Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Alchemyst: The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel by Michael Scott

The Alchemyst (Nicholas Flamel, #1)The Alchemyst by Michael Scott

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I did not enjoy this book very much. I felt as though it wasn't very well written, although it's very popular with the kids; in fact, book four, _The Necromancer_, came out recently and kids are asking for it. Because of this, I decided to listen to, at the very least, book one...and now I know that this series isn't for me.

Before I discuss the plot, I also want to mention that my dislike of the book also has to do with the reader on the audio book; I had a huge problem with him. His 'voices' for each character are a bit annoying and his mispronunciation of words is simply unacceptable; "disoriented" is NOT pronounced "dis-or-ee-en-TATE-ted" ; "allied" is NOT pronounced "a-lied"...those were the ones that stuck out to me the most. I mean, come on!

Josh and Sophie are fifteen-year-old twins who get mixed up, completely by accident, with magical beings. It all starts when Josh, who works for a man named Nick Fleming, is in the store when a man comes in and attacks Nick; he forcibly takes a book from him, but Josh manages to save the last few pages. The fight between the men involve things Josh has never seen before--magical things. Josh and Nick are able to safely escape with Sophie (who saw the fight from across the street and joined them).

It turns out that Nick and his wife--who was kidnapped during the fight--are magical beings who are hundreds of years old. The book that the evil man took from Nick (whose real name is Nicholas Flamel) is a codex that is thousands of years old and holds all sorts of magical information. He tells the twins that they are in danger now that the evil man (whose name is Dr. John Dee) knows who they are; and now that he has most of the book, he will allow dark magic to rule the world.

Nicholas and his friend Scathach (who is also hundreds of years old) learn that Josh and Sophie could very well be the twins foretold in a prophecy. They all need to work together to fight the evil Dr. John Dee and his plan for a world controlled by dark magic.

This plot sounds pretty interesting, doesn't it? I mean, this is the type of book I reach for when reading children's literature; I enjoy these types of fantastical elements in a book. However, this book is just so poorly written that I couldn't get into it. I felt like it could have been shorter had it been edited some; because the omniscient narrator oscillates between Josh and Sophie depending on whether or not they are together in a particular scene, there is a repeating of facts that weren't even necessarily to understand the plot; for example, they each say a number of times that they have always had to stick together because their parents work a lot and they move a lot. Okay--after hearing one of them say it, let's move on!

Nonetheless, kids seem to like it; maybe the writing gets better in the later books; however, this reader isn't going to find out.

View all my reviews

The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner

The Queen of Attolia (The Queen's Thief, #2)The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This book picks up pretty close to where book 1 leaves off. We find Eugenides in very poor health in his room in the palace of Eddis (sp?), suffering from the amputation of his right hand. In fact, doctors aren't sure if he'll be able to survive the trauma. After a long while, he finally improves enough to leave his private room beside the library.

It turns out that Eugenides is, indeed, an important member of the palace, as he is the Queen's Thief. However, during the few journeys outside his room to appear at dinner or meetings, he is ashamed of his missing hand.

After a long while, he asks to take leave of the queen for approximately ten days. During his absence he spies on the queen of Attolia so that he may improve the lives of not only the Eddisians, but of himself as well.

This book was, again, just okay. The friend who recommended this series said that book 3 is her favorite, so I'll have to wait to see where the series goes.

View all my reviews

The Floods: Good Neighbors by Colin Thompson

The Floods #1The Floods #1 by Colin Thompson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Flood family isn’t what you’d call totally normal—Nerlin and Mordonna, the parents, are a wizard and a witch, respectively; Valla, the oldest of the seven children, works at a blood bank (and brings his work home with him!); Satanella was once a cute little girl, but after a terrible magic accident involving a shrimp and a faulty wand, she turned into small dog; Merlinmary is completely covered in hair, so nobody knows if it’s a boy or a girl; Winchflat is the family genius—except that he looks like he’s already dead; the twins Morbid and Silent only speak to each other telepathically; and Betty, the youngest, is the only “normal-looking” child in the family—but she still possesses magical powers. The Flood family thinks that everything in their lives is perfect—except for their next door neighbors, the Dents.

The Dents are as obnoxious as can be! Their lawn is littered with garbage and old cars, their dog Rambo attacks anyone who comes near the house, the television stays on at full volume all day and night, the family communicates with one another by yelling, and the children are bullies. It comes to a point where the Floods decide that they aren’t going to stand for this anymore and take measures to change the Dent family’s ways.

This story is hilarious! The Flood family brings to mind those in The Addams Family and The Munsters—spooky and weird, but in a funny way. The author’s tone is humorous throughout the entire book, which is sure to make readers snicker. Continue reading about the Flood family in the rest of The Floods series!

View all my reviews

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Paintings: A First Discovery Book by Claude Delafosse

Paintings (A First Discovery Art Book)Paintings by Claude Delafosse

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I came across this book when I was assisting a patron in the art section. She didn't end up needing this book, so I took it!

This book is very basic, but what drew me to it was the cool pages; it's one of those books that have clear pages with only a bit of text/picture on them, so when you turn the page you get a whole new picture!

I know nothing about art, so it was nice seeing a handful of famous paintings with only a few facts and cool pictures!

View all my reviews

Cirque du Freak: A Living Nightmare by Darren Shan

A Living Nightmare (Cirque Du Freak, #1)A Living Nightmare by Darren Shan

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Twelve-year-old Darren Shan (that’s not his real name—he had to change it to protect everyone he knows in order to tell his story) and his friends find out that there is a freak show visiting their town, and they really want to go, even though it’s illegal and cruel (according to adults). Darren and his friend Steve decide to go anyway when Steve gets his hands on some tickets.

Darren enjoys the show very much (he was only a little bit scared), but is concerned when Steve tells him to go on home without him; Steve plans on staying and talking to one of the freaks: Larten Crepsley, a creepy man who performs with a huge and dangerous spider. Instead of leaving, Darren hides and watches their exchange and learns that Mr. Crepsley is really a vampire and that Steve wants to join him and become his vampire apprentice; however, Mr. Crepsley denies this request and sends Steve on his way.

Weeks later, Darren is forced to seek out Mr. Crepsley’s help when Steve’s life is in danger. In exchange for his help, Mr. Crepsley wants Darren to be his assistant. What other choice does Darren have but to accept?

This is a story full of action and suspense—with vampires! Although this first book is mostly a set-up for the real vampire lifestyle that Darren will experience in the following books in The Saga of Darren Shan, readers are sure to be glued to the pages.

View all my reviews

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Ghost Canoe by Will Hobbs

Ghost Canoe (Avon Camelot Books)Ghost Canoe by Will Hobbs

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Listening to this book reminded me of why I avoid books like this.

I suppose that's a bit unfair; years ago I read _Jason's Gold_ and didn't mind it, and a coworker read and enjoyed _Go Big or Go Home_. But I just couldn't get into this! What kills me is that this book won all sorts of awards when it came out (1997), and literary reviews call it exciting! *sigh*

The story is about a younger teenage boy named Nathan who lives off the Pacific Northwest Coast in 1874. One of his favorite things to do is fishing with his adult friend Lighthouse George, a Makah fisherman.

One day they learn that a ship has crashed and that the captain's murdered body has floated to the shore. Nathan decides to figure out what exactly happened. Also involved in this twisted tale is the weird behavior of the local store owner Captain Dan, a canoe that Nathan finds lodged in a tall tree, and a man who's interested in becoming the new store owner. All of this is going on while Nathan's father is away and his mother is ill.

I have to admit, I couldn't wait til this audio book was finished. There's a lot of Makah culture weaved into the story, which is fine--but not necessarily interesting to me. I didn't hate this audio book as much as I hated _The Dark is Rising_ (Susan Cooper), but this was a close second.

View all my reviews

The Boy Who Looked Like Lincoln by Mike Reiss

The Boy Who Looked Like LincolnThe Boy Who Looked Like Lincoln by Mike Reiss

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I picked this book up at the library because the illustrator David Catrow was a speaker at the Youth Services Author Breakfast at ILA 2010. Someone in the audience mentioned that Scholastic refuses to sell this book based on some readers' complaints. It was a long morning and I was sort of spacing out and didn't catch what exactly about the book made it so undesirable to Scholastic...which is why I read it yesterday.

The story is straight-forward enough; a boy tells about how people have thought that he looks like Abraham Lincoln ever since he was born, and how he's given stove pipe hats and Lincoln Logs as presents, etc. He realizes that he's happy to be the way he is after he attends a camp that specializes in kids who look like things/people.

As I read the story, I kept watch for something offensive and didn't see it. Yeah, the pictures aren't cute at all (or, rather, what I consider cute) and the child, quite honestly, is ugly!!

Then I arrive at the final page, where he states, "Now I just have to figure out how to help my baby brother, Dickie." ...Dickie is portrayed as Richard Nixon--"Tricky Dick"--with a very phallic-looking nose. BINGO! Of course, a child wouldn't recognize this, but adults surely will--and have!

I'm not for pulling this book from the shelves or banning it or whatever, and I think Scholastic is being a bit dramatic about it. When it comes down to it, the story isn't anything special and the pictures are yucky! Just pass this book on by when cruising the picture book section for a good read.

View all my reviews

The Sound of Colors: A Journey of the Imagination by Jimmy Liao

The Sound of Colors: A Journey of the ImaginationThe Sound of Colors: A Journey of the Imagination by Jimmy Liao

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I came across this book while weeding the fiction section at work and I just had to put it aside to look at it more. This story is about a nearly blind lady who describes what she "sees" in her imagination as she walks through life.

The pictures are amazing; they are all interesting, if not what one would picture while on an acid trip--not disturbing...just sort of strange.

I got a feeling of wistfulness at some parts of the story; in fact, I felt it right at the beginning: "A year ago / I began to notice / that my sight was slipping away. / I sat at home alone / and felt the darkness settle around me. / But today I walked outside..."

And this part near the middle of the story: "Home is the place / where everything I've lost / is waiting patiently / for me / to find my way back..."

And also this part in the middle: "There must be someone / who'll sit beside me / sip tea, / tell me her hopes for the future, / and listen to mine..." (Aww! *wipes away a tear*)

There's an author's note in the back; I was curious to learn whether he is blind or losing his sight himself. It doesn't mention that, though it does state that he is a cancer survivor.

I don't know that I'd recommend this book to kids, though I'm sure they'd enjoy the pictures. Maybe if a child read it along with an adult...? Regardless, this book warmed my heart.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner

The Thief (The Queen's Thief, #1)The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I began this series due to a recommendation from a friend. I dutifully read it but, admittedly, I didn't find it super-wonderful.

This story is about a young teen named Gen who is locked in a prison cell when the reader is introduced to him; he had been arrested in a wine shop after gloating about something he stole. He is approached by someone who works for the king who is interested in using Gen to help capture a very elusive item. Having nothing better to do, Gen agrees to help the man get the item for the king.

Gen accompanies not only the man who approached him, but also two other boys around his age who are apprentices--more or less--to the man, and also a royal guard.

This book is mostly about the group's travels to get to the location of the elusive item. It reminded me of book one of _The Lord of the Rings_ trilogy--walking and walking and sleeping and eating and walking and walking. I didn't particularly love all of the traveling in the LOTR series, and I didn't particularly enjoy it here, either.

The reader grows to dislike Gen due to his snotty, smart-mouthed personality. I began to feel a bit of sympathy for him when he is in the place where the item is because it is so scary in there, but on their trek back, my sympathy would ebb and flow for him.

Once they reach their destination after the adventure, we learn that there is much more to Gen than we originally thought, setting us up for book two of the series, _The Queen of Attolia_.

View all my reviews

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

Mockingjay (Hunger Games, #3)Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was looking forward to reading (listening) to this book and I was -mostly- not disappointed. I love love LOVED the first book _Hunger Games_ and have faithfully continued to make my way through the trilogy.

This story finds Katniss rescued from the second Hunger Games she is forced to participate in by an underground group that has been attempting to fight the Capital. However, they weren't able to rescue Peeta, so he is captured by the Capital's people.

The rest of the story is about how they get Peeta back, the chaos all of the districts are experiencing, and how the underground group tries to fight the Capital. The epilogue brought to mind the epilogue in the _Harry Potter_ series, in that it completes the series so that there is no speculation as to what happens to the characters.

I thought that this book was fine; nothing can compare to the first book in the series, and this was a fine way to end it. There were a few parts in the book where I was like, "noooo!"--so I was pretty attached to some of the characters.

I've recommended book one to others, also mentioning that they don't necessarily need to read the rest of the trilogy.

View all my reviews

The Ink Garden of Brother Theophane by C. Millen

The Ink Garden of Brother TheophaneThe Ink Garden of Brother Theophane by C. Millen

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

When I read the review of this book in a literary journal, I was really excited! I have a love of anything Medieval (my MA is in Early English Literature) and I thought this story would be right up my alley. But, as it turns out, not really...

This story is about a monk named Brother Theophane whose job is to copy text (along with other monks). However, Theophane isn't that great at his job because he daydreams all the time and feeds birds crumbs on the nearby windowsill. He eventually gets demoted.

His new job is awful; he must crush bark in a cauldron to make the ink used by the other brothers. One day, while out to retrieve more bark, he trips and falls on some blackberries and realizes that the juice he figures he can use this for ink. He goes on to discover other colors of ink in the nature around him.

Eventually, he no longer stirs bark in the cauldron, but grows a garden full of things he can get colors from.

In reality, it was early chemists who experimented with creating ink from things in nature (minerals, herbs, shrubs, etc.)...not necessarily a dreamy monk.

The pictures are nice, and the story is told in a poetic form, but those two things are really the only things I liked about the book.

View all my reviews

Making the Moose Out of Life by Nicholas Oldland

Making the Moose Out of LifeMaking the Moose Out of Life by Nicholas Oldland

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I admit that the pictures in this book are really cute, but that's where my praise ends.

The story is about a moose who is unfulfilled in life, so he decides to go on a boat trip to see if he can find what he's missing in life. He runs into bad weather and ends up on a deserted island.

However, it's not as deserted as he first thought, as he meets a turtle named Tuesday and they have all sorts of fun adventures together. One day, they spot a cruise ship, so they build a large fire to get its attention and the moose is rescued.

The cruise ship isn't heading home for a few weeks yet, so the moose enjoys all sorts of activities while on board. When he finally gets home, he decides that he's found what was missing in his life and invites his friends to go cliff jumping.

This story seems more geared towards adults stuck in a rut than small children wanting to hear a story. I just wasn't that impressed with it, but, like I said, the pictures are really cute.

View all my reviews