Friday, 28 October 2011

The Road - Cormac McCarthy (2006)

One of my teachers said I should read this. I was a little skeptical, considering his choices for English texts are generally unpopular. I like it, the way it is written made it hard to put down. He uses a stream of consciousness  (not unlike Tim Winton in Cloudstreet) where there are no chapters, and sentences and paragraphs mesh. There is also no punctuation or speaker acknowledgement during dialogue.
Are we going to die?
Sometime. Not now.
And we're still going south.
So we'll be warm.
Okay what?
Nothing. Just okay.  
(page 9)

This book is amazing. It is a post-apocalyptic novel with a father doing everything he can for his son. The story is told in a way that haunts you and breaks your heart. The characters are never named and is told in third person. In 2006 it won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for fiction and in 2007 it won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. A film adaptation was released in 2009. Check out the trailer

The world (for some unknown reason) has been left almost barren. A father and son trek across the country to get to the warmer coast. Along the way, they encounter thieves, scavengers and cannibals. They have to search through abandoned homes to find food to sustain them. The man has a pistol which he keeps in case they have to commit suicide. The man tries to give almost all they find to the boy, but the boy is too astute. When they near the coast, the man gets sick and is dying. He tells his son to go on without him. The man dies, but a couple and their children have been following the pair, concerned for the boy with his sick father, and let the boy come with them on their journey to the coast.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Handle With Care - Jodi Picoult (2009)

I have a considerable stack of books that I plan to read. But I saw this, remembered how much I loved it and wanted to read it again. I bought it in 2009 for a long plane trip and read it twice on said trip. I don't care what other people think, I am a hardcore Jodi Picoult fan (for instance, my co-blogger is not a fan of this book.) She writes about situations where I couldn't imagine what decision I would make. This book is written from multiple points of view; the mother, the father, the sister, the doctor and switches every chapter. It is written to the main character, Willow, who writes the last chapter.

This is one of my favourite books and hands-down my favourite Picoult book. I love all the medical and legal jargon. The main charter Willow loves random facts and spouts them off throughout the novel. The mum, Piper, used to be a pastry, and her chapters start with a recipe and baking technique (like; weeping, proving and blind-baking) that relates to what she's going through that chapter. Despite the constant narration changes, the story is seamless and left me staring into space thinking about it once I turned the last page.

Willow O'Keefe has osteogenesis imperfecta, or brittle bone disease.This means that she will break bones hundreds of time in her lifetime and have other various medical complications. Despite this, she is a smart, funny, lively six year-old. Unfortunately the medical bills are crippling her family. When a family trip to Disney World goes wrong, and Willow's healing fractures lead foreign doctors to suspect child abuse, Willow's parents - Sean and Piper - are pushed to breaking point. Sean wants to sue Disney World, but the lawyers suggest a wrongful birth lawsuit against their obstetrician. The case is that a ultrasound showed signs of osteogenesis imperfects which the doctor disregarded and did not proceed to counsel aborting. Only problem is, the obstetrician is Piper's best friend. A gruelling court case means that Piper has to testify that she wished that Willow had never been born. Sean drops out of the case, and files for divorce. Amelia, her other daughter, is struggling with her own life. She is a bulimic who starts to cut herself. Willow sees her doing this and copies, which almost leads to her death. The O'Keefe's manage to win the civil suit - with awards of $8 million. Amelia's disorder is uncovered and she is sent to therapy and uses art as an outlet. Sean and Piper reconcile. The cheque remains stuck to the fridge, but money is no longer an issue, as they know there is a backup. One day, Willow goes outside out and walks across their skating pond, she falls through the ice and can't yell for help through the pain of broken bones and drowns. The cheque for the damages is buried with her.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Ender's Game - Orson Scott Card (1985)

I read this because Clare said it was good, and because I haven't read any good sci-fi in ages. It was a good choice. I love the way he writes, and I love the original storyline. It was great to see the plot unfold through the eyes of a child with the mind of an adult. The story has been on Card's back-burner since he was a child, and it shows through his use of children as pawns in an adult world.

I love this book. It's great. I'm also happy there is not a single romance in the story Thank-you Orson Scott Card! (though there was some random nudity..) Seriously though, read this book. It makes you think, has lots of intertextuality and like Animal Farm was an allegory for a real event, I think comparisons could be made with Ender's Game as well. Oh, and did I mention the awesome battles in zero gravity?

It won the Nebula Award for best novel in 1985, and the Hugo Award for best novel in 1986 - which are the two most prestigious sci-fi awards.It also won the Margaret A. Edwards Award in 2008 which honours an author for lifetime contribution to young adult literature. The U.S Marine Corps even have the book as recommended reading for their officers!

There is a video game, comics, a subsequent series and a shadow series. A movie is also in the works and the screenplay is actually written by the author. They are still casting, but I found a great fan-made trailer:

Clare has already read and reviewed this, so check out her summary.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

City of Glass - Cassandra Clare (2009)

This book also came in the in the box set that I bought of this series. I really enjoyed this book, just as much as the previous books in the series.

This book was just as well written as the previous books but this book had a lot more fighting and wars. My favourite character in this book was Magnus, he was pretty hilarious in this book and he helped out Clary when she needed it. I also thought that when Alec came out to his parents, Magnus' reaction was very entertaining.

This book starts with the Lightwoods going to Idris without Clary because Jace lied to her as he didn't want her to go. Clary then draws a portal rune to take her to Idris and Luke follows her to protect her. Because of wards on the city, Clary lands in Lake Lyn, the lake that Raziel came out of to give Jonathon Shadowhunter the mortal instruments, however the water drives people insane and Luke takes her to his sister's house where she heals her. Clary then goes to see Jace where he yells at her for coming, while there she also meets Sebastian and Aline, who are cousins and are who the Lightwoods are staying with. Sebastian takes Clary to Ragnor Fell who will help her mother, however he has been killed and Magnus is there in his place and tells Clary she must retrieve the Book of White from Jace's childhood home. Clary and Jace get the book, however when they return to Alicante a massive war is going on because Valentine has destroyed the wards around the city and demons are running wild. Jace, Clary and Alec go to free Simon from the prison he was put in as the building is on fire. While there they also free Hodge, whho tells them that the Mortal Glass is Lake Lyn however he is then killed by Sebastian who runs off. Max was also killed by Sebastian that night and the Lightwoods are devastated. Jace goes to find Valentine through tracking Sebastian, however we learn from Jocelyn, who Magnus revived, that Sebastian is Clary's brother and Jace was Stephen Herondale's child. Clary makes a rune that binds downworlders and shadowhunters together so they can share each others abilities in battle, then Clary goes to Lake Lyn to stop Valentine. Valentine binds her up and then Jace comes to save her after killing Sebastian, however Valentine kills him first. Clary then draws a rune over the summoning runes that Valentine drew so when Raziel is summoned he kills Valentine and lets Clary have one wish. She wishes for Jace. The books ends with all the characters, friends again, and watching the celebratory fireworks together.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

City of Ashes - Cassandra Clare (2008)

This book came in the same boxset as the first one and I enjoyed it more than the previous one. Which means a lot.

This book was written from many different perspectives which was really interesting. I also liked how the author started including more about all the different "downworlders". I thought the development of Clary and Jace's romance was kind of gross, but well written, and I loved the development of their special abilities. I think my favourite character in this book would have to be a tie between Alec and Luke. I saw a lot more of Luke's love towards Clary and his whole pack, and Alec's character development and romance with Magnus Bane was very entertaining to read.

Clary and Simon are now dating and Jace is kicked out of the institute by Maryse. The faerie queen wants a conference with Jace to see what he knows and to discuss things, however faeries are very tricky and make Clary have the "kiss she desires" before she can leave. Simon kisses her, however Jace is the one who must, which upsets Simon and he runs off to the vampires to see if he was turning into one of them. He wasn't, but by going into their lair they attacked him and turned him into a vampire. Valentine needs the blood of a werewolf child and a vampire child, so he takes Simon and Maia as revenge on Luke. Luke, Clary, Jace and Magnus go to rescue them from Valentine's ship, however he has thousands of demons at the ready and a massive battle ensues, Jace is about to be killed when the rest of the shadowhunters come to help him fight. Simon is almost dead and needs blood to survive so Jace lets him drink some of his blood then they go to find Clary who was taken by Valentine. Jace gives her her stele and with her newfound abilities she draws an "open" rune on the ship which tears it apart. The book ends with Simon realising he can now go in the sun, Jace moving back to the Institute, and a shadowhunter telling Clary she knows how to heal her mother.

Friday, 14 October 2011

City of Bones - Cassandra Clare (2007)

I read this book because Mac said that she thought I would like it after she read it. I saw a box set of the first three for thirty dollars at kmart so I decided to get them.

I quite enjoyed this book, it is very different to the other books in the young adult paranormal genre as it has many different types of creatures. I thought it was well-written and included many rare words which I had to look up in a dictionary which is always good. My favourite character, although it might seem a little cliche, was Jace, I found him hilarious and his personality was really intriguing until the end when he was all weird. I definitely enjoyed this book and will probably have to buy the fourth, fifth and sixth books later.

Clary is a normal girl who can see people that no one else can see. She soon learns that they are shadowhunters, and that she must be one of them as she can see them. Her mother is kidnapped, and Clary learns that she was also a shadowhunter and was married to another shadowhunter called Valentine who turned bad and started a massive war and has now returned. Clary then works with the shadowhunters Jace, Alec and Isabelle to find the mortal cup before Valentine does. They get the cup and Jace and Clary fall in love. Jace and the cup then get stolen by Valentine, and Clary goes to rescue them and she learns that Jace is her brother, who her mother thought was dead.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

The Chocolate War - Robert Cormier (1974)

I read this because it was an assigned text. It was this, Harry Potter, Alice in Wonderland or Ender's Game (which I also plan to read.) I have to use it as an exemplar for the types of books children/adolescents should read. When it was published, the content was extremely controversial. It was banned from schools and libraries It is number 3 on the American Library Association's list of Top 100 Banned/Challenged Books. I think this is unwarranted, the main character Jerry does get sexually explicit at times, but not overtly so.

This book was okay. It was really easy to get through, I think I managed it in a couple hours. It has been heralded as one of the best young adult novels of all time, but I don't really understand why. It's not particularly compelling and there are a lot of characters that you have to wrap your head around.

A all-boys Catholic high school, Trinity, has an annual chocolate sale. This year, acting headmaster Brother Leon orders double the amount of more expensive chocolates. The boys now have to sell twice as many at double the price. The sales are abysmal, and Brother has to enlist the help of the Vigils, a secret, student-run society. They control the school by giving out assignments like unscrewing classroom furniture until it almost falls apart. Archie, the assignment inventor, makes Jerry refuse to 'volunteer' to sell his chocolates for ten days. Jerry plays along, but decides he never wants to sell them at all, which screws with the Vigils plan. Jerry gets beaten up and yet still refuses. The Vigils get other boys to sell his chocolates, and eventually every box is sold. But since Jerry disobeyed, and example has to be made. He is goaded into a fight where he is beaten almost to death, with a crowd of his peers who scream 'kill him."

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Ender's Game - Orson Scott Card (1985)

I had to read this book for english and I found it surprisingly good. We got to choose between four different texts and I'm glad that I chose to read this one.

Although this book is written from a child's perspective, you hardly realize that at all as Ender thinks and acts way beyond his years. The plot of this book was interesting and well written, however I found that there was a little too much political jargon to find that part of the story at all interesting. Although this book is from a child's perspective, it deals with some very gruesome themes and there is a lot of psychological warfare and torment going on, which I found very full on and a little scary at times. My favourite character was Colonel Graff, you only get snippets of his life and his experiences however I really got the sense that he was a lovely person who truly cared about Ender.

This book is set in the future where an alien invasion of "buggers" fifty years ago has the world training children to be the commanders and soldiers in the next battle. Ender Wiggin is six years old and human kind's only hope of survival as he is a child genius. He quickly passes through battle school and moves to flight command where Mazer Rackham, the only person to have defeated the buggers previously, becomes his teacher. He soon goes through many computer simulations and on his final test he must go through a simulation in which there is a planet in the middle of battle. He defeats the simulation by exploding the planet, however then he learns that all the simulations were real and he had just killed all the remaining buggers. He and his sister Valentine then go in the "first colony" to live on the bugger planet and Ender discovers a fertilized bugger egg, ready to be hatched whenever. He takes it with him as he and Valentine go to explore the galaxy.

Airman - Eoin Colfer (2008)

I read this because my co-blogger lent it to me. I love the way Eoin Colfer writes (Some good reads of his are; the Supernaturalist, The Wish List and the Artemis Fowl series) I liked this book, but perhaps I'm a little to old and a little too female to fall head over heels for it. I can see how the 12-year-old tomboy me would have woshipped the shelf this book sat on. There is a fair amount of technical language in this book which may be a slight failing of the story.

All in all, a good read. A very believable and motivated hero. This book would actually make quite a good movie. It's nice to read something other than assigned texts.

Click here for Clare Bear's plot summary.