Friday, May 30, 2008

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

I picked up Twilight to see what all the hype was about. This is a novel that rarely seems to be on the shelf, even when multiple copies are owned. I thought reading it would tell me why it's so popular, but I'm left without much of an answer.

The story revolves around Bella who moved to the small town of Forks, Washington to live with her slightly estranged father. On her first day of school she spots a table of five angelically beautiful teens, only to find out that they're all related with mystery surrounding them. One teen, Edward Cullen, catches Bella's eye, but he acts rudely towards her, almost as if she's poison. A few days later, though, he's the nicest person and a friendship soon develops. The two quickly fall in love but the mystery of Edward and his siblings deepens when a family friend lets it slip to Bella that his people believes the Cullens to be vampires. Bella suddenly has an explanation for all of her questions and Edward is forced to reveal the truth about his family and the risk it poses for Bella. She, surprisingly, doesn't fear him, but when three new vampires come to town and take an interest in Bella, suddenly everyone she knows is in danger.

The novel was entertaining and held my attention, but just not enough for me to want to recommend it to everyone I know. Maybe my expectations were too high or the vampire/human love story isn't that exciting after watching the short-lived TV show Moonlight. Whatever the case, something in Twilight was missing for me. One thing that did bother me, though, was how easily Bella accepted Edward as a vampire. Not even that, but how willing she was to consider possibly spending eternity with him if she were turned into a vampire. She is just so sickeningly in love with him. Doesn't she realize that teens fall in and out of love at the snap of a finger? Their romance was just too easy for me, if love with a vampire can ever be considered easy.

Twilight, soon to be in a theater near you, was a good book. It just wasn't mind-blowing like its popularity led me to expect.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Daemon Hall by Andrew Nance

This novel, while it won't give you nightmare, might give you a few chills. The premise is that five aspiring writers enter into a contest to be published but have to survive the night in a haunted mansion in order to win. Horror writer Ian Tremblin created the contest for his fans and joins them in Daemon Hall, an infamous haunted house. Among the contestants is the narrator, Wade Reilly, who suffers from panic attacks and fears going crazy. Soon the five contestants arrive at Daemon Hall and have to recite the story that they submitted for the contest. After the last story is read, though, strange things start happening in the house, mostly the contestants disappearing and the house locking them in. Amidst this chaos, Ian Tremblin insists that the contestants continue telling stories, believing that the house will let them go once all stories are told. Pretty soon it's a real horror version of Ten Little Indians.

This is an interesting way of doing a scary story anthology. It's a series of stories within a story - the final short story of the evening being the one the characters are living. It took a while for the main story to get eerie and once it does it's not too terrible. The stories, big and small, are not the original, but, then again, no story is entirely new. The stories ranged from vampires to psychotic serial killers to mutant spiders, supernatural televisions and possessed artifacts. The first story even sets the tone for the mysterious Daemon Hall. As for the Ten Little Indians premise, it was obvious who the "survivor" would be since the story was first person and and, in Ian Tremblin's morbid version, "The last finalist, almost had it won. Poor thing went insane and then there were none" (11). I would have liked, though, a little more of the mysterious Daemon Hall. Certain mysteries were presented, such as the matron of the household, but never explained. But, then again, maybe the creepiness of the story is not knowing.

In terms of chilling you to the bone, this novel isn't the best. It does provide a few eerie moments, but not enough to give sleepless nights. I do, though, think it could make for an interesting movie. The book created some startling visual scenes but some were confusing to visualize. A movie version might step up the creep factor.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

an abundance of katherines by john green

This book was recommended to me since I loved Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie. However, I didn't find it half as enjoyable.

The premise of the novel is that Colin - a prodigy of languages and anagrams - just got dumped by Katherine 19 - as in the nineteenth Katherine that he's dated. He's devastated and ends up on a road trip with his best friend Hassan. Soon they end up in a small town named Gutshot, hired by a woman named Hollis to interview everyone in town for an oral history. Hollis' daughter Lindsey is recruited to show the boys around, quickly becoming their friend. In the time that Colin isn't interviewing people, he's developing a theorem to explain why he's been dumped nineteen times by women named Katherine. Soon, with numbers and graphs, he's on his way to being considered a genius.

Overall, the novel wasn't terrible. It had a relatively average plot - boy with broken heart seeks solace in a small town where he throws himself in work only to meet a new girl and live happily ever after once he forgets his old flame. For me, though, the main character got in the way of it being an enjoyable book. Colin is a unique character, but, at the same time, he's too unique. What I enjoyed about Sleeping Freshmen was how realistic the main character was. I could relate to him. I can't relate to Colin because I've never been a prodigy nor have I ever met one. Also, for being an almost genius, he's pretty stupid to keep dating Katherines when he had yet to find success without them. Isn't the joke or definition of an idiot someone who does the same thing over and over again expecting different results? Colin just seemed stupid to me - book smart, but worldly dumb. What was interesting about this book, though, was that the author included footnotes with bits of information pertaining to items presented in the story. Some were interesting, some were funny, but after a while they felt like most footnotes - something to be overlooked. This novel also includes an appendix. The need for an appendix is to explain Colin's theory (another point I found tedious). Luckily the author's note mentioned the appendix was optional reading because I wasn't interested in the mathematical explanation. I skimmed a bit and it looked like it might be enjoyable, but I didn't feel like math when I was reading literature. To me the two don't/shouldn't mix.

This book wasn't terrible. Like I said, it had a decent plot. I think my disappointment comes from thinking that it'd be like Sleeping Freshmen - it's not. Both main characters are quirky, but one just came off as more realistic. For another review see April 07.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Sleeping freshmen never lie by David Lubar

Being a freshman (or fresh meat as I remember from my days in high school) is never easy. Usually freshmen year means a new school, new students, new teachers, and definitely new rules. Scott Hudson takes on this new journey head on, mapping out his course of success for future generations.

Scott starts out freshman year eager for the new adventure, figuring that with close friends, anything is possible. Then he meets his teachers, encounters the typical high school bully, is weighed down with homework, and learns that his mother is pregnant. In an effort to deal with these new stresses, he starts a journal for his future sibling, figuring that he could have benefited from this advice when he started school. Aside from dealing with the educational hazards, Scott finds himself in love with Julia, a girl he shared cookies with in Kindergarten. Soon he's doing everything and anything to get her attention, from running for student council, joining the newspaper, and auditioning for the school play all because that's what she was doing. In the chaos that is high school, Scott finds out what it means to be a true friend and that everyone's interpretation of a great and ideal life is different.

This book blew my mind. One of the great things about this book is how realistic it is. True it indulges in the stereotypical football player and bully, not to mention freak and geek, but that makes the story even more endearing. Scott was a very relateable character. I'm sure that everyone has had that girl/guy that they've pined after and drooled over. I found it nice to see a guy doing it rather than a girl. At the same time, many of his high school experiences are typical to life, at least from my high school days. Scott's experiences also included comedy that made this novel stand out from the average "my struggle through life/school" book. One thing that I loved about the novel is how Scott got creative in his story telling. There are moments when he incorporates what he's learning in his narrative. For example, he illustrates the different narrative points of view as the teacher teaches the subject. In another situation, he used multiple similes to describe something after he learned about similes in class. The fluid way that Lubar wrote these in was beyond creative. At first I didn't notice it, but when I caught on, I went looking for the tricks later on. On top of that, though, the book isn't just about comedy or creative writing, or even surviving. It's about finding what matters in life and loyalty and friendship. It's about making a mark in life even if you're just trying to survive it.

This is overall just a great, fun book. I don't know that it sets out to be all insightful and to have this big powerful message, but in a subtle way it did, especially since teens sometimes need to be reminded that everyone struggles in life and it's not always over big things. I don't see this being the next Of Mice and Men but, nonetheless, it's an enjoyable book that many teens, and even older people, will relate to. Sometimes it's nice to read a fluffy book with depth.