Book Review: The House on Mango Street

This is from the back cover:

Sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes deeply joyous, The House on Mango Street tells the story of Esperanza Cordero, whose neighborhood is one of harsh realities and harsh beauty. Esperanza doesn’t want to belong- not to her rundown neighborhood, and not to the low expectations the world has for her. Esperanza’s story is that of a young girl coming into her power, and inventing for herself what she will become.

I’ve never read a book like this one- the style of storytelling the author chose for this is just unique. It’s told in a series of snapshots- on the back cover it calls them “vignettes.” This the word origin and history for the word “vignette”:

1751, “decorative design,” originally a design in the form of vine tendrils around the borders of a book page, especially a picture page, from Fr. vignette, from O.Fr., dim. of vigne “vineyard” (see vine). Sense transferred from the border to the picture itself, then (1853) to a type of small photographic portrait with blurred edges very popular mid-19c. Meaning “literary sketch” is first recorded 1880, probably from the photographic sense.

I like the “photographic portrait with blurred edges.” That’s honestly the best way to describe Sandra Cisneros’s writing style. Each chapter is like a still in a movie… but the blurred edges make it more natural somehow. Even though you can picture it perfectly in your head, you still have the freedom to picture it in your own way. No one will imagine it the same. The main picture will be the same- but each person’s edges will be different.

I would definitely recommend this book- just because it’s so different from anything else I’ve ever read. This author has an amazing ability to write! Honestly, almost every other sentence has a simile in it. Or a metaphor. Or personification. Sandra Cisneros’s ability to use language is unbelievable. Her voice and style and writing just flows so well… so naturally.

Read it. If you’ve already read it, read it again. You’ll notice things you hadn’t noticed before.

Book Review: The Thief Lord

So, I just finished reading this book- The Thief Lord. And I have to say, I was pretty impressed.

This is the summary on the back of the book:

Welcome to the magical underworld of Venice, Italy. Here, hidden canals and crumbling rooftops shelter runaways and children with incredible secrets…

After escaping from their cruel aunt and uncle, orphans Prosper and Bo meet a mysterious boy who calls himself the “Thief Lord.” Clever and charming, the Thief Lord leads a band of street children who enjoy making mischief. But the Thief Lord also has a dark secret. And suddenly Prosper and Bo find themselves on a fantastical journey to a forgotten place. What they discover there will change the course of their destiny… forever.

Before reading this book, I had read Inkheart by Cornelia Funke, and since I hadn’t liked that book too much (it was okay), I wasn’t sure what to expect this time. But overall, I have to say that The Thief Lord was a pretty good book.

Good stuff: The story. I absolutely LOVED the story. I’ve got to say, there aren’t too many books out there with original plots, but this one didn’t seem cliche in the slightest.

I mean, if you think about it, the bare plot structure of Harry Potter is pretty cliche- ordinary boy finds out he has powers,  and then he goes off to save the world. Don’t get me wrong- I am a HUGE fan of Harry Potter, so I’m not saying the books are bad- because they’re not. J.K. Rowling is an AMAZING writer with AMAZING ideas. It’s her ideas that make us want to read Harry Potter, even though the bare story is cliche- she puts so much freaking meat on that bare skeleton that we want to read it. In fact, we go crazy over it, because that’s some darn good meat. And the extra spices and sauces she adds to that meat make it totally un-cliche. 🙂

But enough about Harry Potter- this review is about The Thief Lord, for crying out loud! But yeah. My point is, the plot was great.

Another great thing was the descriptions of Venice. Cornelia Funke was painting pictures in my mind with her language and style of writing!

Her characters were also pretty well developed- Scipio (the Thief Lord) was definitely my favorite; I loved his attitude.

How the book could have been even better: Not sure if this is true for most people who have read the book, but to me, it read like a manuscript that is almost ready for publishing- almost, but not quite. There are just a few minor things I’m going to pick on. First thing- sentence fluency. I know this seems really nit-picky, but some of her sentences could have been better than they were. I remember one part, where someone “came rushing.” It would have made just as much sense if the person had “rushed.” And it would have sounded better, too. See what I mean? Small things, but they make the writing flow. There were a couple instances like that. There were also a few grammatical issues (but you’ll probably find that in any book). I understand that the original text was in German, and it was translated to English, but I feel that if someone had edited it just one more time, those minor errors could have been fixed.

Another thing- you know how I said it seemed like it was almost ready for publishing? Well, that’s because there were a lot of parts that could have been omitted. Seriously. There were whole chapters where nothing was happening- the story wasn’t moving along. The characters were just sitting around and talking. Remember my post on Descriptions and Details? Well, I was thinking of Cornelia Funke as I wrote it. 😛 Her descriptions are AWESOME, but she seems to have a little too much fun with them and sometimes it seems as though she doesn’t know when to stop. That’s why I didn’t like Inkheart too much. It was a brilliant idea with a brilliant plot- but there were huge chunks where nothing was happening. If the story had been written a little bit better, I think I would have liked it more.

But overall, I would definitely recommend The Thief Lord to anyone who wants an awesome adventure story with a great ending. And a few unexpected twists make it even better! Just wait till you find out the Thief Lord’s secret. 😉