Friday, December 31, 2010

The Sorcerer of the North Review (John Flanagan)

Synopsis: Several years have passed since the apprentice and his master, Will and Halt, led the Skandians to victory against invaders, and Will is finally a full-fledged Ranger with his own fief to look after. The fief seems sleepy - boring, even - until Lord Syron, master of a castle far in the north, is struck down by a mysterious illness. Joined by his friend Alyss, Will is suddenly thrown headfirst into an extraordinary adventure, investigating fears of sorcery and trying to determine who is loyal to Lord Syron . . . and who is planning to betray him. Will and Alyss must battle growing hysteria, traitors, and most of all, time. Lord Syron is fading, but when Alyss is taken hostage, Will is forced to make a desperate choice between loyalty to his mission and loyalty to his friend . . .

Review: I feel ashamed that I, a devoted bookworm and fan of the Ranger's Apprentice series, should have taken so long to get to Book 5. Especially when I was so excited about it. But even the best of us get distracted by life in general and other books that demand our attention. Despite the long delay, I have finally finished The Sorcerer of the North and intend to read The Siege of Macindaw in short order.

Before I begin my review, I want to inform you that The Ruins of Gorlan is my absolute favorite in this series. It always has been, and it always will be. The fact of the matter is I don't like Horace. Rather, I liked Horace in The Ruins of Gorlan because he was an ineffectual bully and it suited him so well. I didn't like it when John Flanagan made him and Will best friends, for now it meant that The Hulk (as I and my sister have dubbed him) would be almost everywhere that Will was. While it lent for some funny scenes in The Icebound Land, I don't agree that having a virtual wall as a main character is a good idea. So I was glad when I opened this book and found no Horace. Until the end, that is. Which means The Hulk is back in for The Siege of Macindaw. Sigh.

The Sorcerer of the North was not my favorite from the very start. Something struck me as off about the characters, and last night I finally pegged it: Will has taken on some of the characteristics of Halt. While this certainly would happen because Will has trained under Halt, it was more like the Author was trying to combine Halt and Will together, and the result was not very pleasing. Will is Will; Halt is Halt. The two personalities do not mix well in one person. And also, what short and few scenes Halt is in, he isn't acting himself. I realize that Halt is now older than in the previous four books, but there was still something that did not ring quite true to his character. His comments were almost childish and often completely unnecessary. Halt is not someone who would make unnecessary chatter. Also, the dialogue became much more modern in style. John Flanagan's dialogue has always been rather modern-styled, and his writing in general movie-ish. I excuse him this fault because he used to write for the television sitcom Hey Dad! But it really felt as if it were vamped up more in this one.

However, I don't want my Readers to get the impression that I disliked this book, because I didn't. The storyline was very intriguing and I didn't figure out who was to blame for the hauntings and whatnot until I was halfway through the book. (Of course, once I did, it was so obvious that I became frustrated with the characters for not figuring it out just as quickly. But I suppose that if they had, the book would not have been as long.) And I am immensely glad that Alyss replaces Evelyn/Princess Cassandra as the leading lady. I really liked Alyss. She is intelligent, resourceful, not at all afraid to get her hands dirty, but still retains a very sophisticated, elegant manner. She doesn't tote an attitude about, and while there is certainly flirting between her and Will (inevitable, that), she is not obnoxiously mushy around him at all. When she is working, her mind is completely on the job at hand. And she is able to have friendly talks with Will without it turning into mushy-mushies every bloody time. Most importantly - and what makes her so much better than Evelyn - Alyss is useful and does not whine.

I am glad that I have The Siege of Macindaw to read directly after this one; the two are most certainly connected. Book 5 - The Sorcerer of the North isn't as good as the first 4 - I wasn't expecting it to be, - but it was still very enjoyable and the storyline quite engaging. Fans of Halt will be sad that he isn't in it much, but fans of Tug (like me!) will be pleased that Will isn't forced to travel without his clever little pony, but takes him along.

Like all of Ranger's Apprentice, this one comes highly recommended - just don't expect it to be as good as the first four.

Star Rating: 2/5 (it was ok)

Others in the Ranger's Apprentice Series:
1)The Ruins of Gorlan
2)The Burning Bridge
3)The Icebound Land
4)The Battle for Skandia
5)The Sorcerer of the North
6)The Siege of Macindaw
7)Erak's Ransom
8)The Kings of Clonmel
9)Halt's Peril

10)The Emperor of Nihon-Ja
11)The Lost Stories

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Voyage of the Dawn Treader

Rated: PG

I will skip a synopsis for this and "cut to the chase," as it were. After all, I am pretty certain that most everyone has a pretty good idea what it is about - and anyway, a synopsis would not be able to help you much.

I will start off by saying that I did enjoy the third installment of The Chronicles of Narnia. It was not as good as The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe or Prince Caspian, true. I wasn't expecting it to be. There was a new director, new composer, and a new company to replace Disney. Such new things usually make a sequel not as good as its predecessors. So since I did not go in with such high expectations as most seem to have, I was able to like it for what it was.

Part of what made this one not as good as the other two is the fact that there isn't much of a storyline. This is no fault of the producers - the book doesn't have much of a storyline, either, and the makers tried to fix this as much as they could. They probably could have done a better job than they did, but then Narnia purists would be complaining even louder than they already are. Given these factors, the director did his best.

But, honestly, could they not have done better with the ship itself? While very pretty visually, anyone who knows anything about ships will notice many things amiss. Things like untarred lines, flimsy blocks and clips that, were they on a real ship, would snap in a trice should any real strain be put on them. Yes, most people will not notice this - but I really cannot pardon the lack of tar on lines. Even an untrained eye would catch this; it is a fundamental aspect of a working vessel. The sea and the weather that accompanies it is hard on rope, wood, paint, etc. Tar protects.

This aspect was more painful for my sister than I, her being a scholar of ships and sailing in general. What amused me most were some points concerning . . . Caspian. Correct me if I am wrong, dear Readers, but did Caspian not have a decidedly Spanish accent in the second movie? I know, it was not his real accent; that he is British. That is obvious if you watch Voyage of the Dawn Treader. I don't know if the director decided that with the very long hair (longer than mine!) and sad little beginnings of a beard, Caspian would just seem too gay with a Spanish accent and chose to bag it altogether, or what. But Caspian is now British - and decidedly from London. I am sorry - absolutely everyone will notice that. And I could not stop cackling over it.

And so I must close my review. It is an enjoyable movie and was a great source of amusement for my sister and I. It is a good thing there were only two other people in the theater; we might have been thrown out if there were more to overhear our snickers and hilarious comments concerning Caspian's brilliant locks (and no, these were not comments in favor of). I will probably buy it when it comes out on DVD, but it is not necessarily one you have to see in theaters. Unless you simply must see it in 3D - which I didn't; 3D gives me a headache. And as enjoyable as this one was, I do hope The Silver Chair is better. I have hopes for that one, for it has more of a storyline than Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Jane Review (April Lindner)

Forced to drop out of an esteemed East coast college after the sudden death of her parents, Jane Moore takes a nanny job at Thornfield Park, the estate of Nico Rathburn, a world-famous rock star on the brink of a huge comeback. Practical and independent, Jane reluctantly becomes entranced by her magnetic and brooding employer and finds herself in the midst of a forbidden romance.

But there's a mystery at Thornfield, and Jane's much-envied relationship with Nico is soon tested by an agonizing revelation from his past. Torn between her feelings for Nico and his fateful secret, Jane must decide: Does being true to herself mean giving up on true love?

This will be the first review I have written on a book that I have not finished. But I won't finish it - I don't need to. I dislike modern-set stories, but I was willing to try this one out because it was a contemporary version of the famous novel Jane Eyre, which I enjoyed. I was curious to see what April Lindner would do with it.

Four words: I was not impressed. While Jane Moore herself is, for the most part, a likable character and fairly close to Jane Eyre, Nico Rathburn is an entirely different story. I never liked Mr. Rochester from Jane Eyre, but my dislike for Nico Rathburn were for the simple reason that he was not at all like Mr. Rochester, and just basically annoying. However, the characters are the least disagreeable aspects of this book.

I got to Chapter 18 - so 209 pages into Jane. It is 365 pages long, 27 chapters. In that short span of words, I encountered 8 f-words and 5 s-words. I know there are few people who care about that, but I do, and for those of my Readers who are like-minded, you will understand my frustration and appreciate the warning. There was no need for the language - especially when the story is based off of Jane Eyre! But what made me close the book so firmly and set it on my "To Return To Library" shelf was the beginning of Chapter 18 - Jane and Nico sleep together. Whether they actually go through with this scene, I don't know, nor do I intend to find out. But what little I skimmed, it is explicit and it completely ruined the Author's claim of being a true Jane Eyre fan. No real fan of Charlotte Bronte's classic story would ever have Jane give into such immoral whims. In fact, in Jane Eyre, Jane outright refuses to live as Mr. Rochester's mistress.

So, for those of you who like Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre and were curious to read Jane - a contemporary version, - you will be disappointed. In modernizing it, April Lindner tainted the story with unnecessary language and sexual content that is completely out of the spirit of Jane Eyre.

Star Rating: 1/5 (didn't like it)