Saturday, July 6, 2013

Review: The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex

Source: Library

Reading Level: MG

Publication Date: October 2007

Short SynopsisIt all starts with a school essay. 

When twelve-year-old Gratuity ("Tip") Tucci is assigned to write five pages on "The True Meaning of Smekday" for the National Time Capsule contest, she's not sure where to begin. When her mom started telling everyone about the messages aliens were sending through a mole on the back of her neck? Maybe on Christmas Eve, when huge, bizarre spaceships descended on the Earth and the aliens called Boov abducted her mother? Or when the Boov declared Earth a colony, renamed it "Smekland" (in honor of glorious Captain Smek), and forced all Americans to relocate to Florida via rocketpod? 

In any case, Gratuity's story is much, much bigger than the assignment. It involves her unlikely friendship with a renegade Boov mechanic named J.Lo.; a futile journey south to find Gratuity's mother at the Happy Mouse Kingdom; a cross-country road trip in a hovercar called Slushious; and an outrageous plan to save the Earth from yet another alien invasion. 

Fully illustrated with "photos," drawings, newspaper clippings, and comics sequences, this is a hilarious, perceptive, genre-bending novel by a remarkable new talent.

My Review: This one flew under my radar completely when it came out. True, I wasn't really into the blogging world yet, but all the same.

When I did find out about it, I wasn't sure if I wanted to read it. I don't know what it was about it, but there you have it. I saw a lot of really good reviews, though, so decided to give it a try and it ended up being not half bad! I thought that Tip was an amazingly spunky character and a great narrator. She was courageous but true to form (she beats up an alien, since her mom has been taken and her plant invaded...and then befriends him, cause he's a really really nice alien...which to me seemed like the things a real kid would do).

What I found odd about this book was that there was all of this destruction and death and loss, and even though it's in there, it doesn't feel uber depressing. I would read something, say parts of buildings vanishing, and then just continue on, and then my brain would process it and be like, "no wait! People just died! How can you be ok with that?" I don't know how this book got away with it, but as a kid reading it, you might not pick up on it at all. As an adult, I knew what was happening, but only when I thought really hard about it. It was weird. Not weird bad, but just odd.

J.Lo would have to have been my most favorite character. He's in a tough situation (being one of the invading aliens) but really makes the most of it. Adorable would be another good word to describe him.

The reason this is only getting 3 stars is the above stated oddness with how much bad stuff happens but 'not' (it doesn't gloss just doesn't stick), as well as the last half of the book wasn't nearly as interesting as I thought it was going to be. It all ended up being kind of a let down. Good stuff happens, great actually, but it was just kind of like 'yeah, so it's over'. Not necessarily skimming the details (though there was a bit of that) but more along the lines of it wasn't that important (kind of like the death and destruction in the first half of it) and so not a lot of detail went into it.

The drawings were a real delight though. They helped in picturing the circumstances as well as seeing more into the characters, so that part was fantastic.

Ah! epiphany time! This was book was written from the point of view of an eleven year old (as a school essay) and since it is from the point of view of an eleven year old that type of focus (on rebuilding, death, destruction, etc) isn't given. Well...that more positively disposes me towards this...but all the same. I didn't love the book, just liked it.

The best thing to come out of this book though (and I say this in all honesty) is Tip named her car (her special alien modified floating car)


Most awesome car name EVER!! I am naming my next car that, watch if I don't!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Review: Ender's Game (Ender's Saga #1) by Orson Scott Card

Source: Own

Reading Level: YA (though the protagonist is young, under 12 for most of the book, there are mature elements to the story - fighting, bullying, violence, death - but not overly so)

Short SynopsisIn 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. 
Ender's Game is the winner of the 1985 Nebula Award for Best Novel and the 1986 Hugo Award for Best Novel.

My Review: Ender's Game is the first real SciFi book I can remember reading.

It was amazing.

To this day it is still one of my most favorite books. I have yet to read the rest of the series, but this first one is phenomenal.

(confession though, I may like Ender's Shadow just a teensy bit more because it tells how things happened behind the scenes and Bean is a great character. That's how it was at least the first time through. We'll see about with the re-read. I do know that they are both amazing books regardless).

It's hard to go into any detail. The world building is all inclusive, the characters, even the side ones that we don't know that much about, have incredible depth. A very immersive and incredible reading experience.

From what I can tell on the periphery, there has been some issue with the amount of violence in the book. I never thought of it as too much, or even too in your face. It didn't feel out of place and I don't think it sets a bad example. Humans, even little kids, don't always make the right choices (Lord of the Flies), so this type of thing is bound to happen. It can present an example of how to deal with it, or how not to, as the case may be.

One of my most favorite things about the book is our introduction to the Battle Room. I WANT TO GO THERE SO BAD! It sounds like the ultimate game of laser tag, added in with strategy and weightlessness and I dream about it...I really do. *sigh*

I've been wanting this to be made into a movie for the longest time too. I thought that the little kid from the Sixth Sense (Haley Joel Osmint) would have been perfect for the role. That ship sailed long ago, but looking at the special effects that they have for this, I'm actually kind of glad that it has taken so long as the movie making capabilities have been refined to truly make something that looks like it will be spectacular.

At first I was upset that they were going to be using older kids for the characters. Part of what makes Ender's Game so amazing is that it is little kids that are in charge of saving the universe, that have to grow up and be on their own, with no one there to love them or protect them, but to only see how far they can be pushed. It doesn't have the same effect with kids that are getting into Teenage Mode. I still think it will be a good movie, and the special effects, as stated above, look amazing!, but the two will be somewhat separate in my mind.

Overall, an 'out of this world' (yeah, I went there) book that I recommend whole-heartedly. A great example of the science fiction genre, but one that fans of anything can still enjoy. 

For your viewing, and convincing, pleasure, the trailer:


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