Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner

The Thief (The Queen's Thief, Book 1) 
Title: The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner

Pages: 220

How it was obtained: Library.

Time spent on the "to read" shelf: 3 days.

Days spent reading it: 2 days.

Why I read it: I read a sample chapter on my kindle and it was interesting.

Brief review: I was really interested in this book after reading the first few chapters on my kindle. I thought this was a book that had a lot of potential. The Thief is set in a fictitious nation called Attolia. I believe it is loosely based on ancient Greece at the height of its power. The main character, Gen, is a wonderful narrator. His counterpart, the magus, is a believable and interesting character as well.

As I was reading The Thief, I thought the pace was a little slow. I guess I did not think there was enough adventure throughout this tale. However, I must admit, the last few chapters redeemed this book for me. There are some fantastic turns and developments during the falling action of this novel.

I think anyone who is interested in young adult fantasy type novels would enjoy this little tale. There is a whole series the stems from this first novel. I do not think I will start reading them just yet, but would consider them when I have caught up on some of my reading lists.

Favorite quote: "It is too bad for you that intelligence does not always attend gifts such as yours, and fortunate for me that it is not your intelligence I am interested in, but your skill. If you are as good as you say you are."

Stars: 4 out of 5.

Final Word: Unexpected.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Genius Squad by Catherine Jinks

Genius Squad 
Title: Genius Squad by Catherine Jinks

Pages: 436

How it was obtained: Bargain bin at Borders.

Time spent on the "to read" shelf: 1 year.

Days spent reading it: 3 days.

Why I read it: It is a part of the Evil Genius Series.

Brief review: Genius Squad is the follow up novel to Catherine Jinks' young adult novel Evil Genius. I was really looking forward to reading Genius Squad until I actually started reading it. For some reason the book seemed to be really slow to me. Not much happened in the first few hundred pages. I enjoy the character of Cadel, but was not really impressed by the plot of this particular installment. I wonder if Jinks could have trimmed the fat from this book and made it a more readable and enjoyable story in the process.

I know that there is a third installment in this series coming out, but I am not really convinced to pick it up. While the last half of Genius Squad picked up the pace, I just do not feel invested enough to continue the series. Overall Genius Squad falls flat for me.

Stars: 3.5 out of 5.

Final Word: Slow.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Simple Church by Thom S. Rainer and Eric Geiger

Simple Church: Returning to God's Process for Making Disciples 
Title: Simple Church: Returning to God's Process for Making Disciples by Thom S. Rainer and Eric Geiger

Pages: 257

How it was obtained: It was given to me by the lead pastor.

Time spent on the "to read" shelf: 0 days.

Days spent reading it: 2 weeks.

Why I read it: As a part of church leadership we decided to read through this book and brainstorm through some ideas about discipleship.

Brief review: Clarity. Movement. Alignment. Focus. These are the four basic principles that the entire book revolves around. The simple argument of Simple Church is that our discipleship process needs to be simple. That's all there is to it. The rest of the book was filler on how that objective is accomplished. We need to have clarity, in other words we need to know what we want to accomplish. We need to have movement, people need to grow, they need to know what the next step in the process is. There needs to be alignment between the different areas of the church. A youth ministry should follow the same process as the adult ministry, etc. Keep everyone on the same page. The hardest element is focus. Cut all the clutter. Are you doing fun things that serve no real purpose? Cut them. Do you have programs that are just there, but not really helping people move forward in their walk? Cut it.

I appreciated the thoughts I found in Simple Church. I think some churches will embrace the message, while others will struggle to reduce the clutter that years of different programs have created. I think this book helps us rethink how we are processing our disciples through our churches. It was certainly worth going through, but I think the churches that need it most will struggle the most to implement the changes the book suggests. I definitely recommend to senior pastors and elders in churches that need some clarification on what they are doing.

Favorite quote: "First Church gives a lot of announcements. People are invited to everything. The Sunday we are here, they announce eight different things. All with passion. All with the "this will change your life and you must come" tone….There is a lot of activity. A lot of busyness. And a lot of complexity. All of it can be justified by the right spokesperson. It just does not fit into a big picture. There is no big picture, no process that guides the ministry."

Stars: 4.5 out of 5.

Final Word: Simple. (Too easy!)

Saturday, September 11, 2010

A Canticle For Leibowitz

A Canticle for Leibowitz
Title: A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr.   

Pages: 320

How it was obtained: Library.

Time spent on the "to read" shelf: 1 week

Days spent reading it: 2 weeks

Why I read it: I heard it was a story about life after a nuclear holocaust. That's almost always right up my alley.

Brief review: The world has plunged itself into darkness once again. Nuclear war broke out between America and other nations in the world. From the rubble civilization attempts to rebuild itself. At the heart of this renewal are monastic enclaves which continue to carefully copy any books or documents they can. So as this novel opens, one monk finds a cave filled with documents that date back to just before the world literally blew up. He finds original blueprints from the hand of Leibowitz, who is about to attain sainthood in the church.

A Canticle for Leibowitz explores three different eras after the atomic war. Each one has a unique look at how the world plummeted, but also how it is recovering. These three eras are all based around the abbey that Leibowitz supposedly founded.

What I found interesting about this story compared to other end of the world stories was the clear imprint of the cold war on the author. The book was written in the 1950s, and you can feel the fear and anxiety in every page. This book brilliantly explores the consequences of Mutually Assured Destruction without dwelling too much on the past. A Canticle for Leibowitz does what every good science fiction novel does: it paints a unique world in the future and addresses current world problems within that world. I enjoyed the setting of the monastery, but sometimes the Latin was difficult to follow.

I would definitely recommend this book for sci-fi fans, and people who enjoy a good end of the world book.

Favorite quote: "Are you going to submit to the yoke, son? Or aren't you broken yet? You'll be asked to be the ass He rides into Jerusalem, but it's a heavy load, and it'll break your back, because He's carrying the sins of the world." "I don't think I'm able."

"To minimize suffering and to maximize security were natural and proper ends of society and Caesar. But then they become the only ends, somehow, and the only basis of law—a perversion. Inevitably, then, in seeking only them, we found only their opposites: maximum suffering and minimum security."

Stars: 4 out of 5.

Final Word: Rewarding.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

Leviathan (Leviathan (Quality)) 
Title: Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

Pages: 440

How it was obtained: Library.

Time spent on the "to read" shelf: 1 ½ weeks.

Days spent reading it: 3 days.

Why I read it: The cover looked cool and it kept getting recommended to me in my amazon searches.

Brief review: Leviathan is set during World War I with a few significant changes.  Genetically altered animals serve as the backbone of the British Empire, and mechanical war machines for the German army. This is a futuristic novel written about the past.  The story follows two individuals: Alex (the son of the assassinated Archduke of Austria) and Deryn (a girl who disguises herself as a boy to join the air force). The plot kept moving, the characters were interesting, the creativity was flowing. We follow their adventures as these two characters attempt to find safety from their pursuers and eventually join forces. My only gripe is that this was just the first installment of a trilogy and I thought it was a stand alone.  But really this is not a bad thing, the story was interesting enough that I would follow a trilogy (I was a little less excited about the possibility of a longer series). 

This is a fun introduction to the steam-punk genre if you have never experienced it before. Steam-punk usually involves a story set in the Victorian era and then adds crazy elements from the future back into the era. Like giant mechanical war machines, or flying whale-like airships.

Leviathan was a fun novel, worth the quick read. I would highly recommend to young adults and people who like (or would like to be introduced to) steam-punk.

Favorite quote: "What the Clankers lack in finesse they make up for with blanket ruination."

Stars: 4 out of 5.

Final Word: Beastly.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Fire by Kristen Cashore

Fire (Graceling) 
Title: Fire by Kristen Cashore

Pages: 480

How it was obtained: Purchased on the Kindle for Susan.

Time spent on the "to read" shelf: 7 months.

Days spent reading it: 3 days.

Why I read it: I enjoyed Graceling, Cashore's first young adult novel. Thus I read Fire, her second novel in the same world.

Brief review: In Fire, we sort of revisit the world Kristen Cashore created in Graceling. But we are placed a few decades before the events in Graceling and in a different major nation. Fire is about a "monster" girl named Fire. In this world, a monster is any creature (human, lion, mouse) who was born with a magical twist. Monsters are born with unnatural hair color, like Gold or Green or Blue. They also are able to control the minds of those who are weak willed. Furthermore they attract the attention and affection of anyone they encounter. It's a crazy world.

Kristen Cashore delivers a very unique and surreal world yet again in her second novel. I liked the main character and the plot, but it was just a little less great than Graceling. Here's the thing, if I had never read Graceling I would have thought this book was great. Maybe a 5. But Graceling was spell-binding, and Fire just does not live up to that first introduction to Cashore's writing. I enjoyed Fire. I thought her ideas were once again fresh, but I also know how great her writing can be and this was just a little sub-par. I definitely recommend Fire without hesitation, but I would once again recommend Graceling as a superior work of writing.

Favorite quote: "Brigan, could you attempt, at least, to make yourself presentable? I know this is a war, but the rest of us are trying to pretend it's a party."

Stars: 4 out of 5.

Final Word: Imaginative.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Mysterious Benedict Society and The Prisoner’s Dilemma by Trenton Lee Stewart

The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner's Dilemma 
Title: The Mysterious Benedict Society and The Prisoner's Dilemma by Trenton Lee Stewart

Pages: 400.

How it was obtained: This is the first book I ever ordered for my Kindle. Took me awhile to get to it!

Time spent on the "to read" shelf: 7 months.

Days spent reading it: 3 days.

Why I read it: I have enjoyed the Mysterious Benedict Society series and wanted to continue reading through them.

Brief review: The Mysterious Benedict Society (MBS) is a series of books by Trenton Lee Stewart. I absolutely loved the first book in the series. This third book in the series, while not bad, was not as inspired as the original either. The MBS is about three children geniuses and their friends who must outwit an evil mastermind. I guess as I have read this series I found the first book fresh and new, but the subsequent books have had a little of the same old same old genius kid vs. evil genius. I typically love those kind of plots, but this incarnation is getting a touch hackneyed.

What I did enjoy about this book was that it brought the trilogy to a good conclusion. Loose ends were tied up, character arcs were completed. Stewart will probably go on writing more in the series, but here is a clean wrap up for right now. Stewart is a solid writer. His characters are charming, at times annoying, and occasionally brilliant. This is a solid series which entertains, and I think it has greater potential than the two sequels have produced.

I would definitely recommend this series to young adults. Parents and other adults might also enjoy the series, but as I said it is never as inspired as that first installment.

Favorite quote: "Yes, but you're smarter than he is, Reynie. Also, you're not evil."

Stars: 3.5 out of 5.

Final Word: Unoriginal.