Saturday, December 03, 2011

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

Title: American Gods
Author: Neil Gaiman
Reading Level: medium reading level
Length: 550+ pages
Starred Review: 5/5 stars! I loved this book!

It's been a while since I have finished a book in its entirety, and so here I am, posting to this blog, to let you know about the book that I just finished. I have known Neil Gaiman (pronounced Gay-man) from reading some of his Sandman stuff and watching movies like Coraline. I enjoy his darkness and his light. He's a decent writer.

It's funny, when I started writing this review, I went over to Amazon and checked out some of the less favorable reviews of this book. Most complain that he doesn't give enough description, or that some of the scenes behind the scenes of the book are ambiguous. That is what I liked best about this book! It invites you to infer for yourself what is really going on! It gives a decent look at what the melting pot of America is with all of the religions that were brought with the flow of immigrants that came into this country.

The main story follows Shadow, an ex convict, who loses his wife and his job on the outside 2 days before his scheduled release. The warden lets him out, and on the plane home, he meets an old man who tells Shadow that he needs a bodyguard. Refusing to take no for an answer, Shadow becomes a servant to Wednesday, and goes on a strange adventure between magic and reality, where people we see may or may not be Gods.

I could barely put this book down! The story was compelling, and while it takes a little bit of knowledge of Gods and American geography, and yes - there is ambiguity - I found that the story compelled me further to know what was going to happen next.

I recommend this for, probably, my students and friends who may be a bit more literary, but really you don't have to know a lot about literature and mythology in order to really enjoy the story. It helps to have that background, but the story keeps you interested and it keeps moving along pretty well.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Welcome Back to School!

Thank you for coming to visit my blog, where I hope to post reviews of books that I have read as well as reviews of books that you have read as well.

A bit of information about me.
~I am a Shakespeare nut. I haven't found a play I don't like.. but I haven't read them all yet.
~I play video games.
~No, I won't add you on Facebook until after you've graduated. Just a rule I have.
~I have two cats and a husband. They're my favorite family! :)
~I am always, always reading something. If you want to know, ask.
~I am always willing to answer questions, but make sure that they are appropriate and in context with the class discussion.

If you want to submit a book review for this blog, write it up and give it to me. I will make sure that it gets posted. If you want it to be anonymous, put that in the header of your paper, but also put your name as well so I can give you the credit for writing the book review.

I hope you have a great year in your classes.. but most especially in English!

Mrs. Victoria Long

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Crash by Jerry Spinelli

Title: Crash
Author: Jerry Spinelli
Reading Level: Easy to mid-level
Length: 162 pages
Starred Review: 4/5 stars- recommended

I first discovered Jerry Spinelli novels when I found the novel Stargirl and found it to be fascinating (I will review it here later, since I just bought a new copy to re-read). So, when I pick up a Jerry Spinelli book, I expect quirky fun and interesting thoughtful characters in a novel that is easy to read. He doesn't disappoint in Crash.

John "Crash" Coogan is a fairly normal, football obsessed seventh grade boy who has a neighbor who gets on his nerves, Penn Webb. Penn is a Quaker (doesn't believe in violence), Vegan (doesn't eat anything with a face) and a cheerleader, which in Crash's world, boys are never supposed to be. Crash and his buddy Mike spend their time tormenting Penn... just because it is fun.

This is an interesting novel about a bully, but like most bully novels, rather than told from the victim's perspective, this novel is told by the bully who doesn't realize that he is a bully. One particularly interesting passage is at the school dance where Crash has decided that the new girl, Jane Forbes, wants to dance with him, despite her protesting. It is an interesting look into a self-involved mind. Had he created Crash any older, I think that Spinelli could have given an interesting look into the mind of a rapist or spouse abuser. Fortunatley, Spinelli also creates female characters that can take care of themselves.

Fortunately, the character does not stay self-involved. Things change in his life when his grandfather, an ex-Navy cook, moves in and Crash begins to see the world a little differently.

Altogether this novel plays out well, and I recommend it for teenage boys. There are things in it that girls will find enjoyable as well. It draws the right audience in and is an enjoyable and quick read. I stayed up late to finish it because the end pulled me forward and I wanted to see what happened. It is an interesting look into the jock mentality and the evolution of a boy into the beginnings of early-manhood.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Amsterdam by Ian McEwan

Title: Amsterdam
Author: Ian McEwan
Reading Level: Mid to High
Length: 198 pages
Starred Review: 3/5 stars-It was ok, but not great.

This is definitely not my favorite McEwan novel. I liked the characters, but it seemed sort of convoluted and far-fetched. I liked the intrigue, and it seemed to be an interesting attempt by McEwan to write an almost mystery novel, but it just didn't work well for me. The novel almost seemed cluttered with McEwan's characteristic expository passages that range forward and backward in time as the characters reflect on their life and what choices they have made. What essentially happens is that one woman's death leads to the downfall of three prominent and important men in British culture. To watch the two main characters self-destruct is an interesting type of Schadenfreude for a reader, but not to my tastes. What did save this novel from getting 2 stars is the some of McEwan's beautiful phraseology and wit that had me in awe of his talent to craft passionate meaningful prose. It was an interesting read, and I finished it, which is more than I can say for some of my more recent reading choices, but it wasn't my favorite novel of his either.

For a teenaged reader, I probably wouldn't recommend this novel unless they are into intrigue, a bit of mystery, and well... a lot of long passages of information which lead to a good story, but become kind of dull. Definitely for a higher level reader who loves literature. McEwan tends to be a bit long winded, making me think of an old grandfatherly type telling you a long story that you wish could hurry up and get to the good parts. The problem is, you have to know the information in the long winded parts to make the good parts really great.

Altogether, an interesting novel, but not one I will be reading again.