Friday, November 27, 2009

Found by Margaret Peterson Haddix: Review

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By: Margaret Peterson Haddix

Description: Thirteen-year-old Jonah has always known that he was adopted, and he's never thought it was any big deal. Then he and a new friend, Chip, who's also adoped, begin receiving mysterious letters. The first one says, "You are one of the missing." The second one says, "Beware! They're coming back to get you."

Jonah, Chip, and Jonah's sister, Katherine, are plunged into a mystery that involves the FBI, a vast smuggling operation, an airplane that appeared out of nowhere -- and people who seem to appear and disappear at will. The kids discover they are caught in a battle between two opposing forces that want very different things for Jonah and Chip's lives.

Do Jonah and Chip have any choice in the matter? And what should they choose when both alternatives are horrifying?

Review: Man, can Margaret Peterson Haddix write a YA thriller or what? I have no idea where she comes up with these ideas for stories, but they are phenomenal.

Jonah is a great character. He's very much a teenage boy. His parents have worked very hard to make his adoption a normal thing for him. Chip on the other hand has never been told that he's adopted. Frankly, it seems like his parents are pretty disconnected in a lot of aspects of Chip's life.  I was really interested in the two totally different ways these families handled the adoption situation.

The book was incredibly suspenseful. Haddix does a wonderful job of giving just enough information to be clear, but not enough to guess what is going to happen next. This book, like many of her others, is pretty short. I read this book in about two hours.

I wish I could go more into the details of the story, but any further information would really ruin the story. Basically, I loved this book.

Book-A-Likes: This book is good for readers that enjoy modern-day fiction, and science fiction. Frankly, I can't think of another book similar to it.

Rating:
I gave this book 5 stars.

Profanity: None that I can remember
Drugs and Alcohol: None
Sexuality: None
Violence: Mild. At most, there is a fistfight.


Friday, November 20, 2009

The Customary Twilight Post

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Yesterday, I wrote out this big long post about how I feel about paranormal romance, more specifically, Twilight.

I decided that publishing that post just wasn't necessary. Here's all you need to know.

Yes, I read Twilight. I don't understand the phenomenon. Maybe for teenage girls, but I can't figure out why 30 year old mothers and wives are totally obsessed with a 17 year old literary character. Or how they can relate to the dullest, sulkiest female protagonist ever.

No, I will not be seeing New Moon.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Review: The Dark Divine by Bree Despain

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The Dark Divine
By: Bree Despain
Release Date: December 22, 2009 
Read the First Chapter on Bree Despain's Website

From the Back Cover:
A prodigal son

A dangerous love

A deadly secret . . .

I stood back and watched his movements. Daniel had that way about him that could shut me down in an instant. . . . I kicked the gravel a couple of times and worked up my courage again. “Tell me . . . I mean . . . why did you come back? Why now, after all this time?”

Grace Divine, daughter of the local pastor, always knew something terrible happened the night Daniel Kalbi disappeared—the night she found her brother Jude collapsed on the porch, covered in blood. But she has no idea what a truly monstrous secret that night really held. And when Daniel returns three years later, Grace can no longer deny her attraction to him, despite promising Jude she’ll stay away.

As Grace gets closer to Daniel, her actions stir the ancient evil Daniel unleashed that horrific night. Grace must discover the truth behind Jude and Daniel's dark secret . . . and the cure that can save the ones she loves. But she may have to lay down the ultimate sacrifice to do it—her soul.

Review:
I think I'm liking paranormal romance more and more. Really, it can be awesome when it's written well and has other plots besides the romance.  I really liked the main character Grace. She was smart, and exceptionally kind.  That was something I think that was really missing from other paranormal romances that I've read lately. Grace has a drive to help those around her, even when it makes her uncomfortable.  Grace has a good relationship with her family, even though they have their problems.

Daniel was an intriguing character. Some of my favorite parts of the book were taking glimpses into his past and what he has done to overcome his difficulties. Bree does an excellent job of taking a problem like family abuse and giving it an alternate explanation while at the same time not making light of the very real emotional disruption these problems bring into a person's life.

I had only two notable problems with the story. First, I wasn't satisfied with the way things ended with the other love interest in the story. It seemed a little hurried and unfinished. The story may have been better without him in it.

The second problem is purely personal preference for me. I'm not a huge fan of the main characters in paranormal romances being teenagers. I know that that's the target audience for the book, but I guess I just don't feel like high school students generally have the maturity to experience emotions like true love.

If you like paranormal romance at all, you'll love this book. In fact, this would be a great Christmas gift for those on your list that are looking for something to read after Twilight.

Rating:
I gave this book a solid 4.5 stars, and rounded up to 5
Profanity: Pretty much non-existent. I mean, the main character is the daughter of a pastor...
Drugs and Alcohol: Mild. It's mentioned I think once in the story.
Sexuality: Extremely Mild.
Violence: Mild. There are a few murders in the book, and sometimes the descriptions are a little graphic, but nothing alarming.
Book-a-like: Twilight (cringe), Hush, Hush, Shiver

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Fire by Kristin Cashore

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Fire
By: Kristin Cashore


From the back cover: Set in a world of stunningly beautiful, exceptionally dangerous monsters, Fire is one of the most dangerous monsters of all - a human one. Marked out by her vivid red hair, she's more than attractive. Fire is mesmerising. But with this extraordinary beauty comes influence and power. People who are susceptible to her appeal will do anything for her attention, and for her affection. They will turn away from their families, their work, and their duties for her. They will forget their responsibilities to please her... and worse, crush nations, neglect kingdoms and abuse their power. Aware of her power, and afraid of it, Fire lives in a corner of the world away from people, and away from temptation. Until the day comes when she is needed - a day when, for her king, she has to stand against not only his enemies, but also against herself...


Review:
I just now realized that I never did write a review on "Graceling" by Kristin Cashore. I blame the morning sickness. I'll get one up soon. But, it is important to note that "Fire" is definitely not a sequel to "Graceling" and if you read them out of order, it won't really matter.

I loved the characters in "Fire." For me, that was definitely the reason I enjoyed the book as much as I did.  Obviously, I can't even begin to sympathize with Fire's "beauty" challenge. But, I enjoyed the struggle that she had with how to control her power. It seemed very real. It seemed like there were people all around her telling her to use the power to help other people. But, she was the only one who really knew how dangerous she could become.  Just because everyone is telling you something is right, definitely doesn't mean that it is. For me, that was the take-away message.

However, I had a really hard time getting into this book initially. And, after reading the reviews on Amazon.com and Goodreads, it appears that I am the only one who felt that way. I'm not sure if I was distracted, or what the deal was, but the first half of the book was a struggle for me to follow the plot. Once Fire had settled in one place, about halfway through the book, I figured out what was going on, and the second half of the book was FANTASTIC.

If you liked Graceling, you'll enjoy this book as well.  Other readers I would recommend this to would be those who like strong female characters, and warriors.

Rating:
I gave the book 3 stars

Profanity: Mild
Drugs and Alcohol: Moderate. Several of the characters do get drunk. There is also plotting to get characters drunk.
Sexuality: Moderate. Sex is mentioned quite a few times during the story, but is never actually described. Characters will also make sexual advances at Fire, especially while drunk.
Violence: Moderate. People die. And a few scenes in the book mention battles.




Monday, November 2, 2009

The Maze Runner by James Dashner: Review

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The Maze Runner
By: James Dashner

Blurb from back:
When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his first name. His memory is blank. But he’s not alone. When the lift’s doors open, Thomas finds himself surrounded by kids who welcome him to the Glade—a large, open expanse surrounded by stone walls.

Just like Thomas, the Gladers don’t know why or how they got to the Glade. All they know is that every morning the stone doors to the maze that surrounds them have opened. Every night they’ve closed tight. And every 30 days a new boy has been delivered in the lift.

Thomas was expected. But the next day, a girl is sent up—the first girl to ever arrive in the Glade. And more surprising yet is the message she delivers.

Thomas might be more important than he could ever guess. If only he could unlock the dark secrets buried within his mind.


Review:
This book definitely kept me on my toes. Similar to Jason Borne in The Bourne Identity and other amnesia-plagued characters, you find yourself trying so hard to piece together the little information given to you by the author into a back story for the character.


Post-apocalyptic fiction is some of my favorite to read, because I really enjoy the aspect of human survival. Every book has its own flavor of how people survive when situations aren't ideal. What I liked about The Maze Runner was the many different conflicts that contributed to the story. Thomas is conflicted about his past, he wants to know who he is and where he came from. But, once the truth begins to come out, he is rightly conflicted about wanting to know more. Thomas is also conflicted about the information that he gives to the leaders of the group, and the information he's holding in his thoughts. There are of course environmental conflicts as would be expected with a group of boys governing themselves. This is increased with the addition of a girl to the Glade.

I liked the characters in the books. Even though there were quite a few to keep track of, I felt like they were all easily distinguishable from each other. Each contributed to the story in an important way. I especially felt a connection to Thomas' first roommate Chuck. It gives a little bit of a softer edge to the otherwise hardened life at the Glade.

I only had a couple things I didn't like about the book, and they definitely weren't deal breakers. The first was the made up slang. I also didn't like it in Ender's Game.  I felt like it really clogged up the dialogue sometimes, and regular slang words would do.

Also, I felt like not enough was done with the female character in the story. This can be easily remedied in the sequel; however, and I'm sure she'll make a bigger impact.

Overall, I really enjoyed the book. I highly recommend this book for boys, especially ones that don't especially like to read. It's a fast-paced, easy read that will leave you thinking about it for days. I gave it four stars.

Rating:
Profanity: Mild, and it's not actual swear words used in every-day English, but made up slang
Drugs and Alcohol: None
Sexuality: Mildly hinted at when the girl first arrives
Violence: Mild. People do die in the book, but it's not overly graphic.

Books similar to this one: Ender's Game, Lord of the Flies

In accordance with FTC guidelines please note that I received a review copy from Delacorte Press for Young Readers. I was not compensated for this review.