Airborn (Matt Cruse #1) by Kenneth Oppel


Airborn by Kenneth Oppel

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Genres: YA Adventure, Fantasy, Steampunk

Matt Cruse is a cabin boy on the airship Aurora, a luxury liner ferrying wealthy people from one place to anotherIt’s the life he’s always wanted; his father was a sailmaker and he believes he’s lighter than air. After rescuing a dying old man from a balloon wreck, he is told that there are beautiful creatures in the sky, ones that humans (except him) have never seen before. Skeptical, Matt learns that the man died the next day.

A year later, Kate de Vries goes aboard the Aurora, intending to see what her grandfather saw when he set out on a balloon expedition. Only after befriending her, and surviving a pirate attack can Matt start to believe that what the old man said could be true.

Kenneth Oppel is an amazing writer. I had the pleasure of meeting him a while back at a festival over here, where he was promoting Half Brother, another book of his. Since it was a festival, and he’s a pretty big deal, along with the fact that there were hundreds of people there, I was mainly ignored after he autographed my paper, even after I said that I loved his books. Hurts. Anyway, I read Airborn during Grade 5; it was totally awesome, so I immediately read the second book that I got from the library with Airborn (by the way, “airborn” is not a typo). I freaked out when I found out we didn’t have Starclimber, and it was this huge deal for me because it was like, the big finale where your mind will probably explode of awesomeness. Just saying.

One of the main reasons why I really liked this book was because it was from a guy’s perspective. I haven’t mentioned this before, because I realized it just now. It’s balancing to read from his point of view, because I find that usually in books girls portray things differently than guys do, especially if it’s in first person. I find that usually, if the protagonist is a teen girl living in the present (even if she’s in a paranormal book, as long as she’s a teenager), then the chances are pretty good that there’s going to be a boy introduced sooner or later, or there already is a boy, and she just spends time thinking about him, and other things that are typically on a stereotype-fitting teen girl’s mind. Sometimes it’s good to take a breather from that, and lose yourself in other perspectives.

The plot was great; although since I read it a couple years ago and I read it again recently, I can’t recall exactly when I was surprised. It had all the makings of a great plot. When the book started, it was already exciting, because Matt was on crow’s nest duty, and had sighted the failing hot air balloon. It was also he who had to swing out of the crane in midair, more than a couple thousand feet high. So already then, you’re on the edge of your seat, waiting to see what happens (obviously he makes it; why else would the book be more than 300 pages?). When Mr. Oppel feeds you the plot, everything’s paced excellently. There were no drags, as far as I could tell, and nothing was resolved too quickly and left me unsatisfied. The climax was nail-biting, thrilling, and eye-widening. In relation to other books, the climax was longer, although people could have different thoughts on when it began and ended. Nevertheless, it’s exciting.

Matt and Kate are awesome. Kate is, in my opinion, an awesome role model for girls. She’s headstrong, intelligent, and independent. Sneaky, too; she outwitted her dry chaperone many times in Airborn. Matt is brave, realistic, and ambitious. He doesn’t seem like the perfect hero with no flaws and will save the damsel in distress (like Kate would let him), which is why I like him. He’s also very comfortable in his surroundings, and has always believed that he belonged in the sky. Like I said before, he’s realistic, so he’s got problems of his own, like how he’ll support his mother and sisters home in Lionsgate City (he’s Canadian, and Kate comes from Lionsgate City, too), because his father died on the job and he’s the main breadwinner in the family. A couple times you see that Matt gets jealous of Bruce Lunardi, the son of the owner of the manufacturer of the Aurora, especially since he took the position that Matt wanted, he’s rich, apparently handsome, and he knew Kate before Matt did.

There’s some romance in this book, mainly between Matt and Kate. It’s not really focused on much, because the main plot is different, and I don’t even think that it’s a major subplot. It’s the second one, in my opinion. Mr. Oppel drops hints, though, that Matt likes Kate. I won’t be a spoilsport and tell you what happens in the end, except that they keep in touch.

The setting is really unique. I don’t know if there’s an official word for it, because it seems like it’s in a different universe, where some things have changed, like the fact that airships are there instead of airplanes, there’s a ship called the Titanica, and there are places like Europa, and the some of the oceans are called Atlanticus and Pacificus. It’s familiar, but different at the same time. It’s not a dystopia, or a utopia. Also, you can’t really put a finger on when it happens. All I can figure out is that it’s not in present day, because life seems simpler and it isn’t muddled with the technology that we have today.

Airborn by Kenneth Oppel is an awesome book. If you like steampunk, fantasy and adventure, you will not be disappointed! Airborn will leave you amazed, and if you liked that one, you’ll love Skybreaker and Starclimber! I will definitely review those.

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Book and Movie Review: Flipped by Wendelin Van Draanen


Flipped 

Written by Wendelin Van Draanen, and directed by Rob Reiner

Rating: 9.5 out of 10 ( I know I usually make it out of 5, but I couldn’t manage it now because it was nearly perfect. )

Genres: YA Chick Lit, Coming of Age, Romance

Bryce Loski is the new kid in the neighborhood. Juli Baker’s the only girl in the famiy, and there aren’t any kids her age, until Bryce moves across the street. Juli thinks it’s love at first sight, while Bryce isn’t so sure; especially since it’s second grade. For the next 6 years, Juli chases Bryce, while Bruce runs from Juli. That all changes in the middle of eighth grade, when Bryce finally starts to see that there might be more to Juli than meets the eye. At the same time Juli’s starting to wonder if Bryce really is as wonderful as she thought. Can the girl with the iron backbone and the boy with dazzling blue eyes ever see eye to eye?

I read Flipped a couple years ago. I’m pretty sure that it was one of the best books I read the whole year. The main reason why I read Flipped was because I saw the movie trailer before watching the new Karate Kid movie. I had no clue that it was Flipped, until the end, which was when it got my attention, because I knew that a former teacher of mine had the book.

Anyway, since this book was one of my favourites, I’ll tend to gush about it, but I’ll really try to keep the teenage fangirling to a minimum.

With that said, I’ll start with the things I didn’t like. One thing would be Bryce’s attitude for the first half of the book, which is kind of hard to explain. Basically, I wanted to smack him upside the head.

That’s it. Now for the things that I did like in the book.

First off, the characters. Juli is my favourite. She’s witty, funny and passionate about life. She’s also a bit misunderstood, and her family isn’t exactly well off like the Loskis. She’s extremely smart, and according to Bryce, she’s an annoying know-it-all who hands in her A+ projects early to be used as weapons for the teacher to use against the rest of the class. If she was real, it’d be so awesome for me if she was my best friend.

Bryce is a hard character to talk about. All I can say is that you hate him, then you love him. But I think that’s only because the author makes Juli so likeable and Bryce makes a couple (slightly amusing) mistakes. You can’t help but go on Juli’s side.

The plot of Flipped was very good. There were barely any drags, and everything went smoothly. Bryce and Juli’s transition throughout the years as second graders to eighth graders was also nice, it didn’t seem as there were a lot of holes. There were a couple gaps, like from second grade to sixth grade, where you know nothing except Bryce still avoided Juli and she still really liked him. Other than that, it was fine.

The climax of the story is when everything changes. It was enough to make me worry abut how everytihg was going to turn out, and read as if there was no tomorrow (but that was probably because I had nothing to do the next day).

Also, Ms. Draanen is very desceiptive, and makes the world of Flipped leap off the pages. I sided with Juli for the most part of the book, until the climax, which is when you start suding with Bryce. I really felt for all the characters.

The ending was one of those where it leaves you wanting more. I really wanted it to go on, and I couldn’t believe that it ended there. The thing was, though, I also thought that it couldn’t have ended a better way! I think it might’ve had something to do with the fact that too much of a good thing isn’t that good. But it didn’t end like that, so it was awesome!

Callan McAuliffe (left) as Bryce Loski, and Madeline Carroll (right) as Juli Baker. Best leads ever.

Okay, now about the movie. First, it was really close to the book (plotwise), so that makes it automatically awesome. Next, the casting was very good, and they acted the parts very well. I especially liked Callan McAuliffe, who played Bryce (ahem). Madeline Carroll was excellent as Juli, too.

Also, the soundtrack is excellent, full of 50s classics like “Teenager in Love” by Dion and the Belmonts, and “Chantilly Lace” by Big Bopper.

Also, the movie’s set in the 50s and early 60s (I forgot to mention it earlier). The filmmakers transitioned everything very well from the 90s and early 2000s to that era. It made it seem better, in some aspects, because everything was so much simpler then, what with TVs with antennas that you had to fix to get the right channel (and no TV remotes! How did they survive?!) and no computers! So there were less distractions. Everything also seemed authentic; the clothing, mannerisms and technology clearly belonged to the fifties and sixties.

All in all, Flipped, both as a book and a movie, was excellent. I’d really recommended, especially if you like coming of age, he-said-she-said teen romances.

Edit: They have a movie website, too: flipped-movie.warnerbros.com/dvd/. I’ve checked it out myself, even back when it was promoting it in theatres (basically September 2011). It’ll play the trailer automatically when you visit the site.

This Dark Endeavor (The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein #1) by Kenneth Oppel


This Dark Endeavor (The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein #1) by Kenneth Oppel

Rating: 4 out of 5

Genres: YA Adventure, Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Horror, Romance, Sci-fi

Victor and Konrad Frankenstein are two inseparable 16 year old twin brothers who live in the Gothic and imposing Chateau Frankenstein. Along with their cousin Elizabeth and their friend Henry, they’ve explored every unknown passage and room in the Chateau. But they’ve left out one: The Dark Library. It has forbidden books written in ancient languages, filled with dangerous information. When their father finds out, they’re banned from returning there. 

When Konrad becomes gravely ill, Victor knows he has to find the fabled Elixir of Life’s recipe in The Dark Library. It needs only 3 ingredients, but there are plenty of challenges to threaten the fulfillment of their search. Victor can’t lose. But everything relies on how far he’s willing to push the limits.

I found that This Dark Endeavor was an extremely well-written book. Of course, I have to say I expected as much, because it’s the work of Kenneth Oppel, who wrote the Airborn trilogy (which I loved. Just saying). Initially, I was slightly hesitant to read it, as it is the prequel of Frankenstein. If you’ve seen my “About the Blog” page, then you’d probably know that horror isn’t one of my favourite genres. Regardless, I quickly got pulled into the story.

There are a lot of things that I like about This Dark Endeavor. The first thing would be the plot. Right off the bat, it was exciting, eye-widening, and had me thinking, “Wow.” After I felt relieved since it was just a play, Mr. Oppel pulls in another problem like a 1-2 punch. I think that it was a good tactic for absorbing the reader into the book.

The rest of the plot was also great to read. There were a lot of really thrilling parts, but even the slightly toned down points were exciting. The story was paced well; things didn’t seem to be resolved or over with too quickly, and there were no drags that made me read faster just so that part could be done.

The characters were well-developed, too. Of course I can’t rightfully compare them with their adult counterparts, as I’ve never read the actual Frankenstein. I liked how Mr. Oppel “showed” their back-stories, along with everything else, and didn’t just dump it all at once. I liked Elizabeth especially, because she was strong willed, rather fiery, independent, and she managed to hold out against Victor, for the most part. Victor, to me, seemed slightly unlikeable and rude, but I think that’s just how the author was trying to show him.

I also felt that the love triangle between Elizabeth, Victor and Konrad was a bit weird. I think it’s because Konrad was out of the picture a lot, since he was, you know, deathly ill most of the time, and Victor was trying to make Elizabeth love him even though he knew that she loved Konrad. Victor was rather forward when he was with Elizabeth. At times it didn’t really seem like a real love triangle.

Usually I don’t mention this in my reviews, but I feel like I need to in this one. There are two covers for This Dark Endeavor. One of them has a short haired, black-overcoat-wearing Victor seen through a key hole, and the other cover has an older looking Victor with long hair, standing in front of a couple buildings in what I assume to be is Geneva, and he’s not wearing an overcoat. Personally, I prefer the cover with the keyhole. Victor seems like he really is sixteen there.

And two other things: This Dark Endeavor is in talks to be made into a movie by the same people who made Twilight. Also, it’s going to have a sequel, Such Wicked Intent, which is releasing on August 21 this year. I’ve mentioned this before, because it’s on my “Books to Read” post.

Overall, I found This Dark Endeavor by Kenneth Oppel to be a highly enjoyable book, filled with action, suspense and romance. It will delight almost anyone, even non-horror fans. I liked it very much, and I hope that you will to, if you decide to read it. 🙂

Thanks to Kenneth Oppel, goodreads.com, Chapters and Google images

The Gathering Storm (The Katerina Trilogy #1) by Robin Bridges


The Gathering Storm (The Katerina Trilogy #1) by Robin Bridges

Genres: YA Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Paranormal, Supernatural, Romance

Rating: 4 out of 5

As Katerina lives the life of a young Russian aristocrat in the late 19th century, she tries to hide a dark and terrible secret: she can raise the dead. Nobody knows about it, until she raises a moth from the dead in the presence of the tsarevich and the daughters of King Nikola of Montenegro. Some people would call it a gift; she considers it a curse.

There is evil present among the bloodlines of the royal family, and threatens to take over .Soon, her necromancer powers attract unwanted attention from different sources, 2 of them being the gallant Crown Prince Danilo of Montenegro, and the tsar’s haughty middle son George Alexandrovich, who needs her help to protect Russia even if he is disturbed by her power. In order to keep Russia safe, Katerina must accept the powers she’s been fighting against her whole life. She is considered very powerful by both the Dark Court and the Light Court. It all matters as to which side she chooses, and who she chooses.

Initially I was reluctant to read this book, because it has a necromancer, and I didn’t finish the last book I read which had a necromancer. However, I was intrigued by the time period and the characters (the late imperial period in Russia is one of my favourite eras), so I decided to give it a shot.

This book has many strong points: the well-moving plot, the historically correct facts (yes, it’s true), the settings, and the mix of old and new in the Russia of the late 1800s. It’s filled with folklore and legends of old, yet there are signs that it’s “modern”.

The plot was really fantastic. It moved well. At first, it might seem a bit slow, because the first part of the first chapter has Katerina getting ready for a ball. However, that starts all the action in the story. One little thing led to another, slightly bigger problem plot point, and the story never really lets up or slows down until the end. It’s very well paced, nothing seems rushed, unless it was meant to be rushed, and nothing seems too slow and boring.

The author, Robin Bridges, put a lot of research into this book. It seemed as if I was actually in Russia, as the settings are real, and most of the people really lived. The descriptions of the places, though, seemed to be a bit lacking, because she didn’t really describe them that well, but left you to imagine grandness and elegance of the places. It worked somewhat, as it goes into “Show, don’t tell.”, which is good. When she’s wasn’t describing the mythical and paranormal aspects of the book, the real-life elements seemed to ring true.

The fantasy and horror parts of The Gathering Storm were well established, too. This was really important to me, because all the fantastical creatures played a rather large part in the book. There was a good amount of variety in them, and they weren’t just focused on one type of supernatural creature, like werewolves or vampires or something else falling into that category.

Lastly, the romance. This is a rather tough part to review about, because it’s very pivotal in the book, but I don’t want to give away any spoilers. In the summary, it seems as if Katerina’s caught between Prince Danilo and George Alexandrovich. Both are interesting characters in the book, but it seems that more is revealed about Prince Danilo than about George. In the beginning, it seems that Danilo is more into Katerina’s favour than George, but as the book goes on it’s all twisted. It’s very hard for me to describe…but since I can’t I guess you’ll just have to read the book! 😀

In my opinion, The Gathering Storm by Robin Bridges is a very good book. I’d recommend it for anyone, it has a bit of everything in it; romance, the supernatural, quite a lot of history (but not so much that it’s overwhelming), and some battles. If you read it, I hope you liked it as much as I did.

Thanks to Robin Bridges, and Google Images