Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Starry River of the Sky by Grace Lin

Starry River of the SkyI found this book on a list of recommended titles, and I gave it a rating of four out of five. Rendi runs away from his father, an evil magistrate, and he ends up in the Village of Clear Sky. He notices that the moon has disappeared, and he hears the sky crying and moaning in the night. It seems as though no one else even notices. Most of the villagers have unhappy dispositions, and everyone is constantly arguing. Then, Madame Chang shows up and things start to happen. She tells the characters stories, and she makes Rendi tell stories too. The stories can teach them lessons, if they'll only listen and understand the messages.

The whole book reads like a folktale, and there are shorter folktales throughout it. The plot isn't overly suspenseful, but it is well-written. You will need to do some thinking as you read, because the shorter tales have a great deal of symbolism. They make connections with the larger plot, and the truth should be evident in the end. Forgiveness is an important lesson to be learned.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Infinity Ring #1: A Mutiny in Time by James Dashner

A Mutiny in Time (Infinity Ring #1)This book reminds me of The Time Riders, and I gave it rating of four out of five. Dak and Sera are best friends, and they're also geniuses. They sneak into Dak's parents' lab and discover a time machine. A group called SQ is controlling most of the world, and it turns out that they gained power due to some mistakes in history. After Dak's parents go back in time and are captured by British soldiers, Dak and Sera meet the Hystorians, a group whose purpose is to correct the mistakes in history. The kids agree to help them, since Sera is the only one who really knows how it works. They also want to go back and rescue Dak's parents. SQ and the Hystorians have people in the past who are awaiting their arrival, so they never know the identities of their friends and foes.

It was funny ready some of the historical changes during the rising action of the book. For example, the nation's capital is now Philadelphia, and Christopher Columbus was killed during a mutiny on his ship. The author was able to mix suspense, action, and humor into the plot, so I found it very enjoyable.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Witch and Wizard by James Patterson

This book was recommended by a student, and I gave it a rating of four out of five. Whit and Wisty are kidnapped from their home, and they are charged with being a wizard and a witch. During their capture and time in prison, the kids learn that the charges are true. A group called the New Order has taken over most of society, and they are capturing and eliminating all witches and wizards. The two children slowly learn about their different powers, but learning to control them is a different story. Wisty is able to set herself on fire, and she accidentally changes a bully into a weasel. From his dead girlfriend, Whit discovers that there are different levels of reality (Overworld, Underworld, Shadowland, etc.), and one man with great power plans to control all of them. There's a prophecy about Whit and Wisty stopping him, but will it come true?

I enjoyed the plot, but I did not care for the formatting of the book. The chapters alternated from Whit and Wisty's points of view, which is fine. However, I think the longest chapter was four pages long; most were only three pages in length. The frustrating thing was that the same character told several chapters in a row, so I didn't understand why they weren't combined into one chapter. The short chapters made the plot seem very choppy to me. There is a sequel.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Divergent by Veronica Roth

Divergent (Divergent, #1)This book was recommended by students, and I gave it a rating of five out of five. The setting is in a dysptopian future where people are divided into five factions based on their character (i.e. bravery, honesty, etc.) Beatrice reaches the age of sixteen when she must decide the faction she'd like to join. She takes some tests and discovers that she is Divergent, which means she shows character traits from several different factions. She is told to keep this secret, because there are people who will kill her if they discover the truth. Although she grew up in a selfless faction, Beatrice changes her name to Tris and joins Dauntless, the brave faction. Four, one of the trainers, befriends Tris, but he tells her that the training is very different from the way it used to be. It is very competitive, and some of the initiates are seriously hurt. There seem to be conflicts developing between the different factions. Tris's divergence may be the only thing that can save the world.

The plot contains a great deal of violence as the Dauntless initiates compete to become number one. Imagine being stabbed in the eye with a butter knife while you sleep! Only ten initiates will be accepted, and the rest will become factionless. The plot has mystery as Tris discovers some truths about her parents, and the secret behind the faction conflicts is revealed. It builds to an exciting climax, and I'm looking forward to reading the next book in the series, Insurgent.

Insurgent by Veronica Roth

Insurgent (Divergent, #2)This book is the sequel to Divergent, and I gave it a rating of four out of five. Many of the Dauntless revolt and become allies with the Erudite. Tris and the other Dauntless find refuge with Candor, but it's only temporary. Some of the members of their faction have their minds controlled and actually kill other members. Tris has difficulty knowing who to trust, and her former friends aren't sure about her. The Erudite are trying to locate all of the Divergents, and Tris seems to be at the top of their list. Tobias is reunited with his mother, but Tris isn't sure she can be trusted. She is the leader of the factionless, and they outnumber all of the actual factions. There is a war brewing, but the warriors aren't aware of what's at stake. The Erudite have the knowledge, and they'll do anything to keep it quiet.

This plot is similar to the first book, but I found it harder to follow. There were more characters to remember as members of other factions were introduced. Also, some of the characters were moles within other factions, so that created some issues. Some of the secrets were surprising, in a good way, but there were already many other things going on. The author mentioned a world outside the factions but didn't reveal any information about it until the end of the book. This information was the root of all the conflict.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Aliens Ate My Homework by Bruce Coville

Aliens Ate My HomeworkThis book has a fun little plot, and I gave it a rating of three out of five. Rod is intent on finishing his paper mache volcano and not getting beaten up by the school bully, Billy Becker. Then, a tiny spaceship crashes into his volcano, and Rod gets involved in the search for an intergalactic criminal, Billy Becker. It turns out Billy is actually an alien and is wanted for cruelty, the worst offense in the universe. Billy is not going to be captured easily, and a human like Rod might create problems for the intergalactic search team. He doesn't have any special powers or cool weapons, and he has a bad habit of always telling the truth.

The plot is simple and goofy, but it's fun. Rod's interactions with the aliens are humorous, and his truth-telling sometimes creates problems. As might be expected, trying to keep the aliens secret from your mother and best friend is difficult, but they probably won't believe you anyhow.