I absolutely love this author's writing -- humorous voice, characterizations, etc.; but the plot was in the end weak and unconvincing. Still four star...moreI absolutely love this author's writing -- humorous voice, characterizations, etc.; but the plot was in the end weak and unconvincing. Still four stars for carrying me along with the first two elements.(less)
Another of my "historical mystery for teens" research books. Although I give it a four, it's actually more like a three and a half. John Huffam is a f...moreAnother of my "historical mystery for teens" research books. Although I give it a four, it's actually more like a three and a half. John Huffam is a fourteen year old boy in mid 1800s London. His father is a ne'er-do-well, a gambler, and a man who, in typical Dickensian fashion, lives in a world of elaborate self-deception and rationalization. When his gambling addiction lands him in debtor's prison, his son is forced to try to rescue him and is pulled into an exciting, complex mystery that involves stolen state secrets. What I liked: interesting plot, good characters, outcome I didn't guess, well set up potential for emotional development, rich descriptions of the society of the time. What disappointed me: the ending. Although I did not guess the villain, and therefore experienced that satisfying moment of Agatha Christie shock when he was revealed, I felt very emotionally let down. I realize it may be unrealistic to give readers a happy ending, but it seems to me that Avi, since he is channeling Dickens and furthermore writing a book for children, might have done so. The wealthy aunt you feel sure will appreciate and reward our hero at the end, does not; various other characters you expect to see grow (Mr. Snugsbee, for instance) fail to do so. Although the hero's father is sprung from jail, he experiences no epiphany and is the same pathetic self-indulgent person he always was, with consequences for his son one can sadly imagine. In short, all that potential for satisfying catharsis is dashed in the name of realism. Avi may have been planning a second book to tie up all the loose ends and bring emotional closure to his characters; but I'm not sure he has brought his readers along with him sufficiently to ensure that they will read a second volume.
Beyond the Western Sea and The True Adventures of Charlotte Doyle were much better. A great opportunity wasted. (less)
**spoiler alert** Nancy Werlin is a good writer, and she has a sure hand with character. The premise was intriguing, and the climactic scenes were sus...more**spoiler alert** Nancy Werlin is a good writer, and she has a sure hand with character. The premise was intriguing, and the climactic scenes were suspenseful. Yet somehow the book annoyed me, hence only three stars.
For one thing, all the characters, with the exception of the villain and the crazy mother (who is, well, crazy, so not to be blamed, plus a minor character) were so darned good. Lucy is the perfect girl, not to mention incredibly mature; her foster parents are angels; her best friend is the perfect supportive friend; and her other best friend, who eventually becomes her boyfriend and husband, is so totally perfect as to be exasperating in the extreme. There are people like these; but they don't live in colonies, as the folks in this book do. Nobody, but nobody, is anything but noble in this small world. After a while, it becomes a bore.
I also felt, truthfully, that given that Lucy was raped and knew (spoilers here) that having the baby was going to cause her to go crazy and bring into the world a child who would go crazy too (this being the nature of the curse)she should have terminated the pregnancy. If ever there was a situation that cried out for that decision, this was it. And given that many lives were probably going to be ruined by keeping the baby it really didn't make sense that nobody but her foster mother (rather weakly) suggested it.
Sure, everything turned out well in the end (this being a modern day fairy story of the Grimm Brothers rather than Hans Christian Andersen type) but the fact that she took such a huge risk... I didn't get it. (less)
Definitely better than I expected. I read it to find out what all the screaming was about and at the end I thought: this woman can write. And she can...moreDefinitely better than I expected. I read it to find out what all the screaming was about and at the end I thought: this woman can write. And she can create characters we care about. The heroine -- a mortal who is caught up in the world of vampires when she falls in love with one -- seemed oddly appealing, and I can't quite explain why. I think it was because she was a marvelous amalgam of ordinariness, mixed in with enough humor, genuineness, freshness, that she seemed the perfect candidate to be swept into an alien world. On one hand, it gets a bit much that she can't look at her vampire love without gushing about how beautiful he is; on the other hand, they are constantly having fights when she feels patronized by him, which keeps the action interesting. And there are some completely hilarious portions, such as when Edward -- a vampire who goes straight by only sucking the blood of animals, rather than those of humans -- explains the difference between human blood and animal blood in terms of appeal. I can't remember exactly what he uses as a comparison, but it's something on the order of "the difference between fine cognac and a diet coke." Both vampire and his love have a sense of humor, a nice sense of banter, and it's enough to make the love story surprisingly endearing, not to mention, since Edward cannot allow himself sexual appetites because he fears to lose control, pleasantly chaste. Movie was pretty good, too.(less)