Saturday, 30 June 2007

"Something about me" challenge

This is my first challenge ever! ( Something about me challenge).I thought it was a really cool idea and I joined immediately. I haven't figured out yet how to post my list, so in the meantime I'll post it here. These are not my all time favourite books. Some of them are, but I chose them because they really say something about the way I am:

- The Neverending story by Michael Ende

Because I believe in the power of dreams and imagination.

- The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

Because I love Jane Eyre, I love fantasy/science fiction, I would love to be able to step into books and meet the characters. And I'd love to have a dodo.

- Fairies, real encounters with Little People by Janet Bord

Because I believe in fairies.

- A Room of one's own by Virginia Woolf

For my feminist side.

The tiger in the well by Philip Pullman

For my political and adventurous side.

Thursday, 21 June 2007

Verdigris Deep - Frances Hardinge

When a book surprises you it's always a good thing. With "Verdigris Deep" I never knew what to expect, what was coming next. The whole idea of the story is original in itself: three kids steal some coins from a wishing well and find themselves trapped in a curse that oblige them to fulfil the wishes of the people who threw those coins. Hardinge manages to develop the idea and explore it in ways that i woud have never thought of.
The best definition for it would be "supernatural thriller for children, with a hint of horror in the mix". The back cover of my proof copy recommends the book to 9+ years old. But I would have been scared to death if I read this when I was 9, and would have had nightmares for weeks. Nightmares involving a terrifying witch with fountain eyes, wart eyes on my hands, creepy old women that try to kill me and my best friend that turns into a killer maniac.
But I know that kids like to get scared and face their fears so this book should definitely be a hit.
The whole story seems to depict a very unwelcoming and hostile world for the kids as well as for the adults, even before the curse. Ryan and Chelle are two shy and bullied kids. Ryan's parents are always fighting, his father barely notices him, while his mother seems to be obsessed with appearance and with ruining famous people's lives. Chelle talks too much and not even her friends listen to her ramblings. Josh is their hero, but as the story unravels we learn that even he has problems he can't talk about.
How will the three of them deal with the curse that has fallen upon them? At first they act as a group, enjoying their new "super powers" and feeling like angels, fulfilling people's dreams. But in this story nothing is what it seems and everything has a double side. Friends can turn into enemies, enemies can turn into friends and dreams can turn into nightmares.
So for once, I wasn't disappointed by the great premises, maybe because there weren't any, not knowing what the writer was capable of. I had few problems here and there understanding what was going on because of the peculiar way of the author to describe things and actions. But this is only maybe a consequence of her inventiveness. Weird ideas need weird writing style. And you don't usually find much creativity in children's writing.
I'm looking forward to reading her previous and first work, hoping it'll be as good and this one.

other blog reviews:
Rona Books
Fields of Gold
Vulpes Libris

Friday, 8 June 2007

The Alchemyst - Michael Scott

This is the newest book I've read in the last month. It's by an Irish author who is an authority on mythology and folklore. You can tell by reading his newest novel. The story is packed full with mythological figures, mainly goddesses from various pantheons, which, like in every respectable fantasy, are very much real, alive and kicking (literally).
The Alchemist of the title is the famous Nicholas Flamel (for more informations read the article on wikipedia), an historical figure who is believed to have discovered the secret of eternal life, and achieved the creation of the philosophical stone through the mysterious Book of Abraham.
His arch-nemesis is another historical name, Dr John Dee, who lived during the Elizabethan age, and worked as the Queen's philosopher, astronomer,mathematician etc. And he was an alchemist.
The only names that Scott actually made up are the two twins',who, like in every respectable fantasy, are meant to be heroes, discover immense magic powers, and save the world from destruction.
But if you forget these stereotypes the novel is a real page-turner. Flamel and the other mythological characters are well chosen. The story is full of action, magic and dangerous situations. Just think that it happens in only 48 hours and it's the first chapter of a series of books, So even if we're provided with an ending, we don't have all the answers and we should be prepared to see at least other two books. The next one is in preparation already and will be called "The Magician".

The most interesting scenes take place in Hekate's realm, where the goddess has recreated a prehistorical world and where she lives in the mythical tree of life, Yggrasil. The rest is pure good fun, and I'm sure I'll read the next installment as soon as it's out. But I can't help to notice some of the book's faults:
The boy is really irritating. Whining, ungrateful and always making useless,careless remarks. Also I found the writing style rather repetitive. Just to give an example, we're reminded at least three times that driving a car isn't like playing a videogame. Not to mention the various times the characters are told that their lives won't be the same from then on.
And finally, the effort to speak to the young people and place the story in our time was maybe too evident. The writer never fails to mention all our most modern gadgets and technology (Ipods, laptops, internet,mobiles, videogames, satellite navigators etc...) and if the idea of having a goddess that can be contacted by mobile phone is funny and it actually integrates well with the story, the rest is a bit too much.

All this said, the action is gripping and the ideas are somewhat originals. It'll be perfect for a readerships of 10+ year-old kids.

Wednesday, 6 June 2007

Stargirl - Jerry Spinelli

This blog must be inaugurated with a special book. It's not a new one, it came out in 2000 in the US, but I'm sure it'll become a classic. It's the perfect book to start with.

I was never attracted by this book. It looked too pink and overall silly. Until a friend gave it to me as part of a reading chain very much like a bookcrossing ray. I was immediately hooked, from start to finish.
Who's Stargirl? She is hard to describe.
"She is who we really are. Or were"
She has no ego. She is connected with the energy around her. She plays the ukulele. She has a rat as a pet, named Cinnamon. She believes in enchanted places and feels the joy of being alive just by sitting in the middle of the desert, or dancing without music.
She is not worried by what other people might think of her. In fact, she never paused to even consider it. She lives in her own unique dimension where everyone is worth of her love. Especially Leo. He is the lucky guy. But will he be able to cope with the pressure of such visible attention in a school where nobody ever steps outside the line of conformity?
Leo is suprised at first, then confused and finally simply baffled by her. She is nothing like he or anybody around him has ever seen. She doesn't fit into any definition. And that's why the students in the Mika High School are so fascinated by her. But their initial love for anything "stargirly" is not bound to last long. And the problem is her overflowing empathy with anyone around her, even her team opponents. This is a little too much for the cheerleaders (and for the whole school), who discard of her as quickly as she was hired.
The second half of the story is heartbreaking but I won't tell anything more because I would spoil it.
It's not a tragic book though, nor a pessimistic one. If you liked Stargirl throughout the book,you won't be disappointed at the end. She might even surprised you, when you thought that nothing else could.
You might even want to meet her one day, cause you can't think of a world withouth such a person anymore. Or even better, you might want to be like her. But that won't do. If I learned something from Stargirl is that everybody is unique, and the best way to remember her will be start loving life and yourself. And obvioulsy this book.

other blog reviews
Alix at Not enough bookshelves