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Saturday, April 30, 2011

City of Glass by Cassandra Clare

This one is definitely the best of the first three books. Clary finds out how to heal her mother, and needs to travel to the City of Glass. However, Jace does not want her there and figures out how to leave her behind. He accidentally brings Simon, which is against the law because Simon does not have permission to enter. In a fit after being left behind, Clary figures out how to get herself there, though she does it illegally and brings Luke, who is also not allowed. By the end, Clary and Jace discover secrets from their past, and everyone is happy. It was supposed to be the end of a trilogy, so everything is resolved. The best thing about the book was that everyone's love life played a much less significant role in the story; it was much more like any other book in that respect. This one was more fun to read, though I figured everything out before it happened. This is actually one of the few books were I was able to do that accurately.
So it gets a 4. Better than the other two, a good book, fun to read. It was like sweet bread. It was better than I expected, it complemented the sandwich meat of the first one nicely, and it provided something to dip in the sauce of the second one.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

What the Dog Saw by Malcolm Gladwell

When I opened this book, I was full of high expectations.  This book was supposed to be Gladwell's Greatest Hits, and, as an avid fan of his other books, I was thinking, "Greatest hits? What could he possibly have written that was a greater hit than Outliers?"  I opened up the book, and found out I was exactly right.  The book was his Greatest hits, all right, but it wasn't his greatest works. 

What The Dog Saw is a collection of articles Gladwell had written for the New Yorker magazine, and the fact that it was a collection was what made it a disappointment.  Were it a food, I would say it was the crumbs at the bottom of a box of Peanut Brittle; before it came several pieces of peanutty goodness, and you just want to sweep every last bit into your mouth.  Unfortunately, just like the individual articles, they're scattered, not condensed around one point, and while they are good, they're gone quickly(unless you get the kind that sticks to your teeth). 

What draws people to Malcolm Gladwell's works in the fact that he doesn't make a point and drop it once he's done explaining.  He has a talent for taking the threads of his ideas and holding onto them as he presents more and more, yet holding them straight so that they can't get tangled and confuse you, and instead of stretching them, making them stronger.  This ability is sadly lost in this collection, which seems random at best.  However, this is understandable, seeing as each article is about a different subject and would have been published in the New Yorker with at least a week in between, instead of a turn of the page. 

Another aspect of Gladwell that appeals to people is his ability to explain things in ways that draw you in, and when the book ends and they finally release you, makes you surprised that you read the whole thing in suck a short time.  Unfortunately, again being a collection, this book is not a quick read. While each article is a quick read in and of itself, the difference in between them is so apparent that it would be like bungee jumping onto a vat of wet cement at several hundred miles an hour and being jerked back up.  For example, you might just be finishing up the article "Most Likely to Succeed" when all of a sudden, you're smacked in the face with "Dangerous Minds: Criminal Profiling Made Easy," and the whiplash is equivalent to running waist deep in water.  For full enjoyment of his works, it is best to read one chapter, then take a break for a bit to get your mind off what he wrote, and then pick up the book and read the next.

All in all, this was a good book, though not as great as his others.  I would give this book 4.2 stars because even if it's scattered, Malcolm Gladwell is just that awesome.

Review by Elizabeth C.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare

This is the second book in the Mortal Instrument trilogy (apparently trilogies have four books in them now, and more books are coming). Like the last one, the biggest thing that bothered me was the messed up romance. If you take the messed up romance, the book was fairly good. Magnus Bane plays a bigger role in this book than in the last, and he's cool, in that I am a powerful 300 year old warlock who charges money for everything and likes to wear lots of glitter kind of way. Jace is pretty annoying; he keeps switching personalities. Sometimes he's a hero, sometimes he's the original sarcastic jerk (though the sarcasm does bring up some good lines), and sometimes he's in love. Simon is... interesting, Clary is Clary, and she takes her part in the messed up romance, and I don't even know what to think about Isabelle. Luke and Valentine are the same. Max, the youngest Lightwood, comes into the story, and he's fun. There's the basic character overview. This one was a continuation of the last one, and it wasn't significantly different, except the romance was a little more messed up. One thing that did differ was that everyone seemed to hate everyone else a little more.
City of Ashes is a little worse than City of Bones; it's a 3. It was just about what I was expecting, except there was too much internal conflict within the characters. Please stop the messed up romances. It was like a spaghetti dish with good sauce, but awful spaghetti. Spaghetti is hard enough to eat because of its habit of being long and thin, but when it tastes bad, it's just really annoying. You eat so you can eat the sauce. The sauce tastes good, like the good characters and basic plot.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Here, There Be Dragons by James A. Owen

This book is the result of mixing C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, Greek mythology, Arthurian legend, Charles Williams, H. G. Wells, and no doubt various others that I didn't recognize or can't recall right now. It begins with a murder of Professor Sigurdsson, and three Oxford men, John, Charles, and Jack, meet on a stormy night at 221B Baker Street (Sherlock Holmes!). There, they also meet Bert, a strange little man who carries the Imaginarium Geographica, Imaginary Geography. It contains maps of everywhere that exists in legend, myth, and folk tale. He insists that John, now that the professor is dead, is the Caretaker of the book. They run for their lives from the beasts that killed the professor to Bert's ship, and they enter Archipelago, the world of imaginary places.
Though it dragged in some places, especially the beginning, it was a good book. It was light and fun, particularly so when people like Captain Nemo (Ah ha! Jules Verne too, I knew there was another one) pop up every now and then.
This book is a 4.5. It had nice concepts, cool characters, and it was fun. Not a 5 because of the bits that dragged. The end was much better than the beginning; it left me with a good feeling, which is probably why I gave it a high rating. In honor of Tummeler, the talking badger, the book was like blueberry muffins (now go read it to find out why). It was nice overall, and there was a little jolt every time you got a reference, like Nemo or talking animals, or you get to a blueberry.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A Crack in the Sky by Mark Peter Hughes

Eli Papadopoulos is the grandson of The Grandfather, the man who founded InfiniCorp and invented the dome cities. InfiniCorp is the only company; it sells everything and runs everything. It is thanks to InfiniCorp and the dome cities that the human race still exists, now that the world is uninhabitable because of global warming. Eli had always assumed that his life was set, and while her wasn't sure he wanted it, it was always a given. He would be given a high position in the company and have a good life. However, Eli is not like everyone else in his family. He doesn't enjoy his studies, despite their necessity in his life, and would rather spend his time reading the old paper books. He is also obsessed with the fact that there is something wrong with the sky. He is sure that he has seen bits of it fall to the ground, and other times he sees images in it that should not be there. When he brings his family's attention to them, he is ignored; nobody else seems to care. Which is why Eli decides to meet with an undercover organization, the Foggers, devoted to destroying what his grandfather had created when they promise him answers. Then, naturally, his life spirals out of control and Eli is stuck in a situation he can't get out of. His family questions his loyalty and the Foggers won't leave him alone.
My favorite characters are Marilyn the incredible mongoose (of course) and Spider, Eli's eldest cousin, who will be the future CEO, but is currently in charge of the Department of Loyalty.
Overall, the book was a 3. It wasn't particularly exciting, and it didn't draw me in as really brilliant books do, but it was good and solid. And it had a cool mongoose. It was like chicken; it had that everything-tastes-like-this feel, in that there was nothing spectacular about it (except the mongoose, so maybe it can have a pinch of spice on it), but still enjoyable.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

Clary is a normal girl who likes to do normal things. Until she sees a murder that isn't a murder where invisible people kill someone whose body simply vanishes. That's how she begins to figure out that all is not as it seems. She really gets the message when her mom mysteriously disappears and she gets attacked by a giant monster. This book was much better the second time I read it, probably because the predictability of it didn't bother me as much. It had several good lines, but it had a seriously messed up love triangle. The book could have been incredible if it focused more on the plot and less on the crushes the characters developed, then screwing with their relationships. I also liked the demons more than the Shadowhunters, the demon killers. When the book started, there was a boy, who was actually a demon, and he walked around and thought about all the life he could suck out of humans. Then he died on page 14, and I was stuck there thinking about the fact that I was holding another book in which the bad guys were better than the good guys. It's really hard to feel bad as the protagonist struggles when you know that each blow she takes is a victory for your favorite characters. The characters who were supposed to be the good ones were really annoying. Okay, so Jace's idiocy is supposed to be funny, but he's really just a jerk.
I give this book a 3.4. Lots of points for the good lines, but definitely lots of negative points for that love triangle. And Jace's behavior at the end is totally out of character. I liked many of the characters, just not the ones that were supposed to be likable. Those ones were shallow, predictable, and jerky. Food-wise, it was like good sandwich meat. It had great extras and the stuff that makes a really good sandwich (or book), but it was missing the bread. If just a few of the basic bits of the book were different, like getting rid of the love triangle and making better main characters, it would be amazing.

Across the Universe by Beth Revis

Amy's mother is a genetic scientist and her father is a high ranking military officer. They have been chosen to board Godspeed, a ship that is headed to a new planet, where they will be needed to set up the government and possibly terraform the planet. Amy is offered a spot on the ship as well, at her parents request, so they can stay as a family. The ship is scheduled to arrive in 300 years, so Amy, her family, and everyone else needed on the new planet will be deep frozen and awakened on the new planet.
Elder is the leader-to-be 250 years later. The current leader of the ship is Eldest, and Elder will take that title when he becomes leader. There is no one else on the ship who is Elder's age; every twenty years, the "season" arrives, and that's when people have babies. The descriptions in the book of the season are somewhat disturbing. Elder was born between the seasons, as every Eldest was, so that he is older than the people he leads. He does not know who his parents are.
The story of Amy and Elder come together when someone unplugs Amy so she wakes up 50 years early. Amy, naturally, is horrified because by the time her parents wake up, she'll be older than they are. Elder is fascinated by Amy; the ship has become monoethnic, so everyone has olive skin, dark eyes, and dark hair. Amy is pale, red haired, and green eyed. Things turn more sinister as, for some unknown reason, more people are unplugged. Some of them don't survive and drown in their little deep freezer chambers. Other are noticed in time, and they are returned to their frozen state before they wake up. Amy is the only one who gets out and lives. Amy and Elder grow closer as they work to figure out why people are getting unplugged, and as the story progresses, deep secrets are uncovered (cue dramatic music). The ending, however, was a disappointment. Amy and Ender achieve their goal and BAM! everything's better. Elder doesn't have to work at all to fix things, and people just accept his shocking truths. Given what the people had been through, I'm surprised they can think at all.
The book was a 3. I did not like the beginning when Amy first got into her chamber, and it wasn't very compelling. And I sat there wanting to bang my head against the wall while the characters remained blind to the obvious and kept suspecting the wrong people for a while. It was like bread. Bland and goodish, but leaves you wishing for something a little more.

The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff

This book is set in a town where everyone is kind of superstitious. They know that there is something wrong with their town; every seven years, a child is taken and a replacement is left where the baby sleeps. In order to protect their kids, parents hang iron things over their babies, such as horseshoes and knives, because the replacement monsters do not like iron. I'm not sure I would hang any sort of blade over my baby if I were a mother, but they do. Mackie is a replacement. At birth, he was traded for the real Mackie, and he struggles to act like a normal human. His struggling is mostly due to his allergy to iron. I'm not sure how he gets around the world, or what he's made of, but he manages, barely. Most other replacements die within a couple of days after they replace a human, but Mackie lasts. He has his sister to thank for that; without her care and protection, he would not have made it.
I give it a 3. This book wasn't bad, but it wasn't stellar either, though it was on the better side. There was nothing that really struck me about it. The writing style and the plot were fine. For food, I guess it's like twizzlers. There's a certain fondness because of the fact that it's candy, and it tastes good because of the sugar, but it isn't extraordinary.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Lipstick Laws

April Bowers is your typical "invisible" high schooler, desperate to be popular. She gets herself in with the popular crowd, only to find that they are (of course) horrible people, gets kicked out, and exacts her revenge. Blech.

The whole book was terrible. The dialogue was nothing special, and all of the characters were one-dimensional. There is a brief reference to why the mean girl is so nasty (something about a bad family and divorce), but nothing ever comes from it; she's horrible to the end. The main character, April, isn't very likeable either. She is OBSESSED with her flat-chestedness, is upset by her treatment at the hands of the popular girls, but then turns around and treats others (such as a boy that she feels is nerdy) just as badly. Her final plot to destroy the mean girl is actually quite dangerous; she plans on using the girl's peanut allergy to humiliate her. And at the very end of the book, April's friends make her feel better by showing their own flaws: one wears glasses, another has fat ankles, and the last wears Spanx all the time. WHAT KIND OF ROLE MODELS ARE THESE PEOPLE??? I mean, honestly, could the author have made less pathetic, image-obsessed girls??? Okay, I'll stop ranting now.
The Lipstick Laws gets a 1. Here's the author's website:

Monday, April 4, 2011

Anna and the French Kiss

by Stephanie Perkins

I remember when I first heard about this book when Ms. Barnes recommended it to Clare, who wrote her review on our blog The List, and I. I had high hopes for this book, and it lived up to all of them.

Anna is a girl whose parents are sending her to a boarding school in Paris for her senior year of high school. She arrives there and immediately becomes friends with Meredith, Josh, Rashimi, and most importantly Etienne St. Clair, a gorgeous guy who lives in France, is American, and has a british accent. To put it plainly: Etienne St. Clair is perfect. However, St. Clair (as everyone calls him) has a girlfriend, Ellie, who is friends with the group but has already graduated. Through the course of the book, the reader sees all the relationships between this set of friends evolve, especially the one between St. Clair and Anna. The reader can see that they (St. Clair and Anna) are perfect for one another, but the characters do not see that. They are often questioning who they are in relation to one another and where their relationship stands. The reader is hoping all throughout the book that the characters will finally see the deep bond that is forming between them and how they really should be together (as a couple).

I give this book a five. I love the way you can see the characters develop while there is still plot and a sense to the story. I learned to love the group of friends, and I definatley and completely fell in love with Etienne St. Clair just as Anna does. I feel that Anna is a reliable and realistic narrator who I can relate to and understand. She isn't a damsel in distress, and she deals with her own problems and is a strong heroine. She is a fantastic character with a large heart that I admire. This book completely deserves a five. I haven't read a book with such lovable characters in a long time. I recommend this book to anyone and everyone, particularly people who like romance.

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