Month: September 2007

Owl

by William Service

Owl is a charming little book about an owl living in the home of an amateur naturalist. His daily habits and personality are well illustrated with prosaic writing and beautiful illustrations. It is quite funny at times. At first you wonder why in the world they put up with the mess caused by the owl, until you fall under his feathered charm yourself. I especially enjoyed the descriptions of the owl\’s interactions with the resident housecat.

Rating: 3/5                    93 pages, 1969

by Keith Donohue

Donohue\’s debut novel puts the old myth of changelings into a modern setting. His changelings are not anything like graceful fairies. Their race is ancient and deteriorating. They call themselves hobgoblins, decrepit child-sized beings that live decades, until they can find a suitable child with which to change places, and enter the human world. The Stolen Child follows the lives of Henry Day and the changeling who takes his place, alternating chapters between them as they struggle to understand their true identities. Henry Day becomes Aniday, one of the changelings that live furtively in the forest, subsisting on grubs and stolen goods. He attempts to understand his past via writing, piecing together the true story of his life slowly and painfully. The false Henry Day lives in comfort and guilt in a suburb, hiding the secret of his past, seeking expression through his music. As the story slowly unravels, it becomes clear that their two lives are even more closely intertwined than anyone suspects.

This book moves slowly, telling a story that has many brutal and violent moments in a gentle fashion. Aniday and Henry Days\’ lives are explored in gritty mundane details and sudden flashes of beauty. There are quite a few directions left unexplored, which can be frustrating to the reader. But I think that\’s rather realistic- in life, there are always some things we will never know.

Rating: 4/5          319 pages, 2006

More opinions at:
SMS Book Reviews
Stephanie\’s Written Word
Read Warbler

by Christopher Paolini

Eragon caught my eye sitting on the shelf: over 500 pages, a beautiful cover illustration, and the author was only 18 when he wrote it! Plus I liked the premise: a poor young farm boy finds a dragon egg in the forest. He raises the dragon, becomes bonded to it, learns magic and swordplay, and sets off on an epic adventure against evil.

I was ready to be impressed, but halfway through started feeling disillusioned. The characters were uninteresting. The dialog is forced and awkward. The plot felt predictable, and worst of all, I kept finding blatant echoes of other fantasy writers I love. It seems the author pulled signature concepts from other works and instead of reinventing them his own way, pasted them all together with a formulaic plot. I found myself bored and irritated by turns until I just gave up. My husband and I went to see the film. I thought it might be better. Nope. After about fifteen minutes we had to get up and leave, the dialog was so ludicrous.

I guess the old adage \”don’t judge a book by its cover\” works both ways. I keep looking at this fat volume every time I see it on a shelf and wish it was a better book, it looks so great. But there\’s no meat between those covers. Good marketing, that\’s all.

Rating: 1/5               544 pages, 2004

Read more reviews at:
Musings of a Bookish Kitty

by Michael Blake

Dances With Wolves is about a retired Civil War veteran seeking action who gets sent out to a post on the frontier where he\’s supposed to help fight off the Native Americans. He finds it entirely abandoned. Lonely, he befriends a wolf and members of the local Comanche tribe. Eventually he becomes adopted into the tribe, marries a white woman who has been with them since childhood, and lives among them for some years, until the army remembers its forgotten post and comes back…

Unfortunately, this is one of the few cases where the film was better than the book. I love the movie Dances With Wolves, and when I saw the book on a shelf couldn\’t resist picking it up, even though I don\’t usually read westerns. I was sorely disappointed. The author told everything, showed nothing. The characters felt very flat. The writing style was so simple it did not engage my interest at all. I got so bored, and I didn\’t like the ending.

Rating: 1/5                     304 pages, 2001

The story of a little girl, lost then found
by Kathy Harrison

Kathy Harrison has written two memoirs on her experiences as a foster mother, and this is the second one. The focus is on one girl\’s troubled past and slow recovery in Harrison\’s home. There are many other characters each given due attention- the half dozen other foster children, the author\’s own children, her husband, and various social workers. Harrison is quite blunt about the atrocities suffered by the children before they reach her care, and honest about the failures and successes she faces with them. She explains some of the workings of the social care system, and in the background is her teenage daughter\’s struggles with newly-diagnosed obsessive compulsive disorder. An engaging read, One Small Boat avoids being overly sentimental and comes across as straightforward and candid.

Rating: 4/5               224 pages, 2006

One book at a time? Or more than one? If more, are they different types/genres? Or similar?

I rarely read more than one book simultaneously anymore. Simply because I don\’t have time. If I do, the second book is of a different genre, usually light reading with brief chapters, or short stories, something I can put down and not have to keep track of a complicated story line in between reading sessions. I just can\’t focus on two or more books of the same genre or level of intensity.

Question from Booking Through Thursday

by Richard Adams

Although Watership Down is peopled by rabbits, the story is quite serious. It is an epic tale of leadership and adventure: a small group of rabbits escapes a warren doomed for destruction and flees through the countryside seeking a safe place to make a new home. It is full of unforgettable characters, drama, tall tales, humor, sorrow and warfare. The rabbits face dangers on all sides, from men, foxes, dogs and even established rabbits in other warrens who don\’t welcome newcomers. They show strength I never thought of rabbits having– I used to see them as being weak and uninteresting (before I read this book). The author gives close attention to environment details so that the natural setting is easily painted in the reader\’s mind. The animals\’ behavior is accurately based on observations of wild rabbits, and is quite realistic. If you can accept the fact that these animals talk, you get drawn into their culture and mythology. The author depicts their entire world so well you can get the feeling that you live among the rabbits and see through their eyes. A wonderful book, one I have read time and time again.

Rating: 5/5 …….. 496 pages, 1972

More opinions at:
Things Mean a Lot
Stuff as Dreams Are Made On
Book-a-rama
Across the Page
Opinions of a Wolf

by J.R.R. Tolkien

Tolkien created this delightful little story in 1925, when his family was visiting the Yorkshire seashore. His young son lost a toy on the beach and to console him Tolkien invented a tale about a puppy who was turned into a toy by a grumpy wizard. The toy dog Rover wants to become real again so he sets off on an adventure to find the wizard. He goes to the moon and the bottom of the sea, meets lots of strange and magical creatures and gets into plenty of mischief along the way. Lighthearted, whimsical and charming, Roverandom is sure to please anyone fond of books like Kingsley\’s The Water Babies or Tolkien\’s other children\’s stories such as Mr. Bliss and Farmer Giles of Ham.

Rating: 4/5 …….. 144 pages, 1998

by Richard Bradford

Red Sky At Morning is the story of Josh Arnold\’s coming of age in a small New Mexican town. His family originates from the South in Mobile, Alabama where his father runs a shipyard. When his father joins the Navy in WW II, Josh and his mother go to stay in their summer home in Corazon Sagrado, New Mexico. While his mother shuns the locals for being coarse and unrefined, enclosing herself in the house to play bridge and get drunk, Josh makes friends with the servants, kids at school and a disreputable artist in town. He doesn\’t pay attention to all the cultural and racial boundaries his mother upholds. He learns Spanish and local customs, all of which rang true with me (my husband\’s family is from Mexico). I almost abandoned this book a third of the way through, because the bully at school spoke English with a Spanish accent that read like Speedy Gonzales from the Warner Brothers cartoon, and it was driving me crazy! Then I realized he was doing it to annoy everybody (it worked), and felt relieved that it wasn\’t ignorance or insult on the part of the author.

Red Sky At Morning is called a classic coming of age story, although I have to admit I never heard of it until it was mentioned on an NPR program about books one day. It is a very entertaining portrayal of a year in the life of a high school boy, who goes from being a cocky spoiled kid to a responsible, level-headed young man. His ribald banter with friends and subtle insults masked in politeness (to unwanted dinner guests) are just hilarious.

Rating: 3/5                253 pages, 1968

by Alice Borchardt

I got to page 25 and just got tired of the incessant profanity and sex. I flipped ahead, glanced at more pages, found more of the same and figured this book isn\’t for me. The writing style failed to engage me as well. It\’s about a woman who\’s a werewolf in Roman times, just after the fall of the Empire. I found it curious that the part of her that was wolf was separate, like she had a split personality. I didn\’t expect that.

Abandoned             480 pages, 1999

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All books reviewed on this site are owned by me, or borrowed from the public library. Exceptions are a very occasional review copy sent to me by a publisher or author, as noted. Receiving a book does not influence my opinion or evaluation of it

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