marți, 24 decembrie 2013

Review: Let It Snow

18272314Title: Let It Snow
Authors: Maureen Johnson, John Green, Lauren Myracle
First Published: October 2nd 2008
Pages: 354
     An ill-timed storm on Christmas Eve buries the residents of Gracetown under multiple feet of snow and causes quite a bit of chaos. One brave soul ventures out into the storm from her stranded train and sets off a chain of events that will change quite a few lives.

 Over the next three days one girl takes a risky shortcut with an adorable stranger, three friends set out to win a race to the Waffle House (and the hash brown spoils), and the fate of a teacup pig falls into the hands of a lovesick barista.

I don't know what exactely is my problem with Christmas books, but I always want to read them just for my excitement to fly out the window in the end.

Plot: There's not a lot that can be said, really. Basically, this is the story about how the biggest blizzard in half-a-century changed these characters lives for the better, right on time for The Most Wonderful Time of the Year. What's interesting about this book, though, is that, instead of being an anthology containing three separate short stories, it's a single novel with three narrators and interwoven characters. So what can you read about in Let It Snow, you ask? Well, firstly, you find out about Jubilee, the girl who, apart from having a name better fitted for a stripper, also has a set of parents whose obssesion for a certain type of ceramic Christmas village gets them in jail. So, right on Christmas Eve, our I'm-not-a-stripper-and-I'll-keep-reminding-you-that character has to go by train to Florida. Only that the snow decides to hit and she gets stuck in Gracetown, where certain events will make her question her entire relationship with Noah, the apparently perfect boyfriend. Then, there's Tobin, who, along with his two best friend, will go out in the middle of the blizzard, trying to reach the far-away Waffle House, all in the name of flirting and cheerleaders. But, you guessed it!, things don't go according to the plan and he might just realize that, sometimes, there's a chance the happy middle will lead to the happily ever after. And, of course, there's the third story, tying them all together, about Addie, and over-dramatic, self-absorbed, broken-hearted barista and how a little tea-cup pig will make her be a better person.

Characters: Usually, I like to talk a lot here, because for me, the people in it represent the biggest part of the story. But what can you really say about some characters when you only read a few chapters about them? Well, let's start with Addie, because here I have things to say, actually. She is just so damn annoying! That self-absorbed thing? That's not a joke, not even by far. She's the over-dramatic, I'm-gonna-sit-here-and-feel-sorry-for-myself kind of person. She becomes more likeable towards the end, but unfortunately, the change happens overnight and is pretty hard to swallow, so I ended up not liking her anyway. And Jeb (the boyfriend with an optional ex) he's kind of plain. Cute, but you don't really see a lot of him. Tobin and Angie (the Duke)...well, you can feel that John Green is behind them. They're smart in that typical teenage way, they're funny, along with PJ, who I haven't mentioned until now, but he's kind of the salt and papper of the story. Yeah, they're just nice while being douchebags in the same time. Not a lot of character development, but what can you expect from an 100 pages long shot? And finally Jubilee and Stuart? Again, they're nice. Just.. nice. Honestly, the only character that left an impression is Addie, and that only because she annoyed me so damn much.

Personal opinion: I don't even know what to say. I expected more than I received, to put it all out there. I can't even put my finger on what I didn't like. Overall, the book is good, but nothing challenging, nothing touching. If you are into Christmasy reads, or if you are just looking for something fluffy, then you will probably enjoy it. I honestly think this book is way overhyped, and a big part of that hype is fueled by John Green's name. Not gonna lie, he's story was the best. Well paced, funny, even cute, good characters, I will probably reread it. Maureen Johnson's was also nice, but a little too fast for my liking. I realise she only had a few chapters for herself, but it made some previous feelings of the character seem cheap and I would have probably enjoyed it more had it been wraped-up differently. As for Lauren Myracle's, I only have one thing to say: Addie.

Favorite quote: "If by that you mean that I dislike celebrity magazines, prefer food to anorexia, refuse to watch TV shows about models, and hate the color pink, then yes. I am proud to be not really a girl."

Recommend: It was likeable enough, so if you think it might be your kind of book, go ahead. Also, it has a tone of good reviews, so maybe I'm just the odd one out. Again.

duminică, 22 decembrie 2013

Review: The Red Pyramid

7090447 Title: The Red Pyramid
Author: Rick Riordan
First Published: May 4th 2010
Pages: 514

Since their mother's death, Carter and Sadie have become near strangers. While Sadie has lived with her grandparents in London, her brother has traveled the world with their father, the brilliant Egyptologist, Dr. Julius Kane.

One night, Dr. Kane brings the siblings together for a "research experiment" at the British Museum, where he hopes to set things right for his family. Instead, he unleashes the Egyptian god Set, who banishes him to oblivion and forces the children to flee for their lives.

I just want to say sorry in advance, because I'm quite sure this review will either be pretty confusing, or will eventually turn into a rumble. And now that I got that out of the way, enjoy the fangirling. (God, I hope it won't come to it)

Plot: For those of you (us) who are fans of Percy Jackson, but not only for those, of course, Rick Riordan brought another magic-is-real, what-the-hell-did-my-life-just-become, will-I-survive-to-see-tomorrow adventure type of book. Set in the same parallel reality as the aforementioned series, The Red Pyramid deals with a new mythology, new rules and new gods. Introducing a brother and sister duo, with an unfortunate relantionship and ready-to-be-messed-up lives, this first installment in The Kane Chronicles will take you from London to Brooklyn to Cairo in a seemingly impossible quest to save the world, stay alive and reinforce a type of magic banished thousands of years ago. To keep the story simple, Sadie and Carter were separated six years ago, after their mother's death and after a long custody battle. Now Sadie has a normal life in London, with her boring, father-hating grandparents, while Carter travels the world with their only remaining parent, famous egyptologist Julius Kanes. She only gets to see her father twice a year, which makes their family relationships quite strained. But this all ends on Christmas Eve, one of the visitation days, when Dr. Kane decides it's time to set mysterious things right. Unfortunately, this ends with his disappearance, a blown-to-pieces Rosetta Stone, five gods of Egypt unleashed, and the fate of the world on the shoulder of his two kids. Now Sadie and Carter have to save the world from being taken over by the God of Chaos, Set. All while being hosts for two other temperamental gods, going to live with an unknown uncle, finding out they're Blood of the Pharaohs and learning about their family appartanence to an Ancient Egyptian magic society named the House of Life.

Characters: Like Percy Jackson and the Olympians, The Red Pyramid is also told from a first person perspective. This time, however, Sadie and Carter are both narrating, which adds to the hilarity of the story. Personally, I like Sadie's point of view better, not because she's a girl, but because she's sarcastic, and witty and she just reminds me of myself quite a lot. Also, Sadie's point of view has Anubis (God of Funerals, pretty hot God of Funerals), so you can't really blame a girl for her preferences. But, letting my biased reasons apart, she is a strong character, has some really cool powers seeing how she hosts Isis, and I just became attached to her pretty quickly. As for Carter, he is more on the geeky side, knows a lot about Ancient Egypt and he developes some impresive combat abilities, being the Eye of Horus and all that jazz. Their relantionship is rocky at best, they haven't seen each other more than a few times in the last years, honestly, they are near strangers. But I enjoyed seeing how the realisation that they are all that is left of their family brings them closer, makes them want to protect each other. You can see that behind the facade, they are just children, unsure of their powers, not knowing who to trust, missing their mother, in Sadie's case, missing her father also. Wanting to impress him, attract his attention. There's a nice assortment of secondary characters, too, like Zia Rashid, a young magician of the House of Life, Iskandar, the Chief Lector, whose appearance is brief, but whom I really liked as a character and also, why not, Michel Desjardins, the second most powerful magician in the world, who's quite interesting, too.

Personal opinion: There are a lot of people who say this series is the egyptian Percy Jackson, and while I can agree in a small measure, I feel the need to point out that The Kane Chronicles has its own qualities. It's action-packed, has an interesting premise and an even more interesting development. And there is this really nice twist near the end that is perfectly relevant for how the series is going to continue and, you know, just increases the tension. Personally, I was glued to the book and that is saying something. 

Favorite quote: "Fairness means everyone gets what they need. And the only way to get what you need is to make it happen yourself." 

Recommandation: I guess you already got this one: read The Red Pyramid. There's a great chance you will end up enjoying it. And if not, I'm really sorry, but at least you tried.

miercuri, 18 decembrie 2013

Review: The One and Only Ivan

Title: The One and Only Ivan
Author: Catherine Applegate
First Published: January 1st, 2012
Pages: 252

  Ivan is an easygoing gorilla. Living at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade, he has grown accustomed to humans watching him through the glass walls of his domain. He rarely misses his life in the jungle. In fact, he hardly ever thinks about it at all.

   Then he meets Ruby, a baby elephant taken from her family, and she makes Ivan see their home--and his own art--through new eyes. When Ruby arrives, change comes with her, and it's up to Ivan to make it a change for the better.

I'll try to make this as straight to the point as possible, because, in all honesty, this is a really short book: out of all the Middle-Grade novels I've read this year, The One and Only Ivan probably fits best the Children's Literature tag. Don't let yourselves be fooled by the 252 pages this *in reality* novella has, if you are willing to give it two full hours of your life, you can finish it before even realising that you started. Big font, big spaces, pages with only a few sentences on them. This pretty much summarizes the way this is printed. But you aren't here to hear that, are you? So let's move on to what really interests you: the review.

Plot: As far as the plot goes, the summary does a pretty good job out of telling it all. If you expect twists and turns, a few arms being fired, some movie-like action scenes, or hell, I don't know, dancing penguins, you are going to be deceptioned, my friend. Pretty much, this is exactly what it looks like. A baby elephant arrives at this permanent wanna-be circus and its sad existence triggers all sorts of memories and feelings in the long-time star of the almost-gone-bankrupt establishment. There are a few sad things along the way, some stories told, some almost-forgotten memories revisited, a somehow ingenious plan, and like that, bam!, you're at the end. I'd like to say, for no reason in particular, that I expected another development for this story. Honestly, before reading it, I had this idea about how they were going to get out of their cages and make it all the way to the jungle, while followed by an angry boss and some some equaly determined hunters. Yep, I have a hyperactive imagination.

Characters: I said it before and I'm going to say it again, children books do have the best characters. They are all so different and, in this particular case, they embody pretty varied human types. And yes, I'm including here the animal-band, too. Firstly, there's Ivan, who reaminds me somehow of a grandpa. He adapted to this new life, can't really remember a great deal of his previous one, but still looks at it like at some kind of golden age. And, *even if I don't think a kid would do all this overanalyzing that I'm doing* I do believe he just repressed his memories because it hurt too much to deal with them. Pretty human behaviour, if you ask me. We also have Stella, an adult elephant who doesn't want little baby Ruby to have the same kind of unfulfilling, painful existence she had. Bob the dog *ha, it rhymes* , who's the fighter type, the loner, the one who doesn't want to get overly attached because it would only bring him heartache at the end of the day. And Ruby, the baby, the little elephant, the new star, the one who puts everything in motion. Ruby is a kid, basically. She has all the right questions without even realising it, she can be annoying or thoughtfull, she can give up or be full of love, and she masters that balance between bravery and cowardice that every kid seems to have. There are also some human characters, like Julia, the maintenance man daughter and the one who keeps Ivan's passion for ar alive, and Mack, the boss, who is the perfect exemple of an imperfect human being. He has his moments of powerful humanity and of unnecessary cruelty, and that just makes him real.

Personal opinion: This story deals a lot with cruelty toward animals and how important is for them to remain or at least be reintegrated in their own environment. I especially liked the idea of a gorilla-narrator. It allows you, as a reader, to walk a few miles in his shoes, and understand all his confusion regarding his own self, all his hopes, and fears, and feeling. It's great to read Ivan's thoughts about humans, seeing how much they influenced the course of his life and still, how calmly he studies them. It's really interesting, really touching. This entire story is heartwarming. It's about friendship, and the importance of promises, and wanting someone's happiness in spite of you own unhappiness. About selflessness, and feeling weak and not having control over your own life. And, the most important thing, I think, it's about becoming what you were meant to be by using the means allowed by what you have already become. You know those quotes authors choose to be written on the first page of their books? Like a motto? Katherine Applegate just chose the perfect George Eliot passage: "It's never to late to be what you might have been."

Favorite quote: "Humans speak too much. They chatter like chimps, crowding the world with their noise even when they have nothing to say."

Recommandation: Read this book. If you love animals, read this book. If you love good simple stories, read this book. If you want a bed-time story for your 8 years old, read him this book. Honestly, just read this book. You'll probably like it, because it touches the heart. And if you end up feeling like you wasted your time, I'm sorry. But read it anyway.