Monday, March 22, 2010

Joanne Dahme: The Plague

One Word Summary: Inchoate
More Words: A tres boring adventure. From the beginning the writing is dull, and the characters lack sparkle. Basically they're too nice, except the Black Prince who is definitely creepy. The premise of the story is a little shaky too -an orphaned peasant who happens to look exactly like the Princess is taken into the Kings household on the very day her parents are unceremoniously interred, she gets to bring her brother along for the ride. Mark Twain did pull something similar off, but it was obvious he was writing a fairy tale. I almost didn't realize I was reading a fantasy until the chase was half over. Plus the romance is awkward, it wasn't unexpected just undeveloped and stalkerish. Nope, I didn't like this book. However I would re-read it if Dahme would re-write it. It could be a very exciting adventure.
Plot Summary: Princess Joan dies on the way to her wedding. The Black Prince forces Nell to impersonate the Princess. This is a very bad idea and could lead to war. A series of interesting characters help Nell to escape the evil machinations of the Prince. They are chased across France by an army of rats. Ick.

Jacqueline Davies: Lost

One Word Summary: Hats. Hats. Hats. Fire!
Plot Summary: Essie is sixteen. Her baby sister is gone. She works at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, which is about to burn down. Her new best friend looks like she's lost. And she loves the boy next door. Everything is wrong. Just when it seems that it will all be okay, everything goes up in flames.

More Words: Riveting. The whole time I was reading I was also dreaming up gruesome deaths for little Zelda. I'm not really in love with precocious children, at least when they are characters written by people who've never touched a child with a ten foot pole. However, Zelda I could stomach. And her sister Essie was superb. Well, all the characters were great. I really liked the story- all three of them. Tragic, Heartbreaking, Gruesome... with a little bit of hope and a lot of love. It's a bit like The Moonlight Sonata.

Other Books:

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
{the book that's on the tip of my tongue}

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Sunday, March 14, 2010

Jane Urquhart: The Stone Carvers

One Word Summary: King Ludwig gifts a bell
More Words: There is some breathless feeling associated with reading a book set in a place you call home. I miss Canada. This is a great novel, it's really too bad it will be forgotten. Urquhart build miracles with words. I think I might have another go at Away. I think I might have to read more Canadian authors. But this, this is a great novel.

Plot Summary: A no longer young woman leaves home to help carve a monument. So many things happen.


Like every other man, woman, and child in Bavaria, Father Gstir was well
aware that King Ludwig was mad, and he knew that an interest in Canada was
precisely the kind of course the King's mad mind was likely to take. p10

"It is the same with almost anything that remains abandoned. Friends,
sweethearts, places, homelands, houses, and this castle in my mind. After a
certain period of time the roof goes and there is no turning back. Still it is
important to see what kind of ruin remains, for it is my contention that only
the greatest works make beautiful ruins." p53
She felt utterly fixed within the dimensions of a house. p142

"Listen, Tilman said gently to his friend, "anything you want is possible.
My grandfather knew a priest once who built a gigantic church in the wilderness
- right in the middle of a forest - a stone church. With a bell. And my
grandfather carved the alters out of wood, just like he was in Europe."

People up and die, she thought, they up and die before they have their fill
of the impossible. Her grandfather had died before Tilman's much-longed-for
return. Father Gstir had died before the bell for his illogical church was
blessed. Eamon, without ever laying a hand on a military aircraft. They all had
approached their desires naked, simple and glowing, without artifice or
disguise, their wide open hearts an uncomplicated target for annulment of one
kind or another. Renunciation was an option they never even had time to consider
before they were rejected by experience and the light was cancelled.
This was not going to happen to her. She would court the impossible, but
she would conceal herself, confuse the spirit of annihilation, bring no
attention to her quest. p253

Why is Klara the only woman in this book? (not counting her mother, her grandmother, the nuns and Crazy Phoebe)
What are Klara's feminine qualities? What are her masculine qualities?
Can we have whatever we dream?
Must time erase everything?
How is tenderness important in this story?
What's the significance of the whistle?
Viking Penguin 2002

Henry H. Neff: The Tapestry Series Book 2, The Second Siege

One Word Summary: Phaedrus Bull
More Words: I take it all back. This is not a Harry Potter wannabe. Sorry Mr. Neff for the misunderstanding. The world of Rowan Academy is a little more frightening, and immediate. You know how G.I. Joe cartoons aren't scary because the red and blue lasers are just for show (smoke and mist?), well in this story people do get hurt and die. Still it's in the kid section. Not that I believe we should shelter our children over much, but really should they have to confront their mortality (and everyone else's) before age 12. What do the child development experts say? My daughter loves the cover so I put it out of reach, for now. It is pretty fascinating art work. The first book prosed on a little about how wonderful our world is, and how we have to fight to keep it wonderful because the marvelous things in this world are just tools that can be used for good or ill. Neff didn't repeat himself this time, but I agree with him.

Plot Summary: Astaroth (you can say his name out loud) ups the anti. Max and David have to save the world again. While journeying through space and time Max learns how to fight really really good-it takes forever but we don't have to read the boring details. Lives are destroyed mercilessly. Some blood and carnage ensue. The enemy is rebuffed, until next time Gadget.
"I know," said the old man. ... "It is hard for the young to believe that
their elders were once foolish and beautiful, too."

Henry H. Neff: The Hound of Rowan Book One, The Tapestry

One Word Summary: Strategy
More Words: It’s a shame this novel was published on the heels of Harry Potter. Otherwise Max would have had a theme park. I like this book. It was solid. It follows a popular formula, but it’s different. The monsters aren’t from classical mythology, and Max is nobody’s pet. He’s brave and loyal like Harry or Percy but he’s more dynamic. Also Neff is a history teacher and it shows. The book isn’t perfect- the dull opening lines and the explanation of the traitor’s motives fell flat. Still, I look forward to reading the other books in this series.
Plot Summary: Max is 12 years old. He has heightened special abilities that are an inheritance from the Tuatha de Danaan (Fairies). After seeing a ‘vision’ of a tapestry at the Chicago Museum of Art Max is recruited to Rowan Academy where he will be trained to use his abilities to battle the forces of evil. He of course is a key player in the fight because he’s more than just special. This novel is an introduction to the Rowan Academy and its cast of characters with one or two frightening adventures.

“They might,” said his father simply. “And so you might feel bad and I might look ridiculous, but we’re still going to live our lives...”
Does Neff like his work being compared to Rowling’s Epic?
Other Books:
The Bartimeaus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud

Nicholas Sparks: A Bend in the Road

One Word Summary: Love conquers all

More Words: Sparks is a popular author. A lot of his work has been sold to Hollywood. He writes romances. Some scenes are incredibly romantic only his characters are a little too understanding/reasonable/mature and therefore not fully formed. Mr. Sparks also likes to hand hold his audience through really simple plot lines, not that the explanatory information is useless. This novel was typical of his work, good enough to finish but not enough to remember. To be more clear, I’m not a fan but I have to keep tasting the olive. Stories that take less than two hours to read are irresistible. My hugest criticism, of course, is the glamour shots. Every Nicolas Sparks book features a huge glamour shot of him- all different except for his prominent bicep. The library inevitably covers his face with bar codes and stickers which warrants an bark from me. In one of his acknowledgements he even thanked his photographer. Maybe he was having a joke on himself. It was a joke? I laughed. Anyhow Nick- spend more time writing and less time primping!

Plot Summary: Sara Andrews (not my friend) moves to a small town in N.C. after her divorce, where she meets widower Miles the deputy sheriff. They fall in love. There’s trouble in paradise after Miles learns important information about his wife’s death two years earlier. And Sara has her own struggles too.