Saturday, July 30, 2011

Catherine Webb, Rachel Holmes, Elana Johnson, Megan McCafferty, Cassandra Clare, and Rick Riordan

I know it has been absolute ages since I did one of these (basically since before I moved to Arizona) and since I just finished two books I've been waiting months to read, I figured it was time to do another set of reviews and recommendations.

Children and Young Adult
The Throne of Fire (Kane Chronicles, #2) by Rick Riordan

I enjoyed this book and read it relatively quickly, though I liked it less than the first book. Like others have said, I really loved the addition of the god Bes and the Anubis-Sadie-Walter "love" triangle, but thought there was not enough of the major gods like in the last book, more of them mentioned in passing. 

In this volume, Sadie and Carter Kane have five days to find the three scrolls of the Book of Ra to awaken the Sun God and former ruler of the gods and stop Apophis, the Snake of Chaos who is trying to escape and destroy the world. I thought the plot twist involving Walter, one of the Kane's new magician initiates, was the most interesting and I look forward to hearing more about him in the next book. I also liked that they further explored the Duat, the magical world of the gods. Highly recommended for ages 10+, 4 stars. 

Young Adult
The Extraordinary and Unusual Adventures of Horatio Lyle by Catherine Webb

First off this book is a historical fiction with a touch of fantasy in it, but I don't believe that it qualifies as a steampunk novel due to the lack of advanced technology. I picked this up on a whim while browsing the YA section of my local library, trying to find something to read. Now I will say that while I enjoyed the book, I found it to be overly descriptive in some places, so much so that it kind of made the story slow down to a snail's pace. I personally like overly descriptive things but it took me 4 days to read this book, when normally a book this long would take 2 days. 

Horatio Lyle is a Special Constable (detective) for the police during the Victorian era (1863) and is also an amateur scientist. He is summoned to the palace for a very important mission, to recover a cultural artifact known as the Fuyun Plate. He is later joined in this endeavor by a local pickpocket he discovered named Tess and Thomas, another science enthusiast and the son of Lord Elwick. Soon all three are drawn into a crazy world of Chinese agents and mysterious green-eyed hypnotists who all seem to be coming after the Plate. Will they be able to find it in time and give it back to the Crown? What is the real purpose behind the Plate and why are so many people after it? To find out, you must read this book. Recommended for ages 12+. 3 1/2 stars. 

Possession (Possession, #1) by Elana Johnson
I had been waiting 1 1/2 months to read this book and I was happy to finally pick it up from the library. I really loved this book, as the author was so good at climaxing the action until the end, however the ending itself was so anti-climatic in comparison to the rest of the book that I knocked it down one star. It was also hard to follow at times as one character would be talking and then all of a sudden the first character would be inside the second's head, so it got kind of confusing. It seems that the author does plan on making the book into a series, so maybe that will redeem the first book a bit. As a side note, I think I have discovered my second favorite kissing writer after Cassandra Clare (that is someone who writes about kissing in such a way that you can imagine yourself in the story as the main character). 

The story is kind of hard to explain, but I will try. It is a dystopian tale and individuals known as the Thinkers control everything that people in Goodland think and do, and so the whole population is pretty much brainwashed. The main character Violet/Vi is a small scale 15 yr old troublemaker who gets busted while out with her best friend, a boy named Zenn, and it's clear that she has been in love with him for a long time. She ends up in prison where she meets Jag, an inmate from the Badlands, but as she gets to know him, she realizes that all things are not as they seem. The man in charge of the Thinkers is this guy named Thane who wants to recruit Vi and Jag for their powers of control, that only Vi is starting to realize that she has. So Jag and Vi spend most of the book running away from the Thinkers and running towards a safe area, falling in love along the way. Will they make it? Or will Thane capture them? You need to read this exciting new book to find out. Recommended for ages 14+, 4 stars. 

Bumped (Bumped, #1) by Megan McCafferty
I originally picked this book as one that I might read but wasn't that interested in reading, at least in compared to others that were coming out. However, I really enjoyed the book and finished it in a day. The concept of the book was very interesting and I could totally see it happening in the future. The ending was annoying, i.e. they ended it after they should have. Because of that, I have given it 4 1/2 vs 5 stars. Recommended for ages 14+.

The book is kind of hard to explain, but I will try. So basically a virus has wiped out the ability for anyone over the age of eighteen to have children, so teenage girls aged 14-18 are prized as breeders. Girls who can get pregnant are treated like rock stars and can get up to 6 figure money deals, in addition to paying for cars and college. Melody got such a deal but has been waiting for the perfect partner to "bump" with. In the meantime, she has learned that she has an identical twin sister named Harmony who showed up on her doorstep trying to convert her to God, and convince her sister to not be a breeder. Melody has a best friend, a boy named Zen, who she secretly likes but has never become involved with him because he is not considered "bumpworthy" material. Once Melody gets to know her sister Harmony, her whole world is turned upside down. 

City of Fallen Angels (Mortal Instruments Series #4) by Cassandra Clare
No, it didn't really take me this long (10 days) to read this short book. However, I did give birth whilst reading it and taking care of a newborn takes up most of a person's time, so I should be forgiven. Overall, I really enjoyed the book and was about 3/4 done with it after reading it a couple days. 

This volume is about Simon and his new role as a Daylighter and the Mark of Cain that Clary gave him in the last book. It also features a mysterious villain turning babies into monsters and causing general mayhem and a potential power struggle amidst the vampires. I'm glad that this book was more about Simon, as I really like his character in the other books. The person behind all the craziness going on throughout the book was a total surprise and it definitely kept me riveted till the end to find out what would happen to her. I did wish that Simon would go ahead and tell Isabelle how he really feels about her. The ending was a bit of an annoying cliffhanger and there will definitely now be a fifth book. Overall I give it 4 1/2 stars and recommend it for ages 15+. 

African Queen: The Real Life of the Hottentot Venus by Rachel Holmes
A well-done and well-researched biography/history of Saartijie Baartman, the so called Hottentot Venus from South Africa, it tells her whole tragic story and how she was exploited both during and after her lifetime. The book was a bit graphic at times, especially in reference to the obsession of 19th century scientists to sexualize the African female as proof of white supremacy, and their demanding to see her nude (which she never willingly did while she was alive). I did find it interesting that not only did she die in France but was not repatriated back to her home country of South Africa until 2002, after her skeleton, genitals and brain had been on display from 1815-1970s. She was used not only as cause for repatriation of African artifacts, but also as a symbol of her country and women's rights therein. 4 stars. 

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