Monday, July 12, 2010

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie

Plot: When a widow named Mrs. Ferrars commits suicide and the wealthy Roger Ackroyd is murdered soon afterward, the small English village of King's Abbot is even more full of gossip than usual. The murder is a complete mystery to the incompetent local police. Fortunately, though, the famous detective Hercule Poirot has just moved into King's Abbot and agrees to take on the case, with the narrator, Dr. Sheppard, as his unofficial companion.

Comments: I really liked this book - it was interesting, mysterious (of course, it is a mystery), and very intriguing. It was recommended by my friend Erika: she told me how much she liked it, but that her favorite character ended up being the murderer. She also said that it's a surprise ending - a "big twist", she called it. I was sure that my favorite character wouldn't be the murderer, but it turned out that she had sized me up right and predicted that my favorite would be the same as hers. Comment once you read the book and let me know if your favorite character was the murderer! (However, ye be warned: I may not post spoilers!)

The writing style in this story is very simple. The desciptions were like rough sketches; general, but easy to understand. I liked that though it is a mystery, the descriptions didn't go on and on and on. There was definitely a lot of reviewing of the murder, however, and that got a little old. I began to get annoyed with the detective, because he would bring up trivial details (or so you thought) and then wouldn't say what importance they had. He seemed to enjoy enfuriating his companion (and myself) with his locked lips. He was a good character to have in the story, because it spiced it up a little.

Rating: I rate this book a seven out of ten. A good read, though at first I hated the ending - after all, how can I enjoy a mystery where it turns out my favorite character is the murderer? But I thought about it for a while and finally agreed that it was a perfectly good ending, and I resigned myself to that fact, however disappointed I was.

The Siege of Macindaw by John Flanagan

Book six in the Ranger's Apprentice series. Click here for books one through five.

Plot: Ranger Will is preparing to rescue his friend Alyss from the castle of Macindaw and the traitorous clutches of the knight Keren and his troops. He will need to employ the help of stranded Skandians, a "sorcerer" named Malcolm, and his good friend Horace, the Knight of the Oak Leaf. However, when Will discovers that Keren has made a deal with a neighboring country's military, the rescue suddenly becomes an all-out attack on the castle, and the odds of surviving are not very good...

Comments: I didn't end up rereading book five, like I'd said I would (see Ranger's Apprentice Series), but I really did like this book a lot better. I had mentioned problems with Will suddenly growing up from an apprentice to a ranger, and I still don't exactly appreciate that. However, I put aside my prejudices for this book, and I really enjoyed it. I like what John Flanagan has made the adult Will into - the same with Horace and Alyss. I was a little concerned that Alyss would be a classic damsel in distress, locked away in her tower, fluttering a handkerchief, but I was relieved to find that though Alyss could not escape by herself, neither did she sit twiddling her thumbs while waiting for her rescue. I really appreciated that (can't stand damsels in distress!).

I thought all the planning was well thought out and interesting, instead of just a boring bunch of battle tactics. The way Malcolm conducted the interrogation was fun (trust me, no one was hurt - I wouldn't consider that fun), and I liked the creativity. It showed just how superstitious people used to be. One thing I really like about the Ranger's Apprentice series is that the action scenes are always described with detail, but not overly so. I can clearly imagine the action, but I'm not overloaded with details to the extent that everything is playing out in slow motion. I found it interesting that even though Will is now a full-fledged ranger, he still makes a lot of mistakes. He's not as good at fighting as I figured he would be, though now that I think of it, no one's perfect, and I guess he just found a really good opponent.

Rating: I rate this book a seven out of ten. Pretty good, fun read.

The Lighthouse Land by Adrian McKinty

Book 1 in the Lighthouse Trilogy

Plot: two boys find a magical device that transports them to another world. A girl from this strange place is convinced that they are the only ones who can save her city from raiders. Will they succeed?

Comments: at first, I really liked this book, especially the characters. The main character, Jamie, seemed really nice and sweet and not at all like an immature teenager. He was different, in a good way, and I liked him a lot. His new friend, Ramsay, is funny and spunky, and he's definitely different, too. I like how he sticks with Jamie and fights for him (even when he's only known him for a few hours). Jamie's mom doesn't feel very realistic, but she's not a main character, so I didn't mind much. I was kind of confused when Thaddeus, Jamie's old friend (I mean that Thaddeus is rather elderly, not that they've been friends forever), gave Jamie an expensive gift. It hadn't felt like they were THAT close...

I liked the plot, too, at first. It was creative and different and slightly magical, things I love about stories. But as the story continued (mostly toward the end), it got less exciting and less interesting. I finished the book, but only through loyalty to the beginning, and I won't be reading the second or third books. The end was slightly complicated, especially when Jamie kept changing his mind (again, trying not to give anything away). One moment he was dead set on one thing, absolutely positive of his decision, not letting anyone pursuade him otherwise. The next moment, Jamie's realized how wrong he was and changes his mind completely. It felt like the author had already decided on the ending and was trying to add some tension before the real ending showed itself. It felt very unrealistic.

Rating: I rate this book a six. Mostly good, but I didn't like the ending and won't be continuing with the trilogy.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Secret Fiend by Shane Peacock

Book four in the Boy Sherlock Holmes series. Click here for book three.

Plot: Sherlock has resolved to put aside his detective skills until he is older, but this time he has choice; London is in Chaos and he is the only person who can discover the identity of a terrifying creature straight out of a popular novel.

Comments: Phew, this book was so much better than Vanishing Girl, book number three! If you read the post for Vanishing Girl, you'll see that I really didn't like it, and I wasn't very enthusiastic about reading the next book in the series. However, I definitely recommend that you read this series, and book four is worth reading book three.

Sherlock was very different in this novel. He was no longer obsessed with solving cases before the London police, and though he still hated Malevolent (more about that later), he wasn't trying to pry Irene away from the, well, malevolent young thief. It's been a while since I read the first two books, but I think Sherlock has become more like the boy in those books, rather than the one I disliked in the third. (Am I being confusing? Sorry.) I love the way Sherlock talks, so old-fashioned and proper. Yes, this is set in the late 1800's, so it's expected that the speech is different, but the way he speaks is unlike any of the other characters'. He has a definite way with words, an amazing capacity to notice, remember, and fit together minute details, and a huge sense of curiosity. This young Sherlock very closely resembles the older detective he is supposed to grow into, the adult Sherlock Holmes created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (which, I believe, is the intent).

I felt as if there was a lot of character change between the third book and the fourth book. For example, Malevolent, the young thief lord/gang boss, and the enemy of Sherlock. I don't want to give anything away, but in the fourth book, he seems to hate Sherlock more than ever before. Another example is Irene, the daughter of a wealthy man and once the friend of Sherlock. In the third book (or was it the second?), Irene and Sherlock's friendship pretty much evaporates, but they kind of make up in the fourth book. I'm not exactly pleased with this, because though at first she was a favorite character, I quickly began to dislike her (see Vanishing Girl post), mostly because she chose Malevolent over Sherlock. Also, in this book I learn more about Sherlock's master, the eccentric apothecary Sigerson Bell. I love this character! He is so strange and knows so many things, and he is a good friend of Sherlock. Since Sherlock hardly ever sees his father anymore, Bell has kind of filled in, and he obviously cares for the boy. He's such a lovable old man.

Rating: I rate this book an eight out of ten. Definitely recommended, but watch out for the surprise ending!