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Thursday, December 27, 2012

20 Questions: My Year in Books: 2012

Since the end of the year is coming up, it's time to do all the end-of-year top tens and stats and questions.  Since I like the yearly book questionnaires, here's one I made myself.  You can also participate in this one, if you want.  Click here to find out how. we go!

  1. Best book of 2012?  This has not yet been determined.  There is a complex mathematical formula that I use to figure this out.  Okay, not really, but I want to save this one for the Top Ten post.  I know for sure, though, that it'll be one of these booksIt's been determined.  It's in this post.
  2. Least favorite? The Cup of the WorldIt's actually the only book that got a one star rating out of me in 2012.  Probably because I disliked the main character so much that I actually wanted the bad guys to win.  I want my four hours back.
  3. Favorite cover?                                                                I love both of these covers.  The one for The Ask and the Answer is quite mysterious.  The one for Witchlanders is prettier in real life than it is on a screen--trust me.
  4. Most eagerly awaited book?  This one is a three-way tie.  I waited over a year for both The Crimson Crown and Fear, but I waited for The Last Guardian since 2010.  I awaited The Last Guardian especially eagerly because it was the finale to a series I've loved since elementary school.
  5. Favorite new series you discovered in 2012?  Another tie.  This time it's between A Song of Ice and Fire and the Matt Cruse series, both of which I can't believe I waited until 2012 to read.  aSoIaF is wonderfully massive and complex, and the Matt Cruse series is just so much fun to read.
  6. Most disappointing book?  I have pretty much the same feelings for both Throne of Glass and Defiance.  Both promised to be exciting, thrilling high fantasy novels, but neither lived up to the hype.  I was bored while reading both of them, and neither really did anything for me.  I didn't hate either of them, but I had wanted them to be so much better.
  7. The book you expected not to like but were pleasantly surprised?  I was wary of Voices of DragonsI had read another book by the same author last year, and was not impressed at all.  Voices of Dragons, then, surprised me.  I really enjoyed it!  Also, it had dragons, which wins points with me.  Another positive point is the deliberate lack of insta-love.  The heroine, Kay, is in a relationship, but she says multiple times that she does not want instant love.  That is a true rarity in YA books and I was very happy with it.
  8. Book you recommended most often?  Eon: Dragoneye RebornRunners-up were The Book Thief, The Maze Runner, and The Merchant of Death.
  9. Freebie! (Favorite quote, favorite scene, etc.)  Favorite book-related amusing picture?                                   
  10. Best review you wrote in 2012?  The Crimson CrownI used a few GIFs to get my point across.  I'm rather fond of it.
  11. Book that had the most impact on you? Every Day.  It's such a beautiful exploration of love and identity.  It's simple and complex at the same time, and makes a pretty powerful statement.
  12. Most emotional book (for you, or the characters, or both)?  The Last Guardian.  The ending is quite emotional, of course.  Perfectly wonderful, but there's still an "EOIN COLFER, WHAT ARE YOU DOING?" moment, right before the giant "Awww, that's so cute!" moment.  It's also a bit emotional for me because I've been reading this series since I was in fifth grade.  This series has been with me more than half my school years, and it's so sad to see it end!    
  13. Best of genres:
    1. Fantasy? Witchlanders or The Crimson Crown (with A Game of Thrones a close runner-up)
    2. Sci-fi?  Starclimber
    3. Dystopian? The Ask and the Answer, Fear, or The Drowned CitiesIt's hard to pick just one for each category.  It's not going to happen.
    4. Realistic/Contemporary? I'm not sure Every Day counts as "realistic", but it's close enough, and it's a tough book to classify.
    5. Historical?  Icefall.
    6. Paranormal? The Blood.
    7. Other?  I haven't mentioned Passenger yet, so I'll name it here.
  14. Book that didn't quite live up to the hype?  Grave Mercy and Under the Never SkyNeither really did anything for me, but they've gotten high praise this year.  Especially Grave Mercy, which everyone but me seems to love.
  15. Most gorgeously written book?  Every Day was beautiful of course, and Icefall also had a gorgeous simplicity in the narration.  The Night Circus also deserves mention, as well as the Chaos Walking series.
  16. Most shocking scene? (Mark all spoilers!)  Spoilers abound in this paragraph, for Starclimber and Monsters of Men.  First, in Starclimber, there's that scene where first Matt isn't picked to go to space, and I was freaking out.  How could there be so much buildup about him going to space and then he doesn't get to go.  What?  And then Kate is engaged to some guy that isn't Matt?  Why?  Of course, both these things are not what they seem, as we find out later in the book.  There's also that part at the end of Monsters of Men where you think everything's all wrapped up until Todd gets shot and you think he's going to die and you're freaking out because how could Todd die at the end?
  17. Best character?  Again, I can't pick just one, so I'll name a few.  Arya StarkMatt Cruse.  Cole St. ClairMarshall SeaverSage.
  18. Book you can't believe you didn't read until 2012?  A Game of Thrones.
  19. Book you never got around to reading in 2012 but will definitely read it in 2013?  Code Name Verity, The Poison Throne, Monument 14, Falling Kingdoms, and more.
  20. Book you are most excited for in 2013?  Light!  Gone series finale, here we come!
Stay tuned for the Top Ten post!
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Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Battle for Skandia (Ranger's Apprentice #4) by John Flanagan

Still far from their homeland after escaping slavery in the icebound land of Skandia, Will and Evanlyn's plans to return to Araluen are spoiled when Evanlyn is taken captive by a Temujai warrior. Though still weakened by the warmweed's toxic effects, Will employs his Ranger training to locate his friend, but an enemy scouting party has him fatally outnumbered. Will is certain death is close at hand, until Halt and Horace make a daring, last-minute rescue. The reunion is cut short, however, when Halt makes a horrifying discovery: Skandia's borders have been breached by the entire Temujai army. And Araluen is next in their sights. If two kingdoms are to be saved, an unlikely union must be made. Will it hold long enough to vanquish a ruthless new enemy? Or will past tensions spell doom for all? The battles and drama are nonstop in Book Four of this hugely popular epic.
Released: March 18th 2008          Pages: 272
Publisher: Philomel                     Source: Library

For starters: the American cover.  Bleh.  I don't like it.  I get it that Erak is a big part of this book, but let's face it...he's not very attractive.  Plus, there's something weird about the picture that just seems off.  I can't put my finger on what, but it just looks wrong.  The UK cover (to the right) is much more pleasant to look at.  And it has a cooler title.

Now to the actual content of the book.  So far, there's nothing about this series that I love, nothing that jumps out at me as super awesome or fantastic.  That being said, I did enjoy reading this, as with the other books in the series. 

Will is likable, but he's also an idiot sometimes.  Exhibit A: Evanlyn is having Eowyn-esque angst over the fact that she can't fight because she's a girl.  She asks Will to give her some archery lessons.  Will says no.  Um...what?  Will, do you not know a golden opportunity when it's staring you in the face?  Think about it.  If a pretty girl--a princess, no less--asks you for archery lessons, you say yes.  Especially if you have a crush on her (oh, don't deny it, he totally does).  Especially if you're worried Horace might also be interested in her.  Archery lessons would have given Will plenty of excuses to spend lots of time with her, and if he wanted to, he could pull some sort of sneaky, cheesy trick of putting his arms around her "to show her how to hold the bow".  And anyway, girls can fight, too!

Speaking of Horace...I wish he had more depth.  He's always so content to let will do the thinking.  I wish he could be less of a mindless fighter and have more personality.  However, I do like the aspect of his moral code, and the kind of person that makes him.

And then, Halt.  I love Halt.  Probably because he reminds me of Brom.  I think I've already said that in my other reviews, but it's true.  My mental picture of Halt is just a picture of Brom, but shorter.

You know who never made an appearance in this book? Gilan. This disappointed me a little--I hope he comes back into the story soon!

Overall, I like how this series is progressing.  I hope that pattern will continue throughout the series.  I'll be reading the sequels, for sure.  This would be a great book for someone who is into high fantasy but not ready for something like Game of Thrones, or even Eragon.  Recommended!

Similar Books: It's for an older audience than Rowan of Rin, but a younger audience than Eragon or A Game of Thrones, though they all share many common elements.  It's much less complex and intense than the Lord of the Rings trilogy.  It also reminds me a little of the Darkest Age trilogy.
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Thursday, December 20, 2012

20 Questions: Your Year in Books

Around this time of year, some people like to recap what they read throughout the past 12 months.  I'm also a fan of this, and quite enjoy doing it.  But sometimes, a Top Ten favorites (though I do like those, too) isn't enough.  What about the books you didn't like, or that amazing scene that you're dying to tell people about?

I've written a list of 20 questions to (hopefully) cover your reading year.  I'll be answering the questions myself in a few days, but for now, here's the list of questions.  Feel free to copy and paste and use them yourself!  (I'd appreciate if you use the button if possible.  There's some code at the bottom of this post that you can copy.)

If you're doing this, let me know in the comments!  Post a link to your post, and I can link back to it from here.  Happy answering!  (We'll see how if anyone uses this...)

  1. Best book of 2012?
  2. Least favorite?
  3. Favorite cover?
  4. Most eagerly awaited book?
  5. Favorite new series you discovered in 2012?
  6. Most disappointing book?
  7. The book you expected not to like but were pleasantly surprised?
  8. Book you recommended most often?
  9. Freebie!  (Favorite quote, favorite scene, best romance, etc.)
  10. Best review you wrote in 2012?
  11. Book that had the most impact on you?
  12. Most emotional book (for you, or the characters, or both)?
  13. Best of genres:
    1. Fantasy?
    2. Sci-fi?
    3. Dystopian?
    4. Realistic/Contemporary?
    5. Historical?
    6. Paranormal?
    7. Other?
  14. Book that didn't quite live up to the hype?
  15. Most gorgeously written book?
  16. Most shocking scene? (Mark all spoilers!)
  17. Best character?
  18. Book you can't believe you didn't read until 2012?
  19. Book you never got around to reading in 2012 but will definitely read it in 2013?
  20. Book you are most excited for in 2013?

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Monday, December 17, 2012

Passive Vs. Active Voice (With Zombies, Of Course!)

No matter what type of writing style you have, passive voice is never a good idea.  It's an enemy that must be vanquished.  You probably have heard it all before--don't use passive voice! 

This begs two obvious questions.  What is passive voice, and why would I want to avoid it?  (Actually, there's also a third question here.  Zombies?  What?  That will come later.)

Passive voice almost always comes with a form of the word "was".  It looks like this:
The ring was destroyed.
Who destroyed the ring?  We don't know.  All we know is that there was a ring, and someone or something destroyed it.

Here's the same sentence, in the active voice (opposite of passive):
Frodo destroyed the ring.
In this sentence, we know who destroyed the precious ring.

Passive voice can also happen with a subject, though, usually indicated with a "by ___" at the end.
Passive: The hobbits were taken to Isengard by orcs.
Active: Orcs took the hobbits to Isengard.
In this case, we know who took the hobbits to Isengard.  These sentences both say the same thing, but using the active voice makes for stronger and more engaging writing.

Here are some more examples of active vs. passive, so you can see the difference:
Passive: The Witch King was killed by Eowyn.
Active: Eowyn killed the Witch King.
Passive: The potatoes were eaten by Sam.
Active: Sam ate the potatoes.

To do a test for passive voice, take any sentence and add "by zombies" to the end of it.  If the sentence makes sense, it's probably passive.  Besides, this can get entertaining, depending on sentence.
Aragorn was attacked.
Aragorn was attacked by zombies

But why would you want to avoid passive voice?  After all, it makes sense, doesn't it? 

It makes sense, but it also makes for weak writing.  Look at the above examples.  The active voice sentences are more focused, less wordy, and more, well, active.  They are more lively and just sound better overall. 

Always use the active voice whenever possible.  Well, okay, there are some occasions where you should probably use the passive voice, but since I just spent this whole post talking about why you shouldn't, we'll save it for later. 

Here is another great article on passive vs. active, if you want to know more.

PS: Yes, all my examples are Lord of the Rings-related.  No, I don't care if you judge me for that. :)
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Friday, December 14, 2012

Under the Never Sky (Under the Never Sky #1) by Veronica Rossi

Exiled from her home, the enclosed city of Reverie, Aria knows her chances of surviving in the outer wasteland - known as The Death Shop - are slim. If the cannibals don't get her, the violent, electrified energy storms will. She's been taught that the very air she breathes can kill her. Then Aria meets an Outsider named Perry. He's wild - a savage - and her only hope of staying alive.

A hunter for his tribe in a merciless landscape, Perry views Aria as sheltered and fragile - everything he would expect from a Dweller. But he needs Aria's help too; she alone holds the key to his redemption. Opposites in nearly every way, Aria and Perry must accept each other to survive. Their unlikely alliance forges a bond that will determine the fate of all who live under the never sky.

Released: January 3rd 2012         Pages:374
Publisher: HarperTeen                Source: Library
First Look: ***** I first heard about this a few months before it came out.  It looked good, then.  The more I let it sit on my to-read shelf, the more my instincts started warning me "You know, you'll probably be disappointed by that".  And the will-I-like-this-book-or-not instinct is almost never wrong.  Especially since I haven't done well with HarperTeen books lately.  But once again, I ignored the instinct. 

Setting: ***** Why?  Why do dystopians do this to me?  Why do authors think they can write about all the dystopian settings they want without explaining why it's a dystopia in the first place?  Ugh.  Some backstory on this setting would've been nice.

There's not much here, in terms of setting, that can't be found in any other YA dystopian.  Tightly controlled totalitarian society?  Earth is now a barren wasteland because of some war/natural disaster much too important to mention in this book?  Check.  Can we have something new, please?

Characters: ***** I couldn't bring myself to like Aria--she came off as pathetic, to me.  She was absolutely helpless outside her city.  She breaks into pieces when she has her first period.  Honestly, I handled that experience better when I was ten.  Get a grip, Aria.  She didn't do anything, either.  She was just along for the ride.  All she did, it felt like, was follow Perry around.

Let's talk about Perry...he felt more like a plot device than anything else.  He was the stock hot guy, the love interest, Aria's mode of transportation.  I liked what I was seeing with his love for Talon, but other than that I wasn't too fond of him.  He had some semi-interesting backstory, which is a start.  We'll see if this gets expanded on or not in the sequel, if I ever end up reading it.

Plot: ***** The plot interested me at first.  Then it just turned into traveling, traveling, and more traveling.  Do we need five chapters about Perry and Aria's exploits in the wilderness?  In this case, no.  I wanted to see if they could rescue Talon, or Aria's mother, and I wanted to know if or how Perry would become Blood Lord.  Those things could have been interesting, had I gotten the impression that they were more important to the characters than their insta-love.

But once again, public service announcement: We interrupt this plot to bring you a massive, sappy lovefest.  That's what it was.  The plot came to a screeching halt and suddenly Aria's main focus was on kissing Perry without him seeing it coming.  She suddenly turned into a philosopher, contemplating how wonderful love is and marveling at the beauty of everything.  Like Perry.  Have I mentioned that Perry is handsome yet?  Because I was only reminded eight million times while reading this book. 

Uniqueness: *****
This has everything you could ever want from an unoriginal dystopian book.  Including the insta-love (even...*gasp*...the beginnings of a love triangle).

Writing: *****
For the most part, the writing was fine with me.  There weren't any typos that I can remember, and it did a decent job telling the story.  I didn't get tripped up with awkward phrasing, except...

In a few cases, this book was unintentionally hilarious.  At one point, a guy punches another guy "in the kidney".  Um...the punch was so strong that it bypassed the skin, ribs, and large intestine in order to hit its mark?  I laughed for way too long about this.  I then proceeded to share this with my younger brother, who informed me that while he understood my point, the kidney area is a rather good place to hit someone.  I have no idea where he learned this, but...okay.

The other major funny one was right after Aria got her period.  As she's having cramps and complaining, Perry is all "she smells like violets!"  So now a period smells like violets?  I'm dying of laughter over here.  There were some smaller things that also made me laugh, but these were the two main ones.

Likes: Talon was rather adorable.

Not-so-great: Aria's disgust at being *spoiler--highlight to read* half Outsider *end spoiler* annoyed me a little.  What's so wrong with that?

Overall: This book could have been awesome, but it didn't live up to the hype.  I never cared for the main character, Aria.  I felt like Perry was more a plot device than a person.  The plot was mostly traveling and a major overdose of insta-love.  It's more of a 2.5 star book, but I round up, so three stars it is.
Similar Books: Divergent, Shatter Me, Inside Out
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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Icefall by Matthew J. Kirby

Trapped in a hidden fortress tucked between towering mountains and a frozen sea, Solveig, along with her brother the crown prince, their older sister, and an army of restless warriors, anxiously awaits news of her father's victory at battle. But as winter stretches on, and the unending ice refuses to break, terrible acts of treachery soon make it clear that a traitor lurks in their midst. A malevolent air begins to seep through the fortress walls, and a smothering claustrophobia slowly turns these prisoners of winter against one another.

Those charged with protecting the king's children are all suspect, and the siblings must choose their allies wisely. But who can be trusted so far from their father's watchful eye? Can Solveig and her siblings survive the long winter months and expose the traitor before he succeeds in destroying a kingdom?

Released: October 1st 2011         Pages:324
Publisher: Scholastic Press         Source: Library

First Look: ***** I liked the look of this right from the start.  It has a cool premise, and it also has that people-in-enclosed-space aspect.  For some reason, that fascinates me.  Especially kids in an enclosed space, Lord of the Flies style.  I have no idea why.  Anyway, Icefall had basically nothing in common with LotF, which is fine with me.

Setting: *****
I like snowy, icy settings.  This is not just a book thing--I'm this way in real life.  We just got a few inches of snow last weekend (my yard looks like this and this), and I love it.  The author did a nice job describing the setting, and finding that happy medium between too few details and too many details.

Except...I would've liked more details as to where and when the setting was.  This is one of two things that tripped me up while reading this book (the second regards characters).  The setting was very Nordic, and obviously set in a medieval sort of time period, but that's all we knew.  Was it a fantasy setting with Scandanavian influence, or was it an actual place at an actual time in the past?  I would've liked a little more info on that.

Characters: *****
So...much...depth!  The characterization in this book is lovely.  We've got Solveig, who had a Hiccup-esque air to her.  She's a spunky, determined character, yet she also has some great quieter moments where her true personality shines through.  I loved her growth throughout the story.  We also have Aldric, the skald (bard/storyteller), who was quite mysterious.  We also have Asa and Per, an interesting pair that are likable and yet highly suspicious.  I felt for the characters, even the goat.  I loved the "good guys" and even liked some of the "bad guys" (though for the longest time, it's tough to tell where the line between the two is). 

The only thing that bothered me was the ages of the characters.  How old is Solveig?  I have no idea.  The book never said, not once.  I'm guessing she's around twelve or thirteen, but it still would be nice to know.  And then there's Per.  At first I got the impression that he was sixteen or so, but Solveig kept calling him a "man", so I'm not sure.

Plot: *****
Icefall is part adventure, part coming-of-age novel, and part whodunit.  It's a slower read to begin with, but it never once lost my attention.  I thought I had figured out who the traitor was.  Then I changed my mind, then changed it back again.  (I was actually right the second time.)  It kept me guessing!

There's also some surprising intensity at the end.  And a plot twist that made me do one of those little quick inhales that you do when something shocking/sad happens but you're reading in public but can't help having a reaction to the book.  Mentally, I was screaming "Not _______, not them, please not them!" 

I loved Solveig's journey to discover her calling as a skald.  Any writer can relate to this.  One of Icefall's themes is the immense power of stories, which is wonderful because Icefall in itself is a powerful story.  A powerful story about the power of powerful stories.  It's powerfulstoryception. (I'm going to have to use that word in future reviews.)

Uniqueness: *****
It was a unique and fresh read.

Writing: *****
The writing, too, was lovely.  It wasn't lovely because it was fancy.  It wasn't overdone in the least.  Instead, it was raw and honest.  It felt so, so much like something that would come from Solveig.  The author did an amazing job capturing her voice and putting it down on paper.  There are some really beautiful quotes, like:

 "A story is not a thing. A story is an act. It only exists in the brief moment of its telling. The question you must ask is what a story has the power to do. The truth of something you do is very different from the truth of something you know."

And also, this:
"Until now, I thought only of what stories could do in their moment. I was the ploughman, turning the hearts of my audience like soil, thinking I could bend the earth to my will. But stories have a quieter and more subtle power than that. Now I see that I am also the ploughman’s wife walking behind him, dropping seeds into the earth, leaving them to grow in meaning. I realize that every story I have ever heard is a part of me, deeply rooted, whispering behind my thoughts."

Excuse me while I go weep out of sheer joy at the beauty and truth of these quotes.

Likes:  I found, on the author's website, some pictures that inspired the settings for this book.  I want to go to those places!

The only things I didn't like were the ages, and the setting confusion.

This is a lovely, lovely book.  On the surface, it's an exciting story that keeps you guessing.  Underneath, there are many layers.  It has a wonderful message about the power of stories and of self-discovery.  It has characters that I liked and grew attached to.  The author has a great talent for capturing Solveig's voice in words.  Five stars to this beautiful, awesome little book.  Middle grade has certainly treated me well this year.  Now there will actually be a fight for spots in my yearly Top Ten.  Before, it was looking like all my 5-star books would get in because I only had 10 this year, but Icefall has turned it into a competition!  I wouldn't be surprised to see it rather high on my list this year.
Similar Books: This book has prominent Norse mythology aspects like in The Coming of Dragons (Can I just take a minute here and proclaim my love for the Darkest Age series?  It seems that I'm the only one who has ever heard of it, but it's FABULOUS.  Ahem.) and Runemarks.  It has a spunky, determined, royal protagonist like in The False Prince, and an icy, wintery setting like Witchlanders.
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Saturday, December 8, 2012

On Fight/Action Sequences

Fight scenes are hard to write, and even harder to master.  Some people have an easier time of it than others, but they can still be quite tricky.  I'm still working on it myself.  In fact, I just recently revised the first fight scene of my novel.  It was an utter mess.  I've learned since then.  Here are some tips I've either come across other places, or have learned through trial and error:

  • Beware of the action/reaction/action or the back-and-forth patternWhen writing fight scenes, it's so easy to fall into a back-and-forth pattern.  Hero makes a move.  Villain counters.  Hero makes another move.  Villain counters again.  This is repetitive, and boring to read.  If you watch the below videos (especially the second one), you'll see that fights like this are not so much back-and-forth, and there's more flow to it.  Vary the pattern.
  • Keep a narrow focus with your narration.  Keep in mind the things your character will be thinking about, will be seeing.  If Hero is in the middle of a duel, he's not going to be looking up and noticing the landscape on the horizon or some birds flying overhead. His focus will be much closer: the sweat on his forehead, the breathing of his opponent, the feel of the gravel beneath his feet.
  • Consider all senses.  Sight is the most heavily used sense in narration, with hearing a close second.  Why limit yourself to these two?  Don't forget to think about what your character is physically feeling, smelling, or tasting.  Did Hero fall on the ground during the fight and get a taste of dirt?  Things like that.  Utilizing all the sense can turn a mediocre fight scene into one that comes to life.
  • Consider terrain/surroundings.  (Both of the below videos have nice examples of this, especially the Princess Bride one.)  If your fight takes place on a flat piece of grass, it's going to be very different from a duel that happens on a mountaintop.  Keep in mind the surroundings when writing the scene, and use these to spice up the action.  Hero has to worry about Villain's blade coming after him, and falling off a ledge?  Things like this make everything more interesting. 
  • Please, please, please don't have your characters lugging around twenty pound swords.  I already ranted about this, so I won't go into too much detail.  Do your research, and find that swords actually were not heavy.  More info on this here.
The trick to fight scenes is keeping it tight.  Don't use any excess narration or description.  Use all the senses to bring the scene to life in the mind of your reader. 

While I'm at it, here are some rather nice duels.  The first is between Jack Sparrow and Will Turner in The Curse of the Black Pearl, and the second is the Inigo/Dread Pirate Roberts one from The Princess Bride.

What are your tricks for writing fight scenes?

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Monday, December 3, 2012

Song of the Ovulum (Children of the Bard #1) by Bryan Davis

It has been fifteen years since Billy and Bonnie Bannister helped repel the demonic assault on Heaven. Now they and Ashley Foley sit in a maximum security prison where the authorities conduct experiments on them to learn the secrets of long life. Earlier, the world’s acceptance of dragonkind crumbled, and the Enforcers took the infant twins born to Billy and Bonnie and stole Excalibur, hoping to develop a weapon to battle the dragons that are sure to try to rescue their allies. All the while, a great secret from the past is being revealed to Bonnie through a dream. Joran and Selah, teenaged children of Methuselah, have been trapped in a strange world for centuries, yet still able to manipulate certain events in our world during that time.

Walter Foley finds the Bannisters’ son and hopes to use his dragon traits to help him rescue the prisoners. In the meantime, an ancient demon locates the Bannisters’ daughter and plans to use her to help him discover the hiding place of the most powerful ovulum in the world and squelch its protective song. With that ovulum in his possession, he will be able to conquer and control both Earth and Second Eden.

The fate of two worlds now rests on the Bannisters’ two teenagers who must use their dragon traits and their innate courage to battle demons, a sorceress, and soldiers in a military compound in order to rescue parents they don’t even know.

Released: June 28th 2011             Pages:482
Publisher: Living Ink Books        Source: Library

At first, I had a huge paragraph typed out explaining how this series works, but then I realized that a list/chart would make this so much easier.  Like it says, it's best to read in the left order.  You can start with the first book in any of the series (though if you start with Eye of the Oracle or Song of the Ovulum, be sure to read the recap at the end), but for the best reading experience, I'd start with Raising Dragons.
Click the chart to see it bigger.
So, anyway, Song of the Ovulum is a continuation of one of my all-time favorite series.  I had no idea that there would be a third quartet until last summer.  I thought it was over with The Bones of Makaidos, but I'm certainly glad it's not. 
Let's go back a few years.  I read the first book of this series four, maybe even five years ago; I'm not sure.  For a year or so in early middle school I kept track of what I read in a little notebook, but it seems to have disappeared forever.  Just kidding, I found it.  (And it's soooo incredibly amusing.  I wrote 1-line reviews/comments on each of the books, and also one-line summaries.  More on this below.*)  I read the first book back in 2007. 
When you go back to a series you haven't read in a long time, there's always that fear that it's not as good as you remembered.  There's always that fear that your tastes have changed, or that you built it up so much in your mind that you don't remember any of the negatives.  (This is honestly the only reason I've been putting off a massive Pendragon reread that I kind of want to do, but kind of don't.)  I had this same fear with this book. 
Fortunately, this book mostly lived up to my old feelings for the series.  Yeah, it wasn't as good as the previous books, but I still liked it.  It just wasn't favorite-book worthy.  Good, but not amazing. 
I was so, so happy to read about some of these characters again.  Walter Foley, how I've missed you!  Ashley, and the dragons!  Even Larry!  It was, for me, a massive reunion.  I'm hoping that in the next I get to read more about some of my other favorites that we didn't see much in this one, like Sapphira Adi and Elam.   

Also, I love the entire premise of this.  All the stuff with dragons and technology is so cool.  And, there are some awesome re-imaginings of Bible stories.  Bible stories, with dragons! 

I now how two issues with this book that I didn't have when I was younger.  The first issue is with the black-and-white morality of these books.  A character is either good or evil.  A good character, even if they do wrong, is still in the right.  An evil character is inherently evil.  Life doesn't work this way.  Nobody is completely good or completely bad; everyone is somewhere in between.  Some shades of gray would add so much complexity and depth to this series, but without it, it almost feels like it's missing something.

My other issue is with all the melodramatic things that go on.  Characters are moved to tears quite often--more often than seems realistic to me.  Just like with the morality, emotions are all at extremes in this series.  There is no level of apathy whatsoever.  A person is not just moderately joyful--they are as far up on the happy spectrum as they can get.  Again, this isn't realistic. 

Still, this series is definitely worth a read.  Bryan Davis writes some compelling characters, with awesome worldbuilding and DRAGONS DRAGONS EVERYWHERE.  While I have issues with this series now that I didn't have when I was younger, it will still always have a special place among my books. 

Similar Books: It has the undisguised Christian themes of The Door Withinsome amount of world-hopping like in House of Dark Shadows (you don't want to know how many times I typed dork shadows before I got that right), has lots of dragons and dragon/human interaction, as well as a mix of sci-fi and fantasy (and is also by the same author) like Starlighter, and is, of course, a continuation of the stories of Raising Dragons (Dragons in Our Midst series), Eye of the Oracle (Oracles of Fire series).
*About my elementary school mini-reviews...LOL.  My summary for every single Warriors book was "Cats battle for clans, fall in love, etc. etc. etc.".  After about the fifth Series of Unfortunate Events book I must've gotten tired of trying to think of actual comments and just wrote "How unfortunate" for each one.  My comment for a book I didn't like was "No.  Just no."  My reviewing history started not in 2011 when the blog started, but in 2007. 
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