Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (Oz, #1)

Title: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (Oz #1)
Author: L. Frank Baum
Reviewer: Frank & Karen
Genre: Children's Classic
Rating: Adore
Alerts/Warnings: None
Premise: "After a cyclone transports her to the land of Oz, Dorothy must seek out the great wizard in order to return to Kansas" (King County Library System).
Opinions: My husband has begun to read this story to our children at bedtime each night.  I am grateful that he does this for our kids, but I'm also glad because I never read the story myself. You don't even know half the story of the Wizard of Oz if all you have seen is the movie. First of all the slippers are not red, they are silver. Second of all, a movie will never capture the full brilliance of L. Frank Baum's dry sense of humor and wonderful imagination. We recommend reading the Books of Wonder edition with the original illustrations which bring new life to a wonderful tale. Our most favorite characters are the flying monkeys.  They have more depth and purpose to them and actually talk.  Also, Dorothy is not as passive of a character as she is in the movie. Dorothy saves herself and then rescues the others. There were fantastic examples of the entire group working together to accomplish a goal, but overall it is a story about Dorothy and her journey and how she grows.  Overall, this is a fantastic book for a family to read together and we highly recommend it.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Kill Order by James Dashner


Title: The Kill Order (Prequel to the Maze Runner Series)
Author: James Dashner
Reviewer: Karen
Genre: Teen Science Fiction
Rating: Like
Alerts/Warnings: Graphic violence associate to an apocalyptic event
Premise: "Before WICKED was formed, before the Glade was built, before Thomas entered the Maze, sun flares hit the earth and mankind fell to disease.

Mark and Trina were there when it happened, and they survived. But surviving the sun flares was easy compared to what came next.

Now a disease of rage and lunacy races across the eastern United States, and there’s something suspicious about its origin. Worse yet, it’s mutating, and all evidence suggests that it will bring humanity to its knees.

Mark and Trina are convinced there’s a way to save those left living from descending into madness. And they’re determined to find it—if they can stay alive. Because in this new, devastated world, every life has a price. And to some, you’re worth more dead than alive (King County Library System).
Opinions: I have mixed feelings about this prequel book to the Maze Runner series, so I will lay my thoughts out and let you determine whether this read is up your alley or not. 

James Dashner continues to impress me with his imagination, creativity, and intriguing characters. I loved this book most for his characters.  Each one of the major individuals that we get to know are three dimensional--showing not only their strengths, but their weaknesses and how they are affected by what is going on around them. I was fascinated by the glimpses into their personal history and the choices they make amidst a massive destructive force.  The overall premise of the story also kept me reading to where I had a hard time putting it down, despite some of the more horrific scenes.

My greatest difficulty with this book wasn't the way it was written, but my own internal overactive imagination and inability to handle incredibly dark and violent scenes. This story is about the earth being faced with the side effects of solar flares, and that thought alone is gruesome to me.  Then you add in a personal decision by those who survived as to how to make it through the recovery with very little resources.  And then how that choice affects the rest of humanity.  The overall plot provides a great baseline for moral and ethical discussion.  However, as I followed the characters along their journey through apocalyptic times the choices they had to make, and their subsequent consequences, were often more than I could personally handle.

Overall, I really liked this book, but there were several times I put it down unsure if I could handle some of the graphic scenes.  But then again, I still picked it up and finished it in its entirety and when I closed its covers I came away with the feeling (having read the Maze Runner series in its entirety) of "That makes sense." 

So the choice is yours, but I do recommend that parents of young teens who want to read this take the opportunity to either read along with their kids or to read it first to see if you are comfortable with what is shown.. 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson


Title: Brandon Sanderson
Author: Brandon Sanderson
Reviewer: Karen (+ Karen's Husband)
Genre: YA Science Fiction
Rating: Fabulous
Alerts/Warnings: Med Swearing + Fake Swearing and Med/High Violence
Premise: "At age eight, David watched as his father was killed by an Epic, a human with superhuman powers, and now, ten years later, he joins the Reckoners--the only people who are trying to kill the Epics and end their tyranny" (King County Library System).
Opinions: My husband and I have been reading this book out loud over the last week or so.  Oh my gosh, both of us LOVED it.  Imagine a world where those who would be super heroes are bad not good, throw in a main character out for revenge but containing an impressively goofy ability to be really bad at metaphors and you have the start of an incredibly imaginative world. This book was funny, tense, emotional, and brilliant. David was a fascinating character to get to know, to see how a life as an orphan seeking after any information he can obtain on Epics (those with super powers) would lead him to the one group that could help him. The characters were diverse and fascinating.  The world building is by far Brandon Sanderson's best.   I love how in depth and varied the Epics abilities were and how imaginative their weaknesses could be.  Overall this is a first rate book, but be warned that it is a start of series and also, because of the plot's nature, is on the more violent end (especially in the prologue). In spite of that both my husband and I REALLY enjoyed this read.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Destined by Aprilynne Pike

To read my reviews of the other books in this series click here: Wings, Spells, and Illusions.

Title: Destined (Wings #4)
Author: Aprilynne Pike
Reviewer: Karen
Genre: Teen Fiction
Rating: LOVE
Alerts/Warnings: Violence Associated with Fantasy Battle
Premise: "Destined delivers all the romance and action that fans expect as it brings Aprilynne Pike’s Wings series to a deeply satisfying conclusion.

Laurel used to think she was an ordinary girl from Crescent City, California. She never would have believed she was truly a faerie from a realm called Avalon.

Now Laurel must risk her life to save Avalon from destruction by Yuki—a rare and powerful Winter faerie—and troll-hunter Klea. But Laurel won’t have to fight alone; David and Tamani, two boys she loves in different ways, will be by her side, along with her best friend, Chelsea.

Readers of the Need and Graceling series will want to follow Laurel’s story from its beginning in Wings to its heart-stopping end in Destined" (

Opinions: As the fourth and last book in the Wings series Aprilynne does an amazing job bringing the varied relationships into an even greater depth. We see the struggles each character goes through, not just in word, but mostly through their actions. There were several things over the series that I found frustrating on a personal note, but having now read this book I realize that it makes a whole lot of sense.  I appreciated certain individuals much more in this book. For example, Tamani become more real and vibrant as a character and a love-interest for Laurel.

The intensity of this book is greatly heightened due to Klea and Yuki bringing their fight to Avalon.  As such, some of the battle scenes may be a bit much for younger readers, and more than a few characters are killed along the way (I won't spoil the story by telling you who) but it is definitely not overly done. The story's pace was fast, the plot driving, and Aprilynne's imagination absolutely beautiful. I even found myself more than once in tears.  Overall, it was a very satisfying ending to a well written series.  I look forward to reading other stories by Aprilynne Pike in the future.