The Emerald Atlas Book Review

The Emerald Atlas is another book that has been on my TBR list since it came out a number of years ago. My sister listened to the audio book with her kids and I couldn’t be out done, so I downloaded the audio too. My sister and her kids loved it and so did my son and I. We listen to audiobooks in the car constantly because I have a 45 minute drive too and from work each day. Sometimes my son listens to the books and sometimes he sits in the backseat playing with his Rescue Bot figurines. With this book he actually requested that I turn it on each time we got in the car, “Mommy can you turn on the green book?” That is the first time he’s been so engaged to request a book.

The Emerald Atlas 

Emerald Atlas by John StephensBy John Stephens
Edited by: ?
Publisher: Random House
Narrated by Jim Dale

The book begins with three young children, Kate, Michael, and Emma, who for unknown reasons are give up for adoption. They know their parents are alive and have promised they be together again. Because of this they become unwanted since they tell all potential adopters that their parents will come back for them.

After being shuffled from agency to agency for ten years, they finally land in a big ole mysterious house near a mysterious town with no children and a mysterious forest fraught with danger. In exploring this house, they find a green book which transports them to another time. They discover a scary mean countess, some monsters, some kind and helpful people, what happened to the children, and Dr. Pym. They must find a way to save the children and keep what the countess seeks out of her hands.

Did I mention there are magical creatures, dwarves, wizards, sorceresses, and elfish type people in this book? Do you see why I love it so much?

The Audiobook

The narration is stunning! Jim Dales voice is deep and rich and versatile. He is so very talented! So now I’ve added him to my list of favorite narrators. Maybe I’ll do a post on magical voices someday soon.

The Writing 

I work with middle school children so I know how kids that age behave in general. Some authors get it wrong and have  five year old act like a teen and have teens act like five year olds. I had a threenager in my house two years ago, I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about developmental impossibilities. This author doesn’t do that; he nails the ages!

Emma is five or six (about the same age as my son), the thought process and perceptions Emma has is perfect! She desires to do more than she can.

Michael is the geeky, know it all type obsessed with knowledge in general and specifically dwarves. I can relate to the way he geekily obsesses over something!

Kate is the one with the weight of the world on her shoulders. She must keep her brother and sister safe and hold herself responsible for everything. As an oldest child I relate to her the most! Stephens has a knack for writing believable characters.

The story is a delight as well. Even though there are three main characters and sometimes the story goes in three different directions, the characters are distinct enough to keep it straight.

Who will Like This?

If you love fantasy, orphan children, a bit of mystery, and lots of adventure, then you will love this! It is not a challenging read and it is perfectly free of anything inappropriate, so any age child from 4th grade and up. Maybe even some advanced third graders could tackle this one, or kids with the help of their parents. This would actually be a lovely read to your child book for the elementary age children. The lexile level is 720, but don’t stop your child from trying to read it if they want to, even if the they are currently reading at a lower lexile or a higher lexile. Lexile levels should never stop a child from reading what they are interested in, which is why I don’t always put it in my reviews.

Foul Language: None
Violence: None
Sexual Content: None
Substance Abuse: None

 

 

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The Land of Stories Book Review

A bunch of my students have read or are reading these books. They love it! The first book in the series is called The Wishing Spell. I found it to be a fun romp through old fairy-tales.

Until I started this post I was confusing Eoin Colfer, author of Artemis Fowl series, and Chris Colfer, author of The Land of Stories series. I just saw Colfer and thought it must be the same person. Colfer isn’t all that common is it? Well, they are not the same person. They are both of Irish decent though so maybe they are distant relatives. I think the writing bug is often in the blood.  (My grandfather was a writer and poet.)

The Land of Stories

by Chris ColferBook Cover The Land of Stories The Wishing Spell
Illustrated by Brandon Dorman
Editor Alvina Ling

Alex and Connor are twins who’ve lost their father recently to a car accident. Now they and their mom are trying to cope with the loss.

When Alex and Connor’s birthday rolls around, their grandmother surprises them with a book. It is the book of fairy tales that she read to them when they were younger.

They are delighted but something strange is going on with the book. They fall through the book into the land of stories. They do not know how to get back home until they learn of the wishing spell. The items needed for this spell are challenging to attain. In their travels to get the items, they meet Snow White, Cinderella, Red Riding Hood, the Big Bad Wolf, and many other characters they heard about all their lives. They also discover a family secret. 

The Writing

I love the strong narrator voice in this story. It reminds me of the narration in The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman.

Sometimes this book had excellent, creative metaphors, and sometimes the metaphors were lackluster. The plot has a delightful, unexpected spin. It teaches a good lesson about life, which I don’t want to say because *spoilers* (said in River Song’s voice- I’m a Doctor Who Fan.)

The pacing of the story is quick enough to keep striving readers engaged through the whole book.

Audio Book

I listened to this one as an audio book.  Chris Colfer narrates this himself. I didn’t know, until I started looking up some information for this post, he was one of the actors in Glee. He has experience with acting and does a pretty good job narrating.

Who Will Like It?

Anyone who loves fairy tales will like this.  As I said above, many of my students are reading this series and love it. I read the book because my students recommended it to me. Some of the best books I read are due to my student’s recommendations. We have an awesome librarian at my school who puts really great books in the hands of the kids too.

Striving Readers and Advanced readers alike enjoy this book. Plus this is only book one in a series of six books.

Foul Language: None
Violence: None
Sexual Content: None
Substance Abuse: No

 

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Red Rising Book Review

I wasn’t sure what this book was about when I picked it up. The cover grabbed my attention and there was a lot of hype on Instagram. I knew it was a story about some people on Mars. I love Science Fiction almost as much as fantasy, so I gave it a go. I found it hit the New York Times Best Seller List for a reason!

Red Rising
by Pierce Brown

15839976

Editor: Mike Braff
Agent: Hannah Bowman
(From what I can gather)

In the future there is a caste system based on colors. Reds are the lowest ranking. They believe they are pioneers who mine underground to help terraform Mars, helping the human race survive.

Darrow is a Red and a talented drill operator. He learns what few Reds know: Mars is actually a fully developed planet with whole metropolis full of people living on the surface. The Reds are drilling simply to make the Golds and other colors richer. They are nothing more than slaves.

Darrow sacrifices almost everything to infiltrate the Gold training institute.  He must learn leadership and compete for his life in the most ruthless game. In this regard it is like Hunger Games, but with more intervention from benefactors, who work against Darrow because he is a low ranking gold. There are hundreds of players in this “game” with all the politics, alliances, betrayal, and double crosses that come with the struggle for power.  It is a enthralling mix of grav boots and castles, honor and corruption, deception and life truths.  Worst of all Darrow find himself making friends with some of the golds and fears he will immerse himself in the part he is playing so much that he will lose himself in the process.

The Writing

I found the writing engaging. Brown knows how to write compelling characters and weave complex plots.

Who Will Like This Story?

This has a bit of something for everyone.  It has castles, which makes the fantasy loving part of me happy! It has brutal battles, strategies, but also insightful thoughts on what makes a true leader. It has enough science fiction technology to keep sci-fi lovers happy. I suspect that the sequels will contain even more technology.

This story is brutal, ruthless, and gritty. It has some mild language, violence, and sexual content. For that reason, I would reserve this story for more mature readers.

I was surprised to find this is a High-Low book for the Lexile (HL630). High-Low means it is highly engaging for older readers but the vocabulary and sentence structure is simple enough for readers who struggle with complex texts. So this would be an excellent book for a 14 or 15 year old that doesn’t like reading much.

Foul Language: Yes, sort of. Darrow says bloody damn and gory damn. Slag is a replacement word for a four letter word.
Violence: Yes. Not detailed but definitely gory and brutal.
Sexual Content: Yes. There is no description of rape, but it does happen in the story.
Substance Abuse: No.

 

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First Rough Draft Done!

Sorry it has been awhile since I posted. It is busy season at school. Actually in education, when is it not?

On March 12th, I finished typing the rough draft of my manuscript!!
*insert scream of excitement*
This has been on my imaginary bucket list for a very long time. When I was in 7th grade study hall, I spent study hall writing 40 something pages of a novel, but abandoned it. After graduating college, I wrote 130 pages of a novel. That is when I invented this fantasy world that I’m writing in now. I started trying to teach myself how to write novels and nearly drown myself in how-to-write-stories books and self doubt.

I’ve listened to Writing Excuses podcast for 7 years or so with the intent of one day getting back into writing. I looked at my old 130 page manuscript and decided that I should start with a new book. The new idea simmered in my head for a few months. I finally decided, I’m 39, almost 40. I’m not getting any younger. Honing the skills to write novels are not ones that happen over night. If I’m going to get published one day I better start now.

August 2015 I began writing chapter one.

Fast forward through 19 months of writing while working full time. Now I can finally say I have finished a manuscript! Third time’s a charm right? It is 99,917 words long– had to keep it under a 100,000 words. That is 400+ pages standard manuscript format, ready for an edit.

IMG_0525.JPGI still have a long way to go with this novel. It is broken in so many ways, it might be hopeless. For now, the plan is to let it rest for a few months while I work on a few short stories to hone some specific writing skills.

After a few months, I’ll go back and revise it to practice my revision skills.

I plan to do like Brandon Sanderson and several other authors I’ve heard do: write a book and submit it for publication while I work on the next book.  I can’t remember the exact number, but I think Sanderson was working on writing book 7 or so when his 5th book was picked up by a publisher. I imagine I’ll have to write at least that many to get good enough to be published, and I can only hope to become half as talented as Sanderson.

For now, I will celebrate my first victory!

What is this book about?

Elemental magic users, called Faer, are being persecuted by the new king. A draconic demon is summoned to kill the Faer. Vera and her daughter are  seamstresses for the nobility.  They must keep their magic abilities secret while helping their people. The Faer must survive while staying true to their non-violent beliefs. Not all the Faer agree on how this should be done. 

That is the elevator pitch. It needs some work too.

Writing is a long journey, full of hard work, but immensely enjoyable work.

 

 

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Graceling Book Review

This book has been on my To-Read List for AGES! I’d heard it was good and they were right. I enjoyed it very much. I actually picked it up a year ago and read the first chapter. I realized if I continued to read it, I’d not be able to put it down. I had things which had to be done, so I put it down until I had time to read it. Life happened and a year later, I picked it up again. It was a fast read because it is so hard to put down.

Graceling

By Kristin Cashore

Published by Harcourt
Editor: Kathy Dawson
(I am going to start listing the publisher and editor, when I can, to help familiarize myself with the names of editors and publishing companies I like. Hopefully one day I’ll submit my own manuscript to them one day– probably far, far into the future.)

In the world of Graceling some people are Graced with different abilities. They discovered Katsa was Graced with the ability to kill when she accidentally killed a person at eight years old. Now as a young woman she practices sparring against multiple trained soldiers easily. Her uncle, the king, uses her as his thug– beating people up who didn’t pay what the king felt was his due. It is not the life she would have chosen for herself though.

Po, a man Graced with combat skills almost comparable to Katsa’s, comes from another kingdom and becomes her friend. Together they embark on a journey rife with unimaginable dangers. They uncover a dangerous secret that could destroy the seven kingdoms.

The Writing

The story is well written.  It is paced very fast so it will keep readers engaged. Reluctant readers may do well with it. I found the main characters very compelling.

Who will like this story?

If you like magic systems, combat, and nonstop action, you will love this story. The lexile is 730 so an average 6th graders could handle this book.

It does have some romance in it but it is not primarily a romance story. Boys and girls in my classes like it. There is some sexual content, but it is not overly detailed. For conservative readers, you may want to wait to read it until you are 13 years old.  I allow my 11 year olds to read it if they wish, unless I know parents are conservative. I tend to be rather liberal in what I allow kids to read though.

Foul Language: No.
Violence: Yes. Nothing too graphic.
Sexual Content: Some.
Substance Abuse: No.

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Six of Crows Review

I saw this book all over Instagram and people kept raving about it, so I decided to try it. I am so glad I did! I love a good heist story and this is the best I’ve read.

I read Shadow and Bone a number of years ago when it first came out. I thought that one was okay, not bad. It just didn’t strike me as anything spectacular. I imagine through lots of hard work, Leigh Bardugo has vastly improved her writing skills. I admire her all the more for that.

Six of Crows

Enter a caption

by Leigh Bardugo
Publisher Henry Holt and Co
480 pages

The story begins in Ketterdam a corrupt city filled with criminals of all kinds.

Kaz Brekker is a young man who has survived and is climbing the ranks of criminals. The city has made him tough. He is hired to break someone out of the most secure prison in all the lands– a prison which no one has ever successfully broken into and survived. Kaz accepts and selects a highly skilled team to accomplish this.

Kaz is the mastermind.

Inej, called The Wraith, is a girl who seems to disappear at will like a ghost. (My favorite character!)

Wylan, a privileged boy who ran away from that privilege. How he fits into the group is not apparent at first.

Nina, a Heartrender, who uses her magic to survive this city.

Matthias, a soldier who desires revenge.

Jesper, a sharpshooter.

Each character has their own story, so none of them are flat characters. Each character has their own reason for going on this heist. Sometimes those reasons conflict with the goals of others, so they have to decide where their true loyalties lie with their friends, or someplace else.

The magic system is fascinating and full of creative surprises. Heartrenders can manipulate things having to do with the body. Fabricators can manipulate metals and other materials. Tidebringers manipulate water. As you read you will discover many other fascinating tidbits of information on this magic system. I love creative magic systems.

Even the city itself feels like a character with a personality. It is multidimensional like a character.But that is more so in Book 2 The Crooked Kingdom. Usually I read book one so that I know enough to recommend a story to my students. I don’t have time to read book two, three, four, etc. This was an exception though. When I finished Six of Crows, I immediately started Crooked Kingdom.

The Writing

Amazing! Each chapter is an alternating POV. The Six of Crows rotates through 5 of the characters. Crooked Kingdom has 6 regular character POVs plus a couple other characters for a single chapter as needed. She writes all the POV changes beautifully. Each character has their own unique voice.

Each character has their own back story but she doesn’t dump it all on you at once. She artfully weaves it into the tale as the backstory becomes necessary to understand the character. The story comes out organically from events in the story present. I never tired of hearing the back stories. Each character grew in some way; they learned who they were and who they were meant to be. If you want to study how to write characters well, read this!

Like many experienced readers, I can often accurately predict plot twists. Bardugo was able to throw some in that were a pleasant surprise to me.

Who Will Like This?

Everyone! Okay Seriously, those who love a great heist story. Think low-tech, magical Oceans Eleven, only better because it is a book with all kinds of delicious details.

People who like a good character story will love this.

If you love cool magic systems you will love this. It has a little love interest but as a side story to complicate things for the characters, not the central focus. The type of love here is not some immature all-consuming fawning over a person (that drive me crazy), it is a more mature type of love. The characters are all 16-17 years old but it is easy to forget because the life they live forced them to all grow up real fast.

The Rating

Foul Language: No.
Violence: Yes. Nothing too graphic. Some description is a bit gory but that is due to description of something I can’t spoil, not violence.
Sexual Content: Hints at it. Very vague, most younger readers wouldn’t know it.
(Crooked Kingdom has a little more but nothing too graphic.)
Substance Abuse: Well yes. It wouldn’t dissuade me from allowing a child to read it because it is emphasizing the dangers of the drug and becoming addicted to it, not glorifying it.

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Eye of the Storm

I received a copy of this book from Ravenswood Publishing in exchange for an honest review.

This is my first one ever! It’s exciting! The book grabbed my attention because it has been compared to Edgar Rice Burroughs. The concept of the story is much like his Land that Time Forgot Trilogy which I loved. So I had high hopes for this story.

Eye of the Storm
by Fran Cavallo

eye-of-the-storm-by-frank-cavalloDr. Anna Fayne, an anthropologist, Eric Slade, a former Navy SEAL, along with nineteen others embark on a research mission to learn more about a mysterious plane accident. The odd thing was that one of the bodies found was a recently deceased Neanderthal.

When they arrive on site, they are caught in a strange storm with black flames and pulled through a rift in time and space to a planet populated with Neanderthals, a reptilian species, and undead. It is a fantastic world with dinosaurs, magic, wizards, and ritual sacrifice.

Slade and Fayne  lose their team to the brutal life in this new land. They are enslaved by the reptilian race and sold for a Mayan type ritual sacrifice. The difference is that instead of throwing the heartless bodies to a pit, they throw it to a dragon. YES this book has a dragon! I love dragons!   They become entangled in a war over the succession to the throne of a kingdom. Fayne learns that a magical object called The Eye of the Storm, holds key to returning them home. Thus begins the quest to get home.

The Writing

There was so much happening in this book: dinosaurs, battle for the throne, Neanderthals, an undead army, a reptilian race, dragons, pterodactyls, priests, wizards, plus some I don’t want to mention and spoil the story. It skimmed the surface of all these. I felt overwhelmed by all that was going on. I think this author has tons of great ideas, but didn’t pare them down and keep only the ones critical to the story.

I feel like there were missed opportunities to add depth to the characters by putting in their thoughts. The main characters wanted to get home of course, but other than for modern conveniences, I don’t know why.  They felt very one dimensional to me.

Who will like this book?

If you like The Land that Time forgot, you may enjoy this book. If you like tons of action, tons of fantastic world building, and  political maneuvering, you might like it.

I usually like character stories, which is why I want to know more about what’s going on in their head. This is not a character story though. This is a Milieu story; it is all about this amazing world. The setting, the groups of people, the plot are what this story is about. (For more information about the MICE Quotient see this post.)

I would not classify this as YA since the protagonists are 37 and 43 years old. This story has strong language. The vocabulary is moderately sophisticated. There is a lot of world building and political things to juggle. There are also frequent POV shifts. Because it is written in 3rd person omniscient, there is even head hopping within a scene, which can be confusing for younger readers.   I think someone in 11th grade could comfortably read this.

Foul Language: Yes
Violence: Yes
Sexual Content: some
Substance Abuse: No
Over all rating: PG 15

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The Name of the Wind

name-of-the-wind-image

Reading this book felt like coming home and putting on my warmest, comfiest fuzzy slippers. I love epic fantasy above all else when it comes to books. This book is classic epic fantasy in the same family as Robert Jordan, Brandon Sanderson, Raymond Fiest, and so many other amazing writers. Every time I read this kind of book, I’m swept back to my high school days when I read as I walked down the halls, while teachers lectured, during lunch, after school, and far into the night. *sigh* I miss the days when I could read so much.

 

The Name of the Wind
by Patrick Rothfuss

name-of-the-wind-book-for-reviewKvothe is a legend, an innkeeper, a swordsman, an arcane mage, a musician, a kingkiller. Let’s just say he is many things. The story begins with Kvothe the Innkeeper, a tired man seeking a simple life– to live in peace and quiet, but trouble follows him. It looms on the horizon.

While he waits for this looming danger, he tells his story to Chronicler– a man who seeks the truth in stories. Kvothe was born to parents who led a well respected traveling theatrical troupe.  One day Kvothe sees the wind answer when an old man calls its name. From then on, Kvothe wants to learn how to make the wind obey his command. He is too clever for his own good, but the old man begins his training. He learns much from the old man, but not how to call the wind.

Wonderful things and terrible things happen to Kvothe. I don’t want to spoil it for you but I’ll say this. The University is his dream because the Archive contains tens of thousand of books and his thirst for knowledge is unquenchable. He makes it to the University when he is younger than most.  His impatience gets him into much trouble. At times the whole world seems to be against him, yet his cleverness and quick wit saves him numerous on countless occasions and helps to form the beginnings of his reputation. He is called Six Strings, Kvothe the Bloodless, Kvothe the Arcane, Kingkiller, Lightfinger, and Shadicar. He earned each name and more. In this book you learn how he earned some of those names. I look forward to reading the other two books and learning how he earns the rest.

A Wise Man’s Fear was released in 2013 (five years after the first book). The Slow Regard of Silent Things was released in 2014.  Many fear we have a long wait until the third book in the trilogy is out, however there is a rumor that draft one is done and Rothfuss is in the revision stages. I don’t know Rothfuss’s writing process but I’d guess we’ll see the next book out in early 2018. I hope.

 

The Writing

Patrick Rothfuss writes extremely well in my opinion. I am not one who fawns over pages of eloquent description, in fact, I usually skim those parts. His description is brief and beautiful. Here is an example of a  couple sentences that I love:

“The man had true-red hair, red as flame. His eyes were dark and distant, and he moved with the subtle certainty that comes from knowing many things.”  (Prologue pg 2)

The book is delightfully long– 722 pages long. He weaves a gripping tale that doesn’t let you go, not even once. You keep reading because you want to know if he survives, if he gets the girl, if he finds even a hint of an answer to the burning question he must know about the Chandrian, if he slays the dragon or studies it, if he saves the village, and so much more. He sets up so many questions and always gives the reader an answer, though you might not like the answer he gives you. I did put down the book for a day or two because I was afraid of what was going to happen next. (He is ruthless to his characters like George RR Martain at times, though not as bloodbathish.)  I couldn’t stay away though and Kvothes fate was not as bad as I feared. Whew!

Chapter one is titled “A Silence of Three Parts” and the final chapter of this book is titled “A Silence of Three Parts” which makes the English teacher in me giddy at the symmetry of this. It also makes the artist in me delighted. Y’all just have to read this book!  

Who will like this book?

It is long, so not for the feint of heart. The vocabulary is sophisticated because Kvothe is a genius and uses big words at times. The story of young Kvothe is told by middle age Kvothe so the story jumps back and forth between those two times. The “present day” is written in 3rd person while the “past” is written in first person, which helps make those jumps in time more clear.  The story follows one character through the entire story rather than a million story lines like so many other epic fantasy stories, so that makes it easier for younger readers. Two or three of my 75 sixth grade students could handle a book like this. I think the average 9th grader could handle a book like this.

If you love epic fantasy, then you will most certainly love this. If you love these authors:  Brandon Sanderson, Raymond E. Feist, and Robin Hobb, then you will love this author.

The Rating

Foul Language: Yes, a little. (avg. one in every 20 pages or so)
Violence: No
Sexual Content: No
Substance Abuse: Yes. It does NOT glorify drugs. It speaks of the horrors of drug addiction when Kvothe is living on the streets and how horrible and deadly the drug can be. So this is actually a good thing in this case.
Over all rating: PG 13

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Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens LOST STARS

I’m still reeling from the death of Carrie Fisher and now her mother, Debbie Reynolds. My heart aches for Carrie’s daughter, Billie Lourd and the rest of the family.

I’ve been thinking about Star Wars a lot the last couple days. I read Lost Stars about a year ago when it was released. Since it is a YA novel, I bought it for my classroom. Being the greedy reader that I am, I decided to read it first. I’m glad I did because I was in for a surprise.

lost-stars-journey-to-star-wars-a-force-awakens-book-review

Ciena and Thane live on the Outer Rim Planet, Jelucan. The Galactic Empire took control of the planet when they were young and impressionable. Thane and Ciena were awestruck by the power of the Empire and its ships.

Ciena is from one culture on the planet. Her people live poor, simple lives. Thane is from a different culture on that planet, one who has used their mining business to create a wealthy lifestyle. Ciena has a close, loving family. Thane has difficulties with his family. But they both discover a love for flying.

By chance, they met Governor Tarkin who promised they could fly those amazing ships, if they worked hard to get into the Academy.

They develop a strong bond regardless of their differences in status and culture. (think Montagues and Capulets kind of relationship) They work through the difficulties and spend years studying and preparing for the Academy.

Together they attend the academy. However Thane begins to see the Empire for what it is, brutal and callous. Ciena sees only the the order that the Empire brings to the worlds it conquers.

Read the book to learn if their friendship survives this world view chasm. (Galaxy view?)

The Writing

Claudia Gray is a great writer. Of all the Star Wars book authors, she is my favorite writer. I prefer character based stories and this is one of the few Star Wars books that is character driven. (For more about what I mean by this see MICE Quotient) To a lesser degree it seems like an idea story too. The idea being, How much stain can a friendship handle? Technically speaking I don’t know if that counts as an idea but that is certainly one of the major themes running though the book.

Gray does an excellent job of showing the two different viewpoints and the plausible logic behind each one. You can empathize with both viewpoints, which makes it heart wrenching either way you look at it. I love this aspect of her writing.

theyll-remember

“They may forget what you said — but they will never forget how you made them feel.” ~Carl W. Buehner  I forget many details of the book, but I remember how it made me feel. Even after a year, I still have fond feelings for this story. I remember how engaging the story was throughout the whole thing.

The Rating

This is one of those books that made me want to start this blog. I love Star Wars. I’ve read many Star Wars books. All have been very clean. This is one of my favorite SW stories, but I decided to not put it on my bookshelf in my classroom. I was shocked to find three blatant sex scenes in this book. I’ve never had that problem in any SW novels, so I didn’t expect to find it in this YA novel. I find it ironic that the adult novels are perfectly clean, yet the one for children contains sex scenes. I fought with myself. I wanted my kids to enjoy this story, but I did not want to expose my eleven year old children to these three scenes. I was devastated.

Foul Language: None.
Violence: Nothing graphic
Sexual Content: YES, three scenes
Substance Abuse: None
Over all rating: PG 13

Who will like this story?

People who like character driven stories will like this book. This has a focus on relationship that some who like stories like Red Queen might like. On the flip side, I spoke to a eighth grade boy two weeks ago who loved this story. It has the action and excitement that both boys and girls will love. It is not exclusively about the relationship. You get to see several scenes from Episode IV, V, and VI from different points of view. It is a must read for Star Wars fans!

 

 

 

 

 

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Star Wars: Catalyst Book Review 

catalyst_-_a_rogue_one_novel-book-review

I’m a huge Star Wars geek so of course I had to read this book before going to see Rogue One. I wasn’t able to finish it before the movie but that’s okay. There wasn’t anything spoiled by seeing the movie that I couldn’t have predicted from reading half the book. 

Catalyst
by Jame Luceno

This story is set before the Rogue One movie. It begins after Star Wars III (which I prefer to pretend does not exist). Count Dooku is leading a separatist group in a war against the Republic which is led by Palpatine.

The story follows the life Galen Erso and his role in developing the weapon for the Death Star. Galen is a pacifist to the core and wants no part in taking sides. He wants nothing more than to be left alone to research his obsession- Kyber Crystals. Rumor is that these crystals are what power the Jedi and Sith Lightsabers. Much about them is unknown, and Galen means to learn everything he can about them.

catalyst_-_a_rogue_one_novelLyra Erso is Galen’s wife. She is a perfect balance for him. While he is hyper-focused on his work to the point of obliviousness, she is understanding, smart, and world-savvy. I love her inner-strength and  competence. She is utterly devoted to Galen. The way this character is written bothers me. She is in my opinion what writers call a Mary Sue, which is a character that is too perfect. Lyra is the perfect counterbalance to Galen’s character and nothing more. The only flaw I can find in her character is that she runs off at the mouth to the wrong people at times, but to little effect.

Jyn Erso is Galen and Lyra’s daughter. She does not play a major role in this story since she is young at this time. I saw Rogue one this week and I love her in the movie! The movie was brilliantly done. I highly recommend seeing it.

Orson Krennic is an outrageously  ambitious man. He is in charge of building the Death Star. He is a brilliant strategist when it comes to political maneuvering. Unfortunately for him, he is surrounded by several other experts at political maneuvering, such as Governor Tarkin.  If you love political intrigue, you will love this book. Luceno is an expert at writing this kind of story!

The Writing

First let me explain some writers terms. I will most likely refer to this occasionally, so it is worth explaining at least briefly.

The MICE Quotient

Most all stories fit into something called the MICE Quotient. Orson Scott Card created this categorization of stories.
M=Milieu, the story is all about an amazing place. ex. Ringworld by Larry Niven or The Hobbit by Tolkien
I= Idea, the story is all about an idea and explores various aspects of this idea. ex. The DaVinci Code
C= Character, the story is about the evolution of some aspect of a character. The vast majority of YA novels are coming of age stories which are character stories. These are the stories which I personally adore. One of my favorite examples is the Harry Potter series.
E= Event, these are centered around an event. ex. Independence Day (movie)
Most stories are primarily one of these types, but contain elements of the others to greater or lesser degrees. If you want to know more, or read a better explanation please hop over here or here.

Like many Star Wars novels, Catalyst is part Milieu. It describes alien races and worlds. To me, it felt like a mini info-dump every time a new character was introduced. Yes, it is important to know that the alien is insectoid in nature and his legs are backward hinged. You meet a ton of aliens and that means a ton of description for characters that are often only in one scene. I know several students who delight in this kind of thing.  I don’t.

This story has elements of an Event story. The event being the creation of the Death Star and how it came to be.

I love the ideas about the Force and Kyber crystals presented in this book. I don’t want to go into details and spoil the book, but the Star Wars Geek in me loved learning more about all things Jedi. Galen being a man of science looked at it with a scientist mind, rather than a mystic perspective that we usually see from the Jedi.

simple-words

George Orwell said, “Never use a long word when a short word will do.” This author does not abide by this rule.  I can appreciate a person with a large, sophisticated vocabulary. I, being a geek, have many friends who love to use delightfully large words. In writing though, I appreciate clarity and simplicity above fancy words. In science fiction, fancy words are sometimes necessary. In this book however, I found myself talking back to the book saying, “You could have just said ‘big’.”  This is a minor nitpick of mine. One does not read Star Wars books for their literariness; we read it to be entertained. Bottom line, I was entertained.

Who will like this?

Anyone that loves political intrigue, science, and all things Star Wars. Younger readers might struggle with the vocabulary, techno babble, the political maneuvering, and complex, multi-thread plot. I have a couple of high level readers in my 6th grade class that might tackle it. They won’t get all the nuance, but that is okay. I think a 14 year old would be able to read it comfortably.  People who love Milieu and Event stories will like this one.

The Rating

Foul Language: None.
Violence: Nothing graphic
Sexual Content: None
Substance Abuse: None
Over all rating: G

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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