Monday, April 28, 2008


So, finals are totally kicking my butt, as far as getting free time goes. That's the explanation for why updates are so infrequent, and I'm stickin' to it. But here's one book, anyway. I actually finished it Saturday, but I was too tired to post this then.

Title: Rascal
Author: Sterling North

What it's about: Rascal chronicles a year with Sterling and his pet raccoon, Rascal. It starts when Sterling takes home a raccoon kit and includes various events like trips into the wilderness, the trouble Rascal gets into, and the day Sterling brings Rascal to school.

What I thought: This really evokes a nostalgic feel of the good ol' days, which is something I look for in certain books. The descriptions are vivid and loving, and the adventures of Sterling and Rascal are written with the right touch of humor to keep them engaging. Though a book accessible to younger readers, everyone should be able to appreciate the simple pleasure of Rascal.

Overall: Let's call it short but sweet.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Never Trust a Dead Man

Title: Never Trust a Dead Man
Author: Vivian Vande Velde

What it's about: Selwyn, a teenage farm boy, is accused of murdering another lad, Farold, who was his rival for the affections of a girl, Anora. Selwyn's innocent, but no one believes this, so he's entombed in a burial cave along with Farold's dead body as punishment. Selwyn is rescued by a witch, Elswyth, who also brings Farold back in the body of a bat so that Selwyn and Farold can try to find Farold's murderer and prove Selwyn's innocence.

What I thought: This is another solid book by a good author. Thinking about it, that's really all that comes to mind. Solid, entertaining, but it's not going to really stand out in my mind. I mean, everything about it was above average, but nothing really shone as something to make this book especially memorable. It's nothing special, but it's good.

Overall: If you're looking for a good read, go ahead and check this one out.

Thursday, April 24, 2008


Title: WebMage
Author: Kelly McCullough

What it's about: Apparently Ravirn is some sort of magic hacker genius who's descended from the three fates. There's, like, Greek mythology and technology mixed together, along with some sort of evil conspiracy. Or something.

What I thought: ... I quit reading by chapter five. The action became too chaotic too soon, without any sort of real setup, and Ravirn, despite getting into trouble, seemed way overpowered. Confusing story + characters I can't connect with = me tossing the book aside.

Overall: Nuh-uh. You can give this a chance, but I'm not recommending it.

Well, it looks like I'm back to the drawing board for a new book to get hooked on. Oh well, with over a hundred around, I'll find something soon enough. =P

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Man Who Broke The Bank At Monte Carlo

Title: The Man Who Broke The Bank At Monte Carlo
Author: Michael Butterworth

What it's about: Ernest Rowbotham is an unassuming Englishman who's just inherited six million dollars from his uncle. The one catch? He has to take his uncle's preserved corpse around Monte Carlo for a week in order to inherit. Well, this wouldn't be so bad except for the fact that if he messes up the terms of the will, the Universal Dog Home of Chicago gets the money instead, and to that end, they've sent a representative to Monte Carlo to keep an eye on Ernest. Oh, and did I mention that Ernest's Uncle Luigi was also a successful mafia boss back in Chicago? And that two separate groups of gangsters are after the inheritance? With all this going on, Ernest's in for the most unforgettable week of his life.

What I thought: Okay, well, first I have to admit a bias towards this book because my favorite musical ever, Lucky Stiff, is based on this book. It's a great story. The premise is so absurd, and events quickly take a turn for the weird(er). I don't want to spoil much, but there's a hysterical bit with a hooker and trains that's just great. The prose in general just has such a sense of atmosphere, too it. It's grand, very rich. And the characters really make this whole thing work. Ernest is a sympathetic fellow. The gangsters are quite distinctive in their mannerisms. And, well, this is just a greatly amusing book with a satisfying story. I loves it.

Overall: Read it. Now.

Monday, April 21, 2008

The grand total

So I decided to count how many books I happen to currently have at my dorm. I searched around everywhere and pulled out the various novels, non-fiction books, plays, text books, strategy guides, and songbooks, and the grand total was... 135!

Image Hosted by

Isn't it grand? I can't wait until move-out day next Wednesday! That's gonna be fun. XD

Drawing A Blank

Title: Drawing A Blank
Author: Daniel Ehrenhaft

What it's about: So, Carlton is this comic book geek who pretty much sucks at having a social life, right? But he does have a comic strip in a newspaper, which is something. Anyway, we learn that his dad is borderline wacko, to the point in believing that he's involved in an ancient Scottish feud. However, oops, maybe he's not a total nutjob, 'cause he gets dragged off to Scotland, leaving Carlton to fulfill the kidnapper's demands and rescue his dad.

What I thought: The way the book's written, I immediately took to Carlton as a narrator. Stuff that might stretch my belief in other cases was easy to accept 'cause of how it was set out. Really, all the characters were understandable, from Carlton's dad to Aileen and even Bryce. It's a fun story, and the comics scattered throughout add to the depth of it all. Well, relative depth, given that this is still just a teen fiction novel. But, yeah, I really was charmed by the easy storytelling.

Overall: This is a fun book with a lot of heart. Give it a read if you like adventure stories.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Quidditch Through The Ages

Oy, missed a day there. Comes of it bein' the end of the school year, as well as me choosin' to read some non-fiction. I'm still working on a book about musicals, 'cause those types of books take longer to read through than novels.

Title: Quidditch Through The Ages
Author: J.K. Rowling

What it's about: It's a book all about the fictional sport of Quidditch from the Harry Potter series. Details the history of the sport, the teams, the brooms, the rules, and other things.

What I thought: This is a short read, and it's fun if you like Harry Potter. The idea of Quidditch was one of my favorite parts of the Harry Potter series (along with Luna Lovegood). This book is fun and really shows the creativity that Rowling is capable of in her world-building.

Overall: Probably just worth checking out from the library since I read it in about an hour, and while chatting and stuff, too.

And I totally meant to review a different book today, but the words for the synopsis just weren't coming, so I just kinda picked up this book and blazed through it. With any luck, I'll be able to form a good review for Drawing a Blank tomorrow. Please note the irony in that particular title, too. >_>

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Persepolis 2

Title: Persepolis 2
Author: Marjane Satrapi

What it's about: Persepolis 2 is an illustrated biographical novel of Marjane Satrapi. Its prequel was about her childhood in Iran during the 1980s, and this book is about her life in Europe after being sent to school there as an older teenager and her life after that.

What I thought: As with the first book, the art is almost deceptively simple compared to the heavy situations it depicts. It's a really realistic picture of life during these times, and from a perspective you don't necessarily get all that often. Whereas the first book had more of a political feel to it, this one is more of the story of one person's life.

Overall: I prefer Persepolis, but this is still a solid and interesting book.

Things Hoped For

Title: Things Hoped For
Author: Andrew Clements

What it's about: Gwen's a high school senior who loves to play the violin. She stays with her grandfather in New York so she can attend a music school and audition for colleges. One day, a few days before her college auditions, Gwen comes home to find her grandfather missing. He's left her a message telling her not to worry and not to let anyone know he's gone. Gwen tries to go about her days as usual, and she meets Robert, a trumpet player who is also in town for music college auditions. Gwen and Robert stick together over the coming days, which include a prying great-uncle, an mysterious creeper, and a whole lotta self-discovery for Gwen.

What I thought: Written with an easy style from the view of a sympathetic narrator, this book really makes music resonate with someone like me who has never really connected with the practice of playing a musical instrument. For all Gwen's a flawed character, like any good character in a novel should be, she's utterly likable. Robert is the protagonist of Clements' earlier book Things Not Seen, and it's interesting to see him portrayed from another character's point of view. The prose is rather musical in its way, too, and has a very easy, comfortable feeling that makes reading this book feel heartwarming.

Overall: This is a good book, and if you're a fan of classical music, you'll especially enjoy this. Matty, if you end up reading this review ever, check out Things Hoped For.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

My Children! My Africa!

Title: My Children! My Africa!
Author: Athol Fugard

What it's about: This is a play, not a book. It has three characters and takes place in South Africa during apartheid. Isabel and Thami are high school students. Isabel is white and Thami is black. After an inter-school debate, the black teacher at Thami's school, Mr. M., sees how well Thami and Isabel get along, and he proposes that they both team up for an English literature competition. Isabel and Thami become friends, but Thami is not satisfied with how life is going. He constantly hears talk of rebelling against the unfair treatment of blacks, and he is angry with Mr. M for being, as Thami sees it, too passive and old-fashioned. As the play goes on, Thami's unhappiness stresses his relationships with the other two until finally something has to change forever.

What I thought: I was expecting a play about Issues. Instead, I was surprised most pleasantly to find a play with characters who talked and acted like real people. Isabel and Thami were teenagers who talked and acted like teenagers - awkward at times, sometimes getting angry when they shouldn't, idealistic, and just other normal things. There are several scenes that are just monologues, but those again are true to the characters and not excessively preachy.

Overall: This was a good play. Though it was assigned for class, it was actually fun to read. I recommend it.

Companions of the Night

Title: Companions of the Night
Author: Vivian Vande Velde

What it's about: Late one night, Kerry goes to the local laundromat to retrieve a stuffed toy her young brother left there earlier. While there, a group of local vampires drag in a young man who they say is a vampire. Kerry naturally thinks this is crazy, and she helps the young man escape. He thanks her, and they part ways. The next evening, her father and brother go missing. The boy who Kerry helped escape, Ethan, turns out to be a vampire, like the vampire hunters claimed, and Kerry only narrowly avoids being bitten by promising to help Ethan find the vampire hunter still at large. This is also the only way she'll be able to find her father and brother.

What I thought: Any book where the vampires are cunning and rather alien from normal humans as opposed to being emo prettyboys who angst about what they are automatically gets points from me. Vande Velde paints a realistic, if somewhat dark, world for the story to take place in. Ethan is conniving, and Kerry is really pretty sensible about things, considering. The story had good pacing, and the relationship between Kerry and Ethan covers a lot of ground, from friendship to antagonism and lots in between.

Overall: I've always rather liked Vivian Vande Velde's books, and this is no exception. It's short, easy and fun read that'd I'd recommend to anyone who likes realistic vampire stories.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

My influential books

"Which books, above all others, have influenced your imagination more than anything else?"

This question was posed at a forum I go to, and I posted a fairly long answer there. I figure it would be interesting BlookityBlook fodder, so I'll repost it here.

When you say "influenced your imagination", I'm takin' it to mean how have they inspired me to view ways of writing and storytelling in new outlooks. Or something like that. For me, everything comes back to writing.

To Kill A Mockingbird, Peace Like A River, An American Childhood, and Rascal - These four paint an idyllic picture of American life in times past, the sort you yearn for and believe life was better in. It's not a genre I dabble in, but all the same, such books give inspiration for a type of ambience I can only dream of achieving.

Green Rider was the book that really showed me just how awesome high fantasy can be. It showed me that fantasy novels can have a sense of humor and don't have to be grim, that they can wrap up their plots in a single book and still leave broader storylines open, and that a world in a fantasy story can be richly developed and not stereotypical.

Airborn was my first foray into steampunk, basically, and it was a lush world that seemed familiar and exotic at the same time. It brought me to realize that adventures can happen to anyone and anywhere, even in our own world.

The Dark Side of Nowhere - Another book that got me interested in sort of urban fantasy/sci-fi stuff. This also gave me some good insight on male characters and, again, how adventure can happen even in our own backyard (or in the middle of nowhere).

The Goose Girl- No, wait, I read Shannon Hale's Princess Academy first, but both struck me with the way that character development is handled and balanced with genuine action. Heroines who have common sense rock my socks, and it's a joy to read about them in various stories. The worlds Hale develops are also very vibrant, but they have hints of fairy tale familiarity mixed in, and I have to say that I greatly enjoy fairy tale retellings.

Which brings me to Ella Enchanted, which long occupied my favorite book slot. This book brought life to the old story of Cinderella. Suddenly she wasn't a wimp pushed around by stepmothers, given help by some random fairy godmother, and then married to a prince she'd known for all of one night. Ella turned out to be a spunky heroine who takes action for herself, has her own flaws and creates problems, is both strong and weak in different ways at different times, and experiences an actual romantic relationship with her prince before getting her happy ending. What a revelation to me as a beginning storyteller.

I also have to throw a bone to Catch-22 as a stylistic inspiration, if not an imaginative one.

And Patricia Wrede's Enchanted Forest Chronicles played with the world of possibilities in fairy tale spoofs, which in turn caused me to wonder how I could play with such things, too.

We also can't forget Diana Wynne Jones. Hexwood really stuck with me as a book that isn't afraid of complexity and as an example of just superb craftsmanship in plotting. Her characters, too, must be mentioned. So many of them, but with a lot of depth crammed in.

Of course, I take tons of inspiration and imaginative influence from other sources, including my favorite movies, games, and television shows. But being a reader is my primary occupation, and it's all the books I've read that have given me fodder for the many stories I love to create. Also, this feels way too much like I'm concluding a paper. Dude.


Well, first review is here. I'm a little rusty at the in-depth reviewing thing, mainly with how much you're supposed to go into the plot when you do a summary. So let's just say that there are mild spoilers, but nothing that I think will ruin a person's enjoyment of the book. Let me know how I'm doing, eh?

Title: Atonement
Author: Ian McEwan

What it's about: H'okay, so it's England between the two world wars. We've got this thirteen year old girl, Briony Tallis, who is of a creative mind. Fancies herself a writer. She's written a play as way to welcome her older brother Leon back to the family's house. Leon's been living in town for a while. Anyway, Briony also has an older sister named Cecilia who has just finished college and is back at the Tallis family house for a stay. Cecilia has been feeling unsatisfied lately, not sure what she wants to do with her life and not sure what's going on between her and her childhood friend Robbie Turner. Lately they've been cool towards each other, and it's been frustrating Cecilia. Things come to a head when, during a fight with Robbie, Cecilia throws off her clothes and jumps into a fountain on the grounds as a way of making a point. Unknown to Cecilia and Robbie, however, Briony sees this and draws her own conclusions. This colors Briony's view of Robbie, and leads to her further misinterpreting the relationship between Cecilia and Robbie. Finally, Briony commits her great crime, what she will eventually have to atone for, an act that shatters the happiness of more than one life.

What I thought: Atonement wasn't all I felt the hype had made it out to be. Nevertheless, it was an interesting read. It's a book that's all about inner conflict and conflicts and relationships between characters, and McEwan excels at writing that. The viewpoints shift between, if I remember correctly, four characters, and you're really able to understand all of their points of view and see how they reach the conclusions that they do. The motivations behind Briony's act are all made clear, and you can see how it would occur to her that she was doing what she thought was best in the situation. Additionally, the musings on the craft of writing made for interesting consideration, and the descriptions were quite lush.

Overall: Probably not something I'll read again, but it was definitely worth reading once.

The adventure begins!

Ah, hello! Welcome to BlookityBlook, my (almost) daily book review blog. What's this all about? Well, I've always been a voracious reader, but back in February, I got really into reading books. I started reading a new book almost every day, and after I finished them, I posted mini-reviews in my LiveJournal. From February 21 to April 14, I've read 36 books and reviewed 35 of them. Not a bad feat for a busy college student, eh? Well, just the other day, I was thinking about my goals for this summer, and I decided I'd make it a goal to read a hundred books in the months of May, June, July, and August. Obviously, that's a lot of books and a lot of reviews. I decided I'd share the love. Basically, I'm making my reviews available for anyone who's interested to know what a bibliophile like me thinks of a certain title.

So! What will go down is this. I'll read a book, I'll write up a review, and I'll post it. Anyone who reads the review is totally welcome to comment on it and get some fun discussion going. I also am open to suggestions for books to read. Now, I'll admit that my reviewing skills aren't the best. However, now that I've started this project, I'll put my all into making the reviews quality and worth reading. I'll also undoubtedly improve over the months. I'll also be posting the mini-reviews that were previously on my LiveJournal. They're not as in-depth as I hope the reviews written for here will be, but with any luck, they'll still give you folks an idea of if a book is any good. Finally, I may occasionally stick up reviews for other media, like musicals and plays, video games, and movies, but those will be a lot less frequent and likely only for exceptionally good or hilariously bad ones.

All right, the good stuff will be coming up in just a bit! I finished Atonement just today (it was a long one!), so that'll be the first review.