Sacramento Public Library

January 2013

    The Mark of Athena

    The Mark of Athena - Rick Riordan

    Engaging Story: 5/5
    Overall Writing Quality: 3/5
    Character Development: 4/5

    The Mark of Athena is like Orson Scott Card’s Ruins in a couple ways. It follows a group of teenagers who are talented beyond the ordinary. The setting is in a world that is similar to ours, but different in some key ways, the main one being that all Greek and Roman myths and legends are true. In The Mark of Athena, Percy Jackson works with his team of Greco-Roman demigods to stop the rise of the ancient Earth goddess, Gaea. Gaea wants to overthrow the Greek gods and claim the world for herself. She works to separate the Greek and Roman demigod camps and sow the seeds of war between them. This causes the Greco-Roman gods to have split personality disorder; they become torn between their Greek and Roman sides. Percy Jackson’s group must stop her from seizing the world by force.

    As you can tell from the summary, this book has a very engaging and fast paced story. The Greek myths incorporated into the story make it even more entertaining, at least for those of us who remember elementary school fondly. Riordan ties in the ancient stories with his own agenda for the plot near-flawlessly. Even the most minor myths get a role to play. Rick Riordan is a decent writer. He uses some imagery and descriptive language, but focuses mostly on the story. To make it fast paced, he has to make some sacrifices where description is involved. I do like his humor, though. Things like leotard-wearing giants and “Cower before the almighty Diet Coke” tend to lighten the mood. I’d give the writing quality above average. That said, “above average” would be a blasphemous understatement regarding Riordan’s characters. He spends time working on their group relationships and feelings towards each other. The seven main characters, at least, appear to be fairly well rounded and real. The characters keep the book interesting. Riordan grabbed my attention with the gigantic flying boat with a dubstep soundboard and kept it with the superb development of his characters.

    I recommend this book to most, if not all, teen readers. It is a fast paced, action-packed novel that is meant mainly for teenage eyes. Overall, it was a very good book that was exciting to read.

    - Carl, 15

    Slaughterhouse-Five - Kurt Vonnegut

    Engaging Story: 4/5
    Overall Writing Quality: 5/5
    Character Development: 3/5

    Slaughterhouse-Five was similar to Ruins by Orson Scott Card because of its themes of science-fiction and time travel. Kurt Vonnegut uses concepts with time that are difficult for us to understand. He invents a species of aliens called Tralfamadorians that perceive all time moments in time at once and can travel to any one of them at any time. However, Slaughterhouse-Five is first and foremost a war novel.

    It tells the story of Billy Pilgrim, an American soldier and later prisoner in World War 2. He faces terrible conditions in the German P.O.W camp and witnesses the bombing of Dresden. He is also kidnapped by Tralfamadorians and learns of their perception of time. He can then travel to any point in time in his life that he wants. This makes him realize that war and death aren’t so bad because he can just travel to other times of his life. A minor side effect of his new findings is that people think Billy is insane.

    The story was not as intricate or entertaining as the plot of Ruins, but it was still enjoyable. The first-hand facts about World War 2 (Kurt Vonnegut was in the war) were interesting and horrifying. The Tralfamadorians were an interesting twist. Because of Billy Pilgrim’s time travel abilities, the story jumps around to different points in his life, including his death. This makes the story have little to no continuity, but it makes things interesting. The quality of writing in Slaughterhouse Five is superb. Vonnegut uses lots of dark humor. Every time he tells of someone dying, he writes, “so it goes.” He manages to find humor in the most horrid of things. Metaphors can also be found frequently. Vonnegut described a train car with prisoners in it as a single living organism. In went food and out came excrement and noise. Despite the great writing quality, the only character that Vonnegut developed was Billy Pilgrim. All other characters were more or less two-dimensional. He relied on telling rather than showing to describe their personalities. Billy’s personality was shaped by his experience with the Tralfamadorians.

    I enjoyed Slaughterhouse Five personally, but it might not be for everyone. It is certainly not a traditional novel, with a few main characters and their relationships to each other. If a regular novel is a landscape painting, this would be more like abstract art. Even so, think abstract art has some value and can be better than a boring landscape in some cases.

    - Carl, 15

    Ruins - Orson Scott Card

    Engaging Story: 5/5
    Overall Writing Quality: 4/5
    Character Development: 5/5

    Ruins is the second book in the Pathfinder series by Orson Scott Card. It tells the story of Rigg, a teenager on the planet Garden who is trying to prevent the destruction of his planet by visitors from Earth. However, Rigg is no ordinary boy. He and his friends have certain talents that allow them to control and travel through time. They must use these powers and work in a group with the untrustworthy robotic expendable, Vadesh, in their quest to find out why the humans from Earth decide to destroy their planet. In their travels throughout the land and through time, they learn many valuable things, but their main lesson is this: trust no one.

    The plot of Ruins is too complicated to cover in a simple review. There are many layers to the storyline, including space jumps, time warps, advanced technology, biological engineering. Card expertly combines various science fiction elements with moral conundrums and social systems to create an engaging and complex novel. The plot simply flows; everything happens naturally as a result of something else, creating a feeling of continuity. The only downside is the slow pace of the book, but trading pace for quality is a good exchange. As with most of his books, Card uses figurative language frequently. He mostly uses imagery. This gives the reader a picture in their head of what is happening. Card goes the whole nine yards. He describes the scenes in the book and allows visualization of his writing. Excellent character development is also par for Orson Scott Card. He describes the characters’ thoughts and feelings in great detail. In addition, he shows through their actions what their personalities are. The only two-dimensional characters are the robotic expendables, and even they have motives behind what they do.

    I recommend this book to all readers with a long attention span. It may not be a fast-paced Rick Riordan book, but it is still very entertaining if you can put up with the slower pace. However, I still recommend you read the prequel, Pathfinder, first.

    - Carl, 15
    Fushigi Yugi: The Mysterious Play

    Fushigi Yugi: The Mysterious Play - Yu Watase

    This unique series is very romantic and jaw-dropping. You can't help but read another one, and then another one, until you finish the whole series. My friends and I went crazy and we reread them all the time.

    - Megan, 13

    Stormbreaker - Anthony Horowitz

    This book is probably the best book in the world for teens who like action and spies. It's the first book of an incredible series that you won't forget. What a great author!

    - Tony, 15
    The Wrap-Up List

    The Wrap-Up List - Steven Arntson

    This book is original, and I liked the story's resolution. It was a little bit confusing, but I would definitely recommend this book to a friend.

    - Anonymous
    The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell

    The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell - Chris Colfer

    This book is about twins named Alex and Conner Bailey. They were given a special book that can transport them to a fairy-tale world, where all the fairy-tale characters are real. Alex and Conner are trapped in the Land of Stories forever unless they find the thing they need the use: the Wishing Spell to travel back home. Meanwhile, Snow White's evil stepmother is planning the same thing. I'll give this 10 out of 10 stars.

    - Angel, 12

    Divergent - Veronica Roth

    This is a great book for lovers of The Hunger Games. This book follows Beatrice Prior through the dystopic world where, at the age of 16, everyone must choose one of the five factions to live in for the rest of their lives. Each faction emphasizes a different character trait, such as truth, or bravery. But when Beatrice learns something about herself that could put her in danger, she must find out who she really is, and try to make sense of the world around her. She must learn who to trust, and who to be wary of. The characters in this person vs. society book are expertly portrayed, giving you insight into their hopes, dreams, and fears.The first volume of the Divergent trilogy is a page turner that is unable to put down. This book is great for ages 12 and up, and is a 9 out of 10 stars.

    - Ann, 14

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