Book Review: Mockingjay

Mar
22
2 COMMENTS • This post is filed under: Book Review
Mockingjay Mockingjay by
Series: The Hunger Games #3
Published by in 2010
Genres:
Pages: 390
Source:
Goodreads

Young Katniss Everdeen has survived the dreaded Hunger Games not once, but twice, but even now she can find no relief. In fact, the dangers seem to be escalating: President Snow has declared an all-out war on Katniss, her family, her friends, and all the oppressed people of District 12.

My Review:

I’m going to go ahead and say something controversial here: I did not enjoy Mockingjay. Now before you go all torch and pitchforks on me, may I point out that you’re not supposed to? Mockingjay, and the whole series really, is meant to make you uncomfortable. It is meant to create cognitive dissonance. I can see this book being taught in 50 years alongside the famous dystopias like The Giver, Anthem and The Handmaid’s Tale

There has been a lot said about this book, so I’m not going to say much more. Besides, after finishing, it feels like there’s only one thing to say:

A Moment of Silence for those who gave their lives in this series:
Though you were fictional, you still left your mark.




Book Review: Inkheart

Feb
27
0 COMMENTS • This post is filed under: Book Review
Inkheart Inkheart by
Series: Inkworld #1
Published by in 2005
Genres: ,
Pages: 548
Source:
Goodreads

One cruel night, Meggie's father reads aloud from Inkheart, and an evil ruler named Capricorn escapes the boundaries of the book, landing in their living room. Suddenly, Meggie's in the middle of the kind of adventure she thought only took place in fairy tales. Somehow she must master the magic that has conjured up this nightmare. Can she change the course of the story that has changed her life forever?

My Review:

This book has been one of my favorites for what feels like forever – I was amazed to discover after looking through copyright dates on things like the cover etc. that I can’t have bought it any earlier than 2007. That’s way more recently than I thought it was…

Anyway! It’s always difficult for me to pinpoint why my favorite books make it onto a favorite list. There are always so many things to like about the favorites! Number one for this particular book is going to have to be the story, I think. I’ve talked about my love of The Neverending Story here before, and this book is rather similar, at least in my reasons for liking it. Who wouldn’t love the chance to meet their favorite characters, even if they do turn out to be nasty little idiots like some of the ones in Inkheart?

Usually for me writing style plays a part in liking a book. I feel bad talking about it in this instance, because in all likelihood the style is more up to the translator than the writer on a book written in a different language than I speak. But, on the other hand, the translator has to know what they’re doing to do a good job on it, and they do have to faithfully translate the story, so I’d like to think it’s a joint effort, and it is very pretty. The style really suits the novel – it’s not one of those that makes me want to read out loud (and isn’t the story warning enough against that?) but the language matches who the characters are really well. Most of us chronic readers have a pretty extensive vocabulary and aren’t afraid to use it, and that shows really well with Meggie, Mo and Elinor, while Capricorn’s men are completely illiterate and the sections about them show that, even when there’s no dialogue.

The only thing I will warn you about is these are large books. They’re fairly easy to read the first time around, but the size and lack of “gotta know what happens!” made it more difficult to get through this time. I carried it with me in case I needed a book, but given the choice of Inkheart or some other, newer book, I often chose the new book. On the other hand, if you haven’t read this series, you really are missing out. Go find yourself a copy!





Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by
Series: Harry Potter #5
Published by in 2003
Genres: ,
Pages: 870
Source:
Goodreads

The fifth hefty installment to J.K. Rowling's renowned Harry Potter series takes a uniquely psychological and intensely dark turn, bringing the boy wizard at odds with his own identity and friendships as he continues to fight He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. Now fifteen years old with four Voldemort battles under his belt, Harry feels frustrated about the growing public skepticism about the Dark Lord's return. Unfortunately, the Ministry of Magic is also voicing its doubt, and all of Hogwarts comes under the watchful eye of an oppressive Ministry representative. Despite the additional problems of looming O.W.L. exams and Hagrid's inexplicable absence, Harry's main preoccupation is his vivid dreams that take him to places -- and make him witness events -- that horrify and intrigue him. These dreams provide a shocking clue to his very existence, and when eventually they lead Harry to confrontation, the wizard must cope with a tragic death and a telling prophecy about his future.

My thoughts:

Well I certainly didn’t expect to finish this one before the end of the month. Then again, I didn’t expect to come down with a cold either. Gotta look at the bright side though, right?

Oh my. What to say? This book has been lovingly dubbed Harry Potter and the Pillar of Angst by my friends. I can’t say I blame them. There’s a lot of psychological stuff in there with very little action. On the other hand, some of my absolute favourite quotes in the whole series are from this book. For example: In response to Harry’s accusation that his friends won’t look at him not the other way around, Hermione says “Maybe you’re taking it in turns to look and keep missing each other?” I don’t know why but that line always makes me giggle!

I also love the development of Peeves in this novel. In the first four he was merely an annoyance (and I loved him for it – I have often said Peeves was my favourite character). But now he takes on some character with a real enemy in Umbridge. And what’s more, I love the fact that he bows to the Weasley twins when they tell him “Give her Hell from us!” and the way McGonagall is so frustrated at Umbridge that she tells him the chandelier unscrews the other way.

This was the first book I really started to look at names for. Umbridge is the one who really got me thinking – there’s a word in English that sounds like Umbridge that pretty well describes what the other characters feel towards her (though I have no idea how it’s spelled so I’m not even going to try). That got me thinking about other significant names. For example: Lupin = Wolf in Latin and many romance languages, Malfoy = “Bad time” in French (spelled slightly differently), even Voldemort = “Fly from death” also in French. But what really got me thinking was the first time I read it in French, because while some of the names were based on French, others got changed. Snape became Rogue, probably because Snape is based on an English word (I haven’t been able to find one, but that’s my best guess). This was probably also the point where I began scrutinizing every word for clues to how it would end – it was fun coming across my little pencil underlining every once in a while and going “Yeah I was soooo off there!”

Anyways, that’s it for me on the Potter-thon, hope you all had fun!





Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by
Series: Harry Potter #4
Published by in 2002
Genres: ,
Pages: 734
Source:
Goodreads

Harry wants to get away from the pernicious Dursleys and go to the International Quidditch Cup with Hermione, Ron, and the Weasleys. He wants to dream about Cho Chang, his crush (and maybe do more than dream). He wants to find out about the mysterious event that's supposed to take place at Hogwarts this year, an event involving two other rival schools of magic, and a competition that hasn't happened for a hundred years. He wants to be a normal, fourteen-year-old wizard. Unfortunately for Harry Potter, he's not normal - even by wizarding standards. And in his case, different can be deadly.

My thoughts:

It seemed to take forever to get through this one! I am so ready to move on to the next book, but I didn’t want to skip anything. That’s cheating after all. So, after finishing, my thoughts are as follows:

1) Watching that awful excuse for a movie had coloured my view of this book more than I expected, especially since I read the book way before seeing the movie. It’s actually not that bad – probably because the details are what makes the story and most if not all of them got left out in the film.

2) I know Rowling probably meant to be all metaphorical and whatnot on the whole house elves issue, but I’m still not sure I understand what she was getting at – it’s so confusing when the slaves themselves assert that this is what they want. Is Dobby really that odd, or have they been brainwashed for too long to know the difference? I like to think of myself as on Hermione’s side, because, well, I’ve always seen myself as a real life version of Hermione, but sometimes I have to agree with Ron – she’s not even listening to the House Elves!

3) I love Hagrid for many reasons, but one of the most important ones is:
“You all righ’?”
“Yeah”
“No, yeh’re not. ‘Course yeh’re not. But yeh will be.”
We’ve all been there. We’ve all had someone ask us if we’re alright, and out of whatever stupid ideas we have about the situation we say “yeah I’m fine.” And you know what? Some days you just want them to look you straight back in the eyes and say “Liar”

4) Dumbledore is awesome and I wish Richard Harris had lived long enough to at least finish the role.

5) It’s really amusing to note where they had to have changed a British word for an American, and others where they didn’t. This is especially true since I spent a year there learning their slang, and translating on both sides of the ocean (I’ve been watching Primeval with a friend here, and every once in a while they’ll say something and she’ll look at me like “whaaaaat?” It usually takes me a minute to figure out why she’s confused). I’m also amused by the fact that none of these things that I could never have understood before detracted from my previous readings, or really added all that much to this reading – and so I would like to say to the publishers “Leave the originals alone, thank you! Americans aren’t all that stupid, and it doesn’t change anything!”

There’s more I could say, but I think I’ll leave it there for tonight. I’m going to take a break from Harry Potter for a few days, hopefully get some other reading done, and then back to it this weekend.

 





Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by
Series: Harry Potter #3
Published by in 2004
Genres: ,
Pages: 435
Source:
Goodreads

For twelve long years, the dread fortress of Azkaban held an infamous prisoner named Sirius Black. Convicted of killing thirteen people with a single curse, he was said to be the heir apparent to the Dark Lord, Voldemort.
Now he has escaped, leaving only two clues as to where he might be headed: Harry Potter's defeat of You-Know-Who was Black's downfall as well. And the Azkaban guards heard Black muttering in his sleep, "He's at Hogwarts... he's at Hogwarts."
Harry Potter isn't safe, not even within the walls of his magical school, surrounded by his friends. Because on top of it all, there may well be a traitor in their midst.

My Review:

This book has always been my favourite of the entire Harry Potter series, so this time around, I decided to read it with that in mind and try to figure out why. While I don’t have one specific reason, there are several possibilities.

1) Remus Lupin – No, he’s not my favourite character in the entire series. But, and call me Hermione if you will, I want to take his class! I don’t care what he’s teaching – in fact he could teach me Science if he wanted (BLECH!) and I would probably still take the class.

2) I have a thing for time-travel – I hadn’t even considered this before now, but going by my two favourite things (this book and Doctor Who) and my recent addiction to Primeval even though it is sooooooo CHEESY, this is a definite possibility. I shall look into it.

and 3) I love all the possibilities at the end of this novel – Really, I think this is the most likely reason. Even though I’ve read the rest of the series and I know where Rowling is going with this, I finished this one feeling that the possibilities were endless. And all those amazing possibilities are like a drug for the imagination – if I had even known about it then, I would probably have started writing fanfic after this one. I would still write fanfic about what happened after this one, if not for my thing about going against canon.

oh and possibly 4) the music for this movie was AWESOME – I don’t care if you don’t like the film, you have to admit this is the best score John Williams has ever written – and I had the music running through my head the whole time I was reading.

So there we have my thoughts on the 3rd Harry Potter. All in all, I’d say I’m on track for my goal since it’s been approximately a week and a half and I’m about to hit halfway (though of course the books only get longer, so we’ll see). Oh and school started yesterday, so posts may be a little fewer per week. I daresay you would rather that anyway, since I’ve been averaging two a day when I had nothing else to do and therefore bombarding your inboxes (sorry!).

 





Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by
Series: Harry Potter #2
Published by in 1999
Genres: ,
Pages: 341
Source:
Goodreads

The Dursleys were so mean and hideous that summer that all Harry Potter wanted was to get back to the Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry. But just as he's packing his bags, Harry receives a warning from a strange, impish creature named Dobby who says that if Harry Potter returns to Hogwarts, disaster will strike.
And strike it does. For in Harry's second year at Hogwarts, fresh torments and horrors arise, including an outrageously stuck-up new professor, Gilderoy Lockhart, a spirit named Moaning Myrtle who haunts the girls' bathroom, and the unwanted attentions of Ron Weasley's younger sister, Ginny.
But each of these seem minor annoyances when the real trouble begins, and someone - or something - starts turning Hogwarts students to stone. Could it be Draco Malfoy, a more poisonous rival than ever? Could it possibly be Hagrid, whose mysterious past is finally told? Or could it be the one everyone at Hogwarts most suspects... Harry Potter himself!

My Review:

I don’t really have a “review” as such for this one, but three thoughts struck me that I thought I’d share.

1) Whoever cast Kenneth Branagh as Gilderoy Lockhart was a genius. I don’t care if he’s not like that in real life, his characterization was perfect!

2) The clues were all there. I was just too wrapped up in the story the first time around to see it. It’s nice to read it again and go “wow I was dumb for not seeing that.”

and 3) This really is the filler novel of the series. It’s Harry Potter, ergo it’s good, but it doesn’t stick out. In fact, some days when I’m being particularly thick, I can’t even remember the plot.

On to book 3, my favourite of the entire series!

 






It’s only January 4, but I’m happy to announce I’ve finished book 1! I’m having so much fun with this, although it is making me sad because my first book has been so well loved that the pages have cracked down the spine (if anyone knows a semi-cheap bookbinding place, I would love you forever – I could just tape it, but that feels like blasphemy on a Harry Potter. Besides this is the first one that’s done it, so I don’t exactly know what I’m doing). Anyway, the intention was to read Harry Potter interspersed with the other books I have out, but as it did the first time, it sucked me in, and I couldn’t put it down. I’m now about 50 pages into book 2, though this may be where I lose steam, as 2 is my least favorite book. Plus, I’m going to the library today, and I always get distracted by what I’ve just got out instead of finishing what I started.

But anyway, on to the review!

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by
Series: Harry Potter #1
Published by in 2003
Genres: ,
Pages: 310
Source:
Goodreads

Harry Potter has never been the star of a Quidditch team, scoring points while riding a broom far above the ground. He knows no spells, has never helped to hatch a dragon, and has never worn a cloak of invisibility. All he knows is a miserable life with the Dursleys, his horrible aunt and uncle, and their abominable son, Dudley - a great big swollen spoiled bully. Harry's room is a tiny closet at the foot of the stairs, and he hasn't had a birthday party in eleven years.
But all that is about to change when a mysterious letter arrives by owl messenger: a letter with an invitation to an incredible place that Harry - and anyone who reads about him - will find unforgettable. For it's there that he finds not only friends, aerial sports, and magic in everything from classes to meals, but a great destiny that's been waiting for him... if Harry can survive the encounter.

Review:

What to say? I always have a hard time thinking of what to say about books I’m re-reading, because honestly, if I’m re-reading them in the first place, I think they’re fabulous. So imagine how hard it is to review something that I’ve just re-read for the 12th time! It’s the only book in my entire library that has cracked down the spine, and that’s saying something, because I take really good care of my books.

This book really symbolized my entry into the fantasy genre, I think. I was one of those obnoxious kids at school who never was without a book. Every time the teacher had us do some sort of exercise at our desks, I would race through it, just so I could get a few minutes reading time before everyone else finished. I even, and I hate myself for it, would wake up without an alarm clock at 6:30 every single morning so I could read for half an hour before I had to get up. With an appetite like that, you go through books fast. I can remember when I was 9 having read all the children’s books at the library and my mother desperately trying to find me some more difficult books that she was ok with me reading the subject matter. Soon after that, my school librarian, Mrs. Lynch, suggested this new book that came out that her niece or nephew (I can’t remember which) had read and loved. It was by some guy named J.K. Rowling and it was about an 11 year old boy who went to magic school. I dutifully wrote it down and went straight to the public library and inter-library loaned it. It came within a few days (which tells you just how unknown it was – the wait-list for the 5th Harry Potter just after it came out was over 4 months long – good thing by then I was buying them for myself!) and I read it almost in one sitting. I thought it was amazing, the best book I’d ever read, and I mourned the fact that there was only one book. How interesting it would be to read about the rest of his years at Hogwarts! (obviously I wasn’t very clear on the idea of a series at that point).

Skip to a year later. Leading up to Halloween, my teacher decided to read Harry Potter to us (again, shows you how unknown it was – this was before the whole banning for religious reasons and having to get permission slips stuff. She read it, and no one complained!). I was very excited. I wanted to share this amazing book, but at that age, none of my friends were into books the way I was. A few days after she announced she would be reading it to us, another student showed up with book two. I recognized that it was Harry Potter almost immediately and had a little bit of a moment right in the middle of class when I realized it was a different book! This mysterious author had written more! I went straight out to the library that evening and ordered it as well. There was a bit longer wait this time, but after about 2 weeks I got it. I finished it in the same evening I got it, and then re-read it, even though I didn’t like it as well (2 still remains my least favourite book) because I knew I wouldn’t get more for a while.

The rest, as they say, is history. In Junior High, desperate for more interesting novels to fill the time between Harry Potter books, I picked up Lord of the Rings, and then several novels about Arthur Pendragon and Merlin. In High School I bonded with several friends who were also into Harry Potter and we began to go to the films together, if not at the midnight showing, the week in came out (I remember a few times having someone’s mother pick us up after school and drive us straight to the movie theater the day after they opened). Then in College I met the “Hogwarts Four” (a group of friends each from a different houses – they like to do Harry Potter themed gifts and such) and while we’ve bonded over many things, the thing that brought us together was our love of Harry Potter.

So what’s so great about Harry Potter? You know, it’s difficult to put my finger on. As I was talking about in my previous review, I love Rowling’s language. I invariably start at least the first book reading out loud to myself (in a very bad british accent). Usually by the end of the first chapter I get frustrated that it’s taking so long, and stop, but that doesn’t change the fact that the language is gorgeous. I also highly enjoy the cast of characters. I was emotionally involved in their lives from the very beginning.

I hate to give an unbalanced review, though, so I will include a few things that could possibly be found wrong with it. My father read these with me (ish) and his comment was that he didn’t like Rowling’s writing style because she writes like there are a bunch of short stories all strung together with a common thread. As he likes to read mystery novels, this is a pretty valid complaint from his point of view. I can see his point now that I’m older – there are lots of gaps in time where she doesn’t tell us much of what happens – but I think she had to do that because she wanted to cover a whole year in one novel. If she hadn’t, all of the books would be several thousand pages long and no one would read them because they seem too daunting. That’s part of why I gave up on the Wheel of Time series, honestly (13 books clocking in at 800 pages each is a ton, especially when I like to re-read previous books before the next one comes out because I want to remember what happened).

One thing I also noticed this time was how quickly it seemed like Harry got involved in the whole paranoia about Voldemort thing. In one year, he went from not even knowing he’s supposed to be scared of him, to being more terrified than his wizard friends that he would come back. While, as a 9 year old, I found it believable, I found it a bit to quick for my liking this time around.

Not to say I didn’t like it. I love the novel. But, in the interest of a fair and balanced review, it had to be said. Even so, it deserves a full five (or ten) stars and I will definitely be reading it again and again for the rest of my life!

Thank you all for sticking with me, through this miles long post. I will try not to make the rest of the reviews so long, I promise =) Happy Reading!





Book Review: The Year of Secret Assignments

Aug
31
0 COMMENTS • This post is filed under: Book Review
The Year of Secret Assignments The Year of Secret Assignments by
Series: Ashbury/Brookfield #2
Published by in 2005
Genres: ,
Pages: 352
Source:
Goodreads

A tenth grade English teacher attempts to unite feuding schools by launching a pen-pal project. Best friends Cassie, Emily and Lydia initiate the correspondence, and are answered by Matthew, Charlie and Seb. Emily and Lydia are more than pleased with their matches, but quiet Cassie has a frightening experience with Matthew. When Lydia and Emily discover that Matthew has threatened their fragile friend, the Ashbury girls close ranks, declaring an all-out war on the Brookfield boys. Soon, the couples are caught up in everything from car-jacking and lock-picking, to undercover spying and identity theft.

Review:

First, can I just say that I was reading this right about the same time as I discovered Sherlock (See my review here) and I so want Jaclyn to be related somehow to the famous Moriarty. Even if he is fictional. I don’t care!

But on to the novel. I found this book fun to read, though I didn’t see what all the fuss is about. It doesn’t make me want to run up to random people on the street and say “You have to read this” or anything (yes that is my qualification for “Best Book EVER!” status). On the other hand, I’ve written in epistolary format, albeit in a very one-sided capacity, and I know how difficult it is. As fun as the readers find it, it’s so hard to figure out how to talk about things that people just wouldn’t talk about in letters. Moriarty found clever ways of getting around that, by putting in diary entries, transcripts etc. (Can I just say? That writing journal she has one of the girls writing in would drive me insane! If you’re going to give me prompts to write about at least make it accessible! And stop talking in that stupid perky voice all the time!)

If I had to make a sweeping generalization about this book, I’d say that it is the perfect “beach read” – Light and fluffy, but not to the point of being gag-worthy.

One more review today! Iron King by Julie Kagawa. Now off to do a little homework before it turns into a pumpkin.





Book Review: Shiver

Aug
30
0 COMMENTS • This post is filed under: Book Review

The Summer “Beach Reads” Challenge ends today and I still have three reviews to finish! Plus I have to go to school and … well I’d better get started!

So first off:
Shiver Shiver by
Series: Wolves of Mercy Falls #1
Published by in 2009
Genres: , ,
Pages: 400
Source:
Goodreads

Grace, 17, loves the peace and tranquility of the woods behind her home. It is here during the cold winter months that she gets to see her wolf—the one with the yellow eyes. Grace is sure that he saved her from an attack by other wolves when she was nine. Over the ensuing years he has returned each season, watching her with those haunting eyes as if longing for something to happen. When a teen is killed by wolves, a hunting party decides to retaliate. Grace races through the woods and discovers a wounded boy shivering on her back porch. One look at his yellow eyes and she knows that this is her wolf in human form. Fate has finally brought Sam and Grace together, and as their love grows and intensifies, so does the reality of what awaits them. It is only a matter of time before the winter cold changes him back into a wolf, and this time he might stay that way forever.

Review:

A lot of people have been reviewing this one (or rather its sequel Linger), and I thought it looked decent so I decided to order it from my local library. While I can see the attraction for a lot of people, it wasn’t my favorite book ever.

First of all, there were some things that just felt slightly off to me. This book is a lot like Twilight, which is probably why a lot of people like it. In its favour, Grace has a little more personality, and I like that she’s a go-getter who comes up with solutions to problems, even if the solutions aren’t right. But to me, she’s still got a little of that “Bella = pushover” flavour to her. She sees Sam wounded, decides to help him and she’s instantly “in love and there’s never going to be anyone else!” That just doesn’t ring true for me. As much as I’d like to believe in “love at first sight” this just feels, to me, like teenage puppy love. Add to that the fact that they never get into a fight or disagree strongly on anything, and it just doesn’t feel like a real relationship. Real relationships don’t just happen – you have to work!

On the other hand, I really enjoyed the ending of this one. As the Twilight series came out, I had certain expectations and hopes for the ending, none of which were fulfilled. I even considered writing fan-fiction to “fix” the ending, because I felt it just wasn’t right. Shiver does exactly what I wanted Meyer to do at the end of Twilight. I’m not going to spoiler or anything, so don’t worry about that, but I love the fact that someone else has written a book to replace the Twilight series, which I felt let me down in so many ways.

So, if you like Twilight, I would definitely recommend Shiver. If you didn’t like it, I would suggest at least trying Shiver for all of its redeeming characteristics.

(P.S. All of you Twi-hards out there – please don’t comment if all you have to say is “I hate you for not liking Twilight.” There’s nothing that bothers me more than people who think the only correct opinion is theirs and it is their right, nay their duty to make everyone else see the light. I am entitled to my opinion, you are entitled to yours, let’s just leave it there, k?)

Now off to school. Next review up this afternoon, on The Year of Secret Assignments





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