Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Death Note: Volume 1 by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata

When Light finds a strange notebook called the Death Note that claims if you write someone's name in it they will die, he assumes it is a joke. He tests it out on a criminal who is holding hostages and 40 seconds later the man dies of a heart attack.  When Light realizes that he has the power to kill anyone in the world he decides to start killing criminals to make the world safer, but there is a line between helping and using the power of the Death Note for his own purpose, which becomes to create a utopia-like world in which he is god.

I decided to give this book a go because it is so popular among Manga fans. I have to admit that although the premise is interesting, this is quite predictable, even dull. There is no real depth or interesting enigmas to the characters and the plot is very predictable with few interesting spots. The dialogue isn't interesting, it is flat and lacks any grace, wit or character. The art is static and although technically proficient, lacks life and an interesting layout. Perhaps the later books improve, but I doubt I will read them unless my sister checks them out from the library and I am very bored and have nothing else to read.

1 Star

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Going Going by Naomi Shihab Nye

Florrie likes to be different. She likes to learn about the past. She supports small stores and tries to help everyone she can. She asks for her family to try and avoid franchises and chain store from her birthday to the end of the year, a total of 16 weeks. Her parents support her, but her brother is angry. Undaunted, she tries to recruit her friends and get into the media.

A wonderful story about a teen who wants to make a difference in the world. It felt very realistic, with a mixture of setbacks and successes. I really enjoyed it and think other teens who like to read about someone who wants to change the world. It gives you some very interesting ideas for activism on your own too.  Good, clear writing and interesting, layered characters.

5 Stars

Sunday, December 27, 2009

A Solitary Blue, by Cynthia Voigt

Jeff's mother left when he was little. After that betrayal he learned to shut the world out, to be cold and not feel what others did to him. Years later his mother contacts him and wants him to visit. He opens up under his mother's attentive interest, but realizes that he just set him self up to get hurt in a big way.  His mother may not be anything like she pretends to him at first, she may not really care so much.

This main character was much more believable then the character in the last book. He felt solid and was flawed just the right amount. I felt real sympathy for Jeff, I have been in a hard spot and shut myself down in a similar way and know how hard it is to figure out how to open up again. The writing was just as nice as the last, with a sparse poetry to the prose and smart dialogue.

4 Stars,

Friday, December 25, 2009

Dicey's Song by Cynthia Voigt

Dicey has always been the one to strongarm her family into staying together. But now she and her younger siblings are living with their grandmother, and Dicey has to learn to let go enough that they can find their own path, while still being supportive.

This was an interesting and introspective book, it is part of a series and I hadn't read the first one, so I was flailing a little at first in order to keep up with the story. This book is really from Dicey's point of view and since she has such a strong personality, she does come off as a touch egotistical. The character felt like a bit of a Mart Sue to me, she didn't make any large mistakes and was too perfect to be really believable at times. However you probably won't notice these flaws as much while reading because of Cynthia Voigt's excellent writing. She has a good ear for dialogue and her writing is tidy and elegant.  The writing is almost invisible, you don't go "Wow, this is fancy writing" as you read it because you are so lost in the characters and settings.

4 Stars

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Woman Who Loved Reindeer, by Meredith Ann Pierce

Caribou only took the baby because no one else could or would and names him Reindeer. She didn't mean to love him, but that is what happened. As he grows from child to young man it becomes clear he is not any normal human; he is a trangl, able to change from human to deer as he likes. When he is a young man he leaves to live with the reindeer. However Caribou and her people are in trouble; earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and wildfires are destroying their homeland. Reindeer returns and
tells Caribou that there is a safe place and he will guide her there. Then on the journey the two of them fall in love.

Mediocre to poor book. The plot was quite thin and the characters flat. The writing was bland and often confusing, with too many rambling spots that left the reader in a completely different spot then they started in, with no easy way to get back into the flow of things. It really bothered me that Caribou raised and even breastfed the child, yet hopped right into bed with him as an adult. I know that technically they were not related, but it still seemed too close to incest for my taste.

2 stars,

Give a Boy a Gun, by Todd Strasser

Brendan and Gary have always been teased. They have always been the bottom of the barrel. Always ignored, no one notices them except to punish them or hurt them. But they make that change when the come to a school dance armed and take their classmates and teachers hostage.

I am not sure what to say about this book. It opens with Gary's suicide note and a college student trying to understand why these boys would do something like this. It continues as interviews, chat logs and e-mails. It is a book that makes you extremely uncomfortable because you can almost see why these boys did this. It almost makes sense and seems reasonable.  That is a horrifying thought, because when would shooting ANYONE be reasonable? This book is hard to read, but I think reading this kind of book opens your mind and lets you see a little bit of that dark, evil spot in everyone's head. It makes you wonder and actively think about what you could do, because after seeing that darkness you can't just ignore it.

5 stars,

Pigman, by Paul Zindel

John and Lorraine were just messing around when they made a
prank call that ended up changing their lives. John has pushy
parents and Lorraine's mother is just paranoid. Neither of them
feel like they can really be who they want to be. After meeting
Mr. Pignati, a old man with a young heart, they learn that
sometimes you can just do what you want. But will they find the
line between too much freedom and not enough before someone
gets hurt?

An interesting and emotional book. I have to say I didn't feel
much connection with the characters, and felt they were rather
immature and self-centered. The writing was good and felt
authentic to how a teen expresses him/herself. Their were a
number of nice little turns of phrase and clever ways of saying
things. I felt that if the author had spent that much effort on the
characters it would of been a better book.
3 stars

Cheating Lessons, by Nan Willard Cappo

Bernadette loves to win. She enjoys ripping apart her opponent's
argument in debate, she likes getting the best grade and she
has to have the final word in a fight. When her school gets to
participate in a televised academic quiz she is delighted, she will
get a chance to prove she can beat them all. But she starts to
suspect that her school isn't there fairly, that someone cheated
to get them in and will keep cheating until they win. Worried,
after all how much is a false victory worth?, she starts to try and
find out if everyone is playing fair. Meanwhile she wonders if she
can actually tell anyone, because it would mean such a blow to
her pride.

I found Bernadette a very unpleasant heroine. She is spoiled,
selfish, egotistical, and rude. I found myself hoping something
drastic would happen to knock her off her high horse. A few of
the supporting characters were interesting, but they didn't come
close to making up for Bernadette. The writing was solid and the
plot interesting, but oh, how I hated the heroine!

3 stars

Follow Your Heart: Your Best Friend's Boyfriend

This is a choose-your-own-adventures style book. The beginning
plot is that you develop a crush on your best friend's boyfriend and
the different things you choose to do are up to the reader.

Pretty silly in my opinion, but kind of fun at the same time. A good
way to kill 30-45 minutes and have a laugh or two. The writing is
really bland, probably so you can project your own opinions into
the story, and the characters are hilariously cliche.

2 stars,

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Art of Keeping Cool, by Janet Taylor Lisle

The town where Robert and his mother and sister live is full of
fear: of the war, of a German artist, of the army base there. And
Robert has his own fear, shared only with his cousin Elliot, a fear
of his violent grandfather and the secrets the family is keeping
from him.

This book was incredible, one of the best books I have read
recently. It is harsh and yet beautiful. I was so drawn into the
story that I finished it in a day, hiding away upstairs to get out
of the Thanksgiving-prep chaos of too much furniture in the
house and shopping bags everywhere. The writing is lovely and
very reminiscent of the way I think a boy in such a situation
would think. It didn't have that awkward way of trying to put
adult thoughts in a child's head.
5 stars