I first discovered this book in fifth grade, when my teacher read this amazing book to us. She had told us that it had songs and poems in it, and that she would sing to us, provided that we chose it for our read aloud book. Needless to say, we all wanted to hear our teacher sing. And we were introduced to the wonderful world of Aerwiar and its amazing creatures and characters, which include fearsome Toothy Cows and a crazy man called Peet. Reading it again as a teenager, I enjoyed it immensely for the second time, because of the suspense, humor, and creativity inside.
Ordinary siblings Janner, Tink, and Leeli Igby have lived in Skree, in the small town of Glipwood all their lives. Nine years ago, a Nameless Evil (called Gnag the Nameless), along with the despicable, lizard-like Fangs of Dang, took over both the Shining Isle of Anneria and Skree and now rule it with cruelty and oppression. But there is a secret in little Glipwood. A secret more dangerous than even the Fangs themselves.
Alice has traveled back to Wonderland! She and the other characters must find what has made the Hatter go inexplicably mad, or in his case, sane. And there is another mystery afoot. A mystery that had started before Alice came to Wonderland in the first place. Your actions and decisions affect the story, as you can choose to be Alice, the Mad Hatter, the Red Queen, or the White Queen, at different times in the story, including future and past...
A choose your own adventure, this book is entertaining for a light read. I enjoyed the different perspectives and whimsical ideas, but as I was reading through to the last ending, I found myself a little bored. I suppose this is because parts of story between the four characters were exactly the same, but told as "Alice said," instead of "I said," for example. I also think that it would have been more interesting if the book had differing interpretations of the same ideas depending on the character being played. However, I did enjoy making decisions for the first characters I chose, because the story was new to me, and I couldn’t predict what I needed to do. But after the first two, I could tell exactly what decisions would lead me to the right places, because the first characters had already finished the story based on the other two's actions.
This book is delightful, despite being only 122 pages (including the author's note, which I also enjoyed immensely). It is presented as a dictionary of quirky, imaginary creatures found in the Wingfeather Saga, which is also by Andrew Peterson. It's filled with elaborate drawings of such creatures, which I deeply enjoyed looking at. The descriptions consist of short stories of "Ollister B. Pembrick"'s encounters with the animals, and his opinions on their demeanor, weaknesses, and even taste. It is very fun to read and I would recommend this to anyone looking for something to cure their boredom. I also enjoyed the made up words in this book such as "quickitude" and "dogths" (a unit of measurement involving dogs). This is an excellent, strange little book that is definitely worth opening.
Howl's Moving Castle is yet another exceedingly charming and wonderfully hilarious fantasy masterpiece written by Diana Wynne Jones. Set in the wondrous world of Ingary, it follows Sophie Hatter in her quest to undo a curse put upon her by the Witch of the Waste that has made her into an old woman. This quest will take her to the chicken-footed castle of Howl, a haughty and capricious wizard, rumored to consume the hearts of young maids. There, she will encounter magical doors, fallen stars, anxious apprentices, and adventure beyond her wildest dreams. Although she'll have to put up with the most annoying wizard in the world to experience it.
I love this book so much because it is the epitome of good fantasy while also spending about half the time blatantly making fun of the entire genre of fantasy. It's good fantasy because it really highlights the best parts of fantasy. It has all the spectacular world building, the whimsical setting, the spectacularly implausible situations, and the characters who treat all of this like normal, day to day life. This stuff is amazing, and its why fantasy as a genre is amazing. But because it is such standard fantasy, it spices it up by poking fun at all the things fantasy takes for granted. For example, Sophie is the oldest of three sisters, which she knows means she won't do much with her life. A huge chunk of her character is her believing she is plain and normal, because that's how fairy tale rules work: the oldest two sisters are examples or background characters, while the youngest shines as a future princess or a powerful sorceress. And its so funny! Because its something we all know, because it happens so often, and because of course the people that live in this world know the rules by now! Another bit that shines is when the characters attempt to use seven-league boots, a classic fairy tale item that allows the user to travel seven leagues with one step. But when the characters try to travel seven leagues, one of them keep accidentally taking an extra step. Because of course they would! If you're getting shoved across seven leagues, you're off balance, so you take an extra step to balance yourself out! Also, how many of us regularly take a single step? So about 3 pages of this book is just a highly relatable sequence of this character shuttling herself back and forth over fourteen leagues, desperately trying to take just one step. And it's hilarious.
Another bit that shines about this book are the characters, and just how human they are. I've already mentioned that characters in this book are aware of trends and realistically skilled, both of which are refreshing in fantasy stories. But they're all also flawed, and flawed in actually bad ways. After reading so many books with characters flaws being things like "too loyal" or "too pretty" or "too noble", I love how this book just has characters that can sometimes be the worst. The character this shines through is the wizard, Howl. He's not annoying to the protagonist because he's "too nice" or "too charming." He's annoying because he throws tantrums and gets slime everywhere and never answers questions and avoids too much work at all costs and is needlessly dramatic and constantly oblivious and carries around a guitar to impress women. He's an amazing character because he acts exactly like a twenty-something with amazing magical powers would. I also love how this quality also affects the female characters, especially Sophie. She can be brash and stubborn and aggressive. She gets turned into a ninety year old, and she's cool with it in like twenty minutes because she realizes she doesn't need to impress anyone anymore. She literally throws acidic weed-killer at Howl because he says something just a little too stupid. This book allows its characters to say stupid things and make stupid decisions, because everyone does that sometimes so everyone in this book will do it too. The level of human understanding that went into this book is astounding.
All in all, this is one of the most fun books I've read in a long time. I would recommend this to anyone who loves relatable characters, amazing fantasy, a good mystery, and a fun read!
Reviewer Grade: 12
Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures has to be one of my favorite books. Not only are every one of the characters realistic and wonderful, but the story carries a beautiful message as well.
Ulysses is a squirrel who was sucked up by a vacuum cleaner and gained superpowers. Flora is a self described, natural-born cynic. Together, who knows what they can achieve?
Flora and Ulysses' personal journeys in the novel are sweet and never fail to impress me, and I especially like some of the more minor characters like Flora's polite and hopeful father and his philosophical neighbor, Dr. Meescham, whom likes to tell stories of her childhood in Blundermeecen.
"[We were] Always opening the door in the middle of the night and finding the face of someone you wanted to see. Well, not always. Sometimes it was the face of someone you did not want to see. But always, always in Blundermeecen you opened the door because you could not stop hoping that on the other side of it would be the face of someone you loved. And maybe, too, the face of someone you did not yet know but might come to love," is my favorite Flora & Ulysses quote, courtesy of Dr. Meescham. Despite this, my favorite character has to be our protagonist, Flora. She claims that she's a cynic, yet sees the good in others. She is independent, literate, and capable, and only occasionally yells out words or phrases that she deems appropriate to the situation, such as "Treacle!", "Seal blubber," or, "This malfeasance must be stopped!".
This is a book about learning to love others and the world around you, about the power in relationships, and the meaning behind words. One of the most powerful aspects of this book is seeing Ulysses find his voice and in turn, teach others to hope.
Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures is one of Kate DiCamillo's more lighthearted books, but it still carries a wonderful theme and memorable characters, and for this, I give it 5 stars.
Reviewer Grade 9, age 13
Ender's Game, written by Orson Scott Card, is a fictional account of an interplanetary war between the human race and aliens (known as "buggers"). The protagonist, Andrew "Ender" Wiggin, is a young boy when he is selected to battle school, where the elite of humanity is sent to train in case of war. Ender quickly rises through the ranks and joins the Command School, where the elite of the elite train.
In the previous war against the buggers, one man's actions saved humanity, and that man's name was Mazar Rackham. For the upcoming war, Mazar Rackham refines Ender's ability to exploit weakness in the enemy. After the war (no spoilers here!), Ender learns of the importance of communication and trust.
My favorite part was the ending. Even thought it felt a little rushed, it was beautiful. It was filled with kindeness and hope for the future. I enjoyed reading the book because it challenged my vocabulary and helped me look at situations and misunderstandings in a different light. I would recommend the book because it teaches valuable lessons that the reader can apply to their own life.
Wings focuses on a teenage girl, Laurel, who starts to experience strange magic-like events all during the first few months of her moving and going to a public school. When I saw the book, the hints of magic, romance, and the beautiful cover accompanied by the imagery in the synopsis really caught my attention. I did enjoy the romance aspects of the novel as it showed a wholesomeness of teenage couples and the friendship that led to it. Additionally, I enjoyed seeing Laurel grow more into the role of a strong protagonist by taking risks and learning to love, both herself and others. When reading Wings I found parts of the story to be interesting and adventurous, but kept to the trope of magic faeries and many main plot points were fairly predictable. Even though parts of the book seem to be predictable, I would still recommend it, as it is an interesting take on magic in our world with Laurel developing more as a protagonist throughout.
The final book of The Magicians trilogy follows Quentin back on Earth ready to take on a mission to steal a mysterious suit case along side other magically adept individuals, one being Plum, someone whom he knows from initial months after his expulsion from Fillory. Meanwhile, Eliot and Janet, along with new Fillorian royalty Josh and Poppy, work to save their world from destruction.
I really enjoyed this conclusion to this trilogy. The characters are given more depth (Janet makes her reappearance as an important character), storylines/loose ends from the previous books are solved or explained, and there are more perspectives rather than just Quentin. Seeing the story play out on both Earth and Fillory as they slowly come together near the end was a fun experience that wasn't shown in the other books due to their limited perspective.
The plot following Quentin and Plum was definitely a journey! Seeing the initial set up of the mission, the planning, and the execution and follow-up was deeply engaging. Not only were new things introduced, but it did a great job of creating its own story while connecting to previous storylines and the current plot with Fillory.
The events in Fillory were also fun, though they weren't as much of the story as Earth and didn't involve as much Josh and Poppy as I personally would have wanted. Regardless, this side of the story was also fun.
There were a few surprises that came up that were unexpected, but I'll leave them to you to see if you liked them or not.
Reader's Grade: 11
This book was a beautiful twisted tale based on Cinderella. It was a simple and quick read. I loved having it for a leisure book, it was a nice break between complex novels. On this note, I felt as though certain elements could have been developed better, such as the conspiracy within the castle. It was childishly simple to read, albeit that is part of what made this book so enjoyable. The biggest downside in my opinion was the ending. It felt far too rushed. Overall however this was a great read! I enjoyed where Elizabeth Lim picked up the story and cannot wait to read more books from her.
This book had me completely hooked! It almost follows the plot of Beauty and the Beast but in its own world with its own complex characters. Feyre's determination and strength was incredible to see in a female character. Not only is she the main character and heroin but she carries real and deep emotions. In addition to this, I love Tamlin and his court. Sarah J Mass's descriptions are in depth and I felt like I was really in the room experiencing everything as it happened. The end had my head spinning and I could not wait for the next book.
Shadow and Bone contains many complex themes. It held my attention; I couldnt put it down. I fell in love with the characters. They are all complex and maintain that complexity throughout the story. Until the end that is. I was unimpressed with the ending. It felt like Alina went against her own moral code to "win" that final fight. It felt forced and quite frankly, anticlimactic. It just didn't fit.
The second book of The Magicians trilogy continues with Quentin, Julia, Eliot, and Janet as kings and queens of Fillory before a quest throws Quentin and Julia back to Earth, and that quest being a snippet of a bigger problem for all magicians.
I enjoyed this book better than the first one. The world is more fleshed out, the plot is more interesting, and characters are more fleshed out (Quentin remains more or less the same to me, though). The biggest aspect of the book to me is Julia. In the first book, she is rarely shown and when she is, there is zero context on what was going on with her. In this installment, we get to see her backstory and her current character as the book oscillates between the current conflict and Julia's story during the events of The Magicians. Seeing her change and how it affects her (especially at the end of the book) is such a pivotal point of her dynamic with Quentin, as well as a driving force for the plot and world building (remember hedge witches?).
Other characters from the first book make their reappearance, along with some new ones, which bring some new life into the story . However, one character is largely excluded: Janet. While she appears in the beginning, she is left off the majority of the story. While the story doesn't necessarily need her, being a key character in the first book and a queen of the setting of the story, it would have been nice to see her more within the pages.
This a definitely a good edition to the series, and with the ending and some loose ends, I wonder how the final book will tie everything together.
Reader's Grade: 11
(Warning do not proceed unless you have read the previous 4 books. SPOILERS AHEAD.)
The wizarding world is exploding with news of Voldemort's return. Muggle news is filled with mysterious murders and strange disappearances. Or, at least, that is what 15-year-old Harry Potter thinks should be happening. Ever since he saw Voldemort return at the end of the Triwizard Tournament he had to hide under flower bushes just to listen to the muggle news to get any hint of what might be happening and, of course, avoiding his Wizard hating Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon. While doing this very thing, he hears a big crack that sounded like someone apparating or disapparating he jumps up because it was some sign of the world he knew...and he hits his head on the windowsill. His bumbling uncle pulls him in with his thick purple fingers and with a quick quarrel, Harry shows some cheek and leaves the house heading towards the park. He sighs bitterly thinking about how abandoned he felt. The stupid Daily Prophet failed to acknowledge the fact that the most dangerous wizard of all time had returned, he hadn't even heard anything from Dumbledore, and his friends sent practically useless letters, but from what was in them, he could tell they were at the same place. It angered him to think of Ron and Hermoine having fun at the Burrow without him. The only way to deal with his angers was to take them out on his piggy cousin Dudley who was every bit as foul as the parents who brought him up. Harry is "threatening" Dudley with his wand while they walk back to the house together trading insults, when the sky goes dark, and the air becomes a bone chilling cold. Dementors, Harry knew. He was forced to use magic, which caused, when he brought a pale, sweating Dudley home, to receive a letter announcing his expulsion from Hogwarts school of Witchcraft and Wizardry while listening to a furiously purple Uncle Vernon. He gets another letter telling him that his is not expelled yet but will have a hearing that will decide the issue at the Ministry of Magic. Because of this fiasco, he is transported by a guard to not the Burrow, but to the Headquarters of the Order of the Pheonix.
I really enjoyed this book because, well, the story is great, and because it is my favorite one in the series. I liked every single chapter in the book and there wasn't a single part that I didn't enjoy. I had picked this book because my mom, who had got me interested in the series in the first place had read me the first 4 books which gave way to me reading the 5th book on my own. I assure you that I have read it many, many times and if you appreciate truly good fiction, so will you. The Order of the Pheonix is not only one of the best books that I have read this year, but probably one of my favorite books ever.
Reviewer Grade: 8
Rick Riordan has done it again. After the stunning Percy Jackson series, Percy&co are back, but their not the only demigods in the country! Percy has gone missing, and has been "replaced" by Jason. He has no idea what's going on, after being attacked by a tornado and dropped in an unfamiliar camp, he is soon sent on a mission with his friends from school to capture the storm spirits that attacked them. You never know what Leo will come up with next, and he comes up with some, let's say... interesting, ideas. Do not try to lure a brass dragon with hot sauce and motor oil unless you like being burned. To a crisp. Instantly.
The Magicians is the first book of the "Magicians Trilogy" and is also the source material for a SYFY television show.
The story follows Quentin Coldwater, a young man fascinated by the stories of Fillory and Further, as he progresses through a secret school for the magically inclined known as Brakebills. As he goes through his years at the mystical school, leaving his old life behind, he learns to do magic and blooms new connections with fellow attendees at the school: Eliot, Penny, Alice, Janet, and Josh. After all of them graduate, things turn more magical and dangerous than he could have imagined as a new world is opened before his eyes.
The premise of the book is different than I would have expected for a fantasy book about a magic school (this is not the same as Harry Potter!), and it adds much more than simply school life. While a good chunk of the book is within the walls of Brakebills (and somewhat slow for my tastes), it does a good job of building the world of magic. Quentin himself seems decently relatable to me, though his character did annoy me at times. Watching him interact with the other characters is nice to see as their different dynamics interact with each other. The overarching conflict, from what I observed, is kind of lacking. The threat for the characters appears in one chapter and then disappears without much significance for the remainder of the story and the way it was handled seemed anti-climatic to me. However, I look forward to seeing how everything follows in the next book, especially after the last chapter!
Reviewer's Grade: 11
The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane is a book from the very unique perspective of a toy rabbit. Edward is a narcissistic, cold-hearted rabbit, incapable of love, until something unspeakable (by Edward's standards) happens to him and his life takes a drastic turn. Over the course of his "life", he meets many different people, all in need of him, whether he likes it or not.
The first time I heard about this book was when one of my elementary school teachers read it aloud to the class. And when I reread it just recently, it almost made me cry for the second time. I love this book and it remains one of my favorites because of multiple reasons, including its interesting perspective and excellent development of characters. Each and every one of them seem like actual, real, living people.
I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore is an entrancing sci-fi/fantasy adventure that is definitely worth the read. The story follows a boy called “Four”. Four, and his guardian Henri, are aliens from another planet. Four is one of nine children with magic powers who escaped their home planet when another alien race (called the Mogadorians) invaded. Now, it is only a matter of time before the Mogadorians, who intend to take over Earth, catch up with Four and Henri.
I love this book. I have read it upwards of ten times, but it still remains entertaining every time. Even though Four is an alien, he has completely human feelings and that makes him a really likable and realistic character. There is never a dull moment in the story, and although I have already read the second book, I want to know what happens next. I recommend this book to all sci-fi enthusiasts, and even those who don’t love it. You absolutely cannot go wrong with reading this book.
In the second installment to the Stalking Jack the Ripper series, this time we follow Audrey and Thomas to Romania, mainly to escape the grief and memories that London contains, but also to attend one of the best schools of forensic medicine. However, Audrey and Thomas are once again thrown into another murder mystery, this time facing Vlad the Impaler.
Even though the plot of this novel seemed interesting enough, like the first book of this series, I still couldn't find myself connecting to Audrey or Thomas at all. Both of them just seemed like the stereotypical cookie-cutter fantasy romance interests, with no dimension and no personality. While I enjoyed some of the interesting cultural legends and information about Romania, I felt like the novel was going way too slow. I couldn't find myself getting into it, and none of the characters really interested me and kept me focused on the novel. Once I practically forced myself to finish the book, I didn't find myself thinking about the book ever again. There was nothing interesting or unique about the novel and all the characters just seemed like the same characters that I've read about over and over again in the fantasy genre. The murder was also pretty generic and simple to solve, so there wasn't much suspense or build-up. Overall, I could see why some people would like this book, but it wasn't for me.
Reviewer Grade: 11
Dorothy Must Die follows Amy Gumm, a trailer-park living girl from Kansas, who has battled through a not present mother, school bullies, and a life of loneliness. However, all things change for Amy Gumm when she is transported into the land of Oz. But things don't seem to be the same, cheerful, yellow brick road Oz that Amy has always heard about, and she fears that she may be in for a much more sinister adventure than she'd planned.
Dorothy Must Die is a fantasy novel that is based on The Wizard of Oz but with a dark twist. Personally, I enjoyed Amy as a character and felt that all her hard experiences in life really turned her into a dynamic character. I also enjoyed seeing how the other turned the happy tale of Oz into something way more dark and deeper. Many of the new twists the author applied to this classic tale were very imaginative and applicable to today's society, and I enjoyed the creativity the novel displayed. Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reworked fairytales, and dark fantasy.
Reviewer Grade: 11
If you want a very fascinating book you can be sucked into for hours, wanting more, I have to recommend Tuck Everlasting. The idea of the spring water basically making everyone immortal is amazing and after you read it, it leaves you wondering, what would you do if you had water that kept you basically immortal? The idea of a magical spring such as the Fountain of Youth has always been pondered, but this story asks more than just "what would you do if you found it?". It makes you think, would you want to share it with anyone? How would being immortal be? Would you have to live in secret? The book is great if you want to follow an amazing and magical story of friendship and if you want to wonder, what really would happen if you met an immortal family and found magical immortality water?