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Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Extra

By: Kathryn Lasky

While reading this historical fiction book I thought it was completely fabricated.  The book was about a girl, Lilo, who is taken to a concentration camp with her parents.  Her dad is sent away and Lilo and her mom, Bluma, are picked by Leni Riefenstahl, Hitler's favorite filmmaker, to be in a movie.  Lilo, Bluma, a boy named Django, and everyone else picked go to the set where they are going to film the movie.  From then on, mostly bad things happen.  The reason I didn't realize this book was based on fact was because of the lack of emotion.  I didn't feel connected to Lilo at all even though the book was based on someone who actually was picked to be in Leni's film.  It was as if Lasky was talking to me, recounting her day, and no matter what she said I just sort of said "oh, that's nice" because I wasn't really paying attention.  The problem was that what she was saying wasn't nice.  I should have been more invested in Lilo and what happened to her, but I wasn't.  One problems was that the book was very scattered.  There never seemed to be a point.  When she was making the film she was just trying to stay alive.  She was obviously falling in love with Django but wasn't saying anything about it.  She didn't like Leni, but there was nothing she could do about it.  She was worried for her mom but not that worried.  There was never an end in sight because Lilo didn't really think about the future.  She never had any insight into what would happen next.  The book is clearly split into two sections.  The second one has almost nothing to do with the first section.  The second section came out of the blue and I can't figure out the need for it.  By the end of the book basically everything Lilo worked towards failed.  If she prevented something once, it just happened later, except once it happened she wasn't upset about it because she had given up.  The whole book just felt like a series of rather random and unfortunate events.  The only thing that had the inkling of feeling was Lilo's relationship with Django.  The reason this was better than her relationship with anyone else was because it never stated the fact that she fell in love with him, well that is, it didn't state it until late in the book. For once, I, as the reader, had to actually draw a conclusion for myself.

This book was like a bitter apple.  Overall, just not that good.  It has that fresh bite that sticks with you even after you've finished it.  The apple was bitter, sour, and hard.  There wasn't any juice.  Being a fan of historical fiction, this book was a big let down.  I would give this book a 1.5.

Monday, November 11, 2013

To Be Perfectly Honest

By: Sonya Sones

After the first 100 pages I was super excited to continue with this book.  It was amazing how well the narrator, Colette, would tell a story and then tell you at which point she started lying.  Starting from where she started lying she would continue to tell you her story until she once again told you at which point she was lying.  She continued on like this for the first 100 pages.  These 100 pages were great.  Colette and I could have been talking to me.  This is a novel in verse but was more like a conversation for the first 100 pages.  The next 350 pages or so were not as good.  Colette falls in love with la la... things go wrong, what a SURPRISE!!!! How else would the book progress? Basically nothing happened in this book. Colette was in love with Connor and stuff happened between them.  Just like in any other romance.  There is an extremely predictable twist, so maybe just a bend.  The only good thing in this book was Colette's little brother, Will.  Will has a lisp.  My favorite quote of his is "Being a great actor / ith of paramount importanthe when you're / pulling off a thcam of thith magnitude."  He is always saying things that brighten the mood of the book.  Colette, on the other hand, is quite the downer.  A quote to describe her would be "I throw myself / onto my bed / and cry-- / I cry until my eyes are swollen shut."  Interesting right? By this point in the book I really didn't care that she was crying.  I also didn't think this book was that well written.  The only time I thought the format (novel in verse) was used well was "I owe that kid / a truckload / of gummy worms!"  I thought that this captured the way she lied.  She would be saying something but then sort of twist it to mean something else

I would give this book a 2.  One and a half for Will and a half for the predictable yet solid ending.  I would say this book was like a stale cupcake.  Old, overused, and not very good.  But, to be perfectly honest, you can't go completely wrong with sugar, right?

The Clockwork Scarab

By: Coleen Gleason

Two girls are dead and one has gone missing in 1889 London.  The only clues are an Egyptian Scarabs that were found at both the murder scenes. Well, not exactly murder, both deaths were made out to look like suicides.  Mina Holmes, as in Sherlock Holmes's niece, and Evaline Stoker, sister of Bram Stoker (author of Dracula), are called to a secret meeting at the British Museum by Irene Adler.  Stoker and Holmes are called to investigate these series of murders by the Princess of Wales.  Along the way Holmes makes friends with Dylan Eckhert.  Dylan was at the museum looking at the statue of Sekhmet,  and Egyptian  Goddess, when he touched a scarab on the statue.  Next thing he knew, he woke up in 1889 London.  His problems come from the fact that he's from 2016 London.  Miss Holmes also has a rivalry with Lieutenant Grayling, of Scotland Yard.  Miss Stoker runs into a mysterious pick-pocket, Pix (meaning Pixie), a couple times too many to  be a coincidence.

This book had a rather interesting plot but the characters were almost unbearable.  Miss Adler was aptly named after Alfred Adler, a psychologist who studied how an inferiority complex affected development, because both Miss Stoker and Miss Holmes have the most obvious inferiority complexes.  Them having an inferiority complex wasn't exactly the problem.  The problem was that neither of them got over it and they were both competing incessantly.  I doubt there was an entire page from Miss Holme's point of view that didn't say something about her superior powers of deduction.  By the end I was sick of it.  In fact, by the end of the first chapter I was was sick of it and I was pretty sure I would like Miss Stoker better than Miss  Holmes.  Miss Homes's inability to accept the fact that she had to have a partner just got tiresome by the end.  By the end Miss Homes says something about how Miss Stoker had become Evaline, no longer just an acquaintance.  While I was glad that this was true, it would have been better if it hadn't been stated.

Miss Holmes wasn't the only one with problems.  Miss Stoker has a fear of blood, which was one of the reasons for her inferiority complex.  She is supposed to be a vampire hunter but freezes at the sight of blood.  This was established in one of the earlier chapters but continued to be reinforced throughout the entire book.  In one of the final scenes, surprise surprise, Miss Stoker froze at the sight of blood.  At the beginning, I saw this as a way to develop Miss Stoker's character.  By the end I just saw it as an annoying handicap.  At the beginning I expected Miss Stoker to learn to overcome it somehow.  It could have been used as a way of connecting Miss Holmes and Miss Stoker or just a personal victory for Miss Stoker.  Because nothing was done about this problem I don't see how it was used.  Maybe this problem will be resolved in the next book.

Another frustrating problem with the book was how they played out gender roles.  The book did and exceptional job painting how gender roles were at this time period.  My problem was how focused Miss Stoker and Miss Holmes were on them.  I understand that they were trying to prove the stereotypes wrong, but, at some point, I felt like their focused should have shifted a little more towards actually solving the mystery since that was what was actually needed solving.  Despite this, I did enjoy how Miss Stoker and Pix played out.  It was extraordinarily predictable, but still funny.

Although I found many of the characters quite annoying I thoroughly enjoyed Dylan Echert's character.  Although, my fear is that I enjoyed his character because you don't find out that much about his character.  He was one of the only ones that didn't really show that he pitied himself.  Naturally, he wanted to get back to his own time, yet he still tried to help Miss Holmes and Miss Stoker.  He seemed to be the only one to grow in this book.  He started out wallowing in the basement where he transported back in time and in the end he turned out to be quite clever.  I also enjoyed his iPhone.  His everyday, our 21st century, problems were interesting given that in the book electricity is illegal.  Another good thing about Dylan was how excited he got.  He was one of the few, if not the only, character who showed emotion. He gets especially excited when he finds out who Miss Holmes and Miss Stoker are.  Like anyone would today, he recognized their names.

I also enjoyed Pix's and Lieutenant Grayling's characters.  They were a little more complex than either Miss Stoker or Miss Holmes.  The book needed to get to know Pix, Grayling, and Dylan better because they were the only characters with any depth.

I would give this book a 3 because it had an interesting plot and a couple interesting characters.  There wasn't that much to this book but it was still very interesting.  This book was like chocolate covered cranberries.  They're pretty good and the cranberries have a good flavor, but the chocolate is cheap and rather than melting in your mouth it crumbles in your mouth.  Even though they're not great you decide to keep eating them.  The more you eat the better they taste.  You can't wait for the next cranberry -- despite the book's downfalls, I'm looking forward to the next one.

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