Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Odd and the Frost Giants, by Neil Gaiman

I read Odd and the Frost Giants, by Neil Gaiman yesterday. It was another quick read, but far more enjoyable than the last one. Neil Gaiman is a master of writing, and I say that because it is rare that one person can successfully write in so many different genres.

Odd and the Frost Giants is about a Viking's son who just doesn't fit in (which is fun, because I just watched How to Train Your Dragon - if you haven't seen it yet, you should, regardless of how old you happen to be). After his father dies, his mother marries another man in the village, and during one particular winter that was just lasting far too long and after putting up with more than enough taunting, Odd decides to leave. He takes some supplies and goes back to the hut they lived in when his father was alive. From there, he learns exactly what's causing the extra-long winter and decides to go on an adventure to fix things.

I'd forgotten what a pleasure it could be to read a well-written children's book. Odd and the Frost Giants is simply written, and while it is at all elaborate, Gaiman wrote everything that needed to be in those pages. I could practically see Odd and his mother, the bear, fox, and eagle, and the frost giant. I can't imagine that there will be much criticism of this book. I hope everyone finds the time to pick it up.

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Child Thief, by Brom (and Green Angel, by Alice Hoffman)

I sat outside in the sun and finished The Child Thief on Saturday. It fits into the "fairy tale" part of the Once Upon a Time Challenge, but mostly I read it because it's Brom. As should be expected when you open a book by Brom (or look at any of his art), The Child Thief is filled with magic and darkness. It's not for the faint of heart or weak of stomach, as Brom has no qualms about describing graphic details or including horrific scenes. There are many of those, as the story is about a boy who steals children, takes them to his fort on Avalon where they become the Devils (the Lost Boys of Peter Pan) and where they train so that they can fight his war against the monsterous captain and his crew in a centuries-long attempt to save Avalon. Brom finds the sinister in Peter Pan and brings it to the forefront of the story, weaving it so skillfully with the magic of the tale that you finish the book feeling like you just read the true story of Peter Pan. The Child Thief is like the gritty truth Brom revealed by pulling back all the years of candy coating.

Green Angel was a library book sale purchase, and I expected much from it when I sat down to read it this weekend. It's a short book that can be read in one sitting, but I can only recommend it for the beauty of the prose. The way Hoffman put words together was beautiful, but it was almost as though she focused so much on the words that she forgot what the words were saying. The story was choppy, and I felt that most of the time the narrator told me what happened rather than showing me. I also found it difficult to identify with the main character, in spite of the fact that ten years ago I was an angsty, shy, withdrawn teenage girl myself. This book may be one of the few books that goes back to the library in a donation box.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Winter's Heart, by Robert Jordan

I flew through Winter's Heart; audio books make it easy to read anywhere hands-free, regardless of the weather. I know a lot of people are dissatisfied with this book, as they are with most of the books in the Wheel of Time series after the first three to five, but I liked it. Robert Jordan is a master story-teller; he may not tell a clean, tight story, but he tells a fascinating one. Things are heating up in the Wheel of Time series, and I called my partner a few times with exclamations about what happened in this book. Mat finally returns to the story with a lot of space in the book, some mysterious characters are revealed for who they really are, and things I've been waiting for for books finally happened. The slowness that bogged down the last few books doesn't touch this one, and it ends with a bang.

I'm excited to read the rest of the series, but I want to take a short break to read Brom's The Child Thief. I love Brom, and I've been excited about reading this book since it came out. Also, this Peter Pan-inspired story will fit nicely into the fairy tale requirement for the Once Upon a Time Challenge.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Path of Daggers, by Robert Jordan

I finished listening to this book as I walked in the door to work this morning. I love a good audio book, and Robert Jordan read by Kate Reading and Michael Kremer is a great audio book. The Path of Daggers fits into the fantasy niche for the Once Upon a Time Challenge, and of course it counts as one of my hundred, so that's two birds with one very happy stone.

The Path of Daggers is the eighth book in the Wheel of Time Series, and I would say you have to read the rest of the series before reading this one. I don't want to spoil the book for those who haven't read it yet, but I do want to say a few things about it. (If, by the way, you'd like to talk about the book in more spoiling detail, you can email me, and I'd be thrilled to chat!)

The first three or four books in the series were fairly fast-paced. A lot happened, and a lot of mysteries and prophesies were brought into the mix. The characters were interesting, well-rounded characters and the plot was well-developed (although the road to Cairhien took waaaaaaay too long).

Books four through six were well-written and full of character development, but they moved more slowly; there was a lot of political maneuvering and very little action. I think this is where the series loses a lot of readers, but if you're tempted to stop, don't.

Book seven picks up a little bit more, and things start to get into motion again, but while things begin to happen quickly, they also happen with little or no reasoning at all. I love the idea of Travelling, but while Jordan's characters fly all over the map, so does a bit of the plot. Mat's headed in one direction, then suddenly, Rand changes his mind, and Mat steps through one of the Travelling windows with his Band of the Red Hand and does something completely different. (Speaking of Mat, I adore his character, but I haven't read much about him at all in The Path of Daggers.

In spite of the fact that all that Travelling scatters the plot, things get really interesting in book eight, and the last chapter, with Jordan's description of what the people and rumors are saying, leaves you fairly certain about what didn't happen but completely in the dark about exactly what did happen. I was happy to see Egwene (my favorite character) start to pick up a bit more of the oomph that I've heard she really comes into in The Gathering Storm. She's tougher, smarter, more confident, and more capable of pushing things in the direction she wants them to go. This is a woman who might seem young, but she's more in control than anyone expects.

Speaking of Egwene, Robert Jordan has some interesting takes on women in his books. But that's another topic for another time.