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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Silver Sea by Julia Golding

The Silver Sea takes place in Norway in the year 880 AD. The story switches between a girl named Freydis and her brother Toki, the two children of Ohthere, a wealthy jarl. One day, while their father is away, their home is raided by a pirate who has a longstanding feud with Ohthere. Toki is taken prisoner along with the rest of the village and Freydis is left hiding, the only one left alive. Not long after, her father returns and she is given Enno, an African slave, as a bodyguard. Enno, however, is a proud being, and despite years of being sold and bought, remains in stubborn denial of his slave status, and he and Freydis become companions rather than slave and mistress. The story was interesting and nice for a quick read. I enjoyed reading it, and it was a good story. That said, a couple things bothered me. It was extremely difficult to tell how much time had passed. They sail around, but it never gives a number of days. The whole book, I think, was about a month. This I could tell only because one of the characters had to be somewhere in about a month and got there a day late at the end of the book. But I had no idea how much more time he had, or how much time they spent on a boat and with these people and in all the little bits. The emotions were also horribly done. There was absolutely no development, and it seemed as though all the characters changed emotions within a couple sentences. There was one scene that described Enno and how he hated all the Vikings and he was going to get home someday and all that, then he was rushing to save Freydis's life, even though he had never met her, or even seen her before. He immediately cares for her and wants to help her. Then the next page describes his hatred for all Vikings. Ah, yes, that wonderful internal conflict. Horribly developed; if the author wanted to add complex emotions, she should have done it more complex way. Then there is Toki. Toki wanders away and meets a family of a supposedly unfriendly tribe. The father ends up trusting him, but his two children hate him. He and the daughter, Aino, end up alone in the house. Aino is pretty much ready to bite Toki's head off. Then, suddenly, Toki confesses that he likes her. Yes, he has known her for all of three pages, no more than an hour, and Toki thinks that he would very much like her as a wife. Aino seems to maintain some sense for another page before completely falling for Toki. It was quite obvious when they met that they would end up liking each other, but four pages and an hour is a little rushed. There was no lead up, just them insulting each other, then there he was, asking Aino if she was promised to anyone and saying, "I think I like you, Aino Pekkasdottir." The shallowness of it all made me really hate some of the characters and I couldn't like any of them. This made the end of the book extremely satisfying. It was probably supposed to be dramatic, but it didn't work out like that for me; it just made me laugh at the characters. Go read the book if you feel like it.
The book is a nice story, mostly well laid-out. The combination of terrible emotions and timeline, yet satisfying ending that gives those silly characters what they deserve add up to give the book a 3. Imagine a funny tasting candy that's nice to just crunch down on and finish.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Villains By Necessity by Eve Forward

This is very possibly my favorite book. Set in some magical world, it is 150 years after the ultimate battle of good versus evil, and good has triumphed. It starts off by following a thief, Arcie, and an assassin, Samalander, known as Sam. They are the last of their kind; the rest of the thieves and assassins have been whitewashed, forced to be good, law-abiding citizens, by the elven arch-mage Mizzamir. They become bored of life as it is and end up running away from their town, and they meet a druid named Kaylana. She informs them that the influx of light in the world is definitely what one could consider too much of a good thing, and if the light is not stopped soon, the world will sublimate in its own glory. Not a very happy image for the group of villains. So they set off on a quest to bring evil back into the world. They soon encounter a Nathuan, a cannibalistic evil sorceress from the Underrealm, named Valeriana, and her familiar, a raven named Nightshade. She is my favorite character in the book (Sam is a close second, and would be amazing, but he falls in love and spends too much time looking at Kaylana's hair). It seems as though Eve Forward had a lot of fun with her; Valeriana amuses herself by blasting things apart with her magic, or threatening to eat people. Not long after, they meet a dark night in some kind of magical armor who doesn't talk, whom they call Blackmail, and a spy centaur named Robin pretending to be a minstrel. They are, as far as they can tell, the last bits of evil in the world. What made the book a lot of fun, at least for me, was that a lot happened without spending too much time on the in-betweens. They got to one point in their journey, then they got to the next, and the book did not spend endless pages describing how they were running out of food and other such woes. I also really liked the characters, with the exception of Sam's flaw (other than that, however, he is a great character) and Kaylana. Kaylana seemed too good to fit in with the other villains, and her powers were a little bit too much, as she seemed to be able to resist everything, even the ancient magic of the gods. Blackmail, too, seemed a little bit too good. He, however, is given a reasonable excuse at the end of the book, and he is a much more fun character than Kaylana. Robin is great fun, as he provided someone for Valeriana to continuously taunt and threaten to eat. She almost had too much fun than any evil being should have by terrorizing Robin. Arcie is lots of fun, and seems to always have a smile or a joke ready, even when he is robbing someone blind. And he is always robbing someone; he does it for fun and to bother his companions.
Overall, the book was a lot of fun to read. The villains' perspective on the world was a refreshing break from the usual fantasy of "oh, now I have to save the poor people, and I can't do anything mean." Half the time, the characters are trying to force each other to do things that they themselves would rather not do, and when they come across some unwanted company, they just kill them. And, well, they could save a few people or have an adventure just for the sake of adventure, but, after all, that's what heroes do, and they are definitely not heroes. Nope, just a bunch of villains out of their safety zone for selfish reasons (mostly because their safety zone doesn't exist any more because the whole world is good). They spend their time running from the law and all those nice people chasing after them. The characters and plot were well made, it was very enjoyable, and the whole book was very well done. I could go on, but I think this post is ready to be done.
So, I give this book a 5. If you like food, it's like mashed potatoes - delicious, a great texture, enjoyable, and when you're done, you want seconds. Or thirds. Or, well, perhaps a 10th helping. Yum.

Sunday, December 12, 2010


by Jennifer Donnelly
Yes, I know that I'm not the first to review this book- nor will I be the last. I'm glad I'll have been able to dodge the rush to read this great book. It was as good as people claimed it to be. At the same time, however, it had certain flaws- more about them later.
Andi Alpers is a young woman attending the prestigious St. Anselm's Academy in Brooklyn. She's rumored to be brilliant, but she can't make herself care about schoolwork because of her brother's death a few years earlier. The only thing she can do is play music; she plays beautifully and wants to pursue a career with her guitar. To make a long, complicated story short, she ends up in Paris with her father, an esteemed geneticist who has been called to Paris to DNA-test a heart that's rumored to belong to a French prince, lost during the Revolution. In an old guitar case, she finds a diary telling the story.
Enough spoilers- on to mechanics! I had two major lines of thought about this book. One, it's written in a tone that perfectly captures all, effortlessly and magnificently. The writing is incredibly beautiful and elegant, no matter the subject or the context.

"' The Palais is a sad place now- the empty rooms gather dust and vagrants sleep under the trees-but once it was the very heart of Paris, a dazzling pleasure arcade of shops, card dens, restaurants, and brothels. It was a place where one could buy a glass of lemonade, or the girl selling it. A place to see an Amazon in naught but tiger skin. A place where a duchess might pass by, trailing furs and civet, and a beggar would show you his rotting wounds for a sou. A place where acrobats, all bosoms and bare legs, tumbled and jumped, and painted boys strolled, and quacks displayed dead monster babies with two heads and four arms in pickling jars.   
How I loved it.'"
Now for the unpleasant side of things. While the writing is beautiful, Andi's world sometimes isn't. St. Anselm's is lacking in reality and charm, posing as a caricature of every snobbish private school in every movie we've ever seen. Her best friend, Vijay Gupta, should have been left out of the book entirely. He is writing a thesis too, you see. He's brilliant and has incredible potential. Now, this is where things get downright whimsical. His thesis is so good, apparently, that "world leaders" are commenting on it in droves. Wait, what? Since when are private school students able to contact world leaders? Since when do world leaders casually comments on said students' writing pieces?
On the other side of the character spectrum is Virgil. A talented musician living in the dangerous Parisian suburbs, he's instantly believable and real. Constantly afraid of his environment, the gangs, the violence, he struggles to find a place for himself with his music.
Last thing: the use of the present tense in this book is distracting (as always) and annoying. It turns into a rancid kind of funny when she flips back 200 years into the past, but it would have been better in the past tense throughout.
I'll give this book a 4.5, only because of the distractions offered by Vijay and the present tense.
A delicious Italian salad, with mozzarella and tomatoes, drenched in pure olive oil and dark vinegar. Small bits of basil mar the texture and flavor, but not enough to offset the quality.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Faerie Wars by Herbie Brennan

Faerie Wars takes place in both a world parallel to our own and our own world. It begins with Henry Atherton in our world. He works for a man called Mr. Fogarty doing odd jobs and stuff around his house that Mr. Fogarty can no longer do because of his age. In the realm of faerie, the prince Pyrgus Malvae is up to being his not-so-obedient-son type. He gets into trouble with a man who enjoys summoning demons and almost gets sacrificed to a demon prince. He gets sent to this world for his safety, and finds, to his horror, that he has been turned into a mini thing with wings, our common image of fairies. What I really liked about this book were the demons. They were just cool. They were sneaky, devious, and evil. Just what demons are supposed to be. For a few short, glorious pages, I even managed to convince myself that the demons would manage to kill Pyrgus. No such luck; I still have yet to find the book that gives a really satisfying villain win. Oh well.
The great downfall of this book was Henry's personal life. Really, I don't care that Henry's mom is having an affair with his dad's female secretary. It has way too much emphasis in the book, and adds absolutely nothing to the story. It would be much more fun to read if Henry could have his adventure with Pyrgus and Mr. Fogarty without being called back home for a family meeting about his parent's problems. It's not much fun to be reading about Pyrgus and his mishaps, then be pulled back to Henry and his confusion with his mom.
Overall, the book gets a 3. Fun, easy, and quick to read. The plot was fairly simple, but engaging. It had all the basic good guys and bad guys and magic stuff. It could be compared to a fortune cookie; it's small and pretty good. But when you just want a cookie, there is that little message in the middle that is impossible to ignore.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Thinking about the Printz

The Printz award (or to be more official: the Michael L. Printz Award) is the Newbery of the YA literature world. The only difference is that it can be given to an author from another country (the Newbery requires that the author live in the United States) and the fact that it is for a book published for an audience between the ages of 12-18. This year, the Printz Award will be announced on January 10th, at 7:45 AM Pacific time (since they will be announced at the American Library Association Midwinter Conference in San Diego). While I'm in the hotel conference room yawning up a storm because that's sort of early, well, it will be 10:45 out here on the East Coast. You can even watch a live webstream of the announcements, something I've done in years when I haven't been there in person.

Anyway, this is about the time of the year when I start thinking about which titles from the 2010 publishing year are prime candidates for the award and honor. Nearly every year, the Printz committee (made up of 9 librarians, changing every year) manages to sneak in some real surprises. I may have yelped with surprise when I heard that Libba Bray's Going Bovine won the award last year. Not that I don't think it has literary merit; it just so happened to be a title that left many reviewers divided. Sure, I had favorites going into the announcement, and some of them (like Charles and Emma by Deborah Heiligman) managed to come out as honor titles. Were there titles unjustly ignored? Perhaps, as many people expected Francisco X. Stork's Marcelo in the Real World to come out with, at the very least, an honor sticker. But, you have to think that the awards are the result of hundreds of hours spent reading, dozens spent discussing, and still, it comes down to what nine individuals thought. When I think about the conversations I have had with my fellow Best Fiction committee members, I know how we can really REALLY surprise each other. Titles resonate or disgust other readers in ways you can't always predict. So, I can't really be all that surprised when the results are announced and they don't align with my own selections.

Here are the titles I think have a legitimate chance at the Printz. As January 10th nears, I will make my official predictions. I still have 19 titles to read that have been nominated, so there could be a few last-minute additions. At the moment, my top picks for taking home the big kahuna are: Nothing by Janne Teller, Butterfly by Sonya Hartnett, and They Called Themselves the KKK by Susan Bartoletti Campbell. I read Nothing back at the beginning of the year, and it is a title that has haunted me ever since. It is slight but literary, and absolutely powerful. Both Teller and Hartnett are not from the U.S., but that hasn't been an issue for Printz winners before, with many international authors winning the award (Hartnett had an honor title a few years back). Bartoletti's book would probably be a controversial choice because of the nature of the subject, but it is haunting in its own way, and covers an important aspect of this nation's past. Other titles that I think deserve consideration are: Revolver by Marcus Sedgwick (fantastic historical thriller, international author), The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson (emotionally powerful story about grief, debut author), Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly (part contemporary, part historical fiction, a complete tour de force by an author who already has one Printz honor under her belt), Incarceron by Catherine Fisher (complex fantasy, bombed when first published in the U.K. but had popular and critical success in the U.S.), Crossing the Tracks by Barbara Stuber (this is my dark horse candidate, brilliantly written historical fiction by a debut author). A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner received many starred reviews, but unfortunately, I can't lend it my support. It was the single BFYA-nominated title where reading it felt like pulling teeth. Maybe it's because I hadn't read her other titles in the series, but I would have been hard-pressed to summarize when I finally finished reading it.

Other bloggers have lamented that this has been an off year for YA literature, but I think it's bound to happen occasionally. I think it just so happened that a lot of veteran YA authors had books come out in 2009 and/or 2011, so it's a quieter year. That said, I've discovered some tremendous debut authors, so I'm not overly concerned!

Will post again in late December/early January with my final Printz predictions.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Study Series

by Mariah V. Snyder
Fire Study front coverEven though this book wasn't a galley, I decided to review it because it struck me as one that would be fun to review. It had great plot and great characters. The conflict felt by the main character was believable (in a way). This is where is stopped being a good book.
Locked up for her murder of a General's son, Yelena festers away in the dungeons of the Commander while she awaits execution. Suddenly, in a twist of fate that could only be described as miraculous, she is promoted to the Commander's food taster and brought up into the world of might and conflict above. She enjoys the best food of the castle and the freedom to go where she will- that is, as long as she stays in her position as a food taster. If she doesn't, she'll die a horrible death poisoned by the Commander's assassin.
Sounds good, right? And the story was, for the first book. Then it quickly degenerated into a series that dragged and caught on minor details. Couple of pointers:

  1.  Don't refer to something as skirts/pants. Make up your mind. Don't let your readers be forced to imagine something that only you yourself can see. It came across as (at least to me) incredibly irritating to be in the middle of an action scene and have Yelena fretting over a hole in her "skirts/pants".
  2.  When someone makes a plan, don't hide it from us, or at least do it more subtly. A lot of times in the book, plans are referenced, executed, and succeed/fail without the reader even knowing the basics. For example, it happens once that Yelena's talking to her mum and tells her her plan. Without delay, her mum bustles off and finds her a bunch of potions that will "help her plan". A full 30 pages later, I realized that the plan had already been executed. Darn!

I'd give this book a 2.5, also due to the lack of emotions in the book. I'm serious. The only emotions in the book are  Yelena's lust, fear of being a soulfinder, and everyone else's hatred of her.
So, 2.5. A runny and burnt egg, I guess.

Monday, November 22, 2010


Revolution, By Jennifer Donnelly

I recently read Revolution, and loved it. It is the story of two girls, one in New York and Paris in this time, Andi, and one who lived in paris during the revolution. Andi is struggling with depression, and her love of music. She is supposed to be working on the outline for her senior thesis, instead she finds herself reading the diary of Alexandrine. This book was so wonderful, it is a must read.
I would describe this as Thanksgiving. It isn't something you get everyday, but it is well worth the wait. It has the warm turkey, the filling stuffing, sweet cranberry sauce, creamy mashed potatoes, tasty pumpkin bread, warm apple pie and cold ice cream, chocolate silk pie, and cookies. It fills your mind with the delicious scent, so any moment away makes you hurry bake for more. It doesn't have just one flavor, but many. So it must be a full meal, and I think only thanksgiving can do this book justice.
If you are in-the-box this is a 5.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Havoc by Chris Wooding

Havoc is great in terms of sequels. It, unlike other books, does not ruin the first, nor does it go completely downhill. It continues the story of Seth, Kady, and that strange world of Malice. In this one, they decide set out to destroy the man Tall Jake, who controls the world. However, the book was a bit rushed. Seth and Kady are just discovering how to defeat Tall Jake, then, very quickly, at least it seemed like that to me, they were on the battlefield and ready to fight. I think the book should have been split into two; one could be about them finding what they need to win, the other about them fighting. There was one battle, then Tall Jake was defeated. There was no lead up or anything; one minute they were lost and looking for that oh-so-important weapon thing, the next they were blowing up Tall Jake's castle place. But I liked it; it was fun to read.
I would rate it a 3.5.

Book Review - Chibi Vampire

Chibi Vampire was a hot dog. I learned in school that there is all sorts of nasty stuff in them: pig hooves, peanut fat, rubber, the like. Chibi Vampire is a vampire romance -- stress on the romance. The vampire girl Manika falls in love with a human usiv but because he is a human and she is a vampire Maika isn't allowed to see him. There are some supernatural moments like a doll, a kidnapping, and a ghost, but most of Chibi Vampire is high school drama. I don't normally do romance and/or high school drama; if I wanted to deal with high school drama, I would live my own life instead of reading. So coming into this book -- and looking at the hot dog on my plate, I knew they were disgusting and gross but I ate the whole thing anyways. Guess what, it didn't kill me.

- Review by Sarah Packard

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

If Only It Were True by Marc Levy

A strange love story. Basically, this woman, Lauren, gets in a car crash and ends up in a coma. She learns that her soul can move around, but no one can see her. She visits her old apartment, that now belongs to someone else, and is hiding in the closet when he opens the closet door and sees her. Arthur is the only one who can see her, so, of course, they fall in love. The book, though it had an interesting concept, was a little inconsistent. She was not solid enough to move anything, but she was solid to Arthur and has some effects on papers that she reads and she can open a door when she really wants to, but the book makes a kind of lame excuse for that. And she explained that she moved by concentrating on a certain spot, then disappearing and reappearing there. The book makes kind of a big deal about how her aim gets better and how she improves at it. But she can go for a walk with Arthur, so why can't she just walk to the car instead of complaining about missing the front seat?
Overall, I think it's a 2.5. Like a lollipop - kind of fun to eat, and tastes good, but the stick gets in the way. And some flavor that isn't your favorite.

The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins

It's been a long time since I've read a work of fiction.Most of the books nowadays are about "love" and chicks and....I don't like them.That's why I like Used Bookstore,instead of Barns&Nobles.But,one day,in Costco,I found this book,lying open with 2 rotisserie chickens (eww)
I read a sentence of it,and then I thought: This is not bad at all. Normally I don't buy new books,so I forced my brother to buy it. Then I read it in the car along the way home.In my opinion,it is a very good book that keeps even the anti-fiction reader interested.It is constant action!Constant war!Constant violence!It's such a good book,I recommend everyone to read it.

However,there are some things about the Hunger Games Trilogy that needs some work.The plot is constantly changing,and that confuses me.As I read the next 2 books,it didn't have the same "consistency" as the first book.It changes too fast for me.It also needs more detail.The plot changing too fast and the not enough detail part makes it really confusing.

Overall,this is a very good book.I would give this 4 stars.Also,I would give this the food of white chocolate.It's deliciously good,but if you eat (read) too much of it,it gives you a headache,especially if you try to read this in a long car ride.

Malice by Chris Wooding

Malice is a book about a comic book. With the right objects burned in the correct order and the right chant, it is possible to enter the world of the comic. The world is full of malice, hence the title, and once entered, it is almost impossible to leave before getting killed in some not-so-pleasant way. The story is about a boy and a girl who enter and their adventures and whatnot. Chris Wooding skillfully created a bizarre world into which I was absorbed. Included within the book were little bits of comic, so a couple chapters were told as a graphic novel would be. While this was an interesting concept, and a good ida for this book because it was about a comic book, I found it slightly confusing, probably because I am bad at reading graphic novel type books.
Overall, I would rate this book as a 4.

Rate 5

These are example of books for each in-the-box rating, and food to go along with them. Hopefully this will give people an idea of what my dual ratings mean.

5. Ice, by Sarah Beth Durst
This book was beyond amazing
. I would say that this is a vanilla soufflé with caramel sauce and a mango chutney. It was absolutely amazing, so mind blowingly awesome that it doesn't even matter that there isn't any chocolate.
4. Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austin
This is a creamy, homemade macaroni and cheese. Its filling, and
comforting, and is perfect for a cold rainy day.
3. The Princess Diaries, by Meg Cabot
This was like cotton candy. It was sweet, but after more than a couple bites, it becomes sickly sweet.
2. Twilight, by Stephenie Meyer
This was...well, i don't know. It was bad though. The writing style made me want to barf. It was comparable to over-cooked boiled spinach; slimy and gross.
1. Brighton Beach Memoirs, by Neil Simon
This book was so terrible that i cant imagine any food bad enough to compare it too. Picture eating fire, or wood. it was that painful.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Jelle van der Hilst's 1-5 Scale

To further add to our gallery of ratings, I've decided to add my own 1-5 reviews. You'll be able to gain a sense of us as reviewers, to see our tastes, and use these posts as reference to future reviews.
5: Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson- Superb, incredible, unique. Words cannot describe this masterpiece: it's a piece of writing surpassed by none. Its length is a blessing, as is its promise of ten more books to come. Other 5s: A Case of Exploding Mangoes, Sabriel, Furies of Calderon series, Villains by Necessity, Mistborn series
4: Warded Man- While this book was irritating at first, not only in its execution but in in the conventional farm-boy-becomes-great-hero plotline, this judgment quickly reversed itself after the first couple of pages as it blossomed into an amazing book. Incredible, original, perfect, it seems the author finds his voice midway through the book, and what a voice! Other 4s: Inkheart
3: So Much for That- As much as I regret giving such a hyped-up book such a low grade, it had a very badly crafted end. See my review for full details! Other 3s: That Akhenaten Djinn series, the Olympians series (I don't like books with good plots that have been written for younger audiences.)
2: Life as we Knew It- A good book. If you're looking to waste a perfectly good afternoon. This book, seriously, is drivel. A conventional plot that has more holes than a whiffle ball. An asteroid smashes into the moon, fracturing it and pushing it towards the Earth, but not altering its orbit- if the moon moved closer to the Earth, it would smash into the Earth. End of story. Other 2s: Mistwood, although it would be a 2.5
1: Twilight, of course! The most hyped-about book of the times, depressingly. That's all I need to say. Burn it. This is actually the only 1 on my scale: it needs its own rating category.

Galley Review - Legacies: Shadow Grail #1 by Mercedes Lackey and Rosemary Edghill

If this were a food, I would say it was raw cookie batter -- gross and slimy if you add too much water, yet very good to eat. Also it is raw, which means it has a lot of potential. This book is not a standalone; perhaps the next book in the series could be one, but when you read Legacies, there are so many plot points left untied by the end of the story that it would take several books to tie them all off, if each book introduces no new others. For example: the parents of everyone in Oakhurst either committed suicide or died when a mysterious flash of light either started a fire or caused a car crash. Coincidence? Who knows! Maybe they'll tell us in the next book.

Review by Elizabeth Chan

For Mercedes Lackey's website, click here.

Ms. Barnes rates 1-5

Since we have a wide range of reviewers on this blog, we figured we'd give you (our reading audience) a sense of our taste by sharing books that fall into the different categories of the rating system. I'll share some of my favorites, least favorites, and those residing in that mixed feelings category, from among the 288 books I've read this year.

5 - Beatle Meets Destiny by Gabrielle Williams - This book was superb for me in every possible way. Williams has such a unique and playful writing style. When you add that to quirky, compelling, well-developed characters, a perfectly detailed Australian setting, and a sweet but realistic romance, you get a winner... in my opinion. Definitely one of my favorites from the year. As delicious and filling and satisfying as Boston creme pie.

4 - The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff - Yovanoff's debut has an utterly unique premise that I could really envision as a future Tim Burton film. This book is so atmospheric, so creepy (and I do mean the contents of the book though the cover is truly gorgeous), that it was able to overcome some weaknesses in the text later on. Great execution and an author I'll surely be following. Like a first try at vegetable pot pie, delicious, but still with room for improvement.

3 - Dash and Lily's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan - This book fell into middle of the road territory for me, and in kind of a surprising way. The writing (an aspect of the book that matters greatly to me) is excellent throughout, but I felt underwhelmed by one of our two narrators. Dash felt like an old man in the body of a teenager. I struggled to believe his inner narration, as well as some of his actions. As much as I loved Lily, it wasn't enough to make up for how disappointed I was in Dash. This book reminds me of this risotto I tried last night. It would have been so good if not for the overpoweringly strong gorgonzola cheese. (Can you see that I am struggling with the food analogies!)

2 - Soames on the Range by Nancy Belgue - I would never have finished this book if I wasn't committed to writing a book review of it for a magazine. Oy. Where to start? It was completely lacking in plot while brimming with underdeveloped characters. Though it deals with timely issues that lend it a unique position in teen literature, it never rises to the occasion. This is like the cookies that I picked up from Whole Foods last week: how can you mess up chocolate chip cookies? Dry and unsatisfying.

1- I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore - This was hands-down the worst book I had to read this year, and the more I learn about its genesis, the more my disgust grows! Sure, this book will make a decent action movie, but did they really need to make a book version? Sloppily edited (major typo on the first page!), predictable, generic, and with some utterly dreadful writing, I still feel bad about how much time I spent reading aloud from this atrocious book. I'm not even sure there is a food to describe this one. Maybe cat food, but if a human tried to eat it.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

So Much for That

by Lionel Shriver
Widely acclaimed and nominated for the National Book Award of 2010, this book has the customary trappings of a great book- incredible control of language, grammar, vocabulary, and the rest. The setting is keenly evocative, no matter her focus, and the feeling of the events of the book is deftly captured and held between lines of captivatingly spun text. Shepherd Knacker has always been fascinated by the prospect of living a luxurious life in a third world country for next to no money. Having sold his company for a million dollars, and raring to go to Pemba, Tanzania, he is held back by a declaration from his wife, Glynis. She has mesothelioma, a rare but serious form of cancer resulting from asbestos exposure. The rest of the book follows their dual struggles with the cancer, with the health care system, and with their "friends" and their friends. As the cancer progresses, Shep starts losing the money he carefully put away for Pemba, Glynis starts losing the friends she always held close, and their real friends deal with their own problems.
Shriver writes with a graphic, frank style that's refreshing and cynical. From time to time, though, she disgusted me with horribly explicit imagery and graphic descriptions. Also, although the book has a surprising ending, what really surprised me wasn't the promised "happy ending" or the careful conclusion of a masterpiece- what surprised me was that it completely fell apart. Shriver seems to have forgotten she was writing a novel, and tied it off with a botched and haphazard attempt to reintroduce some gravity into the situation. As a result, the book left me with a sour taste in my mouth. The first three quarters were good, though!
Final grade: 3.5

Friday, November 12, 2010

Girl Parts

Alaina read and reviewed Girl Parts by John M. Cusick . I just read it also, and figured that another view of the book might be nice. I found the plot to be compelling, but near the end it seemed like a chapter was missing. The characters were well developed, which was good. Overall I liked the book, and would recommend it if you like realistic future type books.

I would rate this as vanilla ice cream with peanut butter, but no chocolate sauce. Weird and surprisingly good, but missing that chocolaty awesomeness. For those of you who are still in the box, this is a 3.5

Monday, November 8, 2010

Crossing the Tracks by Barbara Stuber

For some reason, a lot of books I've read lately are reminding me of Anne of Green Gables. This is a good thing, as Anne Shirley is my fictional hero. Crossing the Tracks is a gorgeous debut effort from Barbara Stuber.

Iris Baldwin's mother died when Iris was a young girl, but she's always felt like an orphan. Her father is a well-to do owner of a shoe store, and he's never had much time for Iris. So, it's not completely surprising that, with a soon-to-be wife and a new shoe store in the works, he sends Iris off to work as a live-in companion for a doctor's elderly mother. And so, just as Anne Shirley headed off on a train, to stay with Matthew and Marilla Curthbert, unsure if they really want her, so does Iris head off to stay with Doctor and Mrs. Nesbitt. In her summer away from home, things change in ways Iris could have never predicted, but maybe for the better.

Critics might say that Crossing the Tracks doesn't have a very strong plot driving the story, but that's really not what the book is about. It's a thoughtful work of historical fiction set in the 1920s. When I think 1920s, I think flappers and prohibition, but that's the urban 1920s, not at all what rural Missouri was like then. Instead, the setting in some ways reminded me of Prince Edward Island, the community remote and insular, the characters either full of small-town charm or rural grit. This is the perfect book to read on a rainy day like today.

RIYL (Read If You Like): Anne of Green Gables, or Jennifer Donnelly's A Northern Light (which I'm so enjoying on audiobook right now).

Sunday, October 31, 2010


By Eireann Corrigan

In this book, Finn and her friend Chloe have trained to look good on college applications for their entire young adult lives. When their advisor tells them it isn't enough for the best schools in the country, they gain inspiration from a recent kidnapping and stage an abduction of their own. As Chloe sits it out in a basement, Finn works her way through the next few days pretending to be clueless, distraught, unhelpful to police, family and friends; the idea being that both Finn and Chloe become more interesting to those top-notch colleges. But, not everything goes as planned as some are forced to get the short end of the stick.

When I read this book I peeked at the inside cover at the summary, which I deeply regretted. It had a little teaser which gave me the feeling of impending doom. When I got through the book to the end I realized how much I overestimated: I was expecting something along the lines of a horror book, which left me pent-up and anxious for the entire first half of it. Honestly, not much happened in the beginning. It was mostly focused on the stress Finn got from lying to everyone, and her stress just mostly made me feel stressed, which made my nervousness and anticipation worse. When the action peaked at about 3/4ths way through, I felt a lot more interested through to the end. The beginning/middle wasn't as great because it was all just about Finn and her stressful life for a few days (which were hard to count), and it got slower and boring. The book had rut-like qualities where the action should have been picking up, and the rising action with the climax along with the falling action was smushed into a small space at the end. The resolution, however, was written in an appropriate amount of space. For me, getting through the slower parts to the good stuff was rewarding because the book tied all the lose ends together into a solid finish that made me think a lot about the whole book. Only until the end, but there the entire story made sense and makes it worth reading.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The 10 p.m. Question by Kate De Goldi

Twelve-year-old Frankie is nervous, a worrier if there ever was one. But he he's getting by, doing enough thinking and worrying for everyone. That is, until Sydney enters the scene. Free-spirited, fun-loving Sydney, a girl who has been enrolled in 22 schools and whose mother is a high-end prostitute, leads Frankie to question everything. He starts to wonder if maybe his mother's way of life-- she hasn't left their house in 9 years-- isn't normal.

Kate De Goldi, an author from New Zealand, has written a delightful, smart book about a truly unique character. This is not the kind of book to read in one sitting, but rather, one to be savored. While Frankie is twelve, he is by no means your average twelve-year-old, and this book would best be enjoyed by teens and adults. The characters in this book are exceptionally well-developed, from Frankie's siblings to his dad who walks around naked, to his three aunts, to his cat, Fat Controller. Frankie's mother's dilemma is painfully realized by everyone around her, and yet the moments we share with her show just how complex she is. She has a deep awareness of what she wants for her son, and yet she is completely incapacitated to make any changes in her own life. The way her story plays out over the course of the book is absolutely brilliant. I love how De Goldi engages the bigger themes that anyone can relate to, such as the natural fear of becoming your parents.

But perhaps what I enjoyed most about this book is the writing. De Goldi is such a skilled storyteller, employing a great slow crescendo in the story. I especially love the way she details Frankie's little "horrors" in a way that shows how understandable, but also how funny they are. Readers will be able to relate to these sentiments. It's just that Frankie feels them at a much higher magnitude than the average person. I particularly enjoyed when Frankie related the horror at the public pool:

"And last Saturday when they'd been there he'd had his annual unsavory collision with a Band-Aid. There was nothing more revolting in Frankie's view than freestyling your way, innocent and blissful, into the path of a used Band-Aid. In Frankie's private hierarchy of squeamish experiences, the casual caress of a stained Band-Ad was right up there with accidentally catching the sight of writing maggots in a forgotten rubbish bag. He'd had to get out of the pool immediately last Saturday and lie on his towel in the sun to recover" (p. 30).

Oh, Frankie. He's a delight in precisely the same vein as Sheldon Cooper. So particular about things!

RIYL (Read If You Like): The Big Bang Theory and/or thoughtful books.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Way of Kings

By Brandon Sanderson.
This book was a refreshing counterpoint to the dreary wiles of contemporary fantasy. The first book in a planned series of ten, and already a weighty tome by its own virtue at 1008 pages, it has a plethora of potential; trust me, it'll need the full estimated 10,000 pages to fully complete the world of Roshar. This world is a one that is fully fleshed-out and realized in a way that puts to shame the more conventional world-building techniques used by lesser authors. Indeed, I'll go as far as to say that Sanderson has invented a wholly new technique for world-building.
World-building is a technique used mostly in the fantasy genre of fiction to denote the creation and description of the setting of a world different from our own. Sanderson has taken his to a whole new level; four 'interludes' provide three stories apiece, two of which have as their sole purpose to describe more of Sanderson's world. The third follows a story started in the prologue which spans the whole of the book as a somewhat dark back story. The main story, however, (without going into too much detail) sets up the main plot for the rest of the 9 books remaining, and shows a large part of the world of Roshar. The main premise is that huge storms constantly blow across the world, and humanity has had to adapt to the storms. Wildlife has developed thick shells, and Roshar's flora has developed the ability to retract completely into the stone. The storms give off Stormlight, which powers much of the world. The currency, spheres, is basically spheres of glass with a gem chip inside of them; the gem is charged for about a week every time it is left outside in such a 'highstorm' and gives off light, which the inhabitants of the world use to light their lives. These infused gems also power the magic of transmutation, which is achieved by inventions called 'fabrials'. The characters outline the class balance and premise of the war; a lord and a lowly slave are two characters who are embroiled in the war with a race called the Parshendi, far away on the Shattered Plains. The third character, Shallan, provides the knowledge the reader needs to understand her world. She shares this information through her interactions with the Heretic, Jasnah, the royal princess and her mentor.
At the heart of it all, a benevolent character hides true purpose behind a mask of generosity.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Girl Parts

Featuring two boys and a robot girlfriend designed to solve 'disassociation' among troubled teenage boys, this book was written to explore human relationships. While the beginning held no promises and characters were not very important, halfway through the book met all expectations one can make from seeing the cover. Rose (the robot) forms an interesting relationship with David and later with Charlie, but the end of the book disapointingly only held a promising future for Charlie, minimal reassurance for David, and totally unknown future for Rose. Rose became a very important character that I felt had a lot of potential for further development and exploration, but the end of the book cut this quite short. While the importance of human relationships were emphasised well with robots made to order to a boy's fantasy, there could have been more focus on character development for Charlie and especially David. While the concept was facinating, the overall construction was poor. Yet, still worth reading on a rainy day.

Monday, October 18, 2010

All Just Glass

All Just Glass by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes
The Vida'a are a family of witches who fight vampires. When Sarah becomes a vampire, her mother orders Adia, Sarah's sister, to kill her. The Vidas declare war on the vampires, and no one is safe until Adia puts a knife through her sister's heart. I really enjoyed this book, it was intriguing, everyone had secrets, and the very foundation of the family was tested. The book takes place over a 24 hour period, so some of it is confusing, but over all it was good. I would suggest this book if you like vampires, but find Twilight to be poorly written, and too happily-ever-after. I would also suggest this book if you are looking for a quick read.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Dear CCHS Galley

I hope you can all find this message, and thus the blog. I've set it up to let us all contribute our posts to the blog. If there's anyone I forgot to send an invitation to or couldn't get the email of, you are welcome to tell me so I can fix it. You're also, of course, welcome to invite them yourselves. I trust the permissions are set to allow everyone full access, but if not I can tinker with them. Thanks, and I'll be waiting to fine-tune the blog with all of you!

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