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.

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A Review On “The Three Musketeers”

The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas

I find the title of this book a little deceiving; it should really be called “D’Artagnan and the Three Musketeers”, because the story is actually about a young Gascon man named D’Artagnan. The Musketeers are only his friends. They are certainly very amusing friends. Anyone who has read this book will never forget Arimis, Porthos, and Athos, their unique personalities, or the scrapes they all get each other in and out of. The two downsides to this book I found was that it started out rather slow (but then again, most old books do), and that there are places where one plot ends and you wonder where the next one will begin? This made more sense when I learned that this, like many books of it’s time, started out as installments in a newspaper. The characters’ way of looking at women and their relationships with them also caught me off guard; this story takes place in a time where marriage was not regarded as much. In fact, it seems that if one fell in love with a married woman it only made the romance more exciting! Of course, because this is a comedy first and foremost, nothing serious or objectionable ever happens. All they do is visit each other in the middle of the night and exchange handkerchiefs. Despite these things, however, I ended up loving this book. Adventure after adventure, characters that become your best friends… you can’t get much better. It’s huge; it took me a long time, it sometimes made me roll my eyes, but it also made me laugh, sometimes even out loud, and it made me hold my breath in suspense; especially at the end. I would definitely recommend this book for high-school students, though it would be too much for most middle-schoolers. My favorite character would have to be Athos; I will forever remember the picnic in the fort tower. But you will have to read the book to figure out what I’m talking about! Then you can come back here and tell me who your favorite character is!

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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 of “The Hunger Games” series

Oh, naughty me! Two weeks without a single post. Well, you can blame this review, because it’s given me lots of trouble, and I’m still not quite sure how to go about it. But, I shall try my best.

The Hunger Games (the whole series) by Suzanne Collins

First, I thought I would try to convince all the reluctant readers out there that this is a treasure. Then I thought, well, maybe I’ll just tell them how it rocked my world. And then I thought, how am I going to do either of those things without carrying on forever and never actually getting across the point? And then I told myself to just say what it is I want to say. So I will, as clearly as I possibly can.

I love these books. I love them with all my heart. I do not find them perfect, nor do they always make me feel good, but I love them. In fact, several times they made me really mad, and sometimes they would ruin my whole day. I got really tired of them being all I could think about, but they taught me something. They taught me a few things, actually, some being about life, and some that were about writing, and they gave me some challenges I haven’t quite worked out yet. On the surface these books are a romance with quite a lot of action mixed in. For those that take the time to pause and look deeper, however, they are so much more. I won’t tell you what those things are, because I want you to read the books and find them, and because Collins can say it so much better than I can.

I don’t believe there’s any great argument I can make to convince you to read these books, though I wish there were, because I love a good argument. I will say this, however: they’re not as violent as they seem like they would be. The only way I can explain this is that the author obviously hates violence, her main character, who is the voice telling the story, hates violence, and the bad guys are the only ones who like it. The books are violent to the point that I wouldn’t let anyone under the age of twelve read them, though. The romance would be another reason, though it actually surprised me how innocent it stayed throughout the whole series, and another would be some things mentioned in the third book that are of a rather mature nature.

When I think Hunger Games, I don’t see Katniss and Peeta kissing, and I don’t see them fighting. I see a boy’s face covered in scars and tears and a girl who’s haunted by nightmares. They tear at my heart and they call me to do something in this big, sad world. How can I say it best without trying to retell the story? I can only say that Suzanne Collins has done her job well. She has written a piece of fiction that takes place in a future version of our world, wrapped me up tightly in it, and shown me a bitter sight. I will warn you that the end is not a pretty picture. It gives one hope, and it finishes things well, but this is no fairy tale and it has no happily ever after. It’s a tale of humanity at it’s best and worst moments. There are no glowing heroes, simply people determined to stay human and take care of those they love. This is why I love The Hunger Games. Not because it’s a thrill ride or because it has a sweet romance or because it’s the most popular series out there right now and everyone loves it. I love it because it’s a battle cry for humanity to rise above what’s expected.

Have I said it well? I’m still doubting it, but if I wait to figure out the perfect way to say it you’ll never read this review. So I’ll let this go and hope you like it, and that it convinces just a few more of you to read the series. It really is worth your time. I promise.

A Review on “Seven Daughters and Seven Sons”

Seven Daughters and Seven Sons by Barbra Cohen

(this review is especially for Sonlight users, but I’m sure others will benefit from it as well)

I haven’t got a whole lot of good to say about this book, unlike most of the reviewers on Amazon. The only reason I gave it two stars (on Amazon) is that it was interesting and at times funny. In fact, I liked the first of the three sections pretty well. It is defiantly for a younger audience (I’m 17), it was not VERY well written, but tolerable, and certain things worked out a little too nicely to be believed, but what kid was going to catch that? By the time I was done, I was pretty sure that I wouldn’t want any young kid reading this book. There are too many sexual references. First there’s the prince, who has the second section, who says, “I thought I was content with the slave girls I called for whenever the mood struck me.” Granted, the child is not going to pick up on what that means, but need the author have even put that in there? Later, at a feast, he mentions letting his favorite slave girl go to someone else. Again, just enough to make the curious child wonder what he’s talking about. The part that I really object too is in the third part, where the story has returned to the main character, Buran, when she gives a very detailed description of her naked body as she examines it. Plus there was the part where she finds her male cousin working as a prostitute. It is not said in so many words, of course, but quite clearly shown. These where not the only problems I found. The prince’s section is more badly written than the rest. Also, the point of the story is that in order to make money for her family, Buran disguises herself as a man and goes into the trade business. The prince meets her, befriends her, and then ends up suspecting that she is a woman, mainly because of the feelings he’s having. This seemed very unbelievable to me, and a little awkward. He’s basically trying to prove that she’s a woman so that he can fall in love with her. Further more, though I have nothing against stories where woman disguise themselves so they can do men’s jobs, this particular story came across as very feminist to me, though I can not pinpoint exact phrases that made me feel that way. The story is based on a Iraqi folktale; the author has attempted to turn a fairy tale into a full story, and I believe she has failed. On one level, namely the writing, it seems to be for eight year olds, yet on the other, as I have illustrated above, it is for a much older audience. The book itself says on the back cover that it is for ages twelve and up; however, someone of that maturity will be able to pick up on it’s inconsistencies quite easily. My final statement is that though Sonlight picks a lot of really good books, this is one of the picks I can not understand. Surely there are better books about ancient Araby than this!