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Saturday, April 18, 2009


ScatAuthor: Carl Hiaasen
Reading Level:

Pages: 304
Publisher: Knopf (Random House)
Edition: Hardcover, 2009

This is definitely a fun book and many of my young readers already told me that they enjoyed reading the third offering from Hiaasen. Everything does hang together nicely and the punishment of the evil doers satisfying. Hiaasen did not shy away from super contemporary things: facebook, CNN/Anderson Cooper, and of course, the father who is injured in Iraq. This makes the volume a "timely" book for current readers and only time will tell if in a decade or two, young readers still will appreciate the story, despite the references to matters that can easily date the book.

Scat, however, does not offer much more than either Hoot, or Flush -- much of the same thing to young readers who like mysteries, who like to read stories about older kids (High School students as protagonists) but who do not necessarily wish to decipher complex sentence structures or figures of speech and who still enjoy jokes on fairly basic/bodily function levels.

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Friday, April 10, 2009

Bloodhound: Beka Cooper II

Bloodhound (Beka Cooper, Book 2)Author: Tamora Pierce
Reading Level: 6th grade and up

Publisher: Random House
Edition: Galley, 2009

I really liked the first one and have been waiting for the second installment for a long long time. The second book still works. My initial quibble of not believing Beka able to write all of the stuff down in her journal still stands -- even with the explanation of ciphers and reports and how events are chopped down into several installments. Still seems a bit far-fetched. However, I guess if one believes in ghost-carrying pigeons and a young woman talking to street dust winds, one has to somewhat allow her to be able to write dialogs and descriptions in such minute details when recording her own exploits.

That's another thing: the pacing is a bit draggy at moments because it seems a bit too much of JUST Beka -- just her thoughts, just her experiences, and just her achievements. All the secondary characters (POUNCE, for example, who is absent for most of the story) take a real Secondary position here. Achoo the hound, although very important to the plot, is not satisfying as a strong supporting character because she is too much of a hound, no human traits at all. I love her, but she cannot replace Pounce whose wry humor adds so much to the flavor of the story.

Dale, as a secondary character at the beginning of the story, never got his chance to even remain in that position. By mid-book, he's already just a bit of thoughts in Beka's mind. This shows Beka's dedication to her work and how incredibly sensible she is, but I feel slightly let down by Dale's demotion. He definitely could have played a larger part in the story (either helping or hindering Beka's tasks) because he was positioned to do so from the get go (but peters out...)

Having Hanse explain all the rhymes and reasons seems a bit of an easy and very basic mystery device (for that is what this series is... Law and Order meets Tortall Fantasy.) I was hoping for huge surprises and unexpected villains and deeper plots.

Oh, I sound too critical, I do believe. Going to end by saying that I definitely enjoyed following Beka through the streets, watching her eat sea food, seeing her fight various villains -- above ground and underground. It's great to be back in the land of such cool magic. Am I now again eagerly waiting for the next book? You betcha!

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Friday, April 03, 2009

Ranger's Apprentice: The Ruins of Gorlan

Author: John Flannagan
Reading Level: 4th to 6th grade

Pages: 249
Publisher: HarperCollins
Edition: Hardcover, 2006

The Ruins of Gorlan (Ranger's Apprentice, Book 1) I finally got around to read this first book in the ever-more popular series that my students have loved for the last few years. I know now why they like the stories and characters so much. The world is easy to understand -- since in this first book, the young people are "in schools." They are being trained in their various trades with cool skills like tracking, archery, sword play, and cooking. One of the main characters gets bullied and eventually those bullies get their just deserts! I can hear the cheering from the young readers! I will from now on describe the book (or the series) as Fantasy Spy Story, a blend of Alex Rider and Lord of the Rings. (Prob. a bit exaggerated but I think that will help interest the next reader!)

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