Tuesday, 28 October 2008

And the winner is...."Eclipse" by Stephenie Meyer

Teen Top Ten Winner for 2008
The Teen' Top Ten Award for best novel of 2008 is Stephenie Meyer's Eclipse. Wait a minute. Eclipse beat out Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows? I demand a recount! Oh well, there is no way to argue with the 8,000 teens who voted - they knew what they liked.

Westerfeld's Extras came in at number nine. I've read the other books in the series so I had better get this one I guess! It makes me proud to be so hip. :-) I actually know three of the books in the top ten.

Maybe next year we could try voting too. It looks like Meyer's The Host has been nominated for 2009. I had better track down a copy soon.

Here is the complete list of winners for 2008:

This list of nominees from 2008 gives you a good blurb to help you choose some of the hottest books that you might like to read:

Here is the nomination list for 2009, including Meyer's The Host:

Friday, 17 October 2008

Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer


When you loved the one who was killing you, it left you no options. How could you run, how could you fight, when doing so would hurt that beloved one? If your life was all you had to give, how could you not give it? If it was someone you truly loved?

To be irrevocably in love with a vampire is both fantasy and nightmare woven into a dangerously heightened reality for Bella Swan. Pulled in one direction by her intense passion for Edward Cullen, and in another by her profound connection to werewolf Jacob Black, a tumultuous year of temptation, loss, and strife have led her to the ultimate turning point. Her imminent choice to either join the dark but seductive world of immortals or to pursue a fully human life has become the thread from which the fates of two tribes hangs.

Now that Bella has made her decision, a startling chain of unprecedented events is about to unfold with potentially devastating, and unfathomable, consequences. Just when the frayed strands of Bella's life--first discovered in Twilight, then scattered and torn in New Moon and Eclipse--seem ready to heal and knit together, could they be destroyed... forever?

Wow. That was incredible.

If you’ve read the first three books of the Twilight Saga, you won’t be disappointed by the final book. It is full of interesting new developments and has an exciting, edge-of-your-seat climax. Although I didn’t always feel satisfied by the directions that Meyer took her books, the final one in the series pulls it all together and makes it work.

At various times while reading it, I didn’t want to put it down. That’s always a good sign and it’s the benchmark by which I judge a book worthy of five stars. On the other hand, I was taking my time with it like you do when you are eating a really good piece of chocolate and you let it sit there on your tongue for a few extra seconds so you can enjoy every bit of its taste before you are forced by necessity to swallow.

At the end of Breaking Dawn, you’ll feel like the characters are old friends. You’ll like them and care for their well-being. You’ll feel desperate for a happy ending. And when it is all said and done, you’ll be left with the feeling that it would be so nice if Meyer would just write four more books.

Without hesitation, I recommend everyone read this story. It belongs on your shelf next to Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings. Okay, well, maybe one shelf down, but still.

By the way, wouldn’t it be nice of they could just skip the first three books and make a movie about the last one? Oh well, we’ll just have to be patient as they churn out one movie at a time until, eight years from now, they will complete Breaking Dawn: The Movie.

If you have ever read a series like this, you'll know this feeling. First, you're thinking, "Wow, wasn't that great?" Then, you sit back and reflect on what you have just read. You might imagine what happened next or focus on the stuff in the books that you enjoyed. However, that warm feeling is soon replaced by confusion. What do I do now? When will I find another interesting series of books to read? What should I read next?

5/5 Stars

Monday, 13 October 2008

Wild Magic by Tamora Pierce


All the orphaned Daine wants when she comes to Tortall is a job. What she finds is magic in many forms, an ongoing war with creatures from legends and nightmares, a new home and, eventually, her unknown father. Hired by the Queen's Riders to help with their horses, she learns her knack with animals is a rare magic which helps her to communicate with the animal kingdom.

With that discovery she becomes the student--then friend and sometimes protector--of the great mage Numair. He also helps her to develop her second magical skill, the ability to sense the presence of the immortals, fabled creatures who have come to mortal lands after a long imprisonment.

All these changes in Daine's life bring her new human friends as well as animal ones: Tortall's rulers, Alanna the Lioness, the heir to the throne of imperial Carthak, a pygmy marmoset, and the badger god. Often she comes into contact--and sometimes conflict--with Stormwings--half human, half steel birds; dragons; spidrens--giant furred spiders with human heads and an appetite for human flesh; griffins; and the clawed, winged horses called hurroks. Daine is kept on the move as she grows into adulthood and her power, coming to terms with her world and her strange, mixed parentage.

Wouldn't it be fun if you could talk to animals? What would you say? What would they say? Better yet, what if you could become an animal? How would it feel if you had the body of a hawk, but you still had your mind? That would be cool. You'd have the keen eyesight of the bird and the ability to fly. What if you could be a wolf? You'd have such a strong sense of smell. What instincts would you feel pulling on you? What would it feel like?
I have loved animals my whole life and I feel a strong connection with them. Animals have always kind of liked me and even generally mean animals will be quite gentle around me. I like to think that animals are a good judge of character and that they know when you are a good person (though they can also smell fear and weakness). Maybe I'm just crazy. I talk to animals as if they were people. My favourite horse out in Jerudong likes that a lot. She is always excited to see me and she'll even nuzzle her face up against my chest as I pet her - it's like she's asking for a hug. It's so weird. Her neck is so soft, but she likes it best when I scratch behind her ears. Horses are amazing! I wish I'd appreciated them more when I had them. My cat, Cha-cha is a lot like a person. He does NOT like to be ignored. When I go out every morning I have to remove him from the hood of my car because he is determined to get at least 30 seconds of my time before I head to work. It's hard to ignore a cat when he is staring in the windshield at you. He's one cool cat with personality plus and a wicked attitude if you do something that annoys him. He's great.

Anyway, last year I came across Tamora Pierce's Immortals Series. If you enjoy the myth-science fiction stuff like Narnia (or the more sophisticated Lord of the Rings), then you should be able to get something out of Wild Magic. Even if you aren't into that type of book, but you like animals, you will still really enjoy it. When I read the book jacket, the idea that a thirteen-year-old girl would discover the magical ability to become animals really caught my attention.

Pierce creates an interesting world and it is fun to join Daine's journey as she discovers her magical abilities. I highly recommend Wild Magic. Read the set in order, though. You'll enjoy them more that way. I donated the entire set to the Reading Room and there are also some older copies in there so you should have a good chance of getting a hold of one. Look under "P" for Pierce.
BTW, I really like the cover art. Isn't it great? It looks so much nicer than the older versions.
4/5 Stars

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

The Witches *****

Could you identify a REAL witch if you saw one?

A witch-hunting, cigar-smoking grandmother tells her grandson all about how to identify witches. They stumble upon a witch convention and are faced with protecting the children of England from a horrible death.

This story is so funny! I laughed and laughed. How did I miss this book when I was growing up? Roald Dahl is a very imaginative writer and I can’t wait for my son to grow up so I can read this with him! It tells us about all kinds of disgusting witch secrets. It even teaches us how to train a pet mouse to tightrope walk. Read the first ten pages. I guarantee you will want to read more! You are going to love this!

Quentin Blake’s drawings look quite crude and so the cover art isn’t very appealing, but once you get into the book you will enjoy their simplicity. They help to make the story even more entertaining and outrageous! Now, I've grown to like the little drawings a lot.

By the way, I really liked the loving relationship the boy has with his grandmother. I sure wish I had had a grandmother like her around when I was a kid! Well, except for the cigar smoking of course.

I have a copy of this one on my desk. I'm thinking about donating it to the reading room, but it is so hard to part with. Would anybody like to read it?

Click on the link to read the first few pages:

Monday, 6 October 2008

Goosebumps: One Day at Horrorland****

What if you were trapped in a haunted amusement park?

This book is awesome. I love the idea of it and I swear that R.L. Stine is a genius! He must have just been sitting around and thinking, "Hmmmm. What woud be a good setting for my next horror story? I know, how about an amusement park!"
What a great setting for a horror story. I mean, imagine it. You suddenly find yourself in an amusement park and you think, "Isn't this great? I love amusement parks." Only then you discover that it is haunted and full of monsters. What would happen? How would you escape?
Stine finds many ways to make the story more interesting. Lizzy is a teenager and she has a really annoying little brother named Luke. Part of the fun is in their difficult relationship. Their parents get lost trying to find Zoo Gardens and end up discovering an amusement park called "Horrorland". Nobody has ever heard of it and the parking lot is empty, but they decide to give it a try anyway. The kids figure it will be fun. Wrong!
You'll really enjoy this one. I read this last year and I'd love to buy a copy if anybody sees it around. Has anybody else read this? Just good fun.
If you would like to read the beginning of the story, follow the link and go to "excerpt"

Puffin Graphic Novels: Frankenstein***

What were they thinking when they put this ugly cover on a book? Yeesh!

I don't usually like monster stories. However, Gary Reed made the story very interesting and easy to read. I enjoyed the story even more because of the cool pictures. I loved the drawings by Frazer Irving. It felt like I was watching a really good movie.

I would recommend this too all of my students as a fun way to spend an hour or two. Be sure to take your time and enjoy the pictures!
What did I learn from the story? First of all, I learned that reading a graphic novel can be very fun. Although many people, including teachers, don't want their students to read comics, I think that reading them can be worthwhile. Students can still learn a lot of new and interesting words!
Frankestein's story teaches us that scientists must always consider the morality of what they do. Just because a scientist CAN do something, doesn't necessarily mean that he SHOULD do something. Also, it shows that sometimes new technology can create new problems for us. This science fiction theme is very common and it is great to read one of the stories that really came at the birth of the genre.

I donated my copy to the Senior Reading Room so there is a chance you may be able to read it. Also, they sell the Puffin Graphic books at Bookers in Gadong.
Want to see the first few pages? Follow the link and go to "excerpt":

Goosebumps: Legend of the Lost Legend ****

You want the treasure? First you'll need to pass the survival tests.

Justin and his sister, Marissa, are looking for a silver chest containing "The Lost Legend". They get lost in a magical forest and then meet a strange woman who tells them they must pass a series of survival tests to get the treasure. They will get the treasure if they live!

After looking at the 4E book list I thought I should review one of the series mentioned. I really like the Goosebumps series. The stories usually have something interesting happening and they often have a strange "What if..." question built in.

This was a very good story. For me, it might be one of the best Goosebumps books out there. I enjoyed the adventure style. I especially liked the giant cats that tried to eat them. A couple of times I laughed out loud because there are a few really funny parts like when the cats were "playing with their food"!

What did I learn from the story? Don't judge a book by its cover. The cover art doesn't look very good and even the blurb on the back wasn't too exciting. I thought I would give it a chance and if it was too boring then I wouldn't recommend it to others. After the first forty pages, I really started to get into this book. I didn't want to put it down. I was interested to see what all of the "tests" would be and then I wanted to know what the "Lost Legend" was. I was glad that I read this book and I hope the rest of the class will give it a chance too.

Goosebumps can be a great, quick read. Don't knock them until you've tried them. It can be nice to kick back and read an entire book in one sitting.

Want to read the first few pages? Follow the link and click on "exerpt":


Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer


Edward's soft voice came from behind me. I turned to see him spring lightly up the porch steps, his hair windblown from running. He pulled me into his arms at once, just like he had in the parking lot, and kissed me again.
This kiss frightened me. There was too much tension, too strong an edge to the way his lips crushed mine—like he was afraid we had only so much time left to us.

As Seattle is ravaged by a string of mysterious killings and a malicious vampire continues her quest for revenge, Bella once again finds herself surrounded by danger. In the midst of it all, she is forced to choose between her love for Edward and her friendship with Jacob—knowing that her decision has the potential to ignite the ageless struggle between vampire and werewolf. With her graduation quickly approaching, Bella has one more decision to make: life or death. But which is which?

This is another interesting book by Stephenie Meyer and well worth reading if you have read the first two books. It is quite good, especially because of the tension that develops between the three main characters. I'll give it four stars out of five. I enjoyed most of this book and I'm happy to recommend it.

Again, it doesn't have a very complex plot, but Bella's inner life is explored and it makes for an interesting read. In my opinion, it was better than "New Moon" and I enjoyed getting more of the back story. Here, we learn more about the werewolf legends as well as how many of the characters came to be monsters. There is also an exciting climax and a bit of an unusual epilogue that will catch your attention.

*Spolier Alert* - Do not read this paragraph if you have not read "Eclipse". Okay, I've almost given up hope that Bella will become a vampire. If Meyer had made her a Vampire in "Eclipse", she could have spent the fourth book playing around with Bella's new life and I think that would have been really interesting. However, now I suspect she won't become a vampire until the end of the fourth book. That's a shame. We got a taste of what it would be like in the epilogue where we were able to see things from Jacob's perspective as a werewolf. Wouldn't it be amazing to experience Bella's first year as a vampire? Anyway, Meyer is in her comfort zone. Maybe she would have difficulty with a plot-driven book. Maybe she doesn't feel comfortable dealing with action. I mean, we didn't even get to enjoy the battle scene in Eclipse. We had to hear it through Edward and even then we didn't get many details. Sometimes I feel like reading Harry Potter again. Rowling is so much better at keeping you on the edge of your seat wondering what is going to happen next. Meyer usually misses the chance to develop a lot of excitement and suspense. She prefers to spend 3/4 of her time dealing with Bella's feelings towards Edward and Jacob. I guess that's okay, though. She's writing for a female, young adult audience and not for a middle-aged guy like me! If you girls can tell me that you loved books two and three and you really enjoyed all the relationship stuff, then I'll know why she wrote the books the way she did.

4.5/5 Stars