Monday, July 27, 2015

Fablehaven - Brandon Mull

If you follow my blog, you know the occasional spoiler ends up in each of my book reviews.  So, if you don't like spoilers, save this review for later.  Otherwise, read on.
I heard about the book Fablehaven when I was looking for another book to read.  I thought it looked interesting, so I checked it out from the library.  Remember when I read The Land of Stories, by Chris Colfer?  And I basically said the book was terrible?  I didn't think I would ever be able to find a children's book as bad as The Land of Stories.  I was wrong.  Fablehaven, the first in a series (help us all!) is just as bad as The Land of Stories.
The book opens with Kendra and Seth's parents preparing to go on a cruise with their mother's siblings and their spouses.  This was, after all, the dying wish of Seth and Kendra's maternal grandparents.  So, since kids are not allowed on this three week cruise, Seth and Kendra are being shipped off to stay with their dad's parents - whom they've only met a handful of times. 
Kendra and Seth get dropped off at Grandpa and Grandma Sorenson's house - where they are met by their grandpa and a couple people who work for him.  They are told that their grandma is "traveling," and are shown to their attic room where they are given a bunch of rules they must follow while at Fablehaven.  After a couple days, they finally figure out the place is magical by drinking a bunch of milk left out for some "butterflies."  Turns out, the butterflies are really faeries, and Fablehaven is home to tons of magical creatures who have nowhere else to go.
The story takes a weird turn when Seth pisses off a fairy and gets turned into a walrus by the other faeries.  He gets turned human again by a witch who lives in the woods - the only hitch is: with every wish she grants another knot holding her hostage gets untied.  So, after saving Seth, she has one knot left.  This worries their grandpa, as it should because later Seth and Kendra need her help and free the last knot.
A whole bunch of other crazy stuff happens, including Seth and Kendra learning that their grandma was turned into a chicken.  During a midsummer eve festival, their grandpa gets kidnapped, as does Dale and the housekeeper. 
Now, I really wanted to like this book.  I mean, magic, faeries, what's not to like?  But I realized not even 10 pages into this book that it was going to be another book I would never, could never, recommend.  The quality of the writing is low, and makes me wonder how the book ever got published in the first place.  Yes, it is true this is a book written for kids, but kids are smart.  They deserve to read books that are well written and have a good story.  This had neither.
That brings me to another point: the first half of the book moves so slowly that I started to wonder if their would be ANY action to the book at all.  There was almost nothing of substance that happened until almost halfway through.  That makes not for a good book - especially when writing for kids!  You think adults get bored with plotless stories?  Add in the short attention spans that children have and it's just not going to work.
When I got to the point in the story where the author made a racist comment about Chinese people, I knew there was no way I could finish this series or recommend it to others.  Save your time for books that are actually well written - this one gets an F all around.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Larklight - Phillip Reeve

***Spoiler Alert***  While I try to keep my reviews as spoiler free as possible, a few always slip in!  So, if you don't want any spoilers, save this review for later.  If you're feeling brave, read on!
 Larklight is a fantastical, steampunk novel - the third in a series by Phillip Reeve.  The novel opens with Art, the main character, talking about life on Larklight (and how he would look back on it later after their adventures had begun,) and also discussing his sister - Myrtle - a person he finds to be altogether irritating.  That's natural - after all, he is a ten year old boy. 
A few pages into the novel, the family receive a letter indicating they will get a guest.  They think nothing of it, since their father isn't worried.  However, the guest arrives, and all hell breaks loose.  I won't tell you who the guest is, but I will tell you this: his arrival initiates the start of a fantastical, and albeit a bit frightening, space adventure for Myrtle and Art.  Throughout their space adventure, Myrtle and Art spend time on the moon, meet a rather young looking pirate named Jack (and his companions,) visit a shopping city called Far'poo - the on planet of Io, and spend time traveling around in a space ship (literally a ship in space) called the Sarfronia. 
Larklight was my first adventure into the world of steampunk, and I loved it so much that I know I'll be reading more!  The adventures the kids engage in are humorous and charming.  The characters are well developed and the writing is excellent.  It's refreshing to read a kids book that is well-written and actually treats kids like they are smart, instead of talking down to them. 
I especially enjoyed reading the excerpts from Myrtles diary - she is funny and sassy,  and keeps the other characters on their toes.  It is clear that even though Myrtle is a "young lady," she is intelligent and quick witted.  She has a wonderful ability to think on her toes, and doesn't let the time period dictate her behavior.  She behaves like a lady while still being strong and independent. 
Art, our charming protaganist, is one of my favorite characters in this book.  He is a head strong, funny, kind boy who obviously cares about his sister in spite of the fact that he always gives her a hard time.  He seems to have a clear head even in the face of danger, and adds an element of humour to the space travels with Jack and Co. 
This is a book that can easily be enjoyed by kids and adults.  Some younger kids might get confused by some of the terminology, but other than some hard words and technological speak, it is age appropriate for kids 7 and up.  Fun, funny, and enjoyable - 5 stars all around!

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Books on the Shelf

Hi everyone!  As you know, I often like to post books that I am currently reading.  So, here's what I'm making my way through right now.

This doesn't include the other books I am still making my way through for my 365 Book-a-day challenge (or my classics club challenge.)  Some of the other books I have on my list: In The First Circle, The Pickwick Papers, The Maze Runner, Dracula, and more.  You can follow even more of my reading exploits on my Facebook page!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Winner's Curse - Marie Rutkoski

***Spoilers: I try hard to keep my reviews as spoiler free as possible, but a few always find their way in!  So, if you plan on reading this book, and don't want to read any spoilers, save this review for later.***
If you are looking for a book filled with romance, some surprise, and war, then The Winner's Curse, by Marie Rutkoski, is the book for you.  The book starts off with Kestrel, the main female character, walking through town with her friend Jess.  Technically, as an unmarried woman who has not yet joined the military, Kestrel is not supposed to be out without a male escort.  However, since she has Jess with her, she views this as arbitrary. 
Kestrel and Jess stop near the slave trading center, where there is an auction going on.  Kestrel looks down into the pit where the slaves are kept, and finds herself intrigued by the slave currently being sold.  He is an Herrani, a native to the land the Kestrel and many other Valiorians overtook when Kestrel was young.  Cheat, the auction leader, tells the bidders that the slaves name is Smith, because he was trained to be a blacksmith.  We later learn his real name is Arin.
When Kestrel is told that Arin is musical, it makes her feel an even deeper draw to the slave, and she buys him at a prices others view as outrageous.  They get home, and Kestrel leaves Arin in the hands of the house servant.  Arin is ordered to make horseshoes, until finally someone tells Kestrel she must pay more attention to him since she bought him.  This leads to her taking him with as her escort whenever she goes out.  Over the course of the novel, they learn many things about each other, not the least of which is that the Herrani are planning a revolution.
I won't go into all the details of what happens after the revolution starts, but it should come as no surprise that Arin is one of the ringleaders in orchestrating the revolution.  In fact, it becomes apparent about 50 pages into the book that he is one the people behind what will eventually happen.  That was probably the only thing I didn't like was how transparent it was that 1. there would be a revolution, and 2. Arin would help cause it.
Other than that, I really loved this novel. I loved the characters and the tension, the games of bite and sting played between Arin and Kestrel, the descriptions of the homes!  This novel drew me in and captured my attention from page one.  It was interesting to see the different relationships Kestrel had with each of her friends - they are all so well-developed and have their own relationships that stand out from each other.
Based off the way that Kestrel interacted with Benix, Jess's brother, I would have expected him to be her final love interest.  I won't say how that turns out, but I was surprised by the ending of the book.  It ended in a manner I would not have expected, but it worked - and I can't wait to read the next book!