Life's hard.

It's even harder when you're stupid.

John Wayne

Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Icebound Land by John Flanagan ★★★★☆

Well Done
Fiction – YA/Juvenile – Medieval
266 pages
Age Level: 10 and up | Grade Level: 5 and up
Publication Date: June 26, 2007
Ranger's Apprentice #3

The Icebound Land (Ranger's Apprentice, #3)Halt and Horace follow after Will and Evanlyn to Skandia to set them free from their kidnappers.

This book was a major improvement and I only have good things to say.  The pacing was superb.  The excitement suspense and drama began right from the start.  The story was a bit unexpected and pleasantly surprising.  The writing never broke with the book reality.  I loved the dynamics of differing points of view of the same events and was impressed at how well done the two story lines were done.  All of the characters were fully realized and distinctive from other as well as the different cultures.

I just really enjoyed it and by the end I was clamoring for the next one and so grateful to have a local library with a decent children’s section.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Velveteen vs. The Junior Super Patriots by Seanan McGuire ★★★★☆

Velveteen vs. The Junior Super Patriots (Velveteen vs., #1)A charming new addition to super power lore
Fiction – Adult – Urban Fantasy
204 pages
Publication Date:  2012 
Velveteen vs. #1

I wanted to like this book from the first moment I found it on Goodreads and after a few minutes of reading I was ready to be delighted and jump in with both feet.  The beginning was a bit jumpy, but amazingly funny.  I also fell deeply in love with the narrating voice.  It described fantastic word pictures coupled with just the right amount of snark.  I also found her power to control toys charming.

I debated about giving this book 4 or 5 stars, but I have to say the lack of a crescendo at the end of the book knocked it down to 4.  Mrs. McGuire obviously had the talent to turn the last scenes into a real climax, but for some reason chose not to and the book ends without the real bang it deserved.

Something else that really bothered, though no fault of the book or author, was the limited run.  I got it on kindle, but would love to get to have a hard copy and the same goes for book two.

I have to say this has got me totally rethinking my own super power plans.  First I wanted the power to freeze and speed up molecules, you know like Piper from Charmed.  Then I became a mom and being a speedster sounded pretty, at least until my letter from Hogwarts for adult correspondence classes arrived, but now I see that I shouldn’t close myself off to the possibilities.  Human mutation and transformation through lab accidents shouldn’t be limited by my tiny imagination.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Rowan and the Keeper of the Crystal by Emily Rodda ★★★★☆

Another Winner
Fiction – Juvenile – High Fantasy
208 pages
Grade Level: 3 and up  Age Range: 8 and up
Publication Date:  1996
Rowan of Rin #3

Rowan and his mother are called to choose the new Keeper of the Crystal by the Maris folk, but when Rowan’s mother is poisoned only he can find the culprit and pick the new Keeper before the Zebak invasion.

Rowan and the Keeper of the Crystal (Rowan of Rin, #3)Rowan and the Keeper of the Crystal (Rowan of Rin, #3)Again I was blown away by how well done these books are.  Ms. Rodda is a rare talent, she describes these places like someone who has actually lived there and not just a place made up in her mind.  In this book the story telling style changes a bit from the first two, but I don’t feel that it detracts in any way.  Also the story type is a bit different too.  We again get to see Rowan grow, but also rely on the lessons he learned from his earlier challenges.  This story is about cunning and there is no guide or protector this time.  Rowan must become a leader and not just a follower and his new challenge is to discern the minds of others. Also another cool thing is that we get to visit the Coast and the Maris people with Rowan for the first time. 

Friday, September 5, 2014

The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II by Denise Kiernan ★★★☆☆

The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War IIA fascinating look into the parts needed to make the Manhattan Project succeed.
Non Fiction – History – World War II
416 pages
Publication Date:  2013  

Women from all over the US were asked to come and work in a town that didn’t officially exist, Oak Ridge, Tennessee.  The only information they were given was that it would help the war effort, but other than that they were told to do exactly as they were instructed and follow the number one rule, never ask a question.  Here are the stories of these women’s lives and how they contributed to the Manhattan Project.

I first discover this book on a trip to the National Museum of Nuclear Science & History in Albuquerque (by the way definitely worth the time if you are in the area, great exhibits and information, with helpful guides).  After spending time learning about the Manhattan Project my eyes were opened and I realized how very little I really understood what it took to make this project work and I was very eager to learn more.

This subject is amazingly interesting and worth learning about for anyone interested in WWII or even atomic energy.  I was very impressed with how well this book was document and researched; kudos to Ms. Kiernan for taking the time and attention to be thorough.  I also really appreciated the cast of characters and map at the beginning for reference.  Ms. Kiernan clearly cares about the subject people and thoughtfully portrays the people she features as accurately as she can. 

Now the downside.  Focus is a major problem.  I think that the book really suffers from trying to tackle too much.  All of the snippets in themselves were incredibly fascinating, but the constant changes of voice and subject focus made it really hard to keep everything straight.  This is not a book to dip in and out of.  Also, I personally struggled to understand the science stuff, which isn’t a natural strength for me.  When I visited the museum they had a great video and visual to explain it all, but using strictly words completely confused me.  But then I again I see this as part of the organization problem.  A tighter focus would have cut down on the breaks between the information and made it a more continuous flow.   And last – and not to be exactly unexpected – there was a bit of a feminism kick.  Not exactly horrible, but in a couple places it was incredibly overt and didn’t really do anything to add to the narrative.

Overall I was glad to have a chance to read this book and it has only added to my desire to learn more, which is always a good occurrence from this type of book.