Monday, March 28, 2016

Book Review: How to Break a Dragon's Heart

How to Break a Dragon's Heart
by  Cressida Cowell
Date Read:  3/28/16
Rating: ★ ★ 

I’m finding it hard to rate these books the farther we get in to them. I just feel like I’m saying the same things over and over again.

Hiccup was alone in this story for most of it. That was a refreshing change. I kind of liked the witch he encountered and who she ended up being. Her story about Hiccup Horendous Haddock II was probably the most interesting part of the whole book. While there were some things in her story that made me question how she knew that (i.e. what the baby was feeling while he was sitting on the shore all by himself…), it was interesting and heart wrenching.

I believe that this story set up what our final battle will be now – so that is exciting. I’m interested to see what this “Dragon Rebellion” will end up being and how Hiccup is able to escape it. It sounds a bit more like the movie now – Dragons and humans can’t live together. But I expect that Hiccup will prove everyone wrong – and hopefully get the humans to treat the dragons with more respect.

I also felt like this one related the most to the title of the story.  There have been some in the past where I wasn’t even able to link the title to the story at all. This one actually points it out more, but at the same time, it is much easier to see.   It makes me sad to see the Dragon’s broken heart…but hopefully Hiccup can save the day!

Book Review: The Mysterious Benedict Society

The Mysterious Benedict Society
by  Trenton Lee Stewart
Date Read:  3/25/16
Rating: ★ ★ 

A colleague of mine recommended this series to me when I mentioned I'd been listening to the Series of Unfortunate Events during my commute to and from work.  I decided to pick it up.

The reader of this audiobook was hard to get used to at first.  It was a low voice that almost sounded like it had an echo. At first I thought it sounded like he recorded it in his home…but I think it’s just his voice. So if you’re listening to the audiobook, just ride it out. You’ll get used to it after a while.

The story itself was way longer than I expected.  Being that it’s a children’s book, I expected it to be more along the lines of the The Lemony Snicket books or How to Train Your Dragon books. I ended up having to listen to this while I was at work in order to finish it in the 2 weeks the library provided me the audiobook (which took me 3 months to get!).

It was a very interesting story about super intelligent children and a man who brings them together in order to complete a mission. I enjoyed it for the most part. There were a few times that I got bored while they were trying to figure out a clue (specifically the one about a gemini…and it took these super intelligent children 10 minutes to discover it meant twin). Otherwise I liked that all the children were “intelligent” and important based on the different skills and abilities they brought to the table.  It didn’t mean that they were all book smart. One thought out of the box, one was book smart, one was great at reading people, and another always challenged them. It was a great way to show kids that everyone is different but everyone possesses valuable skills – and just being book smart isn’t everything. While I do think understanding the basic book smarts is important, there are a lot of other things involved in being successful in the world. This book shows us this.

Like I said, I ended up having to listen to this while I was working, as well as in the car like I normally do, so I know I missed a few things. The subliminal messages the guy was sending out still didn’t make 100% sense to me. I didn’t fully understand how it worked. I’m guessing it’s because I missed something at the beginning…or perhaps it wasn’t fully explained.

I felt like it was a little longer than it needed to be. I think this is made for much older children who aren’t really in to the whole “young adult” yet or just want to read about younger children – but the length of this is like a young adult book.

I enjoyed the characters. Most of them were likeable. I still didn’t particularly like Constance by the end – though she was tolerable by then. At the very end there’s a bit of a twist and it made me like her a little bit more.  I like Kate, Renny and Sticky a lot though. It was fun to watch how these intelligent and different kids were able to form a friendship and complete this mission.

I’m looking forward to seeing what’s in store next for the Mysterious Benedict Society!

Friday, March 25, 2016

Book Review: The Maze Runner

The Maze Runner
by  James Dashner
Date Read:  3/21/16
Rating: ★ ★ 

I feel the need to preface my review with the fact that I watched the movie before I read the book. There were a lot of reviews on this book that were all over the place. You either loved it or hated it due to the lack of answers throughout the book.  Having watched the movie, I knew the general gist of the answers – sort of.

This is a really unique idea for a dystopian world. Even though I had seen the movie, many of the key points were still different enough that I was left wondering what was going on. I found several major differences between the book and the movie, and I was happy with how the movie had changed it up. I’m not frustrated with either. I almost wonder whether I should read books AFTER watching the movie going forward because I find I was less critical of the book because it obviously came first.  I might need to quickly watch the Scorch Trials before I get too far in to it!

My favorite characters in the book were Thomas, Newt and Minho.  I enjoyed Teresa, but you she doesn’t really become a part of the story until halfway through. I also loved Chuck, but I found I attached to him a little bit more in the movie. I felt the movie focused a little more on Chuck’s desire to get home and find his parents – so the event surrounding him at the end of the movie had a little more impact on me while watching the movie than while reading the book. But also, I knew it was coming, so perhaps I was just prepared.

The descriptions of the Glade and the Maze were very rich. I could clearly see everything – though of course I had been exposed to the movie images, but I never felt like anything was off.  The fact that these boys had to organize themselves and create order when they first arrived was very interesting.

There were several instances though where I felt the author purposely withheld information. While it was withheld from Thomas as well, it was still very frustrating. Many times Thomas asked for answers, and he was always told “not now”. As a reader, this is very frustrating, and I feel that watching the movie provided many of those answers for me, which is why this is getting 1 more star than it probably would have had I not watched the movie to know what was going on.

The one thing that really surprised me was the fact that Thomas and Teresa had telepathy. I kept thinking it was just a dystopian world, but then that was thrown in there. So I started wondering, WHAT THE HECK?  Did we just go from dystopian to paranormal dystopian?  I still have no answers on how this telepathy works. But I’m thinking that the Creators probably did something to their brains at some point.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Book Review: How to Ride a Dragon's Storm

How to Ride a Dragon's storm
by  Cressida Cowell
Date Read:  3/15/16
Rating: ★ ★ 

These stories are still entertaining, but I’m finding it more difficult to review them. They all have the same common theme now and some of it starts to be convenient. Hiccup is in a dangerous situation, and what do you know? Something crazy happens that saves him.

I still enjoy the characters, although Fishlegs is starting to get a bit annoying with his fearful tendencies. I did like when he jumped in the water to save Hiccup even though he didn’t know how to swim though. At least we see a little character development, and the strength of friendship and loyalty.

Kamikaze is hilarious, as usual. I’m glad Cowell added her in. If it was just Hiccup and Fishlegs, it would be pretty boring.

I’d like to see more about Stoic and his wife and previous love and such. That story was really good. Now it’s gone back to more superficial stuff. This book didn’t seem to have much of a point.

I’d also like to see Hiccup age a bit in the next few books. It’s strange for all of this to be happening in such a short time period. At least in this book, 3 months passed.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Book Review: The Wyrm King (Beyond the Spiderwick Chronicles #3)

The Wyrm King (Beyond #3)
by  Holly BlackTony DiTerlizzi
Date Read:  3/9/16
Rating: ★ ★ 

This was a satisfying conclusion to the world of the Spiderwick Chronicles. 

I thought the description of the giant wyrm king guy was disgusting. But I enjoyed how you initially thought the giants were the problem, but they aren’t the worst problem. It was interesting to watch the kids figure it out.

What I liked most was that Jared, Simon, and Mallory all showed back up. I really enjoyed those characters so it was fun to have them again. I liked the big group they had and that Jack’s son was involved. I’ve enjoyed the world of the faeries, but I’ve decided that not very many of them are actually nice.

I really disliked Tolua. She was irritating with her singing of everything. Perhaps it was the reader also, but she was a brat in addition to being annoying. And Sandspur. I just don’t really like any of the creatures from that world.

I however didn’t like the reader very much. He didn’t have much inflection in his voice and the characters all sounded the same. I know that everyone can’t be like the guy that reads How Train Your Dragon, but a little bit of difference between voices is appreciated. Since you aren’t reading it, you can’t see the change in paragraphs and quotations to tell when someone else starts talking.

Overall this was a good series to read/listen to. It’s a nice one for driving. You don’t have to be super focused on it to know what is going on. I think it’s a fun read for kids also because it introduces them to the folklore of faerie in a fun way.
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