Thursday, September 25, 2008

The City of Ember

This is the 1st review from the Fall Into Reading 2008 challenge. Be sure to check out the other great books we'll be reading and reviewing this fall!
By Reviewer Angi
Title: The City of Ember (Books of Ember)
Author: Jeanne DuPrau
Primary Audience/age group: 9 - 12
Genre: Fantasy, Science Fiction
# Of pages: 270
Publisher: Yearling
Year of Release: 2004
Part of a Series? Yes, 1st in the Books of Embers
Rating: 5 (View Scale)
Recommend?: Yes

Description: The city of Ember was built as a last refuge for the human race. Two hundred years later, the great lamps that light the city are beginning to flicker. When Lina finds part of an ancient message, she’s sure it holds a secret that will save the city. She and her friend Doon must decipher the message before the lights go out on Ember forever! This stunning debut novel offers refreshingly clear writing and fascinating, original characters.

Review: The City of Ember was a fun, easy read. I found myself drawn into Ember, urging Lina and Dune to keep exploring, to continue seeking the answers they know exist but can not find. The ending was a cliffhanger that left me anxious to read the next book of the series.

Rating: 5

Positive: Lina’s mother ingrained in her the value of when confronted with a choice to be made, always choose that which is right. Lina’s family was one that took care of each other and the neighbors were supportive as well. Doon’s father warned him that anger unchecked has unintended consequences. Doon and Lina who at one time did not get along, see their behavior was childish and mend ways.

Spiritual Elements: There is a group of people called “The Believers” who believe that the “Builders” of Ember will return and save them. Lina makes a comment that she does not want to join the Believers and wait around for the Builders to return, she wants to be active and seek the answers herself.

Violence: There is no real violence in the book, only a few intense scenes of action.

Language: None.

Sexual Content: None.

Recommendation: The City of Ember was a fun read that I suggest for kids ages 9 - 12. I am concerned about where the Spiritual Elements are going in future books of the series - does the author continue stressing relying on yourself rather than a higher being to guide you? This book is being made into a movie that comes out in October - I can see the movie being darker and scarier than the book - so be sure to read some reviews before taking little ones to see it.

Fall Into Reading 2008 - Teen Lit Style!

Katrina at Callipidder Days is hosting Fall Into Reading 2008. This is a fun blog where you can
enter a list of books you plan to read this fall. You can view other's lists and read reviews of the books they have read.
Teen Lit Review is excited to participate! We will be giving away books during the program - often between now and December 20th!
So, check back often to enter and read our reviews! Leave us a comment if you are participating - we'd love to stop by and check out your list!
Happy Reading!
A Girl Named Disaster - Nancy Farmer SEE REVIEW HERE
After the Leaves Fall - Nicole Baart
At the Sign of the Sugared Plum - Mary Hooper SEE REVIEW HERE
The City of Ember (The First Book of Ember) - Jeanne DuPrau SEE REVIEW HERE
Diary of a Wimpy Kid - Jeff Kinney
The Ghost in the Tokaido Inn (The Samurai Mysteries) - Dorothy & Thomas Hoobler SEE REVIEW HERE
Maggie Come Lately (The Pathway Collection #1) - Michelle Buckman
Midnight for Charlie Bone (The Children of the Red King, Book 1) - Jenny Nimmo
Mixed Bags (Carter House Girls, Book 1) - Melody Carlson
My Brother Sam Is Dead (Apple Signature) - James Collier & Christopher Collier
The Mysterious Benedict Society - Trenton Lee Stewart
Outcasts Of Skagaray - Andrew Clarke SEE REVIEW HERE
- Marilyn Kaye
Rowan of Rin (Rowan of Rin #1) - Emily Rodda SEE REVIEW HERE
Saving Zoe: A Novel - Alyson Noel
The Sherwood Ring Elizabeth Marie Pope
Thirteen Reasons Why- Jay Asher
Uglies (Uglies Trilogy, Book 1) - Scott Westerfeld
The Wolves of Willoughby Chase (The Wolves Chronicles) - Joan Aiken

Monday, September 1, 2008

Bella at Midnight

By reviewer Greta Marlow
Title: Bella at Midnight
Author: Diane Stanley
Primary Audience/age group: 12+
Genre: fantasy/fairy tale
# Of pages: 278
Publisher: Harper Collins
Year of Release: 2006
Part of a Series? No
Rating: 5 (View Scale
Recommend: Yes!

Description: (from book jacket) “In the little village of Castle Down, in a kingdom plagued by war, lives a peasant girl called Bella. Blessed with a kind family and a loving friend, she manages to create her own small patch of sunshine in a dark and dangerous world. Bella is a blacksmith’s daughter; her friend Julian is a prince – yet neither seems to notice the great gulf that divides his world from hers. Suddenly Bella’s world collapses. First Julian betrays her. Then it is revealed that she is not the peasant she believed herself to be: She is Isabel, the daughter of a knight who abandoned her in infancy. Now he wants her back, so Bella is torn from her beloved foster family and sent to live with her deranged father and his resentful new wife. Soon Bella is caught up in a terrible plot that will change her life – and the kingdom – forever. With the help of her godmother and three enchanted gifts, she sets out on a journey in disguise that will lead her to a destiny far greater than any she could have imagined.”

Review: Bella at Midnight is a clever retelling of the Cinderella fairy tale, with some twists on certain characters that help us understand their motivations. I also like the fact that Bella’s transformation at the end is not for as shallow a reason as the original Cinderella’s. The book provides a really good contrast between characters who act in their own selfish interests and those who think of the good of others. Don’t get me wrong, though; this is no dry “morality tale.”

Rating: 5

Positive: Bella is the most pure-hearted and yet still realistic character I’ve come across. She loves without reservation and forgives others who treat her badly. She undertakes a mission to save Julian’s life, even when he has humbled her in front of his highborn friends. For his part, Julian repents of his hypocrisy and tries to change. Bella’s foster family is loving, in stark contrast to her physical family.

Spiritual Elements: Although I don’t think this is necessarily “Christian fiction,” there is much mention of God’s role in people’s lives, including the idea that people may be placed in a certain spot to fulfill God’s purpose.

There is a certain amount of magic in the story, but I was a little unclear as to what was the source of the magic. Sometimes it seemed to be a gift from God, sometimes magic that came from love, and sometimes just “regular” magic.

Violence: Bella’s country is at war with a neighboring kingdom, so there is some war-related violence, such as burning a peasant village and discussion of the number of people who will die in battle. Nothing is graphic or disturbing, though.

Language: The book doesn’t use any offensive language.

Sexual Content: There is no sexual content other than two briefly-mentioned kisses.

Other: Although the book is clearly fantasy, I also thought it has some value as historical fiction, in that it gives an accurate depiction of medieval life, especially the class divisions of the time. Finally, I’m not a terribly sentimental person, but I have to admit I teared up a couple of times when Bella goes to live with her father and stepmother!

Rating: 5

Recommendation: I would definitely recommend this book! Stanley does a fine job of working some pretty substantial themes into an entertaining story.