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Reviews Written by
Rachel RSS Feed (Minneapolis, MN)

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Airman
Airman
by Eoin Colfer
Edition: Paperback
Price: $8.10
126 used & new from $0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars 19th Century Steampunk Artemis Fowl, May 13, 2013
This review is from: Airman (Paperback)
Conor Broekhart has grown up as the best friend of the princess of the Saltee kingdom (an imaginary kingdom off of Ireland). But when he discovers a conspiracy to kill the king, the real traitor captures him and sends him to a prison camp to mine diamonds in obscurity. Conor must use his genius for flight to escape the prison and rescue the princess. Conor is much like a 19th century steampunk Artemis Fowl. Colfer delivers his usual book - fun, delightful, and humorous. Definitely a treat for fans of non-dystopia non-paranormal-romance YA. (YAY! for something different!) I'd say this book is appropriate for 5th - 8th graders.


How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization
How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization
by Thomas E. Woods
Edition: Paperback
Price: $11.95
54 used & new from $7.93

4.0 out of 5 stars A good survey introduction, May 11, 2013
How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization is an apologetics treatise about how the Catholic Church contributed to the development of science, philosophy, art, and culture. For someone who has not read a lot of books on the subject - who wishes to be disabused of the belief that the Catholic Church shunned science and tried to halt the progression of culture - this book is an excellent introduction. It covers a wide variety of topics in a superficial survey of how the Church changed and promoted civilization. On the other hand, if you're like myself and are well-read on the subject, this book lacks depth. Although there was a wide variety of information discussed, there was very little that it discussed in greater detail than I already knew. Therefore, I would highly recommend this text to someone who'd like an introduction to the topic - it's well-written, well-researched, and interesting. But if you're looking for depth and detail, this may be worth just a quick read.

This audiobook was well-narrated by Barrett Whitener. No complaints there!


Sharp Objects
Sharp Objects
by Gillian Flynn
Edition: Paperback
Price: $8.92
586 used & new from $0.01

3.0 out of 5 stars Creative but too dark for me, May 11, 2013
This review is from: Sharp Objects (Paperback)
Camille Preaker is a troubled young woman and a mediocre journalist. When her editor sends her to her home-town in Missouri for investigative reporting on a possible serial killer, she must stay with her emotionally-destructive mother and wild half-sister. As Camille struggles with ghosts from her past, including her own self-destructive behavior and memories of a dead sister, she discovers that the murders are darker and more complex than she'd originally suspected.

Although this book certainly had a good deal of mystery to it, it wasn't really for me. Although I generally liked Camille's character, there were several times when I groaned inwardly at her choices. She was weak and self-destructive. Such characters are really difficult to write well, and Sharp Objects had a bit of a debut-novel feel to it - perhaps Camille's character should have been created by a more seasoned author. Another issue I had with the book is it was simply too dark for my tastes. There was so much ugliness in the book. Violence, self-loathing, sexual exploitation, and more. On the other hand, I DO understand why some people like this book. The key question to ask is - how much ugliness can you deal with? If you like reading about emotionally troubled characters, then this book would be attractive to you. There was a slight redemptive feel to the story at the end. A ray of hope for Camille. I appreciate that I was given that much.


The Stonekeeper (Amulet #1)
The Stonekeeper (Amulet #1)
by Kazu Kibuishi
Edition: Paperback
Price: $7.92
222 used & new from $0.20

4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent artwork, plot and vocab for young readers, April 24, 2013
When their father dies, Emily and Navin must move with their mother to a run-down house in the middle of nowhere - an inheritance from a great uncle they've never met. On their first night in the disturbing old house, their mother is kidnapped by a gigantic squid-thing and the kids must rescue her with the help of a talking amulet that they've found in a dusty room.

I read this because my nephew really loved it, and he's a very reluctant reader. I can see why he liked it - there's lots of pretty pictures and very few words. It's a book appropriate for middle-graders both in vocabulary and in plot. It was a cute, fast read, and I'm sure I'll read the rest in the series. However, it's not a book that would appeal to me for any other reason than bonding with my nephew. The premise and plot are simply too unsophisticated to be of much interest to most older kids or adults. On the other hand, the book seems to be VERY popular with the younger crowd, and I highly recommend The Stonekeeper for reluctant readers.


Skellig (Printz Honor)
Skellig (Printz Honor)
by David Almond
Edition: Hardcover
119 used & new from $0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Cute and short :), April 24, 2013
This review is from: Skellig (Printz Honor) (Hardcover)
Soon after Michael's family moves to a new home, his sister is born prematurely. While his parents are ferrying the newborn back and forth to the hospital, Michael deals with his stress by exploring their dilapidated garage. There, he finds a strange owl-like man. As Michael and the girl-next-door nurse the winged man back to health, he learns a lesson about love. This was a sweet little book. It was quite short, so there wasn't a lot of plot, but the characters and premise was quite adorable. This book would be appropriate for 7-9 year olds who enjoy reading magical realism.

Almond did a fantastic job of narrating his own book. He has an engaging reading voice and had all the rhythms and intonations flowing well.


Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Book 6)
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Book 6)
by J. K. Rowling
Edition: Paperback
Price: $7.86
338 used & new from $2.99

5.0 out of 5 stars The best-written of the HP books, April 22, 2013
(Contains spoilers from earlier books in series)

The Ministry of Magic has finally admitted that Voldemort has returned, and Dumbledore has returned as Hogwarts Headmaster. Furthermore, Dumbledore has realized that it was a huge mistake to leave Harry in the dark for so long. He and Harry become much closer in Harry's sixth year at Hogwarts, as Dumbledore reveals much of what he knows of Voldemort's history and motivations to Harry. Harry is also kept busy with his new obsession that Draco Malfoy is up to new levels of "no good." Ron and Hermione poo-poo his suspicions and keep themselves busy with escalating romantic tension.

Altogether, this book has a LOT going on, yet it's more compact than the previous two books. Overall, I think this is Rowling's best written book in the series, even if my favorites are the first four. I really enjoyed this re-read of the 6th book in the Harry Potter series - it's only my second time reading this book, and I had forgotten a lot of it. The romantic tension between Ron and Hermione is my favorite part of the book, since it'd been building for SO long and was finally let loose terrifically.

Jim Dale's reading, as usual, is excellent. It took some getting used to, but after the first or second book it really grew on me. I know all his voices for the characters, and that really ads to my enjoyment of the story.


Song of the Vikings: Snorri and the Making of Norse Myths
Song of the Vikings: Snorri and the Making of Norse Myths
by Nancy Marie Brown
Edition: Hardcover
29 used & new from $5.39

4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining, but with some speculation, April 20, 2013
This engaging biography describes the life of Snorri Sturluson, a powerful 12th-century Icelandic chieftain and the author of the poetic Edda - one of the oldest surviving documents of Norse mythology. As a novice of Viking history, I found this book fascinating and informative - though I suspect that there is much speculation and Brown isn't always clear when she is speculating and when she has hard evidence for her claims. As such, I think this biography would be enjoyed by people who are interested in learning a bit about the Vikings, but not experts on the subject.

Brown started each chapter out with a legend out of Snorri's Edda. Often, she told how this legend differs from other known versions and/or how it has effected modern culture. The rest of the book describes Snorri's life - his youth in the household of "the uncrowned King of Iceland," his marriage, his rise to political power, and his downfall. She seemed to get most of her hard evidence from a few primary documents and an outwardly biased biography written by Snorri's nephew, so often she had to fill in the gaps by saying "it's possible it happened more like this, since his nephew's story doesn't really jive with Snorri's personality." Of course, that makes me wonder if she had just as much positive bias towards Snorri as his nephew had negative bias. Overall, though, I'd say this biography was a success. When there is so little information available, and when the book is intended for a popular crowd rather than an academic one, such speculation is necessary - it makes the book more fun.


Let the Circle Be Unbroken
Let the Circle Be Unbroken
by Mildred D. Taylor
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $17.61
35 used & new from $0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars A good continuation to Roll of Thunder, April 20, 2013
Cassie and her brothers are sent reeling by a shockingly racist trial - the culmination of events from the first book in the series, Roar of Thunder Hear My Cry. In addition, Cassie's growing up, so she learns a lot about inter-race relations and the often humiliating effects. This is a heart-rending (though sometimes slow-moving) children's historical fiction. The story deals with complex issues and is character-driven, so even though the reading level is approximately 5th-7th grade, this is not a book for reluctant readers unless they have a particular interest in race relations. It's a book for children who love to read - and to absorb ideas. It's definitely a good addition to the Roll of Thunder Series, and I find myself curious to follow the family's saga to the end.


Deadly Offer (The Vampire's Promise Book 1)
Deadly Offer (The Vampire's Promise Book 1)
Price: $5.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Refreshing to have a bad vampire, April 15, 2013
Althea craves popularity. She wants to be a cheerleader - swooned over by all the jocks and the envy of all the girls. When, against custom, she opens the shuttered tower room in her house, she releases a vampire who makes a deal with her: If she brings him victims, he will give her popularity. Althea finds herself spiraling out of control as the vampire asks for more and more - and she feels she has to give it to him or suffer public humiliation.

Looked at from a superficial point of view, there's really not much to this book. It's barely 200 pages long, and has little plot or character development. It's pretty standard for those Point Horror books that were being pumped out in the '90s. Teen readers should be wary - this is a quick, fluffy read with a (how dare Ms. Cooney?!) BAD vampire. Yes. That's right. His skin looks and smells like soggy mushrooms. He feeds on the weakness of teenagers. And he doesn't sparkle. He is in no way, shape, or form romantic. It was SUCH a wonderful change. As long as bad vampires don't insult your intelligence, you'll enjoy this book if you're 11-14ish. Or you might enjoy it if you're older and enjoy exploring ideas.

What I liked about this book was that it was more meaningful on a deeper level. There were hints all along that Althea could have made herself popular on her own - that her own attitude ensured her unpopularity. She assumed no one knew she existed, so she hid from everyone. Result - nobody paid her any attention. This is also a story about how far some people are willing to go in order to gain what they want. She sacrificed her morals and trampled on other people in order to achieve her goals - and then she was dissatisfied with the results. It's a story about being true to yourself and how your goals will be more lasting when you achieve them through hard work instead of back-stabbing. Any book that makes me think earns points with me!

Another thing that made me think: where the heck were her parents through all of this?! They weren't mentioned even once! Did Cooney mean to do that? I read the second book in the trilogy many years ago, and I remember THAT protagonist had parents...


Kira-Kira
Kira-Kira
by Cynthia Kadohata
Edition: Paperback
Price: $7.41
261 used & new from $0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Sweet and sad, April 15, 2013
This review is from: Kira-Kira (Paperback)
In this endearing book, the Takeshima family moves to Georgia so that Katie's parents can work in the chicken factory. There, young Katie learns about Southern racism and the practically-slave-labor conditions of factory workers. But when Katie's older sister Lynn becomes sick, Katie learns the hardest lesson of all...This is a sweet story - and pretty typical for Newbery winners. (Newbery judges certainly like bereavement, racism, and Southern settings!) The character in the book ranges from about 5-7, I'd say, but I think the subject and reading level is more appropriate for a 10-12 year old.


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