Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Site Updated, Reviews Archived

The previous seven book reviews have been archived at the Brightdreamer Books website. I also have more cross-links up (the I, J, and S reviews.)


Something Wicked This Way Comes (Ray Bradbury)

Something Wicked This Way Comes
Ray Bradbury
William Morrow (HarperCollins)
Fiction, YA Fantasy
**** (Good)
Something Wicked This Way Comes
DESCRIPTION: In the graying October of a younger America, two small-town boys - Will Halloway and Jim Nightshade - are thrilled when they catch wind of a carnival coming to town. Mr. Cooger and Mr. Dark promise all manner of thrills and amusements, from the mystifying Mirror Maze to the horrifying collection of circus freaks. But from the night of the carnival's eerie arrival, darkness and shadows spread across the town. Will and Jim find the bonds of their friendship tested to the utmost as they face temptations and terrors that have bested Mankind since the dawn of human awareness.
This movie formed the basis of the 1983 movie of the same name.

REVIEW: The Disney movie based on this book has long been a Halloween staple for me, but I'd never gotten around to reading the book until now. Even though Bradbury wrote the screenplay for the movie, there are distinct differences. His prose runs thick with metaphors, giving the story's many dark images and moments of terror a nightmarish, semi-lucid quality. Through it all, a decent story and solid characters unfold. I found the writing a bit thick at times, making for slow reading, and memories of the movie lingered long past the point when the stories diverged, but overall it was a memorable book. I still think I liked the movie's version of events a little better, though.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Call of the Wild and White Fang (Jack London)

The Call of the Wild and White Fang
Jack London
Bantam Classics
The Call of the Wild and White Fang (Unabridged Classics)
(NOTE: The Amazon link above does not link to the older edition reviewed.)
DESCRIPTION: Two of Jack London's most famed books, plus a biographical introduction by Abraham Rothberg:
The Call of the Wild - Born and raised in sunny California, the dog Buck finds himself abducted by a servant and sold to unscrupulous men, bound for the Gold Rush in Alaska to be broken as a sled dog. Chained and beaten for the first time in his life, facing bitter weather and terrible masters, Buck's spirit refuses to let him die... and something deep within that spirit responds to the savage, white wilderness, so unlike the soft green world he came from.
White Fang - Sole surviving offspring of a half-husky mother and wolf father, the pup White Fang started life in the harsh Wild, before following his mother into Man's territory. Seeing these strange creatures as forces akin to gods, White Fang learns of their hard rules and cruel justice... but can any of these terrifying, club-bearing beasts teach him love?

REVIEW: This rating takes into account all three parts of the book. While I found The Call of the Wild a decent read, the rest of it drug the book back into Okay territory. Rothberg's long-winded introduction, outlining the author's unhappy life and premature death, is riddled with spoilers. Buck's tale paints a grim and hostile picture of the Gold Rush and humanity in general, with a bittersweet ending. White Fang reads like a spiritual sequel to The Call of the Wild, with the wolf learning the ways of the dog instead of the dog learning the ways of the wolf. Unfortunately, White Fang's story runs in circles more often than it advances, and has far too much space between its beginning, middle, and end. (Any book where the main character isn't even born until the sixth chapter should have encountered a firmer editor at some point between creation and publication.) That said, London's prose is interesting, if somewhat exaggerated, and I can see why both books would be considered classics.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Giant Book of Magic (Cassandra Eason)

The Giant Book of Magic
Cassandra Eason
Magpie Books
Nonfiction, Magic
*** (Okay)
Giant Book of Magic: Everyday Practical Magic from Around the World: Gypsy Love Cards, the I Ching, Native American Medicine-wheels And Much More
DESCRIPTION: In ancient times, the world was full of magic. From the stars in the sky to the flowers in the field, from the gods of Greece to those of the remote isles of the South Pacific, countless systems of magic, manifesting, and divination were derived and performed by people around the world. These helped everyone from housewives and children to priests and kings to manage their lives and clarify their thoughts. In today's hectic world, where modern science promises answers but only hands us more trouble and doubt, these ancient methods can still be useful. The author compiles notes on all manners of magic and offers tips on using it in practical, everyday terms.

REVIEW: I found this for less than four bucks at Half Price Books, and bought it as a reference for my fantasy writing efforts. The table of contents promised information on everything from culture-specific magic (Mayan, Celtic, Maori, etc.) to elemental magic (sea, fire, sky), seasonal magic (Christmas, Hallowe'en) and more. Unfortunately, by trying to cover so many, many different topics, Eason must summarize to the point of confusion and even contradiction. Some few bits of interesting information here and there are lost in the general rush. She also fails to provide a bibliography for further reading (or confirmation of her often-too-brief overviews.) Most of her magic rituals aren't magic per se, but rather diviniation methods, ways to help a person rethink their problems and look for other solutions, and several of them don't seem nearly as practical for modern life as she implies. In the end, this book didn't provide nearly enough of what I bought it for: inspiration or information. If I'd paid much more for it, I'd have been upset enough to lower the rating to Bad, but it's hard to get too upset at a four dollar purchase.