Friday, February 26, 2010

The Wings of a Falcon by Cynthia Voigt

Plot: Two boys are growing up on an island, ruled over by a cruel man whose name they do not know. He is called the Damall, and all the boys fear him. The boys resolve to seek their lives elsewhere, but first, the boy and his companion, Griff, need to get off the island. And second, the boy needs a name...

Comments: I really enjoyed reading this book. I would call it an adventure story, but not exactly fantasy. There are no fire-breathing dragons or magical spells, just...adventures. The plot was really all over the place in this story. It definitely resembled life; it felt like a lot of different stories all tied together, and none of the stories has an ending. The plot would move on to a different story without telling you what happened in the last story, the unfinished story. As I said, it's definitely like life, but I'm not sure I completely appreciated that part. I would have liked knowing more about the fates of other people instead of just the main characters'.

The characters are difficult to imagine, both physically and mentally - meaning I had trouble seeing them as people instead of characters. They felt two-dimensional; I never really felt like there were real people in the stories. No one was described well enough for that - and I don't mean I want a paragraph long description of every new character walking into the story. But descriptions build up over time, and for this story they didn't.

The story is well written and interesting, and I had trouble putting it down. I didn't understand the ending, however. Well, not exactly the ending, but close enough. It was confusing when the point of views switched (especially since there was no indication of a switch) and I felt like things happened too fast, too suddenly. For the third and last time, it was a lot like life in that you didn't know what was going to happen and not everything was happy and not everything worked out. But I didn't think it was necessary. I did eventually appreciate it and understand (I think) the reasons for it, but I'm still not certain I completely liked it.

Rating: I shall rate this book a seven out of ten.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Darkwing by Kenneth Oppel

Plot: in the age of the dinosaurs, a chiropter (small animals that glide from tree to tree, using their hairy wings) is born different from the rest of his family. His chest and shoulders are much stronger and his wings are practically hairless. What's more, Dusk, as he is named, has always had a strong urge to flap his wings like birds, instead of keep them rigid for gliding. He feels alone and his family thinks he's odd until a day comes when he is their only hope.

Comments: I liked this book. It was an easy read, but a nice adventure story. It's definitely creative, and I like the way it explains the disappearance of the dinosaurs. One thing I didn't understand was the way the point of view switched from Dusk to another animal. It helped me to understand better what was happening, but it didn't fit very well. Also, I never learned the ending from the point of view of the other animal. It was like the author forgot to add that in there.

The plot was interesting, and certainly very creative. The characters were definitely not easy to imagine, but that's because they were all pre-historic animals. I didn't like the way Dusk was always so obedient and humble around everyone else, especially the elders. I always hate that, but only because I believe in giving respect where it is due. If an old woman is being extremely rude to me, I'm not going to be polite back just because she's old. But that's just me.

Rating: I rate this book a six out of ten. Okay, but not the best.

God Save the Child by Robert B. Parker

Book 2 in the Spenser series

Plot: Spenser the detective is looking for a missing boy, a teenager with a bossy, flirtatious mother and a busy, push-over father. He enlists the help of Susan Silvermann, the counselor at the boy's school, and – reluctantly – the police, when things get complicated. While unraveling this twisted conundrum, Spenser employs his usual wit to confuse, annoy, and amuse the strange people he meets.

Comments: I absolutely love the Spenser novels, even though this is only the third one I have read (see the Godwulf Manuscript for an explanation)! Spenser is hilarious and witty, and I laugh through the whole book! However, after reading the first and second books, I've discovered I definitely enjoyed the twenty-somethingth book I read more than the earlier books. Now and Then was wittier, had a smoother plot, and was better at describing the setting in fewer words. Don't get me wrong: I still loved The Godwulf Manuscript and God Save the Child, for sure! I just think Robert B. Parker's writing abilities greatly improved as time went on and as he wrote more and more novels. Have I mentioned that I admire Robert B. Parker's skills immensely? I aspire to be an author myself, and I only wish I could write the way he does, with a nice balance of drama, adventure, romance, and laughter.

The scenarios of Spenser's adventures vary a lot, giving a nice fresh feeling with every book. Each plot is unique, so unique that it feels even more like a real story. The characters are described with huge detail, but written so it's portrayed as Spenser's quick, yet thorough, observations. I can imagine the characters with little effort, and they feel like real people. They are described so there isn't much room for the reader's imagination, but the characters feel so real and fit so well in the story that I felt no need to build on the image in my mind.

Reminder: in case you didn't read my post about The Godwulf Manuscript, I rate these books PG13 for swearing, mature concepts, romance, etc., but I don't think it's all that bad. I recommend 14 and older.

Rating: I rate this book a seven out of ten.

The Ragwitch by Garth Nix

Plot: When brother and sister Paul and Julia are on vacation at the beach, they are abruptly transported to a strange, magical world being attacked by the dreaded Ragwitch. To defeat her, Paul must convince all four Elementals to help save their world.

Comments: I liked this book, though at first it wasn't very interesting. But once it started, I got into it and decided I shouldn't have judged the whole book by the first few pages. (However, I do think author's should strive to create a “hook”, an interesting beginning that makes the readers want to keep reading. It's an important part of the book because it represents the rest of the book; it tells readers what to expect. Too many books I've read started out boring but got better as they went along – most people will put down a boring book and find something else to do. So I revise my statement: I can judge a book by the first few pages, but I shouldn't necessarily expect the entire book to be like those pages.)

The characters are a little hard to imagine as real, but I think part of that is because this book is set in more of a medieval era, which I am unfamiliar with. The plot is interesting – once it starts – and the idea of the Ragwitch is unlike anything I've ever read before. The Ragwitch is a very creative antagonist, and I especially like the creativity with the weapon Paul receives. I like how the point of view switches between Paul and Julia (though Paul is obviously the main character), so you can see what's going on in different places at the same time.

Rating: I rate this book a six and a half out of ten. An all-around good fantasy story.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Blue Fingers: a Ninja's Tale by Cheryl Aylward Whitesel

Plot: Koji lives in the samurai ages of Japan, a twin in a time of great superstition. He is always envious of his twin, Taro, for his strength and bravery, and he feels as if everyone loves him more. When Koji is kidnapped by strange people in dark clothes, he finally begins to feel like he is someone, instead of a shadow of his brother.

Comments: this book was an easy read, but very interesting and enjoyable. I am fascinated with anything related to Japan, and I love stories about ninjas. While this story was an adventure/action story, I think it also had a good lesson about family and what really matters. It was a sweet story, and altogether a nice read.

The characters were very easy to imagine, and I felt like they were real people. I loved the varieties in personality; all the characters were very different. I didn't like the way Koji was always so obedient (well, he wasn't always), and how respectful he was. However, I should probably note that this was set in the early 1500's in Japan, and I know manners were incredibly important. You were expected to be polite to everyone and respectful to your elders. So I guess it's a good thing how the style fits the setting. (I'm just very sensitive to that kind of polite obedience.)

Rating: I rate this story a six and a half out of ten. A good book, but probably too much of an easy read for me.

Friday, February 5, 2010

The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers

Plot: this is the story of several people: a young, poor girl with big dreams; a black doctor struggling to overcome racism; a revolutionary drunk with strange ideas; an observing restaurant owner trying to find a reason. They are all connected by an intelligent, caring deaf man that they somehow can't stay away from. When they are with him, they feel like everything will be okay...

Comments: I really enjoyed this book, but I must warn you that it is not light reading. At first it seems like a nice fictional story about a deaf man and his quiet life, but that soon changes. It's not an action book - though a lot of things happen - but the story was no longer...sleepy, as it first seemed. This book is about intense passion and deep mysteries, about asking questions and not resting until you find answers, about love, life, and death.

Reading the stories, thoughts, hopes, and wishes of the characters, you become deeply involved with them. I felt like I knew them all really well, even though I couldn't necessarily imagine them. However, I think this book was too advanced for me, because though I understood the general concepts and ideas and feelings related to these characters, I couldn't follow a lot of the long speeches (mostly by Jake Blount). This is a rather advanced novel, meant undoubtedly for adults rather than teenagers, but that's not to say that teenagers should not read this.

This book had multiple eye-opening views of life, extremely different perspectives, different people brought together by one person. It was an interesting experience, seeing life from the point of view of a young girl with music dancing through her head, or a drunkard with insight but little common sense, or...well, you get it. I liked the different perspectives. I especially loved Singer, the deaf man. He was so kind and patient, and I just loved everything that he did.

I didn't believe the ending. When I read it, I wasn't surprised at all, but I felt disbelieving, confused. In a daze, I read the last few chapters (yes, chapters), still clinging to the hope that it would have a happy ending. I suppose it didn't have an unhappy ending, but it fit; the ending was a real life kind of ending. This book brought me face-to-face with reality and reminded me that you can't run away from life. A lot of the time I read books to escape from life, to have a few hours off of reality. Sometimes I even make up different endings to books when I want a happy (or just different) ending. Reading this story reminded me that you can't run away, and that sometimes you just have to suck it up and go on. It's a good thing to remember.

Rating: I will rate this book a seven and three-fourths out of ten. Advanced read, amazing view of life.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Plot: when a one-person plane goes down in the middle of the desert, the last thing the pilot expected to hear was "If you please-draw me a sheep!" This is the story of the Little Prince and his planet, his flower, and his life.

Comments: Alright, this isn't a novel, but I couldn't not tell people about it! It's not a comic book, but though it has some nice pictures (drawn by the author), it has too many words to be a picture book. I'll call it a storybook.

This story is so sweet and cute, but it is not an adorable little story about a little boy on a little planet. It is an inspiring, wise story, with amazing views of life and love. The child's perspective of "grown-ups" is somewhat amusing, but also very true. This story talks about the busy, important tasks adults always seem to be involved with, and how complicated adults seem to be able to make everything. The book says that adults can't see the beauty in things and need facts and numbers to appreciate anything - though a child could tell you this is not true appreciation.

I love the imaginative plot and simple yet elegant descriptions! Disguised as a child's storybook - though it is definitely not - you learn about life lessons and think about life. Reading this story, I asked myself questions and wondered about things as I haven't in a while. I feel like one of the "grown-ups" in the story, rushing everywhere and losing sight of life as it should be.

Rating: I shall rate this book an eight and a half out of ten. I strongly recommend this book to everyone! Don't say it's too easy or too simple - it has more insight than many large books I've read.

Call Me Hope by Gretchen Olson

Plot: eleven-year-old Hope may seem like an ordinary sixth grader, but at home she is constantly being verbally abused by her moody, unpredictable mother. She thinks about running away, but, inspired by Anne Frank's diary, instead puts up with her mother day after day. She creates a point system that gives her points for every bit of abuse her mother gives her and struggles to keep her mother happy.

Comments: this was a really insightful book that teaches a lot about verbal abuse. Physical abuse is not the only kind of problem in homes, and it's important to know that verbal abuse can be just as bad, if not worse. Verbal abuse can cause depression, which could lead to suicide. Verbally abused children may verbally abuse other children, and could feel insecure and lost. This book is from the perspective of a verbally abused child, and since it's easy to read, the story can teach a lot of people about verbal abuse.

I really liked this book, and though it was really easy to read, it was interesting, and I wanted to find out how it ended. I felt like I could relate to Hope - though I would not consider myself verbally abused, she had several traits that reminded me of myself, which helped me to feel like I was a part of the story. The characters were also easy to relate to, and though I couldn't imagine their appearances at all, I felt like I knew them. The descriptions of the characters is kept simple, and that only helps you relate to the story better. Since the characters aren't defined to a letter, I can think of them as natural people, instead of a character. This makes me feel like this story could be told in many different ways and from different perspectives, which makes me wonder how many children are verbally abused like Hope.

I also wondered how many of their stories have endings like Call Me Hope did. I thought everything was over and resolved too quickly, that the changed seemed impossibly fast. I did like the way Hope's story ended, and it made me happy for her, but I wasn't sure it really fit. Not every story has a happy ending, but not every lost cause is really lost. I'm still undecided and probably always will be on this one.

Rating: I rate this book an eight out of ten. An amazing story of hope beyond expectations, of a place inside us where we are still believing and wishing for an apparently lost cause.