Friday, July 30, 2010

The Good Thief

The Good ThiefThe Good Thief by Hannah Tinti

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was such a charming book! Ren is an orphan with a missing hand. Miraculously he is adopted by his "brother" who turns out to be a charming con-man. Together they have adventures and end up in a town with a villian so melodramtic, he fairly twirls his mustache when he speaks. There are giants and dwarves, grave-robbers, women who shout, and men in Hats that are out for blood. Although there are themes like what makes a person "good" and loyalty, it is mostly entertaining in a Dickinson sort of way. The ending seemed a bit heavy for such a light-hearted book, but it was an enjoyable read.

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Thursday, July 29, 2010

The House of the Scorpion

The House of the ScorpionThe House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I loved this book about Matt, a clone, growing up among opium fields. Between clones, "zombies", drug addicts, wealthy patrons who want to live forever, and poor orphaned boys who only have each other, Farmer explores what makes someone human and how ignorance and lack of empathy can make humans more terrifying than monsters. Subtly woven in are questions of control: who has control over whom and why? And how Matt ultimately takes control of his own life. Wonderful plot, great characters, creative premise. Loved it.

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The Red Pyramid

The Red Pyramid (Kane Chronicles, #1)The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is the latest series by the author of The Olympian Chronicles--(the Percy Jackson books). My 10-year-old and 11-year-old loved that series, and they really liked this book. It definitely has similarities to the first Percy Jackson book (where Percy learns he is a demi-god and must go to the underworld to save his mom)--this time it is an estranged brother and sister, Carter and Sadie, who find out they are from the blood of the Pharaohs and they must go to the underworld to save their father. It is still interesting to see the difference between the two belief-systems. Like the other series, this book has lots of battling monsters, magic creatures, etc.
Two criticisms: the book is written as a transcript of Sadie and Carter retelling their adventure on a tape recorder. It is a great idea: the beginning lines are "We only have a few hours, so listen carefully " (brilliant) But they change narrators every 2 chapters and even though the narrator is on each page heading, I think it would be less confusing if each narrator had his own typeface.
The other is that though Riordan certainly knows and respects the stories of other belief systems, I wish that his characters wouldn't curse as often as they do. Sadie must say OMG at least once each chapter. Both series talk about how powerful a gods name is just by saying it, so I just wish his characters wouldn't curse our God so often.

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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Let the Great World Spin

Let the Great World SpinLet the Great World Spin by Colum McCann

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is now one of my favorite books.
First of all, the writing is gorgeous. I swear when I read it, the same pleasure centers of my brain that ignite when I eat chocolate were ignited when I read this book. Sometimes I got so lost in the language, I had to re-read it so I could follow along with the plot. And there isn't much of a plot, really. More of a collection of points-of-view of people on a certain day in 1973 when a man strung a wire between the world trade towers and walked across. For some, this is the central focus, for others it is merely on the periphery. The stories are about what love is, what death is, what life is and how ultimately, it's the risks you take to love someone other than yourself than makes life worth living.
It made me want to write a critical essay--on the role NY played in the book, on the role of noise and quiet, etc. Loved it loved it loved it.
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Say You're One of Them

Say You're One of ThemSay You're One of Them by Uwem Akpan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This isn't a feel-good book. But it is a book that expands your world-view and changes you fundamentally. This book is a collection of short-stories told from the point of view of different children in different parts of Africa. Each of them have trials we can only begin to comprehend--poverty, ethnic cleansing, slavery. What Akpan does is put the problems of Africa into a form that at once intrigues and repulses, but one that you cannot ignore--the emotional resonance with which he writes makes these problems as intimately yours as it is the children's about whom he writes.
I must admit when I started with the first story "An Ex-mas Feast"--I was really confused. It took awhile for me to grasp that verbiage he used in conversation was the way they talked, and not editorial errors (sometimes I'm slow). And the events in the story seemed muddled and extraneous, but maybe that's just how his child narrator perceived it. "Luxurious Hearses" does double duty as a harrowing tale of refugees trying to escape ethnic cleansing in one part of the country(only to realize that the killing was occurring at their destination as well) and as an allegory of the religious/political make-up of the country. "My Parents Bedroom" is emotionally gut-wrenching but the one that stays with you is one of the longer stories: "Fattening for Gabon"--excellent all the way around.

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