Monday, April 20, 2009

Fablehaven: Rise of the Evening Star

Title: Fablehaven: Rise of the Evening Star
Author: Brandon Mull

What it's about: Taking place after Fablehaven, this book sees Kendra dealing with the consequences of the fairy queen's aid. She has to use her new abilities to help her grandparents seek out the magical relic hidden somewhere on Fablehaven's grounds. Meanwhile, she and Seth are undergoing instruction from three magical specialists who are also at Fablehaven to help. The Society of the Evening Star is on the move, also, and it's getting harder to know who to trust. It's once again up to Kendra and Seth to save the day.

What I thought: Just like in the previous book, there's plenty to spark one's imagination. The humor and genuinely dark elements are well-balanced, and you can see how Kendra and Seth grow as characters. I particularly liked the action sequence near the end and how elements from the previous book come into play here.

Overall: A very nice follow-up to Fablehaven.

The Secret Under My Skin

Title: The Secret Under My Skin
Author: Janet McNaughton

What it's about: In the future, technology is scorned and people live harsher, simpler lives. However, Blay Raytee learns that the world is more complex than what they told her in the government work-camp where she lives. She is chosen to assist the community's new bio-indicator, a young woman named Marrella, and this gives Blay the opportunity to learn about how the world works, both with politics and with science. Her new life gives her the chance to discover who she is and how she fits into the world.

What I thought: The world of the story is very well-developed. I thought the plot lacked punch. The climactic events seemed small compared to what they could have been. However, the world and the characters were engaging, and I enjoyed reading Blay's story.

Overall: Not bad, but it didn't especially wow me.

Tiger Moon

Title: Tiger Moon
Author: Antonia Michaelis

What it's about: A young woman, married to a man she does not love tells a tale to her husband's servant while she waits to be taken to the marriage bed. She tells of a hero sent to rescue a princess captured by a demon. The hero, an unlikely thief named Farhad, is joined by a white tiger named Nitish, and they quest for a gem that will allow them to barter for the princess's freedom. As the young woman tells her story, the tale starts to blend with reality, and a true hero emerges.

What I thought: Luxuriously described setting and well-drawn characters. A bit of a darker fairy tale, but with all the magic and mystical elements you could wish for. The two stories weave together nicely, and there's a touch of humor about it all.

Overall: Something different, and not bad at all.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Adoration of Jenna Fox

Title: The Adoration of Jenna Fox
Author: Mary Pearson

What it's about: After the accident, Jenna Fox can't remember anything. Not who she is, what her life was like, and not about the accident that brought her to this state. She has to start from scratch, looking at her life from an outsider's point of view and piecing together answers to the mystery of her life. However, ignorance, as they say, is bliss, and when Jenna finds her answers, will she wish that she'd never looked?

What I thought: First person, present tense narrative that starts fractured and grows in clarity and coherence as the book goes on, an interesting technique that mimics Jenna's recovery. Jenna is an interesting character, and her predicament is not predictable, not completely. The clues are cleverly laid, and the reveal is quite gripping. It's also the sort of thing I'd expect to be the climax of the story, but it works better where it is.

Overall: Entertaining and thought-provoking.

The Book Thief

Title: The Book Thief
Author: Markus Zusak

What it's about: Liesel Meminger is a foster child living in Nazi Germany. As the events of World War II push on, Liesel has her own small troubles adjusting to her new life to worry about. She learns to read, and she makes new friends, including her foster father, her neighbor, and a Jewish refugee. Her story is told by Death, who sees Liesel three times and who is affected by what he sees.

What I thought: Oddly enough, one of my first thoughts was to compare this book to To Kill A Mockingbird. It's the slice of life quality, how it depicts life in a time of change in a small town that seems isolated from the bigger world until that bigger world intrudes on it. Life in this book is not white-washed, but nor is it depicted as bleaker than it is. This is reality, the triumphs and the failings. It's something I noticed in Zusak's other book I Am The Messenger, and it's something I quite like when done well. This book is told in an interesting fashion. Death is the narrator, and he doesn't always treat things in a strictly linear, chronological fashion. Nonetheless it works. By the time I got to the end, it had actually moved me to tears. It's because of how good Zusak is at building relationships between his characters, and at developing the characters themselves, for that matter. Liesel's relationships with her father, with Rudy, with Max, with Rosa, and with Ilsa are all different, but they all affect her, and the emotional payoff at the end is all the better for it.

Overall: Can't recommend it highly enough.

Also, ugh, I'm behind on reviews again. Why is it that I can read so fast, but I can't manage to bang out a review when I'm done? Hm, I might just do what reviews I can manage and put the rest of the books on my list of books to read again and then review in the future.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


Title: Firestorm
Author: David Klass

What it's about: By all appearances, Jack is a normal high school boy. Only he's suddenly discovering strange abilities and being chased by sinister figures. On his own, unsure of who he can trust, Jack learns that it's up to him to save the future of our world by finding the Firestorm. Accompanied by a talking dog and a ninja trainer, Jack has to complete his mission while figuring out just what is going on.

What I thought: For a book that's supposed to teach a lesson about ecology and stuff, this book rocked pretty hard. The message was an integral part of the story and thus didn't get in the way because it was the way. And the writing style was a little jarring but it suited the story. All sentence fragments and present tense and half the time you weren't sure whether it was narration or mental communication. And the occasional aside to the reader, too. This was pretty action-packed, and Jack's reactions to everything were very realistic, just how you'd imagine someone to act if he was torn away from his old life and thrown into a mission where friggin' everyone wants to kill him.

Overall: A real page-turner with a satisfying conclusion that also leaves you eager for the sequel.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Hunger Games

And here we come to the first of four first-person, present-tense, vaguely futuristic/dystopian kinda novels that I read in a row. This was probably the best of the four, though that's not to say the others weren't good.

Title: The Hunger Games
Author: Suzanne Collins

What it's about: In the future, the former U.S. is divided into twelve poor districts and the Capitol that rules them. To keep the people in line, the Capitol makes two kids from each district fight to the death in the Battle Royale-style Hunger Games. Our protagonist Katniss is taken to fight when she volunteers to go in her sister's place, and she and the boy from her district are taken to the Capitol to be prepared for and to fight in the games.

What I thought: First off, this is a book that makes first person present tense narration work. If you think about it, when the book has a protagonist who could die at, like, any second, you lose a lot of the suspense if it's in past tense. And the first person really got me inside Katniss's head and personality. And she's one interesting personality. Tenacious, self-centered in the way plenty of people are, clever and calculating, Katniss is a great character to follow in a story like this. Her personality gave her relationship with Peeta an interesting dynamic. I've also got to say that the world of this story really worked for me and made the battle to the death scenario believable. The whole book wasn't just a fight to the death in the arena; there was an overlying plot about the country's politics, and yet that was interesting, too. This was a well-crafted, suspenseful book.

Overall: I can't recommend this enough. I'm so excited for the sequel.

Saturday, April 4, 2009


I stumbled on this series by chance when reading an interview on Shannon Hale's blog. Hale was interviewing Brandon Mull, and she talked about liking his Fablehaven books. Well, I'm a huge fan of Hale's, so I decided to give this book a try since she recommended it.

Author: Brandon Mull

What it's about: Kendra and Seth have to spend three weeks with their reclusive grandparents. But what at first seems like it will be a boring visit soon turns out to be riddled with mystery and fantasy, because their grandparents' estate is Fablehaven, a magical creatures reserve filled with naiads, satyrs, fairies, and much, much more. But while Fablehaven is a place of wonder, there's also plenty of danger lurking in the recesses of the forest. Kendra and Seth have to use all their skills and everything they've learned at Fablehaven if they want to save the day.

What I thought: For a book that seemed like it'd be for kids, this story is surprisingly savvy. I liked Kendra as a protagonist because she wasn't dumb; she understood the importance of following the rules and thinking things through, even if she was sometimes too timid. The world of Fablehaven was interesting and well-developed, combining lots of different myths. The book doesn't skimp on danger, and the adult characters don't withhold knowledge from the kids for no reason, to create a false sense of suspense. There's definite character growth, and though this is part of a series, Fablehaven has a nicely self-contained story.

Overall: Definitely a series to keep an eye on. I'm reading the sequel right now, and it has me hooked.