Friday, May 25, 2012

Reading: Inheritance by Christopher Paolini

            Inheritance is the fourth and final book in the series with the same name.  Before I can begin my review of this book, let me give you a bit of history of this book series.  Christopher Paolini was 15 when he first began writing the first novel of the Inheritance series, Eragon.  The book was first self-published by his parents publishing company and then by a larger publishing company, Alfred A. Knopf, a year later.  It then went to the New York Times best sellers list and remained there 121 for weeks. (x – yes my source is wikipedia) 
            My brother was the one who mentioned the book to me in the beginning.  Both of us were very interested in finding out more about the book.  He ended up buying me the book as a Christmas gift.  I read it during the summer when I was 16.  Since then I have read the following two novels and was intrigued to read the finale.  The first book impressed me, the second wowed me, the third bored me.  I had no idea what to expect for this final novel.       
            The Inheritance series revolves around a young man named Eragon.  Eragon was once a poor farm boy when he found a blue pebble in a place called The Spine by his home.  The pebble, though, was not a mere pebble but a dragon egg.  There in his barn hatched a blue dragon who went by the name of Saphira.  Eragon was then given the mark of a dragon rider and joined the Varden, a rebel group fighting the empire to defeat the horrid King Galbatorix. 
            Inheritance, I found, was everything I would want for the ending of this series.  The details were rich and profound, the characters all showed impressive growth, and the plot was fantastic!  I found myself wondering for a while (even when reading the earlier books), how is Eragon and the Varden going to stop Galbatorix? It seemed impossible!  I know this seems like a spoiler but lets be serious here, it's a young adult book series.  I don't mean to "diss" young adult fiction because I tend to enjoy YA better than adult fiction.  It's expected to have a happy ending.  That being said, Inheritance did have a happy ending but it also was able to encompass that feeling of, what now which made the story seem much more realistic and adult. 
            If I had any complaints about this book series, it would be to ask why it doesn't get more recognition.  Paolini's writing is fantastic for such a young author and his stories and characters are beyond the page!  They stay with you long after you put the book down.  For example, the book series has so many strong and inspiring female characters – to name the most prominent, Nasuada, Arya, and Angela.  I once read an article featured on MuggleNet about the strongest female characters in literature today and one of them was Hermione Granger from J.K. Rowling's, Harry Potter.  Now, don't get me wrong, I LOVE Harry Potter and I think Hermione completely deserves to be on that list.  However, the list is very biased to the so called "popular" novel and while Eragon was a New York Times Bestseller, the series itself doesn't seem to be as loved by the media and therefore doesn't receive the recognition it deserves.  All three of the women I listed above deserved to be on that list. 
            That being said, I also understand why the series is often overlooked.  After watching and reading the horrible film reviews for Eragon (the film was terrible so it deserved bad reviews) and reading audience feedback on the books themselves, I found that the series, in a small way, lacks "originality".  Paolini's world and character's and events are all very original, that is for sure, but the plot line itself is very much like Star Wars and Lord of the Rings.  Being someone who has yet to read Lord of the Rings and see the Star Wars films in full, I did not see this connection until it was pointed out in reviews.  Because of this apparent familiarity, people consider the Inheritance series to be a bunch of books that are just like the next fantasy book series and everything that happens is expected.
            In the end, I enjoyed the series and very much enjoyed the last book.  What I loved most about this book and those previous were the descriptions!  I loved every detail Paolini gave.  While some details were overused, most of the time they were beautiful and jaw dropping.  The last book held so many surprises for me as a reader and while the ending was sad it was also really satisfying.  While critics say it gets too much material from Star Wars, I say none of our stories are completely original.  We all draw our ideas from other ideas before ours.  The Inheritance series shouldn't loose points for a minor detail like that.  I also found that the characters truly were at their best in this last book and I was proud of them!  Paolini wrote an incredible series and for that I give his final book a 5 out of 5 stars.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Reading: The Giver by Lois Lowry

Books are forced upon us as kids – that is a fact.  We are given books to read from the age of 7 to 18 and expected to read them, understand them, analysis them, and possibly write papers on them.  The Giver is one of those books that fits into the school curriculum for young readers.  If you've been reading my blog, you know I have read another book by the author, Lois Lowry, in school (Number the Stars) but I was never handed the Giver in class.  I heard my peers who went to different elementary schools speak (and rave) of the book and I saw it a lot on posters and shelves in the library but I never really had the urge to read it as a kid.  Then, about two months ago, I spotted the book on a shelf in a thrift store.  I figured "what the heck" and I bought it for a quarter. 
            The Giver is a story about a boy named Jonas (is it sad that the first thing that came to my mind was the Jonas Brothers??) who lives in a black and white society.  Oh, and another thing, the society has no idea they are black and white!  The Giver takes place in the future where law makers have long since decided to make a safe world for humans to reside in – one where everyone is the same.  Each family has two children, a boy and a girl; each family has food delivered to their doors at a certain time; each child receives a bike at age 9, and each child is given a career based on the law makers observation at the age of 12.  Jonas is turning 12 this year and for his career he is assigned a very rare and important job – the receiver.  The receiver is a very secret job where Jonas goes to be with the Giver who transfers memories and feeling into Jonas's black and white world.
            I found the Giver to be somewhat of a horrifying novel while also redeeming.  It started off very slow and by chapter six or seven I was beginning to wonder what the events had to do with the title.  Once the title became apparent, I became much more entranced by the novel.  Jonas's learning about being brainwashed was heartbreaking and real.  I became so involved with this book that when I put it down I had to remind myself that it was just a book!  The memories the Giver showed Jonas were memories all readers can relate to in some way.  The novel itself raises many questions and definitely points at the fact that differences are what makes a society. 
            While I liked the story as a whole, I do have a few complaints.  For starters, the book did start off really slow but I can't really count that against the book since the explanation seems to be needed.  I also found the ending to be a bit too quick.  It ended with promise but at the same time I wasn't sure if that promise was made up in my head or not.  I definitely wanted to see more but instead of all this fun action, it felt like Lowry just became bored and decided to choose an easy ending.  However, I did like that (SPOILER) Jonas saved Gabe.  The idea of him being released was very scary and Jonas was very selfless.
            In the end, I really enjoyed this book.  It wasn't a favorite but it definitely raised many questions and I like when books can be so powerful.  I will give it a 4 out of 5 stars.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Reading: Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson

            In 5th grade reading class, my teacher had us read Bridge to Terabithia.  As an 11 year old who was still well unaware of good literature, I thought the book seemed boring and stupid.  When I got to the ending I couldn't understand why Leslie had to die.  It was so unexpected and sad.  Still, I didn't appreciate the book until I was probably in high school when I realized how much books meant to me. 
            Just like with Number the Stars, I decided to read it as a quick read so I will be able to reach my goal of 50 books by the end of the year.  And just like with Number the Stars, I relished in excitement as I read this incredibly powerful novel about two friends and the power of their imaginations.  For a quick summary for the novel: Jess Aarons is beat in a race at recess by the new kid, a girl named Leslie.  The two become friends and create Terabithia – a magical Kingdom just for them where Jess is the king and Leslie is the queen.  Leslie's imagination is a rarity to Jess and he finds himself encouraged by it.  She encourages him to draw when his dad views it as silly and she encourages him to be better in everything he does. 
            I LOVE this book!  I don't think words can describe how much I love it.  Jess and Leslie are such inspirational characters for the young and the old.  Not only are they inspirational but relatable.  I felt I could relate to both of these characters on so many levels – especially Jess.  I loved his family and his entire world of art and learning about how powerful the imagination is.  It isn't just the characters though that make this book great.  Terabithia itself is, of course, a huge aspect of this book.  I don't know about other readers, but I have always wanted a world I could call my own – a world where I could escape and write and let my imagination run wild where I could read books all day and get away from the TV and the rush and demand of real life.  Everyone wants their own Terabithia and that’s why I believe this book has struck a chord for so many readers.  Then there are other poignant points in the book – Jess and May Belle's relationship, Janice, Ms. Edmund's music classes, P.T., Leslie's talk about church and dying, and Jess's artwork. 
            It's no surprise that I am giving this book a 5 out of 5 stars
P.S. – I watched the 2007 Disney movie after I read the book and was highly disappointed – it was poorly acted (particularly AnnaSophia Robb) and the story line was changed to be more modern which overall, I believe, hurt the plot.  The only good things I have to say about it are Josh Hutcherson was okay as Jess, Bailee Madison was fantastic as May Belle, and I loved at the ending when Jess said to Ms. Edmunds, "next time, invite Leslie (to the art museum)" – that was a very moving addition to the story.  Also, Zooey Deschanel was a good choice for Ms. Edmunds.