Jamie Bastedo – Falling for Snow

Author: Jamie Bastedo
Titles: Falling for Snow
Published: October 2003
Publisher: Red Deer Press
Length: 256 pages
Genre: Non-fiction naturalist
Target age: Adult
Why I picked it up: Found it while browsing at the library
Rating: 3.5 stars
Buy: McNally Robinson | Barnes and Noble | Check your local bookstore!

A couple of weeks ago I was at the library browsing for books, something I hadn’t done in a long time. One of the types of books I was looking for sort of naturalist books, I suppose you could say. I picked out two wintry books, this and another I still have to read. Falling for Snow  is, quite simply, exactly says.

The narration style of this book is the only thing that irritated me slightly. It quickly became clear to me that I wasn’t the target audience, though – it was the tone the author took that tipped me off to that. This book is clearly written for people who have never experienced snow properly. I am not one of those people. The prose is full of gentle teasing and ‘Snow really is a good thing, believe it or not!’ Which, of course, is how I sometimes like to talk my friends in warmer climates, but to put up with it for a whole book could be tiring. Still, it’s barely worth mentioning in comparison to all the better aspects of this book. (I feel like just pointing it out makes it so much bigger than it actually was…it was just something I noticed, not something that unduly bothered me ^^;)

Okay, I’ve been writing this post for weeks and I’m gonna wrap it up quickly now so I can take this book back to the library: There was a section about various blizzards and how different places dealt with them and I was waiting for the Toronto snowstorm heading, because I figured that would have to be in there but there was no subheading and I was kind of disappointed until I turned the page and saw that Toronto got there own heading, haha. I like hearing about Toronto’s snow problem, makes me feel nice and smug. I liked that chapter about the different writings on snow, the poetry and the bits of prose. I liked the story about James Glashier (crazy man. somebody should write a fictionalized account about him…). I liked all the different knowledge/information about snow contained in this book. A good read with lots of different perspectives on the subject.

Suzanne Collins – The Hunger Games

Author: Suzanne Collins
Series: The Hunger Games trilogy
Titles: The Hunger Games
Published: September 2008
Publisher: Scholastic
Length: 378 pages
Genre: Dystopian scifi
Target age: Young adult
Why I picked it up: So many people have been raving about it, I felt like something had passed me by when Mockingjay was released so I bought a boxed set of the trilogy 
Rating: 4 stars
Buy: Chapters | Barnes and Noble | Check your local bookstore!

As mentioned up there, I purchased a boxed set of The Hunger Games a few months ago at Costco (half the Chapters price! I love it when Costco has the books I want). I proceeded to devour the trilogy, finishing just before I started NaNo. I’ve decided to do this review in two parts, because I feel one way about The Hunger Games and another way about Catching Fire and Mockingjay. To give you an example of what I mean: I’m having a very hard time getting this review out because Mockingjay is the most recent book I read and all I can do is think up complaints about that one. But I will do my best to focus on The Hunger Games and all the great things about that book.

One of the things I was really impressed by was how Collins incorporated appearance into the plot line. It’s something most stories like this (post-apocalyptic death arena, yaaay) don’t normally deal with.I think the use of fashion and presentation was dealt with quite well and its affect on the plot might have a seemed a tad over the top at times, but given the scenario I think it’s hard to judge if the reactions were over the top or not. Overall, I thought the significance of appearance was appropriate and refreshing.

I generally despise romance. Er, well, I suppose that’s not a very accurate statement. I don’t like romance when it is there for romance’s sake. Romance or love or what have you better have a purpose and it better be believable. That being said, I was very happy with how the romance was handled (in this first book, cough cough). Love triangles are always dangerous and this scenario seems a little far-fetched when taken out of context (so I’m not going to elaborate further :P), but it worked with the characters who were involved. Katniss’ actions were believable and understandable. I didn’t mind how the romance played out in this book and I especially liked how Katniss wasn’t at all interested in love, just in survival.

Whenever you pit a large number of people together in a battle which only one can survive (and it has to be your main character), there’s always the danger that someone’s death will seem unrealistic. Maybe that was the case in this book. I didn’t notice, though. For me, everything felt believable and still creative or surprising or interesting. Not sure what the proper adjective is here, but I was satisfied with how all the deaths played out.

In the same vein as what I was discussing in the previous paragraph, I was very satisfied with the ending. I found it unexpected (but I should note that I never expect things…) and very attention-grabbing and keeping, which is something a high-risk story such as this one should always do. I think I’ll just leave that at that to avoid spoilers. I liked the ending. You should too. 😉

A lot of this novel contained elements that could have easily ruined the book if they had been poorly executed. Fortunately, this doesn’t happen until the next two books. The Hunger Games is by far the best book in the bunch.

    Jose Saramago – Death With Interruptions

     *The following information applies to the English hardcover edition. (the novel was originally published in Portuguese in 2005). Also, the edition of the book I read doesn’t have the skull on the cover.*

    Author: Jose Saramago
    Translator: Margaret Jull Costa

    Title: Death With Interruptions
    Published: 2008
    Publisher: Harcourt
    Length: 238 pages
    Genre: Magic realism, hypothetical fiction
    Target age: Young adult
    Why I picked it up: I enjoy the author’s writing style
    Rating: 4.5 stars

    Buy: Chapters | Barnes and Noble | Check your local bookstore!

    I liked this book as much as I liked the one I previously read by the same author, The Gospel According to Jesus Christ. Although both novels are very different with regards to the type of story that is being told, I enjoyed them both equally.

    Of course, one of the main reason I liked Death With Interruptions is because of Saramago’s unique writing style, the main feature of which is winding sentences and a lack of punctuation. I just had to mark this passage, in which a grammarian is criticizing the style of writing of a certain letter.

      …but that could be forgiven, one could even consider it a minor defect given the chaotic syntax, the absence of full stops, the complete lack of very necessary parentheses, the obsessive elimination of paragraphs, the random use of commas and, most unforgivable sin of all, the intentional and almost diabolical abolition of the capital letter, which, can you imagine, is even omitted from the actual signature of the letter and replaced by a lower-case d.

    I wrote in my previous review of the interesting perspective of whoever is narrating the story. That perspective continues to crop up occasionally within this novel.

    We humbly recognize that our explanations about this and much more have been sadly lacking, we confess that we are unable to provide explanations that will satisfy those demanding them, unless, taking advantage of the reader’s credulity and leaping over the respect owed to the logic of events, we were to add further unrealities to the congenital unreality of this fable…

    One of the differences I noticed between this novel and the one about Jesus was the dialogue felt a lot different. Perhaps this was just me, but it felt a lot more natural and seemed to flow more like I was hearing the conversation instead of reading. This could be because I’ve gotten more used to the style. But it felt different (thought certainly not worse!) nonetheless.

    I think I’ve said enough about the writing style. As opposed to the last Saramago novel I chose (I chose it because of the premise), I chose this one for the writing style but of course, the story itself was very much up to par. The first half of the novel examines how a fictional country deals when humans suddenly stop dying, which in itself made for a very fun and thoughtful read. The second half follows death (the character) as she becomes intrigued by a man who refuses to die. Both ‘stories’ were very original and creative. I wasn’t expecting the ending at all, which was a nice surprise because that rarely happens for me! I finished the book with a very satisfied feeling.

    SPOILERS AHEAD

    I would say I have only one complaint to note, but oddly enough it doesn’t feel like a complaint to me. The second half of the book revolves around a man who won’t die, even when death has started killing again. The reason why he will not die is never explained. This did not feel like a letdown, though. I didn’t even realize it had not been explained until I started to think of book a few days later and thought to myself, ‘Hey, how come that guy wouldn’t die?’ This omission might bother some people, but it did not bother me.

    I started this book just before November and finished it just after November. That might have something to do with my participation in NaNoWriMo, but I also don’t think you can rush through Saramago’s work. You have to take it it at your own pace, piece by piece, and let it digest. If you can do that, then you will have a very enjoyable read on your hands.

    Cornelia Funke – Reckless

    Author: Cornelia Funke

    Series: Restless [presumably]
    Title: Reckless
    Published: September 2010
    Publisher: Little, Brown
    Length: 394 pages
    Genre: Fantasy
    Target age: Preteen
    Why I picked it up: Written by one of my favourite authors
    Rating: 4 stars
    Buy: Chapters | Barnes and Noble | Check your local bookstore!

    The first time I heard of Reckless was when I saw it in the store. I purchased it immediately. Cornelia Funke is one of two authors (that other being Neil Gaiman) that I aspire to be half as good as. I became hooked on Inkheart and devoured the rest of the series, buying the next two books on the days they were released. Unlike The Atlantis Complex, Funke’s new book, about a man who has been disappearing into a magical world since he was a boy only now to have his younger brother follow him into this realm with catastrophic results, did not disappoint.

    This is how books for children or preteens or whatever you call them should be written. The characters are all adults dealing with serious problems (well, ‘serious’, you know, serious in the fantasy world…bahh, I don’t know how to explain this). The story does not feel dumbed down or censored for children. If I had read this when I was 11, I would have been very very happy with this book. If only I had been more aware of books like this when I was growing up. It is still a book meant for preteens, let’s be clear about that. And it’s not a book adults will enjoy in the same way they enjoyed Harry Potter. Perhaps the best way to describe it is as a grown-up book for kids who aren’t grown-up. I’m not really sure…I’ve never come across a book like this before, in case you haven’t noticed, haha.

    I love how adaptations of Grimm fairy tales are worked in seamlessly. The allusions to Sleeping Beauty? Perfect. I love the portrayal fairies; I love terrifying and powerful fairies, so I might be slightly biased there. I also love the portrayal of witches; I love magical beings that are hinted at but never quite seen, so the reader can imagine their own stories about them. I love the Tailor. Edward Scissorhands for young fantasy readers. The writing style did not disappoint. I look to Neil Gaiman for story inspiration and to Cornelia Funke for style inspiration. This book has earned its place next to Inkdeath.

    The only complaint I have was one that was minor for me but may be more significant for someone who’s looking to get a completely satisfying story. The story starts off rather abruptly and so many things are hinted at, at times it felt like Reckless was the second book in a series. And maybe the characters weren’t exceptional. Most of them weren’t anything too special. But I wasn’t reading for an outstanding plot or insightful characters, I was reading for writing style and just a general good time and I definitely came away from the book satisfied in that department. =) Just remember that this is a children’s book and I think you’ll have a rather enjoyable reading experience.