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Monthly Archives: September 2013

Opfer by Claire Powell

I’m not sure what to say about this book.  At first, it was a major disappointment.  The characters were flat, the dialogue was flat, the story line was interesting but not engaging.  I wandered, frequently, if the author had ever heard the clichéd saying, “Show, don’t tell.”

BUT, Opfer does have its redeeming qualities.  After the first part (about 100 pages), the characters became more round and a lot more realistic.  I would have liked to learn more about those characters because they were believable.  And luckily enough, Claire Powell does know how to show the reader the way.

Honestly, I think the first section of the book can be cut by a good 75 pages, or at least make Leba a rounder character than Bella Swan in Twilight.  Powell could also slow down the plot and use more sensory detail in her writing to engage readers.

The purpose of the book is also a little mysterious, at least to me.  By the end, I understood more, but I felt that the last few chapters were also rushed, as if the author had a deadline that she needed to meet.  In fact, my theory is that the first section was tacked on in the last stages of the writing/drafting/editing process.

There are a few spelling and grammar/mechanics issues in this copy, but for the most part, the last 200 or so pages are well written and manage to hit on some pretty big debate topics on Earth today, such as global warming and large-scale population increase.

Maybe the purpose of Opfer is to warn us of the future…but then what is the necessity of the Quallic race?

In short, Opfer includes some interesting concepts and an interesting world(s), but it’s not a page-turner and could do with another draft or two.

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Private by Kate Brian

I read most of the Private series by Kate Brian when I was in high school and even started her spin-off series, Privilege, when I was in college.  Now that I’m teaching the 8th grade, I’m working on a classroom library and struggling to find “girl power” books for it.  I remembered Private and decided to reread it to find out if it belonged on the shelf in B125.

It only took me two days to read and I was surprised by how much I still liked the book.  I remember reading it and totally identifying with Reed Brennan – or at least, Reed Brennan prior to Easton Academy.  I also remember desperately wanting her life.  I thought that my views would have changed in 4+ years, and they definitely have, but I still became wrapped up in the plot and the characters – I never realized just how bullish Noelle Lange was until a couple of days ago!

Anyway, I think I like this series so much because it has just the right amount of privileged society without going all Gossip Girl on you.  Reed Brennan as main character really keeps that from happening.

If you like “girl power” books, I suggest checking out Kate Brian’s largest series; if you don’t, then just leave it be.  It’s truly one of those books that cater to a specific type of genre lover.

The Giver by Lois Lowry

I’ve heard numerous things about The Giver over the course of my 23 years. But I’ve never been persuaded enough to read it. I first discovered it in the library at my elementary school. It was one of those books that “You must read” if you’re a reader, and so I never wished to read it.

So why did I finally read it?

I have to teach it. Thankfully, it’s not one of those awful books that are forced down students’ throats. In fact, I kind of liked it. I’m not saying it was brilliant, but it was definitely different and startling.

The themes, plot, and characterization reminded me a lot of Divergent, The Hunger Games, and other YA dystopian novels. It also reminded me of the 90s movie version of Merlin…probably because I envisioned the old Giver as the old Merlin who tells the audience the tale of Arthur and the beginning of a civilized land.

If I had to rate Lois Lowry’s most famous work, I’d give it a 3 out of 5…maybe a 3.5 in some aspects, especially the ending. I didn’t see it coming.

The Liebster Award – Who knew, right?

I can’t believe I’ve been nominated for The Liebster Award, which I’d never heard of until today.  Thanks to Jennifer Windram for the honor.  I’m fairly new to blogging and am having a little trouble wrapping my head around this!

This award recognizes up and coming blog writers and helps people find new and relevant blogs for them to follow.  I have been asked the 10 following questions and must answer them:

1. Spicy food: yummy or heartburn in the making?

I love food with a lot of flavor, so spicy food is definitely yummy. Heartburn’s for wimps.

2. Have you ever stayed in a hostel? How about a bed a breakfast?

I have stayed in a hostel (3 actually) when I was traveling in Sweden.  The first one was so clean, we had our own rooms (which was odd) and had a wonderful continental breakfast.  The second was not so nice, but the third made up for it.  The room was on a ship and was absolutely beautiful. Not to mention the rocking of the vessel put you right to sleep!

3. Do you still own any stuffed animals?

I could never give up P.J., the brown stuffed teddy bear my father bought me when I was in fourth grade and broke my arm.  

4. Mittens or gloves? Or neither?

Neither. They just get in my way. Unless I’m outside shovelling snow for a long period of time, forget about it!

5. If you could change one thing about the way you look, what would it be? Or would you change anything?

I would change my skin complexion/tone.  My face nearly always looks like it is sunburnt.

6. What is your biggest fear, that is also somewhat irrational?

I would say my biggest irrational fear is deep sea diving only to discover that there’s been an oil spill and it has been set on fire. At that point, I’d have to choose my way to die – death by fire or death by drowning. This fear is irrational because I don’t deep sea dive, or snorkel, or even really swim underwater in the ocean, and I highly doubt the odds of something like that happening are slim to none.

7. Have you ever cheated at a board game?

Yes, I remember cheating at Candy Land when I was little.

8. Where do you eat most of your meals? On the couch? At the dining room table? Standing in the kitchen? In a comfy diner booth?

At my desk chair at school.  I eat breakfast and lunch there…and occasionally dinner as well when I stay after to get lesson planning done.

9. Is there a food that you just can’t stand?

Saurkraut

10. Have you ever bought anything you saw on an infomercial?

I’ve never bought anything from an infomercial before, but I have bought “As Seen on TV” stuff at Wal-mart. Does that count?

I have nominated the following blogs for the Liebster Award:

The Young Author Diaries

Bridging a Cultural Gap f. Cheburashka & Bri

Convergence and Collision

And here are the rules, as far as I know:

-Each nominee must link back the person who nominated them.
-Answer the 10 questions which are given to you by the nominator.
-Nominate up to 10 other bloggers for this award who have less than 200 followers.
-Create 10 questions for your nominees to answer.
-Let the nominees know that they have been nominated by going to their blog and notifying them

And finally…here are the ten questions my nominees must answer:

1) If you could have any “super” power in the world, what would it be and why?

2) When is your energy/productivity at its peak? Morning, Afternoon, or Night?

3) What was your dream job when you were in middle school?

4) If you could read only one book for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?

5) What is your favorite cultural cuisine?

6) If knighted, what would your coat-of-arms look like? Why?

7) Where is the one place you have always wished to travel to? Why?

8) If you could go back and change anything in or life, what would it be? Or would you keep it the same?

9) How would you solve the problem of world hunger if given the opportunity?

10) Who would you invite to dinner, alive or dead, and why?

Enjoy!!

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

I’m not sure what to think or say about Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere.  The story concept is ingenious.  Gaiman constructs an entire world called London Below for the people of London who have fallen through the cracks.  These people no longer exist in the real London – London Above.

The plot centers around a rather boring man, Richard Mayhew, whose life in London Above is jarringly interrupted when he finds an injured girl named Door lying in the street.  After taking her and letting her heal, his life slips through his fingers and he must follow her into London Below in order to set out on a quest that will show him his true nature and help him get his real life back. The pair must face a fallen angel, a pair of sadistic murderers, and a massive beast, along with multiple other dangers on their journey.

Although the plot is engrossing and the characters vivid and realistic, my impression of this book was moderate.  Nothing really resonated with me.

On Neil Gaiman’s Writing Style and The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

*This was supposed to be a review of Neverwhere, which I finished reading last week, but I started writing about The Ocean at the End of the Lane and couldn’t stop, so I’ve retitled this post and it is now about another Neil Gaiman book: The Ocean at the End of the Lane

Since I discovered Neil Gaiman’s works with the release of his most recent book The Ocean at the End of the Lane, I’ve been so intrigued by his writing style that I keep buying and reading his books.  When I first finished The Ocean at the End of the Lane, I asked myself, “What was the point of that?”  But there was this feeling inside me that said, “There’s so much you don’t understand.”  After thinking for several days about The Ocean at the End of the Lane, I discovered that it wasn’t one of those books that you close and walk away from, never to puzzle about again.  That’s because most books don’t puzzle me; The Ocean at the End of the Lane did.

The little boy’s childhood experience was so different from my own that it was hard for me to connect to him as a character.  I found myself calling him a “drama queen” and a “pansy” throughout the story, but I couldn’t put the book down.  Something kept me attached.  I read The Ocean at the End of the Lane back in June or July.  I still can’t figure out why I liked it, even just that little bit to keep me reading.

The book has definitely left its mark on me, but I don’t feel as if it had anything to do with the plot, or the characters.  I think what intrigues me the most was Gaiman’s writing style.  He has this unique way of describing the absolutely ordinary.  I wouldn’t call it beautiful, or vivid.  It’s frank and relaxing.  It strips the color from the story, and at the same time, breathes color into it.  I say that Gaiman HAS this writing style because I’ve discovered that it is not exclusive to The Ocean at the End of the Lane.  I read The Graveyard Book and came out with the same result.  Again, Neverwhere contains the same type of language, the same style.

It fascinates me.  I wouldn’t say that I love, or even like, Gaiman’s style.  In fact, his style irks me sometimes.  I want it to be more melodic rather than harmonic.  I want it to be more lyrical and less honest.  On some pages, the language tortures me, while on others, it soothes me.  I think that’s why I keep reading his books.

Highlander Betrayed by Laurin Wittig

Several weeks ago, I was hit with an unusual craving – a craving for the supernatural that focused its sights on Scotland and sparked a wonderfully realistic romance.  It’s unusual because it was not a craving for food, but for a certain plot, and that rarely happens to me.  I pride myself on being able to pick up anything, anywhere, and nearly always being able to melt into the plot.  At this point, I desperately wanted to re-read Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander, but I had neither the time nor the patience for such a slow (but delicious) plot and large book.  I wanted a short book with a fast pace and a slow romance.

I spent days culling through the Kindle store.

I finally found Laurin Wittig’s Highlander Betrayed.  The reviews were so-so and after days of searching, I was desperate.  I’m happy to say that I picked the right book.

Rowan and Nicholas’ relationship was so rocky and fraught with danger that it instantly held me captivated.  His orders to find the Highland Targe for the King of England and her destiny to protect it, her clan, and the rest of the Highlands from harm made for a delicious plot with a lot of adventure and a romance that kept me on the edge of my seat.  I felt several times that my hopes for the pair would be disappointed.

Because this book was exactly what I wanted when I wanted it, the plot, the characters, and the pace suited me perfectly.  In general, this is not a book that I would pick up and highly enjoy.  In fact, I’ll most likely (almost most definitely) never pick it up again.  Not because it was written poorly or didn’t capture my attention, but because I’m rarely in the mood for such books and tend to dislike them when I’m not in the mood to read them.

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