September 29, 2012

War Horse by Michael Morpurgo

A story of a horse and the lives of the owners linked to him. Told in the voice of the horse, the story opens in England, as the young horse is separated from his mother when sold at auction. He is bought by a farmer, but trained and loved by the farmer's son, Albert who names the horse Joey. With World War I looming, and the farmer in need of funds, the horse is sold to a British army commander, to the distraught of Albert. Albert is promised by the commander that Joey will be well taken care of and returned at the end of the war. The horror of war is told through the experience of the horse, as he is captured by the Germans, adopted by a young girl, won back to the British by a soldier's bet, and reunited with Albert, now a soldier in the army. I found the first-person account, told through the voice of Joey, a horse,  off-putting. The language seemed stiff, coldly descriptive, and detached. The story attempts to be heart warming, but might have been more successful told in the third person.
Reed Reads Score: 2.5

September 9, 2012

Chomp by Carl Hiaasen

We are all familiar with the reality shows where a survivalist is shown in the wild with nothing but their keen knowledge of the wilderness and what's on their back to survive... all the while knowing there is a camera and crew behind the scenes.  Hiaasen's Chomp looks at the genre with humor and adventure. Wahoo Crane's father Mickey is an animal wrangler in Florida. Short on cash, Wahoo's father takes a job with a T.V. show Expedition Survival!, whose star, Derek Badger, is an egotistical, fool hardy, phony. Derek Badger has never spent one night in the wild, and has a liking for luxury hotels and rich food.

Mickey and Wahoo are asked to travel with the show which will be shooting a show in the Everglades. While shopping for supplies, Wahoo runs into a friend from school named Tuna. Noticing her black eye, Wahoo learns that Tuna's father is beating her. Wahoo is in disbelief, and Mickey while wanting to beat Tuna's father to a pulp, decides to take Tuna with them on the Everglades expedition to get her out of the house. What happens is an adventure that Mickey and Wahoo will never forget, from Derek being bitten by a bat, then believing he will turn into a vampire to Tuna's dad coming after her. A good read for animal lovers and reality show junkies.

Reed Reads Score: 3.5

September 1, 2012

The Drowned Cities by Paolo Bacigalupi

This is a violent and bloody book, that is sadly, reflective of our times.
A future United States is ripped apart by a bloody civil war, and the landscape has been altered by melting polar ice caps, flooding coast line cities. In this companion book to Ship Breaker, Tool, a genetically created human/animal designed to kill, is now further north than the gulf coast setting in Ship Breaker. Captured by one of the warring factions, he has now escaped and is hiding in the jungle. He is near death. Mahalia is a young girl who is mixed race, her father a chinese "peacekeeper", and her mother American. She is considered an outcast, or "war maggot" and has been beaten and maimed (one of her hands chopped off) by the warring groups. She has been taken in by a peace loving doctor and trained to help him treat victims of the war. She is devoted to Mouse a young boy that helped save her, and who has also been taken in by the doctor. When their village is savagely taken over by a battalion, she fights back, causing embarrassment and damage to the soldiers. She escapes to the jungle with Mouse where she runs into Tool. Tool takes Mouse captive, promising to release him, if Mahalia brings him antibiotics. Returning to Tool with the doctor and promised medicines, she treats Tool, against the will of the doctor. Returning to the village, the doctor is killed, and Mouse recruited to be a soldier. This sets in motion the union of Tool and Mahalia to search for and find Mouse.

This book will hold you from first page to last. It is well written, moves quickly, unexpected plot twists, and well developed characters and setting. The book, at least for me, was a commentary on the current situation in the Middle East, where more than a generation knows nothing more than war, children are recruited as soldiers, there is no value for human life, "peacekeepers" have attempted, but failed to help, and any sense of humanity is lost to the "cause".  An excellent read, but for older, mature readers because of the extreme violence.
Reed Reads Score: 4.5