Saturday, December 4, 2010

Leviathan by Scott Westerfield

I love history.  It’s always been one of my favorite subjects in school and when a history documentary is on TV I will sit down and watch it, unless of course a space documentary is on at the same time.  A girls got to have her priorities straight.  But what does this have to do with books you may ask?  Well, today’s review is over Leviathan by Scott Westerfield, a story that revolves around the events preceding WWI but with a twist. 

So we open to a war scene describing a glorious army about to strike down their enemy’s.  the men are tall and proud and ready to fight for their country.  The machines are gleaming in the sun well oiled and ready to take down the enemy.  The horses stand strong and powerful and the men riding them know they are reliant.  Oh wait, never mind, it’s a child playing with his toys in his bedroom at the dead of night.  But this isn’t any boy; this is a prince, the child of the archduke of Austria.  His mentors are about to take him out of the castle to teach him how to night walk in a GIANT MECHANICAL WALKER.  Yup there’s the twist.  The Germans are “clankers” and the British are “beasties.”  The British use fabricated animals instead of machines for everything from cars to airships.  They take Darwinism to the extreme, where as the Germans have invented machines reminiscent of the giant walkers in star wars only much smaller and piloted by people who actually have a brain.

Anyway we’ve meet the Prince named Aleksander.  The other main character is Deryn Sharp, a girl pretending to be a boy to serve in the British air corps. Deryn is smart, quick witted and better then most of the boys in the service.  Now this is a heroine I can get behind!  She’s a born flier and will do anything to be in the sky, even pretend to be a boy which is actually a plus for her cause she doesn’t like girly things like dresses.  She ends up serving on the Leviathan, the first fabricated air ship and also the biggest. This is her dream come true, if she is allowed to stay when the ship picks up a Lady known as the Boffin, a scientist who works to come up with new fabricated species.  With the extra weight that the Boffin brings, they have to get rid of some crew members and Deryn and the other newbie airmen are first in line to be kicked out.  But of course, where would the story be if she did get kicked off the ship?  The book is called Leviathan; of course she is going to stay.

As we follow these two characters we see them grow and develop which I can not tell you how nice that is.  To many books keep their characters flat and one dimensional and they are so boooooooring.  Its like reading about rocks, but even that can be interesting with the right author.  And the supporting cast is interesting at times, boring at others but that’s alright. What we really want to know is what will happen to Deryn and Alek but oh wait, I forgot, there isn’t an end!  Yeah the book just stops.  No ending to anything.  Oh there’s a resolution and such, but the book itself just stops!  When Ii finished it I was baffled.  There has got to be more, Westerfiled wouldn’t just stop this book.  But he did, and its annoying.  I am ok with books setting up a sequel but not when they don’t have an ending themselves!

Besides all that though, it was a decent book with a really interesting story.  It’s obvious this book is for kids (it has pictures!) but that shouldn’t stop adults from reading it.  After all, what’s life if you can’t immerse yourself in a good book, even if that book isn’t meant for adults?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Dark Side of Nowhere by Neal Shusterman

Recently, Kiki got me into a new author by the name of Neal Shusterman. Let me just tell you that this guy can write.  His books are for young adults and children but I’m going to go out on a limb and say that juvenile fiction is often times better than their adult counterparts and Shusterman is a great example as to why.  The Dark Side of Nowhere, isn’t the best book by him that I’ve read but it’s certainly better than a lot of other books out there.

You open to the setting of a sleepy suburban town in the middle of nowhere right after a boy by the name of Ethan has died.  The main character is Jason, a good kid with a rebellious streak because he is too bored with his life and wants to liven things up.  Jason’s parents are practically Mr. and Mrs. American Dream which only adds to his frustration at how normal and boring his life is. From the beginning of the book you have a sense of foreboding that something awful/surprising is lurking just around the corner and you just know that something is about to change.  Oh you know that feeling.  Anyway of course the change occurs in the form of a mysterious gift from a mysterious janitor.  Yup, that’s right a janitor. And what does Jason acquire from this janitor?  If you guessed super powers then you are absolutely WRONG!  No he gets a metal glove that shoots BB’s.  Yup, that’s right BB’s.   So yeah the change occurs and Jason finds himself missing his sleepy boring suburban life and it’s all so wonderfully cliché that I just drunk it all up.

Now, I didn’t have any real problems with this story, the characters or the writing.  There were a few confusing parts, however.  One example of this is a little blink and you miss it scene with Jason and his two friends.  Jason has to a shot once a month for his whole life and he grew up thinking that everyone else had to get it too.  However one of his friends who just moved to Billington from out of town doesn’t have to get it and hasn’t even heard of it.  This scene is supposed to establish that yes these shots are isolated to only a few people in town but if you aren’t paying attention you could miss this little incident and not understand a key plot point which is actually what happened to me.  After a while you do find out what is going on and everything gets back on track so it wasn’t that big of a deal. 

The thing about Shusterman’s writing is that he is very adept at making the reader think.  Even in the silly Dark Side of Nowhere you spent the entire book asking deep and insightful questions.  Now, a much better example of this ability he has would be another one of his books called Unwind which I will get into at a later date, but still if you pick up this novel and read it through you will see what I mean.  If you’re looking for a good book check The Dark Side of Nowhere out, or if it doesn’t appeal to you, read any other Shusterman novel.  He is an awesome writer and you won’t be disappointed.


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Sky-Roderick Townsley

I know lots of people out there do book reviews and what not and I’m not trying to steal their shtick but everyone’s entitled to their own opinion right? This just happens to be mine. 

Anyway, the first book I want to take a look at is Sky by Roderick Townley.  It’s about a teenage boy named Sky who loves his jazz piano but his father is against it.  It was a fairly easy read, with a pretty interesting storyline.  I liked that, although this book is very focused on music in general and jazz in particular, it isn’t bogged down with terms that musically illiterate people wouldn’t understand.  That is actually something that I can’t stand when I read books centered on music.  They fill it with all these terms that only people who read music will understand and honestly it just makes these books sound pretentious.  Sky, however, was pretty good about not making the story only about how great jazz is and how stupid all the non-musicians are. 

Here’s what bugged me about it.  The summary pretty much gave the entire plot away.  It was obvious from the beginning what was going to happen but the book didn’t even let me read a few pages before I figured it out.  You read the summary on the back and you basically know what is going to happen.  Another thing about it is the characters.  You’re given a taste of who they are but they are never fully developed, even the main character Sky.  All you ever really know about him is his love for the piano and that his family is messed up. 

Still the writing was pretty good and the story wasn’t slow at all.  It was a fairly simple read that kept me more or less interested.  I’d say that if you run into this book and you’re not in the middle of something else, pick it up and give it a try but don’t go out looking for it.

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