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