Tuesday, March 31, 2009

March Books

This month has been okay. I hadn't been able to read quite as much as I'd wanted at the beginning of the month, because I had to concentrate on studying for my SAT test. All the same, I probably read a lot faster and more rabidly than the average reader, so my book count is still impressive. I've officially read 7 books this month. If the last book in my row confuses you, that one is called Kenny and the Dragon. I never wrote a review about it because it was too simple and childish for my taste; it was a book meant for Adam to read. At the time, I had nothing else to read, so... Well, Adam said he liked it a lot. And I read the book, so it counts. Oh, and I guess I never wrote about me finishing Bone #9, so that makes 8.

-->This is the very first month in which J.N. published a review for a book he read. Way to go, Jacoby!

I'm pleased to say that I loved all the books I chose to read this month. Well, barring Kenny. The Pendragon: Before the War series is awesome. All the Travelers' back stories are so much fun. I think the 39 Clue series is also quite good. Scat I loved because it was the perfect distraction from my big test, and it was great. In reading Battle of the Labyrinth, I'm semi glad that I finished the last of the available series. I know there's the last book on the horizon, but I think I'm content pretending that it ends there, because I don't really want to read more Percy. Gilbert Grape was alright. Besides Scat, this was a very interesting read that was close to actual life. I won't give an opinion on Kenny. It's not for mature, seasoned readers. It belongs more in the group of books designed to get kids to at least like reading books, and not hate them. The finale for Bone was almost anticlimactic in the very end, but I loved the whole series and do not regret reading it.

I'm not sure what to say about J.N.'s book, So Yesterday, because I'm not sure it's my type of read, but I congratulate Jacoby, once again, on contributing a little to this blog.

Why are these books posted here, you ask? Well, these are books I've started, but didn't really finish in March. Inkdeath and Otherland
were books I was interested in around the time of the SATs, but they were so huge and difficult to really get into that I gave up on them. I don't think I even like the Inkheart series anymore. It shouldn't have been a trilogy. Should have stopped with the first book. The other four books I read on one visit to Borders. A few chapters of each. Except for Eclipse. I actually finished this 3rd Twilight book yesterday, so I'll write a review on it later today, but since it doesn't count as a March book...

So here's where the numbers stand: Bettina, with a score of 32 books read in the 2009; and Jacoby, with only 1 book to report having read. I can't speak for all the books you read this year but didn't mention. I know you're all busy, but you might want to up the ante, so we're at least more even this month. Just a suggestion.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Pendragon: Before the War #2, by Walter Sorrells

Facts: I read this book in just one day. I think that's awesome because that's 1 day faster than I read the first book in this series. It was a super fun read. What else can you expect from a Pendragon novel? Even if D.J. MacHale didn't write it himself? Like the book before, it was just published this year. I consider myself very fortunate to have read this so recently after it came out. The only thing different about this book is that it's 230 pages-- 10 shorter than the first one. Maybe that's because this didn't have any sneak preview for book #3 at the end. Too bad. ~,~

The people you see on the front here are three more Travellers from the world of Halla. The first story in the sequence was Aja Killian's, the girl in the center with blond hair and tinted glasses. She looks so cool. Exactly as I had imagined her in the other Pendragon novels. The second story was about Elli Winter, the woman on the right. Then there was the one about Alder, the awkward looking guy on the left. I don't know about his looks. I already got a picture of him from reading the Pendragon graphic novel, and he doesn't look much like that here. But his story was still great.

My opinions: This Pendragon prequel makes me even more anxious to get back into the real story, the one where Bobby and all his friends left off. I have to wait a couple more agonizing months! It's unbearable!!! (Well, I guess I'm being a bit dramatic. It's only unbearable when Pendragon is on my mind, but when I'm not thinking about it, you can say it's bearable.) I hope that since reading my first review of the Pendragon series, some people have picked it up. That means you too, my curly friend between letters P and R. (She hasn't read any Pendragon. Can you believe it?) (Hehe, sorry about that, Curly.)

What was really cool about this collection of stories is that Press and Saint Dane have much more of a role in all of these travellers' adventures. Bobby's uncle appears directly in every tale, and Saint Dane is in disguise in two of them. You can tell quite clearly who he really is in both, though. Just look for the guy with pale, cold eyes in each story. Even if the main characters can't tell it's him, I sure could.

Aja's world is amazing. The one where people can go into a virtual reality? I'd love to be there. And Aja is so super smart. I like her. She can memorize and calculate mathamatical programs like no one's business. I could've used her to tutor me in SAT math! Press is quite helpful to her in the "game" she gets into and she learns that logic alone doesn't always solve problems. Sometimes you just have to go with your gut feeling...
Elli Winter seems like a nice, polite middle-aged woman. When Press meets up with her, she doesn't exactly feel like she's the Traveller type. But after reading about what she does on Qullian, I think she was wrong. I especially think she didn't make a good choice with letting her daughter Nevva become Traveller instead of her. Us fans know how that turned out in the end...
Alder, the Bedoowan knight, makes quite the transformation in his journey to knighthood. I was pretty amazed at how far he went in such a short time. I'm not sure how to talk about it anymore so I don't reveal anything, but in this story you can really tell which character Saint Dane is. It sure is funny knowing something that Alder plainly doesn't. But he finds out soon enough, when Bobby comes around...

Haha. I ended each segment about the Travellers with an elipse... Thanks for teaching me that word. Before then, all I used to call them was dot-dot-dot. Elipse sounds a lot fancier.

I really feel sorry for all the Travellers in this book. The ones from Book 1 had it a lot better than these guys. I mean, you can tell that the territories of Veelox and Quillian are already doomed, with the direction you know they're going in, and the situation on Denduron sure didn't sound good. But, when I remember that these are only fictional worlds, I feel a lot better. This book (and the author who wrote it) did the job it was meant to do. It entertained me. And made me wish I had the next adventure in my hands right away.

Friday, March 20, 2009

So Yesterday, by Scott Westerfeld

So Yesterday by Scott Westerfeld is exactly what the title insists! This book is so yesterday.
My opinions of this book are slightly colored by his other series "Pretties". Honestly, the very first thing I noticed while reading this book was Scott likes to stay one on subject, and one subject only:

What is cool? What isn't?

That is the underlining theme in this whole story. The main character, Hunter, is a 'Cool-hunter'. What he does for a living at 17 years old is looks for 'Innovators', or the people that first make up cool trends. He then tells them to his boss, who will then get it out on the market. in theory, he makes money off of 'cool'.

The actual storyline of this book was more than a little flat, with not much characterization and an extremely short time-line. Hunter meets this girl, Jen, who has totally 'cool' shoelaces. From this meeting, the whole rest of the book takes place till about 2 days after that. In that 2 days, him and her fall in love, blah blah blah. It was really not that interesting to me.

But there were good parts about this book! I liked the 'cool pyramid' idea. At the top of the pyramid are the
-Innovators, the people that make up their own trends. They are usually thought of as weird because the way the dress usually is, well, weird. but then the trend catches on and they are already setting newer trends.
-'Trend-Setters' these are the people that wear the trend at the peak of its coolness, like hunter, so other people go 'wow! that is so cool! I should get it too!'.
-'Early-Adaptors' - the people rich enough to buy it while its still rare
-'Consumers' - all of us that don't have a million dollars that follow the trend when it is really trendy.
-'Laggards' - the people that still wear "tucked-in Kiss t-shirts". the people that still think that kind of thing is still in.

There was also a humerus couple of chapters in the book where they talk about episode 38 of Pokemon. Episode 38 put hundreds of children into the hospital for epilepsy. The episode in question had just the right sequence of flashing blue and red lights that children around the ages of 10 were instantly put into seizures. While the real event in real life was NOT funny, the fact that they took that one episode so seriously in the book was laughable. Their idea of 'a red/blue flashing camera will make you crazy' will never happen. you have to have a still developing mind or brain issues to even be affected by epilepsy! oh, and for the record, I saw episode 38. nothing happened

But in all there was one real problem I had with the book - the original-turned-unoriginal idea. For anyone that has read Pretties, you know that that book also had the major undertone of 'What is cool'. Is being pretty cool? or uncool? is being 'bubbly' cool? is wearing this cool or uncool? what is cool?

I think scott tries to mystify people by making his characters too cool. Its the truth, his characters are always on the cutting-edge of coolness! The never wear the wrong thing, and people always follow their trends. "It's my job to spot where cool comes from, Jen. I can see who's leading and who's following, where the trend starts and how it spreads"

Where is the cut off point? I think he is trying to lift himself up into our own cool pyramid by making his characters totally trendy. But in all honesty, it just made me wonder 'am I cool? can I even be like these people?'

I would give this book a 2.5 out of 5 only because he really tried hard to make up a world where everything cool is questioned. but if you want to read the same idea with better characterization, just go and pick up Pretties from your local library.
"Never give us what we really want. Cut the dream into pieces and scatter them like ashes. Dole out the empty promises. Package out aspirations and sell them to us, cheaply made enough to fall apart."

Thursday, March 19, 2009

What's Eating Gilbert Grape?, by Peter Hedges

Facts: It almost took me a week to finish all 320 pages of this book. The chapters, of which there are 60, were very short. This was published in the year 1991, which, by coincidence, was the year that I was born. The novel was then turned into a movie 2 years later, with the screenplay written by the same author, Peter Hedges, and starring Johnny Depp as Gilbert Grape, the title character. Incidentally, Leonardo Dicaprio also plays Gilbert's retard brother, Arnie, so that makes two of my favorite actors in one movie. (See this link) I haven't seen the movie yet, but we just got it out from the library yesterday, so when I see it I'll be sure to edit this review to tell you how I liked it.

My opinions: Right off the bat, you guys should know that this is a Y/A novel, a book for young adults. It's got certain scenes in it that aren't meant for children to read about. But it's largely a good read. Gilbert Grape is this 24 year old dude who's stuck in the small town of Endora, Iowa, with his family. The Grapes are certainly a strange family (besides their last name). The strangest members by far are his soon to be 18-year-old brother, Arnie, who like I said before is retarded, and his mother, who is described to be so fat that she would be the butt of all those "Yo momma's so fat" jokes. Gilbert is naturally protective of Arnie, but he seems to hate the rest of his family. The book is all from Gilbert's point of view. There's not much of a driving plot, like no quest or evil villain of any sort. It's just his life and how he develops as a character. The town he lives in is almost a character on its own. He doesn't like the changes happening in it. Gilbert resists change. He doesn't like the new supermarket or the fast-food restaurant being built, or the burning down of his old elementary school. One of the biggest changes is when a strange, pretty girl comes to town and has everybody smitten with her.

I believe I liked this book alright. I wouldn't recommend it to everyone, but it seems like a good piece of literature. Below is a trailer of the movie, What's Eating Gilbert Grape.

*Edit* I've now read the book and seen the movie. As is usually the case, I liked the book better. But the Gilbert Grape movie wasn't too bad. It seemed to really try to stuff everything from the book into it. They left out a few scenes and characters, but that was okay, I guess. Depp and Dicaprio were absolutely the best. Though I couldn't say I loved the movie, I really enjoyed watching these two actors perform. Especially Leo. He's so adorable and lovable in his character.

Even though Annette and Adam did not read the book, like I did, they still thought the movie was a good one. I guess I'm prejudiced. I thought it was really weird how Johnny Depp was made to have long red hair. That's not quite how I pictured Gilbert. Oh well.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Scat, by Carl Hiaasen

Facts: This book was published in 2009. (the second book I've read that was published this year!) It had 370 pages and I read it in two days. Mostly today, when I needed it the most. (In case you haven't heard by now, I've completed the SAT test!) This is Carl Hiaasen's 3rd book for kids. I wouldn't say they're in a series, but all the books are similar to each other in three ways; they all take place somewhere in Florida, the stories are about brave kids saving a certain endangered species, and each has a one word title. Hoot, Flush, and now Scat. Hoot was made into a movie by Walden Media (I love how good that company is at turning books into great films) and guess what? The filming actually took place in Florida, and Annette and I got to be extras that made it into the movie! If you haven't seen this movie yet, now you have a very good reason to do so. You can see my sister and I quite clearly close to the end, especially Annette. You can see her making funny faces right behind the lady from Legally Blond, whats-her-name (I didn't watch Legally Blond). I wish I could actually show you where we turn up in the movie, so I can prove myself, but I can't find a good clip on YouTube. So you'll have to look for us yourselves. Be aware, though, that this was a couple years ago, and our hair was extra short then. However, you probably won't have trouble spotting me, since I've got a pastel pink shirt.

Okay, enough talk about my extra days. Let's get back to my opinions on Scat.

is really a sort of an environmental mystery. A really nasty teacher goes missing on a field trip to a swamp when a wildfire starts, and people suspect that this delinquent kid, Smoke, actually started the fire. But he really didn't. There's also a couple of oil drillers aiming to get rich with an illegal lot in the swamp that's supposed to belong to the state of Florida, because of the endangered panthers.
I think the book was very well-written. The story seems so real because there aren't any overly fantastical elements in it; it's just like real life. Although it was cute that Carl was able to sneak in a couple of Harry Potter references. That kind of thing brings the story closer to reality, because I guess if readers see that the characters have read H. P., then they'll become that much easier to relate to. I also like how all the books have highly environmentally conscious characters. It's very true that the wild-life of Florida is disappearing and getting buried under hotels, casinos, parking lots, and who knows what else, just so that a few uncaring people can stuff more money in their pockets.

I think this definitely deserves to be turned into a movie, just like Hoot. Hey, promise that you'll see Hoot as soon as you can? I can't really make sure you keep the promise all the way from my computer, but you've just got to see me and my sister in a Hollywood film. Then you can point and say to your friends that you know someone in a movie! Plus, you know I got Robert Wagner's autograph? I got the main boy, Logan Lerman's, too. I believe he's going to play Percy when they make a movie out of the Olympian series.

Okay, so make sure you watch Hoot soon, alright? And it wouldn't hurt to read Carl Hiaasen's works either. They're all great reads. You won't regret picking them up.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

The Battle of the Labyrinth, by Rick Riordan

Facts: I read this in about 2 days. It was published in 2008. It had 360 pages, or 20 chapters. I suppose the chapters don't really matter though. Then again, neither does how long it takes me to finish a book. The only time I'm excited about my reading speed is when I finish a really good book in one day. I'll let you know when that happens.

My Opinion: This Percy Jackson book was a pretty good one. Sometimes it's hard keeping track of so many characters, but I can handle it. I still enjoy reading about all the different Greek legends and gods and monsters. You can unwittingly learn a lot of stuff reading this way. Like the story about Daedalus inventing the labyrinth. You know, I also used to remember the myth about a Greek man and his son escaping a dungeon by making temporary wings with feathers and wax, and the son flew too high so the sun melted the wax and the boy dropped into the sea. I didn't know that that guy was Daedalus too. Some things like that just connected in my brain.

The story was exciting, and from the end I can tell that the final show-down will be in the next book. It has to be. I mean, Percy turned 15 and the prophecy revolves around him turning 16. Plus Kronos is in Luke's body and there's definitely going to be a big Olympian war. Another thing I enjoyed was reading about Percy's kinda messed up love life. Like, he seems to like Annabeth and she must like him, since they've known each other through all the books and saved each other a hundred times. But there's a human who can see through the magical Mist, Rachel, who Percy seems to also have a semi-crush on. It makes me really wonder who he'll end up with when the world is saved and it's all over. Well, hopefully the world will be saved. That's all up to Rick Riordan, though.

I have a feeling that I won't be reading an awful lot this week, since I need to work hard on my SAT studies. So don't expect any book reports until after the 14th. If something does happen to turn up on this book club blog, I sure hope it's a book that Jacoby's read. (Please don't make me do all the work around here.)

*Edit* BTW, Q, I thought of you every time Percy's sword/pen Riptide was mentioned. I'm still confused about how it came to be in your possession. Think you can clear it up for me?

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The 39 Clues ~ The Maze of Bones, by Rick Riordan

Facts: I lost track of when I started this book, but I think it only took me around 2 days. It was published in 2008. It's only 220 pages long, with 20 chapters. This is a series that I believe will be written by various authors. I was interested because Rick Riordan wrote the first one. This 39 Clues thing has a whole website for playing games and looking for clues of your own. I'm registered already as FloraSunnair. It's an okay site, but I doubt it's as fun as Jacoby's 100 clues game is going to be. Besides, the prizes and stuff that they apparently hand out (I never believe those things) are only elegible to under 14 year-olds. Maybe Brian or LouMac could try out for winning. Here's the website, if you feel so inclined to join, but before you do you should read the book first.

My Opinions: I like the book a lot better than I like its site. The story is that a grandmother dies and she leaves a sort of treasure hunt for her relatives  in her will. This family is apparently the most powerful family on Earth, with a bunch of famous people distantly related to them. The 39 clues should lead someone or some group to a great treasure or something that will make them have a very strong hold over the human race. Something along those lines.
The main characters are young and smart, so they're my kind of people. Amy and Dan Cahill, 14 and 11 respectively. You know, when I read about some of Amy and Dan's competition, Ian and Natalie Kabra, I was somehow reminded of the rivalry between the characters in the Spy Kids series. Remember in the 2nd, Gary and Gertie Giggles? They were who I thought of when I read about Ian and Natalie. So after that I thought of Amy and Dan as Carmen and Junie. I know, this is all probably confusing if you've never seen Spy Kids, let alone read the 39 Clues. You'd have to have done both to appreciate the comparison.
If you don't care for joining the website, that's completely fine. It's not the kind of site where you make friends. It's a lonely search for the clues. You need to play silly games to get them anyway. But if you'll just read the book, you'll find a neat little clue right in it's pages. Hint: Pay special attention to the page numbers, especially near the end.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Pendragon: Before the War #1, by Carla Jablonski

Facts: I finished this book in 2 days. It was published in 2009, most likely some time in January, because the second book was just published in February. (How exciting! This is the first book from this year that I've read!) It was 240 pages long.
As Pendragon fans should know, this book (and the two that will follow) is broken up into 3 stories about separate Travelers before Bobby Pendragon ever made the scene in their territory. The story about Kasha, the cat-like "klee" on the left, came first, with 8 chapters; the one about Vincent "Gunny" Van Dyke, the guy on the right, came next and was 15 chapters long, plus a prologue; and the last tale, about Vo Spader, the kid in center, was 13 chapters. Also there was a sneak peek for the second book, about the Traveler Alder, but I'm not going to count that. So in total I suppose there were 37 chapters in the book.

My opinion: Well, it's Pendragon, so what can I say? I really liked all the adventures I read. Even the fact that it was not written by D. J. MacHale doesn't take away much pleasure out of reading about the Halla universe. These prequels to the Pendragon series are meant to keep fans at bay while they wait for #10, Soldiers of Halla. I'd like to think this first book did its job. Now I can't wait for the next bundle of adventures.
I think I liked Spader's part the best. Cloral is my favorite territory, with all the water gadgets and funny expressions the locals use, like the words tum-tigger (meaning trouble) or spiff (a word synonymous to cool), and especially the catch-phrase "Hobey-Ho, let's go!" I love that. Spader's a fun character too, though I think the picture of him on the cover makes him look too young.
Kasha's life in Eelong comes in at my second favorite. Klees are awesome. They're powerful jungle cats that have humanoid intelligence, including the powers of speech and scientific thought. Plus they have a sense of humor and fun. It's a dangerous life, though, with dinosaur like tangs lurking around.
Gunny's story is okay, but since he lives in a regular world (although it is a past world) I wouldn't call it as exciting as the others. However, he does solve an interesting mystery with gangsters in it, so that was cool.

Well, I've thoroughly succeeded in not giving a lot away about these stories, haven't I? Now you guys have to read this and see what the excitement is all about. Of course, if you've never heard of the Pendragon series, (where have you been?) I advise you start from the beginning, with The Merchant of Death, before you start reading the prequels. Otherwise you probably won't understand. But please, Pendragon fans, feel free to comment and start a discussion with me. Have you read this book? What do you think about it? Remember, this is a book club, people!