Saturday, July 19, 2014

Beautiful Chaos by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

Ethan Wate thought he was getting used to the strange, impossible events happening in Gatlin, his small Southern town. But now that Ethan and Lena have returned home, strange and impossible have taken on new meanings. Swarms of locusts, record-breaking heat, and devastating storms ravage Gatlin as Ethan and Lena struggle to understand the impact of Lena's Claiming. Even Lena's family of powerful Supernaturals is affected - and their abilities begin to dangerously misfire. As time passes, one question becomes clear: What - or who - will need to be sacrificed to save Gatlin?

For Ethan, the chaos is a frightening but welcome distraction. He's being haunted in his dreams again, but this time it isn't by Lena - and whatever is haunting him is following him out of his dreams and into his everyday life. Even worse, Ethan is gradually losing pieces of himself - forgetting names, phone numbers, even memories. He doesn't know why, and most days he's too afraid to ask.

Sometimes there isn't just one answer or one choice. Sometimes there's no going back. And this time there won't be a happy ending.
Review by Patrick:

Well I couldn't have picked a more appropriate name for this book: Chaos. Unlike Beautiful Creatures, where we were introduced to this magical world, and Beautiful Darkness, where Ethan has to go save his girlfriend from herself, Beautiful Chaos was ... chaotic.

I love imaginary numbers

I mean the synopsis is right. Swarms of locusts, record-breaking heat. (Seriously, how would you like 100º (38º C) weather in December. [I'm in the Northern hemisphere. If you are in the Southern, think July.]) I mean, this book starts off with an apocalyptic setting, and by the end of the book, you think the world might just end.

This was a you're-not-going-to-put-this-book-down type of book. Everything that goes on just leads to something else, and you don't know where it's going or where it's going to end. The authors did a good job letting the main character, Ethan, be really confused throughout the whole book. You didn't know what was going on with him, because he didn't know.

I'm a big fan of reading series of books. I love a story that you can sit down and spend some weeks with, but I dislike cliffhangers. If you look at the last two pages of this book, you will find, the biggest cliffhanger ever. I guess the writers/publishers team thought, "You've already read three of our books, let's make sure you read the fourth." Come on guys. If we read the first three books, most likely we are going to read the fourth. Some resolution would have been nice. Now I have to wait and see if this book is in our local library before finding out anything.

So this book has lots of action, and suspense from beginning to ... well I guess the next book, confusion, and most importantly ... Chaos. I liked this book, and I'm definitely going to get the next one. I'm going to give this one a rating of 4.

Up Next:
Gideon the Cutpurse, Inkdeath, Catch 22.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Inkspell by Cornelia Funke

Although a year has passed, not a day goes by without Meggie thinking of INKHEART, the book whose characters became real. But for Dustfinger, the fire-eater brought into being from words, the need to return to the tale has become desperate. When he finds a crooked storyteller with the ability to read him back, Dustfinger leaves behind his young apprentice Farid and plunges into the medieval world of his past. Distraught, Farid goes in search of Meggie, and before long, both are caught inside the book, too. But the story is threatening to evolve in ways neither of them could ever have imagined.
Review by Patrick:

Wow. This book was amazing. I had the pleasure of listening to it in audio book format performed by Brendan Fraser. I thought Inkheart was good, but it is rare to find a sequel that is better than the first in a series. I believe Cornelia Funke has accomplished this. At first I wasn't excited that the performer was changed, but Brendan Fraser did an excellent job. The sound of Orpheus' voice was wonderful.

The story was amazing, and so real. When the characters go to the "Inkworld" as it is affectionately called by all of the characters not belonging to the book itself, the sheer descriptions and feelings of the characters is astounding. I believe she did an excellent job describing what a medieval world would be like, and the disparity between the rich and the poor (and the middle class, who just owns a few more cloaks than the farmers). I love it when the little details become real in the mind.

It got a little mind bending when I was thinking about all of the levels of intricacy. At one point I realized I was reading about a reader who was reading the words of an author to change a story that they both were currently inside when their real world was full of other characters who were stuck outside that world. Then outside of that I thought about what Cornelia Funke had been thinking about when she wrote, and what she would think of finally me the reader, reading her book, in which another book was written, and subsequently being changed by the author of that book. Talk about another layer of Inception.

There were so may twists and turns in this book. Nothing went how I expected it to. All of it went better. Everything wrong that could have happened did. It was amazing to see the darkness being unfolded before your eyes, and you had no idea what horrors would be in the next chapter, but you knew that you had to keep reading to find out.

I am stoic by nature. My own wife has seen me cry maybe a handful of times that we have been together. I. Do. Not. Cry. When the story took a turn for the worse, I was actually with her in the living room with headphones on (I couldn't wait for the commute the next morning). I closed my eyes and put my face in my hands, and she knew instantly that something was wrong. *Spoiler* How could I be so attached to a character? I was ready for death, but when it came, it still hurt like a knife in the back. I can't believe she did that. *Spoiler* But then again, I hadn't seen anything that was coming up in this book.

And the ending wasn't so much of an ending, but rather a springboard for the last book. The board is set, chess pieces moved, and some have fallen, but the characters must play out the story of the words that is written. You learn that in this book. If it is written, then destiny and fate must play out to the end. But I don't know what to do with the fear, excitement, and hope that the last chapters gave. What will happen in the last book? I do not know, but I will find out soon.

There is only one rating I can give for this book. 5. It was phenomenal. Enough said.

Up Next:

I'm still reading Gideon the Cutpurse and plan on finishing Catch 22 soon. If any of my other reserves come in from the library, I'll be reading those too.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Inkheart by Cornelia Funke

One cruel night, Meggie's father reads aloud from a book called INKHEART-- and an evil ruler escapes the boundaries of fiction and lands in their living room. Suddenly, Meggie is smack in the middle of the kind of adventure she has only read about in books. Meggie must learn to harness the magic that has conjured this nightmare. For only she can change the course of the story that has changed her life forever.

This is INKHEART--a timeless tale about books, about imagination, about life. Dare to read it aloud.
Twelve-year-old Meggie learns that her father, who repairs and binds books for a living, can "read" fictional characters to life when one of those characters abducts them and tries to force him into service.
Review by Patrick:

I got to listen to this book driving to and from work in audio book format. The book was read by Lynn Redgrave, who did a fantastic job with it. I wish I could make my voice do that many impressions and accents. I always envy the performers of audio books. They always do a great job.

From the first chapter, you know that the author is a lover of books. The words chosen are very carefully picked from a field or possibilities, but like a florist, each word is carefully placed in its proper place, giving the whole arrangement a beauty that no single word could have on its own. Every book lover's dream is come true with this book. It made me want to giggle and show everyone, "This is why I love books. Right here. Read it."

Fantastic story. Who would ever think about a tongue that could bring words to life. The story was great. I felt a part of the world that was created. And these characters that were plucked by their own story was in shock, but stayed true to their book character, no matter what world they were in.

This work was pure genius. I loved it. I can't wait to read/listen to the rest of the trilogy. I give it a 4.5.

Up Next:

Book 2 of this trilogy: Inkspell.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien

The story of the creation of the world and of the First Age, this is the ancient drama to which the characters in The Lord of the Rings look back and in whose events some of them, such as Elrond and Galadriel, took part. The three Silmarils were jewels created by Feanor, most gifted of the Elves. Within them was imprisoned the Light of the Two Trees of Valinor before the Trees themselves were destroyed by Morgoth, the first Dark Lord. Thereafter, the unsullied Light of Valinor lived on only in the Silmarils, but they were seized by Morgoth and set in his crown, which was guarded in the impenetrable fortress of Angband in the north of Middle-earth. The Silmarillion is the history of the rebellion of Feanor and his kindred against the gods, their exile from Valinor and return to Middle-earth, and their war, hopeless despite all their heroism, against the great Enemy.
Review by Patrick:

Okay. I should start off by saying I am a big Lord of the Rings fan. I read The Hobbit when I was in the third grade and The Lord of the Rings while in fourth and fifth grades. These books are probably what inspired my love for reading, and everyone has that one book or series that you can look back to, and know it was the first book where it all began. All other books will probably be judged to those in the future, but they are what kindled the flame of desire to read.

With that being said, I was originally excited to read the Silmarillion. That was about seven years ago. I'm serious. I started reading this book before Rachel and I were married (five years ago). This book dragged on. I knew what I was getting myself into. My father warned me that this book was the history and mythology of Middle Earth, and that was partly why I wanted to read it. But I was also in college and got married and had a child... Plus this book reads like a Greek mythology: it is slow, dry, very detailed, and the action bits are scattered sparsely in the story.

Okay, so if brave this long story, here's what you would find. One of the first bits is probably my favorite. The creator and gods are hanging out in the heavens, and they start this song. What's cool about this song is that it basically tells the whole story in music; its premonitory. The good and the evil duel it out in this song, and the evil is almost prevalent through the whole thing, then the big guys come in and finally drown out the dissonance. What gets me is that they know this song is going to be how the world plays out, but the bad guys still go down there and try their hardest.

The other parts I really liked about this book was the last section, "Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age." This is the details that lead up to The Lord of the Rings, and it gives some background information, particularly who Gandalf is and how he came to be.

There were other parts that I enjoyed. Especially the trees, the Silmarils, and a few of the characters and their stories. I enjoyed the Black Sword, Beren and Lúthien, the tragedy of Húrin and his sons, oh, and how 'bout those dragons ... with magic!

Okay, so there was more about this book that I liked than what I didn't like, but I don't think I can rate it higher than a 2.5, because it took me seven years to read it. So I rate this book a 2.5. Maybe it would have been higher if I read it all in one sitting, and not have to choose between homework or reading. Maybe it would be higher if I knew a little bit of elvish. Although my copy did include a glossary, it was still tedious to look up every third word. It was great though. Any Tolkien fan must read it. And I would also suggest it to those who like the Greek, Roman, or Asian mythologies. I'm glad I read it.

Up Next:

I'm still reading Inkspell, and I will be starting Gideon the Cutpurse.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Perfect Scoundrels by Ally Carter

Katarina Bishop and W.W. Hale the fifth were born to lead completely different lives: Kat comes from a long, proud line of loveable criminal masterminds, while Hale is the scion of one of the most seemingly perfect dynasties in the world. If their families have one thing in common, it's that they both know how to stay under the radar while getting-or stealing-whatever they want.

No matter the risk, the Bishops can always be counted on, but in Hale's family, all bets are off when money is on the line. When Hale unexpectedly inherits his grandmother's billion dollar corporation, he quickly learns that there's no place for Kat and their old heists in his new role. But Kat won't let him go that easily, especially after she gets tipped off that his grandmother's will might have been altered in an elaborate con to steal the company's fortune. So instead of being the heir-this time, Hale might be the mark.

Forced to keep a level head as she and her crew fight for one of their own, Kat comes up with an ambitious and far-reaching plan that only the Bishop family would dare attempt. To pull it off, Kat is prepared to do the impossible, but first, she has to decide if she's willing to save her boyfriend's company if it means losing the boy.
Review by Patrick:

So this book took a whole three days to read. Just like the two other books in this series, I couldn't put it down. 

Okay, so this book had not one heist, but a heist, a recon, an Anastasia, a Big Store, a dead con, and a final long con. I mean, Heist Society was really just one con, Uncommon Criminals had two, but this book was just filled with them. You had no idea what the next chapter was going to bring.

And then there was this relationship drama. Not my cuppa tea, but I can tell you my wife was all about that. I'm sure that it appeals to many folk out there, but I know I wouldn't act and react like Hale, so it was a little out of touch for me.

So here's what I didn't like about this book. *Spoilers* - There was no mention of Visily Romani in this book at all. He didn't play any part. It was just some old guy trying to get rich, and he happened to pick on the wrong family. The other thing I didn't like was we don't know what Hale's name is. I need to know! *Spoilers*

So I also came up with this idea for a sequel series. It's 15 years later and Hale and Kat are married, much to Hale's monther's chargrin, and in the hallway Hale is talking quietly to two young boys, maybe five or six. You quickly realize that while Kat is in the kitchen, Hale is trying to teach the twins to sneak past her, in hopes they can snatch a cookie out of the cookie jar. As the boys are silently entering the room, Kat scolds all three of them without even turning around. Give a thief with heightened senses the eyes in the back of the head that only a mother would have, and you have a deadly combination. And you know that twins run in the family. So Ally, if you want to take this idea and run with it, I would buy those books.

So in the end, I'm going to rate this a 4.5. It was almost a 5, but I wanted to have some resolutions, some questions answered that didn't get answered. I loved the book though. Definitely a recommended series for anyone who likes the tale of a good heist.

Up Next:

I'm finishing up the last chapters of The Silmarillion, and still reading Inkspell.