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 “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 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.

Classics for Middle-schoolers

Pre-teens, or Middle-schoolers, are often daunted by the word “classics”. But they’re really not that hard! Here is a list of my favorites from when I was a pre-teen:

  • The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien  I loved this book! However, most teens don’t have as much patience as I have (no offense), so I must warn you to give it some time. There’s quite a bit of background to get through before you reach the real adventures.
  • The Adventures of Robin Hood by Roger Lancelyn Green  Other people love Howard Pyle’s version; I’ve only ever read this version, so I have no idea which is better. Except for one weird story involving a witch, however, I was perfectly satisfied with this version; long live Robin Hood!
  • Little Women by Louisa May Alcott  Part two has more love stories in it (as all those girls must get married!), but of course it is perfectly innocent. I do remember my mom skipping over one part that was especially romantic (aka, sappy), but she was reading it to my younger siblings as well, so it should be just fine. Oh, and Tomboys, don’t be scared off! One of the girls, Jo, is just like you!
  • An Old-Fashioned Girl by Louisa May Alcott  I liked this one even better than Little Women! The contrast between a country girl and a city girl is always fun. It’s funny that a lot of the problems these girls face are the same problems that girls face today! (or rather, sad, that we still haven’t learned)
  • White Fang by Jack London and The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings  I haven’t read either one of these, but my sisters said they were good. Like most animal stories, they’re a little on the sad side.
  • Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson  I loved this pirate adventure, though I didn’t like Stevenson’s other famous adventure, Kidnapped. Treasure Island has a murder in it and maybe some cuss words too (I can’t remember for sure), and my youngest sister thought the people were slow (aka, dumb). My other sister and I, however, thought it very good. It is a little creepy at times, so don’t read it just before bed!
  • The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain  I haven’t read this either, but one of my sisters has read it, and said it was quite funny. I’m planing on reading it… eventually. Right now I’ve got quite a long list of things I want to read.
  • Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain This book is very funny, though there are some difficult accents and some weird superstitions in it. The superstitions are, however, made fun of by the author; it’s not as if he believes them. The story is defiantly more than that all-famous white-washed fence; there’s even a mystery!
  • Black Ships Before Troy by Rosemary Sutcliff  This is an illustrated story version of the Iliad. The pictures are done by Alan Lee, who has illustrated editions of The Lord of the Rings as well as being a concept artist for the movies. This is not a picture book; it is very well written and very gripping. Though a little graphic (in both pictures and text) it never really grossed me out. Now, the actual Iliad has, and I would rate that as a high-school book.
  • The Princess and the Goblin by George McDonald  This is a light and sometimes funny fantasy. McDonald is a master story teller; he somehow manages to make his prose beautiful yet very readable. Though the princess gets the title, there is also a boy named Curdie who takes up every bit as much of the story. So yes, I would recommend this for boys too.
  • At the Back of the North Wind by George McDonald  Unlike The Princess and the Goblin, this story is an allegory. I ate it up, fascinated by figuring the allegory out. This is a make you think kind of book, and my sisters didn’t like it. They thought it was weird. I, however, have not found a single book that is more beautiful.
  • The Cat of Bubastes by G.A. Henty  An adventure in ancient Egypt, this book starts out with an exciting battle, then mellows down and is pretty slow until about the middle. It has a very “happily ever after” ending, which is both pleasing and unrealistic at the same time. The take Henty has on the Egyptian religion is very interesting, and altogether, though it takes a bit of patience, I found it to be an intriguing and gripping book.
  • Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carrol  Be prepared for nonsense! I’ve never watched either film versions, but from what I have heard, the book is very different. The thing with this book is that you just have to read it and enjoy it for what is. If you try to make sense of it, you’ll end up very discouraged and lost.
  • Peter Pan by J.M. Berry This book is also rather strange, though not in the same way as Alice in Wonderland. There’s much more to it than the Disney version. There are tales that never made the film and the ending is different. Peter’s lack of memory disturbed me at first, but as with Alice, you simply have to let it go. I was disappointed to learn not long ago that I had actually read an abridged version. So I have no idea if the original version’s language is hard or not; sorry. I plan to read the original . . . eventually . . .

I hope this helps! Have fun reading!