Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Mortal Instruments Trilogy

This is the story of Clary, a normal fifteen-year-old growing up in New York City accompanied by her best friend Simon. That is, until she witnesses a murder committed, oddly enough, by three other teenagers. She soon discovers the truth behind the group- they are Shadowhunters; warriors specially trained from a young age to fight and kill demons that inhabit our world. The "person" they killed was actually a demon.

The Shadowhunters become interested in Clary. Why can she see them? What is her past? Clary realizes that she doesn't really know about her childhood, or her mom's life before her, but she realizes it too late. Her mom has disappeared, and Clary is attacked by a monster. Without the help of Shadowhunter Jace, Clary would never make it through this journey, and the search for her mom, alive. This creates a bond between the two that they cherish, and hate. It doesn't make Simon too happy either.

I claim this trilogy as my most recent favorite fantasy series. It has everything I loved from the Twilight series- romance and action, as well as an interesting plot that takes place during present day- but in the right proportion. There is a great deal of action, with an underlying storyline of the love-triangle between Clary, Jace, and Simon. There are some parts that are PG-13 in both violence and relationships. However, I do not rate it as more mature then Twilight.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Wendy Mass

I just finished my third book by Wendy Mass- A Mango-Shaped Space. Ms. Sauer recommended it to me, along with a number of students who read it. I have avoided it for the sole reason that I knew part of the plot dealt with the main character's cat Mango. And anyone who knows me as a reader knows I have a tough time handling books dealing with animals, especially because the animals often die, and that just breaks my heart.

I promise that I won't give anything away about Mango, but I will tell you that I have found out that Wendy Mass is a truly gifted author. She does an excellent job presenting characters that are different, but likable. There are no parts in her books where I might think to myself, "This is so not-likely. It almost seems fake." Instead, I catch myself surprised that she handles such odd situations, ones I have not and will not experience, by making them seem like they are everyday problems. Below are the reviews/summaries of three of Mass's books that I have read.

A Mango-Shaped Space: Mia's family, and life, are normal. She lives in a rural area and is the middle child. Her younger brother Zack is a little odd since he keeps track of all the McDonald's hamburgers he's eaten, but everyone loves him anyway. Her teenage sister Beth is kind of snotty, but sweet at heart. Mia, well, she has a secret. Whenever she hears sounds, she sees colors and shapes. For so long, Mia thought everyone was this way. Now she figures she is the only one, she hopes to keep that secret between her and her cat Mango.

I truly loved this story. It was not action-packed, but was very 'real'. While I could put this book down, I know it is a story that will stay with me for a long time.

Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life: Jeremy is kind of a chicken. He is afraid to go farther than a few blocks from his house, and really hates surprises. His best friend Lizzie is almost the complete opposite. When Jeremy gets a box that claims to hold the meaning of life, he knows he is going to have to change in order to open it by his 13th birthday. He can not open it without the keys, which are missing, and must enlist Lizzie's help to discover a new side to himself, and find the keys.

I was surprised by how the twists in plot, intriguing themes, and interesting characters really drove this novel and made it an enjoyable read.

Every Soul a Star: Mass uses three very different characters to narrate the story of a total solar eclipse at Camp Moonshadow. Ally, whose family runs and lives at the camp has been preparing for this day for most of her life. Bree, whose family is moving to take over the camp, wants nothing to do with the eclipse. Jack is an underachiever, along for the ride to make up for failing science. These three start off in stereotypical roles, but soon the reader sees glimpses of their true characters.

I was impressed by the seemless plot, even though each chapter was narrated by a different character. I loved how, like all of us, Ally, Jack, and Bree seemed one way- but surprised everyone in the end. If you need one good reason to read this book, you have to get to the description of the eclipse. It is amazing.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Scott Westerfeld

I just finished So Yesterday by Scott Westerfeld, which I found intriguing. I have read two other trilogies/series that he authored, that I will discuss later on in this post. What I would like to pose to all of you, before I begin reviewing Westerfeld's books that I have read, is doing an author investigation. Think about an author that has multiple books out, one that you enjoy, and read what you can by him or her. Then, after you have finished, continue your thoughts into what you might be able to infer about the writer from the text you just read. I have done this before, but after finishing So Yesterday, which is frankly very different from all of Westerfeld's novels I have read, I feel like I know some things that he would agree are important to him. I almost get a better idea of an overall 'so what' after reading all of these books, instead of looking at just one. I'm not going to blab what I think it is- that's for some of you to discover on your own.

Uglies Triology + Extras (a companion book): These books focus on Tally, a girl eagerly awaiting her sixteenth birthday. Not so unusual, you might think. When you discover that Tally lives in a futureworld, and sixteen means you change from being an Ugly (what we would consider normal) to a Pretty-all through an operation provided by the governement. Being Pretty leads to being bubbly; partying, having fun, and not caring about anyone. After meeting Shae, a rebel Ugly who introduces her to people known as The Smoke, Tally starts to reconsider. She's always wanted to be Pretty, but is it all that it cracks up to be? What is the sinister secret behind being Pretty, and what choice does Tally really have? The Uglies triology will pull you into a world of the future, one that you may not want to envision. You'll find you can't escape-just like Tally.

The Midnighters: Jessica Day arrives in the small, sleepy town of Bixby, Oklahoma not expecting much. What she discovers freezes her in her steps- well, actually it freezes everyone around her. At midnight, Jessica discovers that time, and everything and every person around her, freezes for an hour. Every person except those that call themselves The Midnighters. During this secret hour, Jessica discovers new things about her and her group of friends. She also realizes that she is the focus of other things that wake up only during this secret hour- dark and sinister things who want her. The question is not just why, but what will they go to in order to get her?

So Yesterday: Hunter Braque lives in New York City and has an unusual job, one for only the elite. He finds the Innovators, the ones who start the fads, the ones on the cutting edge of cool, for the retail market. Hunter's life is overall cool, but then his boss disappears and he must use his hunting skills, as well as his new found friendship with Jen, to find her.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Catch a Tiger by the Toe

Pretty much anyone who knows me, knows me as a reader. One thing I struggle with is reading books in the historical fiction genre. I guess it is because the setting, especially the time period, can often take away from the story instead of adding to it. I did just finish a historical fiction novel by Ellen Levine titled Catch a Tiger by the Toe. I decided to read this book for two reasons: 1- It is a time period I don't know much about, post World War II. 2- I have to read some historical fiction to feel like I am a well-rounded reader!

I liked this book because it focused on a time that many people who didn't live it don't understand. When the Soviet Union became a Communist state, and the US began fighting with them after World War II, being considered a Communist or 'Red' was pretty scary. During this time, a lot of people forgot what was fought for in World War II- freedom for everyone- and began to discriminate against people who were rumored to be Communists. A senator named McCarthy fueled everyone's fear by calling people to testify in front of the Senate about being a Communist, and asking them to name other people they knew who were part of that political party. People lost jobs, were shunned by their neighbors, and treated poorly because of this. The ironic thing is, it has never been illegal to be part of any political party!

This book centers around Jamie and her family. Jamie hints often to a secret her family has. It is why her best friend can't come over, and why her mom is often reminding her to keep her lips sealed. For much of the book, the exact secret is unknown, but readers can infer her family is connected to the Communist party somehow. She wants to be a normal kid, so she lies to cover up her family's secret. Soon, the cat-or tiger-is out of the bag, and Jamie must learn how to deal with it.

I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical fiction. I liked learning about the McCarthy era, and want to know more about it. I am disappointed that I didn't learn more in school about this time period, which is similar to the little I learned about Japanese-American internment camps. I guess that textbook authors may feel it is easier to forget a mistake and move on instead of educate and learn from it.

The Secrets of The Immortal Nicholas Flamel

You may have read the title of this post, of this series, and thought, "I know that name...How do I know Nicholas Flamel?" Well, you may realize that he is a character that is featured in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone as the owner of the stone.

This Nicholas Flamel, although based on the same man, is very different. In this series (of five books, with three released) we meet Nicholas through the eyes of Josh and Sophie. They are fifteen-year-old twins who are working boring jobs in San Francisco while their archeologist parents are on a dig. Life is normal, until a strange man shows up at the book shop where Josh works. John Dee shows up, looking for Nick Fleming, aka Nicholas Flamel, and his wife, owners of the shop. The first of many magical battles begins as Josh, and Sophie, have their lives changed forever.
In the three books released, Josh and Sophie discover they are no normal teenagers. Magic and science meet to shape their lives and futures. They are constantly bombarded with battles- both internal and external. Who do we trust? Who's motives are to help us, and not further themselves? And why is that man suddenly turning into a huge deer?

I truly enjoyed this face-paced story. I wanted to read more, and even when the story line switched to another, I was never disappointed. The twins, Josh and Sophie, are likeable. They remind me a lot of Kendra and Seth from the Fablehaven series. One complaint I have is, while they do show love for one another like the Fablehaven siblings do, they never show irritation. This makes their relationship seem slightly less realistic. I have yet to meet a brother and sister who do not grate on each other's nerves, especially after being worn out through battles and chased all over Europe. I do like how you never know who to trust- enemies don't seem so bad, and allies don't seem so great. It makes predicting much more challenging, and fun! A must read for fantasy readers, or anyone who loves the cross-bred genre discussed earlier.

Monday, June 1, 2009


I just finished What-the-Dickens by Gregory Maguire. I have to be honest, I bought this at a used book store and was totally taken in by the cover. I was intrigued by the story, but the cover sold me.

This is the story of a girl named Dinah, her brother Zeke, her toddler sister Rebecca Ruth, and their older cousin Gage. They are in the middle of a horrible storm, and are trying to get through the night without their parents. This is no ordinary storm, it has driven many neighbors to evacuate, but the group is scared to leave.

To pass the time, Gage begins to tell the story of What-the-Dickens. He is a young skibberee, or tooth fairy, that was born alone in a tin can. What-the-Dickens knows nothing of who he is, and seeks to find answers. He comes across many creatures, most notably Pepper, a fellow skibberee who has enough fight to back up her name.

I enjoyed this story, although I can't claim it as one of my favorites. What-the-Dickens is a likeable, but frusturating character. I didn't feel like Dinah, Zeke, or Gage got developed enough. I liked the twisting together of the two plots, but felt like it was strained at times. Overall, a fun read, if you are looking for something different.