Wednesday, April 30, 2008

New Moon (book review)

New Moon, by Stephenie Meyer, is the sequel to the bestselling book Twilight. Isabella Swan and her boyfriend, a beautiful vampire named Edward, are facing all sorts of problems in their relationship. They are still recovering from a brutal attack that happened not so long ago. When Edward's brother Jasper nearly kills Bella after smelling her blood, Edward decides that he can't put her life in danger any more. He and his family vanish without a trace.

Their disappearance leaves Bella broken inside, until she decides to go visit her Native American friend Jacob. He breaks her shell, and she discovers the light again. But then, Jacob gets mixed up with a gang of werewolves who recruit him to protect the reservation.

Meanwhile, Edward is heading to his death. After hearing a rumor that Bella has committed suicide (she did go cliff diving), he decides to visit the most powerful vampire family ever, the only ones who can kill him. Bella and her vampire friend Alice have to stop him before he dies!

When the vampire family returns after the incident, Bella realizes she will have to make a choice. Werewolves and vampires can not be together. It's either Jacob or the Cullens. Inside, she knows who she will choose, but that won't change the pain she feels inside her.

I thought this book was even more exciting than the first, which is hard to believe. The addition of werewolves made Bella's life a lot more complicated and interesting. In the end she knew she had to choose between Jacob the werewolf and Edward the vampire. I hope to get Eclipse from the library soon.

Rebel Angels (book review)

Rebel Angels, by Libba Bray, is the sequel to A Great and Terrible Beauty. Gemma Doyle and her friends, Felicity Worthington and Ann Bradshaw, are excited about Christmas break, a chance to get away from the forbidding Spence Academy. They will have more time to visit the Realms, a magical world where the girls have power beyond their imagining. Even better, they find that their lost friend Pippa is there as well, eager to complete their circle of friends. But the threat of the witch Circe hangs above all their heads. In fact, she may be spying on them at Spence, the very place they thought was completely safe...

This book was even better than the first, and that one was hard to beat! There was much more suspense than in the first one. I wish the third one was out in paperback, but I'll be sad when I finish the trilogy.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Red Scarf Girl (book review)

Red Scarf Girl, by Ji-Li Jiang, is a true story about the Cultural Revolution. The author is twelve years old in the book. At the beginning, she is a model student at the top of the class. But as the story progresses, she is ridiculed by fellow students born into "red" families, for Jiang was born into a "black" family. All around her, lives are being ruined and families torn apart. People commit suicide. Homes are destroyed. When Jiang's own father is detained, she faces the most difficult decision of her life--she can testify against her father in court and be given all the honors and privileges that red children have, or she can be forced to bear even more pain. What will Ji-Li decide?

This was an incredibly sad story. It's impossible for me to imagine being in her place. I am glad that I didn't live in China during this time.

Nobody's Princess (book review)

Nobody's Princess, by Esther Friesner, is a fictional story about Helen of Sparta. She isn't like her prissy sister, Clytemnestra. Instead, Helen takes an interest in sword-fighting, riding, and archery. When she is called away to a foreign land, Helen takes the time to learn more and more about her abilities and also make many friends (as well as enemies). She takes part in a boar hunt, serves as a weapons-bearer, and does many other things she never would have imagined in her wildest dreams!

This book pulled me in from beginning to end! Helen was a funny character, not at all what you picture when you think of a princess! I am eagerly awaiting the sequel right now, although I have more than enough to read!

Stargirl (book review)

Stargirl, by Jerry Spinelli, is the story of a normal high school with normal students (including Leo, the story's narrator). But all that changes when Stargirl comes to school. She wears outrageous clothes, plays the ukelele, and brings her pet rat, Cinammon, to school.

At first, the students of Mica High are dazzled by Stargirl. She suddenly becomes the most popular girl in school. Everybody is strumming their ukelele at lunch, and the pet store is sold out of rats. Then, people begin to turn on her for everything that makes her different. Leo, who finds himself fascinated by her, urges Stargirl to change her ways and try to fit in with everybody else. This is the very thing that could destroy her.

I love this book! It's a moving story about a typical high school and about girl who thought differently than most. I am excited to read the sequel, which is told from Stargirl's point of view.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Back to the Divide (book review)

Back to the Divide, by Elizabeth Kay, is the second book in the Divide Trilogy. Felix is back, and, unfortunately, so is Snakeweed, the evil pixie who spread terror in the first book. This time, Snakeweed steals the spell to get across the Divide from Felix, and freezes his parents in the process! To find a cure, Felix heads to the alternate world he learned about the summer before in Costa Rica. He has his old friends, Betony, the elf, and Ironclaw and Thornbeak the griffins, to help him. To heal Felix's parents, they will have to travel deep into hidden deserts and face sphinxes, evil genies, and a pack of sabertooth-tigers.

Meanwhile, back in Felix's own world, two scientists have discovered Felix's frozen parents and, to their dismay, they find that whatever touches the frozen adults also freezes. They start studying it immediately. Felix knows that magic being discovered on Earth will have a disastrous effect. Can he fix the dilemmas in both his own world and the magical one?

I enjoyed this book even more than the first! It was nice to see more sides of the land across the Divide, and it was interesting to see that our world's problems and that world's problems were very similar--as were their solutions.

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Ruins of Gorlan (book review)

The Ruins of Gorlan, by John Flanagan, is the start of the series Ranger's Apprentice. Fifteen-year-old Will, small for his age, is our main character.

On the Choosing, the day that all the castle orphans will choose their craft, Will decides to apply for Battleschool. He is determined to be a knight, like his dead father. But Will's size works against him. The Battlemaster tells Will that he is too small, and instead he is chosen to become a Ranger's apprentice.

The Rangers, mysterious men hidden in green-and-gray cloaks, have always made Will nervous. Rumors that they are black wizards circulate through the town. But they couldn't be farther from the truth.

The Rangers are the scouts and spies of the kingdom. They lead knights on hidden pathways and find information for the king. Their job is incredibly dangerous. And now Will is one of them.

He will have to train hard, because the exiled lord Morgarath is rising again, and he has one of his most deadly assassins on Will's friend's trail. The time has come for Will to be a hero.

This book was different and interesting. It was a fast read, and a good one. The setting and characters were fresh, new, and multi-dimensional, and the conflict felt real. In other words, I can't wait for the sequel!

The Outlaw Varjak Paw (book review)

The Outlaw Varjak Paw, by SF Said, is the author's second novel in this series. In the first, we met Varjak Paw, the brave and noble cat who saved his family from disaster. Now, his story continues. Varjak lives with his friends Holly and Tam in the city. It's mostly a happy life, although sometimes they have to struggle through harsh times.

But everything changes when Sally Bones's gang attacks. Sally Bones is the meanest of the mean, and she can freeze you where you stand with just a look from her single, ice-blue eye.

Sally Bones has kidnapped one of Holly's friends, a little kitten named Jess. To save her and end Sally Bones's rule once and for all, Varjak gathers a small army and meets some very unlikely allies and friends in the process.

Varjak is skilled in the power of the Way, an ancient martial art for cats. But will the Way alone be enough to rescue Jess and destroy Sally Bones forever?

I thought this book was a sequel worthy of its predecessor. The story pulled me right in, and I couldn't put it down! I also liked how the story wove in and out of two worlds--the harsh real world and Varjak's strange dream world. And sometimes, with the characters, there's more than meets the eye.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Un Lun Dun (book review)

Un Lun Dun, by China Mieville, is a story about a fantastical city lying parallel to London. Called Un Lun Dun, it is a city of carnivorous giraffes, ancient prophecies, and fighting dustbins. When Zanna and her best friend Deeba discover this wonderful city, it seems as if an old prophecy will become true and Zanna (known by the UnLondoners as the Shwazzy) will save them from an old evil. But when Zanna herself is defeated, who will save the day?
The answer? Deeba.

It doesn't matter if she isn't the Shwazzy. Deeba will do whatever it takes to save this strange city that she has come to love. She must face pain, homesickness, betrayal, and monsters of all sorts if she wants to triumph. But she will also make friends of all kinds and earn great respect in the process.

I thought that this book was great! It had enough adventure for a whole series, and sometimes I found myself thinking, "no, that happened in the last one". It was a slow read, but the plot was great, like a city's back alleys: full of twists and turns and occasionally even dead ends!

A Great and Terrible Beauty (book review)

A Great and Terrible Beauty, by Libba Bray, is the story of Gemma Doyle. Gemma isn't like other girls, in more ways than one. You could say that she's a rebel, not always willing to sit back and do what she's told. And she's also prone to visions.

When Gemma's mother is brutally murdered in India, Gemma is sent to Spence Academy in London. She's treated like an outcast at first, but she manages to make a few friends. Then, in her art class, she learns about a shadowy women's group called the Order, who presumably deals with magic. Gemma and her friends decide to make their own Order, and soon they have magic power beyond their dreams. At first they're simply having fun. But then things begin to go horribly wrong. A deadly beast stalks their every move, and the girls' incredible powers start to spin out of control!

I absolutely LOVED this book! The fantasy, horror, and historical elements spin together and weave the perfect tale. I didn't want to put it down! I bought the sequel last night, Rebel Angels, and I hope to read it soon!

Chasing Redbird (book review)

Chasing Redbird, by Sharon Creech, is the story of thirteen-year-old Zinny. She lives in a family with six other children, and she is generally considered the nobody. Everyone else in the family seems to have their place as "the pretty one," or "the nice one," or "the clever one," or "the thoughtful one," etc. Her sisters call her the "strange and stingy one". When Zinny discovers an old trail in her backyard, she realizes that she finally has a chance to show everyone that she's a somebody. Although she doesn't realize it, the trail will bring her more than fame. She will also learn more about herself and her family than she ever would have guessed.

This was another of Sharon Creech's hits! I thought that she couldn't possibly have written a better book than Walk Two Moons, but apparently I was wrong! This story was deeply moving, sad and happy at the same time. It was a REAL winner!

The Animals of Farthing Wood (book review)

The Animals of Farthing Wood, by Colin Dann, is the story of the inhabitants of a small patch of trees surrounded by houses and roads. Farthing Wood was once a great expanse of land, surrounded by Farthing Heath. But now, the humans have forced the animals into a smaller and smaller area. When they find that their pond (the only good source of water left) has been filled in, they decide to take action. Led by wise, young Fox and humble Badger, they journey to the nature reserve White Deer Park. Lives will be lost, but companions will be found along the way as the animals journey across deserts, rivers, and through woods.

This book was a slow read, but it was worth it to learn about the hardships and triumphs of the animals' journey. The characters were just as real and emotional as people would be. I just don't find many books like this one!

A Wolf at the Door (book review)

A Wolf at the Door is a collection of retold fairy tales by authors such as Garth Nix and Neil Gaiman. Some were funny, some disturbing, some enchanting. And one I just didn't understand, "The Seven Stage a Comeback."

My favorite stories were "Ali Baba and the Forty Aliens" and "Cinder Elephant," both of which were on the humorous side. "Ali Baba and the Forty Aliens" was a retelling of "Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves." I thought the ending was a bit of a letdown, but still enjoyed it very much. "Cinder Elephant" was, of course, a retelling of Cinderella. I like this even more than I like the original fairy tale. It was funnier and it had a nice twist to it. This book had a wonderful variety of stories, and I'll definitely be keeping my eyes open for more collections of fairy tale retellings.

Icefire (book review)

Icefire, by Chris D'Lacey, is the continuing story of David, whom I first met in The Fire Within. For nearly a year he has lived with the mysterious Elizabeth Pennykettle, her daughter Lucy, and their clay dragons (which come to life, by the way). But things are starting to get even stranger than they usually are. A mystic, white bear is stalking David, and a mysterious woman appears at their doorstep with wicked plans for the dragons. Now, David and his goth friend Zanna have to get to the bottom of this mystery, save David's new home, and discover the true power of the icefire!

This was a thrilling story about bears, dragons, and witches. It was even more intense than the previous book, and as it ended I was left wishing I had the next book to immediately dive into. Unfortunately though, it will just have to wait.

I'd Tell You That I Love You, But Then I'd Have To Kill You (book review)

I'd Tell You That I Love You, But Then I'd Have To Kill You, by Ally Carter, is the story of Cammie Morgan. She goes to Gallagher's Academy for Exceptional Young Women. Gallagher has a secret--it's a school for spies! Sure, Cammie knows fourteen different languages and can kill a man with a piece of uncooked spaghetti, but when she meets an ordinary boy who thinks she's a normal girl, she doesn't know what to do. Can she maneuver a relationship with a person who can never know who she really is?

I really liked this book! It was funny, quick, and light. I'm waiting for the sequel, Cross My Heart and Hope To Spy, to come out in paperback.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Pieces of Georgia (book review)

Pieces of Georgia, by Jen Bryant, is the extremely moving story of a young girl whose life changes incredibly in one year. Georgia is an artist, but her father turns away whenever he sees her with a pad and pencil. It reminds him too much of dead Georgia's mother. Then, Georgia gets a mysterious card in the mail, a card that grants her permission to the Brandywine River Museum. There, Georgia discovers the power to look inside herself and find her true destiny.

As I said before, this book was incredibly moving. I found it similar to Pictures of Hollis Woods, as the protagonists are both young artists who have lost members of their family and both discover important things about themselves and the people around them. It was a great read!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Mimus (book review)

Mimus, by Lilli Thal, is the story of Prince Florin. His home, Moltovia, has been at war with the kingdom of Vinland for years. Now, the king of Vinland has offered to end the war and have a celebratory banquet at Vinland's castle. But it's a trap. Florin's father and friends are thrown in the dungeon, soon to be executed, and Florin is apprenticed to Mimus, the king's lowly court jester. Florin knows the time will come when he has to rescue his father and escape from this nightmare, but when will that be?

This book was good, but not as good as some other fantasies I've read. I was sad when I finished it though, so that's a good sign. The characters were funny, and real, and multi-dimensional.

Gregor and the Marks of Secret (book review)

In this exciting sequel to Gregor and the Warmbloods by Suzanne Collins, Gregor and his sister Boots once again find themselves in the mysterious Underlands. The young queen Luxa needs his help. Her friends, the nibblers (giant mice) are being murdered by the rats, and it seems that war is inevitable if they want to save them. Gregor, Boots, Luxa, and their companions embark on a journey to the mysterious Firelands to see if they can save the mice in time. But it is dangerous, and some of them will die on the trip. Will they be able to keep going, or will they be forced to watch the mice meet their end?

This book was perhaps the best of them all so far. The plot was more complex, and the book more serious. I will be disappointed when this series is over, but I am excited to read the final book!

The Real Benedict Arnold (book review)

The Real Benedict Arnold, by Jim Murphy, tells the story of Benedict Arnold, the famous traitor of the American Revolution. From his childhood to his death, this story tells it all. Unlike some books, it explains why he betrayed the American cause. In the book, the author says, "People have twisted his story to their needs until there is little of the real man left." This book tells the whole story of Benedict Arnold, who was a patriot and a traitor.

I'm glad I got this book, because I wanted to learn more about Benedict Arnold after we studied the Revolution last year. It was a perfect read for me, because it wasn't super easy but I didn't have to struggle through it either.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Starcross (book review)

Starcross, by Philip Reeve, is the exciting sequel to the novel Larklight. In this book, Art Mumby, his mother, and his annoying older sister Myrtle are invited to the asteroid hotel called Starcross.

Once they arrive, Art immediately notices strange things happening--like the sea disappearing and reappearing on a twenty-four hour schedule, and way the old hat sitting in his hotel room closet seems to be calling out to him...

When Art's old friends (see this review), controlled by evil hats called Moobs, and rather like the one in Art's hotel room closet, kidnap his mother (who isn't actually human but a Shaper, one of the most powerful creatures in the universe), it's up to Art and an unlikely band of followers to save them all. The fate of the universe lies in their hands!

I think I enjoyed this book even more than Larklight, and believe me, I loved Larklight! There was more action and sense of adventure. I also enjoyed the way this story was told from three points of view (Art's, Myrtle's, and a Moob's). I don't know if there's a sequel in the works, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

birthday books

As you can see, I got a lot of books for my birthday. Here's a list of everything and who got me what:

from Jean:

How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy by Orson Scott Card

The Poet's Notebook (a poetry journal full of quotes)

from my grandparents:

Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card

from my mom and dad:

Physik by Angie Sage

Back to the Divide by Elizabeth Kay

Dragons: The Greatest Stories by varied authors

Un Lun Dun by China Mieville

The Valley of Secrets by Charmian Hussey

The Hand Of The Devil by Dean Vincent Carter

I'd Tell You That I Love You, But Then I'd Have To Kill You by Ally Carter

Best Dog Stories by varied authors

The World of King Arthur and His Court by Kevin Crossley Holland

what I bought with my birthday money:

Icefire by Chris D'Lacey

Finding Redbird by Sharon Creech

Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

Nobody's Princess by Esther Friesner

A Great And Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

Leonardo's Shadow by Christopher Grey

I also got an Amazon gift certificate from my Uncle Tony and Aunt Amy that I haven't used yet.

Thank you everyone!!!

Now I am off to add some of these to my challenge lists!

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Rules (book review)

Rules, by Cynthia Lord, is the story of twelve-year-old Catherine. She has always wanted a normal life, and that isn't easy with a brother who has autism. Then, Catherine meets Kristi and Jason. Jason is a surprising new friend, and Kristi is the next-door friend that Catherine has always wanted. But Jason and Kristi are very different. Catherine may have to choose between them, and conflict leaves her wondering: what is normal?

I liked this book a lot, and it left me wanting to read more books about this subject. Catherine was a special character, and she went through a lot of hard times. It's hard not to feel sympathy for her.