Mini Review - Inkheart Trilogy by Cornelia Funke

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Once upon a time, I went down to my local Indie bookstore to find a birthday gift for my mom. After roaming around the place for a good hour ( I can never spend less than an hour in a bookstore), I took a pile of books up to the desk and asked the clerk's opinion on them, telling her a bit about my mom's taste in literature. Inkheart was among the books in that pile, and it was the first one that she grabbed. She looked at it in disdain. "I definitely wouldn't pick this one," she told me. "I didn't like it at all."
"Really?" I was surprised. "I've heard such good things about it."
She shrugged. "I thought that it was awful. Really awful. Of course, the book was originally written in another language. German, I think. Perhaps there was something lost in the translation."
So I put down Inkheart that day, got my mom a book by Fablehaven author Brandon Mull, instead, and Inkheart got bumped a few spaces down on my TBR list.

I should never have listened to the clerk that day, even if she HAD been a reliable source in the past, and has continued to be a reliable source even now.

It makes me wonder. What else have I missed out on based on a bad review from a trusted source?

Because I have since read all three books, and fallen in love with them. I now consider this one of my very favorite fantasy series. The child in me identifies with Meggie, the girl who lives more fully inside of her books than she does in the physical world. Mo and Dustfinger have joined the ranks of my most beloved fictional characters. This is a series that I absolutely MUST own, so that I can share it with my children in years to come.

The Good

Wonderfully imaginative. A fair mix of happiness and sorrow. Fabulous characters.

The Bad
the last book in the series requires the most suspension of belief. It feels as though rules are broken too often, as though absolutely anything goes and what's to stop the story from careening off of the page completely?

But overall I love the story, and I think it ends wonderfully.

My Rating

Read it. Read it read it read it.
I give it a 9/10

Frigging Awesome

Monday, March 22, 2010

Jamie of i suwannee has a frigging awesome blog. My very favorite part of it is the part where she spotlights beautiful bookcases.
Like these ones:

I don't know about you, but I ADORE bookcases. There is just something wonderful about seeing all of those books lined up on the shelves. It's like you're staring at a pile of endless possibilities.
AND here's another cool thing that I learned through Jamie's blog: You can buy books by the foot. That's right. Do you have some beautiful, empty bookcases that need to be filled? Well, then go here, and order yourself some books by the linear foot. You can also order them in bulk! It's only $150 for 1000 random tomes to fill your shelves. Isn't the Internet fantastic?

The Dead and the Gone - Review

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Dead and the Gone by Susan Beth Pfeffer
is the second installment in Pfeffer's Last Survivors series, a companion book to Life as We Knew it

About the book

Some of the things that I didn't like about the first book in the series were addressed in the second one. It's darker. It's grittier. And when you're talking about post-apoc fiction, the grittier the better, in my opinion. I don't want to say too much about the novel, because I don't know about you guys, but I prefer going in to a story knowing next to nothing about the plot. It's more fun that way. But I'll tell you this much:
The Dead and the Gone is set in New York. When the comet hits the moon, 17 year old Alex Morales is at work. His mom is working a late shift at the hospital, his father is in Puerto Rico for a funeral, and his two younger sisters are home alone. They are a devout Catholic family, and the disaster serves as a test of their faith. Will their parents make it home? Will Alex be able to provide for his sisters?

The Good

Like I said, this book is darker than the first. There is a bit more violence, and we see death that is much closer to the main characters. In many ways this book is the complete opposite of its companion. This installment has less of the everyday teenage angst that was present in Miranda's journal. Alex and his sisters are religious whereas Miranda's family was not. Alex lives in the urban sprawl whereas Miranda was in rural Pennsylvania. It was nice to see the disaster from a completely different perspective. I've heard some people complain that the piety of the teenage children, particularly Bri, was unrealistic, but (being Cuban) I have met my share of Hispanic Catholics and I don't think it's too much of a stretch.

The Bad
The book still wasn't as dark as I would have expected, though I don't suppose I can demand something on the same level as The Road from a YA novel.
There still wasn't as much chaos as I expected. Especially as this one was set in the inner city. The kids were able to get lunch every weekday from their schools, and there were food lines that gave out a bag of supplies every week. I WOULD like to have that much faith in the government and our society, but (call me a cynic) I just don't. There was only one instance when the line ran out of food while Alex and his sister where still waiting, and a mob formed. Just one.

I didn't quite understand Kevin's motivation for doing all that he did for Alex. He was a bit of an enigma, and not always in a good way. How can you relate to a character if you don't understand their motives? He seemed cynical and hard, and yet he was obviously well enough off. He had no reason to stand in line with Alex, and yet he did. Every week.

I was also confused as to why Alex wasn't able to get into any of the other apartments in the building. It seems that since his father was the Manager, there would be keys to EVERY apartment in the office somewhere. Am I wrong about this?

My Rating
The book was good. I like the series, so far. I will read the third one as soon as it's available to me. I would recommend it to people who like Disaster/Post-apocalyptic fiction and Young Adult novels. But the series doesn't quite do it for a serious Post-apoc Junkie.

I give it a 7/10

Dystopian Challenge book review - Life as we Knew it

Friday, February 26, 2010

The first book that I read for
Parajunkee's Dystopian Challenge was Life As We Knew It by Susan Pfeffer.
The book didn't really fit into the Dystopian genre, and was more of a straight up apocalyptic novel, but I enjoyed it anyhow.

About The Book
The novel is written in journal form, and the narrator is a 16 year old girl named Miranda. The first few journal entries focus on things that an average teenage girl would be worried about: school, homework, friends, boys. We learn that she has an obsession with an ice skater from her home town, that she is finding herself at odds with her best friends, and that she's annoyed with all of her teachers for giving out too many homework assignments that are all due on the same day. Everyone is excited about an asteroid that is about to hit the moon, excited because the asteroid is so big that you should be able to see the impact with your naked eye. But something goes wrong. The moon is knocked out of its natural orbit, pushed closer to the earth. And, as you can probably imagine, this causes some serious problems.


Jon was making himself a can of green peas for lunch when all of a sudden he turned to us and said, “How come none of you eat lunch?”

It’s funny. We haven’t in ages, but Jon was always outside with Matt and I guess he figured Matt ate a big breakfast or something. He didn’t know what Mom or I were doing…

I eat every single day. Two months from now, maybe even one month from now, I might eat only every other day.

We’re all alive. We’re all healthy.

These are the good times.

My Review

The Good
Life As We Knew It is a compelling read. The journal format really pulls you into Miranda's head and places you right in the middle of her situation. You know her heart, you see her inner turmoil, and it all feels very honest. There are some heartbreaking moments, and I often ached for this poor girl that had to grow up so quickly, and found myself terrified by the possibility that she would have to watch her family die around her, or starve herself to keep her younger brother alive. Reading this book gave me an urgent desire to stock up my own pantry.

The Bad
The 'science' of the situation calls for a pretty serious suspension of belief. I didn't find it all that difficult to let myself be pulled into the story, but some people might have a problem with it. I was, however, perplexed by the fact that somehow mail was still being delivered. The world is in turmoil, gas is at a premium, people are having a hard time crossing state borders... but somehow they kept the Post Office running. Of course it wasn't exactly reliable, but still.
Another thing that surprised me was that there was never a real portrayal of the violence and rioting that I'm sure would accompany such a massive disaster. The scene at the grocery store was quite a bit tamer than I would have imagined it, and no one ever tried to break into Miranda's house to take her family's food, or anything like that. The only glimpse of violence that we see is some people breaking storefront windows and stealing plywood.

The Ugly

I was put off by the author's portrayal of Christians and Republicans. It irked me that she didn't try to balance her view a bit. Granted, I'm sure that the crazy, fanatical sects of Christianity would be pretty vocal in a time of disaster, but it would have been nice to see some balance.

My Rating
All in all, the book was enjoyable, and I look forward to starting the second one, which I just picked up from the library today.

The Dystopian Challenge

Saturday, February 6, 2010

I've decided to join my very first blog challenge!

Dystopian novels are my favorite, and I just can't resist a good post-apocalyptic story. Some of my all-time favorites are The Road by Cormac McCarthy, The Giver by Lois Lowry, and Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. So I just couldn't resist the urge to join this challenge.
I'm going for level 3 - Junkee , so my goal is to read 20 books by August 24th, which is the release date for the 3rd book in the Hunger Games trilogy. (And if you haven't read The Hunger Games, I suggest that you do it!)
Here's my (tentative) list for the Challenge

1. The Knife of Never letting Go – Patrick Ness
2. The Ask and the Answer – Patrick Ness
3. Genesis – Bernard Beckett
4. How I live Now – Meg Rosoff
5. The Declaration – Gemma Malley
6. The Resistance – Gemma Malley
7. The Dead And the Gone – Susan Beth Pfeffer
8. This World we live in - Susan Beth Pfeffer
9. Bones of Faerie – Janni lee Simner
10. The Maze Runner - James Dashner
11. The Year of the Flood – Margaret Atwood
12. Battle Royal – Koushun Takami
13. The Adoration of Jenna Fox – Mary Pearson
14. Boneshaker – Cherie Priest
15. Uglies – Scott Westerfield
16. The Forest of Hands and Teeth – Carrie Ryan
17. The Dead Tossed Waves – Carrie Ryan
18. The Children of Men – P.D. James
19. Gone – Michael Grant
20. Hunger – Michael Grant
21. Neuromancer – William Gibson
22. Brave New World – Aldous Huxley

This list is subject to change, as it depends on whether I can find many of these books at my local library, or borrow them from someone. But I'm pretty sure I'll be able to read 20 books without too much problem.
Good luck to everyone that's joining the challenge!

Audiobook Review - Stonefather

Friday, February 5, 2010

Stonefather is a novella by Orson Scott Card that I didn't even know existed. I ran across it while I was browsing my library's collection of audiobooks, and since I have been a fan of Card's since high school, I picked it up.

About the Book

Stonefather is the story of Runnel, the ninth son in a family that doesn't care much for him. His father is abusive, his mother barely notices him, and his siblings show him only disdain. They live in a tiny mountain village, and Runnel knows next to nothing about the world outside of it. One day Runnel decides to leave his mountain home, and he sets off without a goodbye to his family, without a plan, without any inkling of where he might be headed. Eventually he comes to the town of Hetterferry, which lies across the river from Mitherhome, where the great Watermages reside.
Here Runnel is lucky to meet an affable servant girl named Lark, who helps him to find a job in the unfriendly town.

My Review

After I finished the book I did a bit of research and found out that this novella is meant as a precursor to a Fantasy series that Card is planning called Mithermages. I think this is important to note, because the novella itself seems to be mostly about backstory, exposition, and education (of the hero as well as the reader). He introduces the system of magic, teaches the hero what he needs to know about himself, and then ties the book up with a nice and tidy victory for the good guys.

The Good
The characters are likable, the magic system is interesting, Runnel is someone that it is easy to be sympathetic towards. This is a quick, pleasant read.

The Bad

It really isn't anything more than 'pleasant'. I think this is one novella that could have done with a bit of fleshing out. The plot is predictable and rushed. The ending is too pat, too easy. I would have liked to watch Runnel grow slowly into his own rather than becoming the hero (literally) overnight. There is a bit at the end that feels as though it was tacked on, unceremoniously, to tell us what happened to Lark. I was ultimately disappointed. But I'm hopeful that the forthcoming series will give us something akin to the world of Alvin Maker, as these are problems that are easily fixed within a standard length novel.
The audiobook was read by Emily Janice Card, who, I believe, is Orson's daughter. I can't say that I loved her narration, but she wasn't bad. I don't know whether she has any other experience with audiobook narration, but I thought she seemed a little stiff. Not terrible, not a voice that's going to make me abandon the book... but not great.

My Rating

Book Review: Nectar in a Sieve

Sunday, January 31, 2010

(This post was supposed to go up on Saturday, but my Internet hasn't been working properly, and blogger hates me!)

Nectar in a Sieve by Kamala Markandaya

Plot Overview
When Rukmani is twelve years old she marries a man that she has never met. She moves away from the village where she grew up and becomes the wife of a tenant farmer named Nathan. Nathan is kind to her and their love for each other quickly grows into a strong, genuine bond. Rukmani respects him for his hard work and his skill at working the land, and Nathan respects Rukmani's ability to read and write ( skills that are not often found among the villagers), and her determination to learn the tasks required of a farmer's wife. Nathan has never learned to read or write, and as Rukmani's husband he has the right to forbid her from using these skills, but he never does. Instead, he praises her cleverness and calls her 'the best of wives.'
The main theme in the story is Hardship, and it comes in many forms: hunger, poverty, death, infertility, prostitution, infidelity. Day-to-day survival is often a struggle for Rukmani and her family.

The Good
Rukmani has an amazing fortitude, and she does her best to adapt to the situations that she faces. Instead of giving up, she chooses to 'bend
like the grass, that you do not break.' Through every hardship she continues to hope and plan for the future. She says to herself 'and what if we gave in to our troubles at every step! We would be pitiable creatures indeed to be so weak, for is not a man’s spirit given to him to rise above his misfortunes?"
This was a lovely, well-written story, and Rukmani's faith was inspiring.

The Bad
Some will find this story too melodramatic for their tastes, as the majority of the book is focused on the hardships that the family faces. There is also little in the way of plot. The story is simply about the day-to-day survival of a family facing hard times. There is also very little character development. I would have liked to learn more about the personalities of Rukmani's children.

My Rating

I thought that the book was lovely, and often poetic. It was a simple story, told in simple language, but it left a lasting impression. 8/10

(P.S. sorry about the random bold script up there, but I don't know how to fix it. like I said earlier - Blogger hates me.)

Back from the dead

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Well, what can I say? life happens, priorities shift, and hobbies get neglected. But, I'm back now, and hoping to start reviewing things regularly (more or less) starting next month. I have reviews in the works right now for Nectar in a Sieve ,The Inkheart trilogy, The Dark is Rising series and The Road... the first of which should be up this weekend.

It's good to be back.