Monday, September 29, 2014
Recommended for: Ages 11 to Adult
Rating: PG (mild romance and action violence)
Michael and his friends must rescue a child prodigy as the thrilling action continues in this electrifying fourth installment of the #1 New York Times bestselling series!
Michael, Taylor, Ostin and the rest of the Electroclan head to China in search of a girl who may have discovered why Michael and his friends became electric. Her name is Lin Julung, or Jade Dragon, and she's a child prodigy with an IQ higher than Einstein's—and Ostin's.
But Hatch gets to her first, and the Elgen are holding her prisoner in their Taiwan Starxource plant. Now the Voice wants Michael and the Electroclan to go to Taiwan and free her before Hatch can realize his dreams of an army of electric children.
The hunt for Jade Dragon is on, and it's a race against time!
My sisters and I almost never buy books new. I mean, it's an occurrence so rare it's practically nonexistent. But after getting Michael Vey 1: The Prisoner of Cell 25 from the library, we have bought every Michael Vey book as they are released. I wish I didn't have to wait until next year for book 5.
The Michael Vey books are primarily written in 1st person, though there are usually 3rd person sections about other characters. I did like how in this one there were no lengthy portions about the bad guys as there were in previous books. I found those parts kind of boring, so I was glad Jade Dragon avoided it. It was written in an engaging matter that didn't dumb down language for kids. Maybe it wasn't the best at character point of view, and there were sections that were a bit confusing, but I still loved it.
The Electroclan travels a lot. In the first book, though technically they're not the Electroclan yet, they go to Pasadena. Book 2, Rise of the Elgen, takes them to Peru. Book 3, Battle of the Ampere, sees more action in South America. In Hunt for Jade Dragon, they are first at a secret base somewhere in the U.S., and then travel to Taiwan. I'm not that well traveled, but I do know Richard Paul Evans has traveled to many of the places he writes about, and I think it makes it seem realistic. And the eels with yellow mucus on them. It makes it even more gross to have heard the author talking to Glenn Beck about how he and his daughter were actually served that.
Also, nearly forgot since this is book 4, but I haven't reviewed any of the others, so I haven't said it yet: The electric powers are extremely well done. For some superheroes, it doesn't really make sense how they got their powers. Like the Hulk. Gamma radiation would kill a person. The electric children gained powers when the MEI (can't remember exactly what it stands for, something to do with electric imaging) was tested early at a hospital in Pasadena. Most of the babies born during that testing period died, but seventeen survived, having been made electric. This electricity manifests itself in different ways for each electric child, giving them different powers. I personally think it was done in a very believable way. For sci-fi, anyway.
I have sort of mixed feelings about the plot, mostly in regards to the pacing. I loved the story, I read the whole 300+ page book in two days. The second half of the book has a lot of action and several twists and turns that left me going, "Wait, what?" I liked the down time they got at the beginning, though my sister and further reflection have opened up some mixed feelings about that. I really did like that part, and no, I didn't mind Michael and Taylor getting to spend some time together when their lives aren't in immediate danger. It did, however, take up a significant portion of the book, though in story time it only took a few days, while Jade Dragon was still in the possession of the Elgen. My other complaint is with the climax. There was plenty of danger and action leading up to it, but when it actually came, it was like, boom, it's over. It also seemed a bit easy compared to how hard it was to make it to that point. But the lead up for the climax was awesome. All twisty and turny (just not timey-wimey). There are a few kisses, but it is never descriptive, and never anything beyond that, so the romance angle didn't bother me.
Character Development: 4/5
The characters in the Michael Vey books are fairly well developed. I feel like I know Michael and Taylor very well, Jack is decently developed, and Ostin is one who is impossible to ignore. The other members of the Electroclan aren't quite as well developed. This book especially focused on Michael and Taylor to the exclusion of the others, which I didn't really mind that much, but my sister did, so I suppose it's more of a preference. On the other hand, I don't have any difficulty remembering the various powers of the members of the Electroclan, though I wouldn't say I could describe the personalities of Ian, Abigail, McKenna, and Zeus. Oh, and Nichelle is back. That makes things interesting.
In conclusion, Michael Vey 4: Hunt for Jade Dragon does have some literary flaws, but I loved it nonetheless. I enjoyed it immensely, and will most certainly be back for book 5. And, though I rarely go to the movies (a lifetime total of 8 times now, it's so expensive), if movies are made of this series, I will definitely want to see them in theaters. Recommended for lovers of sci-fi and adventure.
Friday, September 26, 2014
Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss
Recommended For: Ages 10 and up (reading and interest level)
When a boat traveling to Australia hits a reef and is destroyed, only one family survives. Shipwrecked on an island, and with no sign of rescue, the family is forced to use whatever means possible to stay alive. Through their struggles, the members of the family learn, not only how to survive, but also how to enjoy themselves in the face of adversity. The father, his wife and four children share many experiences together - both arduous and fun - and grow closer as a result.This classic tale of adventure on a desert island is exciting to read, as much as it is a story with a moral.
I honestly don't know why I like this book so much. When we first read it as a family, I thought it was boring, but a second try when I was older left me liking the book much better, and I've reread it many times since then. It's an "I" book, something I didn't really like when I was younger, but am rather fond of now. One thing I must say, though, is, even though there is nothing even slightly inappropriate, I suggest waiting to let children read it, otherwise they will probably think it boring.
I really like the Christian themes which are present throughout the book. The father is constantly reproving his boys on what they shouldn't do, including needlessly lose their temper and lie, even for a joke. It's teaching different lessons without being preachy, which I really hate in books. The characters aren't perfect, which is a common failing among older books, and is really annoying.
One thing I find interesting is that the family doesn't have a last name. Their name isn't Robinson, the author is just drawing a parallel as to how much they are like Robinson Crusoe. "I", the father, and the mother never get first names, either. They don't need them.
The four boys have distinct personalities: Fritz, the heedless oldest brother who thinks he knows everything, Ernest, the indolent, calm, and smart second-eldest, Jack, the crazy, adventurous, goofy, and good-natured third child, and Franz, the youngest, dumbest, and least developed character.
This book is full of adventures, ingenious inventing, survival, hard work, animals, people, and God. I highly recommend this book to anyone and everyone.
Monday, September 22, 2014
Recommended for: 10-14
Rating: PG (for some scary situations)
Lila and Jay Cooper have joined their dad on a mission to the jungles of Central America, where a group of American treasure hunters have already become the victims of the deadly curse of Toco-Rey. Before Dr. Cooper can solve the mystery, his children are kidnapped and his integrity is put to the test. What price will he pay to get his children back? Is the treasure in the burial tomb of Kachi-Tochetin really worth more than gold?
Follow the Coopers as they explore unknown ruins, plunge through dangerous jungles, face hostile natives, and battle ancient evil forces. Will their courage and faith in God bring them through?
The Cooper Kids Adventure books are enjoyable reads suitable for middle grade readers. The Christian worldview shines through in Indiana Jones style adventures, and makes for some good books. I did very much enjoy The Deadly Curse of Toco-Rey, though it didn't quite make it onto my favorites list.
The Cooper Kids books are fairly well written, and suitable for the target age group. The description is sufficient and the story is well told. My only complaints are the use of sound effects, which there was thankfully less of in this one, and the lack of deep character point of view. Not every book needs deep character point of view, C. S. Lewis employed omniscient narration as if he was relating a story told him by the characters and I love that, but in the Cooper Kids books, it feels as if it is supposed to be deep character point of view without going as deep as it should.
The setting of The Deadly Curse of Toco-Rey was certainly interesting and well developed. How realistic it is, I'm not sure, I haven't done any research to find out, but it seemed fairly plausible and definitely intriguing. How could I not be interested in an archaeological site in the middle of nowhere supposedly protected with a deadly curse?
The Deadly Curse of Toco-Rey had many twists and turns and strange revelations. It wasn't too complicated, nor was it overly simplistic. It kept me hooked, which is more than I can say for the previous book in the series. It rather bored me, and the only reason I continued with the series is because of a challenge in a Goodreads group I am a part of. I'm glad I did, though, because I did really enjoy this one. Not to give any spoilers, but the explanation for the curse is quite interesting, especially when you consider that this supposed curse turns people green.
Character Development: 4/5
I like Dr. Cooper and Jay and Lila quite a bit. I don't, however, feel like I know them as well as I would like. Perhaps it's just coming back to the series after a long break, but I feel like the story just doesn't give time to really get to know them.
All in all, The Deadly Curse of Toco-Rey was a good book that I recommend for middle grade readers.
Friday, September 19, 2014
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
Recommended for: Ages 8 to Adult
Rating: PG (for some scary situations)
It was a dark and stormy night; Meg Murry, her small brother Charles Wallace, and her mother had come down to the kitchen for a midnight snack when they were upset by the arrival of a most disturbing stranger.
"Wild nights are my glory," the unearthly stranger told them. "I just got caught in a downdraft and blown off course. Let me be on my way. Speaking of ways, by the way, there is such a thing as a tesseract".
Meg's father had been experimenting with this fifth dimension of time travel when he mysteriously disappeared. Now the time has come for Meg, her friend Calvin, and Charles Wallace to rescue him. But can they outwit the forces of evil they will encounter on their heart-stopping journey through space?
I first read this book for school, I think when I was about seven, and it became one of those books I reread just about every year. It was my first introduction to science fiction, and, aside from it's sequel and E.T., the only sci-fi I knew until I was a teenager. And it makes the eighth childhood favorite book along with all seven Chronicles of Narnia books.
A Wrinkle in Time is an unusual book. With tessering and Camazotz and Aunt Beast and the Happy Medium and the Mrs. W's and the Man with Red Eyes and IT, there really isn't anything quite like it. And yet, it's still a classic tale of good versus evil, of overcoming darkness with light, of family and friendship, of doing the right thing even when it's hard, and of freedom. It is about how important it is to be individuals and not all exactly the same. If you hear me say, "Like and equal are not the same thing," as I quite often do, it comes from A Wrinkle in Time. And the realization, now that I'm older, of just how many quotes in the book come from the Bible only makes it even better.
The characters stick with me, and, I'm sure, will for my whole life. Maybe because I see so much of myself in Meg. Her insecurities, her fear and anger, her impatience and stubbornness, her bad eyesight. Charles Wallace is a dear little brother, so smart and sweet it is heartbreaking when . . . but spoilers. And Calvin. The poor but popular kid who is out of place and uncared about at home and just wants a real family, who is just a very awesome character. They are all different and unique, and have to realize that it is okay, and even good not to be exactly like everyone else.
And there's Camazotz. Such a horrible place. Controlled by IT, surrounded by the Black Thing, where everyone is completely equal, everyone exactly alike, where no one has to suffer weeks of runny noses . . . to be honest, when I first read The Giver, it reminded me of Camazotz. And it's not a good place.
And now I've made myself want to read A Wrinkle in Time yet again. It is quite a book, and well deserving of the Newbery Medal it bears. I've recommended it on many occasions to friends, and recommend it again here. There is a good reason I've loved it for over ten years, and see no signs of ever stopping.
Wednesday, September 17, 2014
Recommended for: Ages 10 to Adult
I'm not sure why it was PG-13. There wasn't any adult content, just a few short kisses, even the brief mention of "the Stirrings" was way less detailed than in the book, and the war memory wasn't even that graphic...my friend speculated that it's because they think kids can't think deeply enough to understand it, and cited Common Core math as proof of the attempt to dumb down Americans. :)
In a seemingly perfect Community, 18-year-old Jonas is selected to be the next Receiver of Memory. But as he receives memories of how things used to be, Jonas begins to realize that all he has ever known may not be as perfect as he once believed.
Pay no attention to the trailer for The Giver. I still think the trailer for The Giver makes it look like all the other dystopians out there. So did my friend. That was what made me not want to see it. It made it look like a completely different story. But my friends at church made me curious about it, and when another friend expressed interest in going to see it, we did. Fortunately, not only was the trailer a misrepresentation of the story from the book, it misrepresented the movie. Yes, they changed a lot. No, even as a book purist it didn't ruin it at all. I liked the movie quite a bit, and am hoping the DVD comes out in time for Christmas because I want it. Ignore the trailer. Watch the movie. Don't expect it to be just like the book, because it can't be. Do read the book first, of course. The book is better, duh, but the movie is really good.
The technical aspects of the film were extremely well done. The memories were pretty neat. For the longer ones they actually put Jonas in them, and for shorter ones, there were clips and pictures that just sort of made you think. The biggest cool part of the technical aspect I will put in a spoiler, because, well, it's not as big of a spoiler in the movie, it can't be, but it is big for the book.
SPOILER Color. We don't appreciate color like we should. The way they handled color was brilliant. I expected no less, after the conversation I had about it after church, and I wasn't disappointed. It starts off fully in black and white, and gradually brings in bits of color as Jonas discovers it. The reds are first, of course, and come in muted. It really was pretty amazing how the community ever so gradually gained its color until it was fully vibrant. And then the later scenes without Jonas being in black and white made such a stark contrast. Driving home at sunset, I was really struck by how colorful everything was, and how much I take it for granted. END SPOILER
The Community. A place where everything is perfectly organized, no one ever has to make choices, or worry about where their next meal is coming from, or worry if you'll lose your job because it has been assigned to you by the Council of Elders and they rarely if ever make mistakes, everyone's personal space is respected, you have a safe dwelling to go home to each night...all you have to do is follow the rules and nothing bad will ever happen to you. Or will it? Is it really the paradise it seems? Very little about the setting was changed from Lois Lowry's book, and it was brilliantly done. The Community is portrayed just as it should be. Everything seems clean and perfect, but is it really? Can utopia really exist?
Jonas is nervous about Graduation. He has no idea what Assignment he will be given. So when he is chosen as the next Receiver of Memory, it is quite unexpected. There is only one, and being the Receiver of Memory is nothing like anything he could ever dream of.
The plot followed the book fairly well. They made the ending more exciting, but the basics were all there. To be honest, the plot isn't really all that complicated, and they didn't add complication to a simple but very powerful storyline. I didn't see any plot holes, and the slight inconsistencies in the book were either resolved or made irrelevant. It's a tale of discovery, but if I say too much about what that discovery is, it would be a spoiler, and I mustn't give spoilers about this story. I'm very adamant about that, strangely enough. Though that makes it difficult to say much. It was excellently done, and the running time was perfect for it. It didn't seem rushed, nor did it seem dragged out. The changes didn't bother me too much either, but I wasn't entirely without mental, "It didn't happen like that in the book." After watching it a few more times, I may be able to drop any quibbles and give it a full rating for plot.
Character Development: 4.5/5
I thought Jonas was perfect. Aside from making him older and giving him some sort of birthmark on his wrist instead of light eyes, he was almost exactly like the Jonas I know from the book. He was just a great character, a flawed human, but still a good person. I really liked Fiona too, despite them giving her a larger, more prominent role. Actually, I kind of liked her role in the movie. It wasn't so different that it made me cringe, so it was good. And yes, there were a couple of kisses between Jonas and Fiona, but it made an opportunity for a funny but at the same time horrible line, an elder saying "What are they doing?" The Giver was awesome, you could really tell he was weighed down with the memories, and he was just a great character. My biggest quibble is with Asher. He was a great character in the movie, and he fulfilled the role given him, but he just wasn't as funny. He wasn't as clumsy with words. Still, he was a well developed character, so it's only a book fan quibble that makes me have a slight problem with him. Only slight, because I strangely didn't mind the changes that much. I have to also mention the baby Gabriel. He's a baby, so there's not much character development involved, but he was so super cute. And I loved the part when Jonas was trying to make him laugh.
The Giver was a very good movie that translated the source material into a movie as effectively as was possible. I do highly recommend it, just read the book first.
Monday, September 15, 2014
Recommended for: ages 8 and up
Jessie lives with her family in the frontier village of Clifton, Indiana. When diphtheria strikes the village and the children of Clifton start dying, Jessie's mother sends her on a dangerous mission to back help. But beyond the walls of Clifton, Jessie discovers a world even more alien and threatening than she could have imagined, and soon she finds her own life in jeopardy. Can she get help before the children of Clifton, and Jessie herself, run out of time?
After reading several of Haddix's other books, I decided to go read her first book. I also thought it was interesting that it was inspired by Conner Prairie in Indiana.
The writing is good, but not as good as in some of her later books. In the story there are many things that are ordinary that Jessie thinks are strange. It is written well, showing that from Jessie's point of view, that the world is very strange to her. It is written as a good stand alone book, and it has a conclusive ending.
The book starts out in Clifton village, a small town in 1840. There is not a lot in the story that actually takes place in Clifton village, but what is in the story does seem like a small village in 1840. The story mostly takes place in Indiana in 1996. I don't know what it was like in 1996, but since it was modern when it was written, it is probably accurate in the setting.
The plot of the story is, when the children of Clifton village start getting sick, Jessie is sent to go get help for the people who are dying. Clifton village is a tourist attraction where people can see what it was like in the 1800s. The children don't know that it is not really 1840. The people who live in Clifton village are also not allowed to leave. The story follows Jessie, who tries to get help while not understanding 1996.
Character Development: 4/5
The story focuses on Jessie who is well developed. There is a lot about 1996 that she doesn't understand, and it is written from the view of someone who grew up like she was living in 1840. Jessie struggles with what to do and how to act without giving away where she is from. There are several other characters, but none of them are in it very long or have much focus on them. While the character development is well done, it is not as good as the character development in her later books.
I enjoyed reading this book, even though it is not as good as her later books, and would recommend it to anyone who likes adventure stories.
Friday, September 12, 2014
Recommended for: 13 and up
Rating: PG-13 (for violence)
For years, tales of DRAGONS from another world kidnapping and enslaving humans have been circulating in Jason Masters world, while for a slave girl named Koren, the stories of a human world seem pure myth. Together, these two teens will need to bridge two planets in order to overthrow the draconic threat and bring the lost slaves home. What if the Legends Are True?
Jason Masters doubted the myths that told of people taken through a portal to another realm and enslaved by dragons. But when he receives a cryptic message from his missing brother, he must uncover the truth and find the portal before it s too late. At the same time, Koren, a slave in the dragons realm, discovers she has a gift that could either save or help doom her people. As Jason and Koren work to rescue the enslaved humans, a mystic prophecy surrounding a black egg may make all their efforts futile."
I first read this book last year and loved it from the very beginning. There are many reasons that I like this book. One reason that I like it is that it is different from most fantasy stories where characters travel to another world. Most of the time they travel from earth to a fantasy world, but in Starlighter they travel from one fantasy world to another fantasy world. It also gets more complicated as the story goes on. Starlighter is a long book, but it doesn't have any boring parts. The book is fast paced and exciting and it is written in a way in which you can get to know the characters.
I enjoyed that it switched from between Jason and Koren's point of view throughout the book. All of the characters are unique and they aren't the typical characters that are in most fantasy stories.While reading the series I became attached to the characters, Jason and Koren being my favorites. There are many other characters in the story including Elyssa, Randall, and Tibber who travel with Jason. The dragons are the villains in the story, with Magnar as the leader.
This series is one of my favorite fantasy stories along with The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia, even though it is very different.
Wednesday, September 10, 2014
Recommended for: Ages 12 to Adult
Rating PG-13 (mature thematic material)
This movie deals with abortion. I thought it handled it quite well, not sugar coating the fact that abortion is murder while not becoming gratuitous, and said things that need to be said.
"You saw me before I was born." Psalm 139:16 (NLT)
As the curtain rises, Hannah hesitantly steps onto the stage for her theatrical debut in college. Yet before she can utter her first lines, Hannah—unscripted—collapses in front of the stunned audience.
After countless medical tests, all signs point to one underlying factor: Hannah's difficult birth. This revelation is nothing compared to what she then learns from her parents: she was actually adopted … after a failed abortion attempt.
Bewildered, angered, and confused, Hannah turns for support to Jason, her oldest friend. Encouraged by his adventurous spirit, Hannah joins his group of friends on a Spring Break road trip, embarking on a journey to discover her hidden past … and find hope for her unknown future.
In the midst of her incredible journey, Hannah finds that life can be so much more than what you have planned.
For a long time, I wasn't really interested in October Baby. I'm not sure why, maybe I was expecting it to be like a lot of other Christian films: poor acting and filmography, with the possibility of a decent storyline. However, I was extremely pleasantly surprised. I loved October Baby. It was very well done, and had a great message besides. I highly recommend it. Don't do like I did and hold off on it. It's truly a terrific movie.
October Baby was well-written, well-acted, and well-filmed. I was pleasantly surprised by the professional quality. I don't recall ever being pulled out of the story by a line that seemed awkwardly written or spoken. One character in a single scene pronounces "Hannah" kind of oddly, but that's nothing compared to all the inconsistent pronunciations that drive me crazy in Star Wars. It's a powerful film. And the professional quality should cause it to reach more people than a less well-made film of the same story and message would.
It has a modern setting, and a road trip around the coast to Mobile, Alabama. It seemed fairly realistic, despite just about every hotel room looking the same on the inside. The way the story was, it didn't require much out of the setting, and the locations used fit well.
October Baby is more than just a story of a young adopted woman trying to find her birth mother. That has been done, and probably overdone, but October Baby is more about Hannah dealing with the discovery that she survived an abortion. The plot moved fairly quickly and naturally, as Hannah and Jason sought after the truth about Hannah's birth. Maybe the discoveries were a bit too easy for them to get to, but it isn't a detective story, and that didn't make the revelations any less moving. In fact, though I almost never cry over fiction, October Baby made me cry a bit at parts. That's a big deal. The story deals with abortion in a way that is both sensitive to women who have had an abortion and still portrays it for what it is. Abortion is murder, and October Baby doesn't shy away from that fact or from saying how horrific it is. And the message during the credits is powerful as well. It is a story I would be willing to watch again.
Character Development: 5/5
All the characters seemed very real to me, from Hannah to B-Mac to Cindy Hastings. Hannah and her oldest friend Jason are the main characters. I liked Hannah a lot. It's clear she's had a lot of struggles with her health and finding out the reason only makes things harder for her emotionally, particularly when Alana is mean to her. She has a small positive character arc, so she grows throughout the movie, learning forgiveness and other things. I also really liked Jason. He was always there for her growing up, and still is, despite not being her boyfriend. And, even when they end up apart from the rest of the road trip group, he always behaves completely honorably. He's just such a good guy. I happen to like it when guy characters are honorable. Yet, he's not completely perfect, so he's a well-rounded character and not a misrepresentation of reality. Maybe his kind is rare, in fact, I know it is, but I also know it is not nonexistent.
In conclusion, October Baby is an excellent movie with a powerful and relevant message that will not be easily forgotten. Highly recommended.
Monday, September 8, 2014
Recommended For: Ages 9 to Adult
When Britt's older brother, Bran, lands a summer job house-sitting for the Marquises, an elderly couple, it seems like a great opportunity. Britt and Bran have moved to Florida so their mother can finish college, and the house-sitting income will allow their mom to quit her job and take classes full-time. Having never lived in a real house before, Britt is thrilled. There's only one problem: Britt starts to suspect her family isn't supposed to be there.
She's been noticing that Bran is acting weird and defensive--he hides the Marquises' mail, won't let anyone touch the thermostat, and discourages Britt from meeting any of the neighbors. Determined to get to the bottom of things, Britt starts investigating and makes a startling discovery--the Marquises aren't who Bran has led her and their mom to believe. So whose house are they staying in, and why has Bran brought them there?
Wow. This book turned out quite different from what I expected. The ending was quite a surprise. I very much enjoyed this book.
The writing of this book was good, and, as always, Margaret Peterson Haddix drew me in with her deep character voice. Really, her character voice is always as if it's in first person when it's not. As for the other aspects, it seemed fine to me. No typos that I noticed.
This book was set in Florida in the modern times. It was in one of those beach communities where some people only stay for a certain time and there isn't much around. The setting was very well done.
This was what blew me away. The plot was VERY well done, down to the unexpected twist in the middle. It was very intriguing. I couldn't put this book down because of the plot, though that happens with quite a few books. Margaret Peterson Haddix did a very good job on the plot of this book.
Margaret Peterson Haddix always does a great job on her character development. This book was no exception. The characters were well-rounded, and Bran was especially well-done. I also liked Britt and her character arc, even though it was more off-screen than on-screen.
I say a hearty round of applause to Margaret Peterson Haddix for creating such a good book. I think anyone who likes reading would enjoy this book.