Book Review: The Prophet of Yonwood

The Diamond of Darkhold
Book of Ember #3
by Jeanne DuPrau

My rating: 1 / 5
Genre: Children’s dystopian

Some decades before the city of Ember is built, before the Crisis that moved the first inhabitants of Ember underground, a woman in the town of Yonwood has a fiery vision. But her comatose-like mind might hold the secret to keeping Yonwood safe from that catastrophic future.

I don’t really see a lot of point to this book. It’s a prequel to the first two books in the city, but it’s barely connected. And even the elements within this book were fairly disconnected from each other. There’s the main character, Nickie, and her aunt, who are visitors to Yonwood, and their disagreement about selling the house they’re there to clean out and possibly sell. The actual Prophet storyline, which barely comes across as the main storyline. Grover and his plight to make it to camp in Arizona. The kooky man who is interested in the heavens and is the only who who successfully defies the Prophet’s lackeys. There is just too much going on, and even by the halfway point, I had no idea what the purpose of the book really was.

As the Prophet’s main interpreter begins to get more and more ridiculous with her rules, I quickly began to realize that this is just another attempt on the author’s part to teach readers something she feels is important. But unlike a more universally accepted truth in the 2nd book (“War is bad”), this one is a lot more controversial. The book turns into basically an indictment on religion, seeming to imply that religions are largely fabricated by their followers. It actually reminds me most of the Pharisees who, by Jesus’ time, had imposed so many of their own rules, they had lost the core message. On top of all of that, the author attempts a tug at the heartstrings that is likely far more successful for dog lovers. I’m more of a dog tolerater (I know that’s not a word). I can acknowledge that what happens is ridiculous (stupid, really), but definitely didn’t get as emotionally invested as others might. In the end, I really wish DuPrau had kept this series more in line with the first book. The second wasn’t bad, but the first and fourth were my favorite, and I really just wish for more like them. If you are considering reading this series, I recommend it, but feel free to skip this third book.

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Book Review: The Diamond of Darkhold

The Diamond of Darkhold
Book of Ember #4
by Jeanne DuPrau

My rating: 4.5 / 5
Genre: Children’s dystopian

Spoiler notice: The following review will contain some spoilers for the first book in the series, The City of Ember.

The people of Sparks are suffering through winter without enough food for everyone and with many sicknesses and injuries. When Doon discovers a book that seems to hold a secret for the people of Ember, he and Lina make a plan to uncover that secret and hopefully help their town.

After liking the first book and being a little disappointed with the second, I enjoyed this one, which I felt brought back the adventure and intrigue of the first book. It helped me to realize that one of the things missing from the 2nd book is Lina and Doon working together, rather than both having their own quests. I also liked the return to Ember, even though much had changed, and how things played out there. The secret of the diamond was underwhelming at first, but as I came to understand it better, I appreciated it more.

The ending was a little strange to me, partly because it leaps forward and then backward at least once, and I had to reread some spots to make sure I wasn’t confused. And the reference to the third book in the series, which I skipped in favor of the next book in sequence (the third book is a prequel) was weird and made me less inclined to even read the third one (though I still will). However, the ending only detracted a little, hence the half point down from 5 in my rating. Overall, it was a satisfying conclusion to a series that I’m glad I read.

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Book Review: The People of Sparks

The People of Sparks
Book of Ember #2
by Jeanne DuPrau

My rating: 3 / 5
Genre: Children’s dystopian

Spoiler notice: The following review will contain some spoilers for the first book in the series, The City of Ember.

After escaping from the underground city of Ember, Lina and Doon are joined by 400 of their fellow Emberites. With little food and no knowledge of life above ground, they stumble upon the city of Sparks, a town with a rocky past of their own. Though the people of Sparks are generous, the Emberites more than double the strain on their own limited resources. When tension mounts and anger begins to flare on both sides, can Lina and Doon help the people of Sparks and the people of Ember avoid war?

I think what I’m seeing in this book is that the author’s desire to insert a theme and to teach kids something she believes in made the story a lot less interesting than it could have been. Exploring the idea that these people have lived their entire lives underground, in a city that was built for them, with technology they never understood, and literally don’t even know what the sun is, much less how seasons work, did take up some of the book, but it fell by the wayside when the “War is bad” motif took over. Yes, war is bad, and yes, in the context of this story, war is what drove the Emberites’ ancestors underground. And it’s what left the people of Sparks in a primitive lifestyle, only now finally able to store excess food for an emergency. However, I’m not sure I buy that the people of Ember, who have just barely survived the death of their city and the stumbling around in a foreign land to find shelter, could produce someone who wanted power for himself and would be willing to incite others to violence to get it. It seemed like the ramping up to a conflict happened really fast.

Following Lina as she tried to understand her vision/memory/whatever about the gleaming city almost seemed like an afterthought. She took a lot of risk and a lot of the story was taken up by her adventure, just for a really minor pay-off.

I do like what ultimately transpired in the climax and the aftermath of that, and frankly, it went better than I expected it to. I anticipated a really simple, heavy-handed resolution, and though what actually happened wasn’t necessarily unique and unexpected, it was nice. And the book ended well, leaving me still interested in the next in the series. While I think this book could have been MUCH better, it’s not a bad follow-up for those who enjoyed the first in the series, and might be more enjoyable for the age group that it’s meant for than it was for me.

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Book Review: The City of Ember

The City of Ember
Book of Ember #1
by Jeanne DuPrau

My rating: 5 / 5
Genre: Children’s dystopian

The city of Ember has survived for over 200 years, a city of light in a world of darkness. But lately, the lights have been going out more and more, and no one seems to know why or how to stop it. Lina Mayfleet and Doon Harrow, both twelve years old and recently assigned jobs for the city, believe they’ve found something that might just save everyone in Ember. If only they could get people to listen to them.

This is the 2nd book I’ve read in this genre in a short period of time, and at first, it reminded me a lot of The Giver. It quickly becomes its own story with a very different theme, and I enjoyed it just as much as I did The Giver, though for different reasons. The slow falling apart of the city and the vastly varying ways the citizens respond to it are fascinating to follow along with. Lina and Doon are well-crafted characters, both with their own issues and driving desires. They even have considerably different reasons for wanting to save the city, and I really admire DuPrau’s ability to make them such well-rounded characters in a short space. I also appreciate how she explains items that are common, everyday things to us but are completely foreign to these people.

I’m looking forward to my 12-year-old daughter reading this book so we can discuss it. I think she’ll enjoy it as much as I did, and I recommend it for others around that age (or older) too.

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Top Ten Tuesday: Bargains of Unknown Value

It’s time for another Top Ten list from That Artsy Reader Girl. Today’s topic is “Books I Bought/Borrowed Because…” Last July, recent changes in my life had left me with more time than I’d had for the past few years. I realized then how much I really wanted to get back to reading regularly, which had dropped off some time after my first child was born, 18 years ago. As tends to be the way with me, once I decided to do this, I dove headlong into it, adding book reviews to my blog, building a to-be-read on Goodreads, and of course keeping my eye out for books to add to that list.

Suddenly I had a new purpose when I went with my husband to thrift stores, garage sales, and bargain stores. Even my husband started bringing home books for me that he thought I might be interested in, when he went to these kinds of places without me. I’ve since had to slow way down on buying physical books that I know nothing about, no matter the deal. But for today, my list will include books that I (or my husband) bought simply because they were super cheap (anywhere from $0.25 to $2, or even free), without really knowing much, if anything, about them.

At the time of making this list, I have not read any of these books except the first one, so the value of the bargain I got on each of them is still completely a mystery to me. Some I plan to read soon, others will likely take a while to get to.

Landry Park by Bethany Hagen
This was the very first book I bought with no knowledge of it but the blurb on the jacket. But it was a good deal at a bargain store, so I had to get it! After reading reviews for it later, I was concerned I wouldn’t like it, but I just finished it recently and felt it was worth the buy. See my review here.

Mrs. Murphy series books by Rita Mae Brown
At a local thrift store which tragically has very few books, I found 2 books from this series for 25¢ each. All I really know about these books is that they’re cozy mysteries and involve a cat. And my parents named their dog after the cat. I now own books #2 & #8 in the series, but will start at #1 if I can.
Shown here: Rest in Pieces

Dad Is Fat by Jim Gaffigan
This is one my husband picked up at a thrift store for maybe $1 when I wasn’t with him. We’re big fans of Jim Gaffigan, ever since seeing him on That ’70s Show years ago. Plus, he’s from Indiana, where we live. And he’s hilarious.

I, Q series by Roland Smith
My husband came home with the first 3 books in this 6-book series at the same time as he bought the previous book. It’s a YA spy series that I’d never heard of, but does sound interesting.
Shown here: Independence Hall

The Maze Runner by James Dashner
I actually got this book completely free when buying books for my sister on eBay. I took advantage of a buy 2, get 1 free offer from one seller, buying 2 for her, and when I didn’t see anything else in the eligible books list that she’d like, I grabbed this for myself. I watched some of the 1st (or maybe the 2nd?) movie at a hotel once years ago, and since then have been curious to read the series.

Redshirts by John Scalzi
This was already on my TBR list, as my husband had strongly recommended it, and then he shared with me an offer he found to get the e-book for free. As a Star Trek-franchise fan, I’m looking forward to reading this.

The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau
This is another one my husband brought home from a thrift store recently (he tends to stop by Good Will and other local used stores when he’s out by himself to look for the odd board game gem, and now he looks for books he thinks I might like too ❤️). I don’t know anything about it except what the blurb on the back says.

Dragon and Thief by Timothy Zahn
Another of my husband’s suggestions, though at least I was present for this one. We found this in our library’s used book sale section, and my husband figured at least this way I’d read a book by the author of some Star Wars books my husband likes (I have no desire to read Star Wars books). I’m starting to amass too many books that start a series in the middle grade or YA age groups. There are 3 just on this list!

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Great Illustrated Classics books by various authors
A few months ago, I read the GIC version of Little Women to my 9-year-old daughter, and then not long after that, the version for Anne of Green Gables. We both agreed that it was a nice way to read old classics. And we both quickly agreed we really wanted to read Pride and Prejudice next. But our library only had a few of these, and not that one. After searching for it to buy and not really wanting to spend upwards of $7, I found this lot of 40 GIC books on eBay for what came out to about $3.50 per book. I took a few days to think about it, and then my husband pulled the trigger. My daughter has already started reading one on her own, and after we finish the book we’re currently reading together (Anne of Avonlea), we’ll start on Pride and Prejudice.

Scores of free Kindle books by various authors!
Thanks to this blog (check out her Friday Reads posts) and daily emails from this site, just in the last couple of weeks I’ve acquired 9+ free Kindle books. I’m not going to list them all here by name, but below (and above) are the covers (some of them are probably still free on Amazon if you’re interested). For these, I do actually do a little research before I acquire them, even though they’re free, and only pick ones that seem interesting and don’t have reviews that scare me off.

Have you read any of these, or are any on your own TBR? Link your TTT post so I can see what you did with today’s topic!