Friday, July 15, 2011

Happiness is...a good book. (Summer Reading edition #18 & #19)

There are two reviews today as promised.  I will also give you a few random thoughts about my excursion to Harry Potter last night but I'll put them at the end in case you haven't seen the movie yet and don't want to be swayed by my opinions!

The Timekeeper’s Moon
Author: Joni Sensel
Pages: 340
Age Range: 10+
Published: 2010
Genre: Juvenile Fantasy/Sci-Fi
Cover Score: ***
Overall Grade: ****
Rating: PG

This is a sequel to The Farwalker's Quest which I highly recommend reading. This review may contain spoilers for that book, just FYI.

Ariel Farwalker is being tormented by the moon. Her nights are filled with sleepwalking and night terrors and taunting voices calling her to begin another journey but she fears it as she's never feared anything before in her short 14 years on earth. Her sojourn at Tree-Singer's Abbey with Zeke is at an end but she has no idea where she is to go.  Trusting only the pull of her feet and the urgency of the voices of the moon, trees and rocks she and Scarl Finder (her protector and guardian) set off to follow the uninterpretable map and fix whatever it is that is wrong.

Their past comes back to haunt them in startling ways (a horse abandoned on an earlier quest shows up one evening grazing next to their camp, a dress made by Ariel's mother and shredded into bandanges appears like new in her pack, scars long-since healed begin again to bleed and ache as if new) and Ariel's intuition isn't always as true as it has been. They add some travelers to their little band from distant villages which changes the dynamics in ways they never could have imagined. Love and jealousies, distrust and fear creep in and threaten the quest and possibly the world's future.

There are additional hints to the way the world was before the blindness fell; a community that lives inside a large dam and feeds off the 'lectrick' that most people no longer remember except in story, the ruins of a large satellite dish that has become the stuff of nightmares--a malicious giant with an all-seeing eye, the stories of Noah and even the movie Groundhog Day that have become skewed into vaguely recognizable legends and tales of warning. Old-fashioned magic and forgotten science blend this new world into a not-quite-dystopian, not-quite-high-fantasy mish mosh that is at once new and familiar.

Sensel has a lovely way of writing. She's not overtly lyrical or flowery but her prose flows trippingly along like a happy stream carrying you away with it.  Her storytelling is equally lovely. She spins a fine adventure not as powerful as say Rowling, but with an ease and a charm all her own. Reading her stories is an extremely pleasant experience (which may sound lame but I mean that in the most complimentary sense...there is no struggling here at all and while there is tension and drama within the story and you feel realistically caught up in it, it still remains gently rolling and natural rather than abrupt or choppy without exaggerated cliff hangers and overused exclamation marks and seemingly impossible repetitions of death and mayhem-though it contains plenty of both!)

I thoroughly enjoyed this story though I confess I didn't find myself as intrigued by this one as I did the first. Definitely worth a read though. I can see this acting as a mild precursor for those not quite ready to experience the dark, intense violence of The Maze Runner and The Hunger Games


Author: Emma Donoghue
Pages: 321
Age Range: Adult
Published: 2010
Genre: Fiction
Cover Score: ***
Overall Grade: ****
Rating: PG-13

I’m not quite sure how to talk about this without giving too much away so I’ll try to be vague.
Five-year-old Jack's entire world consists of’ 'Room’, the souped-up shed where he and his mother are held captive by sadistic Old Nick who abducted Ma when she was nineteen. The two have a meager subsistence relying on Nick's “kindness” (he provides them with the bare necessities and an occasional 'Sunday Treat' like the balloons they blow up one at a time, using each one for an entire month before blowing up another one) and Ma's inventiveness. She's fiercely protective of the boy hiding him in Wardrobe whenever Nick comes for a visit and taking extreme care that he gets enough exercise and learns to read, do math and so forth. But he has no idea that an outside world exists. The channels on TV show various "planets" where he learns about animals and people but believes he, Ma and Nick are the only inhabitants of his own planet and everything else is the product of someone's imagination or only part of some other distant planet.

It’s all told from his point of view and you see his innocent and naïve perspective of his limited existence.  Everything is important to him. Every inanimate object seems to have a personality and is his close personal friend; the snake made from egg shells that he keeps under the bed, Rug (everything is called by its title as if it were its proper name) where the blood spot still shows from when he was born and TV where Dora and his other friends live.

Your heart aches for the mother while you marvel at her resilience. She faces the continual abusive visits from Nick yet keeps a relatively consistent and stable environment for her young son. She begins to get restless and speaks more and more of the world outside causing great confusion for Jack who just can’t grasp the concept that things exist outside of the confines of his small existence. It's fascinating and heartbreaking to realize what they've both gone through and that the hardest part is yet to come. I can’t say much else without giving anything away so go read it!

Despite the dark and disturbing circumstances the book itself is surprisingly light (not in a happy-go-lucky sort of way, just in a non-overly depressing one.) I’m not sure that I can quite say I liked it, that seems the wrong term to use but I was fascinated by the psychological and social implications of everything. It gave me a lot to think about and made me look at my own life in a different light. I’m good at complaining but I found it hard to do anything but be grateful for what I have while I was reading this. Highly recommended!

******* Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 2---possible spoiler alert!******

So, I'm working under the assumption that you've read the books so I'm not going to give you any background information.  If you haven't read the books, why the heck are you wasting your time reading this? Get thee to a library or a bookstore and start reading. Now!

Okay, so I loved what they did with the first part of the movie. The slow pace and lack of action while hunting the horcruxes added to the characters' frustrations and feelings of helplessness. They stuck very closely to the book and built everything so beautifully in preparation for this final installment, I was really excited to see what they were going to do with it.

And they let it all fall flat. 

All the details were there. I had no problem with the story line and what they chose to show and leave out but the pacing was way off. I felt as if we were running a marathon, fighting right alongside the Order of the Phoenix with nary a chance to catch our breaths. There was no time given to process all the information we were given and feel the emotional impact of what was going on.

I cry at the drop of a hat. I sobbed  when Dobby died in the book and confess there were tears running down my cheeks when it happened in the movie.  I sobbed again when Fred, Lupin and Tonks were killed, when Percy swallowed his pride and rejoined the family, when the truth about Snape was revealed and several other places throughout the book. Such powerfully emotional scenes of sacrifice and redemption should have been tear-jerkers on the big screen but were brushed over so quickly you didn't have time to feel much of anything when they took place.

It was a good movie but I think they missed the mark and lost the opportunity to make it a truly great movie. Maybe I just had really, really high expectations and will feel differently after a second viewing but I was disappointed. I liked it, but so wanted to love it. I suppose I'll just have to go back and read the book again.

I found a quote online today (it came through Pinterest without a source so I have no idea where it originated, sorry!) that sums up my feelings exactly.

“When I’m 80 years old and sitting in my rocking chair, I’ll be reading Harry Potter. And my family will say to me, “After all this time?” And I will say, “Always.” 
- Alan Rickman

Perfection from Severus Snape himself. I can't think of a way to improve upon it, so I'll just say again...go forth and read!

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