As Percy Jackson's seventh grade school year comes to a end, he's looking forward to spending his summer at Camp Half-Blood, a safe haven for demigods...moreAs Percy Jackson's seventh grade school year comes to a end, he's looking forward to spending his summer at Camp Half-Blood, a safe haven for demigods. Only things don't go so smoothly for this son of Poseidon. Camp Half-Blood is under attack. It's protection, provided by an enchanted tree, is breaking down, and the scent of so many half-bloods is drawing in dangerous monsters. Percy knows he must find a way to cure the tree and save his friends, but doing so may result in him getting expelled from camp forever.
The Sea of Monsters is the second book in Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson and the Olympians, and it reads very similarly to the first book, The Lightning Thief. Riordan once again does a fantastic job of updating and Americanizing Greek mythology, and the results are truly laugh out loud funny. Percy is quite likable protagonist. I love the fact the Riordan is writing from the perspective of a kid with ADHD and dyslexia, making Percy very easy for young reluctant readers to relate to. This is something I have seen first hand after doing an internship in a library.
At the same time, The Sea of Monsters is a flawed book. Riordan does a great job at creating likable characters, and exciting action sequences. Where he falls behind is in creating an original plot. On one hand, I am of the opinion that every author doesn't need to reinvent the wheel in order to create an appealing book They just need to bring their own touch to the genre. Still the problem here is not so much that Riordan is not bringing his own touch to the genre. It's that The Sea of Monsters resembles The Lightning Thief a little too much. On one hand, some repetition is inevitable. Just as every Harry Potter book began with Harry at the Dursley's, I suspect Percy's books to begin in the real world before being whisked off to Camp Half-Blood and later, adventure. But the parallels go much deeper. I often felt as if I was simply rereading The Lightning Thief, only with different monsters and challenges. As a result, the book is a step below the first in the series.
The Sea of Monsters faults lie in the fact that it is unoriginal and very predictable (there's a big “twist” at the end that most will see coming chapters ahead of time). Despite it's flaws, I feel as if I enjoyed the book on a whole. Riordan's knack for humor and brisk pacing kept the story moving quickly, and there were enough hints sprinkled around the books about what's to come to keep me happy. I also experienced The Sea of Monsters as an audiobook, and felt that the narrator did quite well with the voices, although I wasn't too fond of his portrayal of Tyson. I do plan on eventually reading The Titan's Curse, where I hear is where the series really takes off. (less)
Strange things tend to happen to Percy Jackson, but when his math teacher turns into a giant monster and tries to kill him, that has to be one of the...moreStrange things tend to happen to Percy Jackson, but when his math teacher turns into a giant monster and tries to kill him, that has to be one of the strangest. Percy soon learns that he is not an ordinary twelve-year-old boy with dyslexia and ADHD, but is in fact the son of one of the Greek gods, and his divine heritage means that more monsters are coming after him. He enters camp half-blood, a summer camp for training and protecting demigod children. When Percy discovers the identity of his godly father, it sets off a chain of events that results in him embarking on a cross country quest to find Zeus's master lightning bolt, and somehow stay alive in the process.
The Lightning Thief is the first book in the fantasy series, Percy Jackson and the Olympians. I've been meaning to read it for a while now, and figured with the movie coming out tomorrow, that it was time to stop putting it off. The Lightning Thief turned out to be a very fun read. It moves at a lightning fast pace (pun not intended) and is filled with action, humor, and interesting characters. I enjoyed the modern takes on many of the classic Greek gods and monsters. I also found Percy to be a great lead. I like the fact that Riordan chose to make him suffers from ADHD, and dyslexia, and fact that he has a bit of a temper. I feel that he's the perfect hero to draw in reluctant readers with similar personalities, who might normally scoff at reading a book. I've heard it said that The Lightning Thief is a "hipper" Harry Potter, although I don't think that's quite it. Admittedly, it has a similar set up to the Harry Potter Series (young boy discovers that he has magical abilities and is sent to a place where he can develop them), but I would call it a more American version of that storyline. This can be seen in the fact that we have a summer camp instead of a boarding school. I enjoyed watching how Riordan tweaked stereotypical summer camp events, such as capture the flag.
The Lightning Thief has it's weaknesses as well. There's a heavy handedness to the writing style that didn't always mesh well with me. For example, whenever they would foreshadow a future event, it was if the author put up a giant red flag and said "this is important for later!" If you're looking for subtlety, this is not the place to go. This was the most obvious when building up to the reveal of Percy's father. Throughout the beginning of the book Percy's connection to water is made very obvious. Perhaps Percy wouldn't be the one to pick up on it, but I find it a little suspicious that more informed characters like Annabeth never bring it up as a possibility. Also, the road trip portion of the book consists of Percy coming up against monstrous foes from Greek mythology and having to evade them. Although this was fun at first, it did get a little repetitive after a while.
The Lightning Thief is a fun read with plenty to draw in even the most reluctant readers. Despite it's flaws, I am quite happy I picked it up and do plan on continuing the series. (less)
The Graveyard Book tells the story of Nobody “Bod” Owens. After his family is murdered by the man Jack, Bod, still a toddler, innocently wanders from...moreThe Graveyard Book tells the story of Nobody “Bod” Owens. After his family is murdered by the man Jack, Bod, still a toddler, innocently wanders from his home and into a graveyard. Here he is taken in by a pair of ghost, and raised by all of the dead. The story then follows him as he grows from a baby to a young man. The biggest charm of The Graveyard Book comes in the many characters that Bod encounters in The Graveyard, which include ghosts, witches, werewolves and ghouls. The way that Gaiman creates a feeling of normalcy and friendship in such an unusual place as a graveyard is quite impressive. Bod is also an interesting protagonist, and children and adults alike should enjoy watching him grow form an innocent child to a more complicated young man. The book itself is divided into eight chapters that tell stories about the adventures Bod encounters over the years. Most of the chapters have the added bonus as being able to stand alone as short stories. The stories are relatively lighthearted but become darker as Bod grows older and learns about the man who killed his parents.
With elements of The Jungle Book, Rhoad Dahl, and Tim Burton, The Graveyard Book is a satisfying, and surprisingly friendly tale about life and death and everything in between. It deserves all of the attention and awards it has been getting over the past year or so. Recommended Grade Level- 3-5 (This review was written for a class)(less)
The second volume in the Harry Potter Series brings us to Harry’s second year at Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry. That is, if he can even...moreThe second volume in the Harry Potter Series brings us to Harry’s second year at Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry. That is, if he can even get to school. After being warned by a quirky house elf named Dobby that he will die if he goes back to Hogwarts, Harry finds himself facing barrier after barrier, keeping him away from school. When he finally arrives, our hero has even bigger problems to face. Someone’s been leaving messages on the wall about something called The Chamber of Secrets, and a person called The Heir of Slytherin. When something starts to attack muggle-born students, Harry knows that he must find Slytherin’s heir, but will he manage to do so before those close to him are threatened?
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets does a wonderful job of immersing us back into Harry Potter’s world. In my review for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, I mentioned how the wizard world seemed to embrace eccentricity more than that of the Dursley’s and muggles. Here we see that things are more complicated than that. Certain witches and wizards feel as if the only ones of any worth are those that are pure of blood. Those that have muggle parents are viewed as inferior. At the least, we see this school of thought brought out through Draco Malfoy, when he calls Hermione a “mudblood” (considered to be a very derogatory term). At the most, this hatred is exhibited by the Heir of Slyterin, who attacks muggle born students with intent to kill. We also see prejudice exhibited towards Harry, when other students learn that he can speak parseltongue, the language of snakes. The ability to speak to serpents is a rare one, and a trademark of Slytherin’s founder. When other students begin to suspect that the famous boy who lived may be Slytherin’s heir, the way that they turn on Harry is quite surprising.
Another topic illustrated in Chamber of Secrets is that of fame. This year, Hogwart’s Defense against the Dark Arts teacher is Gilderoy Lockheart, a big headed good-looking wizard who likes to talk about his many conquests and awards, despite the fact that his magical abilities do not appear to be up to par. He latches on to Harry early on, and tries to give him advice on how to increase his fame. Only Harry doesn’t want to be famous. Despite the hordes of girls wanting to give him Valentines, and little Colin Creevey trying to take his photo at any moment, what Harry seems to want the most is a family, and to protect those close to him. This is well illustrated in the scenes with the Weasley family at the beginning of the book. The Weasley’s, with their seven children, never seem to have enough money to get by. Despite Harry’s large fortune in the bank, it’s obvious that he’d give that away in a second, if it meant having the kind of family life found at the Weasley’s, as opposed to the Dursely’s. (Note: while reading these books as a teenager, I placed little weight on these pre-Hogwarts scenes from each book. It’s interesting how I can find more depth in them years later).
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets manages to live up to the high standards of the first book in the series. Like Sorcerer’s Stone, this volume is an exciting adventure story about magic and mayhem, all written in J.K. Rowling’s wonderfully witty prose. Unlike Sorcerer’s Stone, there appears to be another layer here, a darker one. This time around we learn not only about racism in the wizard world, but also about it’s past. Anyone who’s read the rest of the series will know that there’s plenty left for us to learn. As Harry gets older and older, the books get darker and darker, each volume revealing more about J.K. Rowling’s world of witchcraft and wizardry. I enjoyed reading them the first time around, and have enjoyed re-reading them again.(less)
Harry Potter of the Sorcerer’s Stone is the now infamous first book in the Harry Potter series. I first experienced the book at the age of thirteen af...moreHarry Potter of the Sorcerer’s Stone is the now infamous first book in the Harry Potter series. I first experienced the book at the age of thirteen after someone in my girl scout troop recommended the first two books (which were the only ones out at the time) to me. Thinking the name “Harry Potter” sounded dull and uninteresting (not to mention it reminded me of farming for some reason) I didn’t end up picking up the books until a few months later when I was on vacation with my family. I, like many, was captured by this amazing new world of a young English wizard, and I find that at twenty-four, I am no less enchanted by it.
Harry Potter, as most people know by now, is the story about a young orphaned boy living with his dismal Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon, and spoiled cousin Dudley. Prospects look bad for our hero until he discovers that he is a wizard on his eleventh birthday. Not only is he a wizard, but a famous one, due to the fact that he survived an attack by the dark wizard Voldemort when he was just a baby, an event that led to Voldemort’s downfall. Before Harry realizes it, he’s whisked off Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, where magic is very real, and oftentimes dangerous.
It was fascinating reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone again. Although I have read the book a handful of times since first picking it up at thirteen, it’s been a few years now since I’ve read it. I found that my perspective had been tainted a bit by the Harry Potter movies. For example, I forgot that the book doesn’t begin with Harry being dropped off at the Dursley’s, but with Uncle Vernon’s confusing day of work. The duller-than-dull businessman has no idea that Voldemort has been defeated, and finds himself baffled and angered by the strange activity of the celebrating wizards. It’s a very amusing chapter. Another thing I forgot about is how Harry does not see just his parents in the Mirror of Erised, but his whole family, a factor that gives the scene much more weight.
As someone that enjoys re-reading books that I first experienced in adolescence, I’m always fascinated at how the book seems to change as I get older. Just like when I first read the book, I found myself pulled into the magical world of Hogwarts. In this volume JK Rowling embraces traditional fantasy elements (such the wise old white-haired wizard, the orphan who has to save the day), and infuses them with her own special spark, and sense of humor. The result is something that connects with elements that fantasy fans hold dear, but it does not feel like an unoriginal rehashing of old stereotypes. Unlike, when I was thirteen, I think I ended up drawing more meaning from the Dursley chapters. There has always been an escapist element of the book, but I felt it more this time around. As an adult, it’s easy to feel stuck in the world of the Dursley’s, where eccentricity and differentness are scorned. Through Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, like Harry, we’re able to escape into a world where such aspects are embraced. Here we met people, like Hagird, who look different or, like Dumbledore, act different, and that’s just fine. In Hogwarts, we find a place where magic is very real, and the normalcy of the Durlsey’s go-to-work and be-a-housewife lifestyle is absent. Although we learn in later volumes, that the wizard world has it’s own prejudices, it’s something nice to experience here.
I’m quite happy that I reread Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Like when I was thirteen, I found myself pulled into a very enjoyable little book. Unlike when I was thirteen, I know now that this is only the tip of the iceberg, and the later books promise even greater things.(less)
As a child, I loved fairy tales, but as I’ve grown older I’ve started to see their flaws. One of the things that have struck me the most is their port...moreAs a child, I loved fairy tales, but as I’ve grown older I’ve started to see their flaws. One of the things that have struck me the most is their portrayal of women. You can be Rapunzel, the beautiful, goodhearted maiden that must be rescued by the handsome prince, or the evil, ugly witch that locks her in the tower. With all of the modernizations of fairy tales released in the past several years, these stereotypes are often turned on their heads. Rapunzel’s Revenge is a great example of this. It, much like the traditional story of Rapunzel, tells the story of a young girl who is locked in a tower by an evil witch. Only this Rapunzel isn’t waiting for any handsome prince. She watches as her hair grows at an unnatural speed. When it becomes long enough, she lassos a nearby tree and swings herself down. Once she hits the ground, her story doesn’t stop there. She’s out to take revenge on the woman who locked her up in the first place, and rescue her enslaved mother. On her way, Rapunzel makes friends with Jack, a good humored young man who carries around a goose and a magic bean, and experiences many exciting adventures.
Rapunzel’s Revenge is a graphic novel that takes place in a fantasy world inspired by the Wild West, some of the panels even mimicking shots you might find in a western. Although the story is not quite as enchanting as Shannon Hale’s young adult fair, there’s plenty of fun to be found here. Rapunzel is a sassy heroine that happens to be a little naive of the ways of the world. Jack, with his-Xander-like personality and amusing companion (the goose), is the perfect sidekick. I enjoyed the romantic storyline that played out between the two of them. The artwork was a little uneven. At times, the bright colors and uniquely drawn characters really drew me in, but there were a few time where I felt as if it didn’t portray the characters emotions to the fullest. The action sequences are plenty of fun, although there are a couple times when the reader will have to suspend disbelief.
I would recommend this graphic novel to young readers, but also to people who enjoy children’s literature. I plowed this quick read in a few hours, and found it to be cute and fun.(less)
The City of Ember exists in a world of darkness that is illuminated by electric lights. When every child reaches twelve years of age, they are assigne...moreThe City of Ember exists in a world of darkness that is illuminated by electric lights. When every child reaches twelve years of age, they are assigned a job at random. Lina Mayfleet is horrified when she does not get her desired job as messenger, and instead is has to work in the damp, cold Pipeworks. She is surprised, but happy when Doon Harrow, volunteers to switch jobs with her, giving up he recently picked position as messenger. Doon knows there is something wrong with Ember. Blackouts are becoming more frequent, supplies are running thin, and the people are becoming nervous and scared. Working on the Pipeworks means he will be closer to the generator. Doon, who has always been good at fixing things, hopes that he can access the generator and figure out how to fix the electrical problems before the City of Ember is doomed to darkness.
One thing Jeanne DuPrau does wonderfully here is crafting a unique, rich world with a limited word count. Through the eyes of Lina and Doon we’re introduced to a culture that is very different from our own. Most writers would depend on long passages of info dump, but DuPrau does a great job of integrating the necessary info into the story as casually as possible. Like many children’s book published since Harry Potter convinced the world that children do like to think too, is also not a fluff novel. It’s not afraid to ask some tricky questions, and doesn’t provide straightforward answers. The characters, such as moody Doon, and responsible Lina, are also quite likeable.
Now here’s where I get a little critical. I know that I’m in the minority here, as this book is pretty universally loved. I also want to admit up front that I do consider this to be positive reading experience, and consider any set back to be partially due to the fact that I am not in the intended 9-12 age range. Still… I expected a little more from The City of Ember. The set up is great. We’re presented with morally complex characters in a unique setting, who have to solve an interesting puzzle-like quest. My problem was I wanted to see more of the culture of the city. Also, the end, which does resolve the main plotline (Will they escape Ember?), leaves far too many questions unanswered. Why did the Builders find in necessary to create Ember? Why did they want to leave its people so ignorant? What is going on in the outside world? Etc. A similar book, The Giver, does this as well, but to be honest I’ve never had that problem with The Giver. Fortunately, there are other books in the series that will hopefully answer these questions.
Perhaps I am being a little too picky here, but I like my books to be a little more self-contained. Still, despite my one frustration, as mentioned before I do consider this a positive reading experience. I suspect that eventually I will go and read the other books in the series.(less)
I first discovered full cast audio in 2008 when I listened to Tamora Pierce’s Melting Stones (the first book ever written with a full cast audiobook f...moreI first discovered full cast audio in 2008 when I listened to Tamora Pierce’s Melting Stones (the first book ever written with a full cast audiobook format in mind). Since then, I have experienced a few other full cast audio books, including Sandry’s Book, and now Tris’s Book. Much like when I listened to Sandry’s book, I was surprised at how well the voices fit the characters, how well the book flowed in the as an audiobook, and how much I could still enjoy a book that I had first read more than seven years ago.
Tris’s Book continues the Circe of Magic Series at Winding Circle Temple. During the book, the four mage children (Sandry, Tris, Briar, and Daja) are surprised when they discover that their magic has become bound together. Thanks to the magic that Sandry did to save them from the earthquake, they can now speak mind to mind, and even share Tris’s talent for hearing other people’s voices carried in by winds. They have little time to dwell over this. When Winding Circle is attacked by pirates, even the youngest mages abilities will be needed to defend the place they now called home.
After first reading the book in 2002, I posted a review on amazon.com (which is still listed as one of the “most helpful customer reviews” as I was shocked to discover. All of those awful spelling/grammatical errors!) . I praised it for “its vivid descriptions and wonderful characters,” and I still agree with that assessment. One of the things that I did not pick up at sixteen that I now appreciate more at twenty-three is the teacher student relationships in this book. I enjoyed watching the young mages learn to find the reach and limits of their abilities. I also enjoyed the fact that the student’s four teachers are not just high and mightily great mages, but as well developed as our heroes. I also had a greater appreciation for how well structured the plot was for this book. As mentioned before, I was highly impressed with the full cast aspect of the book. Every voice was obviously picked with the original character in mind, and each person gives a strong performance.
Although I have a greater love for Tammy’s Tortall books, there will always be a special place in my heart for the Circle series. Tris’s Book was my favorite of the Circle of Magic books when I first read the series seven years ago, and it looks like the same is true today.(less)
When Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was first published, I thought that JK Rowling was done with Harry Potter, and possibly even as a writer. Wi...moreWhen Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was first published, I thought that JK Rowling was done with Harry Potter, and possibly even as a writer. With the exception of a possible encyclopedia she mentioned in a few interviews, I thought that we would never see another book from her set in this world. That’s why The Tales of Beedle the Bard was such a nice surprise. Although it’s unlikely to draw any new fans to the series, the Tales of Beedle the Bard does a nice job of giving us insight into Harry’s world.
The Tales of Beedle the Bard, first referenced in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, is a collection of wizard fairy tales. Like most of The Brother’s Grimm stories muggles heard growing up, they are all simple stories about magic, with a lesson in the end. Unlike the stories we read, witches and wizards are often the main character, rather then secondary, like the fairy godmother or an evil witch. The five tales included here are “The Wizard and the Hopping Pot”, “The Fountain of Fortune”, “The Warlock’s Hariy Heart”, “Babbitty Rabbitty and her Cackling Stump”, and “The Tale of the Three Brothers” (which was referenced in Deathly Hallows). My personal favorite is “Babbitty Rabbitty and her Cackling Stump,” which tells about a clever witch and a foolish muggle king. Each tale involves commentary by Albus Dumbledore himself, which is filled with the clever humor that we all know and love JK Rowling’s writing for.
The stories are sprinkled with tiny illustrations, which were really nice, but be careful if you’re someone that likes to “flip” through books. They can sometimes spoil the ending! As I mentioned before, these stories are not likely to draw in any new fans, but seeing how this is Harry Potter, I really don’t think that’s a problem. Like Qudditch Through the Ages, and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, a large part of this book’s appeal is it gives the setting of the Harry Potter books more depth. By reading stories that wizard children were told growing up, it makes its world seem more tangible and more real. This book, published to benefit a charity called The Children’s High Level Group, is perfect for any Harry Potter fan that wants just one more glimpse into this magical world.(less)
In 1928, the Ku Klux Klan settled in a town in Vermont. Witness shows how certain members of the the town reacted, including a young Jewish girl, an A...moreIn 1928, the Ku Klux Klan settled in a town in Vermont. Witness shows how certain members of the the town reacted, including a young Jewish girl, an African American adolescent, and a racist minister. Witness, narrated from multiple view points, is told in verse form instead of prose. This gives the reader the unique experience of getting to see inside the minds of eleven different people living in one town. To assist the reader, the author has provided pictures at the beginning of the book of each character with their name and age. While reading the book, if you need to remind yourself who a certain character is, you can always flip back to that page and see their picture. Children should be able to relate the most to the younger children, especially twelve year old Leona Sutter. Most of the cast are actually adults. Hess does not hold back on the racism present in the community, such as with Merlin Van Tornhout and Johnny Reeves, both who use racist slang that people may not see as appropriate for young children. One of the benefit of the use of such language is it makes the characters much more believable, giving the time frame. The arrival of the Ku Klux Klan is not the only thing going on in Witness. Hess does a great job establishing the time period by having characters, such as newspaper editor Reynard Alexander, comment on related current events of the late 1920s. Time is also spent developing important relationships between characters, such as Sara Chickering and the young Ester Hirsh, as well as Leona Sutter and the elderly Mr. Field. It's these more gentle, positive moments of the book that make it more than a commentary on racism, but a peek into the lives of eleven very different individuals. Witness is a fascinating book that gets more enjoyable with every read. Recommended Grade Level- 4-6(less)
Neil Philip's interpretation of The Arabian Nights selects fifteen tales from the classic collection of Arabian folktales and interprets them for a mo...moreNeil Philip's interpretation of The Arabian Nights selects fifteen tales from the classic collection of Arabian folktales and interprets them for a modern audience. Philip has included some of the best known tales such as “Aladdin” and “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves,” as well as those that may be unfamiliar to those who are not well versed in Arabian folktales. Some of the unfamiliar tales will be easy for children to connect to, as they have elements in common with Western fairy tales (for example, “The Anklet” resembles the story of Cinderella). Each story, which can be anywhere from two to over twenty pages long is written in a language that can be easily understood by children. The author may have simplifies the language of some tales, but he makes sure to keep the original Arabic names for the character, giving the book an authentic feel. Each story is accompanied with illustrations by Sheila Moxley, which can take up an entire page or merely decorate the text. Each painting is filled with bright colors, and includes architecture, props, and costumes that depicts the time frame which these stories take place in. The book ends with a conclusion by Neil Philip that lists his sources, explains the methods for choosing his tales, and gives a good reason for omitting one of the most famous tales from Arabian Nights, “Sinbad the Sailor” (the story was too long for this collection). Recommended Grade Level- Grades 1-3 Notes- The Arabian Nights is an example of multicultural literature (This review was written for a class)(less)