A Review On “Hangman’s Curse”

Hangman’s Curse by Frank Peretti

First off, I’d like to give a disclaimer: I am a little too old for this book, so I have found faults with it that age appropriate readers probably  wouldn’t notice. Also, being a writer, I am highly critical of style as well as content, and make notes to myself the entire time I read most anything, which makes me a little nit picky. That being said, let’s get to the review.

The whole idea behind the series is that there is a private organization, called the Veritas Project, which investigates bizarre crime scenes with the object of finding the truth using a Christ-centered perspective. The thing about this that I found rather hard to swallow is that it reports back to the President, without actually being federal. The individual cases are even discussed on the phone with him before the group takes them. I can’t really imagine any of our recent Presidents, even the “Christian” ones, supporting something outside of their federal control, let alone taking the time for private phone calls with them. I think Peretti would have been just as well off making it a completely private organization.

I also felt that it came off a little preachy in the beginning, when the goals and methods of the organization were being explained, and in the end, when things were being wrapped up. I have nothing against explaining Christianity in fiction, but I do have something against dumping all of one’s beliefs, or a character’s beliefs, into one conversation, no matter what those beliefs are. It’s too much explaining. Even in a conversation full of tension, it can still be dry and boring, and, well, preachy.

A very minor thing that bothered me was the one main character, a girl named Elisha, is straight out described as “attractive.” I have no problem with good looking characters, but I want to be shown that they’re attractive, not told. Paired with a perfect Christian personality, it just made her seem less real, like an ideal. Tell me she has blond hair, tell me she has a sweet smile, but don’t tell me she’s “attractive.” It just feels lazy to me. Anyway, that’s more of a pet peeve than anything else.

Those are the only things I have to say against the book, however. It was intense, interesting, had well thought out and diverse characters, kept up the suspense, and had you double-guessing till the very end. The danger was real and frightening, the stakes were high. I think this book is perfect for eighth through tenth graders, though be forewarned: it does deal with occult stuff. There’s nothing terribly detailed, but it is there; if your kids are in school, however, I doubt any of it will shock them. If your kids are homeschooled, you might want to make sure they know what a Ouija board is first, as, chances are, they’ve never seen one. I first heard on them when I was in sixth grade, but I’m pretty sure my brother, who is in seventh, doesn’t know about them. I guess I’ll have to ask him when I’m done with this.

So, my conclusion is, four stars for Hangman’s Curse. I still like the Cooper Kids series, by the same author, and for just a slightly younger audience, better though.

A Review on “My Name Is Not Easy”

My Name Is Not Easy by Debby Dahl Edwardson

I expected to cry. The very title says this is not going to be an easy read. After reading the description, I put the book back on the library shelf. Eskimos being mistreated at boarding school? I knew it would make me cry, make me angry. But I went back for it, because sometimes, crying is good. I never remember, though, when I get a book like this, just how upset it makes me. I expected white people who treat Eskimos and Indians like half-humans. I did not expect an insane priest who beats them with a two-by-four, yelling at them that they were destined for Hell at birth. I did not expect the military to come in and treat them like lab animals. I did not expect so many things, so many things that made me so angry, made it so that not only did I cry, but I couldn’t stop. Because even though I did not do those things, nor did my father, nor did my grandfather, nor even my great-grandfather, I feel responsible. Because I am white. Because no matter how much people say the color of your skin doesn’t matter, it does. If I were to go to Alaska, the Eskimos, the Inuit, would look at me through the lenses my people have shaped; they would see all those things reflecting back on me. That’s why it makes me so sick. I never wanted any of that. This is not a true story, but it’s fictional accounts of true stories. It’s only too real. These things happened, and they happened to people still alive today.

I’ve probably made you never want to pick up this book, but you should. Even though it completely tore me apart, I was right when I went back and pulled it back off the shelf. Sometimes crying is good. Knowledge is power, knowledge is inspiration. Inspiration to do something about what has been done.

A Review on “Lies My Teacher Told Me”

Lies My Teacher Told Me by James W. Loewen

Prepare to have your mind blown. Prepare to be outraged. I’m homeschooled, which means I don’t even read the standard textbooks, but there are historical lies in here that I have still heard. That’s how much they’ve seeped into our culture. That’s why they’re so hard to get rid of. Even worse than the lies, it seems to me, are the things we leave out, the important things in our past that we never hear about. I would recommend this book to everybody. In fact, I can’t say enough for it. It will not only inspire you to have your children learn history differently, but it will also inspire you to look deeper for yourself. And, as my one friend and I have discussed, it will make you want to write your own textbook. I do not think I am really up to that, though. I do want to read more about the parts of my past no one ever told me about, however; the parts that the “experts” say aren’t important. Because I have read some, and I know for myself that they are important. History doesn’t have to be the dry stuff they write in textbooks; if you read books by people who have been there, either in real life or even just at the dig sites, the stories start to come alive. They start to mean something. They start to do what history is meant to do: show us our past so that we can learn from it and hopefully do better. Good history can inspire us to run just as hard, even harder, than the amazing people we read about; to respect what they did and to reach even higher. That’s what history is all about, and no one shows is better than Loewen. You can’t miss out on this book!

A Review On “Inheritance”

Inheritance by Christopher Paolini

So, I finished Inheritance, the last book in the series called The Inheritance Cycle, which started with the book Eragon.  It took forever. I started in in November, and finished it in March. It’s just so long that I got bored… there were a couple months where I didn’t read it at all, not because it wasn’t good, but because it was just so long. It really could have been two books; there was literally a point in almost the exact middle where the first plot ends, and there’s some swimming around time until the second one starts. Then of course there’s the whole Star Wars parallel (in case you haven’t heard, or didn’t noticed if you’ve read the other books, Paolini pretty much followed the plot of the Star Wars movies the whole way through), which took some of the suspense out of it, of course. I had previously said that I wished he (the author) would have kept the characters, trashed the story and made a new one with them. Then the other day I wondered if he could have kept the story and just taken the Star Wars part out of it. I started pondering how he could have done this and in like five minutes, I had figured out how to completely change the plot so as to take Star Wars completely out of it, while keeping most of his characters. He could have done that. I know he could have. There are pieces of those books that are pure brilliance, ingenious pieces of originality, like every book should be made of. Why he felt the need to fall back on someone else’s plot, I have no idea. I guess he just didn’t try hard enough. He didn’t care. From what I’ve read, he doesn’t consider what he did plagiarism  I’m not sure what his definition of plagiarism is, because there are a few parts that quote the movies so closely that I laugh in disbelief.

You’re probably asking why I even read them, then. Well, I mentioned the brilliant pieces, right? Plus it’s not Star Wars exactly, of course. There are dragons, characters that he truly did create, and deviations from the source that you wonder how he’s going to work out. So even though I was really pretty disgusted after reading Eldest, I ended up deciding to finish the series out.

Maybe it’ll help to kind of spell out what I thought of each installment in the series:

  1. Eragon– I loved this one. I was immediately enchanted, and having not watched Star Wars yet, I was innocently oblivious.
  2. Eldest- I liked the first half… about like Inheritance, I guess… and then Eragon started to get mushy, the story slowed down toward the middle, and as I had now watched Star Wars, I was now left without a doubt as to what the author was up to.
  3. Brisingr- I finally decided to forgive Eldest of it’s faults and find out how he would end the thing. I loved this book; my faith was renewed. Yes, Star Wars still lurked in the background, but he actually changed some thing up in this one (which makes me more confident that he could have done things much differently had he wanted to).
  4. Inheritance- I entered into this book with all the high hopes that the last book had left me with, but in most places, it failed. You know they say a bad ending can ruin a whole book for someone, and that’s what happened to me. That, and getting bored in the middle.

I won’t tell you why the ending upset me just in case you decide to read them. Because, after all, I’m not telling you shouldn’t, by any means, just… warning you. I enjoyed parts and hated others. I guess it depends on what you’re willing to put yourself through. I wouldn’t have done it for the main character, Eragon. He’s OK, but he’s not my favorite; Roran is. Well, that and Angela. She’s pretty funny. And I can’t forget Murtagh either. It’s not like Eragon is a poorly built character, or unlikable, just not really my type. Thankfully, he’s not the only viewpoint we get, so even if I didn’t like what was happening with Eragon at a certain point, usually the other characters’ stories in other parts of the conflict were enough to keep me reading.

If nothing else, I’ve learned a lot writing-wise from this series. I’ve learned certain things that work and others that defiantly don’t. I recommended at least the first book to a fellow writer friend simply as an introduction to mind speaking and bonds between humans and dragons. I’m sure there are other books that do it every bit as well or better, but surprisingly, as much as I love fantasy, I haven’t really read a whole lot of it (at least compared to what other fantasy fans seem to read). Plus every book seems to do those things differently, and I figure, the more perspectives you have on them, the better! The only other reason I would really recommend them is if you’re an absolute fantasy fanatic, or at least a dragon fanatic (After all, the dragons are awesome, and their personalities are completely original), because if you love stuff like that, you’re probably going to be more willing to go through the torture to get to the jewels. Or maybe plagiarism doesn’t bother you at all; in that case, go for it! Enjoy it for all it’s worth. Obviously there are quite a few people like that out there, because they’ve sold very well (even if the movie didn’t).

I guess, in the end, I just have to say that it’s mind candy. It’s fun but it’s got a lot of faults as well.

A Review on “To Kill A Mockingbird”

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

I am sure others have said it more eloquently than I can hope to accomplish, but when I love a book this much I can not help but try to say why. Everyone loves different books for different reasons, and I loved this one because of the way it places you in a child’s mind. A child who’s mind is being stretched by the things going on around her, a mind that is struggling to make sense of the world. How on earth does Harper Lee capture us with a story about a lazy small town? How does she fascinate us with the everyday? I think that the voice that tells her story is the magic key. Scout doesn’t have any prejudices yet; she is being molded by those around her. She argues with them and puzzles about them and finally makes up her mind about them. She carefully watches all that is happening, and though she only discerns half of it, the older reader can pick up on all the rest. Sometimes, though, Scout is the wiser. She reaches straight through to ways of seeing things we would have never found, and says things we never would have dared to say, because we understand all the implications, but she does not.

I was reluctant to read this book, I must admit. I mean, the title doesn’t sound all that appealing, even if you know it isn’t really about killing mockingbirds. In fact, I think that made it even worse, because then I asked, “Well then, what is it about?” and the back of the book (I have the Warner Books edition) didn’t tell me much, and all my Mom said was, “It’s about prejudices in the south.” Well, I felt I had already read enough about that, but the more books I read with that all-encompassing description, the more I find that there is more to that topic than I ever imagined. We are a very diverse people, on this planet, and we all seem to have a different way of looking at things, a different way of saying things, a different community of thought that shapes us. For another thing, this book is about more than one kind of prejudice, so even if, after that, you still feel that you have read plenty of material on black discrimination, that’s still no excuse to not read this book. History books tell you the story from the point of politicians. This tells you the story from the point of the people who lived during that time in their own small town, only distantly affected by those all-important matters. It tells you what people thought back then, which is every bit as important, I believe, as the events themselves.

I can understand the vague descriptions on the book covers. I’m not sure that I could do better. I also understand why everyone says you should read it, and I heartily agree with them. You really should not miss out on this one. I don’t think you need a big study guide to accompany it; if the author thought it needed that, she would have written one herself. Just sit down in a comfortable spot and read it. That’s what Lee intended. That’s how you’ll enjoy it the most. When you’re done, see if your view of things hasn’t changed just a little bit. Maybe you’ll smile every time you see a mockingbird. Maybe you’ll stop and think every time too. That’s what I do. I hope you do too.