Posts Tagged ‘children’s fiction’


Book Review: ‘Land of Elyon’

   Posted by: Faith    in Tasty Tomes

The Land of Elyon Book 2: Beyond the Valley of Thorns – Patrick Carman
The Land of Elyon Book 3: The Tenth City – Patrick Carman
The Land of Elyon Prequel/Book 4: Into the Mist – Patrick Carman (all Children’s Fiction)

Several years have passed since I read the first book in this series, and for whatever reason at the time, I never got around to reading the rest of the books… which made absolutely no sense, since I loved the first book. Last week, I made up my mind to just go for it and “git ‘er done”. Well, I still have one book to go, but in the meantime, what were these three like?

I have to say, I truly believe Patrick Carman is one of the new masters of worldbuilding. After recently reading the first two books in his Atherton series for older readers, and then coming back to this series, it’s clear to see that Carman has a gift for creating unique worlds that make sense. He weaves geography, cultural differences, politics, and economics into his worlds, which is quite the feat, considering the age level these books are targeted toward and the shorter length of his books (compared to, say, other children’s fantasies).

The main character of this series is a young girl – twelve or thirteen, I believe – and I was surprised how well this male author portrayed a girl of this age! Then I learned that he has two daughters of his own, and it made sense. He writes strong female leads who are true to their age.

And as for the story itself? The first three books in the series continue along the same path, though books two and three are more directly linked (ie. don’t finish book two without book 3 in hand!) and keep the action continually moving. The fourth book, or the prequel, can be read separately from the rest of the series… however, reading it fourth sets the stage for the fifth book (technically book 4 in the series, but I count the prequel as book 4 because it comes between 3 and 4 (er, 5) chronologically but not really… confused yet?). The prequel features the main characters from the previous books as they listen to the main thread of the book, which is told in the form of a story being related from memory by one of the characters. The final page in the prequel/not-a-prequel ends the storytelling and the main characters have arrived at their destination to begin the next book. Make sense?

Final verdict: read the books in the order they were written. 1,2,3,Prequel/4, Real book 4. They’re short, exciting, fun, and very well done. Highly recommended!

Tags: , , ,

The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle – Avi (Children’s Fiction/YA)

I read this based on the recommendation of a friend (and because I found it for $0.25 at the book sale), and am very glad I listened to her. In fact, she’s the same one who told me to read Catherine, Called Birdy at the beginning of the year. If I track down I Capture the Castle and get that one out of the way, I’ll have completed the circuit of her “highest YA recommendations”. Huzzah!

But anyway, back to the book. Despite not being too sure about it when I picked it up, it turned out to be an enjoyable read with a strong female lead who I really liked. Her transformation from a timid, well-bred society girl to a courageous young woman was very well done, and I liked how things turned out at the end – not quite the way I expected, and yet it was just right. Definitely recommended.

Rating: 4 coffees out of 5

Tags: , ,

Once Bitten, Twice Shy – Jennifer Rardin (Paranomal Chick Lit)

Well… er… at least it’s over? Oh wait, no, there are at least 3 more books in the series. Blarg.

Let me put it this way: The author tries too hard, the characters are unlikable and undeveloped, the plot and worldbuilding is inconsistent (where it exists, mind you), and the logic is sometimes… jumpy, at best. So, why did I bother to read past the second page?

Because I picked it up telling myself: “And now I am going to read some crap, just because I feel like it. And not good crap, either.” Turns out I was right. I don’t think I’ll be looking for any other books in this series… there are just too many other good books out there to bother with something this mediocre.

Rating: 1 coffee out of 5

The Book of a Thousand Days – Shannon Hale (Children’s Fiction/YA)

I picked this up based solely on the merit of good reviews from others here on Librarything. I didn’t even bother to read the description on the book, so imagine my surprise when I started reading and discovered that it was a re-working of a very little known fairy tale! I actually didn’t find that out until about halfway through the book – tells you how engrossed I was as soon as I started – and it definitely helped the second half of the book make more sense, if you will.

Without giving anything away, the climax wouldn’t have made a whole lot of logical sense if it wasn’t based on a fairy tale – especially because we see nothing like “that” earlier in the story – but with that in mind, it’s easier to accept changes in the way the world works at the drop of a hat.

I really enjoyed this book, and I’m glad I picked it up! It was a quick read, and definitely worth the time spent. I’ll be looking for more by this author in the near future.

Rating: 3 coffees out of 5

Tags: ,


Book Review: ‘The Wild Wood’ & ‘Skellig’

   Posted by: Faith    in Tasty Tomes

The Wild Wood - Charles de Lint (Fantasy)

I’d heard some excellent things about Charles de Lint from members of the group here, so I was excited to read something by him for the first time… unfortunately, this book fell far, far short of my expectations. *looks around nervously* Sorry, everyone…

The story itself is about a painter who has lost the passion in her art, and has retreated to a cabin in the woods to recapture the passion again. She begins to see faces in the woods, and she receives some odd messages. In essence: the woods needs her help.

For whatever reason, after the premise was established, the rest of the book just didn’t do it for me. I found the ending to be rather trite and unbelievable, though I’m sure some people really liked it and probably found it ‘poignant’… but I was just frustrated.

I was very glad, however, that it was short book, and I won’t give up on de Lint just yet…

Rating: 2 coffees out of 5

Skellig – David Almond (Children’s Fiction)

I picked this one up on the recommendation of others, but I wasn’t really expecting anything from it. It didn’t “look” very good, and usually I get a pretty good sense from a book when I’m holding it whether I’ll like it or not (I jokingly call it my ‘book sixth sense’… okay, now you all think I’m crazy), and this one didn’t really seem like my kind of thing…

Was I ever wrong. I don’t want to get into plot details because I really think this is a book you need to experience for yourself, but let me say this: when you turn the last page of the book, after the last word has been read, make sure you give yourself a few moments. Allow the sense of the book, the words and the sentiments evoked to wash over you. Absorb the truth behind the fantastic. I finished this book in a coffee shop and had brought along an action-oriented chick lit book to read afterward, but I simply couldn’t do it – I didn’t want to tarnish what I’d just read.

Needless to say, I’m very, very glad I gave this one a try.

Rating: 5 coffees out of 5

Tags: , , ,


Book Review: ‘Catherine, Called Birdy’

   Posted by: Faith    in Tasty Tomes

11) Catherine, Called Birdy – Karen Cushman (Children’s Fiction/YA)

A friend loaned this book to me, saying I would like it. I was skeptical… but she was right! The main character of Catherine is likable, funny, and believable as a young teen living in 1290 AD. I appreciated how Cushman included a section at the back on the real history of the time period, it shows that she really did her research and tried her hardest to make her novel authentic. And it shows! I recommend: A hot cup of tea, a comfy pillow, and an hour or two of uninterrupted reading time to best enjoy this one!

Rating: 3.5 coffees out of 5

Tags: ,


Different Kingdom & Maze of Bones

   Posted by: Faith    in Tasty Tomes

1) A Different Kingdom – Paul Kearney (Fantasy)

I’ll warn you – I’m going to include spoilers when I talk about this book, simply because I don’t really have any other way to express how I feel about it.

On a five-point scale, I’d probably give it a two, but that’s not because I enjoyed it. What I thought was unique about the book was its execution: think Lost: Season 4, and its obsession with flash forwards. That’s exactly what Kearney does throughout the novel, and while I was annoyed by it at first, eventually I became intrigued and finally was quite pleased at how he was able to connect the present & future threads at the end, bringing the story full circle. It takes a careful and patient writer to do that and keep people reading, and it’s certainly not something I’ve seen crop up in a fantasy book before. So, my kudos to Kearney for using this literary device quite successfully.

What I didn’t like about the novel was… the content. Er, yes, I know that’s a fairly significant thing to say, but allow me to explain. The story is divided into three sections. In part one, nothing happens. Really. Nothing significant, unless you count a thirteen year old losing his virginity to a fairy. I kid you not – and he does it over and over and over again, and when he’s not engaged in said act, he’s thinking about it. Now, to Kearney’s credit, he never writes much more than a quick description of the female’s upper anatomy and then one line that says what they did (I absolutely cannot abide lewd sex scenes just for the sake of lewd sex scenes), but… I really had a hard time getting past the fact that this was a *thirteen year old* who seemed to be quickly becoming a sex addict with a fairy who would later on turn out to be… *serious but predictable spoiler ahead* his COUSIN. Sigh.

Moving along, part two actually has action and less “love-making” moments, and I found myself being intrigued by the plot for the first time (this is about 150 pages into a 300 page book). Part three follows along the same line, so the story ends on a satisfying note (aside from the aforementioned ‘revelation’).

All things considered, I wasn’t entirely disappointed, but I wouldn’t go recommending it when there are plenty of better things to read. I’d say it was worth the $1 my father paid for it at the used bookstore, but that’s about it.

Rating: 2 coffees out of 5

2) The 39 Clues (The Maze of Bones, Book 1) – Rick Riordan (Children’s Fiction)

Very fast paced, very fun. I’ll be honest – I’m really rooting for this series to do well. With real prizes and a collectible card game attached to the book series, I can see this series having a significant impact on getting young boys to read again. There are so few excellent books available for boys, and fewer still that will keep their attention in this fast-paced world, and that’s why I think this book series concept is such a fantastic idea. Adventure, real cards to trade, a website with real clues and prizes… whoever came up with this concept is a genius. Even having different authors write each book… so when a kid likes their writing in this series, they can go find the other things each author has written! Genius, I tell you…

As for the first book itself? It’s a lot of fun. Non-stop action, interesting characters… I felt like I was reading a kids’ book edition of a National Treasure movie. Can’t wait to pick up #2.

Rating: 4 coffees out of 5

Tags: ,