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December 31, 2008 > Footnotes: December 2008 Reviews

Footnotes: December 2008 Reviews

"A Door In the Woods" (2003), "Gift of Ice" (2004), "Tower of Air" (2004) and "War of the Black Curtain" (2005), all by James Dashner (CFI paperbacks, $12.95 each)

After reading the terrific book "Journal of Curious Letters" by James Dashner, I wanted to find his other books. That's how I discovered the Jimmy Fincher Saga, four books that kept me absolutely riveted.

Jimmy Fincher is an ordinary 14-year old kid living in Georgia with his mom, dad and older brother. He loves sports, constantly wears a Braves hat, and is an expert tree climber. That's what starts his adventure, the simple act of climbing a tree.

While up in the branches of his favorite tree, he hears some people below him talking. One is the creepy mayor, Borbus Duck. The other is a woman struggling and crying. As Jimmy watches, the mayor makes the woman....disappear! Worse, after doing the seemingly impossible, the mayor comes after Jimmy.

Jimmy gets pulled into the adventure of his life between two opposing forces. The Givers announce that Jimmy has been chosen to receive gifts, one at a time, which will make him almost indestructible. These he will need to stave off the destruction of every person on the planet by the Stompers. What in the world? Why would the Givers pick him? Are they nuts? Who are the Stompers? Are they even real? Then the threat becomes all too real when Jimmy finds himself fighting for the world and to stay alive.

The characters were interesting, the plot twists creative and each book got better and better. There are mysteries, puzzling clues and a tense fight between evil and survival. It doesn't get much better than that!

Recommended for junior high school. Reviewed by dh.

"Magic Thief" by Sarah Prineas, Harper Collins hardback, $16.99. (2008)

Connwaer is a thief, a pick-pocket and a liar. He lives in the terrible town of Twilight, where every day is a fight to get food and a safe place to sleep. When he sees an old, seemingly feeble man walking by, he picks the man's pocket hoping to get his money. Instead he finds a stone, one that suddenly emits a bright, fiery light. It doesn't burn Conn, instead it freezes him in place long enough for the old man to return to reclaim his property.

Turns out the old man is a wizard named Nevery. He takes an interest in the boy making him his servant, and hopefully later his apprentice. First, Conn must find a stone of his own. He searches from one end of Twilight to the other, before trying the upscale town across the river. There he does find his stone, the one stone that will help him to become an apprentice and eventually, hopefully, a wizard. Too bad it's on a chain around the neck of the Duchess. Conn has to have it, it's calling to him.

Even after he winds up behind bars, the stone is still calling. He needs to get out - that shouldn't be problem. He's a pick-pocket and a thief, remember? What happens next no one could have predicted, not even a wizard! First book in a trilogy.

Recommended for 5th grade. Reviewed by dh.

"Finding Nouf" by Zoe Ferraris, Houghton Mifflin hardback, $24.00. (2008)

Consider how little we Americans know about the Middle East, especially when it has such a huge impact on our lives through oil, war on two fronts, and culture. The media and movies rarely give us accounts of everyday lives there without an American perspective. Told from the viewpoint of two investigators in Saudi Arabia, "Finding Nouf" follows two outsiders, a Palestinian man and a Muslim woman, as they seek answers within the restraints of Saudi society where men and women are kept apart.

Ferraris's debut novel centers on Nouf ash-Shrawi, a 16-year-old girl who disappeared into the desert three days before her marriage and has been found dead, several weeks pregnant. Nayir al-Sharqi, who lives in Jeddah and works occasionally for the rich Shrawi family, is asked by them to investigate Nouf's death discreetly. Nayir, a conservative Muslim and an outsider because of his nationality, his class and his large stature is encouraged by his friend Othman, an adopted son of the Shrawis, to seek out the help of Katya Hijazi, Othman's fiancˇe. Katya has a Ph.D. and is employed in the women's section of the state medical examiner's office. As Nayir and Katya's investigation progresses, it becomes clear that at least one of the Shrawis has something to hide. The reader gets deep inside Nayir's and Katya's very different perspectives, giving a fascinating glimpse into the workings and assumptions of Saudi society.

Recommended for teens and adults. Reviewed by jp.

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