Sunday, November 8, 2009

Magician's Gambit, The Belgariad book Three by David Eddings

Magician's Gambit, The Belgariad book Three by David Eddings fits into the juvenile fantasy fiction genre and was first published in 1983. It is recommended for readers ages 14 and up.

By book three the group on the quest is quite large. With so many characters the plot can't help but be complex however Eddings does a wonderful job at keeping it all together and not getting out of hand. Once again this book is packed with adventure and mystery however some of the mysteries from the previous books have been solved leaving the reader satisfied but wanting more at the same time. We have learned that there is a prophecy predicting not only the quest but also the presence of all the members on it. We also know that the group is after an orb that someone has stolen and intends to use to rise a god who has been “sleeping” for many thousands of years. Each group of people serves their own one of seven gods and most are peaceful but the god who is to be awakened seeks to cause a war that could end the world. In the first park of this book the group travels through the land of the god Mara, his land is deserted because his people where killed off and he spends his time lamenting them and their ghosts haunt whoever comes into the land to pillage. Polgara and Belgarath decide that even with the dangers this is the safest way to travel and cause a deep sleep to come over everyone so they will not be haunted by the ghosts. They try to get the god Mara to join their cause but he is too wracked with grief to listen or care. After that Polgara and Belgarath go to the land of their god to answer a summons. While there Garion practices his sorcery and learns more fundamental truths about this new power. They also learn more about what they must accomplish to put an end to the plans for war and to prevent the resurrection of the got Torak. Next they travel to the land of Ulgo where they are joined by a man who has an amazing ability that often comes in handy to help them on their quest. In the end they travel to Cthol Murgos a land full of dangers both seen and unseen where they find the orb and manage though to defeat the Magician who has taken it. Like book two this one is full of adventure and excitement but Eddings manages to keep it fresh and exciting. The dangers are always original and while they definitely belong in the world of fantasy they are not too farfetched to seem plausible in the world he has created. It was a great read and a fitting addition to the Belgariad series.

Other reviews available:

Pawn of Prophecy, The Belgariad book One by David Eddings

Queen of Sorcery, The Belgariad book Two by David Eddings

Queen of Sorcery, The Belgariad book Two by David Eddings

Queen of SorceryQueen of Sorcery, The Belgariad book Two by David Eddings fits into the juvenile fantasy fiction genre and was first published in 1982. It is recommended for readers ages 14 and up.

Queen of Sorcery begins a little over a week after Pawn of Prophecy ended. Garion is struggling to come to grips with the fact that his Aunt Pol is really Polgara the Sorceress and that Mister Wolf is really Belgarath the Sorcerer. These are names that Garion has heard all his life but he figured they were storys people of fiction like the Greek gods are to us today. Garion finds it difficult to not only accept that these people exist but also that they are with him and that he is a distant relative. As he is trying to piece this together the groups adventure continues. Durnik, their blacksmith friend from Faldor's farm is still with them and has continually proved to be a valuable asset with his hard work ethic and sensible thinking which has saved them from many dangers. They are also accompanied by Silk, the wily merchant who is also a prince in disguise, and Barak cousin to a king in the north who is struggling with his own identity crisis. Hettar joins them as well along with many horses and his amazing ability to not only speak with them but understand what they are saying in return. As the story progresses they gain many more companions and a lot more trouble. They fight off several different villains both human and non-human and rescue a Princess on the run. Garion finds out more about who he is and the power he possesses. He also manages to get his revenge for the death of his parents but is shocked when he feels worse not better. After that they enter into the kingdom of Nyissa continuing on their mysterious quest chasing someone down that has stolen something important. While in Nyissa the queen kidnaps Garion and drugs him to get him to do her bidding and be her servant. All seems lost until the sky randomly darkens in the middle of the day Polgara and Barak come to the rescue with the help of Garion and his amazing power that he now able to partially control. I think I enjoyed this one more than the first book not necessarily because it was written better. Most of the characters were fully developed by this point so there was not as many meetings and background stories so it was fast paced with one adventure following another. It was an exciting read that made my mind work to find the clues hidden within it. I also found it interesting that there was a volcanic eruption that caused the sky to darken. Eddings is from the Washington state and just a few months before he wrote this book Mt. St. Helens erupted causing ash to cover everything. It was nearly impossible to see and the sky was darkened even though the sun was still up. I was a clever way to use personal experience to add to the plot of his book.

Other reviews available:

Pawn of Prophecy, The Belgariad book One by David Edding

Magician's Gambit, The Belgariad book Three by David Eddings

Pawn of Prophecy, The Belgariad book One by David Eddings

Pawn of ProphecyPawn of Prophecy, The Belgariad book One by David Eddings fits into the juvenile fantasy fiction genre and was first published in 1982. It is recommended for readers ages 14 and up.

A friend lent me the first three books in the Belgariad series. At first I was hesitant because I haven't been in a reading mood lately, which is odd for me. However, I picked this one up and was pleasantly surprised at how quickly I got into the reading mood. Pawn of Prophecy tells the story of Garion and his Aunt Pol as they are living a peaceful life at Faldor's farm. Aunt Pol was the cook and Garion spent his days with his friends enjoying the country life. Unfortunately it was not to last. An old storyteller, whom Aunt Pol called Old Wolf, came into town and that's when things started to become complicated and different. Then one night it was suddenly time to leave. Old Wolf, Aunt Pol, Garion, and their friend Durnik who was a blacksmith, snuck off to start a mysterious adventure. Along the way they meet a few more interesting friends all who have skills necessary to help them survive on this journey and accomplish the task at hand. Garion is constantly kept in the dark about things but he is observant and quick to piece things together. In the end he learns the truth about his Aunt Pol, old Wolf, and himself. He also helps stop a sinister plot to overthrow the king of a nearby kingdom. Pawn of Prophecy is packed with adventure and fun sarcastic whit that will entice anyone to keep reading. The mystery behind who Garion is will make you pick up the next book to find out more. I often found myself getting lost in the story and forgetting my life and troubles while I read. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good fantasy book.

Other reviews available:

Queen of Sorcery, The Belgariad book Two by David Eddings

Magician's Gambit, The Belgariad book Three by David Eddings

Friday, November 6, 2009

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

catching-fireCatching Fire by Suzanne Collins fits into the juvenile fiction genre and was published in 2009. It is recommended for readers ages 12 and up.

I first stumbled across the Hunger Games shortly after it was published in 2008 and waited, very impatiently, for the sequel to appear. I purchased Catching Fire the day it was released and finish it closely thereafter. I loved it even more than the first book, which I didn’t even think would be possible. It begins about six months after the Hunger Games ended. Katniss has returned to district 12 but nothing was like she expected it to be. Peeta, still hurt that she was pretending to be in love, spends as little time with her as possible. Gale, also hurt by what happened during the Hunger Games, won’t really talk to her either and avoids her as well. Everyone wants to move on with life and celebrate that everyone is still alive but they must do the Victory Tour, which is where the winner of the games goes to all the districts and makes a speech, reminding those districts that they lost not only the games but two of their children as well. Another hitch in the moving on plan comes when the president of the Capitol comes to visit Katniss and tell her that he was not convinced of her love for Peeta and that he thinks she is trying to start a rebellion. She must now prove that he’s wrong on both counts while battling the capitol and in a surprising twist the other victors as well. Through a series of unbelievable events and by trusting people she barely knows Katniss not only finds the truth about the rebellion and the districts but also commits herself to a side. Catching Fire is a fabulous book further exploring the ideas of societal unrest and the amazing things that one can do with the right friends. I highly recommend it as a quick and satisfying read.

Other reviews available:

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

wind in the willowsThe Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame fits into the juvenile fiction genre and was first published in 1908. It is recommended for readers ages 8 and up.

I had an unbelievably hard time getting into this book. Even though it was only about 140 pages it took me months to read. It’s not that it’s a bad story I think it was just written so below my reading level that I had a hard time being interested. However, I think I would enjoy it if I were to read it to my children who, I’m fairly certain, would enjoy the animal characters and their adventures by the river. In the beginning we find Mole cleaning his house. He gets tired of cleaning and without any further planning leaves his house and sets off on an adventure. He makes it to the river and finds Rat who invites him to go on a picnic with him by boat. Mole is worried because he’d never been in a boat but agrees and makes an instant and lasting friend in Rat. While on the picnic they meet Badger, who is a nice enough animal but sort of anti-social. Badger admires Mole’s common sense and again Mole easily makes a new friend. Later they decide to go visit Toad. He lives in a really fancy house right on the river. They find Toad all excited about his new venture. He’d tried and failed at so many things in the past but that doesn’t keep Toad from trying new things. Cars are the current excitement in Toads life. He routinely manages to crash and break them but survives each time only to buy another and go at it again. It’s this love for cars that causes most of his problems. Toad’s friends convince him to give it up and to a point succeed until he steals a car and goes for a joy ride, which, as it should, lands him in jail. He manages to escape with the help of a washerwoman and has a few interest adventures on his way home being incredibly unruly. When he arrives home after being gone quite some time he finds his house has been taken over by weasels. Toad then goes off seeking the help of his friends. They are disappointed in the life he chose but after a quick chastisement they agree to help him get his house back. Badger plans the whole thing, Mole helped with the more subtle parts, Rat makes sure they are armed to the teeth, and Toad moans about his role in the whole thing. In the end Toad learns how to be a good friend and thankfully changes his ways. Badger, Mole, and Rat help save the day and are happily rewarded with their great friendship and a fine feast. All in all it’s an okay book. Grahame takes too many detours and subplots for my taste. He goes into great detail when a word or two would do about things that are never again mentioned in the book. It’s a great story with fun characters just not one of my favorites.

The Call of the Wild by Jack London

Call of the WildThe Call of the Wild by Jack London fits into the juvenile fiction genre and was first published in 1903. It is recommended for readers ages 14 and up.

I was hesitant at first to pick this book up. The cover and summary clearly screamed boy book to me. That combined with an outdoors setting made it at the bottom of my reading list for several years. However one day I ran out of new books to read and there it was seemingly staring at me from my shelf and when I picked it up I was surprised at what I found inside. This novel recounts the story of Buck, a loyal pet dog who was taking from his master by a servant and sold to be a sled dog in the Yukon. London goes into detail about what Buck is feeling and thinking as he experiences harsh masters, frozen weather, and brutal slave labor for the first time. Buck must also learn to fall in or lead the pack of dogs he is forced to serve with to get enough food and protect himself. The frozen wasteland really comes to life as London tells the story of their travel with the hardships and quarrels that inevitably accompany it. Eventually through a mastery of skill and persistence Buck becomes the leader of his pack and gains fame throughout Canada. This fame leads him to his last owner to whom he was fiercely loyal, to the point that he would even jump into his arms over a cliff. However, Buck couldn’t suppress the call the wild had upon him. He saw a wolf one day and decided to follow it and after that returned less and less to the camp. Once he knew there was trouble but returned only to find he was too late to safe his master. After that, when he had nothing to tie him down, was he truly able to respond to the call of the wild. London tells this story of a dog so well that anyone can relate to it and enjoy themselves while reading of amazing adventures that they’re never likely to repeat. It was a fun read and I would recommend it to boys and girls of any age.

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Fahrenheit 451Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury fits into the juvenile science fiction genre and was first published in 1953. It is recommended for readers ages 14 and up.

I first read this book when is was assigned in my ninth grade English class and instantly fell in love with it. As an avid reader a book about book burning seems like an odd one to love but it is so well written with so many subplots and interesting ways to analyze it that the possibilities seem endless. I have read it probably five times by now and can never seem to get enough. Guy Montag is the main character. In Montag’s world firemen find people with books, which are illegal, and not only burns those books but their homes as well. On his way home from work one day he meets Clarisse McClellan, a 17 year-old girl who questions everything and who wants to experience the simple things in life that so many forget to notice. This mindset leads Montag to wonder more than he already had about his life and where the world was going. Upon arriving home he finds his wife Mildred has, again, attempted suicide, which has become so common they have men with portable machines that come in to pump her stomach much like a carpet man would come to clean the carpet of a house.

After that Montag begins to act strangely and decides to skip work to read a book that he took from a house they were burning. Unexpectedly his boss Captain Beatty appears at his house and almost catches him. Beatty notices Montag’s change in behavior and tries to set his mind at ease telling him why they burn books. People just didn’t take the time to read anymore. They wanted everything in a shortened version. Which totally reminded me of Cliff Notes and the people who come to my review site who have a test or a report but haven’t read the book but hope to be able to pass by working off what I have done. Beatty also mentioned how the world is more connected and thus there is a bigger group of minorities to deal with than before. People couldn’t write about whatever they wanted to because someone was always getting offended. His final reason was that intellectuals do not currently run the world. Those who were not the brightest in their class tend to feel threatened by the smart kids. By banning books it kept everyone on their level. Beatty gave this speech knowing that Montag had a book hidden and gives him 24 hours to burn they book or they will do it for him.

After Captain Beatty leaves Montag takes out the books he’s hidden over the years and tries to decide which one to burn. Montag then meets with Faber. Faber is an old former lit. professor who wants to rebel but is too scared to do anything. He is shocked when Montag produces a copy of the bible, maybe the last one in that part of the world. Faber then said something that really struck me on page 81 of my copy. Speaking of the bible he said, “They’ve changed it in our ‘parlors’ these days. Christ is one of the ‘family’ now. I often wonder if God recognizes His own son the way we’ve dressed him up, or is it dressed him down?” They have Christ “making veiled references to certain commercial products that every worshiper absolutely needs.” It amazes me how often and how clearly Bradbury saw our day. That was just another example that struck me as right on the money.

Montag ends up going back into work but is shocked when the house they go to burn is his own. Several people called in to report him including his wife. Montag manages to burn his own house but in an argument with Beatty burns him too. Later he realized that Beatty wanted to die but it didn’t ease his conscience about it. Through a series of close encounters Montag manages to escape and eventually finds a group of people who go around memorizing books in the hopes that one day people will want them again and they will write them down so the world can learn from their past.

I know I more or less summarized the entire thing but it’s still worth the read to experience it. It is a truly amazing and inspired book that I have not found it’s equal in the literary world.

Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie

Peter PanPeter Pan by J.M. Barrie fits into the classical juvenile fiction genre and first appeared as a play in 1904. Later it was published as Peter and Wendy in 1911. It is recommended for readers ages 8 and up.

When I discovered the Disney movie Peter Pan was based on a book I was anxious to read. Typically I read the book first but it was an interesting experience to have it occur the other way. I was amazed while I read how closely the Disney movie stayed to the novel. There were major parts left out and the character of Peter was made to be more likeable but all in all it was much the same. The story begins with a thorough description of the Darling family and how they all came to be and how they acquired Nana, the nursemaid dog. One interesting difference is that Wendy, John, and Michael were not only gone one night but they were gone for quite some time. The books goes into detail how their parents and Nana think over the night they left and planning how they could have done things differently. The night the children left Peter came in and was tempting them to leave. Nana heard and managed to escape and run for the parents. Peter heard them coming and managed to get the children out of the house just before their parents burst into the room to stop them. Their flight to Neverland took days and days to accomplish and at times Peter would even forget they were there. When they got to Neverland everything is much the same as the movie but Wendy had her own cottage to live in outside of the tree where all the boys slept. The same adventures took place with the Indians and Captain Hook and even the capturing of the lost boys and Peter’s rescue. It was an interesting read but for once I think I prefer the movie to the book. Peter’s character in the book is a little too harsh for my taste. He seems moody and flighty but not in the fun carefree way that I’d imagined before. His uncontrollable selfishness also makes him more of a villain than someone to admire. Barrie’s writing at times also leaves something to be desired. He tends to bring himself down saying how this or that detail isn’t really important or that it’s not the best story but he might as well tell it anyway leaving me wondering if this is a draft with notes and not the real thing. I enjoyed finding the origins to one of my favorite children’s movies but I hesitate to recommend it to anyone else unless you have a burning desire to experience it first hand.

The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain

Prince and the PauperThe Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain fits into the classic juvenile fiction genre and was first published in 1882. It is recommended for readers ages 12 and up.

At times I feel as if my literary education is seriously lacking. I not only completed high school but I also graduated from Brigham Young University with a Bachelor’s in English. Having accomplished that one would figure that I’d read my share of classics but oddly this is not so. I’ve forever felt the need to play catch-up when it comes to the classic genre. I have such a long list and the Prince and the Pauper was one that I excitedly checked off that list as I grabbed it from the shelf and I was not disappointed.

Mark Twain records the story of the Prince and the Pauper with a preface saying that it is an old story that was passed down father to son and while it may not be true it could be true. London in the 1500s brought the birth of Edward Tudor and as it happened on the same day, in a much poorer part of London, Tom Canty. Years later while Tom was wandering around the city he happened upon the palace and Prince Edward. After an incident with the guard Edward invited Tom into the palace and there they discovered how similar they were in both size and appearance. They decided to trade clothes and were both amazed at the transformation and how one could not be distinguished from the other. Forgetting how he was oddly dressed Edward left the room only to be discovered by the previously mentioned guard and he was thrown out onto the street leaving the true Prince homeless and Tom Canty in his place. Thus begins the meat of the story. We read about Edward’s adventures and how he manages to find Tom’s family and only his mother notices the difference after a strange test. Edward struggles through life as a pauper and learns a lot about his kingdom and the people he is one day to rule. With the help of a loyal protector he manages to escape Tom’s unruly father and formulate a plan to retake his kingdom. Meanwhile Tom is learning what it means to be a Prince. He quickly tires of all the pomp and ceremony. In spite of his efforts to try and correct the mistake and find the true Prince no one believes him and many are convinced he has gone mad and spend their time trying to correct his lapse in memory and manners. It is upon the death of the King and the coronation ceremony that the truth comes out and things are restored as they should be however, both boys are profoundly changed from the experience and become better in their own sphere. The Prince and the Pauper makes the reader think and question the values and ways of society. Even though it was written over one hundred years ago it is still amazingly applicable today making people think about how a simple accident of birth created two strikingly different people but being subtly switched they are much the same.

3 Willows the sisterhood grows by Ann Brashares

3_Williows3 Willows the sisterhood grows by Ann Brashares fits into the juvenile fiction genre and was published in 2009. It is recommended for readers ages 12 and up.

3 Willows is a companion novel to The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants where the pants girls are something akin to an urban legend and have long since moved on with their lives. 3 Willows follows the summers of three girls in their early teens. Polly, Jo, and Ama. Polly had always been a bit of an outsider and marched to the beat of her own drummer. Through some crazy whim she decides that she wants to be a model and somehow convinces her artist mother to let her go to a summer modeling camp. Jo spends her summer at her family’s beach house with her mom. Her parents are having a “trial separation” basically making official what they’d been doing since her brother’s death. To keep her mind off of it Jo gets a job as a bus girl at a local restaurant and surprises herself with her newfound popularity and a fun summer with an unexpected boy. Ama signed up for a summer academic camp to further her studies and add to her future college applications. In a random twist of fate and paperwork she ends up in Wyoming at an outdoor camp the only black girl in the bunch she is convinced they did it to make the camp look more diverse. While struggling with the outdoor and having her mind set on having a bad summer Ama surprises herself by actually learning something and enjoying herself in the end, although it took getting lost and a call home to make up her mind. Meanwhile Jo comes to grips with her parent’s separation and learns, through a series of frustrating experiences, who her true friends are and what they’d do for her. Polly discovers the sad truth about her mother and that she is not model material, which is a good thing. Together they find new ways to be happy and set reachable goals. 3 Willows is a great book that teaches about how to find true happiness and what really matters in life. Brashares manages to address big topics while maintaining a fun reading experience making this a great book for any girl.

Other reviews available:

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares

Love and Peaches by Jodi Lynn Anderson

Love and PeachesLove and Peaches by Jodi Lynn Anderson fits into the juvenile fiction genre and was published in 2008. It is recommended for readers ages 16 and up.

Love and Peaches is the fun and fitting conclusion to the Peaches books. We follow Murphy, Leeda, and Birdie though one last summer that brings their lives more heartache and changes than any of them thought possible. At the beginning of the summer none of the girls are home in Georgia. Leeda and Murphy are off to college in New York City and Birdie is in Mexico City with her boyfriend Enrico as an exchange student. While they were supposed to be doing a casual study date Birdie found an engagement ring in Enrico's backpack and was shocked when he proposed but she said yes, but she soon learned that she wasn’t ready to be engaged and in a moment of recklessness wrote a letter to Enrico and hopped on an airplane back to Georgia. Leeda and Murphy have already arrived and while Leeda deals with the death, funeral, and will reading of her late Grandmother Murphy decides to go visit Rex, her ex-boyfriend. As it turns out Leeda landed a large inheritance with an even larger responsibility. Murphy discovers how big a mistake she made leaving Rex and also the truth about her paternity, which by the way I suspected all along. Through many adventures, some expected and some unexpected the three girls learn a lot about themselves and about each other. They grow to be wonderful individuals going in directions that they didn’t think were possible. It was a well-written book full of interesting conflicts and really believable characters that can inspire young girls while keeping them thoroughly entertained.


Other reviews available:

Peaches by Jodi Lynn Anderson

The Secrets of Peaches by Jodi Lynn Anderson