**spoiler alert** Whew! This was an exhilarating conclusion to the trilogy "His Dark Materials"! Talk about action-packed. Let me preface this review...more**spoiler alert** Whew! This was an exhilarating conclusion to the trilogy "His Dark Materials"! Talk about action-packed. Let me preface this review by saying I liked "The Golden Compass" and "The Subtle Knife" very much (and the second book a bit more so than the first actually). In this third and final book in the "His Dark Materials" trilogy, Pullman has impressed me yet again with his ability to deftly weave together so many moving parts--storylines, characters, themes/motifs (yes, including the theological ones, which are very prominent by the way)--and create a thrilling and cohesive fantasy novel. I very much enjoyed his development of all the central characters, especially Will and Lyra. The reason I cannot give this one five stars is two-fold. First, I thought the pacing or the first third or so of the book was 'off-kilter' somehow, and I didn't really get 'grabbed' by the story until about page 200 (and from then on, I could hardly put the book down!). Second (and warning: slight spoiler alert ahead if you read into it), I am just enough of a romantic that the end of the book really did bother me! But overall, I really did enjoy this novel. I would recommend it to young adults and adults who have already read and liked the first two books in the series and are yearning for more of Lyra and Will's adventures and discoveries!(less)
This is a great starting book of a young adult series. Full of adventure and clever dialogue, it was highly entertaining. Definitely helps to have a b...moreThis is a great starting book of a young adult series. Full of adventure and clever dialogue, it was highly entertaining. Definitely helps to have a basic understanding of Greek mythology (or else some of the jokes won't seem so funny!). I can see how this book would hold great appeal for middle schoolers. As an adult reader, while I enjoyed reading this one, it wasn't 'unputdownable' and the writing and vocabulary choice were a little lacking, in my opinion. But I would recommend it for a fun summer-y read and to middle schoolers looking to read a clever adventure series.(less)
Here is another children's book that I just could not get into at all. I read the first 75 pages, and even those were tough to get through. As a true...moreHere is another children's book that I just could not get into at all. I read the first 75 pages, and even those were tough to get through. As a true Harry Potter fan, I found this book to be seriously missing the mark in the fantasy-magic genre. The characters were not well-written, and for me, when the characters aren't fully developed, I have a very hard time caring at all about any of them. The storyline just bored me to pieces, and a few elements seemed a little too familiar if you are an HP fan (i.e. a spiral staircase that winds its way up a tower, a character with the last name "Trelawney"). I think kids (probably ages 8 to 11) might enjoy this book if they already like the wizard/magic fantasy genre. But this book just did not do it for me.(less)
Neil Gaiman has done it again. Here is another tale to thrill young readers. Is it dark? Yes. Strange? Yes. But it is also captivating and magical in...moreNeil Gaiman has done it again. Here is another tale to thrill young readers. Is it dark? Yes. Strange? Yes. But it is also captivating and magical in a way that really great children's books are.
Coraline Jones and her parents have just moved to a new flat. While exploring one day, Coraline discovers a door in the corner of the drawing room--a door that leads to a house just like hers, though it is slightly 'off' and certainly more interesting. She also encounters her 'other' mother and father in this house, who desperately want her to stay in their world, "forever and always." Coraline must summon all her courage and smarts if she is to conquer her fears and the other mother, and return to her boring old life.
Coraline is a wonderful character: smart, brave, and real. Like Nobody Owens in The Graveyard Book, Gaiman has crafted another very authentic-feeling child as a main character. The author creates an 'other' world which is frightening and richly described. Readers will feel as if they are right alongside Coraline on her strange journey, discovering these fantastical things with her. (And as a cat lover, I have to say that I loved the fact that a cat was Coraline's "trusty sidekick"!). This is definitely a darker fantasy story, but I would still recommend it to children 9/10 and up. A fascinating and otherworldly read.(less)
Now I understand the hype surrounding this book and trilogy! The Hunger Games is the perfect blend of fast-paced suspense, carefully constructed plot,...moreNow I understand the hype surrounding this book and trilogy! The Hunger Games is the perfect blend of fast-paced suspense, carefully constructed plot, and a brilliantly written main character.
At the beginning of the novel, we are introduced to 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives with her mother and sister in the poor, coal-mining District 12 (society in North America has been reduced to a country called Panem--with a rich, ruling Capitol and 12 scattered, mostly poor, districts). The Capitol keeps its districts in line by entering one teenage girl and one teenage boy from each district in the yearly Hunger Games, which is basically a brutal televised competition, in which competitors fight to the death. When Katniss' younger sister's name is drawn as the female Tribute from District 12, Katniss unhesitatingly takes her place in the Games. She will have to use all her wits and talents to outsmart and beat out the other competitors.
Dystopian science fiction is not my favorite genre, so I was skeptical about how much I'd like this book. I was amazed by how quickly I was sucked into the story and characters' world. Suzanne Collins is a truly gifted writer, who has imagined this world that grabs hold of the reader and does not let go! Each chapter leaves you on the edge of your seat, "hungering" for more (sorry...I couldn't help myself!). I recommend this book to anyone (13-14 years old and up) who loves a good story...you will not be disappointed!(less)
What a wonderful children's novel! I wasn't expecting much from it for some reason...maybe the back blurb didn't really 'speak' to me or something? Bu...moreWhat a wonderful children's novel! I wasn't expecting much from it for some reason...maybe the back blurb didn't really 'speak' to me or something? But I easily fell into the story, which is fun, exciting, and endearing. I thought the book was an excellent blend of realistic fiction and mystery, with a dash of fantasy. The writing is terrific, and the style makes it the perfect kind of book to read aloud to 3rd or 4th graders. I absolutely adored the characters in this book. I just love it when a quiet unassuming kid gets recognized as the hero he is! And I even loved Martin the beetle...and I'm terrified of bugs! I'll now have to think twice before I go squishing any bugs! I can't wait to read Elise Broach's other novels. "Masterpiece" is definitely an excellent read-aloud pick or independent read for kids 8 and up; I highly recommend it!(less)
Unfortunately, I was unimpressed by Smith's highly popular graphic novel. My previous 4th graders and middle schoolers (especially the boys) adore thi...moreUnfortunately, I was unimpressed by Smith's highly popular graphic novel. My previous 4th graders and middle schoolers (especially the boys) adore this series, so I was willing to give it a go, but I found the humor and storyline unappealing. I forced myself to finish this first book in the series--I was totally uninterested by the tribulations of three 'bone' characters, cousins who journey into the unknown, become separated, and eventually reunite. But clearly more trouble is headed their way as this first book in the series concluded. But I will not be reading on to find out what that trouble is! I can see why this plot and humor would appeal to middle grade readers, but it just didn't do much for me. Would not recommend this to many readers, except my most reluctant student readers.(less)
This was a surprise to me, in that I so enjoyed reading it! I was doubtful at the outset, after reading the prologue; something about it was a little...moreThis was a surprise to me, in that I so enjoyed reading it! I was doubtful at the outset, after reading the prologue; something about it was a little reminiscent of the "Lord of the Rings" (of which I am not a fan). But I plunged ahead, as a certain 12-year-old I know recently devoured this book and highly recommended it to me. I was pleased to discover as I read on that "The Ruins of Gorlan" is not an epic fantasy story in the style of Tolkien at all. I've always loved apprenticeship stories for some reason--you know, the ones in which a student learns a craft from a master, and the majority of this first book in the Ranger's Apprentice series is exactly that. The main characters are so likeable and well-written; I especially liked the dynamic between apprentice Will and master Ranger Holt.
I will say this is definitely a book written for and geared more toward boys (although I'm sure many girls would be as entertained by it as I was!). Its pages are full of spy training, Battleschool drills and bullies, and a predominantly male cast of characters.
My only criticism of "The Ruins of Gorlan" is that (without giving too much away) the ending was a bit anticlimactic. But maybe that was Flanagan's intent, so as to leave me hungering for Book 2 in the series! The back cover states the reading level is 10 years+, but based on the rich vocabulary used throughout, I would say that (for most young readers), it is better suited to 11/12 year olds and up. I definitely would recommend this to preteen readers, especially those who love action, adventure, and battles, and who prefer to read non-magic fantasy books.(less)
An excellent culmination to the Hunger Games trilogy--fast-paced, exciting, and full of twists. Fans of the first two books will not be disappointed!...moreAn excellent culmination to the Hunger Games trilogy--fast-paced, exciting, and full of twists. Fans of the first two books will not be disappointed! In Book 3, Katniss has survived the Quarter Quell and is now a hugely important emblem for the rebel's cause in District 13. Katniss must submit to becoming the Mockingjay if the revolution is to be successful--but what cost will being the Mockingjay have on her relationships and her life?
If you enjoyed the first two books in the Hunger Games series, this one will close out the series with a bang (or several, actually!) for you. Our favorite characters are back for a plot-driven novel, with very little further characterization (though it's not needed at this point). Loved nearly everything about this final chapter in the saga--definitely shed a few tears however! I highly recommend this if you've already read Books 1 and 2!(less)
Although I wasn't as quickly "hooked" by this second book in The Hunger Games trilogy, I ended up loving it just as much as I did the first book. The...moreAlthough I wasn't as quickly "hooked" by this second book in The Hunger Games trilogy, I ended up loving it just as much as I did the first book. The story begins with Katniss and Peeta touring the districts on a mandatory Victory Tour. Katniss soon picks up on notes of discord in many of the districts. These hints of rebellion make Katniss uneasy...almost as uneasy as the now tense relationship between her and longtime friend Gale, as well as between her and Peeta. But the Capitol and President Snow have much more in store for their most recent Hunger Games victors...something Katniss never saw coming.
The pacing of the first half of this book was considerably slower than the second half. Pacing aside, fans of The Hunger Games will once again be exhilarated by plot twists at every turn, and will enjoy intricate main characters and further exploration of the love triangle between Katniss and Peeta and Gale. I thought this was a nearly perfect sequel to the first book, and it made me all the more excited to read the last book in the series. If you liked The Hunger Games, Catching Fire will not disappoint!(less)
I would actually give this book 3.5 stars if I could. This one was another fun selection for the 4th and 5th grade intramural book club that I am mode...moreI would actually give this book 3.5 stars if I could. This one was another fun selection for the 4th and 5th grade intramural book club that I am moderating. All four of the girls loved this book, and I enjoyed it too. If I had to provide a succinct summary, here it is: think the movie "Groundhog Day," but replace Bill Murray with two 11-year-olds on their birthdays. The main plot premise is an intriguing one, and trying to figure out what exactly was causing this phenomenon was really fun while reading it.
The book is written in a very readable lower middle-school language, and the main character Amanda narrates her story. I think this book will appeal to kids, as it really does sound like a 5th or 6th grade girl is telling the story. The vocabulary and text structures are on the simple side, but the enjoyability of this book makes up for that (from my perspective as a teacher, anyway!).
I do think that this book will appeal more to girls, since the story is mainly about the main character Amanda, and her take on things. I would absolutely recommend this to girls ages 9 and up. And even girls who may not enjoy reading as much just might get hooked by this story!(less)
I would rate this one 2.5 stars if I could. When I first head about The Sixty-Eight Rooms, I was excited and intrigued by the book's premise. Having n...moreI would rate this one 2.5 stars if I could. When I first head about The Sixty-Eight Rooms, I was excited and intrigued by the book's premise. Having now read it, I am feeling a bit disappointed by the book's overall lack of 'oomph.' Twelve-year-old friends Ruthie and Jack visit the miniature Thorne Rooms on a class trip to the Art Institute of Chicago. Ruthie is immediately entranced by the magic of the rooms. Imagine her surprise when she and Jack discover a key that allows them to explore these rooms. What mysteries and adventures await them inside the Thorne Rooms?
I think the overall idea of the book's storyline is a fantastic one. But for me, the story and the characters really fell short. The book lacks the magical feeling one gets when reading a book set in a fantastic world (such as a classic like The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe). I never felt 'sucked into' the worlds of the Thorne Rooms. Also, I believe the author mistakenly tried to force the book to be more of a mystery than a fantasy/adventure, and the book suffered because of it. Both Ruthie and Jack are very flat characters, which makes reading their adventures almost dull at times. Plus, the illustrations really did nothing to enhance the text in my opinion--I don't think they were necessary for this upper elementary read.
Now, having said all that, I did enjoy parts of the story, and I believe many readers ages 9 and up would really get a kick out of Ruthie and Jack's magical adventures. I may or may not give the second book in the series (Stealing Magic: A Sixty-Eight Rooms Adventure, due out in 2012) a try. I would recommend this book to kids who love fantasy/adventure stories.(less)
I so wanted to like this more than I did--I think my hopes were too high, and I wound up disappointed. This book (and its author) suffered from trying...moreI so wanted to like this more than I did--I think my hopes were too high, and I wound up disappointed. This book (and its author) suffered from trying to do too much in the span of one children's book. The story centers on Prue McKeel, just your typical thirteen-year-old hipster child from Portland. The plot does start off with a bang, as Prue's baby brother is abducted by a flock of crows and disappears into Portland's Impassable Wildnerness. Prue, with schoolmate Curtis tagging along, ventures into the forbidden forest, only to discover that its true name is Wildwood, and it is full of magic (talking animals, an evil queen, and tensions running high between different factions of magical beasts). Prue will have to endure many trials to rescue her brother, and the evil Dowager Governess may stop her in her quest.
This book just took way too long to get going. I found myself still somewhat bored around page 300, but kept plodding through. It was so wordy, so chock full of scholarly vocabulary, so overly descriptive. One blurb I read called Wildwood the "American Narnia" (hence my high expectations!)--while the author certainly borrowed devices and fantasy themes liberally from C.S. Lewis' classic, Meloy's style and execution did not earn him this praise at all, in my opinion. There were also plot events that didn't sit right with me as a reader, which happened midway through the book as well as at the end. I would only recommend this to middle grade readers who simply love fantasy and can't get enough of it...and who have already read Narnia! (less)