Review of Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card (1985) (The Ender Quintet)

Bottom line: A compelling character and suspenseful story combine to create an engrossing read.

Rating: Recommended

Blurb:

In order to develop a secure defense against a hostile alien race’s next attack, government agencies breed child geniuses and train them as soldiers. A brilliant young boy, Andrew “Ender” Wiggin lives with his kind but distant parents, his sadistic brother Peter, and the person he loves more than anyone else, his sister Valentine. Peter and Valentine were candidates for the soldier-training program but didn’t make the cut—young Ender is the Wiggin drafted to the orbiting Battle School for rigorous military training.

Ender’s skills make him a leader in school and respected in the Battle Room, where children play at mock battles in zero gravity. Yet growing up in an artificial community of young soldiers Ender suffers greatly from isolation, rivalry from his peers, pressure from the adult teachers, and an unsettling fear of the alien invaders. His psychological battles include loneliness, fear that he is becoming like the cruel brother he remembers, and fanning the flames of devotion to his beloved sister.

Is Ender the general Earth needs? But Ender is not the only result of the genetic experiments. The war with the Buggers has been raging for a hundred years, and the quest for the perfect general has been underway for almost as long. Ender’s two older siblings are every bit as unusual as he is, but in very different ways. Between the three of them lie the abilities to remake a world. If, that is, the world survives.

Review:

I’ve been wanting to reread this book ever since I saw they were coming out with a movie version, due to be released November 2013. They have some pretty big names in the movie, so I just hope they don’t mess it up too badly (this is my prevailing attitude towards book-to-film adaptations).

This is one of those books that I was able to completely lose myself in. I felt so connected to the main character that as events unfolded, I responded to them from his point of view. After I had finished, I realized that some of these plot points didn’t make much sense, but while in the moment, I hadn’t noticed. This is such a well told story that whether or not it is plausible hardly seems to matter.

Ender’s Game seems to have a polarizing effect on readers. Many people love it, but there is a very strong minority that hate it just as passionately. Arguments against it I saw ranged from the political messages, to the justification of violence, to whether or not child geniuses would really act like that.  As much as I love to analyze things to death (and believe me, I do), this story was, to me, just a story. Maybe it’s that I read it when I was much younger, but I don’t feel the need to delve deeply into themes and messages and plausibility. It’s a story, I enjoyed it, and if you think the blurb looks interesting, you should give it a try, too. Sometimes, that’s all you need to say.

Side Notes: This is the first in the Ender Series, I haven’t read any of the others, though I plan to at some point. I debated making this a Family Fridays post, but it’s not really a “children’s” book. I would guess it’s aimed at preteens on up.

Get it! Amazon, Barnes & Noble

What did you think? Did you like the book? How old were you when you read it?

*If you use these links to make a purchase, Lector’s Books may receive a small commission. This will not affect your price or purchasing experience in any way.

Review of Divergent by Veronica Roth (2011) (Divergent Book 1)

Bottom line: Reading Divergent is like watching a good action movie: it’s not really about the plot, it’s about the heroes and their journey.

Rating: Recommended

Blurb:

In Beatrice Prior’s dystopian Chicago, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can’t have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles to determine who her friends really are—and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes infuriating boy fits into the life she’s chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she’s kept hidden from everyone because she’s been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers a growing conflict that threatens to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves . . . or it might destroy her.

Debut author Veronica Roth bursts onto the literary scene with the first book in the Divergent series—dystopian thrillers filled with electrifying decisions, heartbreaking betrayals, stunning consequences, and unexpected romance.

Review:

This book is a great read. Among its strengths are characters, action and general get-sucked-in-ness (it’s my blog, I can make up words if I want to). One of the things I liked the least about it was the implausibility of some of the plot points/storyline timing. There are a LOT of “just happened to be at the right place right time” to prevent a murder, or overhear a sinister plot, etc. kinds of things. However, I found that because I was sucked into the world and interested in the characters, I didn’t really notice the plot/timing issues until I read the book for the second time.

I was going to try to review the book without mentioning the Hunger Games, but I don’t think I can. There are some definite similarities between this book and the Hunger Games, and with the incredible popularity of the latter, it is a natural comparison point. In fact, if a friend asked me for a one sentence review of Divergent, I’d probably say “it’s kind of like The Hunger Games, but with more kissing.” It also reminded me of Lois Lowry’s The Giver (a dystopian children’s book –fantastic!), but I never felt like I was reading a rip off of either of those stories. Overall, it’s just a fun ride and definitely a page turner. I wouldn’t recommend starting this book late at night or you might be up for a long time.

Available: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes.

Side note: This is the first of a trilogy. Book 2, Insurgent (Amazon, Barnes & Noble), is available. I read it the day after reading Divergent, and was much less impressed. I often find second books in series to be lacking, and that was the case here. There was a lot of tension between characters – distrust, secrets, lies, etc., which felt forced rather than just letting the story unfold. Plot-wise it actually felt tighter and more realistic (to me at least), but the unnecessary character drama just stressed me out.  However, I’m still excited about the release of Book 3 (currently set for “a year or so”) and hope it’s more in line with the first book.

More Info: Check out the author’s blog here.

What did you think? Did you like the book?

*If you use these links to make a purchase, Lector’s Books may receive a small commission. This will not affect your price or purchasing experience in any way.

 

Harry Potter Series Now Available in E-book Formats…

…but they’re not going to make it easy for you.

If you want to get the e-books ($7.99 for the first three, $9.99 for the last four) you can find them on most sites that sell e-books (including Amazon and B&N), but to complete the purchase, you get routed to the “Pottermore” shop where you have to set up an account to finally get your book.

On the plus side when you buy any of all of these books, you can download it to just about any device out there – Kindle, Nook, iPhone/iPad, home computers, etc. On the downside, you have to go through the rigamarole mentioned above. Granted, none of this should take very long, but I hate having to set up accounts to buy things. As long as I’m giving you my money in exchange for your product, why should I have to register myself in addition to all the personal details you get when I put in my credit card info? Also, as a Kindle user myself, I love the “one click buy” button. I find what I want, click a button, and it magically shows up on my Kindle a few seconds later. You can’t get any easier than that.

Another downside is the price. I don’t buy many books (paper books or e-books), but I finally broke down and bought the Harry Potter series a few months ago from Barnes & Noble. I paid on average less than $6 per book – and they would have cost a lot more to produce than an e-book.

I’m glad that these books are now available (legally) for e-readers.I respect Rowling for getting the most money she can for her work. But I won’t be buying them anytime soon.

Anyone bought the e-books? Are they worth it?

*If you use these links to make a purchase, Lector’s Books may receive a small commission. This will not affect your price or purchasing experience in any way.

Review of The Girl in the Steel Corset by Kady Cross (2011) (The Steampunk Chronicles – Book 1)

Bottom line: An intriguing first full-length installment of the series. I had a few complaints about the writing, but the story was very entertaining. I’d recommend reading The Strange Case of Finley Jayne first (although you don’t need it for The Girl in the Steel Corset to make sense) because it’s free and if you like that, you should definitely give this one a shot.

Rating: Recommended

Blurb:

In 1897 England, sixteen-year-old Finley Jayne has no one…except the “thing” inside her.

When a young lord tries to take advantage of Finley, she fights back. And wins. But no normal Victorian girl has a darker side that makes her capable of knocking out a full-grown man with one punch….

Only Griffin King sees the magical darkness inside her that says she’s special, says she’s one of them. The orphaned duke takes her in from the gaslit streets against the wishes of his band of misfits: Emily, who has her own special abilities and an unrequited love for Sam, who is part robot; and Jasper, an American cowboy with a shadowy secret.

Griffin’s investigating a criminal called The Machinist, the mastermind behind several recent crimes by automatons. Finley thinks she can help—and finally be a part of something, finally fit in.

But The Machinist wants to tear Griff’s little company of strays apart, and it isn’t long before trust is tested on all sides. At least Finley knows whose side she’s on—even if it seems no one believes her.

Review:

The Girl in the Steel Corset continues the saga of Finley Jayne (introduced in the novella The Strange Case of Finley Jayne, review here), a girl with supernatural abilities. I found myself caught up in the plot and enjoying the characters. However, I was a little disappointed in the writing itself. I had been impressed with the author’s writing in her previous book, and was surprised to find that here I occasionally found it distracting. Normally when I read, I’m completely immersed in the book, but I kept being interrupted by thoughts like “wait, didn’t she describe the other guy in that exact same way?” “didn’t that other character say something the same thing to this same girl?” and “does EVERYONE in this book have a crooked smile?”. There are also some inconsistencies with the characters. It seems like this book could have benefited from one more pass by an editor – tighten up the writing and maybe decrease the amount of time spent on some of the subplots.

This isn’t to say that I didn’t enjoy the read – I did, and I’ve read it a couple more times since the first time. I think it is a testament to Cross’s skill as a storyteller that the writing quirks were not as apparent on the first read through. At least for me, I was so caught up in the story the first time around that I didn’t notice as many of them, and then in the subsequent reads, as I became more familiar with the story, I noticed the writing more, and parts of it started to annoy me. There was a lot of ground covered – in addition to introducing all the members of the team to each other and the readers, and getting many of their back stories, there is the mystery to solve of what the bad guy is up to and how to stop him. I’m still excited to read the next book in the series (The Girl in the Clockwork Collar, due out June 2012), but I’m hoping the writing will be a little more polished and that the book will feel more seamless.

Available: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes

More Info: Check out the author’s website here.

What did you think? Did you like the book?

*If you use these links to make a purchase, Lector’s Books may receive a small commission. This will not affect your price or purchasing experience in any way.

Review of The Strange Case of Finley Jayne by Kady Cross (Steampunk Chronicles – Prequel) (2011)

Bottom line: This novella is a wonderful introduction not only to the Steampunk Chronicles series, but to the steampunk genre itself. If you’ve been wanting to try out steampunk, wondered what it was, or just want a fun, well written book to read, give this one a shot. Also, it’s free!

Update 7/1/2013: Not currently a free book.

Rating: Strongly Recommended

Blurb:

Finley Jayne knows she’s not ‘normal’. Normal girls don’t lose time, or have something inside them that makes them capable of remarkably violent things. Her behavior has already cost her one job, so when she’s offered the lofty position of companion to Phoebe, a debutante recently engaged to Lord Vincent, she accepts, despite having no experience. Lord Vincent is a man of science with his automatons and inventions, but Finley is suspicious of his motives where Phoebe is concerned. She will do anything to protect her new friend, but what she discovers is even more monstrous than anything she could have imagined…

Review:

I downloaded this novella because it was free, and when I finished, I immediately went and bought the next book (first book? this one is a prequel – can I call it book zero?) in the series (book one review forthcoming). I would have bought the next one, too, but it won’t be out until June 2012.

I was impressed for a lot of reasons. For one thing, I often find that short stories/novellas feel incomplete – you are barely introduced to some characters, a plot is thrown together, and then it’s over. That was certainly not the case with this book. There is a good balance of time spent developing the characters and the world, and while the plot moves quickly, it doesn’t feel rushed. The heroine is a well written, strong female character, who’s struggling to come to terms with her unique capabilities and whether they are a blessing or a curse.

This is definitely in the steampunk genre – the setting is a late 1800s London with steam powered devices, automaton servants and interesting gadgets. All these things are mentioned and discussed a bit, but not harped on – thank goodness. I tend to get a bit glassy eyed over too many intricate details.

Available: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iTunes.

More Info: Check out the author’s website here.

What did you think? Did you like the book?

*If you use these links to make a purchase, Lector’s Books may receive a small commission. This will not affect your price or purchasing experience in any way.