Book Review – The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau

 

The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau

The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau

Imagine if you lived in a city where the only light came from an underground electric generator, and all around you was the dark unknown. And now imagine that the generator was slowly dying, and your city was running out of supplies. That’s exactly the situation that the citizens of the City of Ember from Jeanne DuPrau’s novel find themselves in. That’s when two teens – Lina Mayfleet and Doon Harrow – discover a clue that might be the key to saving their home. It’s a fast-paced, puzzle solving, dystopian, escape story set in the fascinating dark world of Ember.

I picked this book off the shelf when I went book hunting a few weeks ago. I’d heard of The City of Ember before, but I had confused it with another book and thought it was a supernatural romance novel. After reading the summary on the inside of the front cover, I realized my mistake. I added it to my stack, and brought it home with me. I ended up loving the story way more than I thought I would.

I was completely taken in by the unique setting of The City of Ember in a way that I wasn’t expecting. The darkness around the safe, light-filled city added an air of mystery to the novel, leaving the reader wondering why the earth was so dark and what happened to the sunlight.

Just like the setting, the characters in this novel were interesting and unique. The main protagonist, Lina, was sympathetic and mature. I liked the way she took care of her little sister Poppy and her grandmother. I thought Lina had a personality all her own, and was an original character. The other protagonist, Doon, also felt very round and real. He was different from Lina, willing to take more risks, such as standing up to the mayor at the beginning of the novel. Doon was also like Lina in the fact that he wasn’t a whiny kid, but was mature enough to want to fix Ember’s generator and help save the city.

I also really liked the way Ms. DuPrau designed “The Instructions.” Doon and Lina had to first piece together “The Instructions” and then follow them, both of which were very believable. I liked that at first, they guessed wrong about the word at the top, reinforcing the idea that they were just normal kids. I can’t say any more because I don’t want to give it all away!

All in all, I loved The City of Ember. I’m glad I was wrong about it being a supernatural romance novel, and that I was able to read it! I’m especially glad that there’s a whole series of books about Ember to enjoy. I can’t wait to find out what happens to Lina, Doon, and Poppy! If you’re looking for a unique take on a dystopian story, I’d definitely recommend this novel.

~ Kayla

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Book Review – Black Ice by Andrew Lane

Black Ice by Andrew Lane

Black Ice by Andrew Lane

“Why isn’t there someone who can investigate things that the police won’t or can’t investigate? Some kind of independent consulting force of detectives who can set things straight …” So questions a teenage Sherlock Holmes as he tries to free his brother from jail. With references like this and a solid mystery that can only be solved through deductive reasoning, it is apparent why Black Ice by Andrew Lane is the first teen series endorsed by the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Estate. Black Ice is impressive and enjoyable with a well-researched and well-developed young Sherlock Holmes.

In Black Ice, a teenage Sherlock Holmes travels to London with his friend and tutor, Amyus Crowe, to visit his brother. Unfortunately, instead of having lunch with Mycroft, they find him locked in a room with a dead body and holding a knife. Mycroft claims he’s innocent, and Sherlock knows his brother didn’t do anything wrong. Together with Crowe, Sherlock must solve the mystery to clear his brother’s name. Along the way Amyus Crowe teaches Sherlock how to make correct observations and deductions.

Bad things can happen to characters when people try to recreate them as children or teens. It can really detract from their future adult character. Anakin Skywalker is a good example, in my opinion. Darth Vader was a lot less impressive and scary to me after seeing whiny Anakin. So I was hesitant when I picked this book off the library shelf. Would this change the way I viewed the adult Sherlock? Well, it did but in a good way. It actually made me understand Doyle’s detective a bit more. I was very appreciative of Andrew Lane’s efforts to maintain the Sherlock Holmes canon and character.

I thought the book was slow in the beginning, and it took a bit for me to get into it. After Sherlock travelled to London and found the knife-wielding Mycroft, the book definitely picked up, and from then on, it was non-stop action. I really loved Mr. Lane’s teenage Sherlock. The Sherlock of this story wasn’t a genius at solving mysteries. While he obviously had a leaning towards the detailed observation and mystery solving skills of his adult self, he made mistakes in his deductions. He was also less logical and in control and more emotional than the adult Sherlock.  I could really see this character growing up to be the Mr. Sherlock Holmes of 221B Baker Street.

This book is the third in Mr. Lane’s series, which I didn’t know at the time I chose it. Black Ice made a few references to previous adventures Sherlock had, leaving me rather confused since I hadn’t read the other books. I ordered them from the library, and now they’re waiting to be read. I suggest reading them in order: Death Cloud, Rebel Fire, Black Ice, Fire Storm 😉

Overall, Black Ice was a great mystery and story that allowed me to see what the world’s only consulting detective was like when he was my age. 🙂

~ Kayla

Book Review – Sherlock Holmes and the Baker Street Irregulars: The Fall of the Amazing Zalindas

Sherlock Holmes and the Baker Street Irregulars: The Fall of the Amazing Zalindas by Tracy Mack and Michael Citrin

Sherlock Holmes and the Baker Street Irregulars: The Fall of the Amazing Zalindas by Tracy Mack and Michael Citrin

They are like a magnet to me. I see the words “Sherlock Holmes” on the spine of a book, and I’m instantly doing a Gollum impression. “My preciousssss…” Okay, maybe I’m not that bad, but since finishing Doyle’s works about Holmes, I’ve been deprived of my favorite mysteries! I have so missed my favorite characters! So, when I was browsing at my local library trying to find interesting, new reading material, and I viewed those magnetic words, I grabbed the book up. I was so excited that, despite the fact that this book is meant for a slightly younger age group, I had to give it a try.

Sherlock Holmes and The Baker Street Irregulars: The Fall of the Amazing Zalindas by Tracy Mack and Michael Citrin is a Sherlock Holmes mystery using some minor characters, the Baker Street Irregulars, from the original Doyle mysteries as the main characters. The Irregulars are a group of street boys hired by Holmes to be his “eyes and ears” on the street. The mystery is told from the boys’ perspectives, as Holmes utilizes their talents to help solve an important mystery. The story starts out with the mysterious deaths of three circus performers, the Zalindas. Holmes sends the Irregulars to check out the circus and gather as much information as they can. Wiggins, the gang’s leader, discovers that Holmes is also working for the Crown and there is more to the mystery than just the Zalinda’s deaths. To add to the fun, the reader has to figure out a secret message hidden in the text. Really, who doesn’t like secret codes and messages? 😉

Overall, I really enjoyed the book. Even though it was meant for a younger audience, the book offered an opportunity to read about Sherlock Holmes from another perspective, that of the street urchins. When I started reading the book, I was afraid I was going to find the boys annoying and whiny (I can’t stand whiny characters). Thankfully, they weren’t! I thought the authors did a great job portraying Wiggins, the only boy specifically named in Doyle’s books, in a canonical way, while still adding to his character. The rest of the boys were likable, and I definitely cared what happened to them! The mystery was easy to solve, and I’m sure any Holmes fan would be able to figure out who the main bad guy was from the clues given. Since the book was meant for a younger audience, I can understand why the authors chose to create a more simplistic mystery rather than copy Doyle’s complicated plot lines. Still, the mystery wasn’t overly mysterious. I also didn’t like the fact that Holmes’s dialogue didn’t have that Holmesian flair to it and that Watson was portrayed as a grumpy idiot to an extreme that was never found in Doyle’s books. Still, it was an entertaining read that gives a younger reader a taste of Sherlock Holmes. It was also a great way for this older reader to experience the world of 221B Baker Street through other characters’ eyes.

Thanks for reading!

~ Kayla

What I’ve Read This Month

One of my resolutions for 2014 is to read more, and I’ve set myself the goal of four books a month. I’m trying to read different genres, fiction and non-fiction, and even from different age groups. Well, I did indeed read four books (actually five!) in January and today, I thought I’d go ahead and share them. Let’s get started!

Books I Read This Month:

The Green Book by Jill Paton Walsh

This is a short book, meant for a younger audience, but I was curious about it because of the sci-fi story line. It’s a story of one of the last families to leave Earth because of the dying sun. Each of the children can only bring one book, and one of them brings a green book, hence the title. They land on this planet, which they call Shine, and learn to survive on it. I found the moth people, the strange wheat, and the shiny grass, a bit odd. Even with some of the strangeness of Shine, the book wasn’t horrible. I just wasn’t thrilled with it.

Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell

This is another younger book I chose mainly because it’s a classic, and I’ve never read it. Karana is from an Indian tribe that lives on an island. When the tribe is forced to leave, her little brother jumps off the ship, and she follows after him. Now that they are stranded on the island, Karana is forced to learn how to survive. I enjoyed this one. It was definitely interesting reading how she survived, fought off the wild dogs, and built a home for herself.

Animal Farm by George Orwell

In England, a group of animals, unhappy with their treatment on a farm, rise up against their owner, take over the farm, and start running it themselves. Animal Farm is a classic novel I read for school. I was pleasantly surprised about how much I enjoyed it! Orwell’s satire on Russia is so brilliant.

Indian Captive by Lois Lenski

I wrote a review on this book last week. If you’d like to read it, you can find it here: https://concerningwriting.wordpress.com/2014/01/21/book-review-indian-captive-by-lois-lenski/

War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells

I read this one for school. It’s the story of humanity’s war against the Martians who come falling from the sky in cylinders to take over the Earth. The book was certainly entertaining, but the one thing I disliked was the fact that you learned almost nothing about the narrator. It was hard to grow attached to him, and I found myself not really caring about what happened to him. Still, the story was pretty exciting, and it was interesting to see how Wells created such non-human like aliens.

So, those are the books I’ve read this month! Have you read any of these books? What have you been reading? Do you have any book recommendations? Comment below and let me know!

~ Kayla

Book Review: Indian Captive by Lois Lenski

One of my New Year’s resolutions was to read more. I also mentioned that I was changing up some things on the blog. So, what does that have to do with this post? Well, while I’m currently on my “Quest To Read More Books in 2014,”  I thought I’d share some of the books I’ve been reading by reviewing them. Today, I’m posting a review of an old book I recently read called Indian Captive by Lois Lenski. Somehow, when we studied American History, I never read this classic historical fiction. I’m glad I’ve gotten a chance to read this novel since it is one not to be missed!

Indian Captive by Lois Lenski is the story of the capture of twelve year old, Mary “Molly” Jemison by the Seneca Indians. Taken by the tribe, she is separated from her family and carried off to an Indian village where she is adopted by two Indian sisters. The Indians are mostly kind to her, and Molly struggles to retain her identity as a white girl and to remember her family. By the end of the book, Molly has a choice to make. Will she stay with the Seneca or return home?

Molly, the protagonist, is a great character. She doesn’t whine or complain through her trials, but bravely faces them which makes her an admirable and likable character. Molly is an easy character to get attached to, and I truly cared what happened in her life. The Indian characters in the novel are engaging as well, and Lenski does a fantastic job portraying Indian culture.

The story is based on the true account of Mary Jemison, who was captured by the Seneca in 1758. While some of the facts are changed so that the story flows better, it still remains accurate. Lenski did a TON of research in writing this book, as she explains in the foreword, and strove to present a true picture of the events. The best thing is while you’re enjoying the book, you can also learn some history. Two for one! 😉

Though the book’s age range is a bit younger than mine, I still enjoyed the story which took me just a couple days to read. While it isn’t exactly a thriller, it’s still pretty exciting. Another thing I enjoyed were the pictures in the novel. The very distinctive illustrations were actually drawn by the author herself. She also wrote another favorite children’s book of mine, Strawberry Girl.  Since I enjoyed that book, it was neat to get to read another by her. Indian Captive won a Newberry Honor in 1942, and I think it definitely deserved it!

All in all, I would give Indian Captive a 4 star rating for being an enjoyable book with a great character and fascinating story.

Also, if you’re interested in Mary Jemison’s account of her captivity in her own words, you can find it here: http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks/w00087.html

~ Kayla