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