Posts Tagged ‘fantasy’

Book Review: Gregor and the Code of the Claw by Suzanne Collins

AuthorSuzanne Collins
TitleGregor and the Code of the Claw
Publication Info: [New York] : Listening Library, 2008.
ISBN: 9780739364895
Summary/Review:
The final volume of The Underland Chronicles completes the fascinating and well-written series.  While at heart a war story, it finds its protagonist Gregor grappling with ethical dilemmas, mortality, and fate.  And if you’re like me and thought the prophecies of Sandwich were too overbearing in the earlier novels, it was a relief to see what Ripred and Gregor make of the final prophecy.  The Underland Chronicles are a worthy addition to fantasy literature and something readers of all ages should enjoy.
Rating: ****

Book Review: Gregor and the Marks of Secret by Suzanne Collins

AuthorSuzanne Collins
TitleGregor and the Marks of Secret
Publication Info: New York : Listening Library, 2008.
ISBN: 9780739364857
Summary/Review:
The Underland Chronicles continues its compelling story.  This one is set apart from its predecessors as it doesn’t follow a quest.  Instead it finds Gregor and his family in everyday interaction with the Underland, only falling into adventure to solve mysteries that crop up eventually leading to war between the Underland humans and the rats.  The story continues to grow dark with imagery reminiscent of the Nazi Holocaust and the killing fields of Pol Pot.  This book is also essentially a two-parter leading right into the final book Gregor and the Code of the Claw.
Rating: ****

Book Review: Every Day by David Levithan

AuthorDavid Levithan
TitleEvery Day
Publication Info: [New York] : Listening Library, 2012.
ISBN: 9780449015230
Summary/Review:

This novel is told from the perspective of a person – or perhaps just a consciousness – named A who awakes each morning occupying the body of a different person.  Over the years, A has come up with practices and ethics to not interfere in the lives of the bodies occupied, but this all changes at the age of 16 when A becomes obsessed with a girl named Rhiannon.  A reveals the secret identity to Rhiannon and tries to find some way to maintain a relationship. Along the way we get sympathetic vignettes glimpsing into the lives of several teenagers each facing their own joys and struggles. Levithan’s writing is well-done and the story works both as ripping good yarn and as metaphor for the teenagers’ search for identity.


Recommended booksThe Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger and Fade by Robert Cormier.
Rating: ****

Book Review: Gregor and the Curse of the Warmbloods by Suzanne Collins

AuthorSuzanne Collins
TitleGregor and the Curse of the Warmbloods
Publication Info: [New York, N.Y.] : Listening Library, 2005.
ISBN: 9780739353950
Summary/Review:

The third volume of The Underland Chronicles is another ripping yarn but also one where the quest is really a metaphor.  Revelations of the Underland’s past are made and the morality of the human’s position in Underland society is questioned.  Gregor’s family also become a greater part of the story, as Gregor’s mother visits the Underland for the first time and also succumbs to the plague that afflicts the mammals of the Underland.  It’s great that Collins can maintain the high quality of adventure while unfolding the ongoing plot of the chronicles.
Favorite Passages:
Recommended books:
Rating: ****1/2

Book Review: Gregor and the Prophecy of Bane by Suzanne Collins

Author: Suzanne Collins
TitleGregor and the Prophecy of Bane
Publication Info: [New York] : Listening Library, 2005.
ISBN: 9780739344842

Previously Read By Same AuthorThe Hunger GamesCatching FireMockingjay, Gregor the Overlander

Summary/Review:

The second volume of The Underland Chronicles continues the delightful adventures and imaginative world-building of it’s predecessor.  Gregor and his sister Boots return unwillingly to the Underland and find themselves drawn into another quest to seek a rat known as the Bane.  [Side note: Being the father of a girl the same age as Boots makes me love her characterization all the more].  The book builds on the Underland with new characters and new locations but at it’s best it develops continuing relationships, especially between Gregor and his bonded bat Aries.  It is also a darker story as Gregor faces a tragic loss and must make a difficult  moral decision that defines his character.  If I have one quibble it is how these stories are guided by prophecies, although there is the counterpoint that the interpretation of these prophecies is often way off base within the story itself.  Another excellent work by Suzanne Collins, go get it now!

Rating: ****1/2

Book Review: Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins

Author: Suzanne Collins
TitleGregor the Overlander 
Publication Info: [New York, N.Y.] : Listening Library, 2005.
ISBN: 9780739344859

Previously Read By Same AuthorThe Hunger GamesCatching Fire, Mockingjay

Summary/Review:

I read this book for the first time in 2006 (my original review is on Library Thing) and was impressed by the adventure set in a fantastical world under the Earth.  I learned a few years ago that it was the first book in a series and have been meaning to try to read through them all.  And so I begin with a reread of this terrific story about a boy named Gregor and his toddler sister Boots who fall into the Underland, where lies a mysterious kingdom with humans allied with giant bats and cockroaches at war with giant rats.  Gregor discovers that his long-missing father is held captive by the rats and thus begins a quest to find him.  The story is a delightful mix of action, humor, and introspection.  I included this book in my list of 100 Favorite Books back in 2009 and I believe it still deserves a spot in that list. Suzanne Collins has become famous for The Hunger Games (and their film adaptations), but I think this is her best work.

Recommended booksAlcatraz Versus The Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson, Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer and The Ear, the Eye, and the Arm by Nancy Farmer
Rating: *****

Movie Review: Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971)

Title: Bedknobs and Broomsticks
Release Date:
1971
Director:
Robert Stevenson
Production Co:
Walt Disney Productions
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Genre:
Adventure | Fantasy | Family | Musicals | Animation
Rating:
   ***1/2

Set in Second World War England, three children have been evacuated to the countryside (oddly to a town overlooking the Channel) to stay with Miss Price (Angela Lansbury), a witch-in-training.  Along the way on their magical adventures they pick up the con-man Professor Browne played by David Tomlinson.   The movie is more of a series of loosely-connected set pieces than a story.  Some of them go on too long, like the dance number on Portobello Road, although it is interesting to see the many faces of the British Commonwealth represented in a cheerful wartime London.  Better are the mixed live action and animation sequences with fish dancing in an undersea ballroom and a raucous soccer game among wild animals.  The conclusion features some whimsical special effects that stand up well after forty years as military uniforms and armor are magically brought to life to defend Britain against a German incursion.  It’s a fun, entertaining bagatelle of a movie. My kids enjoyed it for sure.

 

Book Review: The Sandman : Preludes & Nocturnes by Neil Gaiman

AuthorNeil Gaiman
TitleThe Sandman : Preludes & Nocturnes 
Publication Info: Vertigo (2010), Edition: Reprint
ISBN: 1401225756
Summary/Review:

This is the first collection of the legendary comic book series about Dream, the personification of dreams.  In this story he his captured and held prisoner for 70 years, avenges himself on his captors, and sets forth to rebuild his kingdom.  Gaiman’s writing is dark and Dream is cruel but still at times a sympathetic protagonist.  The illustrations are rich and often gruesome but always effective.  It appears with the groundwork set in this volume that the series could really take off from here.

Rating: ***

Book Review: American Gods by Neil Gaiman

AuthorNeil Gaiman
TitleAmerican Gods
Publication Info: New York : W. Morrow, c2001.
ISBN: 0380973650
Books Read by the Same Author:

Summary/Review:

Shadow is released early from prison when his wife and boss die in a car crash.  With no future ahead of him, Shadow accepts a job from the shady Mr. Wednesday.  I don’t expect it’s a huge spoiler that Mr. Wednesday is actually an incarnation of the god Odin who ushers Shadow into the worlds where the gods of antiquity have fallen on hard times in competition with the modern “gods” of technology, drugs, and celebrity.  Gaiman’s characterization is well-done as he introduces many complex figures of gods in human form.  I also like how places that Americans value like roadside attractions become temples and places of power. I am curious though why Gaiman chose to ignore the God of Abraham and the many churches, synagogues & mosques as a rival (or even the questionable “gods” of televangelists and religious extremists).  Shadow is true to his name in that he often seems to have no identity, following Mr. Wednesday with seemingly no good reason, but then there are moments of compassion where his humanity shines through and sets him apart from his godly companions and leads to a satisfying conclusion.

I have to admit that this book was a struggle to read and had it not been for Gaiman’s reputation and that I was reading this for a book group, I may have given up.  In fact the rest of my book group hated this book and we haven’t met since.  Although this is not something I would usually recommend, if you find yourself struggling through the early pages of the book, just read a summary online and skip ahead to page 150.  It gets much better from there on.
Rating: ***

Book Review: All Clear by Connie Willis

Author: Connie Willis
Title:
 All Clear
Publication Info: 
New York : Spectra, 2010.
ISBN: 
9780553807677
Previous Works By Same Author:
Summary/Review:
As noted in my review of Blackout this book is less of a sequel and more of a direct continuation of one lengthy work about three time travelers studying life in England in the early years of World War II.  Both books are part of a larger series of  loosely connected works by Connie Willis about a future Oxford University where graduate students in history are able to study the past by traveling through time via a mechanism known as the net.  I enjoy Willis’ approach to time travel fiction and particularly am impressed with her well-researched and detailed descriptions of contemporary life.
 The three main characters Polly, Eileen, and Michael finally met up toward the conclusion of Blackout and now begin working together to find a way to an open drop in the net that will return them to Oxford.  The mysterious characters of the previous book turn out to not be so mysterious after all and are woven fairly well into the narrative, although through unlikely coincidences that approach the edge of plausibility.   And yes, they do get out of the past (well, sort of) but the conclusion is satisfyingly unexpected.
I did find the greatest flaw of both of these novels is that a character will come up with an idea, will then discuss the same idea, and then carry out the idea which created a lot of unnecessary repetition  (especially since every attempt to return to the future is a flop).  If Willis could have tightened up the novel and created more tension if she did more showing and less telling, perhaps even condensing the story to one volume.  Still I found these lengthy tomes to be mesmerizing and read straight through to find out what would happen next, so it’s still an engaging work with a great attention to detail.
Rating: ***1/2
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