Posts Tagged ‘Action’

Fire and Thorns

Rae Carson

Once a century, one person is chosen for greatness.
Elisa is the chosen one.
But she is also the younger of two princesses, the one who has never done anything remarkable. She can’t see how she ever will.
Now, on her sixteenth birthday, she has become the secret wife of a handsome and worldly king—a king whose country is in turmoil. A king who needs the chosen one, not a failure of a princess.
And he’s not the only one who seeks her. Savage enemies seething with dark magic are hunting her. A daring, determined revolutionary thinks she could be his people’s savior. And he looks at her in a way that no man has ever looked at her before. Soon it is not just her life, but her very heart that is at stake.
Elisa could be everything to those who need her most. If the prophecy is fulfilled. If she finds the power deep within herself. If she doesn’t die young.
Most of the chosen do.

This gorgeous coming of age tale transports you completely to a world of sumptuous palaces, humid jungles, lush oases and stunning, yet unforgiving, deserts. A land of beauty and of danger, this superb world building is not at the expense of the story’s pacing. There is never a dull moment and like our protagonist Elisa; we are thrown from one experience to another. However the action never feels forced or gratuitous as each experience moves the story forward and informs Elisa’s character development. The main problem you have as a reader is deciding where to leave your book mark as you reluctantly turn in for the night!

Although this is an action filled fantasy adventure with a few crush worth males thrown in for good measure, this is very much a character driven story and it is the character arc which I LOVE most about this book. We watch a girl with cripplingly low self esteem blossom in to a determined, capable and confident young woman.

Elisa’s voice is intelligent and brutally honest, to the point of causing the reader discomfort. When we first meet her Elisa is, in her own opinion, a lazy underachiever who is so fat that she is unable to walk for more than a few minutes before tiring and becoming physically uncomfortable.

Taking the childhood teasing of her glamorous, capable older sister to heart Elisa has spent years believing that the disappointment of her birth caused her mother’s death. These feeling of worthlessness have prevailed despite the honour of being the bearer of the Godstone and destined to do great things in the service of her god.

Filled with conflicting emotions and confusing self beliefs, on the one hand Elisa feels suffocated by the expectation of predetermined greatness. On the other, she is increasingly concerned that her biggest fear, (that she will not fulfil her destiny) will be realised. Simultaneously, she seems to be wilfully sabotaging herself with her extreme eating. It is, after all, one thing to fail at something if you haven’t tried, soul destroying to fail because you were somehow lacking, and Elisa believes she is lacking. A lifetime of being talked over, of others making life changing decisions without consulting her, with her destiny predetermined, her food intake is the one thing she can control.

I have read other reviews which have looked negatively at our protagonist’s eventual weight loss, viewing it as a bad example to impressionable young girls. I could understand their point if the weight loss was the cause of Elisa’s character development and increased confidence. But this isn’t a fluffy make over story. While she does eventually revel in the aesthetic element of her weight loss it is the changed to her health, to her physical capability that she notices first and values most. Elisa’s development begins long before the period of extreme physical demand which happens to result in her weight loss. I believe that it is in fact the changes in her character from an increased sense of control, of self awareness and a sense of purpose that enable the permanent changes in her behaviour, resulting in sustained weight loss and improved self confidence.

While the story of Fire and Thorns concludes in the absence of infuriating cliff hangers I am left with a strong desire to return to Elisa’s story. Lucky for me Fire and Thorn is the first of a planned trilogy.

Verdict: Believable world building: Check, Fantastic plot and pacing: Check, Crush worthy male characters: Check, Character development: Check. This fantastic debut has it all. I am eagerly anticipating the continuation of Elisa’s story.

Reviewed by Caroline

Publisher: Gollancz
Publication Date: September 2011
Format: Hardback
Pages: 425
Genre: Fantasy, Action
Age: YA
Reviewer: Caroline
Source: Borrowed
Challenge: N/A
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Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban

J.K Rowling

Amie was the only entry in our Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows competition. I think that you will agree with us here at Big Book Little Book when we say that while we didn’t receive the quantity of reviews we desired we certainly received quality.

For most children, summer vacation is something to look forward to. But not for our 13-year-old hero, who’s forced to spend his summers with an aunt, uncle, and cousin who detest him. The third book in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series catapults into action when the young wizard “accidentally” causes the Dursleys’ dreadful visitor Aunt Marge to inflate like a monstrous balloon and drift up to the ceiling. Fearing punishment from Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon (and from officials at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry who strictly forbid students to cast spells in the nonmagic world of Muggles), Harry lunges out into the darkness with his heavy trunk and his owl Hedwig.

As it turns out, Harry isn’t punished at all for his errant wizardry. Instead he is mysteriously rescued from his Muggle neighborhood and whisked off in a triple-decker, violently purple bus to spend the remaining weeks of summer in a friendly inn called the Leaky Cauldron. What Harry has to face as he begins his third year at Hogwarts explains why the officials let him off easily. It seems that Sirius Black–an escaped convict from the prison of Azkaban–is on the loose. Not only that, but he’s after Harry Potter. But why? And why do the Dementors, the guards hired to protect him, chill Harry’s very heart when others are unaffected?

When deciding which Harry Potter book to review, it took me some time. I pondered over the The Philosophers Stone, because it’s the first one. Once Harry receives that very special letter, we discover a world with things such as Quidditch, Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans, Gringotts Bank. And a world where magic is real.

Then I thought about the Deathly Hallows, because SO MUCH happens, so many hearts are broken and questions answered. With each turn of a page it really is like journeying on a roller-coaster. Although I knew, there’s always been one book that captured my heart most out of the seven.

Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban.

I remember exactly how I felt as I closed the book; I had fallen hook, line and sinker for Sirius Black, and my heart was aching for more.

In some ways I felt this took a (all be it slight) step back from the war with Voldemort. (Sorry – he-who-must-not-be-named.) I was able to get under the skin of lots of characters, find out lots of background information that effects present day relationships.

This book is the introduction of some great characters; Professor Lupin; the Hippogriff Buckbeak; Professor Trelawney; Cedric Diggory: Cho Chang: Sir Cadogan (Who guards the Gryffindor Tower entrance temporarily); the dementors (one of the scariest beings I’ve ever read about).

I also think this is a book where Harry changes a lot. He’s thirteen, which for me has always represented a turning age, you’re officially a teenager! Book three is where he realises how great of a wizard he is/can become, feelings stir ‘in the region of his stomach’ (Hello the beautiful Miss Chang), and Harry learns that even in the darkest times there is still hope, which we have to hold on to it even if it may break out hearts.

Prisoner of Azkaban also contains my favourite, LAUGH OUT LOUD line. Honestly, I just think of these words and I chuckle.

 “HARRY, THIS IS NO TIME TO BE A GENTLEMAN!’ Wood roared, as Harry swerved to avoid a collision. “KNOCK HER OFF HER BROOM IF YOU HAVE TO!”

Those two lines fill me with such happiness, it caught that atmosphere of that chapter perfectly.

There is so much more about this book that I could say, how it’s three-hundred-and-seventeen pages of thrilling teenage magical excitement. (And who honestly isn’t intrigued by the idea of a time turner?) It’s dark; it’s scary; it’s funny; it’s heart-warming; it’s heartbreaking.

I think that’s what I loved most about it, how it doesn’t disappoint you, it fills up, but makes sure to leave you wanting more.

Post by competition winner AmieSalmon

Publisher: Bloomsbury
Publication Date: April 2000
Format: Paperback
Pages: 317
Genre: Magic, Adventure
Age: Middle Grade
Reviewer: Guest Reviewer
Source: Own Copy
Challenge: N/A
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Far From The War

Jeffrey David Payne

Economic ruin and partisan rancor have pushed America to the brink of a new civil war. Esther is caught in the middle, serving as a page in the United States House of Representatives when rogue politicians and military leaders stage a modern day coup d’etat. When the coup turns violent, she abandons Washington, D.C. for home. She must learn to survive on her own as transportation and financial networks fail, as the war disrupts food and water supplies. The result is a cautionary tale about political extremism and the true cost of war.

With little understanding of American politics I found the initial portion of the book slow paced and at times perplexing. This back ground is essential however, as it places our protagonist in a unique position to witness the growing political unrest first hand. Once war is declared the pace builds quickly and the resulting story is impossible to put down as my red rimmed, sleep deprived eyes can testify.

Esther is a complex and flawed character, a combination of determined political ambition and idealistic naivety. I didn’t immediately warm to Esther; at times she was proud and superior and I particularly disliked the dismissive manner in which she spoke to her parents. But she is also exceptionally patient, open and honest to a fault. She has a remarkably well developed vocabulary, beyond anything I was capable of at eighteen or even now. I have to be honest that I needed to utilise the dictionary feature of my Kindle on more than one occasion!

But Ester is not your average teen. She is a gifted student who has been selected from thousands of applicants to undertake the once in a lifetime opportunity to serve as a republican intern in the United States House of Representatives. Initially desperate to leave home and experience all her internship has to offer, Esther is quickly disillusioned with the page program and the senators she had previously admired and aspired to be like.

The turning point in our character’s development, and my relationship with her, came when she had to choose between her future political career and her integrity. From that point on she displays amazing mental and later physical resilience as she fights her own battle to survive the war and make it back home.

Unlike other dystopian stories I have read, Far from the war is set in fairly contemporary America. This is the story that bridges the gap between society as we know it and the warped Utopian visions and dystopian societies of futurist fiction. There are no fantastical technologies or extreme societal rules allowing you to maintain a degree of detachment. While the violence is not gratuitous, it is harder hitting for its realism and as such I would recommend that those with a sensitive disposition proceed with caution.

Verdict: I urge you to persevere with this book as following the slow burn of trilogy scene setting, you will be rewarded with a devastatingly realistic dystopian journey through modern war torn America that will leave you thoughtful, and just a touch nervous.

Parental Note: Contains realistic depictions of war including: dead bodies, graphic injuries, murder, rape and the destruction of cities.
Reviewed by Caroline

Publisher: Roche Harbour Books
Publication Date: July 2011
Format: eBook
Pages: 653KB
Genre: Contemporary, Action
Age: YA
Reviewer: Caroline
Source: Provided by publisher
Challenge: Debut Author
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Alpha Force: Rat-Catcher

Chris Ryan

The elite young SAS team sees action in a South American operation to catch a drug baron, where their individual skills are tested to the max.

The second book in the Alpha Force series ‘Rat Catcher’ is a great story which takes Alpha Force to South America where they find themselves only seconds from death in the mountains of Chile. The story has many twists and turns. The team encounter both a dangerous drugs dealer and a young street boy who they learn to trust and who is able to help rescue them when they find themselves in trouble.

Verdict:This amazing book is full of tension and suspense. I couldn’t put it down.

Reviewed by Jack (11)

Publisher: Red Fox
Publication Date: June 2004
Format: Paperback
Pages: 272
Genre: Action, Adventure
Age: Middle Grade
Reviewer: Jack (11)
Source: Own Copy
Challenge: N/A
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Survival

Chris Ryan>

Five kids: Alex, Li, Paulo, Hex and Amber bond on board a sailing ship. When they are marooned on a desert island, they must face the ultimate test — survival! The team is born.

Survival is the first book in the Alpha Force series by Chris Ryan. A team of five teenagers find themselves washed up on a deserted island after drifting away on a little boat that was ‘supposed’ to stay attached to The Phoenix, a yacht. All they have to do is survive blood poisoning, killer komodo’s, deadly sharks and a gang of pirates (nothing too hard!). I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It will hold your attention and will stop you getting your homework done!

Verdict: I would really recommend reading this exciting action packed book.

Reviewed by Jack (11)

Publisher: Red Fox
Publication Date: June 2004
Format: Paperback
Pages: 304
Genre: Action
Age: Middle Grade
Reviewer: Jack (11)
Source: Own Copy
Challenge: N/A
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