on the West End of Hector. As a twelve-year-old boy Jeffery didn’t understand the difference between black people and white. He didn’t understand that the white people just did not cross over to the East End. So on his first day of town he walked right over to the East End and made friends with Amanda Beale. He borrowed a book from her and then proceeded to do other unheard of things like sit on Finsterwald’s front steps and intercept a ball one handed that was meant for James “Hands” Down these things, among others, earned him the nickname Maniac.

Jeffery was a wanderer without family or home, he was orphaned at age three, he lived with some relatives but he was so unhappy there he ran away and landed, after a year of wandering, in Two Mills. He proceeded to enact social change bit by bit one miracle at a time. In the end he was a legend with a home, which is what he longed for most of all.

Personal Notes: An insightful book on the power of one fantastic person. Jeffery was able to do more for that town than anyone ever dreamed because he was able to set aside perceptions and actually get to know the people. This book teaches great lessons about the basics of humanity in the process of telling fun and interesting stories. A great story, something that I think everyone would enjoy but especially boys.