Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Shadow Thieves by Anne Ursu

Summary: Strange things start happening to Charlotte Mielswetzski the day a cute little kitten appears and demands to be taken home. Not long after that, her cousin Zee shows up from London telling her a terrible tale about the kids in his school that had all mysterious coma-like sickness. Then, the kids at Charlotte's school start showing the same symptoms and strange white-faced men in tuxedos start following Charlotte around. Soon, Charlotte and Zee learn that that a demon named Philonecron is stealing shadows to create an army to overthrow Hades, the king of the underworld.

Assessment: First, let me say that at first, I found this book quite fast-paced and action-filled. And then I read Percy Jackson. Okay, it doesn't stand up to Percy in that regard. It is not filled with swordfights and demons trying to kill Charlotte and Zee at every turn. One reader on the Barnes and Noble website said it was boring. So I do not recommend this book to the reluctant reader, and it might be more suitable for girls. But having said that, it still is a very enjoyable book. I enjoyed seeing Charlotte uses her wits to get out of some very frightening scenarios including escaping flesh-eating rhyming harpies and facing down Philonecron's zombie army of the dead. Finally, I liked the withdrawn and a tad sarcastic third person narration. The mix of adventure and humor is well mixed making this a slightly slower, but no less enjoyable romp into Greek mythology. And I cannot end this review without mentioning how satisfying it is to learn the true origin of Charlotte's kitten, but I won't say what it is. You'll have to find out for yourself.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Ye gods!

I just finished Percy Jackson and the Lightening Thief which I really enjoyed. I would write about it here, but as we all know from the constant ads, the movie is coming out very soon. Because the goal of this blog is to highlight lesser-known books, I suppose it wouldn't be fair to post about that book since by the time a movie is made of the book, it no longer qualifies as lesser-known.

So, in the same vein, I plan to highlight two other books I read and enjoyed that deal with the Greek gods. I will introduce one this week and one next week.

Juliet Dove Queen of Love by Bruce Coville

Summary: Shy Juliet Dove wishes just once she could get a little attention once in a while. But after she gets a strange amulet from an even stranger shop, she suddenly discovers that all the boys have all developed major crushes on her. Far from nice, the attention is annoying! But when she tries to take off the amulet, she discovers that it won't come off! With the help of two mice acting as cupids, Juliet discovers that she's become the new Helen of Troy (not Venus as the title suggests) and she must learn to use her strengths to get her out of this situation - if she can only figure out what those are.

Assessment: This is a part of the Magicshop series which (shame on me!) I hadn't read until I got my hands on this book. I plan to read more of those books since this one was so much fun. Don't worry, there's no mushiness here (or kissy-kissy parts as a student of mine once called it). Instead, Ju
liet discovers the old "be careful what you wish for" adage and doesn't want all the attention. What you get is a fast-paced story, memorable characters, and good humor.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Witch Week By Diana Wynne Jones

The Chronicles of Chrestomanci Book 4.

A note starts all the trouble. The note reads, "Someone in this class is a witch." In any other classroom setting, the teach would have crumpled it up and continued with his lessons. But in this world, one very similar to our own, being accused of witchcraft is a very serious crime - one in which the accused can be burned at the stake. Not long after their teacher discovers the note, Charles Morgan and Nan Underwood, both unpopular students at the dreaded Larwood House, a dreary boarding school, realize that they can do magic. Little by little they test their newfound abilities with a secret glee - that is, until when they learn that the Inquisitors are coming to the school to find the accused witch! Only Chrstomanci can help save them from the terrible fate that happens to witches in their world.

Assessment: I liked this story even better than The Magicians of Caprona, to which this story was bundled in my book. One can easily sympathize with the plight of poor picked-on Charles and unpopular Nan. Who hasn't wished for magical abilities to play tricks on our tormentors (my dream in middle school!) without magical abilities? But along with that, there are hints that they aren't the only ones with magical abilities - there's also the Indian student Nirupam and Brian. Jones skillfully switches between the four students' point of view helping us learn more about the terrible school and world they live in - and how each one has been personally touched in some way or another by the draconian laws of the land. Furthermore, she sprinkles the story with good humor like brooms that demand to be ridden and mops and hoes that act more like stubborn mules when ridden. While Larwood House is the opposite of Harry Potter's beloved Hogwarts, this story puts every bit as much fun as any Potter story.