Eragon by Christopher Paolini, one of my favourite books, is both adventurous and suspenseful. The book takes place in the mystical land of Alagaёsia (pronounced al-uh-GAY-zee-uh), a land with dwarves, humans and elves living together in peace since the beginning of time. When humans arrived in the land, they went to war with the elves, and the Dragon Riders were created to keep the peace. These human magic-wielders had fulfilled their task for countless years, until one turned against the others, ending the reign of the Riders.
All of the dragons were slayed, and all of the Riders vanished from existence. However, there were three dragon eggs that survived, in the presence of the evil human king, Galbatorix. If the king gets one of the eggs to hatch, he will be able to control all of Alagaёsia. As it turns out, one of the eggs has been stolen, and hatches in the presence of a farm boy, in the north of the land, isolated from the rest of the country. The name of the farm boy is Eragon.
Eragon travels the land of Alagaёsia with an old storyteller named Brom who trains him in the uses of magic, swordplay, and dragon lore. They want revenge on the Ra’zac, evil beings who work for the king and killed Eragon’s stepfather in search of the farm boy. The Ra’zac want to bring Eragon to the king in order to make him work for their master, but Eragon has managed to evade them. After tracking them to a small town, he is captured and thrown into prison. Eragon is questioned by a Shade, the darkest spirits that walk the earth. He manages to escape, along with a fellow traveller named Murtaugh. Eragon, through his magic, learns that an elf is captive in the prison, and manages to save her. The three cross the great Hadarac Desert, hoping to reach the Varden, a group that rebels against the king’s reign. Whichever side controls eragon, the first Dragon Rider in hundreds of years, will have a major advantage in the war.
The story is very adventurous, as there are many chases, battles, and traps. Both sides use different means to try to sway Eragon to join their side. It is also very suspenseful. Most of the time, characters refuse to explain their full history to anybody, as any information could fall into the hands of the enemy. Eragon has many adventures and in just the first book of this series, meets with the dwarves in their magical city, talks with an elf, and rides a dragon: feats that few, if any, of the people in Alagaёsia can boast of.
Because of the high-action adventure, the suspense, and the amazing blend of magic, war, sword fights, dragons and more, I give this book 5/5 stars. There are three other books in the series.
Do you remember when Charlotte crawled across her web and wrote “SOME PIG!” about her beloved Wilbur?
How about when Jess and Leslie discover the Bridge to Terabithia?
Both these children’s books bring us joy and fill us with nostalgia. While their scenes and special moments remain with us, they also contain one of the hardest and heaviest topics that make even adults stir uncomfortably: death.
And yet, Charlotte’s Web and Bridge to Terabithia are both stories that have endured within our cultural psyche and earned their place among the classics on our shelves.
Death may not seem like a topic we broach with children unless we absolutely must, but the pain of loss, the complexity of grief — simple as it may sound — is a part of life’s learning process. Whether the pain of Charlotte’s death due to old age, or Leslie’s sudden passing after a tragic accident — the sadness remains with us, and that’s not a bad thing.
C. S. Lewis wrote “a children’s story is the best art form for something you have to say … the form makes it easier to see into the depths, even of death.” Childhood may be thought as a blissful state of innocence and naivety, leaving many adults skittering around emotionally heavier topics. But if done with care, introducing children to concepts loss and grief through books can aid during major transitions and difficulties. Read more >>
The Insignia trilogy by S.J. Kincaid is a fast-paced science fiction adventure series that has been nominated for numerous awards. The trilogy takes place in the future, in the midst of World War III. In the first book, Insignia, we are quickly introduced to the two duelling sides in the war. North America, allied with Europe, Australia and Central America, is now at war with the Russo-Chinese alliance.
A failing student living in poverty, Tom Raines has no hope for a bright future. While at a casino one night with his father, he is approached by a member of the U.S. military who persuades him to be trained as an interstellar combatant. The opportunity to fight in the war using virtual reality is just the break that Tom was hoping for.
Tom begins his training in earnest after receiving a neural processor (brain implant) allowing him to think at a much faster speed than the typical human brain. He soon realizes, however, that unlike the other cadets, he seems to have a special power: the ability to interface with machines. Using only his mind, he can seize control of any computerized device.
In the second book of the series, Vortex, Tom and his fellow combatants rise up the ladder to become mid-level cadets, also called middles. Here, Tom’s loyalty is tested and he is introduced to coalition executives who will decide whether or not to sponsor him. One can only become a true combatant in the war with a corporate sponsor.
The third book, Catalyst, provides a suspenseful and action packed conclusion to the trilogy. A complex plot involving the creator of the neural implants leaves Tom and his friends alone in a very new world, desperate to devise a plan to defeat a ruthless enemy.
The character development in this trilogy is excellent. Throughout the story, the reader sees Tom grow as he learns astonishing secrets about the war. The plot is well developed, and at numerous turns, our protagonist is forced to think big about the world around him. Consequently, readers wonder what the future will hold and whether computers are getting too advanced.
This series has a lot of action, but also incorporates interesting thoughts and concepts. The plot is unique. I also liked the fact that the story takes place in the future, one that could become realistic very soon, given our fast-changing society. One of the few things I don’t like about the series is that each book did not end with a cliff hanger; rather, it simply ends. The reader wonders what may happen next but it does not spark an instant need to read the next book. Still, the trilogy has a novel plot line, one that entranced me. I would recommend these books to anyone who likes adventure, fantasy or science fiction.
My overall rating is 4.5/5 stars.
The Invention of Hugo Cabret is a historical fiction book. It’s written and illustrated by Brian Selznick. The book takes place in Paris following a young boy named Hugo Cabret. The book is 526 pages long, not including the credits and sources.
Stop! Wait, don’t dismiss this book for being long or historical. This book has so much to offer. It gives you a glimpse of the city of Paris and its residence. You’ll follow the life of Hugo Cabret, who is left to fend for himself.
Hugo is very talented with clocks and mechanics like his father. Hugo’s father was working on fixing a mechanical man at a museum late at night. The museum guard locked the entrance, forgetting Hugo’s father was in there. A fire broke out and Hugo’s father died. Hugo stays with his uncle. Hugo’s uncle would leave Hugo unattended for long periods of time, until one day he disappears altogether. When wandering the streets, Hugo sees the mechanical man thrown out and vows to fix it. I could go on but I don’t want to give away spoilers.
The book is fast-paced and primarily composed of illustrations. The illustrations give a soft and dream-like appearance that’ll capture your attention. The Invention of Hugo Cabret is an educational and entertaining book since it’s historical fiction. The book discusses early cinema in France, clockwork, mechanics and automatons. The book has it’s own website and has also been made into a movie.
Time to review James Dashner’s post apocalyptic science fiction Maze Runner trilogy (this review will be excluding the prequel The Kill Order). This is a fantastic trilogy that uses its intricate writing style to shield the books in a cloud of mystery. These books are definitely worth a read.
The first book (The Maze Runner) opens with a teenage boy (Tomas), confined to a lift, moving skywards. He has amnesia and cannot remember anything, save for his name later on. As the lift stops, several other boys around the same age as him greet him. It is revealed that these boys have been placed into a large maze, with one way out. They must use teamwork in order to survive the many obstacles ahead of them, from the deadly maze (The Maze Runner), to the scorching remains of Mexico (The Scorch Trials), and even to confronting the sinister organization that put them through all these trials (The Death Cure).
As a side note, the Maze Runner movies will not be taken into consideration for this review. I viewed the first one and I disliked it, as it strayed too far from the source material for my taste. As a result, I have also not seen the second movie, released last year in 2015.
First off, the writing style in these books is phenomenal; it is written from a third person perspective. However, because Tomas has amnesia, it becomes more like a first person adventure; we discover and experience the same things Tomas does at the same time as him. Tomas is almost an extension of us the reader. We experience everything through his eyes, and that is an element that makes the book more engaging. The genius twist with this however, is that by using a third person perspective, we can observe what emotions and thoughts are running through the other character’s heads. It is a fantastic way to learn more about each character while at the same time experiencing every event with Tomas.
Furthermore, the plot in each book is engaging and well written. For the first two books (The Maze Runner and The Scorch Trials), there is an added layer of mystery surrounding each. That notion is always present at the back of your mind and in the book, with subtle hints towards future plot points. This helps engage the reader, as they want to uncover the truth about these mysteries. The plot is well written with the story moving at a faster pace to engage readers. There are handfuls of action and character drama to really round out these books. With each death defying scenario the reader is constantly on the edge of their seat wondering what happens next.
Finally with the third book, all the mysteries are uncovered, however, there is still another added layer that really makes you wonder if Tomas and the other Gladers are really doing the right thing – accomplishing the correct task. The only criticism I can really give to these books is that the ending is somewhat anti-climactic and leaves you almost frustrated as the ending appears as if the author (James Dashner) could not think of a suitable ending.
The Maze Runner trilogy is a fantastic young-adult book series that will engage you to the very end. Aside from a disappointing and anti-climactic ending, these books are phenomenally written, expertly paced, and amazing. If you have enjoyed book series such as the Hunger Games in particular, you will love these books.
I recently finished reading Un Lun Dun, a fantasy novel by one of my new favourite authors, China Miéville. It begins with the main character, a girl named Zanna, supposedly being part of a prophecy, calling her to an “ab-city” called Un Lun Dun with her friend Debba. However, half way through the book, it is revealed that the “person” who foretold the prophecy is actually quite often wrong. It is then shown that Debba is the one in the prophecy and that Zanna should never have been involved.
Un Lun Dun is quite a complicated story. There are lots of twists and believe me, if you do read it, you will be quite surprised by it. The book is set in London, in probably the 1990s, but also takes place in Un Lun Dun, the ab-city version of London. The book mentions other ab-cities including Naw York and Tokyno. The difference between ab-cities and normal cities is that in ab-cities, anything can happen. For example, the London Eye, London’s giant Ferris wheel, is the Un Lun Dun Eye, a huge water wheel that supplies power for the entire ab-city.
In an ab-city, there’s a thing called moil, which recycles thrown away objects from London and the Un Lun Doners recycle them to create homes. In an ab-city, you could live in a castle built of typewriters, or in a small cottage made of cardboard boxes, or (my personal favourite), you could live in a giant mushroom.
Un Lun Dun is a very good fantasy/adventure novel for anyone who enjoys cobblestone streets, urban adventure and two-headed, three-eyed, triple-legged creatures and such! It is an imaginative way of looking at cities we might think we already know.
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I Funny: A Middle School Story by James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein (©2012 by James Patterson, Illustrations by Laura Park. Little, Brown and Company); Book One of a thee-book series.
Why it’s cool:
I Funny: A Middle School Story is a book about what it would be like to be a comedian in a wheelchair in middle school.
Jamie Grimm lives with a family with his step mom and step dad and cousins.
The biggest bully in the school is his adopted brother, and he has three funny friends. He falls in love with Suzie, who is from his school.
Jamie enters a contest because of his uncle Frankie, who owns a seafood shop by the sea. Uncle Frankie showed Jamie a newspaper ad announcing “The Planet’s Funniest Kid Comic” contest because he thought Jamie was funny enough to win.
Just by looking at the title, you know the book is funny. And, if you really want to laugh, do read it.
Is this entertaining, educational, or both?
I Funny: A Middle School Story is entertaining because, every 15 pages or so, you get a laugh from one of the jokes.
For some people, it is educational because you learn how to be funny, and what things are funny, but some people don’t think that can be educational.
So, really, it just depends on your point of view.
The gap has finally been bridged! Those new parents who dread putting down their favourite Tolstoy, Poe, Shakespeare, Bronte or Austen can now rejoice in the possibility of teaching their new babies the joys of classic lit from day one! BabyLit books has released an interesting new spin on classic literature, allowing new parents to read classic stories of importance to their little ones. The “Little Master” series takes all of the works of classic literature and simplifies the stories for an accessible and easy to teach alternative for those parents who hold onto the importance of teaching their children works of classic lit in lieu of grabbing the typical Dr. Seuss.
Though Dr. Seuss books are amazing works of children’s literature, there is something special about transforming these classic titles into more child friendly versions WITHOUT losing the nuance and intrigue of their adult counterparts.
I first came across these books at my part time job working as a sales associate at a niche baby boutique store in Toronto. Prior to properly displaying them around the store for purchase, I took a moment to read them all. As an avid reader of literature myself, I found these books to be a very overdue breath of fresh air in an industry that otherwise seems to overuse simpler tropes of talking animals and magical kingdoms to appeal to young audiences. Though the “Little Master” books definitely still contain elements of fancy and of magic, these books hold onto the more adult tones if not only through the few choice words but with the beautifully clever illustrations which are scattered throughout the books. These books are definitely going to hold the interest of baby and parent alike during bedtime snuggles.
Check this out: Bad Kitty Chapter Books
A few years ago, my older cousin introduced me to the Bad Kitty book series written by Nick Bruel. Once she got me interested in the books I had to get them so the first one I read on my own was Happy Birthday Bad Kitty. I liked it so much that I asked for more. After Happy Birthday Bad Kitty, I got Bad Kitty Gets a Bath, Bad Kitty for President, Bad Kitty vs. Uncle Murray, Bad Kitty Meets the Baby, Bad Kitty School Daze, Bad Kitty Drawn to Trouble, and the latest, Puppy’s Big Day. There are many more that I haven’t read yet. I’m hoping to read them someday. There are also story books so I want to read those to.
My favourite book is Bad Kitty School Daze. I like this one because the people say more (less narration) than in the other books where the author tells us about what is happening. In this book, Bad Kitty and Puppy get sent to school for being too rough. At school, there is a dog named Petunia and she doesn’t like cats. So, Kitty pretends she is a cow! Kitty makes a picture for Petunia at her art class. At graduation, Petunia finally realizes that Kitty is actually a CAT! So in the end, Petunia loves cats.
I just finished reading the latest book, Puppy’s Big Day, which I also enjoyed. I’m looking forward to reading more Bad Kitty books in the near future.
Check it out at badkittybooks.com.
Is it entertaining, educational or a little of both?
The Bad Kitty books are entertaining and a little educational. It teaches me what NOT to do because Bad Kitty is sooooo BAD.
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The Owly book series is written by Andy Runton. There are eight books, which star Owly, Wormy and many other characters.
The books are like a comic book. I like how they don’t use words in the books… They only use letters when they spell a sound like ‘SNAP’, or ‘CRACK’. I also like how they use symbols. If there is something that a character doesn’t understand they do a ‘?’ and if they mean good luck they use a ‘horseshoe’. So you need to pay attention to the symbols and facial expressions to tell the story.
The first one I ever read was Friends All Aflutter. I like this one because it’s about Owly trying to find a flower that would be good to attract butterflies. When he finally finds one he brings it home and plants it in his yard, but no butterflies come. So he makes signs with pictures of butterflies on them to direct the butterflies to the flower.
Later he realizes there were bites in the flower and caterpillars had been eating it! Owly and Wormy didn’t want the caterpillars there but the caterpillars wanted to stay because that was their home. Owly and Wormy decided to let them live there.
They all had so much fun together.
But then the caterpillars realized that they had to leave. Owly and Wormy decided to give the caterpillars a ‘We Will Miss You’ celebration but when they got there the caterpillars were already gone.
Days went by and there were still no caterpillars. They took down the signs for the butterflies and put up signs for caterpillars. Later they saw two cocoons on the flower and soon they hatched. They were the same caterpillars turned into butterflies. They were so happy to be together again.
I’ve read five Owly books so far and hope to read the rest soon.
Check it out at andyrunton.com/owly.
Is it entertaining, educational or a little of both?
Both. It’s fun and you learn how to read the signs in the pictures and it’s really entertaining.
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