Sunday, August 31, 2008

book review: "Black House" by Stephen King & Peter Straub

Stephen King & Peter Straub

Jack Sawyer, hero of “The Talisman”, is forced to remember the summer he was twelve years old and traveled to a parallel world called the Territories, when a series of child abductions and murders disturbs the town he has settled in two decades later.

None of the characters we met the first time appear except Speedy Parker, but we are introduced to new and equally interesting characters – Henry Leyden, the blind man who could see, and the Thunder Five, bikers who happen to be college graduates and brew great beer. The novel begins slowly but picks up after the first hundred pages, and despite it being written by King and Straub, it is almost purely King’s voice we hear. Most reminiscent of another King work “It”, “Black House” is ultimately about a quest to save the world, and like King’s other novels, tells us that despite the horror one may encounter along the way, one needs only to believe in good for good to triumph in the end.


book review: "Freak the Mighty" by Rodman Philbrick

Rodman Philbrick

A story about friendship, and about becoming more than who you are.


book review: "The Bad Beginning" by Lemony Snicket

Lemony Snicket

Lemony Snicket tells us drily, a word which here means “with sly humor” ;), how Baudelaire children Violet, Klaus and Sunny lose their parents, their home and their possessions and have to settle for their evil guardian Count Olaf, one bed, and ugly clothes.


book review: "The Princess Bride" by William Goldman

William Goldman

“The Princess Bride” is one of my favorite novels and I reread it after seeing the film adaptation. Sad to say the film has ruined the novel for me. :( The humor, the witty exchanges. And Inigo “Hello. I am Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.” Montoya! <3 To me it seemed like the film made a mockery of the novel. I have to rereread it when the film is buried in the deepest darkest recesses of my mind.


book review: "Equal Rites" by Terry Pratchett

Terry Pratchett

Esk is the eighth daughter of an eighth son, which makes her wizard material. Except no female can ever be a wizard. Or can she? Usual Pratchett-style humor, but I only paid attention during the last fourth of the novel with [SPOILER ALERT!] the budding courtship between Archchancellor Cutangle and Granny Weatherwax. :)


book review: "Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell" by Susanna Clarke

Susanna Clarke

The question, “Why is no more magic done in England?” leads to the discovery of magician Gilbert Norrell. The belief that Norrell is the only magician in England proves false however, when Jonathan Strange appears and becomes his pupil. Norrell’s ambition is to bring back magic to England, and with Strange helps the country in the war against France. But a magic done for this ambition brings continuous misfortune, and the return of England’s greatest magician, the Raven King.

I would have given up reading this long novel [the paperback numbers 1006 pages] had I not wanted to know whether Lady Pole and Stephen Black would escape from the gentleman with the thistle-down hair. I would have enjoyed the book more were it in comic book format, for its atmosphere reminded me of Neil Gaiman’s “The Sandman”. With all fairness to Clarke, I am curious as to whether the history and practice of English magic in the novel and its footnotes were purely from imagination or had some basis in English mythology, legends, and folktales.


book review: "Eaters of the Dead" by Michael Crichton

Michael Crichton

Ibn Fadlan, a Muslim, becomes a reluctant member and chronicler of a company of Northmen, more commonly known as Vikings, as they battle with the wendol, the eaters of the dead. A blend of history, adventure, and the supernatural in one novel – what else can one ask for? I have previously found Norse history and mythology uninteresting, but maybe I just needed to read other books, like this one.


book review: "Many Waters" by Madeleine L'Engle

Madeleine L'Engle

Twins Sandy and Dennys Murphy disturb their father’s experiment on space and time travel and find themselves displaced back in the time of Noah and the flood.

“Many Waters” was my introduction to Madeleine L’Engle, and it was a favorite in grade school. I was afraid I had outgrown it, but thankfully I still find it beautiful - An atmosphere still pure one can see billions of stars. The sound of baboons clapping to greet the dawn. Listening to the wind and stars talking. Unicorns and mammoths and manticores and griffins. Silver and golden seraphim, cool and fiery nephilim.


book review: "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" by J.K. Rowling

J.K. Rowling

What a journey it has been, one of laughter and of tears; happy that there is a happy ending, yet sad to finally be leaving Harry and Ron and Hermione as they stand on Platform Nine and Three-Quarters. All I can say is congratulations to J.K. Rowling, and thank you.


book review: "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" by J.K. Rowling

J.K. Rowling
The entire book is relatively light until one gets to the heart-wrenching last chapters. I’m still in shock. And thankful I read this only now and don’t have to wait 2 years for the next and final book.


book review: "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" by J.K. Rowling

J.K. Rowling

I don’t remember the last time I couldn’t put a book down until this. Shares the spot with Book 4 as my new favorite HP book. On to Book 6...


book review: "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" by J.K. Rowling

J. K. Rowling

My new favorite HP book. We learn more about many other characters, aside from Harry Potter. The halfway point, one feels the story finally going somewhere; I have never been more excited to get on to the next book.


book review: "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" by J.K. Rowling

J.K. Rowling

It is Harry’s third year at Hogwarts, and we learn more about his parents James and Lily Potter, their friends Moony and Wormtail and Padfoot and Prongs, and their own stay at Hogwarts.

Book 3 was my favorite of the 3 HP books I read. I again had tears in my eyes when Harry’s hopes of living away from the Dursleys are dashed. On to Book 4...


book review: "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" by J.K. Rowling

J.K. Rowling
Another easy and fun reread, albeit darker than Book 1. During Harry’s second year at Hogwarts we learn more about him, the Weasley family, the Malfoys, and the history of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.


book review: "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" by J.K. Rowling

J.K. Rowling

I remember buying the paperback of Harry Potter Books 1 and 2 together at National Bookstore Cubao 8 years ago when I was in my sophomore year in university. I remember getting angry with my brother, who was in 5th grade then, for wearing down the cover of both books because he brought them to school every day to read. I remember my brother and my best friend and I joining the HPatSS Trivia Game contest sponsored by NBS. I remember buying the HP Uno and the Gnome Toss Card Games.

However, I stopped reading after Book 3 for several reasons, including the long time it took for the local release of the paperback [I was living on a student budget] of Book 4, and later and more importantly, losing my interest in the series after learning that Sirius Black dies in Book 5.

I reread Book 1 because it would have been difficult to pick up where I left off 8 years ago. The experience has been nostalgic [as you have read above]. It was easy and fun to get into Harry’s world again, from the night he is left on the doorstep of Number 4, Privet Drive to 10 years later when he starts at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. And I could now imagine it better, having seen the film adaptation 6 years ago.

I still have Books 2 and 3 to reread, and I only hope the experience will be the same if not better after that even though I have a general idea of how everything will turn out, because I do not want to drop the series again before I get to the end.


book review: "Across the Wall" by Garth Nix

Garth Nix

One must not read the book expecting all the short stories to be set in the world of the Abhorsen trilogy, except “Nicholas Sayre and the Creature in the Case”. I honestly would not have given the book a chance if not for the abovementioned story, which features my favorite character in the Abhorsen trilogy.

Most of the stories do have an element of fantasy and/or science fiction. Two stories were inspired by Arthurian legend, two are parodies of the fantasy genre, one was inspired by Westerns, one a fairy tale set in modern times. But interestingly, it was the stories with barely a mention of fantasy that I liked most - “Charlie Rabbit”, a story of children in a war-torn country, and “The Hill”, about family and legacy. Still, my most favorite in the collection is “Three Roses”, about roses and love.


book review: "Canone Inverso" by Paolo Maurensig

Paolo Maurensig
A story of the violin that links the stories of 2 prodigies, a story about music and obsession.


book review: "Dream Boy" by Jim Grimsley

Jim Grimsley

In simple yet lyrical words, Jim Grimsley describes the life of Nathan and his family, newly moved into a small religious town and harboring a shameful secret, and Nathan’s developing relationship with (literally) boy-next-door Roy. At first engrossing, then sad and haunting, this book holds you in its grip up to the last page.


book review: "Possession" by A.S. Byatt

A.S. Byatt

Roland Michell, a Randolph Henry Ash scholar, stumbles upon drafts of a fervent letter by the 19th century poet to an unknown woman, soon determined to be writer Christabel LaMotte, and embarks on a journey of discovery with LaMotte scholar and relation Maud Bailey.

The reader may find him- or herself intimidated by the seeming verbosity of the novel, as I was when I first attempted to read it, but will soon be caught up in the mystery of the Ash-LaMotte correspondence and the beauty of A.S. Byatt’s words. I am especially impressed with the way she has written in different, distinct voices – Randolph Henry Ash, Christabel LaMotte, Blanche Glover, Ellen Ash, Sabine de Kercoz – in the form of letters and poetry and journals.


book review: "Dumbbells, Ear Caps and Hair Restorers" by Jane Furnival

A Shopper's Guide to Gentlemen's Foibles - 1800s-1930s
Jane Furnival

After rereading “The Historian” for next month’s unofficial FFP discussion (which I will try to write a review on later), I wanted something light and quick and easy to read.

“Dumbbells, Ear Caps and Hair Restorers: A Shopper's Guide to Gentlemen's Foibles - 1800s-1930s” features the must-haves for the gentleman-of-the-world in the 19th century. It contains images of actual advertisements, from Dunhills’ Bobby Finders - “Will spot a policeman at half a mile even if disguised as a respectable man” - to my favorite, The Acme Mustache Guard - “Solid Comfort While Eating. No Use for Napkins. Does not interfere with free use of mouth.” (LOL!) - and reads like a brochure. Think home TV shopping, only in book form.

The author also inserts amusing comments and trivia, like how the Prince of Wales served as the fashion icon of his time, even if he continued to commit several faux pas! An interesting glimpse into everyday life in the 19th century, and it makes one realize that men can be as vain about their looks as women.

(Since I started to keep a book diary I’ve found it easier to arrange my thoughts and impressions on the books I’ve read, so thanks to Marie for the inspiration!)


Thursday, August 28, 2008

book review: "Pagan in Exile" by Catherine Jinks

Catherine Jinks
"Pagan in Exile" is the second in a four-book series about Pagan Kidrouk, a Christian Arab from Jerusalem who joins the Order of the Temple. In this book, 17-year-old Pagan serves as the squire of Sir Roland Roucy de Bram, a Templar Knight, who has gone home to recruit men for the Second Crusade. However, Sir Roland's family is content to stay and wallow in dirt, eat and drink to oblivion, and fight petty wars with neighboring fiefdoms.

The reader experiences the story unfold through Pagan’s eyes and thoughts, and at first I found the chopped up sentences Catherine Jinks uses disorienting, as well as how Pagan can sound devoted to his master one moment and belligerent the next. Still, the book provides a good glimpse into the everyday squalor and violence that characterized the Middle Ages. I would want to go back and read the first book "Pagan's Crusade", as well as read the third and fourth books "Pagan's Vows" and “Pagan's Scribe”, if only for more glimpses into life during that period.