Sunday, April 17, 2011

Kazu Kibuishi, Laini Taylor, Tom Angleberger, Arthur Slade - 2nd half of book reviews

Children and Young Adult
The Dodgeball Chronicles (Knights of the Lunch Table, #1) by Frank Cammuso 
Cute graphic novel in the vein of Diary of a Wimpy Kid and twist on the King Arthur myths, new kid Arthur King claims to be a dodgeball champ in order to get friends and of course gets sucked into a dodgeball game to the death vs the school bullies the first week of school. Thankfully though, he is blessed with a "magic" locker that makes him the king of the school and gives him two friends, Percy and Wayne, to help him out. I liked that the author/illustrator manages to slip in a Macbeth reference as well an Obi-Wan line from Star Wars: Episode 6. Great illustrations that made me laugh. Can't wait to read the next book in the series! Four stars, recommended for ages 9+. 

The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger
The premise of this book is great, as it is about an origami Yoda who spouts advice and a nerdy kid who wields it. What is the kid's agenda? Is he really that wise or is it all a practical joke? Or part of a larger plan? His friend Tommy wants to find out, by putting together a casebook of questions that kids in his 6th grade class have asked Yoda and the results. I like the little illustrations on the pages, esp the Tie Fighter and X-Wings at the page numbers. The author even explains how to make your own origami Yoda in the back of the book. Good book for boys who want something similar to Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Three stars, recommended for ages 9+. 

Dove Isabeau by Jane Yolen
A fairytale in the vein of Snow White, Dove Isabeau is a beautiful noble girl who is admired and loved by all. That is, until her mother dies and father remarries a witch who wants nothing more than to kill her stepdaughter, which she tries to find out by wishing into a glass ball every day. Eventually she traps Dove Isabeau and turns her into a dragon, which the king's son (who has of course always loved her) must defeat but there is a twist to the story. Four stars, recommended for ages 8+.

Blackbringer (Faeries of Dreamdark, #1) by Laini Taylor
Normally I avoid faerie stories like the plague, thinking them too girly and fluffy, with the exception of Spiderwick Chronicles which I thought were brilliant on an illustration and storytelling level. However, I gave this series a try after picking up the second volume and realizing that I should probably read the first book in the series first. With a recommendation on the back cover from author Shannon Hale, I started reading. Laini Taylor has created a vast new world that I dove headfirst into. Magpie Windwitch is a faerie who travels around the world getting rid of devils, until she finds a foul thing known as the Blackbringer and traces it back to her birthplace Dreamdark. Here she is drawn back into the world of the local faeries, imps, and the Djinn King. It is a bit long at 437 pages, but once you start reading you, you won't want to put it down. I can't wait to read the next book in the series! Five stars, recommended for ages 10+. 

Silksinger (Faeries of Dreamdark, #2) by Laini Taylor
I honestly didn't think the author could do as good a job as you she did with the first book, but Silksinger was awesome! The storyline was just as good as the first, almost more so because you find out more background information on the Djinn and main characters. In this book, Whisper Silksinger is trying to escape the devils that have killed her entire family with the Djinn Azazel safely hidden with her. She escapes to a nearby settlement where she meets a hobgoblin's caravan and Hirik, another young faerie with secrets of his own. Meanwhile our heroine from the first book, Magpie Windwitch, is tracking down the other five Djinn left in the world with her friend Talon and the crows. Once she learns where Azazel is from Whisper's family, she tries to track the girl down. Will Whisper get Azazel to safety and away from the devils? Will Mags and her crew find Whisper? To find out, you must read this amazing book. Five stars, recommended for ages 10+. 

One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia
I got the recommendation to read this book from a Teen Services Workshop that I went to at the beginning of the month. It was on one of the best books for younger teens list. I knew it was about the Black Panthers, which I didn't know much about other than the basic info, i.e. that it was a pro-African American power organization in the 1960s. Overall I thought the book was a little slow in the beginning but picked up about halfway through. I thought the book was a very good historical interpretation of the late 1960s, in so much as the setting and language. 

Eleven year old Delphine and her younger sisters Vonetta and Fern have been raised by her father and paternal grandmother for as long as she can remember and her mother was never around. So one summer, her dad decides to send them from Brooklyn to Oakland, California to visit their mom, Cecilia. She makes it very clear from the beginning that she did not choose having Delphine and her sisters sent to Oakland, and that she is not into mothering. The only thing Cecilia is into is writing poetry, sometimes for the Black Panthers. So the girls are pretty much left up to their own devices for most of the book, which includes going to to the Center to be "educated". Will Cecile ever be the mother her daughters want her to be? Recommended for ages 10+

Young Adult
The Cloud Searchers (Amulet, #3) by Kazu Kibuishi 
This is the best volume of the series so far, and it was a nice quick read. In this volume, we follow Emily and her friends and family as they try to find Cielis, the Stonekeeper Guardian Council city, which may or may not have been destroyed completely by the elves. There is an assassin hunting them while they search. The elf king's son, Prince Trellis, finds out and reveals some secrets from his past to Emily as they are forced to join together. I am very interested to see what happens in the next installment! Five stars, recommended for ages 11+ (For more info on the series, see the book trailer for the first book - until 1:26: 

Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale
Thank goodness this book is finally over! I've been trying to get through it for about a month and a half, but it was really long (70+ tracks per MP3 disc) and I was only listening to it 15 minutes at a time while I was driving. The story started off really interesting, with a 15 year old poor girl named Dashti who is educated enough to become a lady's maid and becomes Lady Saren's maid. Lady Saren has enraged her father by professing her love for another, not the one her father picked for her to marry, and so she and Dashti are to be sealed in a tower for 7 years. Dashti is telling the story from inside the tower. The book is set in the Asian steppes, China or Mongolia I'm guessing, and according to another reader is based off the Grimm's fairy tale "Maid Maleen" ( I got so lost/bored in the middle of the book because it was dragging and the Lady Saren turned out to be such a whiny, cowardly character who is supposed to be gentry, while Dashti is courageous and full of life. The ending was surprising and worth the trudge through the middle of the book. It kind of reminded me of Hale's other book, "The Goose Girl". 

Apparently I forgot to listen to one CD, so once I finish, I can more properly comment on this book. Actually I would've been happy if it ended at the end of Disc 5, I think it would've made more sense. I know not every book has to have a happily-ever-after ending, but it just seemed right with this book as Dashti worked so hard, so why shouldn't she have her Khan? But I must say that the actual ending at Disc 6 was far better than I could've thought, so much more crazy and romantic. Lady Saren finally gained some vim and vigor at the end of the book. Four stars, recommended for ages 12+. 

The Fattening Hut by Pat Lowery Collins
Interesting verse novel about a young teenage girl named Helen who lives on a fictional African island (though the author says the traditions/scenery are based off Nigerian customs and the Caribbean island of Martinique, I believe) whose tribal customs include arranged marriages, the fattening and female circumcision of their women to prepare them for said marriages. However, Helen does not want this life, but dreams of freedom and the chance to be educated. Will she escape her fate? Although I thought it was a little long-winded, it was an fascinating look into traditional African customs and thinking outside of the box. Three stars. Recommended for teens 15+, though the topics are difficult to read about. 

The Hunchback Assignments by Arthur Slade
I liked that this book was a twist on Victor Hugo's book, The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Modo, a deformed child, is bought by the mysterious Mr. Socrates and brought back to England to be raised, trained in combat, and survival techniques. Eventually he is used a secret agent by Mr. Socrates to try to uncover the goings on of the Clockwork Guild, who's story is simultaneously going on with Modo's. Does he manage to stop the evil Clockwork Guild as they scheme to take over the British government? Can't wait to read the next book in the series. Four stars, recommended for ages 11+. 

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