Thursday, July 15, 2010

Book Challenge Update - Reviews

We are now 2 weeks into the summer book challenge. I haven't been a speedy reader but I've managed to read 2 books. That's a book a week so I don't think I'm doing too bad.

These reviews contain spoilers of the books/movies, so if you haven't read/seen them yet you might not want to read this.

I read Dances with Wolves by Micheal Blake. This book fit the task of reading a book with a Native American character. I really enjoyed this book. It is strikingly similar to the movie, even down to some of the dialogue. There were some significant differences though. For instance, the Indians in the book were Comanche not Sioux. The book was set in Colorado, not South Dakota like the movie. There are several other differences between the book and the movie but probably the most significant is the ending. In the movie, Dances with Wolves and his wife Stands with a Fist leave the Indian camp and trek out on their own so the white soldiers won't find the camp and slaughter the Indians. In the book, Dances with Wolves proposes this scenario but the chief Ten Bears rejects it. Dances with Wolves stays in the camp with his wife and we learn that they are starting a family.

There is a sequel to the book called The Holy Road. This book catches up with Dances with Wolves eleven years after the first book. Dances with Wolves and Stands with a Fist have three children and still live in Ten Bears village. In this book, white soldiers attack the village killing half of the inhabitants and abducting Stands with a Fist and her infant daughter. Dances with Wolves, along with the other Comanche warriors, go to war with the white soldiers. This book is also in the process of being made into a movie. Kevin Costner has declined participation but Viggo Mortenson has been slated to play Dances with Wolves. I have this book on my "to-read" list.

The second book that I read was Along Came a Spider by James Patterson. I used this book to fit the task of reading a book set in a major city. The book is set in Washington DC. This is the first book in the Alex Cross series and was made into a movie starring Morgan Freeman. I had actually read Mary, Mary first and was interested in the series enough to want to start from the beginning. I will start by saying that I saw the movie Along Came a Spider many years ago, and I enjoyed it so I was looking forward to reading the book. Boy was I disappointed.

First, the movie and the book are two completely different stories. The main characters have the same names and there is the basic plot of the kidnapping of a famous child from school, but other than that...nothing. The personalities of the characters are different, some of the character names are different, what happens to the children, what happens to the criminals, everything is different.

Second, racism is prevalent in this book. Alex Cross and his family are racist. Their attitudes overshadow everything going on. I was a little shocked and kind of disgusted when Cross did not want to be assigned to the kidnapping case simply because the victims were white. He has yelling and sometimes physical arguments throughout the book, all based on race. His grandmother disapproves of his relationship with Jezzie because "you can't trust white people". This point is made several times in the book. I found it a little irritating that Cross was so pissed off that the "black" murders in DC would go unsolved (these were committed by Soneji along with the kidnapping) yet the unsolved kidnapping and murder of the white children didn't piss him off at all.

I did enjoy the character development of the murderer/kidnapper Soneji/Murphey. Patterson did a good job creating a character that was a complete sociopath and a possible multiple personality.

Other than the Soneji character, the book was fairly predictable. It was pretty easy to figure out who the bad guys were. I will say that the ending was a little bit of a surprise. I wasn't expecting Maggie Rose (the kidnapped girl) to be found in Bolivia and I definitely wasn't expecting Jezzie to get the death penalty. The book did end with a set up for a sequel. Cross is leaving Jezzie's execution and finds a note from Soneji on the windshield of his car. This is the one and only reason I would pick up the next book in this series. I was fascinated by the Soneji character and would read the next book just to see what happens to this character. I will say that in Mary, Mary Alex Cross is a much different character. Perhaps the character matures as the series continues or maybe Patterson got too much flack for the racism in this book. Who knows. I'm glad this was not the first Patterson book the I read, if it had been I would not have read any others. As it is, I will probably pick up the next in the series to see what happens to Gary Soneji, but that won't be for quite awhile. I think I'm all Patterson-ed out for now.

Book Challenge Total: 15 Points out of a possible 450 points

My next selections are:
Dead Man Walking by Helen Prejean for the task of reading a book about a subject you disagree with. 25 points
Outlander by Diane Gabaldon for the task of reading a book with a one work title. 5 points
Twilight by Stephenie Meyer for the task of starting a series I haven't read yet. 25 points

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