blo Teens Read and Write: July 2009

Friday, July 31, 2009

Percy Jackson Is Coming to Theaters

Hey remember a few weeks ago when I wrote that Lightning Thief review? Well, guess what I saw in movie previews when I went to see Harry Potter? A trailer for Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief.

It has Pierce Brosnan as Chiron, Uma Thurman as Medusa, Sean Bean as Zeus, Kevin McKidd as Poseidon and Melina Kanakaredes as Athena. The three kids are Logan Lerman (3:10 To Yuma), Alexandra Daddario (All My Children) and Brandon T. Jackson (Alpa Chino from Tropic Thunder).

I was so excited! The director the movie is Chris Columbus the guy who did the first and second Harry Potter. Sweet! Its coming out February 12, 2010. I can't wait!!!!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Roar

By Emma Clayton
Pub: April 1, 2009
496 pages

If the simple the fact that the story is posed in London in the future doesn't grab your interest, Emma Clayton's thrilling sci-fi novel Roar will pull you in on its own. It gives you a fresh new feel, with a touch of Star Wars added, like a delicious dash of exotic spices. Even though it's from a twelve-year-old's point of view, I think older readers (including myself, of course) will enjoy this book.

Mika lives in futuristic London, behind a huge wall that protects the citizens from the mysterious animal plague that swept the city many years ago. But since his twin sister vanished a year ago, Mika has suspected there is more to his world than he has always been told. When an organization starts recruting children to play violent, very realistic virtual reality games, Mika uses it as a chance to search for his missing twin and uncover a startling truth.

Mika is easy to root for. Throughout the story, he is a brave and believable character that you want to stick with for the exciting ride; even when the dialogue gets a bit sketchy. He manages to discover secrets, and unravel their truths in ways that kept me reading with eager anticipation. When the end of the book came and a fountain of surprises erupted before me, I was quite dissappointed that the book had finished.

At one point, the book touches on the fact that humans didn't take care of the earth, and that was what caused the disastrous animal plague. I thought 'Oh great, this is going to be some environmentalist book that bashes people while at the same time trying to be a science fiction, action packed adventure.'I was pleasantly surprised to find that yes, it was an action packed adventure, but there was no bashing involved.

I had a bit of a problem connecting to the villain of the story. My friends, the villains do, in fact, need to be identifiable, as twisted as that may sound, but I had trouble relating to this particular 'bad guy.' Even in the end, when the motives for his evil deeds become clear, I still felt that he could have had much more depth.

With that aside, the book was completely enjoyable and I would personally reccomend it to sci-fi fans and people who simply enjoy a good tale. Emma Clayton certainly wrote an amazing first novel that kept me guessing and sucked me in all the way through until the end.

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Summoning (Darkest Powers Book 1)

By Kelley Armstrong
Pub: July 1, 2008
400 pages

When Chloe Saunders' begins halluncinating dead people she's sent to Lyle House, a place for troubled teens. Imprisoned in the mad house, Chloe soon discovers that the home's residents aren't what they seem. Will Chole be able to uncover the dangerous secrets of Lyle House...or will its skeletons come back to haunt her?

I read The Summoning after seeing the sequel's book trailer, The Awakening - which is pretty awesome by the way - so when I started The Summoning I knew a few things before they were revealed, which I honestly think helped me get through it as fast as I did.

The book is enjoyable, but in the middle it seriously slows down while Chloe is trying to figure things out However, once she starts putting it all together the pace just keeps picking up speed.

The ending was good and bad. Good in that I was running to the bookstore for the sequel. Bad in the sense that the end left me feeling Kelley Armstrong cut me off rather abruptly. She ended her book in the middle of the story line - actually the peak of the story line -there was no closure, all open questions that needed answering, hence the speedy drive to the bookstore.

The only thing I didn't like about Chloe is that she would take a step back from everything and analyze it as though she were writing or directing a movie to cope with what was happening (she wants to be a screenplay writer/movie director). The first few times it was fun, but after a while it became distracting and I found myself skimming for when we got back to the plot. Other than that, Chloe is a unique character that is very easy to relate to.

On the whole, I love the triology so far and can't wait for book three The Reckoning.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince review

Wow. This was a slap to the face. I came out of the movie theater thinking that it was alright but not great, but it wasn't until later while I was talking with my family about it that I soon realized how terrible it really was.

This installation follows Harry and friends during his 6th year at Hogwarts. Voldemort is still at large and the Death Eaters are kidnapping witches and wizards for evil purposes. It's up to Harry to discover Voldemorts secret to save the wizarding world (again).

Harry spends 9 months discovering secrets, finding horcruxes, and wasting time on a load of relationships. The theme here is feelings. Boring boring feelings. They spend more time developing romantic relationships between everyone than actually doing anything relevant to the story line or what was in the book!

Don't get me wrong, the 6th book wasn't the most exciting and there wasn't a lot of action, but I know what your thinking "Jake, at least there was the epic battle at the end where everybody in the school is fighting death eaters, and Bill gets bit by the werewolf, right?" WRONG! No epic battle! Just Harry running after Snape and the Death Eaters trying to see through his tears and shame while whimpering pathetically.

There were a few stars in this pit of dark disappointment. Moments that made me laugh and everyone did a great job as usual, especially Alan Rickman as Snape. He is always my favorite. But it isn't enough to pull this one out of the gutter.

If you're not a big Harry Potter fan and just want to go see something at the movies you'll probably walk out of the theater feeling you got your money's worth. Hwever, if you are a fan, wait for the DVD. Save your money, or go see Star Trek again.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Shifter - Healing Wars Book 1

By Janice Hardy
Pub: October 6, 2009
384 pages

When Healers lay hands on injured people they can absorb the injury and pain into their own bodies, and later move it from themselves into a stone called pynvium. At least they can in the medieval fantasy world created by Janice Hardy in her middle grade novel, The Shifter, due out in October.

The story centers around 15 year old Nya who is a Healer...but with a defect. She can only shift the pain and injury into other people, not pynvium. This little 'quirk' is something she and her younger sister, Talia, a normal healer, keep secret because they're not sure if the Duke would have Nya killed or use her as a weapon in his wars.

Talia lives at the League doing her regular healing stuff while Nya is left struggling on the streets, working when she can to keep from starving. Formally wealthy, the girls were orphaned and left penniless and alone when their parents were killed fighting during the last war. Talia helps her sister when she can but, for both their sakes, can't jeopardize her place in the league. The opening of the book finds Nya getting caught stealing eggs and I liked how the opening chase gets the story rolling with exciting action.

Soon Nya's secret is uncovered by a nefarious fellow and Talia is in eminent danger. Nya must use her gift in ways she dislikes in order to not only save her sister but other Healers in the league, and foil a political plot that could put the whole town in danger. In the process she also discovers abilities she never knew she had.

The Shifter starts out with a bang and, other than a few slow steps, keeps rolling quickly. Hardy covers a lot of ground. She touches on prejudice, moral choices, what should be given up for the greater good, family/friend loyalty, accepting yourself and others, personal sacrifice, and even throws in a pinch of romance between Nya and the young guard who chases her down in the first couple of pages. Every now and then the messages go to the brink of being too heavy handed but not too often and Hardy backs off just before becoming preachy.

Nya is likeable and believeable for the most part. She seemed to dither back and forth a lot. She'd have an epiphany but later rethink her position. That got mildly annoying about 3/4's into the book, but Nya and her little band of friends and family are characters you definitely care for and you're rooting for them to win in the end. Even the 'bad' guys had some depth and weren't simply two dimensional.

Hardy utilizes good description and some great lines. My favorite was when a ferry accident occurs during a storm and Nya can't get out into the water to help all the survivors. She says, "My heart reached farther than my hands ever could." How beautiful!

Good suspense, nasty political intrigue, a few surprises and a great twist on Nya's abilities. Overall The Shifter is a very enjoyable middle grade novel that is worth the read.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Water For Elephants by Joey Teare - Guest Blogger

This is exciting. Our first review by a guest blogger. Meet Joey Teare, 16-year-old long-time best friend of ours and avid reader. The review of his lastest favorite follows. Thanks, Joey!

Water For Elephants is a novel by Sarah Gruen that takes us back to the 1930's for a deep mystery on a traveling circus train. While not necessarily listed as YA, I thoroughly enjoyed the story. The book is written as a flashback as our protagonist is now an old man in a nursing home who tells his story.

Jacob Jancowski is a college student in the depression era 1930's who, after learning that his parents died in a car accident, has a break down, quits veterinary college, and runs away. With nothing but the clothes on his back, Jacob finds work on a traveling circus train. His knowledge of animal care soon lands him the job of looking after the exotic creatures of the low budget circus.

Jacob is soon befriended by August, the animal trainer, who takes Jacob under his wing and shows him the ropes. But after an incident where August shows his darker, unstable side, Jacob no longer knows who he can trust in a fight for survival. Jacob falling in love with Marlena, August's wife, adds another complication to the story.

The characters are unique, diverse and interesting if not always likeable, and the story gives you a captivating insight into the circus world. The author notes at the end of the book that many events in the story were taken from real life experiences taken from journal and diaries of old-time circus performers.

The animals are given unique personalities and you grow to love them and feel protective, just like Jacob who becomes their advocate. The relationship between Rosie, the seemingly untrainable elephant, and Jacob is especially touching.

I found Water For Elephants to be an amazing novel. Gruen's writing and imagination allow us to be enraptured by the plot. I could not put it down once I started reading. This engaging story gives readers a realistic and fascinating look at what people will do for love and survival. Jacob is a character that I was cheering for throughout the book.

If you are looking for a great summer read, Water For Elephants is the perfect choice.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Harry Potter - A Book by Any Other Name

Here's an interesting trivia fact about the first Harry Potter book.

A book's title is sometimes different depending on the country. As for Harry Potter, the first book HP and the Sorceror's Stone, was actually HP and the Philosopher's Stone in England. The publisher was afraid that U.S. kids would find a philosopher boring and uncool which would translate into lower book sales.
JK Rowling's first choice was 'philosopher's stone' and she wishes she had kept it for the U.S. title but hey, at that point she was just happy to get her first book published!

So which title do you prefer?

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Star Trek (w/ Leonard Nimoy -Yeah I know right!)

So, 40 years or so after the original Star Trek series starring William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy (who plays an older version of Spock in the new film) a new movie was spawned from the directing power of J.J. Abrams.

After a huge highly advanced ship appears from what seems like "a lightning storm in space" the USS Kelvin investigates. When the captain of the Kelvin goes aboard the ship and is killed, former first officer turned acting captain George Kirk orders the crew of the Kelvin, including his pregnant wife to evacuate, but is forced to stay behind to pilot the ship in order to save everyone...except himself. Moments before his death he hears his son's first cries...and James Tiberius Kirk is born.

Jump to 25 years later and James T. is now a hick town rebel in need of direction. One bar fight with Star Fleet cadets later, and suddenly he's a new recruit. Leap to 3 years later and James first meets Spock when he cheats Spock's training simulation. Soon, though in no way friends, the two are on the Enterprise and must join together on an epic quest to save the universe from destruction by the evil Captain Nero who was responsible for Jame's father's death. You've got your favorite characters such as Bones, Ahura, Scottie, Checkof and Sulu along for the ride. And best of all Leonard Nimoy himself makes a lengthy and invaluable reappearance.

This movie is for everyone from Trekies to non-Trekies alike - anyone who wants a great action flick full of humor and excitement. We had to drag my dad who is no Star Trek fan and he loved it! True to the series but orignial on its own. I saw it multiple times and each experience was better than the next.

The humor is perfect, the special effects amazing. Treky or not you'll recognize the characters and enjoy this original but familiar version. The characters are the kind you want to see again and again. Hopefully a sequel is on its way. If you're one of 11 who hasn't seen it, you need to go! It's something to spend the bucks on to view it on the big screen. You won't be dissapointeed.
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