Wednesday, June 21st, 2017

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Extras (Uglies Book 4)

Title: Extras (Uglies)
Author: Scott Westerfield
Primary Audience/age group: Young Adult, 15+
Genre: Science Fiction
# Of pages: 448
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Year of Release: 2007
Part of a Series? Yes, 4 of 4
Rating: 3 (View Scale)
Recommend? Yes but with reservationsRead Reviews of Uglies (Book 1), Pretties (Book 2) and Specials (Book 3)Description: From Amazon: It’s a few years after rebel Tally Youngblood took down the uglies/pretties/specials regime. Without those strict roles and rules, the world is in a complete cultural renaissance. “Tech-heads” flaunt their latest gadgets, “kickers” spread gossip and trends, and “surge monkeys” are hooked on extreme plastic surgery. And it’s all monitored on a bazillion different cameras. The world is like a gigantic game of American Idol. Whoever is getting the most buzz gets the most votes. Popularity rules.

As if being fifteen doesn’t s*ck enough, Aya Fuse’s rank of 451,369 is so low, she’s a total nobody. An extra. But Aya doesn’t care; she just wants to lie low with her drone, Moggle. And maybe kick a good story for herself.

Then Aya meets a clique of girls who pull crazy tricks, yet are deeply secretive of it. Aya wants desperately to kick their story, to show everyone how intensely cool the Sly Girls are. But doing so would propel her out of extra-land and into the world of fame, celebrity…and extreme danger. A world she’s not prepared for.

Review: My preference is always for sequels that continue with the same characters that Ive grown to love. But, even with the new heroine, Aya, the story is still engaging. Westerfield gives you just enough of the same setting to draw you back into the story once again but continues the plot down a different path. Aya is living in the world that Tally left. Tally gave people a choice, yet the choices Aya seems to want to make are shallow at best. Aya has to learn for herself that the benefits of beauty and popularity arent always what they seem.

Rating: 3 for teenage alcohol use

Positive: All Aya seems to care about is fame, otherwise known as face rank in the book, but there are several opposing characters that allow her to see fame isnt everything.

Spiritual Elements: One mention of fate

Violence: The violence is very mild.

Language: No strong language other than the word cr*p used about 10 times.

Sexual Content: Three fairly mild kisses

Other: There are about three mentions of alcohol being present at parties, one in which Aya, who is 15, drinks a glass of champagne.

Aya lies in order to aid herself in becoming famous but reaps the consequences of her actions.

Recommendation: Again, my biggest concern is teenage alcohol use. Compared to books 2 (Pretties) and 3 (Specials), the alcohol use is fairly tame. And if youve allowed your child to read the other books, this one would certainly not be a problem. If underage drinking is a big concern with your teen, this series may not be the best choice. However, Extras is the tamest overall of the four book series.

Im not sure why I didnt mention these in the other reviews, maybe the themes really only hit me while reading this book. It seems as though the main female characters only change for the better once they are in a relationship with a young man. This may be something you would want to discuss with your daughter. Also, as with a lot of sci-fi books and movies, evolution is briefly mentioned in the books and is apart of the setting.

The Ruins of Gorlan (The Rangers Apprentice, Book 1)

Title: The Ruins of Gorlan (The Ranger’s Apprentice, Book 1)
Author: John Flanagan
Primary Audience/age group: 10+
Genre: Fantasy
# Of pages: 272
Publisher: Puffin
Year of Release: 2006
Part of a Series? Yes. 1 of 8, though not all released in the U.S.
Rating: 4 View Scale
Recommend? Highly

Description: (From School Library Journal)Will hopes to become a knight; instead, he winds up as a Ranger’s apprentice, joining the secretive corps that uses stealth, woodcraft, and courage to protect the kingdom. His aptitude and bravery gradually earn the respect of his gruff but good-hearted master. When the kingdom is attacked by evil magic forces, Will helps track down and defeat a couple of particularly nasty beasts.

Review: Well done story emphasizing the chance for anyone to be a hero. Written by a father with his son as the first audience you can see the value placed on strong relationships between adults and youths (something lacking in much of YA literature). The story tracks Will’s training closely and the other student in knight-school almost as much. You can tell Flanagan has done his homework, but his reserch (and/orexperience) never is the focus– always the characters. Excellent mix of action and understanding throughout.

Rating: 4. It might be a 5, but that would depend on ones definition of mild violence ;o) So well go with a 4.

Positive: The relationship between Will and his mentor is one of utmost respect. All the adult authority figures are worthy of their posts and guide their young charges well.
(Spoiler:) Rivals become friends and supporters of one another in danger.

Spiritual Elements: None I remember

Violence: A wild boar hunt, and (Spoiler:) the burning of bear-like assassins.
Horace takes non-lethal revenge on the bullies tormenting him.

Language: D*** might be here somewhere. I know I saw them in book 2.

Sexual Content: A single kiss at the end. Rather chaste and out of the blue, in a manner of speaking.

Recommendation: Highly recommended, both because of the emphasis on friendship across type (a knight and a ranger in this case), and the value placed on intergenerational cooperation and respect. These both require more focused writing than cheap shots at cardboard jerks or authority figures more foolish than the children whose lives they are making miserable. This is a series I am very eager to peruse further.

The Healer’s Keep

Title: The Healer’s Keep
Author: Victory Hanley
Primary Audience/age group: 15 +
Genre: Fantasy
# Of pages: 384 (depending on ed.)
Publisher: Laurel Leaf (PB) and Holiday House (HB)
Year of Release: 2002
Part of a Series? No, but the author has several books set in the same world, and overlapping characters between books.
Rating: 3 for violence (View Scale)
Recommend? Yes, highly (It is unlikely that kids used to modern PG-13 movies will be traumatized by the violence or situations in this book)Description: Healers-in-training Dorjan and the disguised Princess Sara possess uncommon gifts within the Healers Keep. In their dreams they visit one another and battle evil with the help of a gifted slave girl theyve never met. When danger and accusation drive Dorjan and Sara from the Keep, they set out to rescue the slave, not knowing she has already taken her freedom and is trying to avoid re-capture.

When the three gifted young-people meet they learn how much each of their gifts are needed, both to hold their physical world together and to keep Saras parents, the king and queen, from dying.

Review: I was very impressed at the authors ability to keep the multitude of characters unique from each other and use each one to advance the plot. There were points of action that were mystical, and others that were based very solidly in the physical world. All throughout I felt confident the author knew what she was doing and never doubted she could make the best come out of a bad situation.

Rating: 3 for the violence and the plain-speaking implication of what beautiful slave-girls could be used for. It is not dwelt on, but it highlights a main characters danger and clarifies her motivations.

This is definitely a 15+ book. The casual (though never condoned) assumption of violence, and intensity of action, along with the emotional manipulation of a female character early in the story skew this solidly to an older audience.

Positive: A good representation of the benefits of mutual interdependence. No one has the arrogance to assume they are sufficient in themselves, gifts complement one another. An emphasis on mercy and the use of non-violent solutions when possible. The good men are honorable in all their interaction with the ladies dear to them, and the slave risks her own freedom to bring along an endangered 8-year-old when she escapes.

Spiritual Elements: There are references to God and prayer, but not in the relational sense we know Him.

A discussion and experimental use of gen takes up most of one class in the Keep. Its description makes it sound at first as though the author is trying to appropriate the idea of chi (life-force energy), but the weirdness wears off when you see its an effort to describe where magic comes from. (A fair effort in a fantasy book, since magic is a core element.)

There is also a near-death experience where a character must choose where she will go, and an afterlife scene where one character gives over the rest of her life to extend someone elses.

Violence: Disturbing, but not gratuitous. Most is to emphasize the savagery of the evil characters (one orders a decapitation) and the location. The slave lives in a barbarous country, illustrated by their various practices, primarily scarring of the face (designating slave or free, married or single, whom a soldier serves) and brandingagain of the face.

Language: I cant remember any strong language, and just now that strikes me as odd, considering the intensity of the evil characters

Sexual Content: The type of scars that designate an (essentially) prostitute slave are mentioned. On the safer side of the world kisses are exchanged and secrets exposed. The foolishness of surrendering them so soon is regretted.

Other: A mind-altering drink plays a significant role.

Recommendation: I highly recommend it for older readers. The themes of loyalty and honor are powerfully portrayed. In this book women can act with power without having to put down or act better than the men around them, so I recommend it as one of few books Ive read that have a healthy approach to male-female relationships. I would urge the parents of <15 to read it themselves to verify its appropriateness because of the intensity.