Bookworm Burrow

Book reviews on over 125 different books from several different genres. Use the search or categories to see more.

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins November 6, 2009

Filed under: Book Reviews,Books,Fantasy,Fiction,Juvenile,Preteen Fiction,sci-fi — Julie @ 5:12 pm

catching-fireCatching Fire by Suzanne Collins fits into the juvenile fiction genre and was published in 2009. It is recommended for readers ages 12 and up.

I first stumbled across the Hunger Games shortly after it was published in 2008 and waited, very impatiently, for the sequel to appear. I purchased Catching Fire the day it was released and finish it closely thereafter. I loved it even more than the first book, which I didn’t even think would be possible. It begins about six months after the Hunger Games ended. Katniss has returned to district 12 but nothing was like she expected it to be. Peeta, still hurt that she was pretending to be in love, spends as little time with her as possible. Gale, also hurt by what happened during the Hunger Games, won’t really talk to her either and avoids her as well. Everyone wants to move on with life and celebrate that everyone is still alive but they must do the Victory Tour, which is where the winner of the games goes to all the districts and makes a speech, reminding those districts that they lost not only the games but two of their children as well. Another hitch in the moving on plan comes when the president of the Capitol comes to visit Katniss and tell her that he was not convinced of her love for Peeta and that he thinks she is trying to start a rebellion. She must now prove that he’s wrong on both counts while battling the capitol and in a surprising twist the other victors as well. Through a series of unbelievable events and by trusting people she barely knows Katniss not only finds the truth about the rebellion and the districts but also commits herself to a side. Catching Fire is a fabulous book further exploring the ideas of societal unrest and the amazing things that one can do with the right friends. I highly recommend it as a quick and satisfying read.

Other reviews available:

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

 

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

wind in the willowsThe Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame fits into the juvenile fiction genre and was first published in 1908. It is recommended for readers ages 8 and up.

I had an unbelievably hard time getting into this book. Even though it was only about 140 pages it took me months to read. It’s not that it’s a bad story I think it was just written so below my reading level that I had a hard time being interested. However, I think I would enjoy it if I were to read it to my children who, I’m fairly certain, would enjoy the animal characters and their adventures by the river. In the beginning we find Mole cleaning his house. He gets tired of cleaning and without any further planning leaves his house and sets off on an adventure. He makes it to the river and finds Rat who invites him to go on a picnic with him by boat. Mole is worried because he’d never been in a boat but agrees and makes an instant and lasting friend in Rat. While on the picnic they meet Badger, who is a nice enough animal but sort of anti-social. Badger admires Mole’s common sense and again Mole easily makes a new friend. Later they decide to go visit Toad. He lives in a really fancy house right on the river. They find Toad all excited about his new venture. He’d tried and failed at so many things in the past but that doesn’t keep Toad from trying new things. Cars are the current excitement in Toads life. He routinely manages to crash and break them but survives each time only to buy another and go at it again. It’s this love for cars that causes most of his problems. Toad’s friends convince him to give it up and to a point succeed until he steals a car and goes for a joy ride, which, as it should, lands him in jail. He manages to escape with the help of a washerwoman and has a few interest adventures on his way home being incredibly unruly. When he arrives home after being gone quite some time he finds his house has been taken over by weasels. Toad then goes off seeking the help of his friends. They are disappointed in the life he chose but after a quick chastisement they agree to help him get his house back. Badger plans the whole thing, Mole helped with the more subtle parts, Rat makes sure they are armed to the teeth, and Toad moans about his role in the whole thing. In the end Toad learns how to be a good friend and thankfully changes his ways. Badger, Mole, and Rat help save the day and are happily rewarded with their great friendship and a fine feast. All in all it’s an okay book. Grahame takes too many detours and subplots for my taste. He goes into great detail when a word or two would do about things that are never again mentioned in the book. It’s a great story with fun characters just not one of my favorites.

 

Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie

Peter PanPeter Pan by J.M. Barrie fits into the classical juvenile fiction genre and first appeared as a play in 1904. Later it was published as Peter and Wendy in 1911. It is recommended for readers ages 8 and up.

When I discovered the Disney movie Peter Pan was based on a book I was anxious to read. Typically I read the book first but it was an interesting experience to have it occur the other way. I was amazed while I read how closely the Disney movie stayed to the novel. There were major parts left out and the character of Peter was made to be more likeable but all in all it was much the same. The story begins with a thorough description of the Darling family and how they all came to be and how they acquired Nana, the nursemaid dog. One interesting difference is that Wendy, John, and Michael were not only gone one night but they were gone for quite some time. The books goes into detail how their parents and Nana think over the night they left and planning how they could have done things differently. The night the children left Peter came in and was tempting them to leave. Nana heard and managed to escape and run for the parents. Peter heard them coming and managed to get the children out of the house just before their parents burst into the room to stop them. Their flight to Neverland took days and days to accomplish and at times Peter would even forget they were there. When they got to Neverland everything is much the same as the movie but Wendy had her own cottage to live in outside of the tree where all the boys slept. The same adventures took place with the Indians and Captain Hook and even the capturing of the lost boys and Peter’s rescue. It was an interesting read but for once I think I prefer the movie to the book. Peter’s character in the book is a little too harsh for my taste. He seems moody and flighty but not in the fun carefree way that I’d imagined before. His uncontrollable selfishness also makes him more of a villain than someone to admire. Barrie’s writing at times also leaves something to be desired. He tends to bring himself down saying how this or that detail isn’t really important or that it’s not the best story but he might as well tell it anyway leaving me wondering if this is a draft with notes and not the real thing. I enjoyed finding the origins to one of my favorite children’s movies but I hesitate to recommend it to anyone else unless you have a burning desire to experience it first hand.

 

Seeing Redd by Frank Beddor January 23, 2009

Filed under: Book Reviews,Books,Fantasy,Fiction,Juvenile,Preteen Fiction — Julie @ 4:02 pm

seeing-reddSeeing Redd by Frank Beddor fits into the juvenile fantasy fiction genre and was published in 2007. It is recommended for readers ages 12 and up.

Seeing Redd exceeded my expectations not because I didn’t expect it to be good but simply because I forgot how good The Looking Glass Wars was. Beddor captures readers with such an interesting story line and imaginative twists on well-known characters. This novel picks up a few months after the last one ended where Redd and the Cat jumped into the Heart Crystal. They are unsure if Redd and the Cat survived the trip since no one had previously had the nerve to jump in. Alyss is trying hard to reestablish peace in her Queendom but struggles with people set in their ways after Redd’s thirteen year reign. Alyss learns that Redd is not her only enemy and has to use previously unimagined powers of destruction that may very well leave them all in ruin. Also, along the way, her and Dodge firm up their feeling for each other but struggle with what it will mean if they decide to have a relationship. Overall it was a very well written book and I repeated mentioned to my husband how much I like these books and I would definitely recommend them to anyone who likes fantasy fiction.

Other Reviews Available:

The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor

 

Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson January 13, 2009

Filed under: Book Reviews,Books,Fantasy,Fiction,Juvenile,Preteen Fiction — Julie @ 11:52 am

peter-and-the-starcatchersPeter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson fits into the preteen fantasy fiction genre and was published in 2004. It is recommended for readers ages 10 and up.

Peter and the Starcatchers was written as a prequel to the classic Peter Pan by James Barrie. It tells the story of how Peter came to Neverland, how he met Captain Hook, and the creation of Tinkerbell. For some reason although I’d heard nothing but great reviews for this book I wasn’t excited to pick it up. The first one hundred and fifty pages seemed to drag on forever. Then something happened. I don’t know if it was that the plot got more interesting or I just got more interested but the last 250 pages just breezed by. I was not only captivated but I am excitedly waiting my opportunity to read the rest of the series. However, I do think they went a little overboard in some places of the book trying to explain everything in the world. Apparently they feel that “starstuff” was the source of every major war, mythological gods (like Zeus), and creatures from mermaids to the Loch Ness Monster. Overall I did think it was a great book with a fantastic story and it gave a lot of fun background information to a story I already know and love.

 

Criss Cross by Lynne Rae Perkins July 3, 2008

Criss Cross by Lynne Rae Perkins was originally published in 2005.  It fits into the juvenile fiction genre and is recommended for readers ages 10 and up.

Finally there is a Newbery Medal winner that actually deserves the award.  So often when I read them I wonder but Criss Cross has it all.  This realistic and hilarious novel not only captured my attention it made me remember all the joys and frustrations of being a teen.  The story follows the lives of several teens in a town called Seldem.  Mostly we learn about their desire for boyfriends and girlfriends and their oblivion to the possibilities before them.  The laugh-out-loud anecdotes not only brought the characters to life but also told me how they think and what they struggle with.  The book was also filled with illustrations by the author every once in a while that were interesting, enlightening, or just funny.  Over all it was a great book and I would recommended it to anyone and everyone.

 

The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman March 25, 2008

Filed under: Book Reviews,Books,Fantasy,Fiction,Juvenile,Preteen Fiction — Julie @ 9:17 am

amber-spyglass.jpgThe Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman

Genre: Preteen Fantasy Fiction

Published in 2000

Recommended Age Group: 9 and Up

Summary: The Amber Spyglass is the third book in the His Dark Materials trilogy that began with The Golden Compass. This story opens with Mrs. Coulter in a cave with Lyra in an enchanted sleep. While asleep Lyra dreams about the world of the dead and her friend Roger. While asleep she promises to rescue Roger from the world of the dead.

Meanwhile Will meets up with two Angels who tell him about the Authority and how he came into being. They said that God was a name he gave himself and that he was never a creator, only the first Angel. He was condensed out of Dust and a wiser female came later and found the truth and was banished because of her knowledge (p. 31-32). Will also learns of Metatron, the Authority’s regent (one who rules in place of the true ruler), he is strong, powerful, and creates fear in those who see him.

Will then finds and joins forces with Iorek Byrnison, the armored bear, and together they free Lyra from her enchanted sleep and from Mrs. Coulter. Two miniature people and spies for Lord Asriel, called Gallivespians, also help them escape and follow Will and Lyra into another world and then into the world of the dead. Lyra decides to go to keep her promise to Roger and Will decides to go to speak to his father.  The Gallivespians follow unaware of what they are planning. They find the world of the dead but to get there they must submit to the pain of separating from their daemons. Once in the world of the dead they encountered Harpies who torture them and all the dead. They made a deal with the Harpies that if the dead would tell them true stories they would lead them out of the world of the dead through the hole that Will cut with his knife. They agree and the hole is made and the dead are able to escape.

While they are in the world of the dead Lord Asriel continues with his plan to overthrow the Authority and then those in the Kingdom of Heaven find out and come to make war. Metatron figured the Authority would be safer away from the Kingdom and sends him off in a crystal carriage. Cliff-ghasts saw the carriage and chased it down. Will and Lyra come upon them trying to get at the Authority and chased them away and freed the Authority from the crystal carriage thinking to help and comfort him but he is so old and frail that the wind pulls him apart and he vanishes.

Mrs. Coulter went to Metatron to try and persuade him to join forces with her and overthrow Lord Asriel. Metatron is blinded by her beauty and follows her only later to find that she was on Lord Asriel’s side and she and Lord Asriel combine forces to drag Metatron down to the abyss ending his rule and their lives.
In the end Will and Lyra unite with their daemons and make a great sacrafice to build the Kingdom of Heaven where they belong.

—————

Personal Notes: It took me a month to read this book, something that’s unheard of in the world of Julie. I just couldn’t get into it at all. When I picked it up it was interesting enough but it didn’t grab me and push me to read more. The parts where Mary is with the Mulefa alone were the hardest for me to push through. It reminded me of The Time Machine by H.G. Wells and I had a hard time getting though that one too. Admittedly the fault could be with me and not with Pullman’s writing but this was not nearly as good as the first two. The plot was also hard to follow. There were a lot of different words for the same things because there were main characters from four different worlds. Thus, it was hard to keep even the basic things straight.

Also there are the problems that people would have from the plot and how it works with their belief system. Lord Asriel’s goal is to destroy God and build a Republic of Heaven in place of the Kingdom of Heaven. I’d heard from the beginning that these were books about killing God so I was a little wary of that but that wasn’t the part that bothered me. They didn’t really kill God. Pullman described God as old and frail with wrinkles and loss of his senses (p. 410). Continuing on that page Pullman talks about how he was destroyed. The wind damaged him he “began to loosen and dissolve” then “their last impression was of those eyes, blinking in wonder, and a sigh of the most profound and exhausted relief”. He wasn’t killed, he dissolved in the wind and he seemed grateful even. Earlier in the book Mrs. Coulter said killing the Authority would be the merciful thing to do because of his age and inability to function. I don’t know if I agree with that but I do know that I definitely got the wrong picture of the God aspect from what other people were saying, probably those who haven’t even read the book.

The part that did bother me was when Mary Malone was talking about when she stopped believing in God. She had been a Nun and was studying physics she said, “I thought Physics could be done to the glory of God, till I saw that there wasn’t any God at all and that physics was more interesting anyway” (p. 441). Later she says that she was a nun but got a glimpse of love and decided that was better and she would be “miserable” as a Nun so God must not exist (p.445). For a scientist it seems like she has faulty logic. Both of these aren’t backed up by anything but her feelings. Maybe life for her would be better with a man in it but that doesn’t mean that there is not a God. A few pages later she admits that she misses God and when she was connected to him she felt connected to the Universe and felt like there was a purpose to life (p. 447). This seems like an argument for religion but somehow because of problems in the past Mary still chooses not to believe and her choice and the way she presented it affected Will and Lyra and probably will affect some readers of this book.

Overall, I was unimpressed. The plot was complex and hard to follow. The parts about religion bothered me and I felt simply incomplete with the ending. I enjoyed the first two books immensely but would not recommend the third.

– All page numbers are from the hardback edition with isbn: 0-679-87926-9.

Other reviews available:

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman

 

The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman February 24, 2008

Filed under: Book Reviews,Books,Fantasy,Fiction,Juvenile,Preteen Fiction — Julie @ 1:31 pm

subtle-knife.jpgThe Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman

Genre: Preteen Fantasy Fiction

Published in 1997

Recommended Age Group: 9 and Up

Summary: The Subtle Knife (His Dark Materials book 2) begins in our own world and then moves between worlds. In our world we follow the life of William Perry, the son of the famous explorer John Perry who disappeared shortly after Williams birth. William killed a man in his home in an effort to keep his mother and some documents safe. It is when he is on the run that Will finds the window into another world and into a city known as Cittàgazze (shortened to Ci’gazze) that is only inhabited by children. It is while he is in Ci’gazze that he runs into Lyra who crossed a bridge from her world to this one.

Lyra and Will band together and move from world to world trying to get answers. Lyra is looking for information on Dust and Will is trying to find his father. Along the way they meet up with enemies and friends, some new and some old. One of their new friends is Dr. Mary Malone, who comes from our world and is working on Dust, called shadow particles. She gives Lyra some information Dust that helps her in her quest. Will finds more about his father’s disappearance in the library and learns whom to trust.

Serafina Pekkala, the witch who helped save Lyra in the first book, goes to learn what Lord Asriel’s purpose is and discovers that “he’s aiming a rebellion against the highest power of all. He’s gone a-searching for the dwelling place of the Authority Himself, and he’s a-going to destroy Him” (p. 46). Basically he wants to recreate the Great War in heaven and ensure victory for the rebel angles (p. 198). After discovering this Serafina goes of in search of Lyra and finds her and Will being attacked by the children of Ci’gazze. Serafina helps them to escape and they go in search of Lord Asriel with Mrs. Coulter following behind with an army of zombies. In the end Will finds the answers he’s looking for but his joy is cut short and we find out more about Lyra’s purpose and what her and Will are to accomplish.

Personal Notes: This was an amazing book. I read with awe at the scope and magnitude of not only the plot but also changing setting and the underlying story for each main character. It is a truly great and original endeavor. Pullman sets out to recreate history and the war in heaven. Dr. Grumman says, “this time the right side must win… It’s time to start again but properly this time” (p. 319). Most of the main characters side with the rebel angels who were cast out of Heaven into Hell after the last war. They believe that destroying God will give them more knowledge, wisdom, and strength (p. 320). I can’t wait to read the conclusion of this trilogy.

I have a few things for those who are worried about the content of these books affecting their children and their belief in God and His power. There are a few things that are concerning. The fact that the main idea is to destroy God and give power to the devils may not be a message that you want your children to read about. It is also troubling how one of Pullman’s characters describes the Church he says, “That is what the Church does, and every church is the same: control, destroy, obliterate every good feeling” (p. 50). This is an amazing story and one that I don’t think I want my children to miss out on. I think the best thing to do is tell them how you feel about God and your church. Make sure they know how you feel and try to discover how they feel too. Tell them that this is a story and that the power and authority of the real God has never been in question. One of the witches in the books says that she is not worried about their God being destroyed because he is not her God. That is the way I choose to read these books. He’s not my God. He may represent him or sound a lot like him but he’s not the same, thus reading a story about someone killing their God doesn’t bother me. I hope that helped.

– All page numbers are from the paperback edition with isbn: 0-440-41833-x.

Other reviews available:

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman

 

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman February 17, 2008

Filed under: Book Reviews,Books,Fantasy,Fiction,Juvenile,Preteen Fiction — Julie @ 9:20 pm

golden-compass.jpgThe Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

Genre: Preteen Fantasy Fiction

Published in 1995

Recommended Age Group: 9 and Up

Summary: The Golden Compass is the first book in the series His Dark Materials. It is “set in a universe like ours, but different in many ways.” One of the major differences is that all people have daemons, they are always animals and usually the opposite gender of the person they belong to. Children’s daemons can change shape but once the people get older their daemon assumes a permanent animal. Lyra and her daemon Pantalaimon are our guides through this story which beings with Lyra and Pan at Jordan College in Oxford. Her parents left her at Jordan to be raised by the scholars who worked there and Lyra grew up a half-wild child who learned bits and pieces of everything.

Lyra’s world changed dramatically when her Uncle Asriel came for a visit and brought news about Dust and a mysterious city in the sky up North. Lyra is captivated at once and has thoughts only for going North until the Gobblers strike. The Gobblers kidnap children and though no one knows exactly why everyone ventures a guess. When the Gobblers strike in Oxford and take Lyra’s best friend she decides to go up against them only to discover later that she nearly became one of them. After a few course corrections Lyra finds herself heading North with a group of men sent to reclaim their children and if possible free Lord Asriel who was wrongfully imprisoned. It is on this adventure that Lyra learns the true purpose of the Gobblers and of other unbelievable mysteries.

Personal Notes: I read this book before the movie was made and I enjoyed it a lot. The plot was interesting and there were many fun elements that I hadn’t encountered before which made the book even more exciting. The talking armored bears were a highlight as were the many good guy/bad guy twists. Once I heard all the controversy about Pullman being an atheist and using his books for that cause I had to read it again to see if I missed something on the first go around. After reading it twice I can honestly say let your children read this book and don’t worry. It’s exciting and fun and it has nothing in it about trying to overthrow God. I hear the third book is the one to look out for but I’ll let you know when I get to it. Right now I’m moving on to the second one.

For the reading group the back of the book says ages nine to twelve but I wonder if that’s the best range. There were some parts that I had problems focusing on and a few words that I had to look up. I’m not worried about content I just worry that they might lose interest in the first part of the book. Once it moves on to parts two and three it picks up dramatically and gets more exciting so if you can make it through the first part then you’re home free. Overall it was a whirlwind adventure of suspense and excitement.

Other reviews available:

The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman

The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman

 

Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli February 8, 2008

Filed under: Book Reviews,Books,Fiction,Juvenile,Newbery Medal,Preteen Fiction — Julie @ 11:09 am

maniac-magee.jpgManiac Magee by Jerry Spinelli

Genre: Juvenile Fiction

Published in 1990

Recommended Age Group: 10 and Up

Summary: Maniac Magee is a Newberry Medal winning book about a legend of the same name. Also known as Jeffery Lionel Magee, Maniac is the hero and unifier of Two Mills, Pennsylvania. When Maniac ran into town there was a great divide between the people. There were the black people who lived on the East End of Hector Street and the white people who lived on the West End of Hector. As a twelve-year-old boy Jeffery didn’t understand the difference between black people and white. He didn’t understand that the white people just did not cross over to the East End. So on his first day of town he walked right over to the East End and made friends with Amanda Beale. He borrowed a book from her and then proceeded to do other unheard of things like sit on Finsterwald’s front steps and intercept a ball one handed that was meant for James “Hands” Down these things, among others, earned him the nickname Maniac.

Jeffery was a wanderer without family or home, he was orphaned at age three, he lived with some relatives but he was so unhappy there he ran away and landed, after a year of wandering, in Two Mills. He proceeded to enact social change bit by bit one miracle at a time. In the end he was a legend with a home, which is what he longed for most of all.

Personal Notes: An insightful book on the power of one fantastic person. Jeffery was able to do more for that town than anyone ever dreamed because he was able to set aside perceptions and actually get to know the people. This book teaches great lessons about the basics of humanity in the process of telling fun and interesting stories. A great story, something that I think everyone would enjoy but especially boys.

 

 
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