Monday, August 10, 2009

Book Review: Looking for Alaska

The only good thing I observed about this book was its format, which was unusually clever. Author John Green utilizes a unique "before-the-event/the event/after-the event" structure to tell the story of a group of teens, who they were before a life-changing event, and who they became afterwards. Unfortunately, the story is peppered with graphic sexual content, pornography, lewd references to both genders, smoking, drinking, cursing, and little to no consequences for poor actions made by the characters.

I'd previously read a short story by John Green in the book Let it Snow (book review coming in December), and had thought at the time that that particular story wasn't too bad overall. When I picked up Looking for Alaska randomly from a library shelf, I thought, "Oh yeah, John Green, this should be okay." However, I was extremely disappointed with my findings. First of all, the sexual content is far too graphic for Green's target audience (which, he writes, is high schoolers). I skipped over the worst parts, hoping that the story would manage to redeem itself in the end, but it didn't do that either. The event that becomes the turning point of the story is the death of a main character, and afterwards her friends are left wondering 1.) whether it was an accident or suicide, 2.) the meaning of life and why things like this happen, and 3.) whether there's any point to living life at all. The book then attempts to answer the meaning-of-life questions with a jumbled and unsatisfactory mix of Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam, which results in an overall feeling of hopelessness and drudgery. This is one of the few books I've read that I truly felt was a complete waste of time.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Book Review: Swords for Hire

If you enjoyed The Princess Bride (either movie or book version), you'll probably enjoy Swords for Hire. Written in equal parts sarcasm and humor, this book made me laugh quite a bit. It parodies your typical fantasy adventure-- dynamic sword-wielding duo rescues princess and overthrows bad guy-- so it isn't particularly original, but the material is familiar enough (and funny enough) that it's not really a disadvantage. Instead, it's more like seeing an old friend again. Overall, I thought that this was a book worth reading, and it made me wish that its author, Will Allen, was still alive. I'm sure he would have made a mint with books like this, and I wish there was more where this came from. (It was written in 1979 by Will Allen when he was twenty-two. He was terminally ill with melanoma.) The characters in the book are actually based on Will and his family members, and their portraits are on the cover!

If you can't find this book and think it sounds interesting, more information is avaliable here.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Book Review: Beauty

This version of Beauty and the Beast is possibly one of the best-written books I've ever read, as well as being a perennial favorite of mine. Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast is a fresh, more detailed take on the classic story, full of vibrant color and rich descriptions.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Book Review: White Fang

While I enjoyed The Call of the Wild, I thought that White Fang was even better. (I haven't seen the movie, so I can't compare the two.) It's rather the opposite of The Call of the Wild: instead of a domestic dog becoming wild, White Fang is about a savage wolf from the Yukon who becomes a loyal and loving companion animal living in California.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Book Review: The Call of the Wild

Buck is a Californian dog, part St. Bernard and part shepherd, who finds himself taken from the comforts of his domestic home and thrust into the part of a Yukon sled dog. As Buck discovers firsthand the rules of his new life, he also finds that the inability to adapt means death.