creative [kree-ey-tiv]: adjective. Synonyms: clever, cool, innovative, inspired, prolific, stimulating.

criticism [krit-uh-siz-uhm]: noun. The act of passing judgment as to the merits of anything.

30 Sep 2010

Dinosaur in a Haystack - Stephen Jay Gould

Reflections in natural history!
The dinosaur on the cover makes me laugh every time; its arms are so puny that it must try to scratch its hanging neck-skin with its toes! And its face - oh MAN have you seen its face?!
So this book is a compilation of 34 essays, divided into 8 sections. Now, I only got up to essay #26, but I think I can safely assert that it's just an okay book.
Honestly, I'm not convinced that Stephen Jay Gould is the best essayist ever - or even the best science essayist ever. I found his style to be acceptably flowy, but a bit too clunky; he inserts a lot of literary references in the opening and closing paragraphs of his essays, and since I wasn't very familiar with the quotations in question (or their context), I didn't really appreciate them and found that they slowed down the essays too much.
I'm not all complaints and no compliments, though: there's an essay on Jurassic Park, which I found very interesting indeed. But that was probably because Jurassic Park is one of my favorite books/movies ever. So that was nice.
Eh, that's it really... Except for one funny little fact: according to the Dewey decimal system, this book (at code 575) is a book about science! - more specifically, about the life sciences. And to be really precise, it's about... the physiological systems of plants? Random, but that's the decimal classification for you.

20 Sep 2010

City of Bones - Cassandra Clare

In this first installment of the Mortal Instruments trilogy, we meet Clary, a fifteen-year-old girl from New York whose life completely changes when she sees three other teenagers kill a demon inside an "all-ages" club.
Afterwards, her mother gets kidnapped, she learns about her own powers, she also learns about her own people and the conspiracy that almost got them destroyed, and she of courses kisses Jace, the hot blond-haired boy whose shirtless torso is - I presume - on the cover.
There's some witty, sarcastic dialogue, some fairly obvious drama! and family drama!, a bunch of fights against the forces of darkness, and the writing is good. Which shouldn't surprise me, since it was written by the author of the hilarious Very Secret Diaries of LoTR characters (click here if you've missed the phenomenon when it first came out. I love these things!).
A good debut; I'm intrigued about what will follow!

17 Sep 2010

The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins

This book is really awesome - I read it in a single day (two sittings). Loved it!
It takes place in a dystopian future (yay, dystopia!), in Panem, which was built on the ruins of North America. One city, the Capitol (set in the Rockies) rules over the twelve remaining Districts - and every year, to remind them of its dominance, it requires two tributes, a boy and a girl between the ages of 12 and 18, who will compete in the Hunger Games.
These games are televised, and it is mandatory for everyone to watch them - to watch as the tributes fight the environment of the arena, as they fight the traps that the game masters have put to make everything more exciting, and as they fight each other. Of the 24 tributes, only one will survive, and they'll have a life of luxury and fame afterwards.
Now, our protagonist, Katniss, is a sixteen-year-old from the poorer part of District 12; and when her twelve-year-old sister (who she loves very much) is picked as the district's tribune, she takes her (the sister's) place and must compete in the very lethal Hunger Games. There's also a love interest somewhere; it's not very subtle, but it's there. You'll see.
The writing was excellent, really; some scenes felt as though I was seeing an action movie rather than reading a book, and now I just can't wait to read the sequel.

15 Sep 2010

The Book Thief - Marcus Zusak

This book is set in Nazi Germany, is narrated by Death himself, and follows the story of Liesel, a girl whose father is a communist (and thus is persecuted), whose mother just can't take care of her (due to poverty and the persecution), and whose little brother just died.
Liesel grows up with her foster parents, with the other children on the street, and with other very interesting characters (a Jewish man hides in her basement for almost two years, anyone?). However, war happens. More specifically, war of the worldwide-for-the-second-time kind. It gets sad.
It was good, honestly, and for once I find that this book is worthy of the prestige a "New York Times #1 Bestseller" thing shows. It's good, people!

12 Sep 2010

The Golem's Eye - Jonathan Stroud

In this second installment of The Bartimaeus Trilogy, we return to magician-controlled London, two years after the events of the first novel. There, we once again follow Nathaniel (officially called John Mandrake), who now works for the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and is in charge of tracking down and ultimately stopping a group of homegrown commoner terrorists, the Resistance.
At the heart of this Resistance is our new protagonist, Kitty Jones. She's a year older than Nat, and far more streetwise and mature than he. She has an innate resilience to magic and, along with ten similarly (and sometimes more) gifted individuals led by the elderly Mr Pennyfeather, she strives to end the magicians' rule of the Empire. Also, we finally get to learn her backstory.
Of course, no book in this trilogy would be complete without Bartimaeus - and after 110 pages, his distinctive narration finally joins us again. True, he also narrated the prologue (set in Prague during Gladstone's conquest, which marked the end of the Czech dominion over the world and the beginning of the British Empire's), but still. I had missed him. Thankfully, this is a 562 pages long novel, and before it ends we have plenty of time to enjoy his ever clever voice.
Once again, this novel's themes range from oppression to class issues, passing by explorations of what is free will. Also, the different interpretations of historical events (such as the fall of the Roman Empire), as would happen in this novel's world of demons and magicians, would be of particular interest to history nerds.