Jan 15, 2020

Dragon Champion

Age of Fire Book One
by E.E. Knight

It's a story from a dragon's perspective, and that's the main enjoyment I got out of it. The young dragon hatches in a secluded cave guarded by his parents and immediately pitches into a battle for survival- the male hatchlings fight for dominance and one ousts all others from the nest. The young dragon then grows with its sisters under the watchful eye of parents, learning dragon lore and practicing hunting skills on slugs and bats. Before he is old enough to venture into the outside world, their cave is attacked by a band of dwarves, and the dragon barely escapes with one of his siblings. He embarks on a long trek- at first attempting to return to the cave and discover what happened to his family, but then gets separated from his sibling and is just scrambling to survive. He falls in with some wolves, then gets caught by elves and escapes, then makes a deal to guard a caravan of traders, then goes on a search to find an ancient dragon who might tell him why their race is dying out. Eventually ends up in the company of humans- and part of a tangled confusing war- all the different hominids in this world (elves, dwarves, humans and creatures called blighters) are fighting each other, but one group seems to be overpowering the rest because it controls dragons to battle for them. Our dragon seeks them out, hoping to discover what enabled one man to command the dragons, but he finds much more than he'd bargained for.

Well- there's a lot I liked about this book, and a lot I didn't. I found this author's idea of dragon physiology really intriguing- especially the main character who was different from the other dragons, being born without protective scales. While others immediately saw him as a weakling or a freak, he found his own strength and was often quite clever and bold. I was just as curious as the protagonist to find out how the other dragons were being held in thrall, and the part where he infiltrates the enemy island was pretty interesting. But all the middle of the book- what a slog. It seemed that any part where the dragon was accompanying hominids got to be very dull and boring. I just did not care about their factions and battles and different cultures. The conversations are often awkward, the characters' reactions to things feel flat, and the pacing is sometimes odd. I like these dragons, but the execution felt a bit poor. In spite of that, I'm moving on to the second book in the series, there is something about the story that makes me want to find out what happens.

Oh, and if this might bother some readers- there's a lot of death. The dragon eats children, bites the head off foes, tears apart animal prey and so on. It's really quite brutal and bloody- which you'd expect from a story about the dragon's viewpoint- but also very tame for all that- the descriptions never really made me feel squeamish or horrified- just oh, so that guy lost his head too? Moving on! which was part of the disconnect I felt through the whole thing . . .

Rating: 2/5                            371 pages, 2005

more opinions: Grasping for the Wind
anyone else?

Jan 10, 2020

Inheritors of the Earth

How Nature is Thriving in an Age of Extinction
by Chris D. Thomas

Much like Nature Wars, this book argues that life overall is doing just fine in spite of the destruction mankind has wreaked on Earth. The author examines several aspects of this problem including humans wiping out other animals and destroying habitats, the impacts of climate change and movement of species into new areas- and in each case makes the point that while a few species here and there will die out in the face of rapid changes, many new ones arise as they diverge or hybridize, which is a wave of future evolution. He states many times over in the book that species diversity is actually increasing worldwide (is this true? several other reviewers have cast doubt on that). He posits that the mixing of species into new territories shouldn't be seen as a threat, but instead welcomed as a way of naturally seeing which animals, plants and other creatures are most fit to survive the future. There's lots of examples of rapid evolution and explanations that animals live nowadays where they never did ages ago, so what we see as being the "natural state" of things is arbitrary. Very similar in this vein to Where Do Camels Belong?

While he does say that we should avoid excessive impacts on the environment he doesn't seem to mourn the extinction of any unique species as long as the group as a whole is represented- loosing the short-tailed bat on New Zealand (which walks on the ground to catch prey) wouldn't matter overall because so many other bats are still here. Even if I didn't always get the argument, I found the examples fascinating- reading about hybridized sparrows, and how they spread from one small location to literally inhabit the entire world. I've heard of the finches Darwin found in the Galapagos, but didn't know about the mockingbirds there- also very different on each island. I never read about the apple fly before- which uses markings on its wings to mimic a spider. I thought that monarch butterflies only wintered in Mexico, but this book tells me there's a group that overwinters in California (so the premise of this book might not be so far-fetched!) That's just a small sampling. I strongly disagree with the author's final argument that since humans are of course, natural living creatures, anything we do to the Earth is also part of the natural process and we should just let things unfold. That really rubs me wrong. But it was an interesting read that did give me a lot to think about.

I mentioned animals mostly in this post, but the book also talks about plant species a lot. While the copy I borrowed from the public library looks like the first cover shown here, I like this second one- because I'm partial to ferns and its lushness conveys the main idea the author had- that life is thriving and will continue regardless of what we do (not sure if agree with that and I'm simplifying here, but it's the main impression I came away with from reading this book).

Rating: 3/5                 300 pages, 2017

Jan 7, 2020

Unbound

Transgender Men and the Remaking of Identity
by Arelene Stein

A sociologist examines the choices made by several individuals who had elective surgery to remove their breasts. Most- but not all- identified as male and had the procedure to address gender dysphoria. I thought this was going to be a volume of personal stories- their personalities, struggles, reasons for choosing the surgery, how their lives were changed by it, and so on. It is, but it's also a lot more. The book is just as much about social norms and how they are changing in regards to gender identities, how perceptions are shifting and how they might continue to evolve. It's got quite a lot on the history of LGBTQ rights. It's about the importance of people feeling comfortable with who they are, and making the choice to do something often considered drastic- altering body parts- so that other people will see them as they see themselves. Those who agreed to share their stories here- the author meets them in the surgical clinic, visits them in recovery, and follows up with a few several months later to see how they are doing- are very different in circumstance. They don't all have the same reasons or needs- one doesn't even identify as trans. Some have family support and others don't. Some felt dysphoric and others didn't. I'm glad the author shows people beyond the stereotypes. Sounds like they were all happy with the results. It was really interesting to read the more detailed examination of how their lives were different afterwards- not only how it affected their families, their employment, the reactions (or rather, easy acceptance) of strangers to their changed appearance, and their own individual self-perception. I did think it a little strange when the author compared trans men to lesbians, going into some tangents on how the feminist movement has changed over recent years as gender is being understood in new ways. This book is a lot more dense with more information than I expected it to contain, so I've actually been reading it in pieces over the past six weeks. Sometimes it was just difficult to get through a single chapter. While I didn't always agree with the author's viewpoint and some of her statements made me feel uncomfortable, I do feel like I have a better understanding now. Or at least, I would hope that I do.

Borrowed from the public library.

Rating: 3/5                   339 pages, 2018

Jan 6, 2020

Secret Go the Wolves

by R.D. Lawrence

The author and his wife lived in a remote area of Canada on a farm (I don't know if they grew any crops but there is a description of them working to tap maple trees). One day he encountered a Native American on the river- drunk and about to capsize his boat. Lawrence saved the man, discovered he had recently killed a female wolf for the bounty on her pelt and was carrying two surviving cubs to Mattawa intending to sell them. Lawrence made an instant decision and bought the cubs on the spot, took them home to raise with his wife. He already had experiencing raising wild "foundlings" to release into the wild again- mentions a beaver and a deer fawn. And he had observed wolves in the wild a lot, understanding some of their behavior. I think he was just as eager to have the chance to study how the wolves grew up, as well as to save them and release into their natural home- he frequently mentions taking meticulous notes on their growth rate, emerging personalities, development of skills and so on. With the help of his malamute dog Tundra- who kept the cubs clean and warm, and disciplined them as they grew- Lawrence successfully raise the two wolves. He did as much as he could to mimic actual wolf parenting- feeding them raw meat as if he was regurgitating it, shaking them by the scruff when they misbehaved, taking them on long rambling walks in the woods and joining them on a kill when they finally pulled down deer on their own (he was inspecting the deer to find out if it was weak, ill or injured in some way that had given the wolves an advantage, but pretended to the wolves as if he was eating alongside them). This book reminded me a lot of Joy Adamson's work with Elsa the lioness- the work Lawrence did was during a time when wolves were still mainly feared and reviled- in fact Lawrence and his wife had to keep their project secret from any neighbors or visitors, shutting the wolves up when they were young if people came by, and when they were older successfully teaching them to be wary of strangers. Especially intriguing to see the difference in behavior between the malamute dog and the young wolves, how the dog adjusted his behavior with the wolves, and how the human couple likewise tried to act in ways that would keep them safe from the wolves' natural strength and sharp teeth, but hone their skills to live in the wild. Personally I can't judge how well they did at that (a few times in the narrative it seemed to me they made some risky decisions), but there's a very good review on Goodreads that explains why wolves should not be raised with the methods Lawrence used. But it's a fascinating account and very engaging to read, a well-told story. There's also a lot of wonderful description of the natural environment and seasons, and some contemplative passages where the author talks about the natural world, our impact on it, and his qualms about things like seeing the wolves kill their prey. His wife was particularly attached to the wolves and I didn't care for how condescending Lawrence sometimes sounded towards her- but he is also honest and points out when she was right in some regard he judged differently.

Rating: 4/5                       232 pages, 1980

Jan 4, 2020

more books noted-

thanks to my fellow readers, additions to the (joyously) overwhelming TBR:
at my public library:
Kid Gloves by Lucy Knisley- Bermudaonion, Melody
Birds of Pandemonium by Michele Raffin
The Elephant's Secret Sense by Caitlin O'Connell
The Library Book by Susan Orlean- Book Chase
Book Girl by Sarah Clarkson- Semicolon
You're Not Listening by Kate Murphy- Caroline Bookbinder
Wild Things, Wild Places by Jane Alexander
The Great Pretender by Susanna Cahalan - Bermudaonion
Stargazing by Jen Wang- Caroline Bookbinder
Paris by the Book by Liam Callanan- Book Chase
Saving Jemimah by Julie Zickefoose
Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri - Bookfool
The Year of Living Danishly by Helen Russell- Read Warbler
Silverwing by Kenneth Oppel
Pippa by Design by Claudia Logan- Caroline Bookbinder
Autopsy of a Boring Wife by Marie-Renee Lavoie - Indextrious Reader
Normal People by Sally Rooney- Bookfool
Five Feet Apart by Rachel Lippincott
Enchanted Hour by Meghan Cox Gurdon - Captive Reader
The Golden Spruce by John Vaillant
American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins - Bermudaonion
Maybe He Just Likes You by Barbara Dee- ditto
The Summer Book by Tove Jansson- Indextrious Reader
The Grammarians by Cathleen Schine - Caroline Bookbinder
Orbiting Jupiter by Gary Schmidt
Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson - Bermudaonion
How to Catch a Mole by Marc Hamer
Beyond the Last Village by Alan Rabinowitz
An Indomitable Beast by Alan Rabinowitz
Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang- Shelf Love
A Wolf Called Wander by Rosanne Parry
What It's Like to Be a Dog by Gregory Burns
Not if I Can Help It by Carolyn Mackler- the Last Book I Read
A Door in the Earth by Amy Waldman - A Bookish Type
Rosie Colored Glasses by Brianna Wolfson- Bookfool
Rough Beauty by Karen Auvinen
The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill
Father of Lions by Louise Callaghan- A Bookish Type
Oligarchy by Scarlett Thomas- Curiosity Killed the Bookworm
The Way Home by Mark Boyle- Stefanie
We're Not From Here by Geoff Rodkey- Semicolon
Dry by Neal Shusterman-  It's All About Books
Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew Sullivan- Book Chase
not at my library:
Jagannath by Karin Tidbeck- Indextrious Reader
Dolphins Under My Bed by Sandra Clayton
Turtles in My Wake by Sandra Clayton
Confessions of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell- A Bookish Type
The Otter's Tale by Simon Cooper
The Home-Maker by - Dorothy C Fisher- Ardent Reader
Earth by Bill Mack
Wink by Rob Harrell - Bermudaonion
The Borrowed House by Hilda van Stockum- Semicolon
Chasing the Dragon's Tail by Alan Rabinowitz
Life in the Valley of Death by Alan Rabinowitz
Earth to Charlie by Justin Olson - Bookfool
When the Ground is Hard by Malla Nunn- Reading the End
What Is a Dog? by Raymond and Lorna Coppinger
Crown of Flowers by Joel Kurtzman- Neglected Books Page
Sweet Bobby by Joel Kurtzman- Neglected Books Page
One Hundred and Four Horses by Mandy Retzlaff
The Roots of My Obsession edited by Thomas Cooper
Call of the Cats by Andrew Bloomfield
Rinda Daughter of Rin Tin Tin by Marguerite Lofthus
Seegoo Dog of Alaska by Sara Machetanz
Plants are Terrible People by Ruggenberg
Goat Song by Brad Kessler
Foxes Unearthed by Lucy Jones
Lions, Tigers and Hamsters by Mark Goldstein
1491: New Revelations of the Americans Before Columbus by Charles Mann

(those at the bottom of this second list, that aren't linked to anyone's review I had found at Powell's but left on the shelf. So you can see I had some restraint!)

The Mutation

Animorphs #36
by K.A. Applegate

Terrible. Ridiculous plot, which I could go along with, except the writing was so poor I just couldn't. In a nutshell- the enemy aliens built a submarine ship called the Sea Blade in order to access a hidden underground resource they shouldn't have, and then experimented on making Hork-Bajir amphibious in order to use them to get there. The Hork-Bajir the Animorphs find are so tortured that they vow revenge, and also have to keep the enemy from their goal, of course. So they morph orcas (also whales and sharks at different points) and dive in the ocean at first to just physically try and damage the Sea Blade. Then they find an underwater civilization that has taken sunken ships captive for thousands of years, making a sort of display gallery out of all their preserved crew members. They get trapped by the undersea people and have to cleverly escape, which also means, in the end, making a deal with Visser Three so they can all get out alive together. Because he's down there trapped in the Sea Blade.

It's pretty bad when the first scene is so poorly written I didn't understand at all why the Animorphs were feeling vengeful. Even with the way they could change morphs to avoid death while battling the aliens underwater against the Sea Blade, the injuries they took were so horrific I just don't see how any of them made it. The premise of how the aquatic civilization had come to exist, and how the Animorphs figured it all out made no sense. Many scenes in the book were so badly described I had no idea what was actually happening, or how the Animorphs reached the conclusions they did. The part where they collaborate with their worst enemy to escape together was so eye-rolling I was skimming at that point and didn't care any more how nonsensical it was.

I'm deleting this one from my e-reader. It seems to have no relation to the rest of the series, so doesn't matter and I definitely don't want to waste time reading it again.

Rating: 1/5      160 pages, 1999

more opinions:
the Library Ladies
Cinnamon Bunzuh!
Snips and Snails and Puppy Dog Tales

Jan 3, 2020

new-to-me books!

That's me. Not a flattering picture, but I was so delighted to finally visit the City of Books! It was - well, overwhelming. I did not even have time to browse all the sections I normally would; just the size of the store and the large number of other shoppers wore me out. But it was nice to see so many people there for books! and I enjoyed things like overhearing an elderly couple argue about should they buy the newest installation of the mystery series they love now, or wait until it comes out in paperback at a lower price, but then they'll be behind. (Sounds like their favorite author is prolific).
So. These are books I picked up because I knew I wanted them. Top to bottom: the dragon books. I already had number three in the series, found at a thrift shop one day and it looks good but I wanted to start at the beginning and my library doesn't have any. So I got one and two. Secret Go the Wolves and Worms Eat My Garbage (on the very bottom) I've read before- really glad to add them to my collection. I have the sequel to Flame Trees of Thika (not yet read) and enjoyed the film, so I hope the book is good too. Archie Carr is a naturalist I've heard praise of, John Hay is an author I already like (I have his Undiscovered Country), and likewise with A Thousand Miles of Mustangin'- this is by the same author as Horse Tradin'. How to Catch a Mole is one that recently caught my eye on others' reviews, and You Grow Girl is a gardening blog I follow- so I bet I'll love her book!
The second stack there's less to say about- I bought a handful of gardening memoirs that looked good, and a collection of stories from a veterinarian. I hope Grow More with Less teaches me to be a better frugal gardener, and Being a Beast was something I couldn't pass up- reading the flyleaf was seriously reminiscent of the crazy book that is GoatMan.
These five are not from Powell's. I stayed with my parents over the holidays and visited my great-aunt one day. A lifelong educator, she is elderly and frail now and can no longer see well enough to read. I remember as a child visiting there and being awed by the bookcases that spanned an entire wall in one large room downstairs, and several shelves always full of books around the fireplace upstairs. Most of her library is gone now- there were only four shelves with books remaining. I brought these home: Five Little Peppers and How They Grew is one I recall my mother reading to me. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks and Being Mortal are both on my TBR. Star looks like a nice horse story, and Sinclair Lewis is a famous author I'm not sure if I ever read any of his works yet but this is supposed to be one of his best. I hope my aunt knows how much I appreciate having a few of her books.

And I brought this all home on the plane, plus a box of old journals from my childhood and teen years. It was a lot more than I expected to haul! Happy New Year everybody. Hope there are many good things in store, books being just one of them.

Jan 2, 2020

VISSER

by K.A. Applegate

Another good one! Like The Andalite Chronicles, it fills in a ton of backstory about the Yeerks invading Earth. This one jumps around between the present narrative and the past, because it's Visser One being on trial for multiple counts of treason, and having to explain herself- recounting how the Yeerk Edriss first discovered Earth and realized humans might make good host species, how they took their first hosts to explore the possibilities and learn about humans, how the Sharing was initially set up, how Edriss and her companion Yeerk went through several different hosts until Edriss ended up in Marco's mom, and so on. Half of this is Edriss simply telling it, the other half is "memory transfers" where everyone gets to view exactly what went on, revealing some details Edriss would have rather kept secret. All the time Visser Three is there- goading her and spouting anger and at risk of being put on trial himself, as Visser One takes every opportunity to point out his mistakes. At one point someone dumps a tiger and a bear into the group- as a distraction?- to make them think it's the Animorphs but later someone let the actual Animorphs know where they are and they face a real attack. It was actually cool to see the Animorphs through their enemies' eyes. Also to see how humans appeared to them- kind of a character study on the human race. As in The Departure, this one lets the reader see things from the other side, making Visser One not exactly sympathetic, but definitely more of a gray character- you can see why she was driven to do the things she did, but she readily displays her ruthlessness- for all she appears to have developed fond feelings for humankind (living among them in disguise for over a year before any more Yeerks came to Earth), she has no qualms about killing children to meet her ends (and that's just one example). Visser Three, on the other hand, remains thoroughly himself the whole time in this book- angry and blustering and bloodthirsty. Not one of the funnier books, but definitely intriguing and laid a lot of things out. Incidentally it was difficult at some points to tell who was talking, or who could hear whom using thought-speak though, when the narrating Visser One was communicating with her host or someone else, or they were in one of the memory replays- but I skimmed past some of that muddle regardless. As a trial it's all one huge farce, because in the end the Vissers evade the death penalty and carry on- with some warnings is all. If you're interested, do check out some of the other reviews I linked to below. Some of them go into a lot more detail than I cover here.

Rating: 4/5                      220 pages, 1999

more opinions:
Arkham Reviews
Snips and Snails and Puppy Dog Tales
Cinnamon Bunzuh!
the Library Ladies

Jan 1, 2020

2019 Stats

Total books read- 117

Fiction- 56
Non-fiction- 61

fiction breakdown
YA-7
Fantasy/Sci-Fi- 28
J Fiction- 32
Animals- 31
Historical- 1

non-fiction breakdown
Gardening/Food- 9
J Nonfiction- 2
Memoirs- 15
Nature- 15
Animals- 42
Medical- 6
Travel/Adventure- 8

other formats
Short Stories- 5
E-Books- 9

sources
Owned- 72
Public Library- 43
Borrowed from friend/relative- 3
Received from publisher/author- 2

re-reads- 2
abandoned books- 7

Notes: the numbers don't add up perfectly, as always, because some titles fit in more than one category. How did I do this year? Well, trying to finish the Animorphs series really added to my numbers of animal, juvenile fiction and sci-fi. Because they're so short. Didn't read any classics or graphic novels this year- must get back to some of those because I do like them. Balance of reading owned/borrowed books and fiction/nonfiction is roughly equal, which satisfies me.

Travels I made in the pages (not counting alien worlds in the Animorphs) : Belize, Madagascar, the Congo, Botswana, Zambia, Mauritius, Tibet, England, Liberia and Tanzania.

Favorite books: Bringing Nature Home- very inspirational for a gardener like me. Eating Animals- this one made me a lot more conscious of food choices, and prompted my husband to buy our meat from a local farm (an hour drive). We eat less of it now, too. Animal Wise was another really good one- lots of specific studies on thinking processes. The Last Wild Wolves was just beautiful, and informative. Jaguar is another very good one- exactly the kind of writing I like about field studies, natural history and foreign places. In fiction, I really liked White Dog Fell From the Sky- subtle yet intense is a good word. There's convincing talking animals in a prehistoric setting and very good characterization in Darkwing. Another favorite book for me was Indian Saddle-Up- an older, dated novel but just a very well-told engaging story. And finally, People of the Sky is a sci-fi novel I have simply not been able to get out of my head. It was just fascinating.

The Proposal

Animorphs #35
by K.A. Applegate

This was one of the light ones. Stupid, ridiculous and pointless maybe, but funny as heck. The Animorphs find out that some famous guy is using his television presence to promote the Sharing- which could of course rope tons more innocent humans into being Yeerks, so they have to stop him. They use squirrel morphs (which sounded fun, I wish they'd spent more time as squirrels) to sneak into his mansion, and then morph cockatiels to fly around undetected, as the guy has a huge bird collection he lets free roam his house. I liked that it was difficult for them to actually put their hands on the birds in order to acquire them- that's pretty realistic. (Side note: I thought surely cockateils don't say "twooit" but I looked up a video of one screaming and yeah, they do kind of sound like that!) So they find out this guy is kind of unhinged but keeps his cover by pretending to be kind and love animals, as the human host does. They decide to use animal morphs to antagonize him in public so people will see him acting violently towards animals and it will ruin his image. All kinds of ridiculous hijinks ensue. Of course half the plans go wrong. Especially because Marco is suffering from extreme stress- not only due to the ongoing alien warfare but also because his father is dating a woman without realizing Marco's mother might still be alive. So now Marco randomly looses control of his morphs, becoming a meld of two animals at once- the spider/skunk one was pretty alarming- and he doesn't tell his friends about it at first. They all find out pretty quick, though. In the end, Marco morphs his father's girlfriend's poodle (which he detests) and uses it to continually harass the guy until he goes berserk in the tv studio, they catch it on live film and success! but only just barely managing to avoid blowing their own cover, of course. Through all this, Cassie shows a lot of compassion towards Marco trying to help him talk through his angst about his father's situation, and about the war in general- she's got some pretty levelheaded advice, too. Don't dwell on what should or shouldn't have happened in the past. Deal with what's happening right now. Although all her talking doesn't really help- it's Jake yelling at Marco to pull himself together that does it at the end.

Incidentally, I found out how long it actually takes me to read a 150 page book when I am completely uninterrupted (on a long flight): just about three hours.

Rating: 3/5                 147 pages, 1999

more opinions:

Dec 31, 2019

The Prophecy

Animorphs #34
by K.A. Applegate

This was one of the better Animorphs books for me. I really liked all the ethical and morality questions it raised. It starts with a dash of humor- Cassie and Rachel using animal morphs to sneak into a teacher's house and retrieve a piece of homework that had "Cassie loves Jake" doodled on it, haha. Then a Hork-Bajir shows up: the free Hork-Bajir in the hidden valley have been approached by the last surviving Arn, that species that invented the Hork-Bajir so long ago. He wants their help to use DNA samples from the Hork-Bajir to create more of them to fight the Yeerks, and also to find a cache of weapons on the Hork-Bajir home planet. The Animorphs are brought in as consultants because the Hork-Bajir with their lesser intelligence don't understand all the implications. Winds up that they all travel back to that planet to find the weapons, but first they have to get the spirit of Aldrea- whose memory and personality was "backed up" or saved in some kind of device- because only she knows where the cache might be. This is weird and corny, but after Aldrea enters someone's mind- happens she chooses Cassie- it gets really interesting. Some other reviewers refer to this as the book where Cassie is possessed by an alien ghost, but I didn't see it that way at all. Once Aldrea was sharing Cassie's body, it was far more reminiscent of how the Yeerks take over their hosts- a fact which the Animorphs did not miss. Cassie actually struggles as Aldrea tries to wrest some control from her- because she has her own ideas, of course. There's some really interesting interactions between Aldrea and Ax- both being Andalites after all- Ax can't help looking down on Aldrea for her choices, they both have a huge helping of arrogance about everything, and Ax scorns Aldrea for her connections to Seerow (who first gave the Yeerks superior knowledge they weren't ready to handle) but Aldrea points out that Elfangor did the exact same thing to the human teenagers, so who's judging? Aside from all that, there's this impossible mission they have to pull off because the weapons cache is under a Yeerk pool, Aldrea is horrified to see how her home planet has been ravaged by the Yeerks, and Toby (the Horjk-Bajir who came to get help) sees her ancestral home planet for the first time, then doesn't want to return to Earth. The morphing scenes were crazy. Cassie's ability with this really shines, and Aldrea's admiration for it (and moment of shock at how the Animorphs are actually utilizing the morphing technology to thwart the Yeerks) is really something, coming from the race that invented it. Lots of heavy stuff. I liked it.

This one seems to be a continuation of The Hork-Bajir Chronicles. Also, if you look at the comments following the review on Cinnamon Bunzuh below (which is hilarious- I ignored a lot of those plot holes myself) other readers bring up a lot of interesting questions and theories on details from this book. Had a copy of this on my e-reader.

Rating: 4/5              141 pages, 1999

more opinions:
the Library Ladies
Cinnamon Bunzuh!

The Illusion

Animorphs #33
by K.A. Applegate

(There may be SPOILERS). The Animorphs team are trying to find out where the Anti-Morphing weapon is hidden, so they sneak into a large event of The Sharing. While there Ax causes some ruckus because he gets carried away with tasting food (introducing some humor once more). They decide to deliberately let Tobias get captured so that when the new weapon is tested, the enemy will think it simply doesn't work (because of course the hawk is Tobias' true form). The plan is that Rachel will sneak along with Tobias as a fly, return to let the team know where they are, and bring them all back to save Tobias and destroy the weapon. Only things go wrong. Tobias ends up being held captive and tortured for most of the book. It's very vivid. Especially the wandering and agony his mind goes through. The reader learns a lot about bad times in his past, as he revists them. Finally he retreats into the mind of the hawk, which just suffers the pain not understanding it, and gives up thinking he's going to die. Of course the team crashes in just at the last minute and manages to save Tobias, in a very confusing and gruesome battle, but it leaves them all incredibly shook up. Tobias wonders about how Jake- as the leader- has been deliberately using him, and Rachel expresses her true feelings, plus all the awkwardness in their relationship. Tobias goes through all this after having faced (earlier in the story) some glum moments feeling awkward when he's in human form to be with Rachel, and realizing that a hawk has a naturally short life span. . . . In addition to all this, there's some equally grim stuff when the torturer reveals to Tobias some of her own backstory- what led her to actually become a voluntary host to an alien Yeerk. Oh, and there's a deeper connection bonding between Tobias and Ax, as in part of the plan to fool the enemy, Tobias acquires the Andalite so he can take the form the enemy expects him to. I don't know why the Animorphs haven't all acquired Andalite morphs before this point- it would be incredibly useful! Anyway, this is all a jumble, as I'm rather tired, but it was such an intense story, don't really feel like this one fits in the juvenile fiction category either, due to the torture scenes. (During which there's there's a strong reference to the Princess Bride Pit of Despair- a few other reviwers noticed that as well). As a side note, there were numerous small typos in the copy I read- I don't know if it's just the e-book version or not.

Rating: 3/5            156 pages, 1999

more opinions:
Snips and Snails and Puppy Dog Tales
Cinnamon Bunzuh!
Arkham Reviews
the Library Ladies