Twitter Feed

Follow cchsreads on Twitter

Total Pageviews

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Everybody Sees the Ants

Lucky isn't that Lucky. He is relentlessly bullied and his parents are powerless to intervene and advocate for him because they are paralyzed by their dysfunctional marriage. A social studies assignment to design a survey and chart the results goes horribly wrong when Lucky decides to poll students about which method of suicide they would choose. Not a good idea. After a particularly brutal attack, Lucky's mom takes him away to visit family in Arizona, and give them both a break from the pressures of home. Three weeks lead to a lot of self-discovery, and a highly satisfactory conclusion.
A.S. King, author of the Printz Honor Book Please Ignore Vera Dietz, took a lot of risks with this novel. The ants serve as a comic Greek chorus and work well in providing a counter-balance to the bleakness of Lucky's life. The dream sequences in which Lucky tries to free his long lost grandfather from a Vietnamese prison camp are also effective, if a bit of a stretch at times. However, Dietz pulls it off.
In reflecting upon Everybody Sees the Ants, Going Bovine by Libba Bray comes to mind. Bray took similar risks, trying new ideas and breaking down the barriers between the real and the fantastic. It is a joy to see authors testing their skills and pushing boundaries and concepts.
As a food experience I would rate this as Lucky's favorite dinner. Yogurt marinated chicken with tomato and pineapple skewers on a bed of rice. Flavorful, unusual, and for someone open to risk. Yogurt marinated chicken isn't necessarily for everyone, but if you are willing to bite, you will find it absolutely delicious!

Friday, February 24, 2012

How to Save a Life

A National Book Award finalist, How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr, is simply stunning. Jill is a senior in high school still reeling from the tragic death of her father. She has emotionally closed herself off from her friends, her boyfriend, and her grieving mother. She is stuck in her grief, and is horrified when her mother announces that she is going to adopt a baby.
Mindy has dropped out of school and agreed to give her baby up for adoption. She climbs a bus in Nebraska and arrives to meet Jill and her Mom in Colorado. She is carrying more than an unborn baby. She is also running from a past that includes secrets she can never share.
Through two very distinct voices, details emerge and eventually, the pair establish a rapport. Friendship, romance, and the meaning of family are all explored in a fresh and authentic process. The conclusion is exceptionally satisfying.
Emotionally complicated girls with messy life-situations is Zarr's strength, as she displayed in her 2007 book Story of a Girl. She is definitely a novelist to watch.
As a food this is a slow simmered chicken stew, but from the kitchen of someone who loves to play with spices and isn't afraid to take a risk. A little curry, a dash of coriander and some hot pepper flakes transform this familiar and comforting dish into a unique and unforgettable dining experience.
5 stars.
Other awards:

  • ALA 2012 Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults
  • A Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2011
  • A School Library Journal Best Book of 2011
  • A Los Angeles Public Library Best Book of 2011
  • A Junior Library Guild selection
  • Cooperative Children’s Book Council 2012 Children’s Choice

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Fairy Ring or Elsie and Frances Fool the World

By Mary Losure

This is the charming story of a little girl who sees fairies. However, her mother and her aunt and uncle don't believe her. Her cousin Elsie does. So they make a couple of paper cut outs of pained fairies (Elsie's an artist). It follows the story of the pair as the pictures they took took with their 'fairies' are taken too seriously. Several important people including Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, famous as the creator of Sherlock Holmes, believed in fairies and at that period in time, people wanted to try and prove the existence of fairies. As the whole deal got more and more out of control, they get really guilty and don't like the direction their joke went in.

It was a really interesting book overall. I would not have imagined that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle would have believed in fairies. Also, I thought it interesting that scientists wanted to classify fairies into a species and such and document them. I think that this book should get a 3.5 or something about that. It was good and a very quick read, but I had trouble keeping track of all the names and the amount of time passing. In terms of food, it would be some food you don't really like, but then you eat it and it isn't half bad.
 This is the first picture Elsie and Frances took of the 'fairies'. It depicts Frances and some of the fairies.
 This is Elsie in their second picture. She is with a gnome with wings.
 The third picture they took. This is a couple years later after everyone took an interest with them and their 'fairies'. This is Elsie with a flying fairy, offering her a bouquet of flowers.
 This is the fourth, and last posed picture they took, depicting Frances and a leaping fairy.
The last picture they took. According to the book, they just thought it was a jumble of grasses. However, some person who was studying fairies scientifically was convinced it was a fairy home thing, after seeing the fairy shapes. Frances apparently stood by this picture as being real for her whole life.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Hero of Ages

By Brandon Sanderson

And so comes the conclusion of the really good Mistborn trilogy. The final book comes with more surprises and sadness and happiness and emotions. Attention: There may be some spoilers. So, like, yeah. Read at your own risk (?).

It is yet another year after the last book ended, and Vin is 20-21. She and Elend work on helping their empire and surviving and trying to help their empire survive. And Ruin, this really powerful force of destruction that like, affects a whole bunch of people and manipulates them to do his bidding, is out to destroy the world. You know, the usual sort of thing for this kind of book. So, it follows them connecting the dots of Ruin's plan, and their friends off doing other stuff, and Sazed battling his depression. Everyone is desperate and such and they have to figure out how to save the world. And so they have a bunch of fun almost dying and seeing people they know get killed and trying to survive tons of koloss attacks. And it's like a picnic in the park. And then we get to the end of the book. More connections are made, more people die, and in the last few chapters (especially the very last one and the epilogue) we, the readers, get full understanding of what the past two books have been leading up to. And it's definitely unexpected. And stuff happens and then the world is saved, though we lose a couple of very good friends. :(

This book, by itself, is rated AWESOME. Aka, a 4.7. It's a bit loopier than the first book (minus points) but better then the second (stays the same). It's like finding out that no one ever put anything in the cake (from the review of the second book) but then going out and buying/eating some of the delicious food (from the review of the first book). However, you can't enjoy it as much as you would because you are disappointed that the people were leading you on and you're not very happy with them.

Now, on the trilogy overall:
It was very good. Some of the stuff mentioned in the first book is brought back on connected to the huge picture that Brandon Sanderson is painting with a tiny tiny brush (for all the more detail!). And it brings you on a roller coaster ride, and really allows you to connect with the characters and feel like you know them. Then, he kills them off. But still, it's a good story. Every story needs it's tragic hero.

One final word, READ IT. Please. :)

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Well of Ascension

By Brandon Sanderson

Hello one and all! Welcome back to the second installment of my reviews on the Mistborn trilogy. Yes, this does mean I'm going to be reviewing the third book, The Hero of Ages. But they are just such good books! Well, moving on.
     In this book, it is one year after the fall of the Survivor, the death of the Lord Ruler. We rejoin the old crew ( - Kelsier, + Elend) and some new friends we just meet. The plot twists and turns as always, leaving the reader on the edge of their seat, or reading in class under the desk. In this new book, Elend Venture, now king, struggles to keep his city and his kingship, under control. On top of this, his relation ship with Vin is strained. For the first time, he must stand up to his post and act who he is. Meanwhile, in Vin's life, she tries to figure out who she wants to be and who she needs to be. Not helping is Straff Venture's Mistborn, and son, Zane. She also has to make herself comfortable with her position in the new Church of the Survivor as 'Lady Heir'. On top of this, she thinks she's a mythical hero and has to chose which to love and be with of the two brothers, Elend and Zane. (Have I heard this before? Like in When the Stars Go Blue?) Well, as always, they overcome. But then there's a koloss army as well as two other human armies (Cett and Venture's) out the city waiting to break in and get the fabled atium supply of the Lord Ruler. Well, they win the battle and lose some friends. All is happy until the end. (Woot! I'm a natural poet)
     About the book, I have to say that I was sort of disappointed in the beginning. I was all hyped up after the end of the last book (review found here). But then I started, and I found that Vin and Elend seemed like they went through complete personality changes. In addition to my grief over Kelsier, I now mourned the loss of the original Elend and Vin. Luckily, they mostly returned. And all was well in the kingdom again. But then, like THREE MORE PEOPLE that one really gets to like died and I was like *distressed sound*. And I was like, "NO! Why Brandon Sanderson? Why??" But then I had to deal with it.
     Truthfully, it gets a 4.5. I wasn't impressed with the personality changes and too many people I liked (No!) died. It's like that old thing where you bake a little trinket into a cake and whoever eats the piece with the trinket in it gets to be "King" for a day? Well, there are two pieces left and you like, eat one of them, certain that you are eating the one with the trinket in it. You're getting to the last few bites and you're really excited, trembling with suppressed energy. You get to the last bite and you find nothing in the cake and you're like, "Darn!" And you're all disappointed and the like. Well, that's this book. But the cake still tasted delightful!

Friday, February 10, 2012

My Beating Teenage Heart

C.K. Kelly Martin

My Beating Teenage Heart is saddled with an unfortunate cover and an even more unfortunate title. I got more strange looks when I pulled this book out of my backpack than I usually get, which I believe is mainly due to the title. In addition, the cover is a fairly uninspiring tan, black, and gray. While the color scheme fits the book, the picture needs to be more interesting.
*There will be a few spoilers in here, especially when I talk about the ending, so read at your own risk!*
My Beating Teenage Heart follows the fairly common premise of a central character who is dead and looking down on the living from whatever state of afterlife they are in. Martin breaks the mold a little bit here in how her dead girl character, Ashlyn, is tied to a living boy, Breckon, dual narrators of the novel. Now, it does take Ashlyn a little bit of time to figure out that she's dead, but chances are good that the reader will figure it out beforehand (especially given the quotes on the back cover of the galley, such as "I miss the beat of my heart."). Ashlyn doesn't know why she's stuck with Breckon for the majority of the book, so she learns about him as the reader does, a good choice by Martin. Watching the characters unfold (Ashlyn also slowly remembers her life as the book goes on) is an interesting process and gives them some dimension, especially Breckon. Breckon is reeling from the death of his younger sister Skylar, and as the reader and as Ashlyn we watch him spiral down into despair because, of course, he blames himself for what happened to her.
A few things of note:
1) This is a very, very sad book. I almost cried at the end, and I don't typically cry because of books. Martin does an amazing job of capturing the emotions of her characters, but it is almost painful to read at times.
2) The book did get a tad draggy, especially if you're not thrilled by watching someone sink into depression. There was a lot of "Breckon did this," then "Breckon did that." The emotions are what drive the book, more than the plot points do.
3) The book does trend a bit towards the melodramatic. For example: "The sound isn't music and it's not whispers. I don't have words to describe it. If teardrops, blinding sunshine and limitless knowledge combined to make a noise, it would be the one the stars hum while I float amongst them" (1). You see what I mean. Beautiful, but a tad over the top. Which brings me to...
4) The ending (and SPOILER ALERT). I don't really know how to describe the ending. On the one hand, it was really beautiful and uplifting and sad. On the other hand, it was like a typical dead-person-book ending: Ashlyn is able to see her family one last time, Breckon knows his sister forgives him, and Ashlyn moves on, no longer tied to Breckon. Somewhat sappy, but it also makes you want to cry. Or at least sniffle a bit. It would have been more interesting if Martin had gone off the beaten path a little here, but this ending is what most readers will want for Breckon and Ashlyn, even though it is cliched.

My Beating Teenage Heart is about a 3/5. Compare it to whatever spicy food you like: it's tasty, but it hurts to eat it, and you should really read it with something else to cut the spice. Preferably some sort of fluffy, very cheerful piece so that you don't find yourself crying in the middle of the day. An excellent book for this is My Most Excellent Year by Steve Kluger, which is so over-the-top happy that it will perfectly accompany My Beating Teenage Heart.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Mistborn: The Final Empire

By Brandon Sanderson

Truthfully, I have nothing but hight praise for Brandon Sanderson. He builds flawless worlds and intricate magic systems that are (in truth) somewhat confusing but oh so awesome. His characters are engaging and his story lines are just epic.

The first book in the Mistborn Trilogy has been incredibly fun to read. We meet Vin, a paranoid street urchin with abandonment and trust issues, who is living in Luthadel, the capitol of the Final Empire and home of the Lord Ruler. Soon, she gets recruited by the Mistborn Kelsier, who tells her that she is also an all powerful Mistborn. Vin get caught up in a world of rebellion and lessons about Allomancy, the basis of the power of Mistborns. It is also part love story. It is an awesome book and everyone should read it.

This is one of the best books I have ever read (almost better than Harry Potters 1-6!). I would highly recommend it to anyone who loves fantasy or sci-fi or stuff like that. It gets a 5 and then some on a number scale, and the most delightful, rare, delicious delicacy you can think of in the food things. In other words, just read it. You won't be disappointed unless you are.

Twitter Feed

Follow cchsreads on Twitter