Sunday, November 30, 2014

Kill Order by James Dashner

This prequel to The Maze Runner really had my attention. In fact I found it a more enjoyable read than the  original trilogy. It is set thirteen years prior to the cage landing in The Glade which introduced the reader to the original dystopian novel. I certainly feel closer to Mark and Alec than I did the majority of the characters in The Maze Runner with the exception of maybe Chuck because the main focus of the narration is for the major part on these two alone. Life in the solar flare-ridden pre-maze adventure beginning in the tunnels under  New York really draws the reader in. Mark, Trina and soldiers Alec and Lana survive a dismal existence in the city after the Sun Flares, and the ensuing tsunami  which leave them stranded in a sky scraper. After two weeks they endeavour to make their way to safer territory in the Appalacian Mountains of Northern Carolina. The novel is narrated on two levels, in that these first challenges and battles they face against the Sun Flares are interwoven as dreams relived by Mark within the present (one year on) where the main characters have to deal with the  ravages of the virus the Flare which has been released on the surviving population by an elite group playing God. The remaining world's population turns on itself and Alec and Mark must make some serious decisions and question their own humanity in order to survive and rescue friends. I look forward to Dashner's proposed novel which will provide the final link between this plot line and The Maze Runner triolgy

Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Eye of Minds by James Dashner

True to James Dashner-style, this is a fast moving novel. It is a cyberpunk thriller which is set in the future in the virtual gaming world. It follows three teenage hackers, Michael, Bryson and Sarah, as they search for rogue "gamer" Kaine who is holding people hostage online in "the Sleep"  (a virtual reality known as VirtNet) as well as harming them in "the Wake" (the real world.) One criticism of the novel is that it is hard to find a real connection with the characters and to be able empathize with them and both their situation and losses due to the fact that the plot drives the action rather than the characters who are only developed in a shallow way. Any ideas formed about the characters has to be arrived at only through their dialogue and actions in the games they play in order to track down the ever-elusive Kaine.  Maybe this is intentional given one of the major twists near the end when the reader discovers something rather disturbing. The characters determinedly trek along the Path through a very bloody war game, a surreal  Alice in Wonderland-like setting and a volcanic landscape as they endeavour to reach the Hallowed Ravine. The futuristic language such as EarCuffs, Tangents, NewsBops, KillSimms, and so on will be a draw card for readers along with Dashner's refreshing use of similes. I really enjoy his books and recommend them to the more sophisticated and mature readers in my classroom. This novel has many twists and turns and the chapter headings (Through the Floor, Three Devils, The Floating Desk etc. ) are another interesting dimension to the story line.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Anna's Dream House by Jean Paul Leclerq and Marie-José Sacré

Anna has always wanted a real home after so many of years of roving the country roads with her dad in their Gypsy wagon. One day they chance upon an abandoned house and decide to spend the night there.  Anna finds a mysterious old picture in a decorated frame and takes a liking to "Mr Moustache" as she names the man in the picture. That night she dreams and all the furniture comes to life. The man in the frame tells her the story about the carpenter and his wife who in earlier days created house in which every room was filled with joy and sunshine. Then came the sad day when they died and a stranger entered the house and everything suddenly changed. 

This is a simple but  beautiful and moving story  which I used to to teach a successful lesson on punctuation to upper primary students. The illustrations by Belgium illustrator Marie-José Sacré are bold , captivating and add to the surreal dream aspect of the book. This first Australian edition did not disappoint me and the kids seemed interested enough.The loved the fact that the complexion of some of the characters were sometimes green and sometimes flesh-coloured.

Crazy Book of Sick Jokes with Glen Singleton

Well I must say that this Crazy Book of Sick Jokes really lives up to its name. A few had me wincing at their political incorrectness...but I know the students will find them funny. Some are even disturbing, especially the "Mummy, Mummy" jokes. It has all the classic "Doctor Doctor" jokes, some witty waiter ones as well as many riddles. There is a smattering of vampire jokes and cannibal jokes as well. Below are a few of the inclusions in the book.

Mummy, Mummy, can I play with Rover"
We've already dug him up three times this week.

Mummy, Mummy, Dad's going out.
Shut up and throw more petrol on him.

Why did piglet look in the toilet?
He was looking for Pooh.

What did the cannibal say when he was full?
"I couldn't eat another mortal."

Doctor, doctor, I keep thinking I'm a dog.
Well, get up on this couch and I'll examine you.
I can't I'm not allowed on the furniture.

Happy reading.