Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Adventure, Murder, & Political Intrigue, Oh My!

Hi! Wow - been too long. Sorry about that! I hope you forgive me by accepting a few mini reviews of books I've been reading during my blogging absence. They're short and sweet. And I don't think any of us mind getting straight to the point, right? Here goes:

Jake Ransom and the Skull King's Shadow, by James Rollins
The concept: 13-year-old Jake Ransom's famous, archaeologist parent's disappeared years ago while on an expedition. He and his sister, Kady, aren't the closest since she's into the popular crowd and he is more often found following his parents footsteps. During a thunderstorm while they are viewing their parents artifacts in a museum, they suddenly find themselves in a different world full of multiple cultures and a bad guy called the Skull King who wants revenge on the people living there.
My reaction: Despite a few twists and ending with a decent cliffhanger, I couldn't help but feel that the novel was missing a main ingredient. Jake came across as younger than 13, and wasn't relatable. The dark creatures Rollins created for the novel, the grakyl in particular (a human form with wings that doesn't talk but screeches and is actually pretty freaky), were intriguing, but other than that there wasn't much that kept me enthralled. The 400 pages went by quick enough, but didn't leave an impression strong enough to cause me to go out and buy the second novel.

Hoppergrass, by Chris Carlton Brown
The concept: A teenage boy goes to a juvenile facility, possibly insane, in the 1970s and tries to defend another boy who is unjustly accused of an accidental death.
My reaction: Eh. Couldn't get into it. The way it was written seemed to keep me at a distance instead of bringing me in. I never could really care about the characters, though the main character's sanity remaining a mystery was intriguing. I ended up only getting halfway through the novel because of all of this - I'm going to try it again someday, but I think my personality and individual taste might just not gel with the writing technique.

Dead Sleep, by Greg Iles
The concept: Successful female photographer stumbles across a painting that is the exact likeness of her missing twin sister. And she looks dead. And there are many more in a series of paintings by an anonymous painter of many different women, all naked and all either dead, or asleep. She joins forces with the FBI to find the painter, and her sister.
My reaction: FANTASTIC concept, don't ya think? Disturbing and maybe more graphic than some might like, though. I was in a state of suspense from almost the first page on. Greg Iles does a great job of fully-fleshing out his characters and making you feel like you know them on a personal level - their flaws and their good qualities. I felt the narrative stumbled here and there, but I enjoyed it. However, the end resolution didn't work for me. I found it surprisingly cliche and rushed for such a long, patiently gripping novel. It kind of tainted the overall experience for me.

The Lion Hunter & The Empty Kingdom, by Elizabeth E. Wein
The concept: Telemakos is a boy of mixed race in Ethiopia, in this historical fiction duology. He has gone through torture and horrors already while he worked discreetly undercover not too long ago to uncover a smuggling scheme. His nightmares continue to haunt him. After a series of events that happen (to give away any, I feel, would be too much information), he ends up being sent to another kingdom to prevent him and his baby sister from encountering danger that stems from his espionage after threats to the unknown "sunbird" begin arriving (one of his code names during his activities). But he might not be as far away from danger as he thought...
My reaction: At first I found it hard to relate to Telemakos of find very much interest in his story. But it didn't take too long to be pulled into the political intrigue and deep crevices of Telemakos personality that the author so beautifully and poetically weaves. The strong bonds of sibling love and bravery that resonate in the character makes every move he makes matter to the reader. By the last sentence, I realized the pure, raw, exquisite story that Elizabeth E. Wein told - and loved it.

Think that's enough for now. Any that sound interesting to you?