Posts Tagged ‘Book 1’

On a trip to Chicago, Kingsley took a set of mythology books with her. The stories she read from Jason and the Golden Fleece to The Trolls of Norway were so vivid and beautiful that they inspired her. On New Year’s Day of 2004, she sat down to collect her thoughts of what became Erec Rex. As she plotted the series, bits of mythology wove their way into her ideas, and, on April 7, 2009, the first book was published.

Story overview:
Twelve-year-old Erec Rex lives as one of several adopted children–moving from one place to the next–supported by a woman (who he calls his mother) with little income. His biggest problem is a strange voice that makes him do odd things. Thankfully, so far, the things have all been good.

Shortly after the story begins, the voice sends him out to seek for his mother, who had been missing since the morning. After meeting a strange girl, Bethany, he is lead down a mysterious stairway and into a magical world.

Coming across unusual characters, Erec is directed to a meeting place where a large group of children are preparing to complete in a set of games. The games are being held to determine who will replace the current rulers of Alypium, Ashona, and Aorth. As Erec searches for his mother, he finds himself caught up in the events of this magical world.

My thoughts:
I absolutely loved this book. I know it’s dreadful to say, but I liked it better than Harry Potter. There were a few things borrowed from the Potter world, such as the games (particularly the one which requires an underwater goal), but as many experts say, imitation produces great results. Then again, since the author heavily researched mythology before writing this tale, there’s a good chance she didn’t borrow from Potter at all. Regardless, I highly recommend this story. So far, it’s my best read of the year.

Things to consider:
No sexual or romantic scenes. No foul language that I remember. The action violence is fitting and non-gory. For those who are sensitive to chiromancy, there is an old woman who reads the protagonist’s palm. Personally, I found nothing offensive–it’s a wonderfully creative world. Great for ages 12 and up.

Opportunities for discussion:
It’s easy to doubt the ones you love when it appears as if they have been misleading you. But sometimes trusting family is more important than knowing all the facts–Erec learned this lesson when his mother was held captive. On the flip side, sometimes parents need to be more open with their children. Ask your youth if they ever felt like Erec, not knowing certain truths about their lives. If so, ask them what they’d like to know, and then make a decision to share if that’s the right thing to do.

On the long list of British children’s authors is Jenny Nimmo. In 1986, she began The Magician Trilogy, which was completed in 1989. From there she wrote several miscellaneous works before starting The Children of the Red King. This series went on for eight books, beginning in 2002 and ending in 2009, with an extension written in 2011 called The Secret Kingdom.

Story overview:
10-year-old Charlie lives in a house with his mother, two grandmothers, and uncle. His father supposedly died in a car accident when Charlie was still an infant. With his father’s side of the family known for their dark and shady ways, Charlie prefers to be more like his mother.

In fact, Charlie is content with being an average boy. He wants nothing to do with his crazy aunts or their power. But when a magical ability surfaces from within him, he can no longer stay in the background. The label, endowed, is bestowed upon him as his tyrannical grandmother, Grizelda Bone, forces him to attend Bloor’s Academy—a school for the gifted. But not before Charlie learns of a missing baby, now a girl his own age. With determination, Charlie makes it his mission to find her.

At the school, he meets kids who wish to help his cause, while others go out of their way to create obstacles to interrupt his mission. Yet help from unexpected places aids him and his friends as they seek to save the lost girl.

My thoughts:
There are some books where it takes me a few chapters to get interested. Midnight for Charlie Bone wasn’t one of them; I was hooked after the first few pages. The characters are dynamic and believable, the plot development is flawless, and the story itself was an enjoyable read. It’s written in a mixture of third-person omniscient and limited. Where the author does switch character heads during a scene, it happened so smoothly that I didn’t find it jarring like so many other books I’ve read. I look forward to continuing this series down the road, and recommend it [so far] as a great read.

Things to consider:
I found nothing questionable in this story. No foul language or sexual scenes. There are a few violent situations, but not many and nothing I’d consider inappropriate for this age group—9 and up. Good for both boys and girls, but perhaps a little more geared toward boys.

Opportunities for discussion:
Charlie’s uncle, Paton, is a man who kept his head down. In a family with dominating—and wicked—women, all he wanted was to be left alone. It wasn’t until Charlie drew Paton out of his small world that his eyes began to open. And once they were, he finally made a decision to step into action. Ask your children if there was ever a time where a friend or someone they cared about was being mistreated. Find out what they did or didn’t do about it and how it made them feel. There are times when it’s best to leave things alone, but there are other times when one must make a stand against a wrong. Share Paton’s story with them, and remind your children that ignoring problems may seem like a good solution, but in the bigger picture, doing so will only makes matters worse.

I came across this book in the library, and it sounded interesting, so I checked it out. There are four books in the original series, followed by another series of four more called The Circle Opens. It finishes off with a standalone named The Will of the Empress.

Born into a hillbilly family, Tamora Pierce understood what it meant to be “American poor.” She fell in love with books at a young age and started writing when she was only 6 years old. It is said that many of her stories contain feminist themes. If you’d like to know more, you can read her Bio at http://www.tamora-pierce.com/bio.html .

Story overview:
Four children with three completely different backgrounds come together at a place known as Discipline Cottage. Other than being troublemakers, the only thing they have in common is the ability to control magic.

Sandry–the book’s namesake–comes from a noble family. She has the ability to work with threads. Tris, a heavyset merchant girl, told from a young age that she had no magical abilities, discovers a dormant power that can manipulate weather conditions. Daja, the lone survivor of a terrible shipwreck, learns how to master metals as a smith. And, finally, Briar, a young street boy and thief, who is given the name of a shrub due to his divinity with plant life.

Under the supervision of Niklaren, and a few other magical users, the four children learn what it means to form unlikely bonds under abnormal circumstances.

My thoughts:
Tamora fans, please understand that I’m only saying how I honestly felt about this book. That doesn’t mean others won’t feel differently. Firstly, I didn’t like how I was thrown into the heads of four different children. It got confusing at times, and I can see how younger children may feel the same way. I also didn’t care that much for the story progression. There was a plot, don’t get me wrong, but it didn’t feel mapped out; the story mainly centered on the individual progression and relationships between the characters. I know this isn’t a bad thing, but for me, I became bored not having the supporting goal to pull me along. I wanted to see where I was going. I kept waiting, and waiting, and waiting, then the book was over. I’m sure this was done to introduce the following books in the series, but honestly, the first book didn’t make me desire to continue on to the next. So, this will probably be my only review of the Circle of Magic. I just couldn’t get into it, but I can see others doing so, so don’t take my word for it.

Things to consider:
No sexual situations or extreme cases of violence. The most I remember hearing in the way of foul language was a few made-up insults. There are instances of meditation, but I didn’t get anything overly creepy out of it. Good for teens and older, though, as I mentioned above, may be a little confusing to some. Probably targeted more toward girls, but overall is equally acceptable for boys.

Opportunities for discussion:
The children learn to overcome their differences and focus on what they have in common. Whether it is race, gender, ethnicity, wealth, status, age, or whathaveyou, the world has known, and still knows, what happens when people find contention with one another. Where we know that some differences are beyond our control (and in some cases, are good), all humankind is seen as equal in God’s eyes. It is good for us as believers to be reminded that humility was one of the most frequented subjects in the Bible. Loving our fellow men and women should not be restricted by external observations. Just remember, unless you are a Jew, you were not among His original chosen people. Remind your children that God allowed the possibility of all gentiles into His family. No one should consider other human beings as being below him or her. Finding what we have in common, and growing upon that, is sometimes the only way we can really extend God’s love.

I came across this book on Amazon and thought, wow, a cool looking Graphic Novel that isn’t a manga produced by Japan. After doing a little more research on it, I had to laugh. Where it is true that it was written as an American graphic novel, the author was born in Tokyo.

Note: There also looks to be a Warner Brothers movie adaptation coming in 2012.

Story overview:
Two years after having witnessed the death of her father, Emily, along with her mother and brother (Navin), move to a small town and into a broken-down house (once owned by her great-grandfather). Still dealing with emotions from her father’s death, Emily finds that her mother is also doing all she can to hold herself together.

When rummaging in her great-grandfather’s old room, Emily comes across a mystical-looking amulet. Shortly after putting it around her neck, an otherworldly intruder enters their home and captures her mother. When Emily and Navin chase after the creature, they find themselves transported to a different world.

Now Emily is faced with the burden of losing another parent. Only this time there’s something she can do to stop it. Having met some unlikely friends in this new world, Emily and Navin are given the resources necessary for chasing down their mother’s captor. Having activated the amulet’s power, Emily wonders if the cost of such help might end up costing her more in the end.

My thoughts:
At first, I wasn’t sure about the style of drawing. It was, different. But the longer I looked at it, the more it grew on me and I started to appreciate the artistic brilliance, particularly within the scenery–Kibuishi’s use of lighting is clearly his greatest strength. As far as the story goes, it hooked me right away. Heartfelt, mysterious, creative, and gripping are just a few of the words that come to mind. I ended up reading the whole thing in one sitting; couldn’t put it down.

Things to consider:
It’s marked for grades 4-7 (which is basically children aged nine to thirteen). I can see that; there are a few elements that may be considered too scary for younger children. But, I think 13 is too soon to cut it off; teenagers of all ages and many adults would appreciate this as well (I’m in my 30s, and I loved it). No hit of sexual references. No gore or even blood for that matter. There is action violence, some disturbing scenes involving a spider-like bug creature, and a few deaths (including Emil’s father, which practically had me in tears–thinking as a father myself). This should appeal to both boys and girls alike.

Opportunities for discussion:
The voice of the amulet told Emily that there was no time for faith. Yet her great grandfather did tell her there was another way. As a reader, I’m glad she listened to the amulet; I wanted to see the adventure unfold and to see what would happen with the stone. But as a believer I completely understand the temptation to reach for a quick and easy solution rather than listen to the voice of faith. The author shows us that the amulet might not be in the right, but leaves that thought open–likely to resurface in a later book. Since I don’t know the final outcome, I can’t say if choosing the amulet was a good decision. For all I know the amulet might have brought the creature to capture her mother in the first place. Therefore, with the story, we have yet to see, but for our own lives, let us consider this Bible verse Prov 19:2 (NIV) “It is not good to have zeal without knowledge, nor to be hasty and miss the way.” Ask your children about the last time they rushed into something, and what the outcome was. Challenge them to stop and assess the situation before jumping in next time. Sometimes trusting and having faith avoids worse consequences down the road.

In the world of fantasy comes another series targeted towards youth. First published in 2002, the Pendragon Series totaled ten books; the last one published March of last year (2009).

Story overview:

14-year-old Bobby Pendragon is one of those boys who is skilled in sports, outgoing, and known well among his peers. His life is what some would call a boy’s dream. Not only is he the top star of his school’s basketball team, but he recently received a kiss from the beautiful Courtney Chetwynde.

Mark Dimond on the other hand is on the opposite end of the spectrum. He’s nerdy and gets picked on, but remains one of Bobby’s best and closest friends. A friendship that gets put to the test when one day, Bobby disappears. Not only did Bobby miss the basketball semi-finals, but his entire family vanished. Including his house and family pet.

Mark receives a mysterious ring which teleports a journal, written by Bobby, from an entirely different world. It entails Bobby’s adventure into this world with his uncle, Press. Bobby tells Mark that he has to help his uncle escape the clutched of a traveler named Saint Dane, who captured the man and sentenced him to die. In the process Bobby learns that he too is a traveler and with the help of some unlikely allies, the boy seeks to save both his uncle and the territory which is threatened with war.

My thoughts
:

There is a good balance of humor, action, and originality. I particularly liked the modern and realistic way the main character thinks; nothing seemed forced or out of place. The way the author bounced back and forth with POV (First person and Third person) was interesting too. I recommend reading this one if you get a chance.

Things to consider:

There are no sexual situations or cursing. There is some action violence with a few gory descriptions, but nothing overly offensive. There was a comment about David killing Goliath as being, “just a story,” but keep in mind that is coming from the head of the main character; which is just how he thinks. There is also mention of something called Halla (sounds like a play on the name Allah), which is supposedly the power behind all life. Not sure where the author intends to go with this, but keep in mind, I only read the first book in the series of ten. I would suggest this for teens; both boys and girls.

Opportunities for discussion:

One of the themes here is that power corrupts even the purest of hearts. The village of oppressed minors showed what happens when the balance of power shifts from one direction to another. This is true to life. Humans of all social standings have the same potential of abuse towards their fellow man; the difference is often lack of opportunity, not the presence of goodness. When given the choice, men take advantage of their position without thought of those who are affected by it. Remind your children that they need to always remember where they came from, and never take advantage of others, regardless of opportunity to do so.

Written in the First Person perspective, this is the first book published by Patrick Carman (in 2003). There appears to be five books in the Land of Elyon series, and one of them is a prequel.

Story overview:

A twelve-year-old girl named Alexa Daley lives in a land surrounded by a large, un-scalable wall. She frequently visits a town called Bridewell with her father (who is the mayor of another town), and on this particular occasion—with the help of her mother’s spyglass—she sees something moving outside of the walls.

Of course it is not only forbidden to cross to the other side, but seemingly impossible; it is guarded by the cantankerous Pervis Kotcher and his men. The dark hills and forest of Elyon [on the other side] are dangerous, or at least, that’s what Alexa had been told. Eventually her curiosity outweighs the risks, and with the help of some unforeseen circumstances, she finds a way.

On the outside she meets some talking animals (who can communicate with her by the help of a special gem) who tell her that the wall unintentionally separated many of their families. On top of that, Alexa finds out that the prisoners used to build the walls many years ago are now living free in Elyon. They are plotting to attack Bridewell with the help of someone on the inside. With assistance from a talking rabbit named Malcolm, and a small man named Yipes, Alexa tries to find out who she can trust and warn them of the impending danger.

My thoughts:

I liked this one. Like most fantasy, this borrows some ideas from other novels, but unlike most fantasy, the main plot is fairly unique. Also, there were times I almost forgot I was reading a fantasy and wondered if I was in a mystery. Interesting approach from the author and I look forward to reading the next book in the series.

Things to consider:

This is a pretty clean tale. The worst that could be said are the lies told by the central character, Alexa. But even she admits that she hates telling them. I would propose this for preteens and older. Good for both girls and boys.

Opportunities for discussion:

A wall was built to protect the citizens of the city, but in actuality, all it did was shut them out from the rest of the world. There is much allegory that can be taken from this idea, especially for Christians. It is easy for the modern believer to become comfortable and keep to their own little circle, but it isn’t until we reach beyond this that we actually begin to grow. Ask your children if they are being walled up and how that makes them feel.

Just about everyone has heard of this series. There are a few movies out and the books are best sellers. Because of this I felt it my responsibility to start reading them myself and report on my findings.

Story overview:

Seventeen-year-old Isabella Swan (Bella) decides to move in with her father. Bella’s mom, Renée, is caught up in the life of her new husband. Rather than getting in her way, Bella decides to leave the warmth of Phoenix and enter the rainy and dreary atmosphere of Washington.

It doesn’t take long for Bella to fit in with the children at her new school. In fact, they all see her as a sort of celebrity. That is, all but one boy named Edward Cullen, who stays as far away from her as possible.

Bella is infatuated with Edward and doesn’t know why he keeps his distance. In time she learns his big secret and the two of them fall in love, but this is just the beginning. Bella soon learns that the world of Edward isn’t all she bargained for.

My thoughts:

I’ve always like the idea of Vampire stories. In fact, one of my favorite animes of all time is Vampire Hunter D, and I loved the novel version too. That said, with the Twilight series, I watched the first movie and thought it was OK. When I read the book I noticed that the movie followed it pretty well, but the biggest difference is that the book is much slower. So much so that I got pretty bored with it at times. Would I recommend this to Vampire fans? Probably not; it isn’t really a Vampire story, it’s a romance novel that uses vampires to attract attention. My advice is to watch the movie and don’t bother with the book, that is, unless you are one of those who really likes romantic centered tales. I for one am not a big fan.

Things to consider:

Overall, this story is pretty clean. No major language or inappropriate sexual scenes, and other than one central fight, there really isn’t much in the way of violence. This would be appropriate for a younger audience in that regard, but the tone of the story is really geared towards teenagers. The main character is seventeen, and I would assume those around fifteen plus would be a good starting point. Targeted more towards girls than boys, I think the average boy would be too bored with the slow story pace, but I see no reason to ban this series from your kids.

Opportunities for discussion:

Obviously romance is a big part of this story. Bella falls instantly in love with Edward based, mainly, on his looks. This is the kind of Hollywood romance that many girls dream of, but is unrealistic and honestly quite shallow. Romantic attraction may be obtainable in an instant, but before one can have a real, true, and lasting love, there are a lot more things that need to be addressed. Such as the test of time. This idea that one should jump into a final stage of deep love based on a few romantic feelings is one of the many lies bombarding our youth today; people often end up feeling discontented later in life from the decisions they made early on. Bella made Edward the center her life after a few short weeks, but in reality no human should become our totality. Everyone is flawed, and unrealistic expectations of our partner are one of the main causes of divorce and separations today. The statistics of broken relationships have never been higher, and Hollywood isn’t helping. True fulfillment can only be obtained when a person restores the gap between them and their creator, not by pushing these impossible expectations onto another flawed person. It isn’t fair to either party. Share this message with your youth; tell them your own experience with love and how it really works in the “really real world.”