Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

Plot: Told from the point of view of a philosophical dog, Enzo tells his life story as the best friend of a race car driver named Denny. Enzo has a very human soul, but was born into a body that walks on four legs and lacks such things as a speech-enabled tongue and opposable thumbs. It is his belief that the dog is the final step in reincarnation before humans, and Enzo is certain that when he dies this time, he will be born again as a human. He is ready.

Comments: I really loved the character Enzo. He is intelligent, thoughtful, and very human-like, however much a dog he is. It touched me how understanding Enzo was with the humans in his life. He understood the feelings of Denny's wife when  no one else did, and he did his best to protect his family, Denny especially. When Denny is forced to fight for custody of his young daughter, Enzo supports him and will not let Denny give up, even after years go by. I loved Enzo's dedication to his beloved master, Denny.

There were several characters in the story that I really disliked, though I believe that was the intent. For example, Denny's parents-in-law were absolutely horrible and treated both him and Enzo like filth. And the girl that tried to trick her way in Denny's heart was also despicable, but I felt a little sorry for her, because she really just wanted love. She was confused and hurt, but she also still rather deserved it. Anyway, from the dog's perspective, I noticed how terrible humans can be. It's curious how Enzo personally witnessed all these bad sides of humans, the cruelty and the unfairness, and yet he still believes that one must go through many reincarnations before they are ready to become a human. It's the final level, he thinks. And Enzo believes that he's ready to be human. I can't help but think that Enzo is too kind, too loyal and selfless to be a human in his next life. But it's his dream.

Rating: I rate this book a seven out of ten. A good story, but a little slow.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare

Book 1 in the Infernal Devices series, companion series to The Mortal Instruments series

Plot: A girl named Tessa travels alone to meet her brother in London, but is instead taken prisoner by two terrifying necromancers. Tessa's captors unlock a strange power in her, forcing her to refine this unfamiliar, magical skill, while Tessa prays for her brother to find her. Eventually rescued by a talented group dedicated to fighting the forces of evil, Tessa must choose between the comfortably normal life she had always lead and the disturbingly abnormal, dangerous life her companions introduce to her.

Comments: The plot to this story is well thought out and engaging, and I really enjoyed reading this book. Though I'm still not entirely clear about who the Nephilim are (the group that rescued Tessa) or what the creatures that they fight are, I was able to skip over some details and focus on the bigger picture. The definitions of demon and such were a bit vague, is all.

The characters in this book were certainly interesting and diverse. Jessamine was spoiled and narcissistic, Charlotte was motherly and old beyond her years - when someone mentioned her actual age, I wasn't sure I'd read it right! Henry was endearingly absent-minded, and Jem was supportive and sweet. I didn't like Will, Tessa's main rescuer. He was rude and cruel to Tessa, not to mention being a prig to everyone else, too. I hated that Tessa felt attracted to him just because he was - according to Tessa - amazingly beautiful. I did not like Tessa very much. She was timid and weak, and she was always talking about where a woman's place is and what a woman should and should not do. I do need to point out that this is set in the late 1800's and Tessa was raised to be a respectable young lady, but she was exasperatingly reliant on everyone else to save her. A true damsel in distress. She did grow braver, which I like, but over all I feel Tessa was rather a stick in the mud crybaby. Perhaps I'm being cruel, just like Will. That may very well be, but I personally prefer a bit of backbone in my heroines.

This story was written well, and the plot was captivating. It was an exciting adventure, fast-paced, but with style and poise. I appreciate that the details were descriptive without being dragged on, and I could use a little imagination. I definitely had fun reading this book, and I can't wait until September when the sequel comes out - that's the problem with reading new releases!

Rating: I rate this book a seven and a half out of ten. It's difficult to like a story when the main character gets on your nerves.