Monday, March 16, 2009

Read This! His Majesty's Dragon by Naomi Novik

The way I have been describing this book to everyone one is "the Napoleonic war with dragons" That captures the bare bones of this imaginative and exciting series but it doesn't really capture what I liked most about this book, but I will get to that in a minute.

Will Laurence is a captian in the British navy. His ship, the HMS Reliant captures a french frigate and seizes its cargo as part of the spoils of war. Fortunately for the British, part of the cargo is a very valuable and rare dragon egg. Unfortunately for the crew, the egg is very near to hatching. This is unfortunate because Capt. Laurence knows that the British desperately need more fighting dragons in the Aerial Corp. to help in their battle against Napoleon's forces. As soon as a dragon hatches, it must be put into harness, otherwise it becomes a feral dragon and unusable for the British Aerial Corp. Whoever is succesful in harnesing the dragon becomes it's master and a member of the Corp. To a Navy captain, and indeed most navel officers and men, being a part of the Arial Corp is almost a fate worse then death. But Capt. Laurence is not the sort of man to shirk his duty, however odious it may be or to step away from a challenge, and this turns out to be one of the biggest challenges in his life.

So now you know the set-up, here is what I liked about the book. I like that Novik takes real world things that I can easily relate to (because I have oh so much seagoing experience) and adds in dragons which makes everything more exciting. This brings me to what I liked most about this book, the relationship between Laurence and Temeraire. Laurence's strong and deep connection with Temeraire is not just touching, it creates an intersting way to think about issues like class, rank, and bigotry. Having said all that, this book is action packed and fast paced. It was fun to read and I am definitley going to read the rest of the series. If you are interested in this book, you should also check out Naomi Novik's website The fan wiki and fan art are worth looking at. Novik has certainly sparked a lot of imagination!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Speeding Bullet by Neal Shusterman

Nick Herrera is a below-average high school kid, but he isn't happy about this. He knows he could be something special if he could just find a way to break through whatever it is that is holding him back. One afternoon, while waiting for a subway train, he finds a way to break through from mediocrity to notoriety. Nick notices a young girl fall off the subway platform and onto the tracks. It is as if time stands still for him long enough to jump down and save her. But there is not enough time for him to get back up and he gets run over by the train. Luckily (miraculously, some might say) he survives with minor injuries. From that time, it seems as if he is destined to play the role of the hero; he is always in the right place, at the right time. He gets the attention of the media, the Mayer and one of the richest girls in New York City. It seems that Nick can do no wrong, but is this really a special power he has tapped into, or is it all in his mind?

This is a pretty interesting book. It poses the question what does it mean to be special. Nick becomes special by a freak accident, but through this, he meets other kids who are special because of their abilities or their families. Nick gets a chance to find out whether or not standing out from the crowd can really make you happy.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Down the Rabbit Hole

Down the Rabbit Hole An Echo Falls Mystery by Peter Abrahams

Welcome to Echo Falls. Home of a thousand secrets, where Ingrid Levin-Hill, super sleuth, never knows what will happen next.

This is the first sentence from the blurb on the book jacket. I have to disagree a bit with that after reading the book. One of the things I liked most about this book was that the main character Ingrid does not start out as a Super Sleuth. She is not a precocious child genius with a knack for solving crimes. She is not a nosy know-it all who has wanted to be a detective from birth. She is just a kid. She plays soccer and has an annoying older brother. She doesn’t pay much attention to the world around unless it directly concerns her. And one day, after getting lost because she hasn’t been paying attention, she becomes directly involved in a murder. Well, not directly involved. Her shoes become involved and suddenly, she has to start paying attention if she is going to unravel the chain of events that landed her shoes in a crime scene.

I enjoyed the way this book played out. I liked the way Ingrid decides to change her approach to life. She decides to become someone who pays attention. At first, she just pays attention to her surroundings but soon she is paying attention to the people around her as well. This extra attention she gives helps her understand what may be underneath the outside face that people are showing the world. My only criticism is that the story wraps up nice and tidy in a very Scooby Doo kind of way. On the whole though, if you are in the mood for a mystery with a dash of character depth, a bit of humor, soccer cleats and a dog named Nigel, you might enjoy Down the Rabbit Hole.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Read this! Nation by Terry Pratchett

What would you do if your home suddenly washed away? If everyone you knew and loved was gone?

What would you do if you were stranded in a strange place far away from everyone you know and you didn't even know how to make scones?

Mau, the last survivor of The Nation, a tribal people living on a south seas island has to face the first question. He leaves his home island for the boy island as part of the ceremony to become a man. He expects to return home triumphant; to join the ranks of men. Instead he returns home no longer a boy, but not a man and must answer questions no one in his village has ever thought to ask.

Ermintrude is travelling from England to the South Seas to join her father, the Govenor of one of England's many colonial outposts. Her ship is caught in the tsunami that devestates Mau's island. Ermintrude is the solve survivor of the shipwreck. Ermintrude has been taught how to be a proper lady, how to pour tea, how to curtsey, and she has been taught that a lady does not to ask questions. Ermintrude was never any good at being a lady though, which is a good thing because she has to start asking questions, not the least of which is how to make proper beer.

Terry Pratchett's humor shines through the character of Ermintrude. Her mater of fact aplomb in facing situations that would have most young victorian women fainting is admirable. I was in awe of her beer making abilities by the end of the book.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Read this! Never Trust a Dead Man by Vivian VandeVelde

"Carefully now." The old woman raised a warning finger to demand his attention. "Ask something foolish and I will have to smack you on the side of the head." She emphasized this, as though they'd already discussed it.

His voice creaking with dryness, Selwyn asked, "Do you warn me beforehand what questions are foolish?"

Apparently not. And apparently that was one of them. She smacked him on the side of the head.

Selwyn hasn't had the greatest of weeks. First, the love of his life, Anora, decided to marry Farold, then, adding injury to insult, Farold beats him up in front of the whole village. But before Selwyn can wallow too long in self pity, Farold turns up dead. Due to the unfortunate events of the week past, the blame falls on Selwyn. Selwyn ends the week shut up in a burial cave with Farold's lifeless body, wrongfully sentenced to die for Farold's murder. There is one tiny bright spot in all of this, fortunately it turns out to be the light of a witch come to collect a lock of hair from a murdered man and she just might be willing to help Selwyn out of his predicament. Unfortunately though, she tends to answer most questions with a smack to the side of the head.

This mystery novel is full of humor and great dialogue. I am not a big mystery fan but the characters and the comedy kept me reading to the end. It possibly also helped that one of the characters is named Kendra. Gotta love that!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Read This! Alcatraz versus the Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson

I learned something new about authors while reading this book. I thought authors wrote books because they are brimming over with creativity and want to share their stories with the world. I found out I was WRONG! Authors actually like to torture people, but they don't want to get their hands messy so they write books. How is this torture you ask? Simple, they create loveable characters and then they make terrible things happen to them. As Alcatraz Smedry says, "If this weren't the case, all novels woud be filled completely with cute bunnies having birthday parties." This book is definitely not about cute bunnies and there is not a single birthday party in the book. Although, there is a birthday and the present is a bag of sand. There is also a birthday dinner of ramen noodles that ends up with a torched kitchen and a visit from child welfare --again. The book is full of loveable chracters like Alcatraz, Bastille and Grandpa Smedry and lots of horrible things do happen to them, like tripping and getting tied to an alter made from outdated encyclopedias by a cult of evil Librarians. This book will keep you up way past your bedtime!

And if that is not enough (and trust me, it won't be), you can read the second book in the series, Alcatraz Versus the Scrivener's Bones. Fortunately for you, there are bunnies having birthday parties in this book, but unfortunately, lots of bad things happen to the loveable Alcatraz and his crew.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Read this! - Wildwood Dancing by Julilet Marillier

I absolutely loved, loved, loved this book! After reading some books, I immediately wish I hadn’t read them so I could read them all over again for the first time. Wildwood Dancing was like that for me.

Jena is the second oldest of five sisters. They live in a castle called Piscul Draculi on the edge of the wildwood in Transylvania. Their father is a merchant and most of their days are spent helping their father run his business and helping out around the castle. Their days are filled with the boring, mundane chores that we all have to do. But the five sisters share a secret, one shining night a month, on the night of the full moon; they are able to magically open a passage into the fairy realm of the wildwood. On that night, the girls take special care to dress in their finest dresses and they spend the night dancing with the fair folk of the wildwood. The trip is not without peril though, and the girls have strict rules to make sure that all the sisters return home safe and sound to the familiar everyday world. Life is good for the sisters until one fateful winter. Their father must travel to a warmer climate for health reasons and the girls take over running his business and the household. The two eldest sisters, Tati and Jena must fight to keep control of the family business from falling in the hands of their bullying cousin Ceasar. This becomes increasingly difficult over the long winter months. The task is not made easier for Jena when Tati breaks their dancing rules and falls in love with one of the fair folk. Jena struggles to hold her family together and must learn how to be strong in a daytime world dominated by men, and the nighttime world of the wildwood run by capricious and sometimes dangerous fairies.

My daughter and friends enjoyed the book as well. It inspired us to have our own fairy ball.