Sunday, May 30, 2010

Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk - Book Review #28

Sunday, May 30, 2010
Fight Club
by Chuck Palahniuk

Every weekend, in the basements and parking lots of bars across the country, young men with white-collar jobs and failed lives take off their shoes and shirts and fight each other barehanded just as long as they have to. Then they go back to those jobs with blackened eyes and loosened teeth and the sense that they can handle anything. Fight club is the invention of Tyler Durden, projectionist, waiter, and dark, anarchic genius, and it's only the beginning of his plans for violent revenge on an empty consumer-culture world.

This is one of those book that people either passionately hate or love, no one can stay ambivalent. I’m in second club and yes I’m a female. I truly don’t understand why people are saying that Fight Club is a pure masculine book and only a male reader will be able to see and understand the essence. Is it because this book about the anger? I do understand anger, but I don’t think that the Fight Club is about that. Is it because this book is about the anarchism and nihilism? I can definitely relay to both of them, but still I don’t think that this book is about that. It is because this book about self- destruction? I don’t think you have to be a male to understand it and once more this book is not about self-destruction either. This book is about the search of yourself and the purpose of life. And since when it considered to be masculine and can only be understood by males?

Chuck Palahniuk’s style is like no other. It beats on your eardrums and echoes through your head. His use of sarcasm and American language (yes, I mean it, American, not English) is unique, unforgettable and powerful as a knockout. Every line in the book can be a quote and probably by this time already is. The plot twist is one of the best there is ever, I can only compare it to the twist in Six Sense.

I don’t know what else I can write to make a justice to this book. Just go ahead and read it, if you haven t yet. Read it and love it, read it and hate it, either way you will get a sensational amount of strong emotions.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Stardust by Neil Gaiman - Book Review #27

Saturday, May 29, 2010
by Neil Gaiman

In the sleepy English countryside of decades past, there is a town that has stood on a jut of granite for six hundred years. And immediately to the east stands a high stone wall, for which the village is named. Here in the town of Wall, Tristran Thorn has lost his heart to the hauntingly beautiful Victoria Forester. One crisp October night, as they watch, a star falls from the sky, and Victoria promises to marry Tristran if he'll retrieve that star and bring it back for her. It is this promise that sends Tristran through the only gap in the wall, across the meadow, and into the most unforgettable adventure of his life.

I found out about the book, after I saw a movie based on it and I usually like more whatever I saw/read first (if I read book first, I would love book and criticize the movie and other way around). Therefore, I might be unfair to the Stardust - the book.

Let me start from saying that I really liked the movie. It was magical, romantic, funny fairy-tail, so since the movie was based on this book, it was safe to assume that the book will be the same. Unfortunately, I didn’t find same magic, romance and humor in the book as I saw in the movie. The novel was sort of blunt and plain to me. I didn’t feel any danger or love, or on that matter any strong emotions at all, neither it seems to me that characters did.

Nonetheless, novel was well written and was very fast, easy and sweet. Neil Gaiman didn’t raise any serious questions about good or evil, about death or eternal life, about inter-racial relations, or any other big, philosophical questions like most of the fantasy writers like to do. He wrote just a simple story about a journey in which no one was too heroical or too evil and no one wanted to conquer the world.

If you didn’t see the movie, I would definitely recommend you read the book first and then see the movie, maybe in this case you would have a different opinion about the book then me, because, actually movie is made very close to the book.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Inkheart by Cornelia Funke - Book Review #26

Friday, May 28, 2010
by Cornelia Funke

Twelve-year-old Meggie learns that her father, who repairs and binds books for a living, can "read" fictional characters to life when one of those characters abducts them and tries to force him into service.

I found out about this book completely by accident. I was browsing quotes on and found some that I really liked and never heard of. They all were from the same book – Inkheart. Therefore, I decided to check out this book, the quotes from which were so close to my heart. I almost immediately ordered it and only after that started to read people’s reviews. Many reviewers were disappointed with the book and the shadow of uncertainty inhabited my thought – maybe I’ve already read the best parts of the book – in these quotes? Finally, when I was running out of the books to read in my house, I picked it up and, oh boy, I completely disagree with those negative reviews.

I could not agree that Inkheart was too long. I think, nothing could be taking out from this novel without hurting the story. It might be too long for middle-grader, because this how this novel was classified, but let’s not underestimate our middle-graders, they read though Harry Potter and that one was much longer. Also I think an adult who enjoys fairy-tails or fantasy, would likewise enjoy Inkheart.

This book brought an atmosphere of my childhood, because this is how I grew up – among the books and stories. The description of Maggie and Mo’s house definitely remind me of my grandparent’s apartment. Maggie’s attitude towards books – unconditional love, solicitous care and probably unhealthy desire to read them all – was my attitude. And while I was reading Inkheart, quotes to each chapter from those wonderful book that I know and love since I was a child, like a shadows were lurking around the house.

However, I was a bit disappointed with the ending. I was expecting it will be something more fairy-tailish, something when everybody get what they deserve, but in my opinion the ending turned out to be realistic in the matter that everything cannot be perfect and you always have to get the consequences. On the other hand, Inkheart is only a first book in the trilogy, so who knows how it is all going to end after all. Though, I’m surprised that there are two more books, because Inkheart could be definitely a stand-along novel.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins - Book Review #25

Thursday, May 27, 2010
Hex Hall
by Rachel Hawkins

Three years ago, Sophie Mercer discovered that she was a witch. It's gotten her into a few scrapes. Her non-gifted mother has been as supportive as possible, consulting Sophie's estranged father--an elusive European warlock--only when necessary. But when Sophie attracts too much human attention for a prom-night spell gone horribly wrong, it's her dad who decides her punishment: exile to Hex Hall, an isolated reform school for wayward Prodigium, a.k.a. witches, faeries, and shapeshifters.

By the end of her first day among fellow freak-teens, Sophie has quite a scorecard: three powerful enemies who look like supermodels, a futile crush on a gorgeous warlock, a creepy tagalong ghost, and a new roommate who happens to be the most hated person and only vampire on campus. Worse, Sophie soon learns that a mysterious predator has been attacking students, and her only friend is the number-one suspect.

As a series of blood-curdling mysteries starts to converge, Sophie prepares for the biggest threat of all: an ancient secret society determined to destroy all Prodigium, especially her.

Hex Hall is easy, fast and light-headed story, which will reward you with a wide grin on your face for reading it. After finishing this book, I got a feeling that it was written with mathematical preciseness of a solid novel. It had just the right amount of description and back-story. Plot twists happened just at the right moment. It ended perfectly with a good enough cliffhanger, which makes you want to read the second book, but defiantly not in the middle of the story. Writing was strong, satisfying and very nicely edited. All this mathematical preciseness would let me to the thought that this story would be predictable, but surprisingly it wasn’t, at least not for me, at least not completely.

By the synopsis I thought that probably Rachel Hawkins bit off more than she can chew with Hex Hall – it seems overwhelmingly a lot to cover in a three hundred pages novel. However, once again, I was up for a surprise. In my opinion, Rachel Hawkins successfully manages all the different species – witches, vampires, shapeshifter, faeries and even ghosts in the novel. She also managed a quite large story of family secrets and legacies, new school, the need to fit in, quite recently discovered abilities, friendship, romance and murder mystery.

The only thing that I didn’t like about Hex Hall – it strongly reminded me of a lot of other, very popular books. Sometimes it felt like a good compiled mix of those books. However, I really don’t want to talk about it, because, let’s face it, there are no original ideas and the key is only in execution of these ideas, which in the Hex Hall case was done, as I already said, marvelously.

I cannot wait for the sequel Demonglass, which is scheduled for publication in March 2011.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

King Solomon's Mines by Henry Rider Haggard - Book Review #24

Wednesday, May 26, 2010
King Solomon's Mines
by Henry Rider Haggard

Adventure, discovery, immortality and terror--these are the themes of King Solomon's Mines. Three men set out on a journey into the heart of Africa to search for a lost friend. They stumble upon an unknown country, cut off from civilization, and learn of a diamond mine, from which no one has returned...

King Solomon's Mines is a wonderful Victorian adventure. I don’t know why I didn’t read this book when I was a child. I remember checking it out from the library. I even remember that worn off paperback with yellowish cover. I missed a lot by not reading it then, because it is a story that, in my opinion, every child would enjoy. However, it is only now I finally read it and I loved it.

This story had everything the classic adventure should have – friendship and helping hand, constant possibility of brutal death, long and dangerous journey, couple of situations that seemed at first like don’t have a way out, courageous characters with brave and open hearts, unknown and interesting culture with lots of traditions and superstitions, evil witch and of cause, unbelievable, never seen (not even in dreams), never heard of treasures.

The only part that I didn’t like as much as I love the whole book was the war (or revolution) part. It seemed dreary to me. It was described too detailedly and it felt like story was barely moving.

I will not comment on opinions about this book being racist and imperialist, because it seems pointless to me – I think that this book is just a child of its time. I respect other people’s opinions, but it doesn’t mean that I have to support them.

I would recommend this book to any child and to all adults who love Tarzan books or Indiana Jones movies. You are off to an amazing adventure of your life throughout mountains and snow, deserts and baking sun of unforgettable Africa for a mind-blowing prize.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Jekel Loves Hyde by Beth Fantaskey - Book Review #23

Friday, May 21, 2010
Jekel Loves Hyde
by Beth Fantaskey

Jill Jekel has always obeyed her parents’ rules – especially the one about never opening the mysterious, old box in her father’s office. But when her dad is murdered, and her college savings disappear, she's tempted to peek inside, as the contents might be key to a lucrative chemistry scholarship.

To better her odds, Jill enlists the help of gorgeous, brooding Tristen Hyde, who has his own dark secrets locked away. As the team of Jekel and Hyde, they recreate experiments based on the classic novel, hoping not only to win a prize, but to save Tristen’s sanity. Maybe his life. But Jill’s accidental taste of a formula unleashes her darkest nature and compels her to risk everything – even Tristen’s love – just for the thrill of being… bad.

I love The Strange Case of Dr Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde. This is one of my favorite stories and I usually love all interpretations and reworks, adaptations and different versions of that story. I probably have seen all movies that at least loosely based on great novel of Robert Louis Stevenson - The Strange Case of Dr Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde. This is why I was convinced I’m going to love Jekel Loves Hyde and I tried loving it. I tried very hard. I finished the book and I still couldn’t even like it, not to mention, love it.

Everything in Jekel Loves Hyde felt feigned and pretentious, like a bad play in School Theater. All I wanted to do while I was reading is scream: “I don’t believe you!” and I probably did couple of times.


I was really disappointed how Beth Fantaskey showed Jill Jekel being bad. She simply made a whore out of her. Is it all? Is it all that woman can do to be bad? I mean really bad. Everything, as I already said was completely unrealistic, including a relationship between Jill and Tristen and on top of that their relationship was sick. Tristen turned out to be not just your regular bad guys, he was a killer, twice a killer. And he killed not just someone, not by an accident, but he killed his family, convinced that he is saving them. That boy needs so much therapy that it would be just cruel to put him in prison. And after knowing all of that Jill still was convincing herself that she loved him and wanted to be with him. I mean, how desperate is she? And I’m sure I would’ve needed a bit more than self convincingness to stay with a guy like that, after I would know what Jill knew about Tristen.

Another thing that was killing me – almost everybody in Jekel Loves Hyde killed somebody and none of them have any problems with authorities. It definitely felt like police was nonexistent. Their pretence to be genius chemists is a whole different story, which would be probably as funny as pretence itself, but I’m not going to go into that direction.

I could’ve said a lot more about Jekel Loves Hyde, but I won’t. I will only say that I’m probably done with Beth Fantaskey, she is just not for me. I would read anything by her only in case it would see a killer recommendation from the sources that I trust. Until then, I wish a good luck to Beth.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen - Book Review #22

Thursday, May 20, 2010
Pride and Prejudice
by Jane Austen

In a remote Hertfordshire village, far off the good coach roads of George III's England, a country squire of no great means must marry off his five vivacious daughters. At the heart of this all-consuming enterprise are his headstrong second daughter Elizabeth Bennet and her aristocratic suitor Fitzwilliam Darcy—two lovers whose pride must be humbled and prejudice dissolved before the novel can come to its splendid conclusion.

I don’t know if I’m in any way entitled to write a review on such a celebrated novel as Pride and Prejudice by even more celebrated author – Jane Austen, because I neither have knowledge, no skills to deliver a balanced and worthy opinion. I’m not sure how I can criticize this novel. I cannot criticize it from today’s standpoint, because it was written two centuries ago and I cannot criticize it from the beginning of nineteen centuries’, because I neither lived at that time, no I have enough information to do so. However, I decided to make a note on all books that I’ve read.

I really loved some parts of the novel, but at the same time, I was bored till tears with other ones. I believe that this novel still has a solid place in our time, because it was actually written about people and people never really change with time. They are always driven by same instincts and emotions. It is certainly remarkable how Jane Austen could see people, how she could notice and recreate their characters. Jane Austen’s novels certainly read like a fairy tale – at the end everybody get what they deserve - and this is why I love her novels.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Once a Witch by Carolyn MacCullough - Book Review #21

Saturday, May 15, 2010
Once a Witch
by Carolyn MacCullough

Tamsin Greene comes from a long line of witches, and she was supposed to be one of the most Talented among them. But Tamsin's magic never showed up. Now seventeen, Tamsin attends boarding school in Manhattan, far from her family. But when a handsome young professor mistakes her for her very Talented sister, Tamsin agrees to find a lost family heirloom for him. The search—and the stranger—will prove to be more sinister than they first appeared, ultimately sending Tamsin on a treasure hunt through time that will unlock the secret of her true identity, unearth the sins of her family, and unleash a power so vengeful that it could destroy them all. This is a spellbinding display of storytelling that will exhilarate, enthrall, and thoroughly enchant.

Everybody in Tamsin’s family have a Talent – special magical ability – to freeze people, to read the future, to move very fast, to persuade people to do anything, to find a misplaced or lost objects… everybody… except for Tamsin.

Tamsin was a wonderfully drown character. Her straggle to fit in into her unusual, very big and intimidating family was presented very realistic. Her relationship with her older sister felt like taken from a real life. Despite how Tamsin’s family treated her (let’s believe them that they had a good reason for this), I completely fell in love with each and every one of them. I never had a big family and always somewhat envied people who had and were a part of big, loud family gatherings.

The plot was amazingly build. Story was moving fast, keeping you wondering what’s going to happen next, turning a book into a page turner and you to completely unavailable to the world outside of the novel. It left many unfinished plot lines, so I only hope that we will see a sequel and soon.

Once a Witch was a delightful mix of mystery, magic, time travel, old family secrets and romance. It was light, relaxing and very enjoyable read. The only unsatisfactory thing about this book – I wish it would be a bit longer for me to enjoy.

What’s your talent?

Friday, May 14, 2010

Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken - Book Review #20

Friday, May 14, 2010
Brightly Woven
by Alexandra Bracken

When Wayland North brings rain to a region that's been dry for over ten years, he's promised anything he'd like as a reward. He chooses the village elder's daughter, sixteen-year-old Sydelle Mirabel, who is a skilled weaver and has an unusual knack for repairing his magical cloaks. Though Sydelle has dreamt of escaping her home, she's hurt that her parents relinquish her so freely and finds herself awed and afraid of the slightly ragtag wizard who is unlike any of the men of magic in the tales she's heard. Still, she is drawn to this mysterious man who is fiercely protective of her and so reluctant to share his own past.

The pair rushes toward the capital, intent to stop an imminent war, pursued by Reuel Dorwan (a dark wizard who has taken a keen interest in Sydelle) and plagued by unusually wild weather. But the sudden earthquakes and freak snowstorms may not be a coincidence. As Sydelle discovers North's dark secret and the reason for his interest in her and learns to master her own mysterious power, it becomes increasingly clear that the fate of the kingdom rests in her fingertips. She will either be a savior, weaving together the frayed bonds between Saldorra and Auster, or the disastrous force that destroys both kingdoms forever.

I picked up this book, against my better judgment, because it was highly recommended to me by different sources. Nothing in this book sounded or looked appealing to me – neither synopsis, no genre (I’m usually not a big fun of heroical fantasy), not even a cover, but I still decided to give it a chance.

First couple of chapters was so horrifyingly bad that I almost put the book down and probably I should have, I wouldn’t miss much if I did. The writing was terrible, it sounded like a very bad fan-fiction written by twelve years-old who had never written anything in his/her life, except for his/her name. Dialogs were at least unrealistic, but in reality just so wrong on so many levels. There were no worthy descriptions and the thought of the author was jumping from one thing to another. However, after initial chapters, writing became a bit more tolerable, though, still full of flaws, uncertainties and imperfections. I had a feeling that no editor have ever looked at the manuscript before the publication, or that the editor was a twelve years-old himself.

The good thing is Brightly Woven actually had a plot, which apparently for some novels is not a requirement (silly me, I thought that plot was an essence of the novel). However, plot was very simplistic, plain and full of clichés. The story just didn’t have any spark. Everything was cute, nice and fluffy. Even a bad guy - Reuel Dorwan was not that bad and sometimes I was getting a feeling, that he was just playing peek-a-boo with Sydelle and Wayland – peeking out from the corner and saying “Boo”.

The world of Brightly Woven and its characters were undeveloped. There were no smells, no sounds, no taste, no detailed descriptions, and no definitive characteristics. It would be nice to know something more about the cities and villages, except for - this one in the desert, and that one in the mountains, and another one have towers. The world seemed to be pain and mostly inexistent. Most of the actions took place behind the scene and they were only recapped to reader afterwards. The magic system of the world also needs to be worked more thoroughly– how it works, where it comes from, how it’s controlled, how the spells are cast, what type of spells there are, etc.

Everything in this story was childish and I don’t mean it because of the genre - most of the children books are more mature – the perspective was childish. All the consequences were removed, for the characters to enjoy only the positive aspects of the power. Everything was just too easy and directly handed to the characters, so they wouldn’t have to sacrifice anything in order to achieve their goals. And even if characters were doing something, the effort was not even close to be equal to what they were getting in return.

To summarize, Brightly Woven wasn’t completely horrible. It was a good first draft, but not a finished book. I would really love to see Alexandra Bracken clean it up and edit it thoroughly. I would also be nice to see the plot reworked and wrap up all the plot’s lines more carefully then it is done right now.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Secret Year by Jennifer Hubbard - Book Review #19

Thursday, May 13, 2010
The Secret Year
by Jennifer Hubbard

Seventeen-year-old Colt has been sneaking out at night to meet Julia, a girl from an upper-class neighborhood unlike his own. They’ve never told anyone else about their relationship: not their family or friends, and especially not Julia’s boyfriend. When Julia dies suddenly, Colt tries to cope with her death while pretending that he never even knew her. He discovers a journal she left behind. But he is not prepared for the truths he discovers about their intense relationship, nor to pay the price for the secrets he’s kept.

I had mixed feelings about this book before I even started to read it. I wanted to read it, because synopsis sounded interesting, it even had a pinch of mystery in it; and I didn’t want to read it, because I was sure it will be sad, maybe even devastating. So book was laying on my desk for weeks, before I dared to pick it up.

The novel turned out to be sad and devastating, as I expected, but also happy and reassuring at the same time. It wasn’t one dimensional. It didn’t have the usual straightforwardness of YA novels. It had so much more. This novel was like a real life, where nothing either black or white.

I was also pleasantly surprised how unusually deep and philosophical this book was. I enjoyed Jennifer Hubbard’s writing style. The novel was so perfectly polished – nothing was there that shouldn’t be and nothing was left out that was important.

I didn’t see too many YA books written by female author from a teenage guy point of view, where guy would be at least somewhat believable and not the perfect I-wouldn’t-wanted-to-have-a-boyfriend-when-I-was-in-High-School or a total jerk. I’m not a guy and certainly I never was a teenage guy, but I think that author created Colt to be vividly real and believable.

I loved The Secret Year – it is a great début, from my point of view. I would definitely have Jennifer Hubbard on my watch list. I think we would see some great novels from her in the future.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

"Waiting On" Wednesday #9

Wednesday, May 12, 2010
"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

Anna and the French Kiss
by Stephanie Perkins

Publication Date: December 2nd 2010

A contemporary romance set in the City of Light, guaranteed to make toes tingle and hearts melt

Anna is looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. Which is why she is less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris — until she meets Étienne St. Clair: perfect, Parisian (and English and American), and utterly irresistible. The only problem is that he's taken, and Anna might be, too, if anything comes of her almost-relationship back home.

As winter melts into spring, will a year of romantic near-misses end with the French kiss Anna — and readers — have long awaited?

Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side by Beth Fantaskey - Book Review #18

Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side
by Beth Fantaskey

The undead can really screw up your senior year ...

Marrying a vampire definitely doesn’t fit into Jessica Packwood’s senior year “get-a-life” plan. But then a bizarre (and incredibly hot) new exchange student named Lucius Vladescu shows up, claiming that Jessica is a Romanian vampire princess by birth—and he’s her long-lost fiancé. Armed with newfound confidence and a copy of Growing Up Undead: A Teen Vampire’s Guide to Dating, Health, and Emotions, Jessica makes a dramatic transition from average American teenager to glam European vampire princess. But when a devious cheerleader sets her sights on Lucius, Jess finds herself fighting to win back her wayward prince, stop a global vampire war—and save Lucius’s soul from eternal destruction.

I didn’t have any expectations towards this book. I wasn’t even planning to read it, not because I was thinking it is going to be bad, but because I had no interest in this book whatsoever. However, I picked it up on the wave of my “give it a chance” program. Once in a while I’m trying books that I don’t have any interest in, but I heard a lot of good reviews from different people.

This book turned out to be not what I was thinking it will be. I thought it would be a comedy, maybe even a sarcastic story, mocking all the vampire craziness going on in YA book industry. But Jessica’s Guide turned out to be just another romantic paranormal, vampire love story, with a small exception. If not for this exception, I wouldn’t probably like it at all.

The exception that made this book worth reading for me was Lucius, an exchange student from Romania, a.k.a. vampire, and not Lucius himself precisely, but his letters to his uncle. Oh, those letters… I was waiting for them throughout the book. I wasn’t really reading everything else - I was skimming, just to get the idea what was happening and then read Lucius interpretation of event in his letters. His sometimes shocked, sometimes admirable observations of U.S. and American life style was not only funny as hell, they were also cute and adorable.

I would probably liked this book more, if it would be written from Lucius point of view and in more comical rather than romantic perspective. Nevertheless I still found it worth reading.