Monday, February 11, 2008

Princess Academy by Shannon Hale

Yes, I would recommend this to everyone. I think girls as young as 7 or 8 would enjoy it. It was a little slow starting for me, but I did enjoy it. Princess Academy is a great story. I like the characters, the plot, the conflicts, all of it! I couldn't help thinking this would be an easy book to teach story elements from!

What I liked:
I loved the quarry speech. I loved the idea, I loved how it playes such an importance in Miri's life and the story. I like the description. I think the author did a great job of showing how each of the girls had something she was self-conscious or embarrassed about. The characters were sweet, and I think most girls would identify with someone.

I loved the importance of learning to read and how it changed all their lives.

I loved when the girls worked together: the "Diplomacy," and leaving in the first place.

What kind of bugged me:
I didn't like the harshness of Olana. I know it was important for the story, but those first few parts were difficult for me to read. I do think there were many predictable parts, but I think you take that instride when you read a children's novel!!

Final thoughts:
This is a sweet story! Well developed, good details. Its a super quick read, 314 pages, but written for children.

Friday, February 8, 2008

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon

Quick Review since I've read it before.

Overview: This story is written from the perspective of a 15-year-old boy with autism. The author is neither austistic nor an expert, but writes a good story. The story is a murder mystery of a dog, and has lots of sad twists and turns. It is a sad story, but has a nice ending.

Warning: Several F-words. Not gratuitous, but I like to give you a heads up. The characters are British after all.

What I like: Of course I always like a happy ending. I like the main character. Its hard not too. Your heart breaks for him as he struggles through life. I felt like cheering when he did brave things! As the details of the story unfold, I have to admire the author for the interesting idea and perspective.

What I don't like: If you internalize too much, this can really be a downer of a book. Does that make sense? There were a few inconsistencies that seemed a little forced, but I'm not an autism expert either.

Recommendation: I'd recommend this to everyone. It's a different book, and it will give you some insight you might not already have. It's a quick read (especially the second time around!) Just be forwarned about the language.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

This is a good book. Yann Martel isn't my favorite writer. That being said, I do think he is very good. This story is multi-layered, creative and interesting. I think I was a bit disappointed overall because I was expecting something different.

WARNING: I am writing this assuming you have read this book. My review will spoil it if you haven't. I don't know how else to possibly respond. Sorry.

Overview: The title right off sparked my curiosity. The cover art I assumed was abstract, until of course I realized what the bulk of this novel was going to be. Everyone I talked to told me there were "two schools of thought" on the ending. Knowing this I was anxious to get to the end.

Dislikes: The pace of this novel bothered me. I assume that Martel consciously chose to draw out parts, and be very brief other times. But not at the times I would like. For example, Pi has been giving very detailed almost minute to minute accounts of his shipwreck, when all of a sudden on page 189 it says, "I survived 227 days." This transition irritated me. The same with the mysterious algae island. So much is explained and described, then all of a sudden he determines the algae is carnivorous and he leaves. The ultimate example is how the novel is kind of longish, then bam--at the end he presents us very briefly with an alternative. Is that fair?

The book claims to tell "a story that will make you believe in God." I was kind of waiting for the magical moment. It seemed that a great deal of time was spent showing how Pi believed in God and was very religious, and that he was a well trained swimmer. So I would have assumed that these two traits would save his life after the ship sank. I might have just missed the big picture, but I didn't think either o
f these things were mentioned much in the sea chapters.


I like the beginning of the book the best. I enjoyed the authors description of Pi's childhood. Once I was used to the random insertions of italicized narrator chapters I like them too. Especially when he realizes Pi has a family, and he says, "This story has a happy ending."

I love that the boy Pi embraces three religions. I don't remember enough from my Philosophy class in highschool or my World Religions class in college to grasp the full meanings of his comparisons. But it was still great to read what he thought of as the strengths and beauties of these three religions and lifestyles. I loved each of his experiences discovering new truth.

I think most of the chapters of life at sea are well done. Pi continues to be a very clever character, building the raft, and before that realizing the need for it. I cheered with him when the solar stills worked! The descriptions were sometimes gross, but for the most part, tastefully handled.

I was so excited when he reached the island because I thought it was the miracle, and answer to his prayers. Then it got weird. I might not be looking at it close enough to understand the symbolism. Maybe the point is that our blessings may not be as good as they seem. I enjoyed Pi's return to strength, that he could eat until he was full, and the beautiful green. I thought the teeth in the tree were just creepy. The whole ending of this part was weird.

Best Quotes:

When he is on his bicycle and describes his experience, "I suddenly felt I was in heaven. The spot was in fact no different from when I had passed it not long before, but my way of seeing it had changed. The feeling, a paradoxical mix of pulsing energy and profound peace, was intense and blissful." It's much longer, but I love this part and I loved how he explained those moments where we are overwhelmed with a spiritual feeling in an ordinary setting.

"I just want to love God." Beautiful.

On a personal note: "To lose your father is to lose the one whose guidance and help you seek, who supports you like a tree trunk supports its branches."

My Final Conclusion:

I'm a fan of the first story. For me it was impossible not to believe with the amount of time I had invested in it at that point. I believe that Pi was extremely frusterated that his interrogators didn't believe him. I assume that they werent' the first disbelievers. He thought the animals were the believability problem. So he re-told his story without the animals. Now for the perspective change, I think he had come to identify with Richard Parker, so he told the story as if he were the monster at the bottom of the boat. Which is probably how he felt looking back on some of his more primitive behavior.

I also think that the frenchman part was an hallucination. This part seemed so unreal to me. That he lost his sight then regained it. I preferred the conversation when I thought he was talking to the tiger.

My thought is that if I read the book again (which I don't plan to do right now), I might change my mind. Any Robert Cormier fans out there? I read all his books I could get my hands on in junior high (thanks to Wendy's recommendations). Reading I am the Cheese again in college, gave me a whole new perspective. I seriously doubted that any of the bicycle journey was real. SO I think there is a chance my belief would change upon further readings.