Monday, September 19, 2011

The Ale Boy's Feast

By Reviewer Maria Chester

Title: The Ale Boy's Feast
Author: Jeffrey Overstreet
Primary Audience/age group: Adult, 15+
Genre: Fiction/Fantasy
# Of pages: 383
Publisher: Water Brook Press
Year of Release: 2011
Part of a Series? Yes, 4 of 4 (Auralia Thread)
Rating: 3 View Scale
Recommend? Yes with reservations

Description: Book 4 of the Auralia Thread series
The king is missing.
His people are trapped as the woods turn deadly.
Underground, the boy called Rescue has found an escape.

Hopes are failing across The Expanse. The forests, once beautiful, are now haunted and bloodthirsty. House Abascar's persecuted people risk their lives to journey through those predatory trees. They seek a mythic city - Abascar's last, best hope for refuge - where they might find the source of Auralia's colors.

They journey without their king. During a calamitous attempt to rescue some of his subjects from slavery, Cal-raven vanished.

But his helper, the ale boy, falling through a crack in the earth, has discovered a slender thread of hope in the dark. He will dare to lead a desperate company up the secret river.

Meanwhile, with a dragon's help, the wandering mage Scharr ben Fray is uncovering history's biggest lie - a deception that only a miracle can repair.

Time is running out for all those entangled in The Auralia Thread. But hope and miracles flicker wherever Auralia’s colors are found.

Review: Jeffery Overstreet is one of my favorite authors. He writes with poetry and artistry which ignites the imagination and inspires the soul. A brief glance into this fantastic world he has created introduces us to fantastic mystical creatures, and heroic figures that run through the pages like water down a brook. The first three books in this series are extremely compelling and engaging. I found the stories imaginative and the words as vivid and colorful as the title of the first book (Auralia's Colors) suggests. I would wholeheartedly recommend reading the previous books in this series. They are some of the most delightful books I have ever had the pleasure of reading.

In this final book of the Auralia Thread series, the gloves finally come off and you see the villains as they truly are in all their diabolical glory. Heroes long dead are found to be . . . not so dead are we feared! If you have read the previous books you may have guessed some of the surprises. However, the elements come together in an exciting and unpredictable way. I was never sure what would happen next!

That said, I found The Ale Boy's Feast to be most violent book of the series, though still enjoyable. It was somewhat akin to the violence portrayed in the Lord of the Rings movies. There are many battle scenes filled with blood and carnage. Like the movies, many of the potentially gory moments only lasted a second. Unfortunately some of them didn’t (see below).

I think this book would be a very enjoyable read for older teens. However, I would not recommend it for younger children due to the violent nature of some of the scenes.

Rating: 3 for violence.

Positive: A young boy called Rescue overcomes his weaknesses and saves many prisoners from the Cent Regus Core. Cal-Raven strives to build a new home for his people; a place where they can start again after the decimation of their kingdom. There are strong themes of sacrifice, perseverance, and forgiveness, and redemption throughout the book.

Spiritual Elements: The series is richly allegorical, depicting the rebellion of man against his Maker, the craftiness of the devils, and the redemption that is available to those who are willing, even the most unlikely.

Violence: There is a lot of bloodshed, though told in such a way as to avoid being overly gory. People are killed in battle, blown up, and attacked by "vicorclaws" and “deathweed” (mutated trees) which use razor sharp claws to shred and impale their victims, ect. Two young boys are briefly shown killing a beastman. Seers (evil spirit beings) murder people and animals and enter their bodies. There is a group of people in the book believe that suicide is the only way to truly free the soul (this is portrayed in a negative light). A young boy (who can walk through flames without being harmed) sets himself on fire to protect his friends from cannibals who were about to kill them.

Language: Fantasy language such as "kramm", "ballyworms", and "out of tune piece of butterfly dung".

Sexual Content: Sex/premarital sex are briefly implied. A young couple “gets ahead of themselves” resulting in the girl becoming pregnant. However, the man admits the error of his actions and agrees to marry her.

Other: There is some consumption of alcohol. A group of survivors is shown sharing a glass of wine in a celebratory gesture, and the drinking of alcohol is again shown at a banquet. Addiction to the Seer's "potions" (drugs) is shown in a negative light.

Recommendation: I would recommend this book for teens ages 15 and up. I very much wanted to give this book a rating of four because there are many good themes and no swearing. It was a very interesting and enjoyable read. Unfortunately, because of the violence I have to give it a rating of three.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Shiver

By Reviewer: Nadine
Title: Shiver
Author: Maggie Steifvater
Primary Audience/Age Group: Ages 13 and up
Genre: Speculative Fiction (fantasy)
# of Pages: 400
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Year of Release: 2009
Part of a Series? Yes (1 of 3) The Wolves of Mercy Falls
Rating: 3 View Scale
Recommend? No

Description: Grace is obsessed with the wolves hiding in her forest even though they tried to kill her as a child. Actually, she's obsessed with the one grey wolf with striking eyes who saved her from being devoured by his own pack. She stares at them from her swing in the backyard; they stare at her through the trees lining the edge of the wood. But these wolves are more than just wolves--enter the love story. Werewolves. Grace’s wolf is also a handsome mysterious-eyed teenage boy in the summer time. She and Sam are forced to fight for survival against the threat of him turning into a wolf permanently. Can she and Sam do it together? Will she have to do it alone?

Review: I house a weakness for books with attractive covers. But I hate when a lovely cover is ruined by black sludgy contents. The first few chapters are brilliantly written (the reason behind my buying the book) and the last chapter is perfectly conclusive. The middle, sadly, is lacking.

This is another normal-person-loves-a-freakish-myth novel. There are only so many ways to write about a human in love with a vampire, werewolf, angel, demon, zombie, plant, or faerie, but I must give Steifvater some credit--Shiver at least has some writing talent in it. Her words come together like the chime of an old clock. Toss in a cheesy plotline and her talent alone can keep it ticking. Unfortunately, there seems to be a new teen-book tornado. Contents? Rebellion, selfishness, and sex. Still keeping it at the "appropriate level" (whatever that means), Steifvater indulges in a bit of character-intimacy. I dislike any sort of sex-mention in a novel because of the message it sends to young readers concerning "love" and "standards" (or lack thereof). Also, I didn't like the main characters that much. Grace's obsession with Sam (her wolf-man) is a bit unfounded, and Sam's infatuation with her is borderline creepy.

Rating: 3 for language and sexual situations

Positive: Grace and Sam work very hard to keep their relationship focused so that they can tackle hardships together. Their unity allows for mutual support and encouragement. The author writes two different points of view seamlessly, making it easy for the reader to understand who’s talking. Her writing is excellent.

Spiritual Elements: None

Violence: There is some mention of blood from wolf-fights or wolf-attacks on humans, but nothing graphic.

Language: D***, h***, smart-a**, c*cky b*****d, b***h

Sexual Content: Sam and Grace share a bed several times once Sam is human and doesn’t have a place to stay. They keep this a secret from Grace’s parents. It inevitably leads to sex. No graphic details are given, it’s more of a “fade-the-scene” type of interaction, but there is frequent mention of little touches, passionate kissing, and other sensual interactions.

Other: None

Recommendation: I don’t recommend this book, despite the pleasant wintery name. The characters are shallow and their romantic interaction along with the swearing was enough to deter me. I didn’t gain any benefit from it, and it felt like several hours wasted.