Thursday, July 23, 2009

Booking Through Thursday: Preferences

Alright, so as of right now, I'm the only person on the planet who reads this blog, which is kinda sad. So, I'm trying out some things to get my name in the blogosphere and one of them is "Booking Through Thursday," or BTT, as it is referred to on the web. Lots of book blogs respond to BTT weekly questions and I thought I'd give it a go.

Which do you prefer?

* Reading something frivolous? Or something serious? I prefer frivolous, but there's a time and place for serious reading as well.
* Paperbacks? Or hardcovers? I love hardcovers. Paperbacks are cheaper, but I love the feel of a hardcover.
* Fiction? Or Nonfiction? Fiction. For sure.
* Poetry? Or Prose? Prose. I don't really understand poetry, quite frankly.
* Biographies? Or Autobiographies? Autobiographies. I like memoirs a lot.
* History? Or Historical Fiction? Historical fiction, although I haven't read a
good one in a while.
* Series? Or Stand-alones? Series. Although I love the closure of finishing a stand-alone, I usually end up wanting more.
* Classics? Or best-sellers? I guess best-sellers. So many classics are best sellers, so there you go.
* Lurid, fruity prose? Or straight-forward, basic prose? Fruity. I love beautiful quotes.
* Plots? Or Stream-of-Consciousness? Plots.
* Long books? Or Short? Long.
* Illustrated? Or Non-illustrated? Non-illustrated. I like to use my imagination.
* Borrowed? Or Owned? OWNED! I get so sad when I have to return a book to someone.
* New? Or Used? New. I like knowing the cracks in the spine (and the food smudges) are mine.

Here's the Booking Through Thursday link: BTT

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Castle Corona by Sharon Creech

Title: The Castle Carona
Author: Sharon Creech
Rating: ☆☆☆☆(☆)
4/5 Stars

I have never read Sharon Creech's Walk Two Moons, but judging by her writing in The Castle Corona she is very worthy of such a prize. Though the story is simple, the writing is captivating, making the story move more quickly than I was expecting.

This story takes place in the Castle Corona and it's neighboring village simultaneously. Although the inhabitants of the castle have unpleasant qualities, they are all surprisingly likeable. As a reader, you forgive them their faults. The villagers' story is focused around orphaned brother and sister Pia and Enzio, who are anxious to learn their true identity, but not terribly unhappy in their station. This is where I saw a bit of a flaw in the story. Creech seemed to leave out the fact that Pia and Enzio were unhappy in their master's hut. However, when the orphans' station changes, they suddenly have a lot to complain about in terms of their former life.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book, despite its intentions for a juvenile audience. It seems like the perfect book to read aloud in a classroom or story time.

ISBN: 978-0060846237
Price: $7.99, paperback (with full color illustrations!)
Pages: 336

Monday, July 20, 2009

Flood and Fang by Marcus Sedgwick

Title: Flood and Fang
Author: Marcus Sedgwick
Rating: ☆☆(☆☆☆)
2/5 Stars

Marcus Sedwick is, by far, my favorite undiscovered author. Alright, perhaps he's just undiscovered here in the U.S. I've never been able to find his books in stores; I always have to order them online or get my dad to pick them up in Heathrow Airport. So when he brought home this new title, I was excited, to say the least.

Unfortunately, Flood and Fang did not live up to Sedgwick's other titles. The Raven Mysteries (the series from which Flood and Fang is book 1) are intended for a younger audience than Sedgwick's other books. In my opinion, he is at his best when the material is a little darker. The nemesis of Flood and Fang, a slimy crocodile of sorts, is not nearly as believable as Sedgwick's vampires or witches from other titles. In attempts to make the book more kid-friendly, Sedgwick has lost his flair for horror.

Maybe I would find Flood and Fang scary if I was younger, but I just don't think this book cuts it. As entertaining as the narration was (done by an ancient raven, Edgar), I just couldn't get hooked.

ISBN: 978-1842556924
Price: $12.99, hardcover
Pages: 256

The Battle of the Labyrinth by Rick Riordan

Title: The Battle of the Labyrinth
Author: Rick Riordan
Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
5/5 Stars

Rick Riordan has really outdone himself. The fourth book in the Percy Jackson series was everything I wanted it to be and more! In this volume, Percy and his friends must venture into Daedalus's labyrinth to prevent Luke and the evil Titan Kronos from attacking Camp Half-Blood. The labyrinth is full of secrets and danger, and to get home safely, the campers must put their faith in some unlikely characters.

Riordan's characters become more introspective in this book, which adds a new psychological depth to the books. They are no longer simply easy reads with exciting battle sequences. The kids are starting to be affected emotionally by their struggles with evil. Annabeth is especially tormented, because she loves Luke, despite his turn to the dark side.

My qualms about the last book were resolved in this one. Riordan explains that all half-bloods have meaningful dreams, a fact he failed to expose earlier. Now, I'm itching to pick up book 5, The Last Olympian and to see the recently announced movie version of The Lightning Thief. Let Percy Jackson mania commence!

ISBN: 978-1423101499
Price: $7.99, paperback
Pages: 384

The Hound of Rowan by Henry H. Neff

Title: The Hound of Rowan
Author: Henry H. Neff
Rating: ☆☆☆(☆☆)
3/5 Stars

I have had this book on my shelf for quite some time now, but I wouldn't necessarily say it was worth the wait. The Hound of Rowan was, if I may say so, a bit of a knock-off of Harry Potter. A young boy with undiscovered magical talent is whisked away to an ancient private school to learn to hone his powers. He has abilities beyond those of his classmates and must use them to fight a powerful force of evil. Sound familiar? I thought so.

Despite its similarities to Rowling's beloved series, the book kept my attention. There were some interesting variations in the story, like mysterious connection each student has to a piece of art. This allowed Neff to include rich detail from Irish history, leaving a fair bit of mystery for the book's sequels. Whether the sequels will ever hit the shelves is a mystery to me.

For those looking for something to fill the Potter void, I would recommend this book. The feel of the Rowan Academy is so very like Hogwarts, I sometimes found myself thinking I was reading a Harry Potter book. For those looking for something new and fresh, however, I'd skip it.

ISBN: 978-0375838958
Price: $6.99, paperback
Pages: 448

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Living Dead in Dallas by Charlaine Harris

Title: Living Dead in Dallas
Author: Charlaine Harris
Rating: ☆☆☆☆(☆)
4/5 Stars

I've got to hand it to Harris: she really managed to turn my opinion of her around. I really did enjoy book two in the Sookie Stackhouse series, Living Dead in Dallas. It could because I didn't know what was coming, but nonetheless, the added suspense really drove me to read this book at a rapid pace.

In this volume, Sookie is asked to investigate the disappearance of a vampire in Dallas. The story woven here is more intricate than in the last book, with more twists and turns than Dead Until Dark. Harris's wrting style seems much improved as well. Character motives are clearer and I found myself confused much less often.

I do find that the constant addition of new supernatural beings is a little much. Are we now expected to believe that every kind of mythological creature exists in Sookie's world? If so, Harris has a whole lot of explaining to do. She's opened a can of worms that I'm not really prepared for as a reader.

ISBN: 978-0441009237
Price: $7.99, paperback
Pages: 291

The Castle of Llyr by Lloyd Alexander

Title: The Castle of Llyr
Author: Lloyd Alexander
5/5 Stars

The Chronicles of Prydain first caught my eye when I was browsing through Barnes and Noble in the West Village. My sister and I love the Disney version of "The Black Cauldron," so I was immediately drawn to the books when I spotted them in the children's section. What I did not realize was that the Chronicles were a richly developed series with many more stories to tell than simply the one shown in the cartoon.

The Castle of Llyr has been my favorite in the series so far. At last, the romantic tension between Taran and Eilonwy is being recognized. This was something I found lacking in the last two volumes. Granted, the characters were younger than, and probably thought that members of the opposite sex had cooties. However, I am excited to see Taran jealous of Eilonwy's possible betrothal or willing to risk his life for her safety.

The plot, too, is much richer. The villain is more than just pure evil. These villains are more calculating and we actually "meet" them. In the other books, the villains are abstract, far away. This villain has interactions with the other characters.

All in all, I found Llyr to be a moving and incredibly well written story. I can't wait to see what comes next in the world of Prydain.

ISBN: 978-0805080506
Price: $6.99, paperback
Pages: 208

Monday, July 6, 2009

Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris

Title: Dead Until Dark
Author: Charlaine Harris
Rating: ☆☆(☆☆☆)
2/5 stars

Dead Until Dark was, unfortunately, not nearly as good as I expected it to be. Of course I had heard from many people that the books by Charlaine Harris were quite different from the new HBO show inspired by them. However, I wanted to give this book a chance to stand on its own, as a separate entity. Maybe it would surprise me, as did The Reader, and turn out better than its already awe-inspiring Hollywood counterpart. Alas, I just couldn't sink my teeth into this one (pardon the pun).

Maybe if I had picked up this title before I became an avid viewer of the show True Blood, I would have rated it higher. It may have turned out to be a real page-turner if I hadn't known what was coming. It wasn't just the plot, though, that had me yawning. Harris's writing was disconnected at best. I found myself getting lost occasionally and having to go back and re-read passages to clarify. Sookie is the most oddly developed character I have ever encountered. She breaks up with Bill on multiple occasions for no apparent reason. Maybe I just wasn't good enough at reading between the lines, but I think that's a testament to Harris's poor writing. I just didn't understand any of Sookie's motives.

Despite my disappointment with Dead Until Dark, I have purchased book number two, Living Dead In Dallas. Hopefully, the fact that I don't know the ending of this one will reap a better rating.

ISBN: 978-0441008537
Price: $7.99, paperback
Pages: 260