Ella Enchanted

3 Stars

This author has been nominated for a Newbery several times, and if you look at her stories you’ll see why. She seems to specialize in “coming of age” stories for young girls–you know the type…the main character is a pre-teen girl who has a problem with gossip, or bullying, or being mean, or something of that nature, and must learn a life lesson in 150 pages or less. What nice about this author is she always gives the books a taste of the supernatural in some way or another, which makes them just that much more interesting.

Ella Enchanted is the book the Disney movie of the same name was based on. The story is of a young girl who received gifts from her fairy god mothers on the day she was born, a la Sleeping Beauty. Her last gift was bad, however. She was given the gift of total obedience–she had to obey any direct command. She grew up with this burden, learning the intricacies of the spell, until one day it led her on an adventure of life and love.

The story was sweet, the ending was Disney perfect (in fact, the entire book was practically written like a Disney movie) and the overall feel was nice. The only problem I had with the book were those inevitable moments of discomfort that are so prevalent in these types of stories. Our heroin is put into some embarrassing situation due to her condition. I’ve always hated that. I don’t even like sitcoms because of that sort of thing. However, despite the embarrassment factor, I still enjoyed the book.

–Adrienne

Published in: on September 7, 2008 at 9:01 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Eight

The Eight

1 Star

Gah. Heh…ok…breath…. Alright, I think I’m finally ready to write a review for this book. I’ve started several times, and it went something like this; “Hatehatehatehatehatehatehatehate!!!” So I had to get some distance from this story before I could really decide what made me so angry about it. Let’s look at the story itself, first off.

This book is one of the many that came out in the wake of The Davinci Code, touting jacket blurbs like “The next Davinici Code!” and “If you like The Davinci Code, you’ll LOVE The Eight!” Lies, all of them. But I digress. So I got this book from a friend with no real recommendation–he just handed it over and walked away. I see why now. The story is of a woman who gets wrapped up in a mystery. Over several thousand years, a set of chess pieces has been scattered all over the earth. It is rumored these pieces hold a great secret–one which kings have been attempting to harness since the beginning of time. The woman, an American computer contractor in Iraq, follows the clues in an attempt to unravel the mystery. She encounters danger and adventure along the way.

So, sounds good, right? That’s what I thought! That is, until I actually started reading it. The general premise is great–the mystery was interesting, the back story wonderful, the fact that it was a mystery through time just gave it that much more oomph. However, for some reason the author just couldn’t pull it together. A good adventure mystery needs to have pace–a focus on the excitement, buildup to a great payoff, a twist or two, and a grand ending that leaves the reader gasping for breath. This had all the set up for that, but none of the delivery. The author seemed to get bogged down in details–but the wrong details. I remember reading four or five pages describing a meal the main character had, with wonderful descriptions of the drinks and the food and the scenery and the in-house entertainment. All well and good, except it had nothing to do with the story line. No bit of information gathered from that meal ever came up again…the action happened afterwards.

What really irked me was after reading several of these scenes, the author completely crapped out on what could have been a great ride. She has a character enter a scene, and, in three sentences, describe a grand adventure the character embarked upon to find a missing piece of the chess set. Now, this would have been some great reading. There was a puzzle that needed to be solved, major obstacles, a pitched battle, a near death, and grievous injury. How wonderful would that have been?!? But no–instead we get pages about the texture of blended yogurt, and two sentences summing up a major part of the story line that happened somewhere else.

This happened several times. It was almost as if the author didn’t think she had the ability to really craft a great adventure, so relied on recaps to get the information across. Come on! If you’re going to write a mystery, at least do it right! It took me a long, long time to get through this book. I wanted to like it; I love the genre, and there is nothing better than a really great puzzle mystery. But the author just wouldn’t let me–I’m not sure you could write a worse mystery if you tried. If you see this book, run far, run fast, and pick up The Rule of Four instead.

–Adrienne

Published in: on September 4, 2008 at 7:09 am  Leave a Comment  

The Rule of Four

3.5 Stars

What a good story! This is what a good puzzle mystery should be. There was intrigue, there was mystery, there were fascinating puzzles that just begged to be solved. Now, it wasn’t the best thing I’ve ever read, but puzzle mysteries can be hard. The author must craft a believably tough puzzle that is still solvable. These puzzles worked really well, but I think they were a bit too complex, and the solutions took too long to explain in a satisfactory manner. It would have been better to not explain them so throughly and just let the reader’s imagination take over.

It was still a great story, however, and was very hard to put down. The ending was most satisfactory, and I highly recommend this to anyone who wants a good puzzle read steeped in myth and history.

Published in: on September 2, 2008 at 8:29 pm  Leave a Comment