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.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Feed by M.T. Anderson

Title: Feed by M.T. Anderson

Pages: 237

How it was obtained: Library

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

Days spent reading it: 2 days.

Why I read it: Combination of seeing it in the bookstore and then a recommendation from a youth pastor friend of mine.

Brief review: Feed was a fascinating book about our dependence on being connected. In the story people have had implants put in their brains which keep them connected to something like the internet 24/7. While this theme alone would be interesting, Anderson's most incisive themes revolve around our consumer mentality and what it would look like if fueled by a constant barrage of signals to our head telling us to buy new things tailored specifically for us. Feed is a very thought provoking, insightful book. However I have to warn readers about the language. Curse words are prevalent, as I believe Anderson was hoping to capture the feel of the real vernacular of teenagers today. I could see youth talking like this. Sad, but I can see it.

Apart from the language, I would whole-heartedly recommend Feed. It is targeted at young adults, but parents would be wise to read this with their kids and talk about the themes of constant connection and dependence on technology, consumerism, and even suffering and death. Feed is the 1984 for today's youth.

Favorite quote: "I am filled with astonishment at the regularity of your features and the handsome generosity you have shown my daughter. The two of you are close, which gladdens the heart, as close as twin wings torn off the same butterfly."

Stars: 4 out of 5.

Final Word: Thoughtful.

Friday, August 6, 2010

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

The Invention of Hugo Cabret 
Title: The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

Pages: 534

How it was obtained: Library

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

Days spent reading it: 2 days.

Why I read it: The concept for the book seemed interesting.

Brief review: The Invention of Hugo Cabret is a unique offering. The story is told through two mediums—written words and pictures. The story is about Hugo Cabret who discovers and begins to repair an early prototype of a robotic machine. The story is fairly basic. It follows Hugo as he repairs the machine and introduces a few characters along the way.  It is clear that Brian Selznick loved early movies and Hugo's adventures depend on people caring about those kind of movies as well.

Overall I thought this book was only alright. It looked very creative as a media presentation, but the story line was just not that great. The pictures, while moving the plot, also were not my cup of tea. I hope Selznick attempts more books like this because it is a good idea, but it just was not executed as well as it could have been. I would recommend to middle school students who might not like to read too much but do enjoy seeing plots unfold through pictures. Not too bad, not too great.

Favorite quote: "Time can play all sorts of tricks on you. In the blink of an eye, babies appear in carriages, coffins disappear into the ground, wars are won and lost, and children transform, like butterflies, into adults."

Stars: 3.5 out of 5.

Final Word: Different.