Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Keturah and Lord Death - Leavitt - 2006 - YA Lit Week 9

Title: Keturah and Lord Death
Author: Martine Leavitt
Year: 2006
Publisher: Front Street
Course Theme for the Week: Speculative Fiction: Science Fiction & Fantasy (03-30-2011)
Date Read: 03-28-2011
Overall: * * * * (4/5)

GoodReads Blurb: "I will tell you . . . a story of magic and love, of daring and death, and one to comfort your heart. It will be the truest story I have ever told. Now listen, and tell me if it is not so."

After following a hart into the woods bordering her town, Keturah is faced with Death. Lost and hungry after following a stately hart through the forest, Keturah encounters Lord Death, who is ready to take her. Like Scheherazade, Keturah spins a story that she leaves unfinished and extracts from Lord Death a promise that if she finds her true love in a day, she can go free. Thus begins Keturah's search for her one true love and the salvation of her beloved town. But Lord Death is falling in love with her, and as the villagers begin to sense her alliance with this horrifying figure, her life twists and turns on itself.

Martine Leavitt offers a spellbinding story, interweaving elements of classic fantasy and high romance. The romance is intense, the writing is startling, and the story is spellbinding--and it is as difficult to turn away from as the tales beautiful Keturah tells to the people of her village, Tide-by-Rood.

My Review: This book read very much like a fairy tale. The language was simple, and the characters were rather flat, but it felt like it was on purpose, as this was the style and type of story Leavitt wanted to use. It was a very easy read, and I think would be more appealing for middle-grade readers than high school level.

I liked the message that only when faced with death did Keturah really try to live her life and love her town and friends for who they were. I have to say, I was really rooting for Keturah and John the whole time, and was disappointed that my first instincts were correct about who Keturah would find to be her true love. I'm not sure what kind of message it sends that her true love was Lord Death. I also didn't really like the quick summaries of all of her friends' lives at the end, and I'm unsure of how the beginning worked into the ending. Was it Keturah telling the story? And if so, to whom?

I did like this story, I just had a few minor problems, but I think young adults ages 11-14 could really get a lot out of this story. It's a nice fantasy/fairy tale book, and the quality of writing is very high.

To Purchase: Amazon, B&N

Also by this author: Heck: Superhero (2006), The Dollmage (2002), and many others!

Currently Reading: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900) by L. Frank Baum

Books read in 2o11: 32 (of 100)

Beautiful Creatures - Garcia & Stohl - 2009 - YA Lit Week 9

Title: Beautiful Creatures (Caster Chronicles # 1)
Author: Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl
Year: 2009
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Course Theme for the Week: Speculative Fiction: Science Fiction & Fantasy (03-30-2011)
Date Read: 03-26-2011
Overall: * * * 1/2 (3.5/5)

GoodReads Blurb: Lena Duchannes is unlike anyone the small Southern town of Gatlin has ever seen, and she's struggling to conceal her power, and a curse that has haunted her family for generations. But even within the overgrown gardens, murky swamps and crumbling graveyards of the forgotten South, a secret cannot stay hidden forever.

Ethan Wate, who has been counting the months until he can escape from Gatlin, is haunted by dreams of a beautiful girl he has never met. When Lena moves into the town's oldest and most infamous plantation, Ethan is inexplicably drawn to her and determined to uncover the connection between them.

In a town with no surprises, one secret could change everything.

My Review: I read this book as one of my two Fantasy books for my YA Lit course. I really only chose it out of convenience, since a friend of mine owned it and I didn't feel like making the trek out to the library or a store to find some of the others on the list. I spent a nice Saturday home lounging on the couch and reading this book. I was surprised with how much I enjoyed the story.

I liked the writing of Garcia & Stohl, it felt very smooth and the language didn't feel like there were two authors. The plot was alright, I'm not a big fan of "supernatural" or "paranormal" things, because I find it really difficult to get past the fact that I don't believe in any of those things, but for the most part I was able to see beyond that in this story. Ethan and Lena made a nice pair, and I felt like I understood why Lena was such a roller coaster mess half the time, it felt very believable.

I did have a few problems with this, though. First, I don't really understand that sudden change when Ethan decided that Lena should be called "L" constantly... L isn't really an initial I think works as a nickname. At all. It just felt forced, and like whoever was typing up the novel got a little lazy. Second, Ethan didn't really make sense as a boy. I mean... he seemed very much like a girl. Maybe Garcia & Stohl just aren't very good at convincingly writing from the male perspective. I don't mean the writing was bad, it just felt like I was reading from a girl's perspective the whole time. Third, I felt like Lena's "caster" family members were very typical. I knew from the first family gathering that one of them would be secretively "dark" and that their relationships would play out as they did.

This book didn't make me want to run out and grab the second in the series, but I did enjoy my Saturday reading it. I have borrowed the second one to read when I have time, though I have been told I might not enjoy it as much as the first. We'll see!

To Purchase: Amazon, B&N

Also by these authors: Beautiful Darkness (Caster Chronicles # 2) (2010), Beautiful Chaos (Caster Chronicles # 3) (coming in 2011)

Coming Soon!

Two reviews coming up soon here.

Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

Keturah and Lord Death by Martine Leavitt

Also coming up soon I will be participating in a new blog project, though I will still be posting reviews here as well!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Stolen - Christopher - 2009

Author: Lucy Christopher
Year: 2009
Publisher: Chicken House
Date Read: 03-19-2011
Overall: * * * * * (5/5)

GoodReads Blurb: Sixteen year old Gemma is kidnapped from Bangkok airport and taken to the Australian Outback. This wild and desolate landscape becomes almost a character in the book, so vividly is it described. Ty, her captor, is no stereotype. He is young, fit and completely gorgeous. This new life in the wilderness has been years in the planning. He loves only her, wants only her. Under the hot glare of the Australian sun, cut off from the world outside, can the force of his love make Gemma love him back? The story takes the form of a letter, written by Gemma to Ty, reflecting on those strange and disturbing months in the outback. Months when the lines between love and obsession, and love and dependency, blur until they don't exist - almost.

Plot: * * * * *
Characters: * * * * *
Style: * * * *

My Review: This was a really original story line. The story is written as a letter from Gemma to Ty, her captor. The language felt a bit strange at first, but I think that's because the author is from Wales and has lived in Australia. I really liked reading the story from Gemma's point of view, because I felt confused right along with her.

Both Gemma and Ty were really well developed characters. Gemma's flashbacks to home and to her friends showed both how much she missed home and show she had mixed feelings about the relationships she had with people there. Ty wasn't really raised by either of his parents and feels only a connection with the land and to Gemma, so he tried to bring the two together to live in a perfect little bubble in the outback. I think Ty's problems all stem from his childhood and that he honestly meant well the whole time, but did not understand the correct way to "save" people.

This may be the minority opinion, I'm not really sure, but I kind of wanted Gemma and Ty to live together in the Australian Outback forever. I still can't decide if Gemma had stockholm syndrome or not, because I was falling in love Ty as she sort of was, too. It was obviously awful that he kidnapped and drugged her, because he took away her ability to decide for herself, but I really felt for him and his upbringing (or lack of).

Maybe Lucy Christopher just wrote it so well that as I reader I got stockholm syndrome, I don't know. But the part of Ty that wasn't manipulative was really sweet and caring, and I felt that he just wanted to show Gemma real beauty and to save her from the shallowness of her life before.

I should also add that I do not condone kidnapping, unless it's in a work of fiction, then I'm cool with it.

To Purchase: Amazon, B&N

Also by this author: Flyaway (coming Oct 2011)

Currently Reading: Beautiful Creatures by Garcia & Stohl, and Keturah and Lord Death by Leavitt

Books Read in 2011: 30 (or 100)

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Audio Book Challenge: Mockingjay - Suzanne Collins - 2010

2011 Audio Book Challenge: Book # 4 (of 6)
Title: Mockingjay (Hunger Games # 3)
Author: Suzanne Collins
Year: 2010
Read By: Carolyn McCormick
Publisher: Scholastic
Date Read: 03-23-2011
Overall: * * * * * (5/5)

GoodReads Blurb: Young Katniss Everdeen has survived the dreaded Hunger Games not once, but twice, but even now she can find no relief. In fact, the dangers seem to be escalating: President Snow has declared an all-out war on Katniss, her family, her friends, and all the oppressed people of District 12. The thrill-packed final installment of Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games trilogy will keep young hearts pounding.

My Review: Mockingjay is very different from the first two Hunger Games books. The first two books involve the actual games and are a bit more fast-paced. Mockingjay takes the games out of the arena and puts Katniss and the other characters into the war that begins to rage between the rebels and the capitol. For this reason there are many periods of recovery for Katniss as she endures numerous injuries and emotional problems due to the war.

I think this book is a really good depiction of a war. It is not a happy book, there is not as much humor as the previous two, and it feels very real. There are wins and losses, friends die, and everyone's strength is tested.

Listening to this book was harder than the first two. It just felt much more sad to be listening to all of the battles and attacks, the deaths, even the rescues made me want to cry because McCormick does a great job adding touches of emotion while reading the story. I've grown quite attached to McCormick since the first book.

To Purchase: Print version: Amazon, B&N. Audio Book version: Amazon, B&N

Currently listening to: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling (read by Jim Dale)

I listened to this as part of the 2011 Audio Book Challenge hosted by Teresa's Reading Corner

Books Read in 2011: 29 (of 100)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Stitches - Small - 2009

Title: Stitches: A Memoir (Graphic Novel)
Author: David Small
Year: 2009
Publisher: Norton
Course Theme for the Week: Biography & Non-Fiction (03-23-2011)
Date Read: 03-22-2011
Overall: * * * * * (5/5)

GoodReads Blurb: One day David Small awoke from a supposedly harmless operation to discover that he had been transformed into a virtual mute. A vocal cord removed, his throat slashed and stitched together like a bloody boot, the fourteen-year-old boy had not been told that he had cancer and was expected to die.

In Stitches, Small, the award-winning children’s illustrator and author, re-creates this terrifying event in a life story that might have been imagined by Kafka. As the images painfully tumble out, one by one, we gain a ringside seat at a gothic family drama where David—a highly anxious yet supremely talented child—all too often became the unwitting object of his parents’ buried frustration and rage.

Believing that they were trying to do their best, David’s parents did just the reverse. Edward Small, a Detroit physician, who vented his own anger by hitting a punching bag, was convinced that he could cure his young son’s respiratory problems with heavy doses of radiation, possibly causing David’s cancer. Elizabeth, David’s mother, tyrannically stingy and excessively scolding, ran the Small household under a cone of silence where emotions, especially her own, were hidden.

Depicting this coming-of-age story with dazzling, kaleidoscopic images that turn nightmare into fairy tale, Small tells us of his journey from sickly child to cancer patient, to the troubled teen whose risky decision to run away from home at sixteen—with nothing more than the dream of becoming an artist—will resonate as the ultimate survival statement.

A silent movie masquerading as a book, Stitches renders a broken world suddenly seamless and beautiful again.

My Review: Stitches is beautifully illustrated. The images in the story convey so much emotion, and a large number of the pages don't even have any text. I was surprised that the pages without text were my favorite, but I think it is because I was able to linger longer on those pages, trying to figure out their meaning and what part of the story they were telling.

There are a number of images in this story that are actually fairly horrifying. The "little man in the jar," in particular. I think one of my favorite panels of images was the rain scene towards the end. There is rain in the city, on the car, the view out the window, on the lawnmower, and the inside of the kitchen looks dim and lonely. I think David Small does a wonderful job with faces, showing with just a few lines the exact expression you can picture someone making.

David's story is not a happy story, though the ending is full of hope. Seeing the illustrations that match his emotions when he discovered his father had given him cancer through x-rays was, at times, really hard to look at, because I didn't want to believe that could happen and then that they wouldn't even tell him the truth about his surgery.

To Purchase: Amazon, B&N

Also by this author: Imogene's Antlers (1985), Ruby Mae Has Something to Say (1992)

Books read in 2011: 28

Currently Reading: Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl (2009)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Persepolis - Satrapi - 2003-2004 - YA Lit Week 8

Title: (The Complete) Persepolis
Author: Marjane Satrapi
Year: English: 2003-2004, French: 2000-2001
Publisher: Pantheon
Course Theme for the Week: Biography and Non-Fiction
Date Read: 03-22-2011
Overall: * * * * * (5/5)

GoodReads Blurb: Here, in one volume, is Marjane Satrapi's best-selling, internationally acclaimed memoir-in-comic-strips. "Persepolis" is the story of Satrapi's unforgettable childhood and coming of age within a large and loving family in Tehran during the Islamic Revolution; of the contradictions between private and public life in a country plagued by political upheaval; of her high school years in Vienna, facing the trials of adolescence far from her family; of her homecoming, both sweet and terrible; and, finally, of her self-imposed exile from her beloved homeland. It is the chronicle of a girlhood and adolescence at once outrageous and familiar, a young life entwined with the history of her country yet filled with the universal trials and joys of growing up. Edgy, searingly observant and candid, often heartbreaking but threaded throughout with raw humor and hard-earned wisdom; "Persepolis" is a stunning work from one of the most highly regarded, singularly talented graphic artists at work today.

My Review: This is my first official introduction to graphic novels, and I must say, I really enjoyed it. I loved that even such simple images could convey the feelings of the dialog and text, and I loved that Satrapi was able to include so much humor in her story.

The book combines the history of Iran with Marjane's own history, making the book not only a memoir but a learning tool for that time period as well. I was surprised by how much I learned not just about Marjane's youth, but about her culture.

To Purchase: Amazon, B&N

Also by this author: Embroideries (2006), Chicken with Plums (2006)

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Dash & Lily's Book of Dares - Cohn & Levithan - 2010

Title: Dash & Lily's Book of Dares
Author(s): Rachel Cohn & David Levithan
Year: 2010
Publisher: Alfred A Knopf
Date Read: 03-19-2011
Overall: * * * * * (5/5)

GoodReads Blurb: “I’ve left some clues for you.
If you want them, turn the page.
If you don’t, put the book back on the shelf, please.”

So begins the latest whirlwind romance from the
New York Timesbestselling authors of Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist. Lily has left a red notebook full of challenges on a favorite bookstore shelf, waiting for just the right guy to come along and accept its dares. But is Dash that right guy? Or are Dash and Lily only destined to trade dares, dreams, and desires in the notebook they pass back and forth at locations across New York? Could their in-person selves possibly connect as well as their notebook versions? Or will they be a comic mismatch of disastrous proportions?

Plot: * * * * *
Characters: * * * *
Style: * * * * *

My Review: I've had my ups and downs with authors pairing up together, even with this same duo, but Cohn & Levithan did such a great job with this one. I was pulled in from the very beginning, wondering where Dash and Lily's dares would lead them and if they would ever meet.

Lily was so fun, innocent, and kind of weird (in a good way) that I just had to love her. Her relationship and friendship with her brother and her extended family as well was really enjoyable to read. Dash seemed a bit moody and broody, but in a lovable way, and I pictured him as smiling on the inside a lot. Dash's best friend, Boomer, was one of my favorite characters that I've read recently, he was so full of life and excitement just for existing.

Dash & Lily's Book of Dares is up there with Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist for these two authors. I didn't enjoy Naomi & Ely's No Kiss List quite as much, and it took me a long time to get through, so Dash & Lily really redeemed this pair in my eyes. The writing didn't seem scrambled or too hard to transition between, which sometimes bothers me with multiple points of view and multiple authors. I do love these two authors on their own as well, Cohn's Gingerbread and Levithan's Love is the Higher Law are books I really recommend.

To Purchase: Amazon, B&N

Also by these authors: As a duo: Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist (2006), Naomi & Ely's No Kiss List (2007)
Rachel Cohn: Gingerbread (2004), You Know Where to Find Me (2008)
David Levithan: Boy Meets Boy (2003), Love is the Higher Law (2009), Willy Grayson, Will Grayson (with John Green) (2010)

Currently Reading: Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach

Books Read in 2011: 26

After the Kiss - McVoy - 2010

Title: After the Kiss
Author: Terra Elan McVoy
Year: 2010
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Date Read: 03-18-2011
Overall: * * * (3/5)

GoodReads Blurb: Becca has been head-over-heels for Alec from the instant they met. He's a brainy jock with a poet's heart—in other words, perfect for her.

Camille is careful with her words and protective of her heart, especially since Chicago. Then a new boy in her new town catches her off guard with a surprise kiss.

Too bad that new boy is Becca's boyfriend, Alec.

Camille and Becca have never met, but their lives will unravel and intertwine in surprising ways as they deal with what happens after the kiss.

Plot: * * * *
Characters: * * *
Style: * * *

My Review: I have to say it: I am not a big fan of novels written in verse. I just don't get it. I absolutely adore poetry, a lot of poetry in fact, but I do not like a story made up of many different poems. Partly I think it is because the writers still sound like they aren't sure what they are trying to do, because they still have to include some semblance of a novel in their verses.

I really liked the idea of the plot though, and I really liked Becca. She was sweet and at times vulnerable and weak, but she grew over the course of the story and I was really happy that she held onto being a good person, even when there were so many tempting opportunities to confront and hurt Camille.

Alec and Camille were just... meh. Camille and her love of run-on sentences and lack of capitalization bothered me. I get that McVoy was trying to sound like a teenager writing some stream of consciousness... but it didn't sound general, it just sounded bratty and pretentious. Boys like Alec really just don't exist in the world... the jock who writes poetry and has lots of feelings... nope. Sorry, but if this exists, I'd like to meet him.

To Purchase: Amazon, B&N

Also by this author: Pure (2009), The Summer of Firsts and Lasts (coming in 2011)

Friday, March 18, 2011

Emmy and the Incredible Shrinking Rat - Jonell - 2007

Title: Emmy and the Incredible Shrinking Rat
Author: Lynne Jonell
Year: 2007
Publisher: Henry Holt
Date Read: 3-15-2011
Overall: * * * * *

GoodReads Blurb: Emmy was a good girl.At least she tried very hard to be good. She did her homework without being told. She ate all her vegetables, even the slimy ones. And she never talked back to her nanny, Miss Barmy, although it was almost impossible to keep quiet, some days.

She really was a little too good. Which is why she liked to sit by the Rat. The Rat was not good at all . . .

Plot: * * * * *
Characters: * * * * *
Style: * * * *

My Review: I absolutely adored Emmy. She tried so hard to be good and perfect for so long, but nobody ever seemed to notice or care. So she befriends the class pet rat and her adventure to the truth begins. I really felt sympathy for Emmy because all she wanted was her parents to care for her as they had before moving to the big mansion.

Emmy's friendship with Joe was so heart-warming, and I loved that she didn't understand him at first, until she found out that she wasn't the only one with screwy parents. The Rat and the other rodents, particularly Endearing Mouse, were all so unique and had such distinct personalities that I kept forgetting they were animals.

While this is part fantasy, part scary nanny, part growing up, the many parts come together to make such a nice, complete picture of Emmy and the love she and her parents have for each other. I am looking forward to reading the sequel.

To Purchase: Amazon, B&N

Also by this author: Emmy and the Home for Troubled Girls (2010), Emmy and the Rats in the Belfry (coming in 2011)

Books read in 2011: 25

Delirium - Oliver - 2011

Title: Delirium
Author: Lauren Oliver
Year: 2011
Publisher: HarperCollins
Date Read: 3-13-2011
Overall: * * * * * (5/5)

GoodReads Blurb: Before scientists found the cure, people thought love was a good thing. They didn’t understand that once love -- the deliria -- blooms in your blood, there is no escaping its hold. Things are different now. Scientists are able to eradicate love, and the governments demands that all citizens receive the cure upon turning eighteen. Lena Holoway has always looked forward to the day when she’ll be cured. A life without love is a life without pain: safe, measured, predictable, and happy.

But with ninety-five days left until her treatment, Lena does the unthinkable: She falls in love.

Plot: * * * * *
Characters: * * * * *
Style: * * * *

My Review: I have very few complaints about Delirium. I really, really enjoyed reading it and was very sad when it was time to put it down. I didn't even know it was going to be part of a trilogy, and now I am very excited. I am digging all these new takes on dystopias, it is my new book obsession. Getting rid of love is such a good twist though, it's like Matched, but taking it one step further.

I thought Lena was a great protagonist; she's kind, conflicted, secretly rebellious. Her relationship with her best friend, Hana, because they were so very different but understood each other so well. Alex was a bit typical in his "mysterious outsider" ways, but he was very sweet and I believed in his relationship with Lena completely.

I didn't like the ending. For a book in a series, it was very much a "wide open" type of ending, where you knew something could happen in the future, but there was no urgency for something to happen right then. I think a book in a series should end in more of a cliff-hanger and should leave me absolutely needing the next book. I also didn't like the similarities to the Uglies series, with the outcasts living off the grid in nature somewhere, but I can get over that.

This is a great follow up to Oliver's previous book, Before I Fall, which I thought was amazing and gut-wrenching and really just wonderful.

To Purchase: Amazon, B&N

Also by this author: Before I Fall (2010)

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks - Lockhart - 2008

Title: The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks
Author: E. Lockhart
Year: 2008
Publisher: Hyperion
Date Read: 3-10-2011
Overall: * * * * 1/2 (4.5/5)

GoodReads Blurb: Frankie Landau-Banks at age 14:
Debate Club.
Her father’s “bunny rabbit.”
A mildly geeky girl attending a highly competitive boarding school.

Frankie Landau-Banks at age 15:
A knockout figure.
A sharp tongue.
A chip on her shoulder.
And a gorgeous new senior boyfriend: the supremely goofy, word-obsessed Matthew Livingston.

Frankie Laundau-Banks.
No longer the kind of girl to take “no” for an answer.
Especially when “no” means she’s excluded from her boyfriend’s all-male secret society.
Not when her ex boyfriend shows up in the strangest of places.
Not when she knows she’s smarter than any of them.
When she knows Matthew’s lying to her.
And when there are so many, many pranks to be done.

Frankie Landau-Banks, at age 16:
Possibly a criminal mastermind.

This is the story of how she got that way.

Plot: * * * * *
Characters: * * * * * (I loved Frankie!)
Style: * * * *

My Review: I had been wanting to read this book for a long time, so I finally borrowed it from the library I volunteer at. I was laughing out loud at some points. Frankie just cracked me up and I loved the way her mind worked and how she could go from insecure to wonder woman in 3 seconds.

This book really made me wish I had gone to a private high school just for the opportunity to prank people. I feel like more pranking chances exist at private schools. I like to think I would have taken advantage of those chances!

I liked Lockhart's writing more in this book than in some of her other books I have read, though I might go back and read those again and look for more similarities. I like that I have found this group of YA authors (Green, Johnson, Lockhart...) that can really make me laugh.

To Purchase: Amazon

Also by this author: The Boyfriend List (2005), How To Be Bad (with Myracle & Mlynowski) (2009), Fly On the Wall: How One Girl Saw Everything (2006)

Currently Reading: Dash & Lily's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan