Sunday, November 30, 2014

Tallstar's Revenge (Warriors Super Edition #6) by Erin Hunter


*** Warning: This review contains spoilers!! ***

In many ways, I really enjoyed this book. I thought the moor runner versus tunneler dynamics were intriguing, and Tallpaw's struggle to please his parents and make them proud while also following his own destiny was relatable. Talltail's adventures beyond the WindClan borders were great, and I especially enjoyed his friendship with Jake. I also liked the whole idea that Talltail had to follow his heart and go on a journey before realizing that WindClan really was his home, and home was where he belonged.

Unfortunately, I also felt the book was plagued with under-developed ideas. Based on what we saw in the book, it really did seem as if Palebird didn't love Talltail as much as Finchkit or her other four kits that came later. Yet, when Talltail became Tallstar, we're just supposed to accept that her mother's love for him was just as strong as her love for all her kits, even though she never showed it?

Also, I couldn't figure out what the rogues were all about. WindClan seriously allowed a band of rogues to stay with them all summer long just because "they've always come"?! They let the outsiders train with their apprentices, and share dens with their warriors and elders?! It just didn't make sense, having read the Warriors series and knowing how Clan cats supposedly feel about non-Clan cats.

Overall, a good story about how revenge isn't the answer, and home is where the heart is. As usual, it's especially satisfying to see cameos made by other known Warriors cats, and there's a real gem of a connection in this one, if you make it to the end.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Yellowfang's Secret (Warriors Super Edition #5) by Erin Hunter


*** Warning: This review contains spoilers!!! ***

Maybe as a standalone book, this one would have been 3 stars. But in comparison with the original Warriors series, I felt I had to lower its rating relative to the other books in the series.

Fans of the Warriors series will know who Yellowfang is, and this book follows her life from the time she was a kit up until the point at which we first met her in the series, when she meets Firepaw. You don't need to have read the Warriors series to enjoy this book, as it introduces clan life assuming the reader does not have any prior knowledge of it. In that way, I actually felt the book had a slow start, as I was already well-versed in the ways of the clans.

Overall, this book has a more mature feel to it. Even though it's about talking cats, it seems like the target audience ought to be upper elementary school kids, or even middle schoolers. We have a fatherless kit who struggled with feelings of abandonment. Clan cats are pitted against kittypets, and the prejudice runs in both directions as neither group understands or accepts the other - except for a select few. There is an outright vengeful murder of passion, plus a lot of meaningless deaths later on. Yellowfang makes one difficult decision after another, and suffers painful consequences.

Mostly, I didn't know what to make of Yellowfang's pregnancy. On the one hand, she abandoned her kit, even knowing how much being abandoned affected Raggedstar as a kit. On the other hand, she was trying to do the "right thing" in terms of being disciplined and loyal and following the warrior code. Her dreams from StarClan seemed to indicate that there was no possible way to divert the evil for which Brokentail was destined - so is there no free choice in this world of forest clans? (In the Warriors series, we did see evidence of free choice when the united clans defeated BloodClan despite the omens Fireheart had received.) If there is free choice, are we to believe that the evil could have been avoided ONLY if Yellowfang had chosen motherhood over being a medicine cat, or worst yet, if Yellowfang had had an abortion? I don't know if this was the intent, but it sure felt like Yellowfang was being punished by StarClan for having broken the warrior code with Raggedstar. Frankly, in those extenuating circumstances, would it have been so bad if Yellowfang spent six moons mothering a kit?

Anyway, what I liked most about this book was when it tied into what I already knew from the Warrior series. I liked that the characters of Nightpelt and Runningnose were fleshed out, since we only saw glimpses of them in the Warriors series.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Secrets According to Humphrey (Humphrey #10) by Betty G. Birney


One of the better books in the series!

In this installment, secrets run amok. First, Mrs. Brisbane and Principal Morales have a big secret that will be revealed eventually, but Humphrey is dying of curiosity in the meantime. Then, small groups of kids start forming secret clubs, feelings get hurt, and we all get a good lesson about not excluding others. One student has a bit of a problem that he keeps secret, and Humphrey plays a significant role in helping him to overcome it. Even Aldo has a secret, but it's not very important, just one more thing for Humphrey to wonder about. I liked that the secrets were all reasonably believable and relatable.

Sebastien was pretty bummed about this being the last Humphrey book in the series. He has absolutely LOVED reading about Humphrey!! Luckily, he saw a "Coming soon!" advertisement in one of the books about Imagination According to Humphrey, which will be published in 2015, so at least we have that to look forward to.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Darkest Hour (Warriors #6) by Erin Hunter


*** Warning: This review contains spoilers!! ***

This book was awesome!

From start to finish, this book was action-packed, suspenseful, and emotional. I LOVED the scene when Fireheart received his nine lives! There is a bit of a spiritual angle in this book, with belief in StarClan being kind of like a religious faith. It's not exactly like religion, though, because the fact that clan leaders do actually get nine lives makes the existence of StarClan kind of incontestable.

I almost gave this book 4 1/2 stars because I was so disappointed in the way Tigerstar died. It was a shame, and not at all fitting, for such a fierce warrior to die in such an ignoble way. And I just couldn't fathom how any one injury could cause him to lose all nine lives at once! But, after seeing what happened to Firestar after he lost his first life, I could imagine a scenario in which Tigerstar faced StarClan but refused to repent, and his insistence on fighting caused him to return to life before he had fully healed, meaning that he started each new life with a mortal injury. I guess it still bothered me a little that I had to come up with that explanation myself, but also, by the end of the book, it became clear that it was important to the story that Scourge not know about the nine lives of leaders until he faced Firestar.

Like Forest of Secrets, this book really struck me as being more appropriate for an older age group - like middle school. There's quite a bit of gore, and a lot of explicit descriptions of killing. Again, I find myself intrigued at the idea that somehow, certain things like violence are less objectionable just because the main characters are cats.

In the end, I couldn't let a couple misgivings stop me from giving this book 5 stars. I just couldn't put it down, I wanted to see what would happen next!

Now that I've finished this series, I'm hooked. And given my wariness when I started the first book, I'm pretty darn shocked at how much it won me over. When I lamented to Isabelle that I was so sad to not have any more books to read about cats, she said, "Well, there are the super editions." What! A quick search brought me to this page, which lists a whole bunch of Warriors books! A lot of them are about the next generation of cats, and I don't know if I'll read them all, but the super editions are all about the cats in the original series, so I'll definitely read those!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Winter According to Humphrey (Humphrey #9) by Betty G. Birney


A solid installment in the Humphrey series!

It's winter, and Mrs. Brisbane's class will be participating in the school-wide Winter Wonderland production. As usual, Humphrey plays a role in helping a few classmates sort out some issues. Valuable lessons are learned, and everybody has some fun. There's nothing objectionable in this book, and it's a very pleasant and entertaining read. But, there's also not much to make it particularly memorable, or a stand-out in the series, which is why I gave it 4 stars instead of 5.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

A Dangerous Path (Warriors #5) by Erin Hunter


*** WARNING: This review contains spoilers!!! ***

In many ways, the two halves of this book felt like 2 different books entirely. I spent the first half of the book feeling frustrated and infuriated at the inexplicable complications being contrived. Tigerclaw is a murderous traitor roaming the forest, and ThunderClan does not think that information is worth sharing with the other clans? Not even with RiverClan, when Tigerclaw helped cause Graypool's death? Then, StarClan blesses Tigerclaw's leadership of ShadowClan?!? Why would StarClan approve of someone who had so blatantly violated the warrior code?!?!

Even though the series is, of course, focused on cats, it didn't sit right with me that dogs were characterized as a cave-dwelling, barbarous, unevolved species that could only grunt single instinct-related words. I'm not a huge pet lover or anything, but still I was put off by the distinct contrast in the way dogs and cats were represented.

I was also bothered by the continual fretting over kits who had parents in another clan. In this book, we had three sets of kits who were separated from one parent's clan: those of Bluestar, Graystripe, and Tigerstar. It seemed like a pretty common occurrence that didn't deserve the stigma it carried. Also, it seemed strange that none of the cats involved reached out to the others for support. Like Bluestar could have bonded with Graystripe, Mistyfoot and Stonefur could have taken Graystripe's kits under their wings, and Graystripe could have sympathized with Tigerstar's kits. And the sexism! Bluestar could not be both a parent and a leader (which led to their separation in the first place), yet no one bat an eye at the idea of Tigerstar having kits, even when he became a leader.

Also, I didn't understand why such a big deal was made out of ThunderClan being hugely indebted to RiverClan for helping them during the fire. Didn't ThunderClan perform an equal service when they helped RiverClan during the river flood? Each saved the other from a natural disaster. You'd think they'd consider themselves even.

Bluestar's mental decline was just a bit too much to take - what a long way to fall for such a noble leader! And I really didn't get why killing the lead dog would automatically negate the threat of dogs in the forest. When a clan leader died, another took over. Why wouldn't another dog step up as leader of the pack, and seek revenge on the cats?

Well. With all those complaints, I thought I'd end up giving this book only 2 stars. But, really, I have to admit, the second half of the book was quite exciting, lots of action and surprises, and I really did enjoy the book more and more as the book progressed. By the end, I thought maybe it was a 4-star book, so I comprised and went with 3 stars.