Sunday, August 29, 2010

Everything I know about Egypt I learned from The Red Pyramid

Carter and Sadie Kane were separated after the death of their mom. Carter traveled the world with his archeologist dad and Sadie was sent to London to grow up with her grandmother. They see each other about once a year and, as per norm for siblings (except for me and mine), don’t get along even then. Their pops specializes in ancient Egyptian stuff and invites them along for a little late night visit to the Rosetta stone inside the British Museum (which is a pretty cool place BTW). That’s where the crazy things start happening and Carter and Sadie find themselves with the fate of the world on their shoulders. They have some help from some unlikely “people” and along the way find out some unimaginable things about who they are and what they are supposed to do.

First of all, we should be incredibly grateful to all the teens that quietly go about saving the world without us ever noticing. Secondly, we should be happy that they don’t ever ask us normal folk to get involved because I don’t have the time for it. Thirdly, we should be thankful that Rick Riordan is there to write their stories. I was afraid from the beginning that this book was going to be Percy Jackson re-do, which was fine because some of us couldn’t get enough of Percy and his friends, but Rick Riordan managed to veer off the path significantly and make it stand on its own. If you listen to the audio book you get to hear Carter and Sadie in two distinct voices as they record their story into an audio recorder. Carter sounds like your every day teen boy and Sadie is a snarky sister with a British accent (appropriate for someone who grew up in London). The interaction between the two made me chuckle to myself many a times and it reminded me of the constant banter that can exist between all siblings (once again mine excluded). Lots of tongue in cheek humor and great characters made for an entertaining book and a great start to the series. I would have to go out on a limb (carefully of course) and say that those that liked Percy Jackson will love this book as well. If the familiarity of the Greek gods is what kept you in the story before then the unfamiliarity of the Egyptian gods and myths will keep you in the story this time. If you haven’t read Percy Jackson (you should) The Red Pyramid will be an entertaining and fun filled learning event. I learned a lot about Egyptology from this book and as I have said before, if I can learn, laugh, and be entertained by the same book then it’s all good in the hood (okay I didn’t say it exactly like that but I wanted to this time).    

Friday, August 27, 2010

Clockwork Angel (advance reading copy) tick tock, tick tock, time to get it!

Tessa Gray’s world is turned upside down when, after the death of her parents and her aunt, she receives a letter from her brother in England requesting her to join him there. Victorian England has more for Tessa than she could have ever imagined. The world she thought she once knew lives right alongside a world she never knew and she is trapped between the two fighting, quite literally, for her life.  She is not alone, and together with a mysterious group called the Shadowhunters, and a host of others, she works to come to grips with who she is and to try and rescue her brother from the grasps of people who threaten to kill him.

This book leaves me tangled up in how to review it. I really liked it and I can’t quite put my finger on the why. The world in which Tessa finds herself is so familiar at times, and so new at the same time. Not having read the Mortal Instrument series first, I can honestly say that this was unlike any book I have read. I liked the new twists and combinations to some old things. Vampires, werewolves, warlocks, angels, demons, humans, and other beings all mixed together and intermingled. I loved the idea of mysterious overlapping worlds, places, and people that exist but few can see. I love London, and to throw this whole world into that, took me to some awesome places. The characters were complex and realistic and I even repeatedly called one of the characters a jerk (I think I also described the same guy as a dillweed somewhere in a conversation as well). Sometimes in books that take place in days gone by the characters don’t often fit the setting. Sometimes their responses, especially between genders, often feel out of place and inappropriate for the time. The responses of the characters in this book had the opposite effect on me in that they kept reminding me that this is Victorian England and not modern day. This book was unpredictable and finished strong. If you are a reader then you should add this to your “to read” list. If you are a Cassie Clare fan already, this is a “can’t miss”. For the rest of you, I would definitely give it a try. This book is set to release 8/31/2010.

Now, since we are on the topic of Clockwork Angel, I should probably address the team Will/Jem debate from a guys perspective. Like I said from nearly the beginning of the book, I don’t even see why there is a debate. Will is a jerk. I don’t care if he has issues he has to work through and he has a bunch of stuff that leads to him being the way he is, he still really is a dillweed (there is the conversation for those who are not my wife and therefore were not here to hear it the first time). I’m thinking that given the current knowledge about both characters there is no way that Tessa should be with Will. If not Jem, then Tessa should just chill with the not being with anyone. If you like Will because you think that he’s just complicated and if you could just get around him you could fix him, not going to happen, first of all because he is a character in a book and secondly because you can’t fix that and thirdly because you couldn’t fix him if he was real. His personality is such that any time life gets complicated and he hurts he’s going to hurt others. He might resolve his current issues but if new ones come up he is likely to respond the same way. Jem has come to terms with his lot in life. He’s already matured with what has been put before him. With Tessa’s life already a mess, she doesn’t need what Will brings. Spoken from the mouth of a teacher, big brother, husband, and dad. That’s my two cents worth. So, team Jem, I guess, but I think the little clockwork angel is pretty cool too.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld is Barking Good Guy Lit

A British soldier aboard a flying hydrogen-filled whale-like living flying beast. An Austro-Hungarian prince in a two legged walking war machine. Both being chased by the Germans as war looms on the horizon. Deryn Sharp, who goes by Dylan, is a British soldier that’s not supposed to be one because girls can’t be soldiers. Alek, is the son of the Austro-Hungarian king that was murdered by the Serbians and begins the war which becomes WWI. But, this isn’t exactly the WWI that we have come to know. There are genetically modified living beasts on the British “Darwinist” side and gigantic mechanical beasts on the German “Clanker” side. Deryn and Alek meet in a not so idealic situation in which they are forced to make an unlikely alliance for all of them to survive. They forge together aboard the great British Naval beast Leviathan on a journey that will challenge them both and leave them changed.

This book is a guy book. I’m not saying that girls won’t like it, because I can think of a few that would, I’m just saying that it’s got a lot of stuff that guys tend to find cool. There’s action, guns, big loud clanging machines, giant fantastical beasts, some fighting between the two, some cool illustrations of the monsters and machines, it’s just got a bit of testosterone, that’s all. Most of all, stuff happens, and that’s what a lot of guy readers are hoping for. The best part is that this is just the beginning of the whole thing, so there is more. Now. being a Westerfeld fan, I had already set this book up to succeed, but that doesn’t mean that it is not a good book. Even the cover is mantastic. This cover allows a guy to carry the book with pride. As a science teacher and someone who loves history I especially love this book for its ability to bring up conversation regarding these two subjects. The book parallels the timeline of WWI and some of the details surrounding the war (which Westerfeld talks about in the Afterword). The book also has a bit of talk about the science behind some of the Darwinist beasts and could definitely be used to talk about genetics and the possibilities of some of the creations described in the book. Great stuff. This book should be read by anyone who has a hankering for steampunk or just loves to dig into the creative and not so crazy worlds of Scott Westerfeld. If you liked the Uglies books then you will like these as well. Remember that the Star Trek communicators used to seem crazy and now look at the iPhone.