Monday, November 22, 2010

The City of Ember

From Goodreads: The city of Ember was built as a last refuge for the human race. Two hundred years later, the great lamps that light the city are beginning to flicker. When Lina finds part of an ancient message, she’s sure it holds a secret that will save the city. She and her friend Doon must decipher the message before the lights go out on Ember forever!

I read this book years ago, and fell in love with it at first sight. It was an amazing read. As a young teenager, I didn’t think science-fiction could get any better than this. The characters spoke to me, the setting marvelled me, the story had me on the edge of my seat. When I found out a movie was going to be made about it, I squealed. Literally. And excitedly jumped up and down for about five minutes.

I have reread it with critical eyes. I found that even though I still appreciated the book, I no longer adored it like when I was younger. I was nonetheless drawn in and interested throughout the book. That, I believe, is the true mark of a good children’s book: it can mesmerize teenagers and adults as well as children.

The characters were interesting, and well constructed, though many things were left untold. I would’ve liked a little more characterization, but then again, it’s a children’s book; so if it were any longer it probably would’ve discouraged the less motivated readers.

The world created was probably what I loved best, and I remember, for weeks after reading this book, how I had an unhealthy obsession with caves. Indeed, the world Lina and Doon live in is built entirely underground, in a huge, brightly-lit, cave. I loved how it was completely decrepit, and how everyone lived in a perpetual state of need, and how there wasn’t enough of anything anymore and the people of Ember had to adapt and recycle literally everything. The ever-lasting longing every citizen of Ember felt for things as essential as food was extremely well described, and this is probably one of the strongest points of the book, with the world-building: the beautiful yet simple very descriptive writing.

The plot in itself is also interesting, though not quite original enough for me to love it. Indeed, it is a basic, simple, “we need to save the world” plotline, with not much twist to it. If it wasn’t for the amazing world, it probably would’ve been a very bland book. So don’t read this book expecting to see an amazing story, because there isn’t one: the true impressiveness of this book lies in the city of Ember itself.

It is a good read; fun, without being light-headed, serious, without drowning the reader in dark themes and nerve-wracking plot-lines. Some issues were still talked about, like corruption, poverty and how a society faces a crisis, but it wasn’t painfully moralizing like some other books. Overall, a nice, quick read that I recommend to those of you who still feel young at heart and want a fast-paced, interesting novel for a weekend’s entertainment.


The City of Ember by Jeanne Duprau

Rating: 7,7/10
P.S.: This book has been made into a movie, but I haven’t seen it yet and the critiques about it are awful. Do any of you have comments about this?

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Garden of Everlasting Spring

The curse hanging over the Laguna family ruins golden-eyed Clara’s love. The distress thrown on the girl causes a miracle to happen; the red house’s garden starts to bloom all year around despite nature’s laws. Women from the next generations live condemned by the merciless fate of unhappy love, loneliness and revenge. Will any of them manage to reverse their destiny? "The Garden of Everlasting Spring" is written in a colorful language. It is a multi-generational saga, where the heroines fall in love only once - for life. It is a stunning and inspiring story of hidden passions, sinful pleasures and about the power of love.

This book was originally written in Spanish, and it seems it has only been translated to Polish for now, so no, it isn't available in English. Yet, when it comes out, I really, really recommend readers that are fan of romance and drama to buy it.

I was in Poland, in my little southern village called Iwonicz Zdroj, when I bought this book. The cover was like a magnet. (I need to brag about how polish publishing houses know how to choose the best covers, even more beautiful than the American ones. :P ) I must say I wasn't disappointed by this novel, and if it wasn't for school, I would have already read it. I can't believe such a masterpiece was left unread for 3 months!

In Spanish; "The house of impossible love", and in Polish; "The Garden of Eternal/Everlasting Spring", is the kind of book that is so good you fear of reading it for too long, and end up reading it bits by bits, enjoying it slowly, and looking forward to the next time you'll pick it up. The books that I read this way are rare, but they always come out as my favorite works, the kind I can read over and over again.

This story is first of all a saga, and it starts in Spain, in a little village in the mountains around 1896. It is the story of multiple characters, that spreads over an entire century. Some might be ready to argue that because the characters live and die, and new ones appear, none of them are developed sufficiently enough for the 340 pages that contains the book. Wrong. The book is all about the characters, their love, misery, happiness. Their story is narrated so well that we very easily get to know them. I must say I loved all of the characters. They all had their faults and strengths, and every woman brought something new. The relationships were explored on all sides, and even when the time if a character came and went, her deeds weren't forgotten. They were mentioned again later in the book. Their presence never disappeared.

Another thing I loved about this book is that it's a saga. It takes place during an entire century. The changes of times, the world's evolution, all that was magnificently portrayed. I loved seeing the characters grow up, pass from childhood to adulthood and then give birth to the next girl, and watch the curse take effect each time. Of course it isn't really a 'curse'. The story has nothing to do with magic and spells. It's a beautiful tale of love and passion, and how it isn't love that dies, but ourselves.

The writing; Exquisite. Inspiring. Beautiful. Masterpiece. The book itself is a masterpiece in my eyes. The writing made the world come alive; the smells, every shadow and light, the colors, the characters themselves. There's only one book whose writing ever inspired me so much, and it was Libba Bray's A Great and Terrible Beauty (and its sequels).

I have nothing negative to say. This book isn't filled with action. It isn't a thriller you read in one sitting. it isn't Suzanne Collin's Hunger Games. It also isn't a cliche and sappy romance story like Twilight. It's this beautiful thing you don't want to die. I think it deserves a prize of some sort.

The Garden of Everlasting Spring by Cristina Lopez Barrio Rating: 9,7/10

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Interview With The Vampire

This is the book that started it all. We are in a small room with the vampire, face to face, as he speaks--as he pours out the hypnotic, shocking, moving, and erotically charged confessions of his first two hundred years as one of the living dead.

I have never liked vampires very much, not before reading Twilight and certainly not after reading it and a couple of other YA vampire novels. Having read only pathetic baits for crazed teenage fangirls craving sappy romance, also meaning to bring in lots of cash and standing as potential sources of horrible movies, I never really got to get familiar with the true vampires. Of course, I knew about the blood drinking and the coffin-sleeping, but a friend of mine persuaded me to read this, in order to enjoy a real and worthy vampire novel. Interview With The Vampire did not make me like vampires more, but it certainly made me see the real picture, and I'm grateful for that.

Honestly, Twilight and everything that came afterward is negligible compared to Anne Rice's first vampire novel. This book was not about sparkling brooding vampire teens, but about real vampires, those who lived in the 18th century, who slept in coffins, fed of humans at night and wore silky jabots and embroidered suits, hiding from the sun and the fire. I liked that I was confronted to the real monster instead of some ridiculous falsity named Edward Cullen, and that I got to experience the life of a vampire beside the characters, the life of the vampire as the world knew it. Anne Rice crafted her book around the original version of the blood-drinking creatures, but by still adding a bit of her own to it.

The reason why I loved these vampires so much was due to the writing. The scenes when they attacked their victims, drank their blood and tore the skin were so rich, so well described it was a great pleasure to read. It was as if you were there, on the scene, seeing everything with your own eyes! Even if I read the book in French, I can guess by the varied vocabulary and the numerous metaphors that Anne Rice is a competent writer. Her descriptions were full and beautiful. She truly brought the beauty of the world during the 18th century to the reader's eyes.

I shall say that these are the two major things I love in this book; the very well exploited concept of vampires, and the masterful writing that crafted this book.

Interview With The Vampire is nevertheless not a very action-packed book. The story revolves around Louis de La Pointe du Lac, who has been turned into a vampire by Lestat, with who he thereupon lives before adding another character to the group, Claudia, a young girl that will from the moment she is turned into a vampire be trapped in the body of a five-year old. The story is narrated by Louis, and it is the story of a vampire's slow birth throughout 200 years. Those who expect great mysteries, lots of action, romance and drama will be disappointed. The drama is delivered sufficiently, but Interview With The Vampire is a very deep and psychological book. Throughout the entire novel we follow Louis as he mediates on his case and the cases of others, and so the readers has to go through long, elaborated, meticulous dialogs or walls of text about bad and good, God and Devil.

I personally didn't relish it so much. I loved all the reflecting and the deepness of the story, but I'd rather have a bit more action, a bit more plot in what I read. This book can be said to have no plot, actually, since it simply recalls a part of life of a certain character. The plot itself is the series of events. This is why I my appreciation of the book was moderated until the last 100 pages, where things picked up a bit more.

The characters. I can't say I liked any of them, and here is why: Louis was terribly dull, weak, and easy to manipulate. He easily accepts any misfortune fallen upon his shoulders without fighting back, and lets the others pull him by the ears. Lestat was terribly conceited, whiny and arrogant, to the point where you wonder why Louis ever put up with him. Claudia was a spoiled and egoistic brat, the type you should get rid of as quickly as possible. These characters didn't harvest your sympathy or pity, and mainly got on your nerves most of the time. That's why I didn't like any of them.

Yet I still bore with each of them, for the simple reason that they were developed, something most characters lack in today's book. Even if the characters themselves didn't have a persona that pleased me, I was still interested in why they were like this and how it acted on the other characters. Let's take Louis, by example. Louis was always so confused and afraid of his nature of vampire, simply because as a mortal, he had been very close to God, and that one day he woke up immortal, killing of humans, which totally shattered his conception of good and bad. He loved Claudia as his child, the child he had educated and shared his passion for books and knowledge he couldn't have shared with Lestat. Lestat, on the other hand, was hungry of luxury and wealth, for as a mortal he had never gotten any of those things, and now that he was immortal, there was no reason not to seek all he desired. Claudia was the woman trapped in the body of a five-year old, weak physically, frail and in need of care, something she didn't want to. She kept on trying to act like a woman, but how could that look on the face of a child? She loved Louis as a lover, but Louis loved her as a father.

And so, all of these characters were crafted with such realistic weaknesses, with so much behind their unlikable personas, that I almost didn't mind that I didn't like them.

Another flaw in Anne Rice's novel is the very vague use of 'love'. There was a lot of 'love' between the characters; Louis and Claudia, Claudia and Madeleine, Louis and Armand, even between Louis and Lestat. Yet, this love was never defined. Was it a romantic, fatherly or friendly love? In most cases I never understood what were the characters' feelings.

Thus, as you see, this book has many flaws but also good points. Personally, it didn't blow me away. It didn't mark me emotionally, neither did it inspire me. But it opened my mind; I learned new things and met the true nature of the vampire. I know there are several other books following, but I'll pick them up another day. I highly recommend this book for those who want better than Twilight and its numerous imitations.

Interview With The Vampire by Anne Rice

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Giver

From Goodreads: In the "ideal" world into which Jonas was born, everybody has sensibly agreed that well-matched married couples will raise exactly two offspring, one boy and one girl. These children's adolescent sexual impulses will be stifled with specially prescribed drugs; at age 12 they will receive an appropriate career assignment, sensibly chosen by the community's Elders.

This is a world in which the old live in group homes and are "released"--to great celebration--at the proper time; the few infants who do not develop according to schedule are also "released," but with no fanfare.

Lowry's development of this civilization is so deft that her readers, like the community's citizens, will be easily seduced by the chimera of this ordered, pain-free society. Until the time that Jonah begins training for his job assignment--the rigorous and prestigious position of Receiver of Memory--he, too, is a complacent model citizen. But as his near-mystical training progresses, and he is weighed down and enriched with society's collective memories of a world as stimulating as it was flawed, Jonas grows increasingly aware of the hypocrisy that rules his world.

With an eerie futuristic setting, Lowry is once again in top form--raising many questions while answering few, and unwinding a tale fit for the most adventurous readers.

We are so sorry for the lack of updates! Beryl and I are in our senior year of high school, and we didn’t think it was so much work! We’re both overachievers, so we hardly have any time for books and this site. Please stay with us, though! We’ll try to read enough to provide you a few reviews every month.

The Giver is a book the juniors read every year at our school, and they kind of hate it. All of them hate it, really, without exception. I don’t see why, though. I absolutely loved this book, even though it was rather plot-less. It was a book of feelings, and the author has the amazing ability to transmit her emotions through her words.

Jonas, our protagonist, is brave and intelligent, even in his young age. He has started to see things others don’t see, and has been chosen to be the next Receiver of memories of his community. The Receiver knows everything. He is taught everything of a world before Sameness, of the world we live in.

The world built is perfect, supposedly. But to me, it is simply eerie. A guy with whom I was talking claimed it was a magnificent utopia; I call it a disturbing dystopia. I guess it’s just how you look at it, really. Nonetheless, it was a fascinating world I would gladly read more about. I would hate to live in a gray world where everyone is the same. Colors and art are such an important part of my life, I would be unable to live without it, and the way this world works captured me. Who would’ve thought to create a world where people willingly accept never to think, never to choose, don’t ever see color, but also a world with no war, no fear, no hard choices?

The Giver is a book of tenderness, emotion, and feelings. It is amazing. It can make you feel the warmth of Christmas, make you fall in love with colors all over again, show you an orange sunset and give you the calmness that comes with it. But it also can make you disgusted with the world by showing you pain and hunger, though not with as much efficiency as it gives the happier feelings. I highly recommend and praise this book. I didn’t find it had much of a plot, but that might be because I didn’t fully understand the ending I recommend it nonetheless. It is a book you feel in your heart and cherish once you are done.


The Giver by Lois Lowry

Rating: 8/10