Archive for the Book Reviews Category

A Company of Swans, By Eva Ibboston

Posted in Book Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , on June 3, 2010 by penempress

Technical: 8.4

From the back Cover of A Company of Swans,
“For nineteen-year-old Harriet Morton, life in 1912 Cambridge is as dry and dull as a biscuit. Her stuffy academic father and her oppressive aunt Louisa allow her only one outlet: ballet. There, in Madame Lavarre’s famed school, Harriet is finally able to come to life for a few hours each week. When a Russian ballet master comes to class searching got dancers to fill the corps of his ballet company before their South American tour, Harriet’s world changes. He chooses her to be the “eighteenth swan.” Defying her father’s wishes to marry her, Harriet sneaks off to join the Russian ballet on their journey to the Amazon. There, in the wild, lush jungle, they perform Swan Lake in grand golden opera houses for the wealthy and culture-deprived rubber barons, and Harriet meets Rom Verney, the handsome and mysterious British Exile who owns the most ornate opera house. Utterly enchanted by both the exotic surroundings and by Rom’s affections, Harriet is swept away by her new life, completely unaware that her father and her would-be fiancé have begun to track her down…”

Personal Review
Hello again, this would be the INFAMOUS romance novel. Or maybe not so infamous. Anyways, I must say that reading this book was like eating mildly sweet candy, and then every now and then finding there’s a TACK in the candy. Some characters were great, (Henry, Simonova, *sniggers* Edward) and the plot itself wasn’t bad. It was tense at the right moments, had the proper ANGST of love, and so on, however…
IT WAS INFURIATING. I mean, in my area of experience, there are two kinds of romance plots.
Character driven and plot driven. Just like books, if any of you know that. In romance, I can enjoy it when it’s the outside forces causing the character to move through. But in character driven forces, such as this book, it makes the main character (who, for the most part, was rather sensible) act like an idiot to further the plot.
The Oh, he couldn’t possibly love me, and the Oh, she couldn’t want to stay with me if it ruined her dancing career got really old, really fast. Even the main character thought Romeo and Juliet was silly because Romeo didn’t bother to check if Juliet was still alive, and both of them did the same thing. They jumped to outrageous conclusions and thus amped up the tragic meter as well as the stupid meter.
And it’s not that I HATE romance. On the contrary, I love it when it doesn’t make the characters idiots. Example, the Princess Bride. FULL of romance. But none of the characters were stupid about it.
Anyways, I’m veering off topic.
More things I was pleased with were the correct usage of ballet terms, and ballets themselves. I myself am very fond of ballet, and was happy to understand every reference to it.
I also very much liked the descriptions of the Stavely estate, the Amazon and of Brazil itself. They did not overpower, yet were rich and gave a perfect image of what was to be seen.
Oh yes, and the ending was rather epic. I was pleasantly surprised to see so much action in the end, and the epilogue made me giggle. You’ll see why when you read it.

Technical Review
Narrative Pace: It’s much like a dance. Quick, quick, slow. Quick, quick, and then slow. In the times that required character interaction, (aka time for the characters to actually fall in love with each other) it was slow, and as necessary events took place, quickened to match the mood.

Writing Style: I have reviewed one of Eva Ibbotson’s books before, and I found that in either Young Adult or Independent reader, her writing style is quite the same. Although in this book, her euphemisms were a little hard to get straightaway. Things were to be inferred quite carefully.

Beginning: Depicts in a rather lengthy manner the dreary life poor Harriet lives in, and sets up the premise for her trip.

Ending: A suitably good ending, without the use of any childish duex e machinas.

There! I’m done! Now I can’t say I’ve never read a romance novel. BUT NEVER AGAIN. For all of you romance addicts, this is just what the doctor ordered. For those who enjoy a taste of romance with a big helping of action, find something else. Might I recommend the Princess Bride?

Till the Next Review,


The Outsiders, By S.E Hinton

Posted in Book Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 31, 2010 by penempress

Personal Rating:7.9
Technical Rating: 8.7

From the Back Cover of The Outsiders,
“Ponyboy can count on his brothers. And on his friends. But not on much else besides trouble with the Socs, a vicious gang of rich kinds whose idea of a good time is beating up “greasers” like Pony boy. At least he knows what to expect—until the night someone takes things too far.”

Personal Review
When I first started to read this book, I knew it was a classic. I mean, most bestselling books written in the 60’s-80’s are written off as classics. And naturally in this “classics” someone dies.
I won’t say who though, just to keep from spoiling it. The story was great, not particularly original, but when you’re going for realism, originality is the key point here. This is a character based story anyway. And what wonderful characters there were indeed. (Even if some have really weird names, like Ponyboy and Sodapop.)
Although all the characters were great, my favorites would be Sodapop (and you should see this coming) Dallas. Of course, the happy supportive brother with good looks and the blonde bad boy with no ties. You really can’t blame me.
What I also liked about this book was the way the characters sought to resolve their problems. Matthew more often than not got drunk, Darry worked, Sodapop ignored it and Dallas made himself feel nothing.
There was also the difference and the similarities between the Socs and the greasers. They dressed differently, and they spoke differently, and maybe some had better break than the greasers, but they were human also. The greasers were human, and the Socs were human, both with their problems and worries.
It was nice to see the same kind of social division from the past and how it was like the present day. I once also read a book called Black and White, about two guys (one black one white, as you can imagine) living in the same neighborhood. This reminded me of that book, but instead of a racial difference, which almost naturally breeds hate, it was a social difference. It kind of made me feel weird seeing kids all the same age, same race, same problems, fight like animals because of difference in wealth and style.

Technical Review

Narrative Pace: since this is a character driven story, the pace does not move particularly fast. But it’s not too slow either. I’d say medium.

Writing Style: Talks a lot about feelings. The characters when first seen are introduced completely and thoroughly before moving on with the narrative, and almost after every significant event, how the character feels about something.

Beginning: a little drawn out. Ponyboy’s inner monologue is a little repetitive, but then goes straight to the action after a few pages.
End: one of those warm and fuzzy ones where it goes, “and he died and stuff happened THE END.” But it was suitable, tied up loose ends and was rather heartwarming.

And thus ends another book review. Man, I wonder why I went ahead and read a book I’d love for the characters and hate for the plot? I guess its just nature.

Till the Next Review,

1984, By George Orwell

Posted in Book Reviews on May 29, 2010 by penempress

Personal Rating: 9.4
Technical Rating 9.6

Excerpt of the Back Cover of 1984,
“The world of 1984 is one in which eternal warfare us the price of bleak prosperity, in which the Party keeps itself in power by complete control over man’s actions and his thoughts. As the lovers Wintson Smith and Julia learn when they try to evade the Thought Police, and then join the underground opposition, the Party can smash the last impulse of lover, the last flicker of individuality.”

(I say excerpt because the WHOLE back cover reads with extra reviews that do not pertain to the actual summarization of the plot. I have a re-print version of this book)

Personal Review
This has to be one of the freakiest, scariest things I’ve ever read. EVER. To think that such a society could ever be conceived and make so much sense is frightening. What’s even creepier is that the term used in the book, doublethink, is actually used, even if most people don’t realize it.
Doublethink is a Newspeak word that signifies believing with all your heart in a lie, yet also unconsciously knowing that that truth you hold so dear IS a lie. You would have to be oh-so-vaguely aware it IS a lie to maintain the illusion.
Throughout the book, the ideology of Ingsoc (aka English Socialism) is portrayed as both a good and a bad thing. For example, the main slogans of Ingsoc are:


The War is Peace signifies the eternal war that the three super states, Oceania, Eurasia, and Eastasia maintain to keep their people with just enough to get by while using up their surplus goods. The only way for the High to stay High is to keep everyone ignorant by deleting any other trace that might prove otherwise. Thus, the three states war with each other to maintain this balance, aka peace. So War is Peace.
This leads into the Freedom is Slavery. Since there are ways to monitor every person everywhere, showing anything resembling freedom or independent feeling is immediately squashed. If you’re lucky, you get sent to a labor camp. Also, independent feeling is what nowadays contributes to most decision making. Thus, you are a slave to your independence. And so Freedom is Slavery.
And the last, Ignorance is Strength. This I think is one of the most simple concepts of the Ingsoc thinking. It also involves doublethink, since the less you know, the higher you can climb. Also, the less you know, the less likely you’d be caught by the Thought Police.
And so Ignorance is Strength.
It’s such a fantastically perfect lie, one which can only be achieved by completely forcing one will over the others.
In this world, the Party controls life, they control your mind, and forever seek power. In my opinion, power for the sake of power is kind of pointless and stupid, but the method of taking it and maintaining it written here is nothing short of genius. However, I hated the ending. I suppose it DID kind of suit the theme, but I still didn’t like it. Other than that, Kudos to you George Orwell. (Not sure if he’s still alive or not. Probably not though.)

Technical Review

Narrative Pace: Rather uneven. It starts slow, then speeds up, then slows, and near the end, makes a very long time skip, and then slows, and then speeds.

Writing Style: Verbose, crisscrossing between points and thoughts to make a bigger point. Not very clever descriptions, although you do find a few gems here and there.

Twist Quality: Scary and frustrating.

Beginning: A little slow, but the length helps to integrate all the new terms such as the telescreens, Newspeak, etc.

End: It was suitable from an objective point of view.

In a few ways this book reminded me of V for Vendetta. Although in comparison, the London under the Ear, Eye, Voice and Finger pales in severity under the Ingsoc of Oceania.
So there you have it, a late book review by yours truly. And it was more rambling than anything oh my…

Till the Next Review,
(or random list I put up to procrastinate)

World War Z, by Max Brooks

Posted in Book Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , on May 17, 2010 by penempress

Personal rating: 10.0
Technical Rating: 9.9

From the Back Cover of World War Z
“We survived the zombie apocalypse, but how many of us are still haunted by that terrible time? We have (temporarily?) defeated the living dead, but at what cost? Told in the haunting and riveting voices of the men and women who witnessed the horror firsthand, World War Z is the only record of the plague years.”

Personal Review
Before reading World War Z, I had already read The Zombie Survival Guide, also by Max Brooks. I must say, this book did NOT disappoint. It reads like a wonderfully awesome hybrid of authorical fiction and a history book. There even footnotes for all the abbreviations, and small concise descriptions of all the equipment and weapons.
The book is written as a series of interviews from around the world, and how each country combated the threat of the undead.
From soldiers to children to normal people, all are recorded. Each ethnic voice resounds that it is clearly from its country, like the Russians sound Russian and the Americans most definitely sound American. I thought this was just awesome.
There’s also the places people decided to hide, in catacombs, in castles, in submarines and boats… as well as the eerily chilling mystery behind what happened in North Korea.
As the review on the cover stated, it’s a literary scare only rivaled by the radio broadcast of War of the Worlds.
And somewhere in some other dimension, this book is an actual historical document, and not a work of fiction.

Technical Review

Narrative Pace: As it’s technically a “historical recording” the pace moves slowly, but surely. You are not lost in the jargon and slow political processes, since it would be as a person is speaking to you. And from each interview you learn something, the next will no doubt mention it and it only adds to the connection.

Writing Style: The style itself changes subtly throughout the book, since each “chapter” is interviewing a different person. However, a distinct style of writing is found consistently in the entire book.

Twist: There were no “twists” in this book.

Beginning: The book is divided into phases in the zombie war, the beginning of the book are accounts of the people that first encountered the signs of the living dead.

End: the end was very resounding, almost epic. It was labeled, “Good Byes” the last words of some of the interviews, and a look into the future after the dreaded World War Z was ended.

So, in conclusion, THIS BOOK IS PHENOMENAL. And if some of you are wondering why the technical review never gets a full ten, it’s because there is no such thing as a perfectly written book. Well, except for maybe the Bible, but that’s a matter of opinion amongst people as well~

So Till the Next Review,

(Also, is it just me, or are these reviews getting shorter and shorter? Hmm…)

Flowers for Algernon, by Daniel Keyes

Posted in Book Reviews with tags , , , , , , , on May 14, 2010 by penempress

Personal Rating: 9.5 out of 10.0
Technical Rating: 9.8 out of 10.0

From the Back Cover of Flowers for Algernon,
“Charlie Gordon is about to embark upon an unprecedented journey. Born with an unusually low IQ, he has been chosen as the perfect subject for an experimental surgery that researchers hope will increase his intelligence— a procedure that has already been highly successful when tested on a lab mouse named Algernon.
As the treatment takes effect, Charlie’s intelligence expands until it surpasses that of the doctor’s that engineered his metamorphosis. The experiment appears to be a scientific breakthrough of paramount importance, until Algernon suddenly deteriorates. Will the same happen to Charlie?”

Personal Review
This is one of the most wonderful books I’ve read of its genre. I usually read thriller/horror/ mystery/fantasy books, but general fiction is a genre rarely seen on my shelves.
It also reminds me of another book I have read before, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, by Mark Haddon. While Haddon’s book is about an autistic teenager (who happens to be very intelligent, especially concerning mathematics) and Keyes’ book is about a 32-year-old retarded man, both narratives have the same feel.
Things happen that reader knows about, while the character remains doubtful and confused. This book shows the basic horror in everyday things, and of forgetting things you don’t want to forget.
Another thing I loved about it was the pattern of the book. It is written in first person, through a series of progress reports that narrate the story. As it starts out, the spelling is poor and the sentences short, and the vocabulary is even worse than that of a child. After the operation, Charlie cannot see the changes in himself, but the reader can.
You can see him using punctuation properly, make longer sentences, and word things in quotation marks. His vocabulary expands, and the progress reports can be almost five book pages long while the previous would only be a single paragraph. This really gave the reader a feeling of change along with Charlie.
And now, before I give anything away by accident (being the silly person I am) let’s move on to the technical review.

Technical Review

Narrative pace: The pace of the story took its time, pushing you through events and happenings that were relevant to the story, also pausing to insert what Charlie was thinking, or worrying about. In hindsight, it was a very slow pace, but when you read it, it doesn’t feel that way at all.

Writing Style: Very masterfully written. As I have mentioned in my personal review, the same remains of the technical review. One would think that misspelling words is easy, but to make it seem like a person who can’t spell takes some thinking. The gradual progression towards the proper spelling and vocabulary is there, quietly showing the change without an abrupt difference.

Twist: Well, since this is more of a life story, there wasn’t any twists.

Beginning: Defines the motivations of the main character immediately, while also showing the views the main character has towards the other characters, such as Dr.Nemur and Ms.Kinnian.

Ending: (I almost cried, really.) It was a sound ending, if not a little long. I can’t say it tied up all loose ends, but brought resolve to the ending of that time in the main character’s life. A very good ending indeed.

And thus I conclude my book review. And in case you’re wondering how I can write these reviews so fast, well it’s cause I can read that fast. I read Flowers for Algernon in about 5-6 hours yesterday afternoon. Anyways….

Till the Next Review,

Island of The Aunts, by Eva Ibbotson

Posted in Book Reviews with tags , , , , , , , on May 12, 2010 by penempress

Personal Rating: 8.8 out of 10.0
Unbiased Rating: 9.0 out of 10.0

From the Back Cover of Island of the Aunts
“Aunt Etta, Aunt Coral, and Aunt Myrtle need help caring for the mermaids, selkies, and other creatures who live on their hidden island— and they know that adults can’t be trusted. What the kindly old aunts need are a few sensible and sturdy children who can keep a secret. And while kidnapping is generally not a good idea, sometimes it just has to be done. (After all, some kids just plain need to be kidnapped.) When the newly kidnapped assistant caretakers, Minette and Fabio, arrive on the island, all kinds of amazing and wondrous things start happening.

Personal Review
I have actually read this book several times, and thought each and every time that it was a wonderful book. The story is heart-warming and exciting, with a subtle theme of respect and sensibility. The older characters are well-rounded and lovable(not to mention downright fun), while the younger characters (except for Lambert) show character growth and likability as well.
I mean, I haven’t read every book in the world, but to me, a group of aunts living on an island to take care of not only regular animals, but mythological animals does NOT rank high on the list of clichés. I also thought it was rather funny that they so clearly marked themselves as aunts, since their sister Betty got married (to a tax inspector no less) and had children.
I also loved the fact that the main characters (not including the aunts) Fabio and Minette, were so very different from the other children described in the book. While most of the other children mentioned in the book (for instance, Betty’s children) were shown to be horrid little brats that were idiots and had no common sense, while Fabio and Minette were perfectly sensible children.
There is nothing I hate more than a poorly raised/bratty/basically-an-idiot child. So therefore I loved the fact that Fabio and Minette were so far from my basic hate standards.
In one view, the second theme of the book can scream, “SAVE THE WHALES.” But, instead of making humans out to be the complete bad guys, it simply shows the two sides humans can take. The kind, good kind, like the children and the aunts; and the bad side, Lambert and his father, Mr. Sprott.
So overall, Island of the Aunts is an excellent book, even if you’re not a young person, it’s a fun read, and I’d recommend it to anyone looking for something light and entertaining.

Technical Review

Narrative Pace: It starts out at a moderate pace, the first chapter explaining the situation the aunts are in followed by the next three chapters showing how the aunts are doing on their quest to kidnap children. After that, the pace slows down to life on the island and then picks up in speed as the turning point nears.

Writing Style: I like the style used in this book; I find it very straight forward, and although the subject might have comments added to it, it doesn’t deviate so much as to make the narrative confusing. It reminds me of the way Peter Pan was written.

Twist Quality: There is at one point a twist, and I must say, it’s a pretty good one. Like all good twists, you didn’t see it coming.

Beginning: Draws a quick background without overwhelming the reader with information. Get’s straight to the immediate problem.

Ending: A little long, as far as endings go, but ties up most all loose ends and completes the story in a very heartwarming fashion. Plus, it was done without a lame deux ex machina.

And that concludes my book review. I hope you found it helpful, maybe a little insightful, and that you’ll stick around for my next review.


Thr3e, By Ted Dekker

Posted in Book Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , on May 11, 2010 by penempress

Personal Rating: 8.0 out of 10.0
Unbiased Rating: 9.3 out of 10.0

From the Back Cover of Thr3e
“Kevin Parson is alone in his car when his cell phone rings. A man calling himself Slater offers a deadly ultimatum: You have exactly three minutes to confess your sin to the world. Refuse, and the car you’re driving will blow sky high. Then the phone goes dead.
Kevin panics. Who would make such a demand? What sin? Yet not sure what else to do, Kevin swerves into a parking lot and runs from his car. Just in case.
Precisely three minutes later, a massive explosion sets his world on a collision course with madness. And that’s only the first move in this deadly game.”

Personal Review
When I first heard about this book, I thought, “Sweet, a killer game, and a villain obsessed with the number three and one man.” However, as I first started to read it, a lot of things threw me off-kilter.
One was the lack of subtlety. When characters are introduced, practically their whole life stories are thrown at you. All except the main character’s of course. Personally, I like a few facts to be shown to me, and then more tidbits added as the story goes on. The second was when the point of view of Slater is being written. While the entire book is written in third-person, Slater’s moments alone are written in second-person, which threw me off the first time. And thirdly, the lack of swearing. I understand Ted Dekker is a Christian author (I myself am a Baptist) but in reading adult novels I find that certain emotions are better conveyed using cuss words. It was a little awkward, but not terribly off-setting. Ironically, those were the only three things I felt wrong about the book.

Have you been warned enough? Hehe.
As the plot moved along, I was mostly confused, and yet quite informed at the same time. I knew what was happening to the characters, I simply didn’t know why. The ending explained everything, however, and so I feel satisfied. I had actually suspected that Kevin and Slater might be the same person having read Fight Club and most of Shutter Island. I didn’t however, expect Samantha to also be a split personality. The fact that Kevin had three different personalities, the book title being called Thr3e, and the underlying religiously philosophical theme of good, evil, and man was nothing short of brilliant. Although the struggle of good and evil is classic, almost trite even, the new twist of actually role-playing the everyday struggle was something I have not read before. It also tied in perfectly with his ghastly upbringing by his Aunt Balinda.

So, I personally thought that Thr3e was an excellent book, well written, and had a clever and thrilling plot. I would recommend it to any thriller-addicted reader, or anyone who likes a little philosophy in their books.

Technical Review
Narrative Pace: It started rather quickly, Slater calling Kevin only five pages into the book. After that, the pace slowed to an average speed, and picked up as the climax of the book neared. I’m actually quite impressed with the consistency of the pace, as a writer myself, I know it can be difficult to get the timing right.

Writing Style: I like Dekker’s writing style, its very easy and clear to read, but maintains the proper flair for writing fiction. Although, (like I have mentioned before) it does have a certain way of throwing a lot of information very quickly and then just as quickly with-holding information, it suits the purpose of the book.

Characters: While the characters aren’t very original, the good guys are likeable and the bad guys, well, unlikeable. Kevin’s personality fits like a glove to his role in the story, as does Jennifer, Samantha, and basically every character in here. Character growth is limited to Kevin and Jennifer.

Twist Quality: It is a very good twist. It is a twist with a twist, let’s just say that.

Beginning: It got to the main plot rather quickly, so the beginning was short to say the least. But it was a sound beginning, not confusing, and not boring either. It sets the first premise for the theme of the book, plus it gives a quick background of the setting and the current situation Kevin is in.

Ending: It was a satisfying ending, with mostly all the loose ends and questions tied up. Not particularly exciting but good as far as endings go.

And there you have it, 779 words on how I liked a book, plus the little technical details. Hope you found some use for this, and I also hope you don’t get offended if you think Thr3e deserves more of a rating than I gave it.

Till the next Review,