Sunday, December 28, 2014

A Series of Unfortunate Events, by Lemony Snicket

The Bad Beginning is the first in a series of thirteen books featuring the hapless Baudelaire orphans.  After their parents die in a tragic house fire, Klaus, Violet and Sunny are shipped off to live with their uncle, the evil Count Olaf.  It quickly becomes clear to them that they are not welcome at Olaf’s…especially when they learn of his plot to steal their inheritance!

These books are very fun and should be suitable for most middle-grade readers, although the humor is so smart that I’ve even caught a few of my adult friends reading them as well!  I really enjoyed the way that the children seem to always be smarter than the adults, especially once they’ve learned of Count Olaf’s diabolical plan.

It’s my goal to work through the rest of the series this year, but I couldn’t help thinking about how many children’s book characters are orphans.  I don’t know why that is, except for maybe that writing about orphans could give an author more freedom to explore different situations without worrying about how parents might obstruct the plot of the story?  But what do you think?  Does writing a character’s parents into the story add to the plot, or would it shift the focus off of the kids?

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Dune, by Frank Herbert

When Frank Herbert created “Dune”, he did so much more than just write a book.  Instead, he built an entire galaxy!  This is considered one of the best sci-fi books of all time, and with good reason.  “Dune” tells the story of young Paul Atreides, whose noble family assumes control of the planet Arrakis.  Although the planet is a barren desert wasteland, it is the only source of the spice “mélange”, which is the most powerful substance in the universe.  As Paul learns the secrets of his new home, he quickly becomes embroiled in the politics of a galactic Empire.

Be forewarned, this is a LONG book for young adult readers, tipping the scales at nearly 900 pages!  It’s definitely not a beach read, but rather something that you’ve got to lose yourself in over the course of a few weeks.  If you’re hesitant to take on a challenge like “Dune”, keep in mind that this book inspired a generation of science fiction books and movies, including the Star Wars series!  There are also a number of Dune sequels, and many people consider this book to be the sci-fi version of “Lord of the Rings”.

One other neat thing about “Dune” is that it’s been adapted into movie versions on at least two occasions.  I really enjoy seeing a movie once I’ve read the book, since it allows me to see how the same story can be told in different ways.  One thing’s for sure, with all of the “Dune” books and stories that are out there, filmmakers will never run short on inspiration!