Thursday, August 27, 2009

Reviews by Anna

Gah! This post is extremely long overdue, for which I apologize. As some of you may know, I'm in an intensive graduate program that condenses two years of study into twelve months. We were on a break for the last five weeks, but now we're back into it--and, as part of the program, I am student teaching Kindergarten in the morning and attending classes in the afternoon and evening. This does not leave a lot of time for reading or reviewing, but I'm going to do my best. And don't worry, I'll still be cooking delicious Barefoot Contessa recipes and blathering on about them. (I know you probably were NOT worried, but humor me.)

In the meantime, I have some reviews that readers sent me. Enjoy!

The Roar
by Emma Clayton
Young Adult Fiction
Available now in hardcover
Review by Anna Hart

If the simple the fact that the story is posed in London in the future doesn't grab your interest, Emma Clayton's thrilling sci-fi novel Roar will pull you in on its own. It gives you a fresh new feel, with a touch of Star Wars added, like a delicious dash of exotic spices. Even though it's from a twelve-year-old's point of view, I think older readers (including myself, of course) will enjoy this book.

Mika lives in futuristic London, behind a huge wall that protects the citizens from the mysterious animal plague that swept the city many years ago. But since his twin sister vanished a year ago, Mika has suspected there is more to his world than he has always been told. When an organization starts recruiting children to play violent, very realistic virtual reality games, Mika uses it as a chance to search for his missing twin and uncover a startling truth.

Mika is easy to root for. Throughout the story, he is a brave and believable character that you want to stick with for the exciting ride; even when the dialogue gets a bit sketchy. He manages to discover secrets, and unravel their truths in ways that kept me reading with eager anticipation. When the end of the book came and a fountain of surprises erupted before me, I was quite disappointed that the book had finished.

At one point, the book touches on the fact that humans didn't take care of the earth, and that was what caused the disastrous animal plague. I thought 'Oh great, this is going to be some environmentalist book that bashes people while at the same time trying to be a science fiction, action packed adventure.'I was pleasantly surprised to find that yes, it was an action packed adventure, but there was no bashing involved.

I had a bit of a problem connecting to the villain of the story. My friends, the villains do, in fact, need to be identifiable, as twisted as that may sound, but I had trouble relating to this particular 'bad guy.' Even in the end, when the motives for his evil deeds become clear, I still felt that he could have had much more depth.

With that aside, the book was completely enjoyable and I would personally recommend it to sci-fi fans and people who simply enjoy a good tale. Emma Clayton certainly wrote an amazing first novel that kept me guessing and sucked me in all the way through until the end.

The Midnight Charter
by David Whitley
Young Adult Fantasy (Steampunk!)
Due September 1st
Review by Anna Hart

Do you need something? Well you aren't going to get it if you don't have something worthwhile to trade...not in Agora anyways.

Mark comes from the slums of Agora, only managing to escape the deadly plague because his father sold him. Lily is the servant who takes care of Mark in his new home. In their world where everything -including their lives- can be bought and sold, their only goal is survival.

When the two get a chance to switch lives, they take it. Lily goes outside in the world and Mark remains in the tower, acting as a servant to the mysterious Count. While Mark moves up in fame and fortune, becoming a wondrous astrologer, Lily starts the first Almshouse for the poor. Both of their lives remain entwined, seemingly by destiny. But when Lily discovers the Midnight Charter -started by Agora's founders- she realizes that her city and its elite have some very serious secrets. She and Mark are forced to make dangerous decisions...some that may alter the very future of Agora itself.

Creative and interesting, but also a book that makes you think. The Midnight Charter does have a distinct message hidden in it, but not the cliche messages that often bore one to tears when reading a YA novel.

In the beginning the book slid along quickly and smoothly, keeping me completely mesmerized by Agora's political intrigue and intertwined secrets. As the book slows down a bit, you are attached enough to the characters to continue reading. And if you stick with it to the end, well, the revealing of the mysteries was all the reward I needed.

Overall, I recommend this book for people who enjoy hidden meanings spiced masterfully with entertainment. I would read this book again, simply to uncover more and more of the secrets.

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