Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Summer Book Review

One of my summer traditions is to read as many novels as I can. It is one of my favorite past times and makes me feel smart. Recently, I've read three novels I'd like to review:

1. Spindle's End, by Robin McKinley. Now, you have to understand that I LOVE Robin McKinley. I have many of her books and have read them multiple times. I believe this was my third reading of Spindles End, which was needed due to my forgetfulness. It is a retelling of 'Sleeping Beauty' and is absolutely wonderful, like all of McKinley's other novels. McKinley definitely has a knack for language. Like Jane Austen, the language is a little difficult to understand, yet is so mellifluous that once you understand you are instantly pulled into the story and can't get out: though fictitious and fantastical, you can't help but believe that Foggy Bottom exists, Kat and Rosie breathe, and Pernicia threatens. McKinley doesn't waste her time, pages, or words on unneeded facts or stories, and everything she writes is important to the story no matter how many pages are in between. If you are looking to be transported into another time and world, a fantasy more mature than 'Harry Potter', and a happy ending, give Spindle's End a try. You won't be disappointed. My advice to readers: don't stop at Spindle's End. Go on to read Beauty, The Blue Sword, The Hero and the Crown, and others by McKinley.

2. The Countess Below Stairs, by Eva Ibbotson. Ibbotson is a celebrated children's book author yet I was sorely disappointed her novel. I am picky about writing style, and though the story and plot were good, the writing was atrocious. The book is about a Russian countess who, after emigrating to England during the fall of the Russian Empire, goes to work as a domestic servant in the manor house of an English count. Lo and behold, the count and the countess fall for each other, but alas, she is a servant. Or is she? Unlike McKinley, Ibbotson moves her story along by telling you it is moving, not through descriptions, dialogue, or third-person-narrator-like observations. The story was simply too simply written. My advice to readers: this one you can pass. My advice to Ms. Ibbotson: stick with children's books. Novels are not your forte.

3. Breaking Dawn, by Stephanie Meyer. The fourth and final installment of the "Twilight" series was good but a little disappointing. I will admit, I like the books, and I liked this one, yet there was something to be desired in this last book. Meyer's writing is good and continues to get better. I was pleasantly surprised by all that comes to pass in "Breaking Dawn" and thought the story went along well. My one complaint is the climax-or, should I say, the final climax-of the story fell very flat. For all four books, and especially the second and third, the Volturi play an important role in the lives of our friendly vampires. Yet, here in the fourth book, when the event Meyer's has been leading up to all along, when the Volturi come to visit and to pull the Cullen's coven down, she builds and builds and builds, and then nothing happens. I don't really like reading about blood, guts, death and fire, but here, in the climax of the entire series, nothing happens, nothing more than a little chit chat and some blocking of supernatural powers. No fights, no blood, no death. Nothing. Everything is fine and dandy and everyone lives happily ever after. Kudos to Meyer for seeing the books through and doing a good job, but I felt that she was getting tired and just kind of gave up in the end. My advice to readers and "Twilight" fans alike: read The Host--same author, just a little more mature and grown up and really good.

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