Monday, March 31, 2014

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Aside from Bradbury’s stunning ability to portray a realistic future, one which is strikingly similar to the age we’re living in now, the most beautiful aspect of this book, in my opinion, is mood it emits. A mood that returned to me four years after reading this book, to haunt my sleep and make me want to pick it up again. 

Shown through Bradbury’s expressive writing style, this book starts off with an eerie dream-like feel to it. The repetitiveness is used to emphasize people’s lack of original thought in a world where it is practically illegal to think for yourself. But as the protagonist, Guy Montag, starts thinking for himself, the writing itself changes, becoming more descriptive and emotional, as Montag enters an awakening. Through this change, the changing mood is also exposed.

The main part of the book made me feel heavy and sick, as Bradbury describes how this future is- a world where people are constantly plugged into their electronics, much like how it is today. And because it is so similar in that sense, it’s not hard to imagine our world slowly changing into one of no emotion and no intellect, where sports are the only thing prized in school, and entertainment comes before everything else, where family means nothing and ‘happiness’ and conformity mean everything.

However, there is hope in this dreary future. Montag’s discovery of some of the world’s remaining intellects sparked me with the idea of possibility, and a renewed faith in humanity. The idea of writers and books living on through their readers was shocking to me at first, until I realized that it so true to how it is today. Through reading, we’re not only carrying on the stories, but we’re incorporating them into our lives and thoughts so that we can grow as individuals. 

While reading this part, it suddenly made me want to go outside in barefeet and feel the mud between my toes. It made me want to smell the rain and listen to the silence between the noise. And most importantly, it made me want to read every book I could get my hands on. 

I could say so much more about this book, aside from just emphasizing the importance of the mood. Instead, I think it’s important for you to read it and form your own opinions on it. I recommend it to absolutely every reader, and any person who is willing to give it a try. 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Frey by Melissa Wright

This is the worst book I’ve ever read. The only thing it has going for it is the fact that I was able to get through it, but even so, I had to force myself. I was originally drawn to the elf/fairy aspect of it, and being that it was free, I figured I’d try it out. Unfortunately, I soon discovered why it was free- because it’s absolutely terrible! 

The writing is so disconnected and all over the place. Sentences do not flow at all. A lot of parts don’t even make sense because they aren’t explained enough. Often, we’re told what Frey is thinking, without any explanation or logical reasoning as to why she’s feeling that way. There’s no sense of time. One moment it’s day, and the next, it’s night. And during the day that there is, very little seems to happen. Aside from the usage of magic, the fantasy aspect is minimal and unconvincing. 

I couldn’t even tell what the plot is supposed to be. It’s about Frey, whose magic is bound, and is being hunted by the elf Council. But aside from running, and training, there’s really no solid plot. What is supposed to happen? What are the characters goals? What is all of this crappy writing leading up to? I have no idea because as far as I could see, there were no goals for the majority of the story.

The main character, Frey, is overly clumsy, and clueless. Despite ‘training’ for the entire book, she remains weak and helpless. She spends a lot of time tripping on roots, running, and sleeping. She laughs inappropriately, and is shocked by obvious things. She cannot focus on anything for any amount of time. She faint and falls a lot. She kills a bird because its singing annoys her...yeah. Overall, her character, like the writing, was just all over the place. She is not likable or believable. Surely she has some kind of untreated mental disorder.

As soon as Chevelle is introduced, Frey becomes strangely obsessed with him. Immediately after seeing him for the first time, she goes to the library to research his family! What?? After that, he is always there around every corner, waiting for her. And later on, when Frey’s running away, trying to avoid capture, Chevelle catches up to her and she gives in in an instant. She could even run away again, yet she doesn’t. 

Chevelle’s character is equally confusing. For the majority of the book he is hard and distant, angry all the time, for no obvious reason. Except for the weird lust between himself and Frey, he conveys no emotions. And despite the fact that Frey thinks he hates her, she still has a crush on him.

The diary Frey reads toward the end, which ties into the ending, was at least a tiny bit enjoyable, and unlike the rest of the book, made some sense. However, having it broken up by single sentences to tell us what Frey was doing, as if to remind us that we’re reading a story within a story, was unnecessary, and shows the author’s immature writing abilities. Having forced my way through this goalless story, the ending was at least somewhat satisfying, despite remaining confusing like the rest of the book.

The entire story is disconnected, and anti-climactic. Frey’s inability to think coherently, and the fact that she is blatantly left out from knowing where they’re going for the entire book, made the narrative cloudy and confusing. The whole book seems to be cloaked in the fairy dust that Ruby uses on Frey in order to keep her from thinking for herself.

The fact that there are two more books in this series is comical, especially the fact that they cost money. This one was not even worth being free. The author should have to pay you to read it. I can only imagine what kind of plotless stories will succeed this one. 

I recommend this book to no-one. I wrote better than this when I was in middle school. God, it was so bad.

Monday, March 17, 2014

The Thirteenth Unicorn by W. D. Newman

“The next morning dawned bright and clear. Hundreds of birds greeted the rising sun with song, each one trying to out-sing the other. Circling the patch of ground where the party slept were tracks. A visitor in the night had watched over them while they slept. The tracks were hoof prints.”

I got this book free for my Kindle on Amazon, so I went into it being quite critical, expecting it to be not nearly as good as it was. The Thirteenth Unicorn is a really nice fantasy story, full of adventure and magical creatures. Although clearly a middle grade book, the writing was surprisingly decent. However, there are a number of grammar and spellings errors, including the author never putting a comma before the word ’too’ at the end of a sentence, which bugged me a lot.

And yet the most striking features about these men was their eyes; keen and stern, chips of blue ice burning like lamps in the gray morning light. These were elves from the Twilight.”

The length and pace of the story is perfect, not too fast, nor did it drag at any point. Aside from a quick chapter near the end, I did not get bored with the plot or its pace. It remained consistent for the most part. The ending, although predictable, was spoiled by a very sudden reveal, which I think should have been incorporated into the story, which would have made it more satisfying. 

“The sky was beginning to darken to a deep purple and a couple of stars had opened their eyes to catch a glimpse of the final minutes of this last day of May, as Ben and Casey, with their two new friends, made their way back up the trail to the Langston’s backyard. New friendships had been forged this day and as the sunlight faded, so too did all thoughts of Camelot and the mysterious Merlin Tree.”

The characters, both major and minor, were enjoyable to read about. Ben and Casey, who the story is first about, are well fleshed out, unlike some of the others. Ben is a cool and quirky kid, up for anything, but always level-headed. Casey is his caring, though sometimes annoying, older sister. Their grandparents are very stereotypical county folk; although their grandmother, Louise, also reveals an adventurous side when she embarks on this story’s awesome adventure with the kids. Ben and Casey’s companions, Joey and Jenny, unfortunately have little to no voice in this story. They are simply there in the adventure. They are barely described and show no signs of personality. Aside from saying that she wants to go home, Jenny has virtually no lines. The group was always regarded as a whole, which gave no room to showcase either of them. The dwarf characters, Hob, Nob and Gob, were entertaining and comical, making the book that much more enjoyable. The world itself was also exciting to read about. The Twilight, which is the magical, forbidden wood in which the elves live, is described as being able to make itself smaller and bigger, constantly changing itself, which is a unique magical attribute.

“Home,” Ben whispered. There was more magic in that one word than existed in all of Camelot; Home.”

Although the cover and the writing errors are a bit of a turn-off, getting this story for free was an absolute steal. It was very enjoyable, and I’m tempted to buy the next book in this series. It was a great adventure, with a sweet ending, and I am glad to have taken my time to check it out.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Into the Land of the Unicorns by Bruce Coville

"The sound of his hooves against the stony floor of the cave was like distant silver bells."

Though not quite as magical as when I read it as a child, it was nevertheless a sweet and simple story. The action begins immediately and continues at a fast pace, making it a very quick read. The main character, Cara, has an adventurous personality, making it easy for young readers to relate to her. And her trustworthy friend, Lightfoot, is the unicorn equivalent to a typical, slightly sarcastic, teenager.

"It was like drinking diamonds. She drank more, dipping her hands greedily into the stream."

The writing was surprisingly good, creating the enchanting atmosphere that I had adored my first time reading it. I feel like with just a bit more focus on the setting, the story could have been that much more believable. With its quick moving plot and a back story only told through Cara, I found it unrealistic at first, even as a fantasy story. The only thing about the writing that I didn’t like were all the questions that Cara constantly thought out loud, though I suppose as a kid’s novel they were appropriate enough.

""There’s lots of kinds of chains," he continued, "You can’t see most of them, the ones that bind folks together. But people build them, link by link. Sometimes the links are weak, snap like this one did. That’s another funny thing, now that I think about it. Sometimes when you mend a chain, the place where you fix it is strongest of all.""

The ending went by quicker that I would have liked. It came immediately after the main action of the story and was almost rushed through. It would have been nice to be able to relish in the conclusion a bit more, which, after all, was the result of the story’s great journey. Overall, I think this was a fine little story, which I’m glad to have re-read, if only to be reminded of reading it as a child. It was clearly written for kids, yet the writing maintained a smart, fluid style. I’m not sure if I will re-read the second book in this series yet or not. However, I will always remember them warmly, as one of my first unicorn (and fantasy) books.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

This book was absolutely amazing- my first true taste of the adult fantasy genre. The story is intriguing and complex, weaving effortlessly between its eight different character perspectives. I found it to be much easier to read than I expected. Even with the large amount of characters mentioned, I was able to follow along quite fluidly as I progressed through the book. Its size, one of the things that made me hesitate to start this book, did not hinder my progress at all. It only made me look forward to what lay ahead in the forthcoming pages.

George R.R. Martin’s writing was highly enjoyable. It had a sort of elegance to it that urged me to keep reading. His descriptions are rich and powerful, without being overdone. Things like food, clothing and setting became so real and imaginable. Martin’s excellent use of language, and ingenious storytelling created an exciting and believable story. 

The characters, though some of them a bit cliched, all had strong voices. The character development differed for each of them, almost naturally, as people change in real life. My favorites were Tyrion, Jon and Arya, all of which are outcasts in the story. Tyrion’s wit and wisdom captured me instantly as he was introduced to the story. His strong personality was emphasized by the harsh misadventures he goes through. Jon’s character was the most likable and natural to me. He is forced to grow up and make important decisions in the story, and like in real life, they are not all clearcut. Arya, the stereotypical tomboy, was mostly fun to read about. She is strong-willed and defiant, while holding onto the innocence of being a child.

Eddard is the neutral voice in the story. He is kind but fair, which unfortunately is his downfall. He also holds together the mystery throughout most of the story, which the other characters help support. Although Catelyn is not a bad character, she didn’t stand out very much to me. Her growth is obvious in the story, but she was the only main character that lacked personality to me. I enjoyed reading about Bran, mostly toward the beginning of the story, and the end. Sansa, although very dislikable, was an important perspective to the story, in my opinion. Her fairytale-like way of thinking showed her ignorance and naivety, as she tried to hold onto the innocence of being a child while also becoming a woman, something which proved to be impossible by the end of the story. 

Even after finishing the book, I am still confused as to how I feel about Daenerys. From the start, her situation bothered me- being forced to marry and have sex with Khal Drogo, at the age of 13. While this was at first disturbing, what confused me was that she was able to fall in love with him. I suppose that was understandable, as she had to deal with it, and Drogo is not necessarily bad. She is a strong character, for that, and everything else she went through. However, I wish we could have seen her transition a bit more clearly. 

Another thing I was hesitant about with reading this book were the sex scenes. Though they were not nearly as bad as expected, there was a lot of rape, and sexism. But being that we live in a world where it exists, it wasn’t entirely out of place, unfortunately. Other taboo topics, which I was warned about, included incest and arranged marriage, which surprisingly fit into the book. Only one part in the story was predictable, which luckily didn’t take away from the mystery. 

Though the main plot didn’t start off very strong, the beginning of the story was still very enjoyable and did not lack in content. It was simply another string along with the various sub-plots, waiting to take shape. However, it slowly starts to distinguish itself, and a little more than halfway through the book, it takes off at full speed. The last half of the book went by very quickly and ended strong, making me more than excited to read the next book in this (so far) amazing series. 

Martin’s stunning ability to create effective drama, adventure, mystery, romance and fantasy, all in one book, as well as his ability to make strong, believable characters is truly admirable. A Game of Thrones has definitely become one of my favorite books, and a perfect entry into the world of fantasy.