Friday, December 21, 2007
Assessment: Hale is just a wonderful storyteller! Her books are exciting and expressive. Here, she takes an obscure Grimm fairytale (Maid Maleen) and imagined it on the central Asian steppes. Not only is it fascinating to read about the culture and religious beliefs of the time, but you'll be riveted to the fleshed-out and well paced story. What's more, then end is so satisfying you'll want to cheer for Lady Saren who moves from being a terrified mouse to a lady who learns her worth, and especially for Dashti who, while holding completely true to her values, earns her worth.
Thursday, November 22, 2007
Summary: A coming of age story in 16th century London, Coriander beings her story happily, the wealthy daughter of loving parents. But after her mother dies, she sees strange goings-on, strangest of all, her father's marriage to a mean Puritanical mother. When her father is arrested in association with Oliver Cromwell, her step-mother takes in a horrible priest, who rules the family with an iron fist. When Coriander rebels against them, he locks her in a trunk for three years. But instead of dying, Coriander learns of another fairy world where her mother had been a princess and her wicked aunt is trying to seize control. Coriander learns to take control in both her London world and in the fairy world.
Assessment: This is another wonderful book for girls. It is quiet in story, but extremely rich in details. History buffs will savor the flavors of the details of the politics and lifestyles of the day, as well the touch of romance in the fairy world. The novel is beautifully written, well-plotted, and just a delight to read.
Sunday, September 16, 2007
Summary: Arthur and his sister Myrtle are expecting a guest on their seldom-visited home of Larklight just outside the moon's orbit. Unfortunately for them, their visitor turns out to be a band of giant spiders who quickly take over their home. The two siblings quickly escape and are rescued by a band of pirates. The pirates turn out to be not as bad as their reputation that precedes them. In a space skirmish, Myrtle is taken to Mars by the fiendish spiders to be rescued by Martians. She ends up in London (only to assault Queen Victoria in a case of mistaken identity!). Arthur, on the other hand, in the search for his sister, finds his long-lost (and believed to be dead mother). Arthur and his mother realize that the spiders are planning something horrible on Earth to bring down the British Empire. Little do they realize that it is not at the Crystal Palace, but the Crystal Palace itself as the celebrated building turns into an enormous machine bent on destroying London.
Summary: Arthur, Myrtle, and their mother decide to take a holiday at the famous Starcross resort on an asteroid off Mars. Soon, Arthur realizes that the asteroid has the ability to travel back in time to when Mars once had oceans. While there, they discover that a a band of interstellar creatures called Moobs that seem to have taken on the shape of gentlemen's hats. Myrtle gets stranded with her pirate love interest and a member of the French Legion back in Martian pre-history. Arthur and his mother, on the other hand, have to keep the Moobs from taking over the British Empire.
Assessment: It is 1851 and Britannia not only rules the waves, but Mars, Jupiter, and other parts of the universe as well. Phillip takes a page from Jules Verne with unusual machines and fantastic worlds where life teem and humans don't have to worry about space suits or oxygen, and fuses it with action. The pace is non-stop fun, particularly in the author's ability to portray and parody British sensibilities from the 1800s. For example, Myrtle is absolutely obsessed with dresses she sees in magazines and appearing to be a proper British lady (including her wondering why she can't swoon like the ladies in the novels she reads). Arthur, on the other hand, takes comical views of his sisters silliness (glossing over people gushing emotions and making fun of his sister's bathing costume - a proper Victorian thing with a bustle to hold safety supplies should the wearer be lost at sea). Both books were just tremendous fun to read and I highly recommend them.
Sunday, August 19, 2007
Assessment: This is a charming and magical book for girls who might like Harry Potter, but perhaps find them a little too scary. Although Emma faces some difficult and perilous tasks, such as getting a pearl from a sea witch or the breath of a green dragon, she accomplishes these things by seeking out friends, making friends, or using her own cunning and budding magical skills. No one, not even a vicious manticore, is killed. Readers will also enjoy some of Emma's humorous mistakes in learning to gain control of her magic, including the fact that whenever she sneezes, she and Eadric suddenly become frogs. This book is the second in a series. Although I have not read the first one yet (though I hope to soon), I found that despite the fact I hadn't read it, I still understood quite well what was happening, so don't worry if you come late into the series as well.
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
Sunday, May 27, 2007
Saturday, April 14, 2007
Assessment: I discovered this book accidentally in a giveaway pile at work. I found the premise intriguing, but what really captured me was the writing. Lubar does a great job filling in the details of middle-school life: the snobby girls, the bully, the dorky friends, the pressures to be cool, make good grades, and survive teachers and parents. I was amazed at the realism he managed to pack in a sci-fi/ fantasy book. Yet don't get me wrong, it's not a gripping drama. It's quite humorous, and fast paced. The quick chapters make you want to turn the next page to discover what was going to happen next. And usually what happens is quite amusing. However, I recommend it for middle-school readers for it covers middle-school life quite well, including words I usually don't really approve of in children's books such as "crap" and "jackass", but work here with the realism and the characters' personalities.
Saturday, April 7, 2007
Assessment: I actually had the good fortune of meeting the author at a writer's conference and fell in love with the first line. After reading Skellig, I found its beautiful simplicity stayed with me. It is essentially a story of love and the power of the human spirit. Michael and Mina are helpless when it comes to Michael's sister, but they continue assisting Skellig, despite his protests. Skellig almost seems to embody the spirit of the sick baby, telling the children towards the end that babies are weak. But Michael isn't ready to lose anyone, and tells Skellig that babies are strong. This strong spirit of determination brings forth a magical ending for both Skellig and the baby. This book itself is pure magic.
Saturday, February 10, 2007
Summary: This is how it all begins. Peter is an orphan boy doomed to serve in the court of a wicked king in another land. Along the journey on a dilapidated ship called the Never Land with several other orphan boys destined for the same fate, he meets an intelligent and intriguing girl named Molly Aster. However, the ship is commandeered by a terrible pirate named Captain Black Stache and shipwrecked on an uncharted island. Thus ensues a fight over Molly's trunk which contains valuable "starstuff"; stuff that Stache is willing to kill for, but Peter and Molly are willing to protect with their lives.
Peter and the Shadow Thieves
Summary: Peter learns that a creature named Lord Ombra, who has the ability to steal people's shadows leaving them in his control, is after the Asters and the "starstuff". Worried for his friends, Peter leaves the safety of Mollusk Island to travel across the sea with his companion Tinkerbell to dirty and poor streets of London. Despite many difficult setbacks including Peter being forced into a gang of thieving urchins and Tink being captured, they are able to meet Molly. Together, they must find her father who has disappeared and rescue her mother from the clutches of the wicked Lord Ombra.
Assessment: I found the first book very entertaining. It had humorous moments and enough action to keep the pages turning. It also followed quite faithfully both J.M Barrie's original Peter Pan as well as the Disney movie, so that if you're familiar with just one, you'll remember who's who. But even if you're not, you'll have no problem keeping up with the characters and story. The second book is even better than the first. It's a little darker and jam packed with action. The characters are drawn more deeply, such as Peter noticing that Molly has grown some while he hasn't, and George Darling's and Peter's antagonism. The 500 pages completely fly by leaving you wanting more of the adventures of Peter and Molly.
Saturday, January 27, 2007
Saturday, January 20, 2007
Synopsis: Molly is kidnapped and taken to 19th century India by the evil time traveling hypnotist, the Maharajah of Waqt. However, Molly refuses to go along with his nefarious plans. The Maharajah realizes that she stands in his way, and kidnaps Molly as a baby, a three year old, six year old, and ten year old. Now Molly must rescue all the versions of herself and conquer time travel in order to get everyone home.
Synopsis: When the dragons learn that man is coming to their hidden valley, they realize that they need to find a new home. One dragon named Firedrake offers to find the mythical Rim of Heaven for them to live. Along the way, he and a brownie discover an orphaned boy named Ben who offers to help them look for the Rim of Heaven, despite the fact that no one really knows the way. To make matters worse, an evil dragon-slaying golden dragon named Nettlebrand is hunting Firedrake to rid the world of all dragons.
Assessment: This book will engage boys and girls with an interesting cast of characters including a homunculus, dwarfs, sand fairies, and a thousand eyed djinni. I found the story engaging and interesting, but not too overly complicated for readers to follow. It is simple and sweet, but I wouldn't recommend it for older readers. I think it is best for younger readers or boys who read Harry Potter, but don't show much interest in any other books.
Friday, January 19, 2007
Synopsis: Rusty is just an ordinary house cat until one day he meets and cat in the forest and learns about the clans. Although many are not happy to have a "kittypet" enter, Rusty is taken in by the ThunderClan and given the new name Firepaw. Along with meeting new friends and learning the ways of the clans, he must prove to everyone that his heart belongs with them and not with his former "twoleg" masters.
Synopsis: Firepaw is now Fireheart, a true warrior of ThunderClan with his own apprentice, Cinderpaw. However, after meeting his sister, he begins to wonder where his loyalties lie, particularly after his best friend, Graystripe, falls in love with a cat from another clan. However, after Cinderpaw is nearly killed in a terrible accident, Fireheart begins to suspect that someone in his own clan may be trying to kill the leader of the Clan.
Synopsis: Fireheart is given charge of his nephew Cloudpaw while the crippled Cinderpaw learns to become a medicine cat. Graystripe learns that his love is pregnant causing even more friction between him and his friend. Just as tensions run high, floods and a dangerous rogue cat threatens the ThunderClan. And it seems that the cat is getting help from ThunderClan's own deputy.
Synopsis: Clan leader Bluestar is badly shaken by what has happened to the treachery of her own deputy, Tigerclaw. Unable to trust anyone, she makes Fireheart deputy. However, his apprentice Cloudpaw seems to want the comfortable life as a kittypet making the ThunderClan even more uncomfortable with their leader's decision. However, that is the least of their problems when they discover that Tigerclaw is now Tigerstar, leader of the ShadowClan.
Synopsis: Bluestar is even more confused. When a dog is believed to be running loose in the forest, she becomes convinced that it is the work of WindClan who wish to steal ThunderClan's prey. Despite evidence to the contrary, she is unmoved. Fireheart must go behind his leader's back in order to prevent an unnecessary war.
Synopsis: Fireheart is now Firestar, leader of the Thunderclan. Tigerstar's power has grown even further as he joins the ShadowClan and WindClan together with the aid of city cats. However, when the city cats decide to take over the forest, Firestar must convince all the clans to fight together or the forest will be lost forever.