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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

[Book Review] Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
Photo Credit: goodreads.com

Ender's Game


Orson Scott Card

Blurb (from www.hatrack.com):

"Andrew "Ender" Wiggin thinks he is playing computer simulated war games; he is, in fact, engaged in something far more desperate. The result of genetic experimentation, Ender may be the military genius Earth desperately needs in a war against an alien enemy seeking to destroy all human life. The only way to find out is to throw Ender into ever harsher training, to chip away and find the diamond inside, or destroy him utterly. Ender Wiggin is six years old when it begins. He will grow up fast. But Ender is not the only result of the experiment. The war with the Buggers has been raging for a hundred years, and the quest for the perfect general has been underway almost as long. Ender's two older siblings, Peter and Valentine, are every bit as unusual as he is, but in very different ways. While Peter was too uncontrollably violent, Valentine very nearly lacks the capability for violence altogether. Neither was found suitable for the military's purpose. But they are driven by their jealousy of Ender, and by their inbred drive for power. Peter seeks to control the political process, to become a ruler. Valentine's abilities turn more toward the subtle control of the beliefs of commoner and elite alike, through powerfully convincing essays. Hiding their youth and identities behind the anonymity of the computer networks, these two begin working together to shape the destiny of Earth-an Earth that has no future at all if their brother Ender fails. Newsday said of this novel "Card has done strong work before, but this could be the book to break him out of the pack." It was. Ender's Game took the sf world by storm, sweeping the awards. It won both the Hugo and Nebula, and rose to the top of national bestseller lists. Copyright © 1985 Orson Scott Card"

My Review:

Wow. I knew this book was sci-fi when I started reading it, but I didn't have a clue as to what it contained. It is very heavy. It is full of action and violence, with war, and with some deep intellectual thinking. As a mother I hated it. I hated it because I have a six-year-old, and I can not imagine letting someone take her away to space to train for war. I can't imagine being ok with never seeing her again. And then seeing how they treated him at six years old. I know these are very smart children, but they are still children, and I think they should be treated as such. To allow these children to treat each other this way, in fact to engineer it to happen that way, is awful. They had so much stress and responsibility at such a young age that it made me sick.

As a reader, though, I did like this book. It is very well crafted and written. Besides the higher up officials that speak at the beginning of certain chapters, in a different font, the character development is really good. I felt like I knew Ender inside and out, and I remember from my own childhood meeting people like his friends in the book. I never really knew who to trust as his friends, but I think that is part of the draw of the book. The higher up officials become more well-known as the book goes on, and they, too, begin to come to light. There are many twists and turns that I didn't expect in the book, and it definitely made me want to keep reading. It was a bit of a slow read for me, but it wasn't for lack of motivation, it just isn't an easy read. There are military terms and physics, and things like that, that require thought before going on. I was very surprised by the twist at the end. You know me, though, I tend to just read and not really think about what will come next. The very end with the giant (you'll understand when you have read it), was a bit of a stretch for me, but I guess it was fitting.

There is a lot of language in this book. I was hoping it would be good for my ten-year-old, but no such luck. Along with the language there is a lot of bullying and violence and death (it is a war). Also, I don't think he would understand it at this point anyway. He'd like the video game aspect of it, but wouldn't understand the physics or the intellectual arguments. Mr. Card correctly predicted many things, and it was kind of creepy. For example, the nets on the computers and the portable desks that had something similar to email on them (today's tablets). Crazy! I do recommend this book with the previous warnings. It is geared more toward boys, I think, but I'm glad I read it. I don't know if I'll read the other books in the series, though.

Rating: PG-13+ (Language, violence, death, war)

Age Recommendation: 14 or 15 and up. I'd suggest parents read it first before allowing their children to read it. Parents know their children best and can tell whether a child could handle it or not.

*This post was first published on 8/29/12, and was updated on 1/4/18.

Monday, August 27, 2012

The Earth Angel Training Academy

The Earth Angel Training Academy by Michelle Gordon

(Summary taken from the author's website) "When Head of the Earth Angel Training Academy, Velvet, receives a call from an Elder on the first day of term, she knows that the new class will be unlike any other she has taught.

While experiencing the most tumultuous time of her very long existence, Velvet must remember her buried past, and open her eyes to the future so that she can prepare the Earth Angel trainees for the toughest missions of their existence - to Awaken the humans before the world ends.

Time is running out..."

I didn't know what to expect with this book, but I really enjoyed it! It is very different from everything else I have read lately, and that is a bonus in and of itself. Ms. Gordon's writing style is light and fun and easy to read. The character development in this book is really good. I fell in love with Velvet, Aria, and Amethyst right from the beginning. I love the names of the characters as well. Some of the characters are a little hard to relate to, like the ones that are shaped as shapes (like rectangles), but it's fantasy, right? So you just find yourself going with it and in the end it works. Ms. Gordon has created a very fun place to live. I would love to be able to snap my fingers and change the decor in my house or transport myself from one area to another.

The really great thing about this book are the lessons taught, and the fact that it really makes you think. No matter what your thoughts are on heaven or what happens when you die, this book makes you think. Are there really people in heaven trying to help us here on earth? Did we know some of the people around us before coming to earth? How do we become "awakened," as she calls it, or how do we remember who we really are? This book is a fun and light-hearted way to make you think about those things. Even though the questions may be deep, the storyline is mostly light and fun. There are a few heavier moments, but everything ends up happily.

There was some language in this book, which I thought didn't really fit in. I mean, can you picture angels swearing? I don't know. I thought it was awkward and took a good story for kids to read and made it not kid-friendly. Not only that, I just didn't think it fit in the storyline. There was a kind of suicide scene.  It was a little different since she was already dead, but still a heavier part in the story. There was lots of talk of love and some times when you knew things happened but they were never described.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book, and I do recommend it with the previous warnings. I thank Ms. Gordon for allowing me to read and review her book.

Rating: PG-13 (Language, suicide, and some innuendos)

Recommendation: 14 and up. Like any book, you may want to read it first to make sure it is appropriate for your child.

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Vote For Me! (Please!)

Hooray! An unknown fan nominated my blog for skinnyscoop.com's Top 25 Book Blogger Contest! I'm honored to be on the list with so many great book review blogs. If you could please vote for me I'd really appreciate it! I'd love to be on their Top 25 list! Simply click here and scroll down until you see my picture and my name "The Readathon." You do need to sign in, but you may sign in with Facebook so you don't need to set up another profile if you don't want to. Thank you so much!!!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Tiger's Quest

Tiger's Quest (Book #2) by Colleen Houck

(Summary taken from the inside book jacket) "Kelsey Hayes's eighteenth summer was crazy. The kind of crazy that nobody would ever believe. Aside from battling immortal sea monkeys and trekking the jungles of India, she fell in love with Ren, a 300-year-old prince. When danger suddenly forces Kelsey on another Indian quest with Ren's bad-boy brother, Kishan, the unlikely duo begins to question their true destiny. Ren's life hangs in the balance--and so does the truth within Kelsey's heart. Tiger's Quest, the thrilling second volume in the Tiger's Curse series, brings the trio one step closer to breakin the ancient prophecy that binds them."

I really liked this book. I didn't love it as much as the first one, but I did really like it and am glad I read it. If you liked the first one you should definitely read this one. Like the first one, the whole premise is kind of corny, but you know what, you just go with it and it's entertaining. This is a great book to read when you don't want to think, you just want to be entertained. It is part "Indiana Jones," part "Twilight," and part fairy tale. It's a fast, easy read, and is clean! It's a great young adult book. There is an occasional kiss, but that is about all.  It's fun and well written. I like Ms. Houck's writing style because it flows well and is easy to read.

I like the characters in the story. Kelsey is a strong character, which I like, but she is also human. She does have a little bit more of Bella (from "Twilight") in her in this book, but not enough to make you crazy. It's more of a real, or natural, side of her. You learn a lot more about Kishan in this book and that was fun. He's quite the character. Mr. Kadam I really like, and Ren, of course. I think girls will like this series more than boys will, but there are some action/adventure parts that boys will like too.

Rating: PG-13 (Once again, not for content, but it's probably better for a little older young adult.)

Recommendation: 14 and up. Yay! A true young adult book!

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Pulling Up Stakes

Pulling Up Stakes by Harriet Kimble Wrye

(Summary taken from the back book cover) "Atop Mt. Kilimanjaro, psychologist Harriet Wrye felt a millennial call to "pull up stakes" in her life, as she did with tent and llama stakes each day whenever she and her husband backpacked in the high Sierras with their llamas. Inspired, she closed her Los Angeles psychoanalytic practice of thirty years, they leased their house at the beach and set out on an odyssey into the "back of beyond." Creating a sabbatical away from the familiar, her journey became a life-changing spiritual pilgrimage that led to a deep practice of letting go of assumptions, habits and patterns, and stepping into freedom."

I didn't know what to expect from this book and ended up liking it. There were some aspects of the book that were exciting and tense, some that were scary, some that were quiet yet profound, and some that were easy to relate to. However, there were also some parts that were too personal (and should have been kept in a personal diary), some that were way too long and drawn out, and some that I couldn't relate to at all. Ms. Wrye is definitely a great example of staying healthy and fit and active as you grow older. She had some incredible experiences that I know I will never experience, and it was interesting to learn about the different parts of the world that she visited. I will never be able to visit all of those places, so it was wonderful to learn about them and the people that live there. I could relate to a lot of what she was trying to let go of. I too have a lot of anxiety that I would love to let go of, and even though my children are still young, I could totally see myself trying to control them in their teenage years. It was good to be able to learn from her experience with that. I too worry about my husband and his safety and health. I know I tend to pack everything "just in case" and so it would be good to shed some of that and know that I would be fine with less.

Even though we are very different, she and I, we both share a love of family and feel that family is everything. We come from very different backgrounds and live very different lives, but as mothers we can connect just because we love our children and want the best for them, and want them around us. I'm glad I was able to take some of these things away from the book. I think it is amazing how fit and active she is as she grows older. I would love to be that healthy and fit in my 60s and 70s.

There were some aspects of the book, though, that I just had a hard time getting through. I would have been happy if it had been 200 pages shorter. She threw in a few political comments, and you know me, that is not my favorite thing in nonpolitical books. I found it hard to relate to some of her experiences. I did, though, learn a lot about living in the moment and finding joy in the journey and in the everyday, not just in reaching the destination.

I would recommend it because it was interesting learning about the different places she visited and people she met there. She had some really good insights and she is a great example of staying healthy, fit, and active as you grow older. She and her husband area also good examples of keeping your marriage vibrant and healthy.

Rating: R (This does not follow the movie ratings, it is my way of saying that it is not appropriate for younger readers.) There was language, including a lot of "f" words. She and her husband definitely love each other, and she doesn't describe these moments, but she tells you that they were there.

Recommendation: College and up. I don't think younger readers would get a lot out of it. I don't think it would interest them, and I don't think it is appropriate for them.

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.