Book Review: The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau

The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau was my local book club’s read for the month of September. It’s the first book in DuPrau’s Ember series.

 

I decided to an audiobook version of The City of Ember narrated by Wendy Dillon. The audiobook was amazingly done. It was one of the first audiobooks that I’ve listened to that has added sounds like dripping water, doors creakily opening, or bustling streets. It wasn’t during every minute of the book but at key moments and I felt like it added something to the experience. Wendy Dillon did an excellent job narrating, even though at first I wasn’t sure if I liked her voice for one of the characters, it really grew on me and I was totally drawn in to the story.

 

The City of Ember is a town built by the Builders. A nuclear war was occuring and in order to save man kind they built an underground city. They put instructions in a metal box for how to get out of the city with a timed lock for 200 years. It was to be entrusted only to the city’s mayor and it’s purpose to only be explained to each predecessor and no one else. They thought it important that the outside world not be known to the children that were to be raised there, that way the people would not know what had been lost. However, as time went on, one of the mayors died suddenly and the box and it’s importance were lost. It’s the only light in the world of darkness. This is the only city. There’s storehouses of food and supplies and a generator that provides power to the city. There’s a problem though. The supplies are starting to dwindle and the generator keeps failing. The blackouts are getting longer and more frequent.

Lina and Doon have come to the age where the citizens of Ember receive their first job, Assignment Day. There’s what’s considered good jobs, like messenger and greenhouse worker, and then there’s bad jobs, like pipework laborer and street cleaner. Each student before they graduate must pick a piece of paper out of a bag which will assign their occupation. Lina gets pipework laborer and Doon gets messenger. Doon chases Lina down after the ceremony and asks to trade. Lina is confused at why he would want to give up such a good job for pipework laborer when Doon explains that he wants to work close to the generator because he thinks he can fix it.

The blackouts become more frequent and the whole town is starting to become a bit unhinged. Lina’s grandmother seems a bit loopy herself and has torn apart their apartment looking for something. That’s when Lina spots a metal box. The very one the Builders and sent down. Inside is a paper that’s been torn to bits by her toddler sister. She tries to piece the puzzle together and brings in Doon to help. Even though it is fragmented and barely legible, they start to realize that this paper may be Ember’s salvation.

 

The book definitely has an interesting premise. It’s hard to imagine something that immense built underground that could last that long. It’s also interesting to see how a society develops in that situation. Was a quick and easy read that successfully got me hooked to the series. There are certain places where I wish more was explained, which may happen in later books. I also felt that at times things were to simple, or the characters understood things too quickly or easily. It was easier for the story to move over it quickly but for the two main characters that have no knowledge that there is an outside world there were times that I was surprised that there wasn’t more difficulty in certain aspects. Maybe it’s because it is a young adult book and the author felt the audience wouldn’t care about such small details.

It’s nothing that ruins the book and I think if you’re looking for a quick and fun read that it’s worth the time.

Book Review: The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson

The Girl Who Played with Fire is Stieg Larsson’s second book in the Millennium Series. This is another book that I’m using for the Nordic Mystery Challenge 2012 . I’m going to write the review assuming that you have read the first book in the series, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. If you haven’t read it yet go do it, great book and their may be spoilers for it below.

Okay are you still with me? The second book starts with Mikael Blomkvist having returned to Millennium magazine which is no longer in financial woes due to the success of his book about the Wennerström affair. Lisbeth Salander left Sweden after the Wennerström affair and has been travelling the world. Lisbeth has refused to talk to Blomkvist and he’s slightly distraught that she’s no where to be found.

Blomkvist and the Millennium crew have decided to take on a new expose and release an issue on human trafficking after being approached by Dag Svennsson who with the help of his girlfriend’s research claims to be able to take down people in high positions within the government for trafficking charges, some of them the very ones who wrote or passed the trafficking laws. This is surely going to stir up some trouble. Meanwhile Salander returns from her globe trotting trip to pay a little visit to her legal guardian Nils Bjurman who seems not to be following the rules she laid out.

Our stories become intertwined and there’s another murder to be solved. Except this time the police have their sights set on LIsbeth Salander and Blomkvist is trying his best to find out the truth.

I really haven’t given much of the story line but I wanted to tread carefully on giving too much away and I was worried I was starting to sound like a book report. Larsson has truly made one of the most interesting characters that I’ve read about with Lisbeth Salander. In this book we get to spend a lot more time with her and getting to know her and her past. I feel like that I know part of me shouldn’t like Salander, lets face it she’s really easy to not like, but I find parts of her endearing and can say that I understand her reasoning behind her actions.

Larsson was skillful at writing two views of a story line and keeping you on the edge of your seat. Giving you enough of a glimpse at each character’s psyche and thoughts on the current situation while also intricately weaving murder and crime plots. I’m woefully sorry that he has passed away and we won’t be receiving any new great works of fiction from him.

So what about you all? Who are the characters that you have found most interesting in fiction?

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