Thursday, November 25, 2010

Found by Margaret Peterson Haddix

This novel is the first in "The Missing" series, and I gave it a rating of four out of five. The book opens with a mysterious plane appearing at an airport, and the only people on board are babies strapped into the seats. No crew. The setting moves forward thirteen years when two friends receive letters in the mail informing them that someone is coming to get them back. Both boys were adopted around the same time thirteen years ago, and they discover there are many other children in the same situation who are living in the same area. Some of them grew up in this town, but many others have moved here from other parts of the country. They speak with a man from the FBI, but he seems to be hiding the truth. There's another man who periodically appears out of nowhere, and then disappears after helping the two boys. A witness to the plane mystery informs them that she thinks the boys are beings from the future who have traveled back in time. If this is true, the boys still have no idea of their past, and they have no idea why all of these adopted children are coming to the same location. Is it a trap?

The plot of the book is interesting, right up there with other books by Margaret Peterson Haddix. I kept asking myself throughout the book, "Who are these kids? Are the people searching for them good or bad? They must be bad, because why would other people help them escape if they weren't bad? However, what do I really know about the people helping them?" I wanted the plot to move along a little quicker, but that's probably because I wanted answers to my questions. That means the author was doing her job! One note, you're almost forced to read the sequel, because this book ends in the middle of a situation.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Fablehaven by Brandon Mull

This novel is the first in a series, and I gave it a rating of five out of five. Seth and Kendra are sent to spend time with their mysterious grandparents at Fablehaven. The kids are unaware that Fablehaven is the home to hundreds of different types of mythical creatures. Seth discovers this soon enough, since he's curious and adventurous (disobedient?) Due to a mystical code of conduct, the creatures cannot perform any magic or harm the humans unless something is done to them first, even if the event is accidental. The main conflict is that Grandma and Grandpa disappear, and the kids must enlist the help of some mythical creatures. In addition, an all-powerful creature that has been imprisoned for hundreds of years is trying to escape. A subplot is that the Society for the Evening Star is destroying havens for mythical creatures all around the world. Fablehaven also holds one of five secret relics that are the keys to some magic power.

This book is a classic fantasy. There is a great deal of interaction with the mystical creatures with some being good and some being bad. I found myself wondering what the kids would find next every time they ventured into the forest. I figured Seth would learn something after disobeying his grandfather a couple of times, but he never did. The author did a nice job of building up the suspense to the climax, and easily left the door open for the sequel, Fablehaven: Rise of the Evening Star.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Fablehaven 5: Keys to the Demon Prison by Brandon Mull

This book is the fifth and final book in the Fablehaven series, and I gave it a rating of five out of five. Within the first twenty pages, Kendra and Seth find themselves at the Obsidian Waste haven battling enemies from earlier books. The team is trying to get the key to the last artifact before the Sphinx and his evil demons. The Sphinx plans to release all of the worst demons in history from prison if he is able to obtain all five artifacts. Things don't go as the Sphinx planned, and the situation only gets worse as the demons gain more control. Kendra and Seth travel to different parts of the world trying to prevent the demon takeover, but they also must prepare for the likely overthrow of Zzyzx, the demon prison. Seth and Kendra display their true powers as the book climaxes with an epic battle between evil demons and good magical creatures. Many surprises are revealed as the plot unfolds.

This entire book is one long climax of the entire series. The plot is fast-paced and action-filled as the opening of Zzyzx is imminent and hope for defeating the demons is slim. One of the things I enjoy about this series, and something that makes me a little crazy, is the fact that I'm never sure who to trust or believe. Good characters are revealed as bad, while some evil characters become good. The characters' roles as good or evil are pretty much set once you get to the second half of the book; there aren't many surprise changes in characterization after that. I had a feeling of foreshadowing about some characters in the first book, but it didn't come true until this fifth book. I found myself being tricked by some characters, just like Seth. I enjoyed how this book jumped right into the action, and reading the plot was like riding a roller coaster. Just when it looked like the knights had the upper hand against the Sphinx the roles became reversed and the conflict got worse.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Fablehaven 4: Secrets of the Dragon Sanctuary by Brandon Mull

This book is the fourth in the Fablehaven series, and I gave it a rating of five out of five. The Society of the Evening Star has possession of two of the five artifacts, and they know the location of a third. Having all five artifacts will allow them to open a magical prison and release all kinds of evil creatures. With the fall of Lost Mesa, a haven for magical creatures, Kendra and a team of Knights must enter the Dragon Sanctuary to recover the key to an artifact before the Evening Star. Seth must first steal from the Fablehaven centaurs and find a way to accompany the team on its quest. The team must get past the dragons in the sanctuary, the guardians of the key, and a number of other dangerous, magical creatures. Not knowing the exact location of the key presents problems too. Much like the first three books, supposedly good characters turn bad or were bad characters in disguise. One of them will truly surprise you during the climax of the story.

I've enjoyed all of the books so far; they are classic fantasy with all of the magical creatures and spells. Seth and Kendra are changing as they discover new powers and talents, and Seth even seems to be maturing a bit. He's still adventurous enough to keep things interesting though. The author has established that any of the characters may end up being evil, and Kendra wonders at the end of the book if anyone can truly be trusted. This twist has kept me guessing even as I try to figure out how Kendra and Seth will solve the conflicts in all four books. Friendship and kindness once again help to overcome the evil.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Fablehaven 2: Rise of the Evening Star by Brandon Mull

This book is the second in the Fablehaven series, and I gave it a rating of five out of five. You need to read the first book prior to reading this one. Kendra discovers she has developed a number of powers from the fairies, but she also finds out that she's not safe in the human world. In addition, Seth is being chased by Olloch the Glutton who will not stop until he has eaten Seth. The children return to the safety of Fablehaven only to discover that there's a spy from The Evening Star within the haven of mystical creatures. This evil group is searching for an artifact hidden on the grounds, and it appears as though the spy is one of Grandpa and Grandma's most trusted friends, even though the Sphinx has vouched for the honesty of all three. The location of the artifact is protected by a fearsome creature that turned Warren into the catatonic albino from book one. Other deadly obstacles await anyone who can get past it. The future of Fablehaven and all of the other mystical refuges around the world depend on the security of the powerful artifact.

This book is a classic fantasy with all of the magical creatures and spells. I enjoy the conflict and way the author continues to make it more difficult to solve. This book has a bit more danger and suspense than the first book, and it has the added mystery of the secret spy for the enemy. I found myself constantly questioning the actions and motives of all of the characters as I tried to guess the identity of the spy.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Children of the Lamp: The Blue Djinn of Babylon

This book is the second in the "Children of the Lamp" series, and I gave it a rating of four out of five. John and Phillipa are young djinn, or genies, and Phillipa has been been kidnapped and chosen to become the next Blue Djinn. The Blue Djinn is all-powerful and oversees all disputes between djinn; it's always a female, and they are kind of like the supreme judge. The problem is that the Blue Djinn must be totally impartial between good and bad, so she must become heartless and indifferent toward others. John and his magical helpers must get past numerous obstacles and creatures to help save his sister.

Much like the first novel in the series, the whole of idea of genies is unique. I enjoy the interaction of the chidren with all of the various characters, and the conflicts are interesting and imaginative. I think what bugs me a little is the amount of explaining that is done throughout the plot. There are explanations for the history of djinn, the limitations of djinn power, and explanations of the various conflicts. Not just descriptions, but explanations. I have enjoyed the plots in the first two books, and readers who enjoy wizards and magic may enjoy them too.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Fablehaven 3: Grip of the Shadow Plague by Brandon Mull

This book is the third in the Fablehaven series, and I gave it a rating of five out of five. The Society of the Evening Star is searching for the five artifacts to open the doors to the greatest prison of evil creatures on Earth. One haven for magical creatures has already fallen; will a second one fall too? Is the Sphinx the leader of the evil group, or is he the leader of the protectors of the world's havens? Seth also discovers an evil force within Fablehaven that is changing good creatures to bad in a way that has never been seen before. The conflict gets so bad that friends are turning to foes, and there are only two safe places left on the Fablehaven grounds. Help comes from an unexpected source, but will it be enough to stop the spead of darkness? The final climax comes down to a confrontation between good and evil.

The plot was well-developed and created a conflict that seemed impossible to resolve. The evil seemed overpowering, and characters who might have been helped were changed to the enemy's side. The characterization kept me wondering about who to trust and who might have secret, evil plans. One again, the theme comes down to good versus evil and the power of kindness, goodness, and love.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

This novel is the first in a series, and I gave it a rating of five out of five. The setting is in the future, in a country called Panem, which was once known as North America. There had been a rebellion by the twelve districts a long time back, and the Capitol is now in charge. Hunger Games are held each year to remind the districts who's in charge. Each district selects a male and female to the games, and the twenty-four tribunes fight to the death until only one of them survives. Katniss is chosen as the female from her district this year, and the male is a boy named Peeta, who has had a ten-year crush on her. The competitors fight each other with weapons they've either found or created, and the Capitol adds its own twists to encourage fighting and the use of survival skills. Katniss' main weapon is the bow and arrow, and Peeta's is strength. If you think about it, with only one winner, boys and girls from the same district are now enemies. Competitors are never sure who to trust. Peeta loves Katniss, but what will happen as they compete against each other?

I don't really like the idea of a plot where the goal is for kids to kill each other, but I enjoyed this story. There wasn't a great deal of description to the killings, especially by Katniss and Peeta, but the reader is informed as competitors are eliminated. I thought the author did a wonderful job of making the conflict worse by throwing in new obstacles and complications. Illness, poison, and treachery come into play. The plot built to a clear climax, but the author threw in a couple of twists before that was resolved too. I think readers who enjoyed the Ranger's Apprentice series will also like this book. I was feeling like the book was starting to drag on a little after a hundred pages or so, but the action quickly picks up once the Hunger Games begin.

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

This book is the second in The Hunger Games series, and I gave it a rating of four out of five. In the first book, Katniss and Peeta really upset the Capitol and their president with the way the Hunger Games turned out. They show a defiance to the government, and it fears the districts may revolt. Most of the public loves Katniss and Peeta, and signs of rebellion pop up while they are on their victory tour six months later. The government is ruthless in the way it deals with protestors. Katniss and her mockingjay pin are symbols of unity for the citizens. The president figures out an unprecedented way of getting rid of Katniss and Peeta. Quarter Quell games are held every twenty-five years, and the president decides that former winning tributes will participate in this year's games. Being the only living, female tribute in her district, this guarantees that Katniss will need to fight for her survival again. However, her opponents this time will be experienced former champions. The future of the country may depend on her survival.

I enjoyed the drama of Katniss' conflict with the Capitol, especially with President Snow. She is torn between ensuring the survival of her family and friends and her responsibility to the citizens of the country. District 13 was wiped out seventy-five years ago, but rumors start popping up that survivors actually live there and may provide a challenge to the capitol. It's treated like this mystical wonderland that may, or may not, exist. I found the middle of the book to be lacking much action, although I understand why the author did it. I just found my mind wandering at times. I thought the description of the games was creative, and the author dropped several surprise bombs throughout the book. Overall, there wasn't as much action as the first book, but I liked it.