Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

Plot: "My name is Kvothe. I have stolen princesses back from sleeping barrow kings. I burned down the town of Trebon. I have spent the night with Felurian and left with both my sanity and my life. I was expelled from the University at a younger age than most people are allowed in. I tread paths by moonlight that others fear to speak of during day. I have talked to Gods, loved women, and written songs that make the minstrels weep. You may have heard of me." An excerpt from the book.

Comments: I absolutely loved this book! It's the first book in a series, and I believe it's also Patrick Rothfuss' first published book (congratulations!). This is a great example of true fiction. It's got adventure, mystery, magic, love, and an amazing voice. Kvothe (pronounced almost like "quoth") himself narrates the story, and I must say, I love the way he thinks and talks. The characters in this book are amazing; they all feel very real and 3D, with little details summing up entire personalities. I got caught up in Kvothe's feud with a priggish, rich - and unfortunately for Kvothe, cunning - student at the University, and was intrigued with the woman that has caught Kvothe's attention. This book completely ensnared me. However, I got mad at Kvothe when he was doing/was about to do something stupid. He could be rather pig-headed sometimes.

I learned to set aside my expectations and to just let the book lead me where it was going. The plot is too complex to guess correctly. I liked how it switched back and forth from the young Kvothe to the older Kvothe telling the story. It added a bit of a cliffhanger, where I would be wondering what would happen next to young Kvothe and the story would suddenly switch to older Kvothe - and then something would happen to older Kvothe and I would forget about younger Kvothe...Like I said earlier; complex. The only reason I ever put it down was that it is a good-sized book, and I had too many things going on to read it in one day.

One thing I disliked was the lack of strong female characters. Few women attend the famed University, and several main female characters rely on men (often Kvothe) to be saved. I hope the characters evolve in the next  book, or I'll start being fairly annoyed.

Rating: I rate this book an eight and a half out of ten. Outstanding!

Read the second book in The Kingkiller Chronicles, The Wise Man's Fear.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Nightmare Academy by Frank Peretti

Book two in the Veritas Project series. Click here for book one.

Plot: This time the Springfields are investigating the mystery of a runaway teenager who was found - but was completely out of his mind. The only thing he says is "Nightmare Academy..." Over and over again. What is this Nightmare Academy, and how could it have changed this young man from a civil, smart student (if slightly rebellious) to a babbling, senseless child?

Comments: The second book in the Veritas Project series doesn't quite live up to the first one (see Hangman's Curse), but I liked this book anyway. It's a completely different kind of mystery, which I was glad to see. The setting is extremely different from the first book, and so is the plot. This story was slightly more far-fetched and dangerous than Hangman's Curse. More is at stake, and there seems to be less chance for redemption.

I was kind of annoyed by the characters in this story. The teenagers were stupid, superficial, and resembled wild animals. No rules, no morals, and no conscious thought. I guess it was kind of the point, but as the plot went on, I got pretty exasperated. Everything changed in the end, but it was a little difficult to read through the idiotic whims of the teenagers.

Rating: I rate this book a six out of ten. It was an okay story.

Hangman's Curse by Frank Peretti

Book one in the Veritas Project series. Click here for book two.

Plot: "The story centers around an apparently supernatural case taken by a family of investigators who make up the Veritas Project. About ten years after the suicidal hanging of Abel Frye, a high school student unable to cope with the pressures of bullying, jocks from the school's football team begin to lose their sanity after seeing what they believe to be Abel's ghost, which is rumored to be under the control of a group of witches out for revenge." Copied from Wikipedia. (I find it hard to summarize plots...)

Comments: this was an interesting story, very mysterious (I seem to be using that word a lot lately) and thought-provoking. It was an entertaining fiction novel, with well-described characters. I liked how Elijah, one of the main characters, becomes friends with an outcast. I appreciated the way he treated everyone like a human being instead of acting like the average teenage guy. I had a few theories as to the real reason why the football team was going insane, but of course, none of them turned out to be correct.

One thing I didn't like about this book was the way it was written. The main characters, both high school kids, didn't seem like normal teenagers. They were definitely mature, which I realize was on purpose, but the way they talked and acted felt off. It was the same with all the other teenagers - none of them acted like the teenagers I know. Also, the high school had actual cliques: the math kids sat here, the jocks sat there, the skaters sat over that way. As far as I know, no high school actually has groups like that. I know mine doesn't! Friends sit together in little groups, sure, but we aren't all divided as obviously as they were in Hangman's Curse. I don't think Frank Peretti did his research very well. Next time I suggest he gives his manuscript to a teenager to read and ask what they think of his high school.

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

The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown

Plot: when the elderly curator of a famous Parisian museum is found dead in a gallery, covered in symbols drawn with his own blood, a twisted, mysterious adventure begins for Robert Langdon, well-known American symbologist. The beautiful cryptologist Sophie Neveu joins him in the search for answers as the clues lead them closer to the best-kept secret in the history of man - and further into danger.

Comments: I had wanted to read this for a long time, and I finally checked it out of the library. At first the story was exciting and intriguing, everything a good mystery should be. The plot was wild and slightly far-fetched, but that's fine in moderation. Robert Langdon fit the bill perfectly, a bewildered, awkward man, and Sophie Neveu was confident, yet cautious. The other characters rounded out the story nicely.

However, as the story continued, I started getting a little bored. Though the clues were always different and they led in different directions, I felt like the story was repeating itself. It became more than just far-fetched; perhaps closer to ridiculously unbelievable. I did finish the book, but by the end, I was practically anxious for it to be over. The twists and turns piled up, one on top of the other, and it got to be rather annoying and predictable. The plot was good and the idea was great, but really, it was just too much drama. Like a soap opera in written form, with less relationships and more secret codes.

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

Midnight at the Dragon Cafe by Judy Fong Bates

Plot: a young Chinese girl moves with her mother to Canada, where her father is already running his own restaurant. She begins to learn English and how to live like a white person, and soon Canada is more home to her than the memories of a distant hometown, which are fading day by day. When her older brother comes to work at the restaurant, things start changing. Her family begins to fall apart, no matter how she tries to keep it together.

Comments: I thought the young girl, Su-Jen - Annie - was very cute and had little life experience. I felt sorry for her as her life began to change. She viewed the world with innocence, and I hated that she had to grow up and see that not everything is good. I also didn't like her mother very much. Paying little attention to Su-Jen and even less to her husband, she wasn't exactly the nicest person I've ever met. And when Su-Jen's brother came to town, everything got worse. Lee Kung was not willing to be the dutiful Chinese son his father had expected him to be. Arguing with his father and forming an alliance with his bitter mother, Lee Kung was the beginning of the end.

Su-Jen survives many hard things; racism, loss of friends and family, and life in general. This is her sad story. Delicately written with elegance and beauty, but not covering up the not-so-beautiful things in life. Not a light read, but not exactly deep, either.

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

Fools Rush In by Bill Carter

Plot: Bill Carter, as a young man, sneaks into the middle of a war in Bosnia: the city of Sarajevo. He is living in the center of a war zone, dodging bullets and bombs, barely managing to find food and water. Making friends and interviewing natives, Carter learns not only how to survive, but how to live, and shares his experience with the world. The story of Sarajevo is one every person must know.

Comments: I can't tell you I disliked the characters or that the plot needed more work. I can't tell you the writing was horrible or that the organization could have been better. First, because none of that is true, but second, because this is a true story, and I can't evaluate real people or events. Could I tell you I didn't like the ending, if every word of the ending is true? No, I couldn't. I don't know what I can tell you about this book.

I will say that the story is sometimes heartwarming, sometimes heartwrenching. It brought tears to my eyes, and it made me laugh. The people of Sarajevo really knew how to live, maybe more so than anyone living in a peaceful country. I loved reading about the sisters who faced death everyday, running down a street lined with snipers, and about the man who loved to paint and play soccer. Bill Carter distributed food and supplies to people everywhere, and in return, they told him their story. I am grateful for the look into their lives, and you will be, too.

Rating: Just read it.

The Black Tower by Louis Bayard

Plot: It's the year 1818, Paris, France. When a perplexing murder case led by the mysterious and feared Vidocq leads to a young, timid medical student named Hector Carpentier, it morphs into a search for the "dead" dauphin Louis-Charles, son of the late Marie-Antoinette and King Louis XVI.

Comments: I plucked this book at random off the library shelf, and am I glad I did! At first I wasn't sure: it seemed like it might be tedious, maybe a little too...educated? I really just wanted a nice, entertaining fiction novel. Turns out, that's exactly what this is. This story is extremely interesting and I had to force myself to put it down from time to time to actually get some work done. It twists and turns in unexpected ways and was slightly confusing - mostly because I didn't try very hard at memorizing the names, titles, and relations of people that ended up reappearing later in the story, to my surprise (I would flip back and skim pages, trying to find out who so-and-so was and what they were doing back in the plot).

I immediately liked the main character, Hector, because of his awkwardness and innocence. As the story progressed, I appreciated how he slowly morphed into a more confident, self-suffient human being. Vidocq was an interesting character; he was quirky, astonishingly clever, and rather terrifying. He and Hector made a good team at balancing out the story. Together they made me laugh, wonder, and unsuccessfully attempt to guess the ending. A great mystery, intruiging and mystifying.

Rating: I rate this book an eight out of ten. I loved it!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Corps of the Bare-Boned Plane by Polly Horvath

Plot: when cousins Meline and Jocelyn are suddenly orphaned by a tragic train wreck in Zimbabwe, they are both sent to live with their rich and quirky uncle where he lives on a island. Frankly, he doesn't know what to do with them, so the two girls don't exactly thrive. This is their story of mourning, family ties, and denial.

Comments: this is definitely not an ordinary book. It switches viewpoints, which is sometimes confusing, but only because I never look at the title (which clearly states the chapter's viewpoint). I thought it started kind of slowly, with a lot of background information and flashbacks. It started getting a little bit tedious. I guess with this story, the plot never really started. It's like the whole book I was wondering to myself when the book was going to actually start. It kind of wanders and ambles and never really gets anywhere. At the end of the book, I felt surprised. How can a story end without ever beginning?

It's hard to say whether or not I liked the characters. At first I thought I would like Meline, because she was more of a regular girl than Jocelyn, the prim, proper young lady. The uncle was endearingly absentminded, but very queer. But as the story progressed (or didn't), the plot was distorted and everything was like a mad caper down a spinning hallway. Everyone was going crazy and I had a hard time reading. It was all very confusing.

Rating: I rate this book a five and a half out of ten. It was too confusing and didn't make any sense, in a bad way (sometimes it's a good thing).