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Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Looking Glass Wars - Book 1

(Picture from Goodreads)
 
Bookworm's Ranking - 3 Worms
 
Storyline - Alyss is the princess of Wonderland until her family is destroyed by her own aunt, Redd, and she escapes into our world. Yet, no one believes her story. Then Alyss meets the one man who seemed to consider it true and then retells her tale incorrect, not even getting her name right. It seems the only way to survive is to forget. But Wonderland is deteriorating under Redd's control and the rebellious force is struggling to survive. When Alyss is finally found, will she have the strength to take back her throne after years of suppressing the memories?

Author - Frank Beddor

Publisher - Scholastic

Age Group - 15 and up

Content - *May Contain Spoilers* Lots of killing and blood spurting. Some characters search for revenge for what Redd has done. Alyss is determined to remember her true home but has trouble believing when everyone doubts her in our world. The characters are determined to save Wonderland and bring back White Imagination; staying faithful to their cause when things get tough.

Personal Opinion - While this book has an interesting take on the Alice in Wonderland story, I'm afraid I found it long and slow. Alyss's story is fun and the changes were creative from the story we know and the story that is presented here. The story is also heartfelt and makes one think what is right and wrong as it presents the White and Black Imagination that becomes a center of the struggle. Yet, I found the author spent a bit of time and description that wasn't needed and then on instances where I would have liked to see the events happen they were summarized. This made it long. The reader too was irritating sometimes so I can't tell if my dislike for the story was because it was read to me or the story itself. Anyone who really likes the original tale might enjoy this book the most.

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Monday, April 6, 2015

Breadcrumbs

"Once Upon a Time"
 
 
Bookworm's Ranking - 3 Worms
 
Storyline - Through her imagination and her best friend Jack who she has lived next door to most her life, Hazel survives the demands of school, the dislike of her peers, and her mother's pleas to grow up. But when Jack is suddenly no longer her friend, ignoring and insulting her, her world begins to fall apart. When Jack disappears, should she believe the reasonable answers given to her and remain in the real world or believe in a magical winter witch who took him to an enchanted world that is more dangerous than what she has read in her books?

Author - Anne Ursu

Publisher - Waldon Pond Press; an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers

Age Group - 13 and up

Content - *May Contain Spoilers* A creepy woman cuts Hazel's cheek. Hazel throws a pencil case at someone. Parental figures have no idea what is going on. Hazel makes sacrifices to help others even when it might hurt her. She loves her mom and wants to please her. She stands by her best friend even when he has turned his back on her. Hazel doesn't give up even when the journey becomes difficult.

Personal Opinion - Breadcrumbs retells the fairy tale The Snow Queen while mixing real life with fantasy and the struggles of growing up. Being let into Hazel's life, her family struggles, the lose of a friend, and being expected to grow up, was done perfectly and beautifully to reveal the change that overcomes someone when it seems they are leaving a part of them behind. Mixing the fairy tale elements to mirror this struggle, made it that much more insightful. The determination of standing by her friend when he was in trouble and facing the difficult journey is a positive one for others to learn to keep going and learn and discover what they should do even when things go wrong. While Hazel wasn't perfect, she tried to do the right thing and do what she thought was she should, even if it meant stop being herself. One thing that was interesting was, in the real world, she turned to fantasy to thrive; but, in the enchanted world, she turned to the real world to strengthen herself.

The ending was a bit confusing. I couldn't tell if she found a boundary between being her imaginative self and living in reality or if one won out over the other. Besides that, there were a few things I personally felt uncomfortable with. Some of the people Hazel meets on her journey are just creepy and she wasn't always respectful of authority figures but it is hard to be respectful when someone wants you to fit into a mold. While this novel is mostly based off The Snow Queen fairy tale, a couple other Hans Christian Anderson tales where also mixed in. This was interesting but almost had too much happening, especially when so much already happens in the main fairy tale. The last thing that made me uncomfortable, and this is purely personal, was the reference to The Golden Compass only because I have an issue with that book.

All and all, this story beautifully wove reality and fantasy together to reveal the struggles of growing up and being yourself as well as helping your friends and making sacrifices.

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Awards - Publishers Weekly Best Book
               School Library Journal Best Book
              Bulletin Blue Ribbon Book
              Chicago Public Library Best of the Best
              NPR Backseat Book Club Selection
             
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Sunday, March 29, 2015

Valiant Hearts Book 1: Dauntless

"Where Legend and History Collide,
One Young Woman Will Fight for the Innocent"

Bookworm's Ranking - 4 Worms
 
Storyline - Merry Ellison has lost title, home, and family when her father rebelled against the king of England. Now living in the woods with a band of orphan children, they steal to survive. The only dream she will allow herself to have is to find a safe home for the children to live while she must remain hidden. And not fall in love. Their thievery has been noticed, dubbing them the Ghosts of Farthingale Forest since they are never seen. They are a wanted band. And the first one to catch on to them is Merry's betrothed, Timothy Grey. Fighting between duty and love, Timothy will have to decide to hand over Merry for her crimes or find another way. Yet, unbeknownst to Timothy, someone is out to destroy him. Will Merry find a way to care for the children and welcome love or will choices beyond their control determine their future?

Author - Dina L. Sleiman

Publisher - Baker Publishing Group; Bethany House Publishing

Age Group - 16 and up

Content - *May Contain Spoilers* Merry fears for her honor once. The Ghosts steal in order to survive. Timothy searches to do the right thing by his duty and master yet struggles with the idea of allowing Merry to be hurt. A Lord is described to "love" often. Someone seeks to hurt another.

Personal Opinion - Merry and Timothy's struggles to care for others and find a way in their life drives their decisions and causes conflict between them. Even though they love each other, they believe the other doesn't and both have been hurt enough in their life to be cynical. This bring believability and life to the characters for different reasons. Merry can't see another life for herself because she is wanted by the king and thought dead, leaving the only option to steal to survive and protect innocent lives, believing that is the only way her life can go. Timothy is the ninth child and not going to inherit anything so has to find a place for himself yet morns the lose of the woman he loves. These two have lot to deal with but are not the only one. The rest of the cast are develop into players themselves with wants, desires, and struggles themselves, such as one of the Ghosts in love with Merry and leaning on God for direction and a man in the castle jealous of Timothy and plans on destroying him. While all this character development was good and interesting, I expected a little more action because the story is based off Robin Hood. The story is good, jest would have liked more action sooner in the story.

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Disclaimer - In exchange for an honest review, I received this book for free from the publisher through Bethany House.

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Sunday, March 22, 2015

Poison

"Can She Save the Kingdom
With a Piglet?"
  
Bookworm's Ranking - 4 Worms
 
Storyline - Kyra tries to kill the princess but, when she misses and the princess goes into hiding, she  goes into hiding and hunts to finish the job. Unfortunately, a pig is all she has to track the princess and soon picks up an annoying straggler named Frank who wont leave her alone. She will just have to ignore how cute the pig is, charming Frank is, and the fact the princess is her best friend. If that isn't enough, old friends and acquaintances are hunting for her. If that wasn't enough, she also has to decide what to do with the Witch's Spark inside her. Nothing a girl can't handle who is the best at potions in the kingdom. While Kyra searches and is waylaid around several turns, the mystery begins to fall into place and she will have to find her place and a way to finish the job.

Author - Bridget Zinn

Publisher - Scholastic

Age Group - 15 and up

Content - *May Contain Spoilers* Guy sees girl in her wet underclothes and some other jokes about nakedness. Some fights. Magic. Kyra can see into the future and tries to dampen the Witch's Spark inside her. Characters help one another even though they don't always like each other.

Personal Opinion - Poison is a funny, charming, mysterious read that was hard to put down. Twists and turns are frequent with snappy dialogue and revelations that are wondered about but doubted because they are not revealed until late in the story. Kyra is a strong female, serious about her goal yet struggles inside when challenged by Frank, a fun loving, cheery guy, who questions why she pushes people away and brightens her life. The discussion about the witch's spark vs. potions (a scientific, non-whimsical practice) reminded me a bit of the arguments between religion and science. Bridget Zinn was probably not going for that but I found it interesting to consider and think about, how one can use both in their life which was prompted to Kyra by a Gypsy. Even though the protagonist is trying to murder someone through the whole book, she is still likable yet I would not be surprised how some people would be uncomfortable with the idea of looking up to this character. She did not like the idea that she had to kill someone yet she was determined to do it. She probably didn't go about solving the problem the right way (aka: murder) but that was not discussed in the book. There were also comments to the nakedness or close to nakedness on a couple of occasions with the characters and seeing each other that I was not fond of. In technical terms, the book was well paced and the dialogue hilarious, and the character diverse with their own person but some of the back story and past events were not revealed until they absolutely had to. Now, that might not sound like a bad thing (and it usually isn't) but some of the information was held on too long so the reader couldn't even make guesses or hypothesized about the story. It almost let whatever the author to want have happen happen because it was unknown until it happened (and yes, I realize how confusing this sentence is). Fixing that would have made this good book great and probably would have landed on my favorite shelf. But, the characters take you on a fun, magical, adventurous story from page one and keeps going until the last.

P.S. I finished this book only a few weeks ago and I already want to read it again.

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Sunday, March 15, 2015

Video Game Storytelling

"Unlock Your Game's Narrative Potential!"
 
Bookworm's Ranking - 4.5 Worms
 
About - Video games are unique story telling systems. Not only do they have the basics of story, characters, plot, theme, etc., but also of being interactive, the player choosing what happens and how to react to situations. Yet, story is not always given the attention it needs in video games. In Video Game Storytelling, the basic principles and systems of writing story is given and also presents how narrative experts work in each section of game creation. Anyone who is working on video game narration will find this book helpful and insightful to give basic, beginning information.

Author - Evan Skolnick

Publisher - Watson-Guptill

Age Group - 15 and up

Personal Opinion - Evan Skolnick, a video game writer who has worked on Marvel, Star Wars, and other such games, shares detailed yet simple basics of story writing as well as how each section of the games creation team needs to welcome that narrator. Have read multiple writing books before, this one did present good, beginner information of writing as well as new terms for certain concepts that I know be never heard by those names. This section is really good for those who work on the technical side of the video game to understand what the writer is doing and thinking. The second half of the book talks to the technical workers of the video game such as the animators and programmers revealing how the writer will benefit their section and needs them to welcome them into their group to get the best result possible for the story. This book is a wonderful help to those working on a video game who is expecting a writer to come on board and is also helpful to writers to know what to expect and some of the troubles of working on these types of stories. I usually don't play video games (okay, almost never) but have thought about creating educational type games so thought this book might be insightful. The first half made me confident as a writer, believing I could work on these teams. The second half was more helpful because it revealed how the industry worked and created games, and also showed that I need to know more about games before I could get a job writing them (which makes sense). This is a perfect book for anyone working on a video game and would be helpful for everyone to read to see how and why they should collaborate closely in order to create the best narrative possible for their games, making them stand out.

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Disclaimer - In exchange for an honest review, I received this book for free from the publisher through Blogging for Books.

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Sunday, March 8, 2015

Many are Called


 
Bookworm's Ranking - 3 Worms
 
Storyline - After seven long years, the prince his finally marrying his betrothed. All that is left is to go get her. Yet the skies are filled with enemies trying to capture the princess and the prince must out maneuver them. Meanwhile, the palace gets ready for the marriage feast which no one who is invited is coming to and the servants are slacking. The prince chases down his beloved yet things are more complicated than they think. And their enemy is not far away...

Author - Gabrielle Gniewek

Art - Sean Lam

Publisher - Manga Hero

Age Group - 14 and up

Content - *May Contain Spoilers* Some killing but not too gory and not really shown. One guy's chest is always seen. The prince is willing to risk his life for his bride, no matter what, even after she has hurt him. The bride is struggling with guilt from betraying the prince and doesn't feel adequate for his love. Other character struggle with their duties and feeling like they deserve better or just slack on their work.

Personal Opinion - This was a pretty fun, engaging, light read. It can be read in an evening. I think it helps put the parable of the wedding feast in a form that can give readers a face to the characters and situation to the story. The artwork was fun but I'm not sure what I think of the jumping between Jesus telling the parable and the story itself which plays out with sky ships, motor bikes, and swords. The bride was not very well developed. SPOILER The story hints at her running away and hiding with someone bad but doesn't tell why she decided this END SPOILER. At times, the characters would hint to something, a side bit, but it wouldn't be clear in the story so I'm left confused. For a Christian book, I was also surprised at seeing one guy's chest. The whole story went to fast and could have been elaborated on more, maybe even a series to create these various storyline. But the story did have a good message about unconditional love, faithfulness, and honor.

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Sunday, February 22, 2015

Jenni James Faerie Tale Collection: Beauty and the Beast

"A Prince by Day &
A Wolf by Night"
Bookworm's Ranking - 4 Worms
 
Storyline - Prince Alexander has been cursed by a witch to become a beastly wolf at night because of his arrogant behavior. With only one year to find someone who loves him as a wolf, he finds himself drawn to the one girl who has always detested him, Cecelia. But when he begins to see her with new eyes as a wolf, love begins to grew in both of their hearts. Cecelia has been disappointed and embarrassed too much in life yet finally feels loved by a strange wolf. If only Prince Alexander, who is suddenly being kind to her, would leave her alone. Will Cecelia choose the wolf or the prince and her choice will affect the prince forever.

Author - Jenni James

Publisher - StoneHouse Ink

Age Group - 14 and up

Content - *May Contain Spoilers* One man asks another if he did anything in appropriate with a maid when he was alone. The Prince got violent and strikes someone he is angry with. Someone becomes jealous and tries to kill the Prince and Cecelia. Cecelia is determined to help and see the good in others but feels foolish because others have betrayed her. Prince Alexander sees the wrong he once did and tries to be a better, more honorable man.

Personal Opinion - A charming, sweet, and enchanting read. From the first time we meet Cecelia, I totally got her spunky personality because I act like that. I just loved the interaction between her and the beast because the dialogue was so fun (it made me laugh at times) and sweet. Prince Alexander is a bit violent when he is angry at times but he learns that this can only get him in trouble. There were a couple of times I didn't buy the events in the story. SPOILER when Cecelia is told the prince made fun of her behind her back after she thought he changed, he visited and she was mad at first then just melted and kissed him END SPOILER. I think it made her a weak female character at times. besides a couple of spelling errors, there was one word that kept being used that didn't make sense which was "gel" where "girl" would have worked just fine. In fact, I had to go on the Oxford English Dictionary to discover it is a form of "girl." A bit confusing mixing modern language with old. Even with these errors scattered throughout, I think this was a great retelling which stuck to the original story and yet had a few unique qualities of its own to make it an enchanting read.

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