Monday, September 30, 2013

Book Review: The Cabinet of Wonders

The Cabinet of Wonders by Marie Rutkoski
The Kronos Chronicles Book One
Published by Farrar Straus Giroux, Squarefish edition, 2008
257 pages

Goodreads Description:
Petra Kronos has a simple, happy life. But its never been ordinary. She has a pet tin spider named Astrophil who likes to hid in her snarled hair and give her advice. Her best friend can trap lightning inside a glass sphere. Petra also has a gather in faraway Prague who is able to move metal with his mid. He has been commissioned by the prince of Bohemia to build the world's finest astronomical clock. Petra's life is forever changed when, one day, her father returns home - blind. The prince has stolen his eyes, enchanted them, and now wears them. But why? Petra doesn't know, but she knows this: she will go to Prague, sneak into Salamander Castle, and steal her father's eyes back. Joining forces with Neel, whose fingers extend into invisible ghosts that pick locks and pockets, Petra finds that many people in the castle are not what they seem, and that her father's clock has powers capable of destroying their world.

My Review:
Marie Rutkoski deserves an award for this book! It is a beautifully written tale about a young girl on a quest, but also about the unfolding of the protagonist's coming of age. 

The characters were all well crafted and meaningful. I especially loved Petra's sidekick, Astrophil, a tin spider that hides in her hair. Petra, the hero of this tale, is admirably brave, and yet she displays a childhood ignorance, which, if I may argue, is the true obstacle she faces. Petra models the intended audience of this novel; she is young, small, yet has an enormous passion for her friends and family. She faces many disadvantages in her class, gender, age, and even her ethnicity. She has noticeable character flaws as well as admirable attributes, making her an ideal protagonist for a middle-level read. 
Her friends, Neel and Sadie, were wonderful supporting characters. Neel especially was often wrapped in mystery and readers, as well as Petra, were uncertain how useful or trustworthy he would become. Overall, I thought the characters were brilliant. They were well-rounded and unique, making them friends I wish were real. 

The novel begins slowly and picks up the pace further into the novel. It is a savory read and readers can feel the slow tension at the beginning and the wild unraveling towards the end. The story, set in Bohemia, is a liminal fantasy about adventure for adolescents. The historical accuracy makes this a highly recommended book. Readers can get a sense of the European Renaissance during the Hapsburg Empire through an entertaining read. 

Furthermore, I love the themes of this novel and how they are played out. Themes of human nature, power, bravery , and self-discovery have been written about for ages, but Rutkoski builds them up in this lovely tale. Petra, along with her family and new found friends, both create and overcome challenges. Why does Petra feel the need to retrieve her father's eyes? Because of her love for her father, yes, but also because she believes she is capable of doing so. It is this mentality that creates her first challenge - the human condition to pursue what may be impossible or dangerous. My favorite revelation was from the character John Dee; He reminds Petra that she "does not see much beyond a horizon of yellow hills and [her] petty familial problems." This is the wisdom Petra needed to hear and summarizes her real dilemma. The story engages readers in Petra's changing world. From a third voice point of view, readers understand the spiral that Petra lives in and her limited vision because of it. 

This is an excellent read for middle-level readers, but I enjoyed this as much now as I might have at age twelve. It's an entertaining read with wonderful, subtle reminders about the complexities of understanding and self-discovery. I give this a full five fantastic foxes.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Daily Dahl 9/29/13

29 September, 2013

In honor of today's subject matter -- vampires -- today's edition is at the enchanted hour of twilight. 

Today's article comes from The Guardian and discusses the nature of YA Fiction for the Millennial generation. It doesn't take more than a trip to one's local book store to see that vampires and spells are dominating today's market. Julia Ecclashare writes her essay to explore this trend.

Article Title: Is There Life Beyond Vampires for Teenage Readers?
Originally written by Julia Ecclashare
published September 23, 2013
Found in The Guardian

My Thoughts:
Ecclashare makes the point that today's young adult fiction "keys into the anxieties of teen readers today" and that there may be no point for today's teens to read the must-read books of last generation. It seems dark fantasy is what teens want as it connects with their daily preoccupations and concerns. The market wants to deliver what teens are going to read and I admit this is an agreeable cause. Reading is a fundamental for learning and personal growth, so I support what it takes to get children and young adults to read. But should I wish the dystopian and dark fantasy cycle to end? Should anyone? Young adults need stimulating reads and while Twilight and The Hunger Games are great teen reads, their not entirely rich in content. These novels satiate the desires of teens and present complex issues for readers to live out and solve emotionally, but an abundance of this genre limits varied reading. There are plenty of rich novels being published consistently, so why does it seem like the vampires are the continued crowd pleasers? Maybe I'm wrong, but trends speak. And what's more, "research in the US indicates that 55% of YA fiction is read by over 18s," writes Ecclashare. This is another interesting trend. Why do myself and other adults follow the YA trends? What makes this trend so wildly contagious? Is it the sexy vampire? The romance in spite of death? Not new trends certainly, but being manipulated and spread throughout the YA novel culture. The results of this trend are mass production of both good and bad literature in the dystopian and paranormal genres. The trick is sorting out the good literature and adding a little variety to one's reading diet. By all means, I believe teens can read and enjoy Twilight and its counterparts, but it is my opinion that a healthy reader explores the richness of other genres and sub-genres. 

Ecclashare, Julia. "Is There Life beyond Vampires for Teenage        Readers?" The Guardian. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Sept. 2013.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Picturebook Review: Komodo!

Komodo! by Peter Sis

Published by Greenwillow Books, 1993

Pen and ink watercolor paint

Goodreads Description:
They don't breathe fire or grow wings or lay siege to castles, but there are dragons on the Indonesian island of Komodo nevertheless. For a kid who loves dragons more than anything, could there be a more magical place in all the world to visit?

My Review:
Peter Sis's illustrations are, as always, filled with delight and detail. This story illustrates the vast wonder of a boy's fascination with dragons, particularly the Komodo Dragon. The images are full spreads with intricate detail; they display secret dragon images throughout the pages, especially the jungle scenes. The visual narrative alone engages young readers and invites them to explore the images for small details. From the first page, readers are prompted to scout the illustration when Sis writes, "It is always easy to find me in school pictures because of my dragon T-shirt," accompanied by an image of a very large school group. 

The boy's curiosity about dragons is stretched from the inside cover, across each page, and again on the back cover. His imagination has him trimming bushes in shapes of dragons and picturing dragons in the stars. From the immediate beginning, this book engages young readers to enter the fascination of the story's protagonist. 

The text is kept short and simple, easy for readers to understand, yet allows the illustration to carry part of the narrative. The story is fun; it's about a boy whose parents fly him to Komodo Island to see his favorite creature, where the boy has his dream encounter with a live Komodo dragon. The story was interesting, and a great way to teach about Komodo dragons without reading a book that just lists facts about the reptile. I will say I found the story a bit dull. The Komodo facts were interesting and the images were great, but it felt like the story only existed to support the images and to display facts about the Komodo. I would have liked it better if the visual and verbal narratives worked together a bit more. Also, the colors are very uniform. I think the illustrations could have used a touch of added color or perhaps a single image that stood out a bit more from the rest. 

I give this a three out of five foxes. It is a great book to read for learning as it isn't too didactic. The images are filled with detail, displaying the vast imagination of the boy who loves dragons. Komodo! is a good book to read with young ones and encourage them to use their own imaginations about something particular they love.  

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Book Review: The Tales of Beedle the Bard

The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K Rowling
Published by Bloomsbury, 2008
109 pages

Goodreads Description:
The Tales of Beedle the Bard, a Wizarding classic, first came to Muggle readers' attention in the book known as Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Now, thanks to Hermione Granger's new translation from the ancient runes, we present this stunning edition with an introduction, notes, and illustrations by J.K. Rowling, and extensive commentary by Albus Dumbledore. Never before have Muggles been privy to these richly imaginative tales:"The Wizard and the Hopping Pot," "The Fountain of Fair Fortune," "The Warlock's Hairy Heart," "Babbitty Rabitty and Her Cackling Stump," and of course, "The Tale of the Three Brothers." But not only are they the equal of fairy tales we know and love, reading them gives new insight into the world of Harry Potter. 

My Review:
In this addition to her own wildly popular Harry Potter series, JK Rowling satisfies fans with bonus material from within the Harry Potter Universe. This book offers more than Potter content for fans of the series. Rowling draws from an understanding of folk and fairy tales and then adds her own style and humor infused with the classic structure of this genre. 

The tales range from a reluctant wizards helping muggles to lessons in selfless love to the terrors of lovelessness. I enjoyed each of these stories. They each reflected Rowling's gift for storytelling with a purpose. The stories are great for young readers to be read aloud to or to read on their own - they are as enjoyable as the translations of Grimms tales. The notes from Dumbledore and Hermione are great for fans of Harry Potter, but not necessary to enjoy the story. The added notes are humorous and will be appreciated by Harry Potter fans. I'm not sure if this was a marketing tactic by Rowling or her publishers, but it serves a purpose to entertain Potter fans and expand on the ideas of the tales. 

Rowling has the freedom to do what she wants with these tales. They may be designed to look like folktale, but she breaks tradition where she sees fit and interprets her story with subtlety for younger readers. The stories are playful and imaginative sure to both entertain and persuade. 

I give this four out of five foxes. The tales are designed after traditional folktale and read much like them, making them great for young readers to enjoy as they would Aesop's fables or Grimm's fairy tales. Rowling does break some conventions at her convenience  which is perfectly acceptable as she adds humor and wit to each story and even offers interpretation through the third parties of Dumbledore and Hermione (who obviously are actually Rowling, but she uses their character personalities to write the analytics). These tales are smart as well as entertaining. They are ideal for those with understanding of the Harry Potter universe, but still suitable for all readers. 

Monday, September 23, 2013

Book Review: The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Vol. 1
by Alan Moore, Illustrated by Kevin O'Neill
published by Vertigo of DC Comics, 2000
no pagination

Goodreads Description:
London, 1898. The Victorian Era draws to a close and the twentieth century approaches. It is a time of great change and an age of stagnation, a period of chaste order and ignoble chaos. It is an era in need of champions.

In this amazingly imaginative tale, literary figures from throughout time and various bodies of work are brought together to face any and all threats to Britain. Allan Quartermain, Mina Murray, Captain Nemo, Dr. Henry Jekyll and Edward Hyde and Hawley Griffin (the Invisible Man) form a remarkable legion of intellectual aptitude and physical prowess: The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

My Review:

I'm quite new to graphic novels (although this one is something a bit different), I'm happy to have been assigned this book for a class. It was a mental stretch for me. To begin, Moore writes this book within the context of its era. Therefore, the blatant racial and sexist stereotypes were at first a shock to me before I caught on to what Moore was doing. 

The story draws on characters across literature to form a sort of Justice League, only much darker. Moore plays with the heroics and villainous nature of known characters and sets them in colonial London. The heroes, Quartermain, Mina Murray, Captain Nemo, Jekyll and Hyde, and the Invisible Man come from dark and unlikely places; they are impossible heroes, underdogs, but certainly not to be trusted. Quartermain is recovered from an opium den, Dr. Jekyll/Hyde is terrorizing Paris, and Griffin (the invisible man) is raping young girls at an orphanage.
The strange group is gathered under the mysterious "M" to do bidding they believe will be saving London. Throughout the story, several literary cameos appear which add more humor to the the twisting plot. 

I'm no expert on graphic novels, but I really enjoyed this one. The images were fantastic. The use of color and shadow impacted the way I read the story. Also, some pages had as many as nine frames, making the story seem to moving quickly and intensely; it really enhanced my reading experience. Also, as an English major, I really enjoyed the backgrounds to literary characters I've read before, even some of the smaller roles such as Mina Murray from Dracula. I haven't read all of the stories these characters are drawn from, and I'm sure I missed some of the cameo's. This novel is still suitable for those who haven't read the original novels the characters are pulled from. Many characters are still recognizable without having read their original settings. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde are popular, somewhat romanticized characters that most will recognize. And I doubt many will miss Sherlock Holmes' appearance. 

I give this a four out of five foxes. It was a humorous tale of unlikely heroics, it pairs colonialism with anti-colonialism and exposes the lies of the era, and several cameos and bonus material add to the humorous exposition.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Daily Dahl 9/22/13

The Daily Dahl -- Sunday Edition
22 September, 2013
Banned Books Week:

Hey all, it's Banned Books Week! This is a great time to appreciate reading and understanding. This week people are encouraged to focus on the freedom of reading. Readers should be able to access all information in order to research new learning. Reading betters the reader as well as the author. Certain realities exist and should not be expelled from literature because they are difficult to grasp or expose violence and misconduct. Yet, books are consistently challenged. Much of this happens behind the scenes; publishers may choose not to pick up books with certain content, book stores may deny to shelf the books, or educators may choose not to discuss these stories with peers and pupils. Banning and challenging books takes place all over the world. This is why Banned Books Week was created and is sponsored by large associations such as 
The American Library Association and many more.
To read more about what Banned Books Week is all about, check out the ALA website here

If you want to get involved, chances are you will be able to find events taking place in your city. In my city of Mt. Pleasant, my university is hosting read-alouds and events to promote Banned Books Week. If you're living in the states, check out events that may be happening in your state here. Get involved! This is the time to encourage and promote literacy in your community and make a big difference. 

If you have a favorite book that was once challenged or banned, read it aloud to someone, share it, share why you love it. Here's a list of the top banned or challenged books in 2012. Recognize the titles? Many of these are loved by many readers who want access to this knowledge. Go on, be proud of the books you love. Personally, I can't imagine never having the pleasures of the Harry Potter series or The Catcher in the Rye

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Molasses Internet -- It Has a Certain Ring to it

Instead of The Daily Dahl today, I'm just doing a quick post about what I've been preparing for this week. My internet is moving like molasses today, and I'm not having it. At the moment, I'm typing faster than my computer can process. I can feel the danger of potential typos and bad punctuation already. What can I say? I like to live on the edge. 

I've been busy reading this week, but not a lot of writing. That means I've got a lot of reviewing to catch up on. Here's a preview of some of the things I intend on reviewing for you. 

1.) The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Vol. 1 by Alan Moore

2.) The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K Rowling. Oh, and I'll probably throw in a discussion of her newly announced film. I'm sure you've heard the viral announcement, but if not, stay tuned. 

3.) The Cabinet of Wonders by Marie Rutkoski. I've got a mind to do a bit more analysis on this one instead of a traditional review. Perhaps I'll do more interpretive reviewing with this one, but I haven't decided yet. 

4.) Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones 

5.) Komodo! by Peter Sis

Also, I have a handful of articles from The Guardian, and I may discuss some journal articles from popular literary journals such as The Lion and the Unicorn.

Lastly, I've been doing some research on the subject of book sales. I'm curious why people buy books. It seems like a simple question, but there is a whole psychology to the behavior of purchasing books. I'd LOVE to hear from you and get your thoughts on book purchases. Why do you buy the books you do? What kind of impulse buys do you make? How has digital publication affected book sales? If you have any answers or comments, send me an email or comment on this post. Any day I hear from my readers is a great day! 

Lots of love! Expect to be reading more from me soon.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Book Review: Ruby Redfort: Look Into my Eyes by Lauren Child

Ruby Redfort: Look Into My Eyes (Ruby Redfort #1)
by Lauren child
383 pages
Published by Candlewick Press

Goodreads Description:
Everyone knows that Clarice Bean is exeptionordinarily keen about the Ruby Redfort books. Now in her own starring role, this genius code-cracker and daring detective, along with her sidekick butler, Hitch, work for a secret crime-busting organization called Spectrum. Ruby gets into lots of scrapes with evil villains, like being trapped in a giant hourglass or held over a flaming volcano, but she's always ice-cool in a crisis. Just take a classic screwball comedy, add heaps of breathtaking action, and multiply it by Lauren Child's writing genius, and what have you got? Only the most exciting middle-grade series since, like, ever.

My Review: 
I was such a fan of Lauren Child's picturebooks, I decided to check out her new middle-grade series as well. 

Child does an excellent job with witty characters and high action, with plenty of danger too. Ruby Redfort is a modern child-genius, turned spy. It's not an original storyline, but Child's parody offers plenty of adventure to the young reader. This is exactly the type of book I would have loved when I was younger. 

This dramatic story involves young Ruby caught right in the middle of a heist with some of the most deadly villains. With the help of her new butler, Hitch, and her best friend Clancy Crew, Ruby participates in a thrilling case to crack the right codes (without much time) and catch the bad guy before something terrible happens. 

Ruby and her friends are your typical American kids. They joke and play normally, except in Ruby's case, she works part time as a child detective as well. They even speak like normal kids. The dialogue in this novel speaks to its young audience, yet doesn't date itself with any slang. It's really a fun read. 

While I enjoyed this book, I have such a hard time finding much to say about it. It wasn't exactly a page-turner, but I still got through all 383 pages quite quickly. There's a little bit of attitude and adventure on each page. The whole book rings true to many of the detective novels I read as a kid; Ruby is a rich prodigy, no one believes her because she's just a kid, her parents are too dumb to realize what's even going on, she gets herself into trouble, she gets herself out of trouble, and bammo! -- the case is solved in the nick of time. Despite this being another detective tale, Child's voice really shines through. Ruby's inner dialogue is often quite humorous, and the exchanges she has with other people - Clancy, Hitch, other Spectrum agents - are equally funny. Also, Ruby's rules offer wisdom to any future crime-solver. 

The book involves some puzzle-solving and may encourage readers to engage with the text and crack codes like the heroine, Ruby Redfort. The plot alternates between crime-solving, puzzles, and action. While it's a longer read for middle grade readers, it isn't boring. Here is a book I would share with my siblings, read along with my niece  or recommend to the detective-novel-lover. Lauren Child remains a favored author. 

I give this book four out of five foxes

Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Daily Dahl 9/8/13

The Daily Dahl -- Sunday Edition
8th September, 2013

Today I'm featuring an article I read some time ago. The story is interesting enough, but the reader reaction to a piece in The Atlantic is what I want to focus on. It goes to prove the importance of knowing your readership, and maintaining proper courtesies in journalism.

Article Title:The Loveliest Short Story You Will Read Today Was Published on Craigslist
Found at The Atlantic (via Flipboard for iPad)
Originally written by Chris Heller
published August 9, 2013

My Summary: 
I was drawn to this article to read another serendipitous publishing story - those are my favorite. What I found was thought-provoking uproar from the original author's readers. Chris Heller writes about a stranger's love struggle posted on Craigslist. The short story is the creative outpour of a man's grief over his failed attempts to speak to a woman on a train. The short story "Missed Connection" is quite imaginative and emotional. Heller describes it as, "a sad, lovely story in an unexpected place." Heller goes on to say, "the story needs a good editor, and several more drafts" along with other criticisms of the short story. 
Scrolling down the comment section, a heated debate caught my attention. Readers were upset about Heller's criticism of the story, especially since it was evident he made no attempts to contact the original author of the story, but went on to write about his story without the poor, heartbroken author's knowledge. And the fact Heller posted the full story in his article while writing little of his own interpretation or discussion really upset the readers. 
So here's what I've learned: readers really do care about an article's sources, and they definitely don't want to read any plagiarized material. I'm impressed. It's wonderful to see readers that care about the ethics of writing and journalism. It's also a bit terrifying for me. I mean, Heller acted within his legal rights didn't he? Yet he upset and possibly lost potential readers of The Atlantic, or at least his own articles. Writing can be a tricky business. I couldn't help but feel a little sympathy for Heller. However, he chooses not to respond to his readers comments and I think that's pathetic. It's okay to admit fault or mistake in one's own writing. Reading this made me think of my own writing. Have I ever been unethical, and what would be the proper response? Am I perpetuating this very issue in my current writing? 
I'd be SO happy to hear from my readers concerning this article. What upsets you most about the blogs, articles, news, etc you hear and read today? What do you think of Heller's article - was he wrong to publish the short story, and would it have been different if he hadn't included a full version of the story in his article? 
Personally, I agree with the readers. The short story shines amidst the clutter of Craigslist, hence why Chris Heller sought it out. Heller's criticism of it was harsh and he would have been better to spend more time reflecting about the story itself rather than its faults.

Heller, Chris. "The Loveliest Short Story You Will Read Today Was Published on Craigslist." The Atlantic. Ed. Bob Cohn. N.p., 9 Aug. 2013. Web. 16 Aug. 2013. <>.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Film Review: The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones
Starring Lilly Collins, Jamie Campbell Bower, and Robert Sheehan
Directed by Harold Zwart
Written by Jessica Postigo, and based on the novel by Cassandra Clare
Rated PG-13

The IMBD Synopsis:
When her mother disappears, Clary Fray learns that she descends from a line of warriors who protect our world from demons. She joins forces with others like her and heads into a dangerous alternate New York called Downworld. 

My Thoughts: 
Having not really cared for the book, I wasn't particularly eager to watch the film. Yet, my curiosity was nagging me and I get free movies so why the heck not? 
I'll say the film met my expectations. It was okay - entertaining for the two hours or so it is, but not entirely memorable. 

The script was quite similar to the book. Not exact, they never are. But City of Bones followed closely to the book. I've read some raving reviews about how the film got the novel all wrong, but one thing viewers must remember is that film and literature are two very different mediums. I may have mentioned this in my last review, but I think it's worth noting multiple times. Adaptations can be accurate with out being perfect. I appreciated the similarities this book shared with the book. People want to see what they read about, not watch a story they loved get slaughtered with misinterpretation. So through all of that I'm basically saying that I liked the translation of narratives, book to film. 

It's an interesting story, but contains too many plot holes. The book does this too. I believe the reason for this is that the novel tries to introduce too many ideas into one storyline. It makes for a fast-paced plot, but frankly I got a bit weary of coincidence as a device to move the plot along. 

I found the actors to be very suitable aesthetically - that is, they looked the part (despite some controversy over Jamie Campbell Bower as Jace, I believe he suited the part). Some of the acting was disappointing. Lilly Collins acting has yet to impress me - I find her character's so... stiff, I guess, for lack of a better word. Jamie Campell Bower did well in action scenes, but his and miss Collins chemistry was confused and unbelievable. On the other hand, Robert Sheehan was brilliant. I found his acting superb. He was the perfect Simon. 

Now let's talk about the demons, the villains  the action! The CGI was great. The demons were creative and actually pretty scary. They were actually represented much better in the film than in the novel. Valentine was a disappointment though. I had higher expectations for Jonathan Rhys Myers as far as his acting goes, but I don't think he was a good interpretation of Valentine. I don't think it was all his fault though, I think Valentine was just poorly scripted and designed. His costume was entirely different than what I expected. The film made him out to be wild, reckless, and even a bit immature. Whereas the book's Valentine was much more menacing and mysterious. He was a mastermind with dangerous ideas - not so in the movie, unfortunately. 

I'm going to give this film a three out of five stars. If you read the book, you'll find some elements of the film to be quite different, but not completely altering of the main plot. If you didn't read the book, the film is entertaining either way. This was a one time see for me. I don't regret watching it by any means, but it's not one I'll be buying to watch again. I'd say go watch it if you have a free afternoon ... and its raining. 

You can read my review of The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones by Cassandra Clare here. 

Friday, September 6, 2013

Book Review: The Mortal Instruments: City of Bone

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones (The Mortal Instruments #1)
by Cassandra Clare
485 pages
Published by Margaret K. McElderrly Books,  2007

Goodreads Description:
When fifteen-year old Clary Fray heads out to the Pandemonium Club in New York City, she hardly expects to witness a murder -- much less a murder committed by three teenagers covered with strange tattoos and brandishing bizarre weapons. Then the body disappears into thin air. It's hard to call the police when the murderers are invisible to everyone else and when there is nothing -- not even a smear of blood -- to show that a boy has died. Or was he a boy?

This is Clary's first meeting with the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the earth of demons. It's also her first encounter with Jace, a Shadowhunter who looks a little like an angel and acts a lot like a jerk. Within twenty-four hours Clary is pulled into Jace's world with a vengeance, when her mother desappears and Clary herself is attacked by a demon. But why would demons be interested in ordinary mundanes like Clary and her mother? And how did Clary suddenly get the Sight? the Shadowhunters would like to know... 

My Review:
Oh man. I don't even know where to start. I want to say I hated this book, but there's an ashamed part of me that realizes, I was sucked in just enough to truly wonder what would happen next. I finished it, so it wasn't unbearable by any means, it was just poor quality. 

One thing I'm NOT going to do in this review is compare everything in this novel to Harry Potter. I know the relations are sometimes obvious, but they are obvious in this entire literary genre. What do you think Rowling created? Certainly not just a book series, she created a trend. It's perfectly respectable for a book within a genre to follow a trend. It sells doesn't it? Just so long as its author uses some imagination and originality, the book will thrive. In the case of City of Bones however, imagination is seriously stunted.

To begin, the writing is quite bland and Clare's writing habits seem to make a drastic change halfway through the novel. Clare tends to break one of literature's first rules: show don't tell. She tells. For as long as the book was, I felt like it was loads and loads of information, but never any explanation or description. Clare just kept pushing the plot with new information while never developing her characters or setting. I understand as the first of a series there is quite a lot of information to introduce, but it shouldn't compromise character development. Also, at the start of the novel, I had the roughest time not abandoning the story at once. I kept up with it for my book club, but each chapter ended on a full halt of the plot. It was logical, sure, but it didn't entice me to read the next chapter. The first half of this book was slow reading simply because I only read a chapter at a time (and then I usually took a nap. seriously). Finally, towards the middle of the book, Clare started using cliff-hangers at the end of her chapters which really sped up the reading. I actually got quite into it and read the second half of the book in nearly one sitting. 

I already mentioned that characters were underdeveloped, but they were also a bit stale. They were intended to be humorous (Jace and Simon especially), but their wit wasn't really snarky or creative in any way. Honestly all those 'funny' comments seemed to be taken straight out of pop culture history. For example: Clary's mother shouts "Jesus!", Simon's response - "no. It's just me." I didn't laugh. The witty dialogue seemed to be the author's quick cover to ensure her characters would be liked if they were just sexy enough and said funny things. This would work for a secondary, or static character, but for the main roles this was prohibiting to the story.

Now I realize I'm giving this book a lot of hate, but there are some redeeming qualities to it as well. The character of Magnus Bane was actually really neat. I wished there were more of him.The introduction of Runes as a sort of ancient language and tool was creative, but not extensive. The second half of the book really picks up the pace and despite information overload, there is a pretty unique twist at the end of the story. I hope the twist doesn't become complicated any further in the later novels because it is quite tangled by the end of this one. While the twist wasn't entirely unexpected, it was new, original, and quite daring for a YA author to do. While I don't intend on finding out what happens in the next novels any time soon, I admit I am interested in the plot just enough to carry on the series. It's a guilty sort of feeling, but screw it. I'll say I got sucked in. That twist at the end may have been Clare's saving grace because now I'm at least intrigued in the reading the sequels. I think I'll give my mind a rest for now. That first book was a war.

Rating this book is a nightmare. I really don't know where to place this one. It's so difficult to be consistent in reviewing. The writing was amateur, and the plot was at best curious. I did find myself overlooking the lack of descriptive writing ("the armoury looked just as something called an armoury would look like" -- what??) and delved into the action, the mystery, and, I admit, the sexy Jace I imagined. This book is purely entertainment. If that's what you want, to simply escape you're own reality, to read for the love of adventure (and why wouldn't you?) - then I say go for it. If you can't stand bad similes and flat characters, then keep your distance. I give this three out of five foxes.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Book to Box Office: A Film Review of Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters

Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters
Directed by Thor Freudenthal
Written by Marc Guggenheim and based on the novel by Rick Riordan
Starring Logan Lerman, Alexandra Deddario, and Brandon T. Jackson

The IMBD Synopsis:
In order to restore their dying safe haven, the son of Poseidon and his friends embark on a quest to the Sea of Monsters to find the mythical Golden Fleece while trying to stop an ancient evil from rising. 

My Review: 
I actually rather enjoyed this movie. I truthfully didn't have high expectations for it after the first film, but with a new director and writer, I did try to have a more open mind about it. 

First of all, the translation from novel to screenplay was well done. It certainly wasn't as bad as the first book. While this one did venture some from the original plot of the novel, much of it was forgivable. The characters were well done and casted. They were mostly true to their literary characters, which made the film so much more enjoyable. I thought the introduction of Tyson went well. His character was just as lovable as in the novel. Also, the actor change of Chiron and Mr. D worked out for the better. I can't think of better replacements than Anthony Head for Chiron and Stanley Tucci for Mr. D. Tucci especially, with his natural humor, helped the film really capture Riordan's witty narrative. 

The acting was well done. Again, I think the new characters were supreme, but I'm so glad they kept the main protagonists and antagonists the same as the first film. It definitely felt like a continuation of Percy's quest. While Logan Lerman seemed to have physically matured in the role, his acting was true to Percy's character from the novel and the previous film. And the presence of Nathan Fillion was extraordinary. 

Some of the setting and sets seemed hastily strewn together and sloppy. The major change of Circe's island from Spa to Carnival seemed unnecessary and the Cyclops cave was poorly created, whether it was the props, the set, or the CGI I can't identify, but something was just 'off'. 

The movie was still entertaining despite some cheesy lines and props. It captured the edge-of-seat thrill along with the comedic streak. The actors did a fine job with their characters and the introduction of new characters was smooth and even tasteful. Therefore, I give this a four out of five stars. 

You can read my review of Percy Jackson and the Olympians: Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan HERE

Monday, September 2, 2013

Book Review: Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters

Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters [Percy Jackson & The Olympians #2]
by Rick Riordan
279 pages
published by Hyperion Books, 2006

Goodreads Description:
The heroic son of Poseidon makes an action-packed comeback in the second must-read installment of Rick Riordans amazing young readers series. Starring Percy Jackson, a "half blood" whose mother is human and who's father is god of the sea, Riordan's series combines cliffhanger adventure and Greek mythology lessons that results in true page-turners that get better with each installment. In this episode, The Sea of Monsters, Percy sets out to retrieve the Golden Fleece before his summer camp is destroyed, surpassing the first book's drama and setting the stage for more thrills to come.

My Review:
Fantastic. Riordan just doesn't disappoint. This being a second in series, I didn't expect to be as surprised, intrigued, thrilled as I was reading the first book. It's just a habit for sequels to disappoint me, but Riordan managed to impress. Sea of Monsters has more thrills and edge-of-seat action than the first book did, and this one was much shorter in length even. The action really builds, and the reader's curiosity is twisting and bending trying to get a peek at what might happen next because there's just so much going on. The action in this book was killer. Speaking of killer, plenty new mythological beasts come to wreak havoc, which is all the more enjoyable for us readers. The number of beasts in this book was great, all with mythological relevance of course. I actually loved the villains in this book. They were just the right amount of terrifying and stupid, and even humorous too. 

The action was great. The beasts were great. However, I do struggle some with our heroes. Is it just me or do they seem a bit redundant. I guess that's natural when following the 'hero on a quest' archetype. Things are bound to overlap. I just didn't get the feeling that Percy was truly unique. I love his powers and abilities, but as far as his character goes he really doesn't carry much of the story in my opinion. Percy's dry wit does give him a bit of an edge, and Grover creates a unique dynamic to Percy's character, so I can't be too harsh. 
Annabeth always has all the answers. Truthfully, I find her character a bit predictable, but I really enjoyed the personal struggle with she and Tyson in this book. It gave her more depth than in the first book (you just have to read the book to know what I'm referring too). 
The addition of Clarice and Tantalus in this book was great. They are two very unlikable characters, yet you become sympathetic for them in a way. They're just the final touch to the chaos that Riordan creates. 

I thought this story was completely entertaining. Riordan took the book in a new, yet thrilling direction. He kept up the beat all the way to the very end of the book, leaving readers ready for the next installment. I know I'm ready to read the rest of the series!

I give this book five out of five foxes. Sea of Monsters proved to be a dramatic and adventurous sequel to The Lightning Thief. It presents new challenges, engages with terrible and even comic mythological beasts in an exciting way, and it never stops entertaining the reader. 

Sunday, September 1, 2013

The Daily Dahl 9/1/13

The Daily Dahl -- Sunday Edition 
1 September, 2013

Today's reading was inspired by my curiosity in children's reading levels and the effectiveness of assigning these levels. I came upon a report of what high school kids are reading nowadays compared to high schoolers 100 years ago. This article has some interesting results. 

Article title: Difficulty of US High School Reading in Decline
Found at
Originally written by Dennis Abrams
published June 14, 2013

My Summary:
Renaissance Learning (discover who they are HERE and follow them on Facebook) has done the research to answer the question, "what are kids reading today" and "why do they choose the books they do?" Closing in on my college graduation, I look back at my high school career and wonder how things have changed, what is the next generation bringing to university? Renaissance Learning has actually completed a study and made a report on the differences of reading levels between high schoolers today and those 100 years ago. It appears that kids and teens are choosing to read books intended for younger audiences. That is, the level of difficulty in reading has dropped noticeably. In 1907, Shakespeare was among two of the top three books assigned in high school courses. I remember from my time in high school, reading one Shakespeare play in my required English course, but all other Shakespeare I read were in elective courses.
Comparing the lists of top 3 required books of 1907 and 2012, I don't think the required books of today are without merit. They are quality books and I have no protest of them being required in high school. To Kill a Mockingbird, The Crucible, and Night were all books (and plays) I loved in high school and I'm glad they are still on the required reading lists. There is a lot to learn from these books. 
While my interests don't truly lie in education, I think what kids are required to read in school impacts what they choose to read outside of school, and that's where I'm most curious. With the wave of YA popularity, it appears that many high school students choose to read books that are intended for the middle school level. Abram interviews Eric Stickney, the educational research director for Renaissance Learning. Stickney comments that "after the late part of middle school, students generally don't continue to add the level of difficulty in the books they want to read." According to the 2013 report, one of the most read titles in grades 7-12 is The Hunger Games. As a senior in college, I wonder what has intrigued me to read all of these middle grade level books? Because its true, even after high school, many students choose to read lower difficulty books, myself and my peers included. Personally, I don't believe this to be much of a concern to the nation. Don't get me wrong, I think every kid needs to be introduced to higher difficulty reading, but as long as the kids are reading I'm happy about that. Hopefully some new authors will arise to challenge today's youth with more entertaining, yet profound and critical literature. 
Lastly, I want to point out that Stickney argues "That just because the books students are being assigned to read are less complex than in prior years, this does not necessarily mean that they cannot read or comprehend books at higher levels, nor can we assume that assigning more complex texts would necessarily lead to improvements in achievement."
This leads me to wonder, does all reading promote academic and personal growth? Or does one become stationary in learning without the increased difficulty of reading? Renaissance Learning has done some great research so far, perhaps they will carry on and extrapolate this data even further. I'd be curious to see the results. 

Read the full report HERE 

Abrams, Dennis. "Difficulty of US High School Reading in Decline." Publishing Perspectives. Ed. Edward Nawotka. N.p., 14 June 2013. Web. 1 Sept. 2013. <>.

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