Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Frozen Fire by Tim Bowler

Frozen Fire

Food and Farming by John Baines

Food and Farming (The Global Village)
I tend to read only fiction, or if I do read something nonfiction it's most likely to be a biography. I've made it a goal this year to read more nonfiction books, including but not limited to biographies.

Food and Farming is part of a series focusing on the effects of globalization on different issues. Obviously, this one focused on how farmers and food distribution and manufacturing companies have been affected by the globalization of the industry. Topics discussed included free trade, government subsidies, tariffs, small farms vs. large company farms, organic farming, and genetically engineered food.

The author tries to present both sides of the issue, giving both advantages and disadvantages of each topic. Also included is a list of other books and web sites in which to gather more information, and a glossary of possibly unfamiliar terms. The book is filled with colorful photos, graphs, charts and tables. Each section includes a "Focus on..." section, which provides readers with a related thought/fact on which to ponder.

This is basically a very dry topic that won't interest the average reader. It is ideal for research or extra information of the subject matter. I see those needed more information or examples of globalization will find this book useful. It's designed well, full of useful information, but I doubt it'll be a book that many will want to read. I give it a C.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Watersmeet by Ellen Jensen Abbott

I picked up Watersmeet, because I loved the cover with the piercing green eye and the plot sounded promising. I'm a big fan of fantasy, and love trying out new authors in the genre.

Abisina is an outcast in her town of Vranille, because she has dark hair and green eyes, not the ideal of blonde hair and blue eyes. The only reason she wasn't left to die as an infant is because her mother is the town's healer. Abisina is used to the ill treatment of her town, being at the end of lines hoping for a scrap of food, sometimes even being beaten. When Charach, a highly praised priest of Vran, visits the town, he incites the people to attack all those that don't measure up to Vran's ideals -- the outcasts. Abisina luckily escapes over the town's wall, but her mother is killed helping her escape. Abisina partners with a dwarf on a journey to find her father, a man from a town on the far side of the mountains known as Watersmeet, where all creatures are welcome.

The story hooked me within the first couple of pages and I had a difficult time putting the book down. It's fast-paced with plenty of action. Even with some of the strange people and place names, I found the story easy-to-follow. Even those that don't normally read fantasy might find the story compelling, especially with Abisina's developing relationship with her father. It's not a perfect story, several questions were left unanswered and some plot points were just dropped. Possibly, this is with the intent of writing a sequel.

I will definitely look for more by Abbott in the future. Watersmeet is an entertaining fantasy and earns a solid 'B' from me.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Kingdom Hearts II, Volume 2 by Shiro Amano

Kingdom Hearts II Volume 2
I'm still rather new to manga and trying to read from as many different series as I can. I chose Kingdom Hearts III, because it seems to be a popular one with boys. I couldn't find volume 1, so I started with volume 2. Unlike some other series, there wasn't a short summary of what has happened so far, so I had to jump right in the action. Yes, I was a bit confused, but was able to figure some of it out, but really have more questions than answers. There's lots of action with suspense building towards a battle between Sora and the good guys and Malificent and the "heartless." I think fans of the video game will probably love this series, as they are more likely to understand the story. I rate it a 'C'.

The Brain Finds a Leg by Martin Chatterton

The Brain Finds a Leg
You have to admit the cover of this book is going to grab your attention. Besides the bright blue and yellow colors, the picture of a brain at the top with the menacing crocodile at the bottom makes you take a second look. Also, the title --The Brain Finds a Leg -- gets your brain wondering what exactly the title means.

The Brain is actually Theo Brain, the new kid in school. The Brain believes he is the world's greatest detective and recruits Sheldon as his (somewhat reluctant) partner. Together, they try to solve the mystery behind a missing surfer, strange behavior by some of the local wildlife, and a severed leg they find in the woods. What ensues is a crazy farce that includes a teacher in disguise, a toothpaste company, a brother framed for murder, and a genius machine.

When I started reading The Brain Finds a Leg, I didn't really like the character of The Brain. He seemed too pushy, too much of a know-it-all, but then I slowly began to see that that's what he is SUPPOSED to be. Eventually, I came around to liking him just a bit. The wild clues and the crazy ways The Brain and Sheldon go about unraveling the mystery can be bit over-the-top at times. Some readers will be charmed by that, while others will become annoyed and frustrated. Overall, I genuinely liked the story and will give the sequel a try. I give it a C.

Molly Moon's Hypnotic Time Travel Adventure by Georgia Byng

Molly Moon's Hypnotic Time Travel Adventure (Molly Moon)
I decided to read Molly Moon's Hypnotic Time Travel Adventure, because I loved the first two books in the series. For me, the first two books were clever fun reads. The covers in this series appeal to many and this third one is no different. Bright colors and a cute illustration of Petula (this time, big and little Petulas!).

In the first two books, Molly Moon learns to a)hypnotize others to do what she wants and b)stop time. Molly adds to her abilities when in Molly Moon's Hypnotic Time Travel Adventure, she learns to time travel. It all starts when Petula and then Molly are kidnapped by an evil rajah from 1870 India. He's upset that she ruined his plot to control world leaders (this happens in Molly Moon Stops the World). He believes if he can grab Molly as a baby and raise her, then the events will be changed since she won't grow up in the orphanage. What happens is a lot of confusing mess of events with five Molly's at different ages, two Petulas (big and little Petula), Rocky, a street urchin from 1870's India all traveling back and forth in time.

The feel of this story is the same as the first two Molly Moon books. I love the silliness and the utter chaos of the story. At the same time, I would get confused by all the craziness as to what exactly was going on. It is almost just too much to keep straight. Some might give up on this book, because they couldn't figure out what was happening. I would strongly suggest reading the first two books in the series before tackling #3. Otherwise, the reader won't understand the passing reference to events that took place in the previous stories. I still liked the characters enough to find the story above average, but just barely. I give it a 'B-'.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Leap of Faith by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Leap of Faith
Abby is expelled from her middle school after she pulls a knife on another student (who just happens to be the son of the principal). Left with limited choices, her parents decide to enroll her in Catholic school. Abby's not very religious. She and her parents don't attend church. Once in her new school, Abby discovers that she loves her drama class and acting in the school plays. Over time, Abby develops faith in God and trust in a friend in order to tell others what happened at her old school and why.

Leap of Faith is one of those novels that you will either like or you'll not finish. For some people, a story where a person's faith in God is the central theme will make them uncomfortable. Others will embrace such a tale. While I'm not a Catholic, I could still relate to Abby's questioning of God and why bad things happen in the world. I liked how the events leading up to her one instance of violence (the knife) wasn't revealed until the end. It let the reader imagine the instance and wonder what could have made her *snap*. It was heartbreaking to read about Abby's relationship with her parents and how they ignored her most of the time. At least, you could see a hope for improvement towards the end of the story. This is a story that won't appeal to everyone, but I think those that enjoy stories of faith and finding one's self will appreciate it. I give it a B.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Kringle by Tony Abbott

I enjoyed reading some of Tony Abbott's other books, so I decided to read Kringle to see how it compared. I was curious to read Abbott's take on Santa Claus.

Kringle has been raised by the old woman, Merwyn, ever since his mother died shortly after giving birth to him. (His father had been killed by the goblins several days before his birth.) Now a young teen, Kringle escapes when the goblins attack the hut he shares with Merwyn. Merwyn isn't so lucky and is captured by the goblins. Kringle then goes on a series of adventures, meeting some elves, some warriors from the North, a priest, and even some magical reindeer, all in an attempt to rescue Merwyn and the children captured by the goblins.

While I enjoyed Kringle's adventures overall, I found the dialogue stilted at times and Kringle's tendency to think aloud drove me crazy. I doubt it's something that will even be noticed by most readers. By setting the legend of Santa Claus into the middle of a fantasy during the Middle Ages, Abbott gives a fresh perspective to the tale. Fans of questing fantasies especially will enjoy Kringle. Satisfactory story, but nothing to make it stand out. I give it a C.