Thursday, December 19, 2013

12/19/13

This is more like it!   Read quite a few books this week.....some, I admit.....not my favs.....and some; well, some kept me up all night because I had to know what happened.....=)  Perils of being addicted to books I guess....=)

Here we go:

The False Prince is one that I was assigned...or one that I saw on the Garden State Book Award nominee list and thought "why not?".....it's been getting a LOT of buzz....and so I was really looking forward to reading it.   My opinion?  Not bad, but not up to all the hype.  The central premise is that one of the top advisors to the royal family has a plan to "save" the royal family (who have all just conveniently been assassinated).   His plan?  Find an orphan who looks a lot like a prince who sailed away (was sent away) and has been presumed dead since the ship was lost at sea years ago.  He gathers a random group of boys together and proceeds to show them how to become the prince.  One of the boys (the lead character) figures out quite quickly that doing this will mean doing whatever he is told for the rest of his life...and he is feeling quesy about the whole thing.  I figured out the "twist" ending not even halfway through the book....and I think savvy readers will do the same; but if you aren't a heavy fantasy reader, perhaps it will be a huge surprise for you.  I can see why it's popular, but much like the Hunger Games (at least in my opinion) I am not as impressed as the media & masses.  

Since I'm on the subject of "highly touted" books....this is another one.  Son is the conclusion of the series Lowry started ages ago in The Giver.  It wraps up a lot of loose ends, and introduces some new characters...and tries to make for a more hopeful future than thus far has existed in this universe......I read it; but didn't enjoy it......(definitely a "have to" assigned book).  I am not a huge fan of The Giver, nor of dystopias in general...so, yeah.....if you like them; you'll love this.....if not....you won't.....
Sorry folks.....once again, I am out in the cold, disagreeing with all the high mucky-mucks......=/




Now THIS is a title I grabbed as soon as it came in.....it is the sequel to Enchanted and takes place in this same fairy tale environment.   I love the whole "fractured fairy tales" movement.....and Kontis does a great job of turning the whole "hero rescuing the fair maiden" on its head....pretty much literally since the "maiden" is actually a guy who was magicked into the witch's daughter's place...and thus looks like a girl; but isn't...and the "hero" is Thursday....a girl, but whom the witch thinks is Jack Woodcutter (it's her brother, so they resemble each other)......I love the easy romantic tale, the classic elements of fairy tale and the fun of an unexpected story that is completely original.  Thursday is a kickass heroine....and this story really made me happy.



Seraphina, sadly is one that I completely forgot that I had read...which I think says something about the story.  It involves a girl who is part dragon, when such half breeds aren't supposed to exist....and her struggles between both human and dragon societies..and the evils of both.  There is also a bit of romantic tale in there; but mostly it is the whole "no one understands me; I must find my way; save the world from evil" tale that I've seen a million times.  I'm sure that there are those who will disagree....and that's fine....but I just was bored reading this and I'm sure I'll forget that I read it again in a month.


Endangered is another assigned title...and this time....well, I am SO glad I was forced to read it.  It has a terribly boring cover, so I never would have picked it up...and it didn't sound exciting at all....bonobos?  Apes in the Congo.....girl in a sanctuary trying to save them.....*yawn*.....but that's not what it is at all!  THIS is the story of a girl (Sophie), born in Congo, but who lives in the US and has completely acclimated to the American way of looking at the world....so much so, that when she sees a beggar selling a young bonobo, she buys him to save him and take him to the sanctuary.  This, of course, is the wrong thing to do, but her heart was in the right place.  Her mother, who runs the sanctuary and has devoted her life to it (thus her parents' divorce and consequent emigration to the USA) tries to explain why it was wrong.....but in the end just says that what's done is done and that Sophie must take charge of the care of the ape until they see if it will live.  Sophie really bonds with him and names him Otto; and really works to keep him healthy throughout the summer.   And then, her mother leaves to do a release of some bonobos into the wild and says her goodbyes as Sophie is due to leave in a couple weeks.  It shouldn't be a problem; until someone kills the President and chaos ensues with random militia groups killing and destroying everything.  Sophie is supposed to evacuate, but runs away when she realizes she can't take Otto with her.  Now she is stuck in the middle of a war zone; trying to survive and to keep Otto safe in a country where he is more likely to be used as meat than he is to be cared for.   The things Sophie goes through and the many ways she has to struggle are harrowing and real.....I loved this book.  I also love that the author has a kind of afterword in the last few chapters....so that we see Sophie as an adult many years later and what happened to her and to Otto.   This is a book that is NOT to be missed!   READ IT!  NOW!!!


Winger is a book that I kept meaning to get to...and now I'm sorry I waited.  I have loved other books by Andrew Smith; and this one is up to his usual standards....although I must admit the cover is a bit off-putting...it fits once you know what the book is about.  Winger is Ryan Dean's nickname as well as his position on the rugby team for his private boarding school.  Ryan Dean is a bit of a misfit; being two years younger than anyone else in his grade (he's a junior, but only 14); and being in a boarding school because his parents are too busy with their own lives....well, it doesn't make for a fun, easy going life.   The whole story basically follows Ryan Dean through a school year.....or most of one anyway.....his hoped for romance that seems doomed because of their age difference, his being in the "delinquent" house because he did something stupid and got caught, his involvement and obsession with rugby and indeed the whole team dynamic...is all a part of the tale....but there is so much more.  I really loved this story.....Ryan Dean tries so hard and does some idiotic things sometimes; but his heart is in the right place...and when a terrible thing happens (won't say, just....have tissues) he and the reader are equally devastated because we feel a part of his life.   This is a perfect example of a sports book that is so much more than sports.....and I think that it is one of my top books for the year.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Thoughts on The Alchemist

My Thoughts on the Alchemist


The Alchemist is one of the most inspirational books that I have ever read. It teaches

readers how to follow their dreams and to never give up. The book was written by Paulho

Coelho, and it sold millions of copies worldwide. The New York Times said "This Brazilian

wizard makes books disappear from stores."

The Alchemist is basically about a boy named Santiago. His dream is to travel the world,

which led him into getting the job of a Sheppard. One day he has a dream that a child tells him

that he must travel to the pyramids and obtain a valuable treasure. He sets out on his journey to

Africa, and enters a whole new world. He is then faced by a series of events that teach him how

life really is, and how he can connect with the soul of the world.

I recommend everyone to read The Alchemist, for it is truly inspirational. There

are a lot of dreams we had as children that we gave up on. It is not too late to accomplish them.

This book will make you want to get up and accomplish all the things that you forgot about. I

was truly inspired, and I am sure you will too.

- Bilal Syed

12/12/13

Eli is Daniel's older brother who dies in Iraq.  Daniel is devastated, obviously, as is his family.  The story takes place over the summer of his ninth grade year.  Daniel's summer is a huge moment in his life; he will find and lose love, figure out the meaning of friendship, decide what he wants to do with his life and finally begin to heal from his brother's death several years ago.  This is a really quiet book, but so good.  It is a quick, short read; but it is also a great reminder that sometimes change just sneaks up on us....that while we are simply living life momentous moments happen right under our nose...and it's not until they are over that we realize what they are.  I really enjoyed this, give it a try....

Thursday, December 05, 2013

12/5/13

This is an edge of your seat suspense novel.  Noa wakes up on an operating table.  She has no idea where she is or why she is here; but she knows something is wrong.  She manages to escape, barely....only to find that these unknown people know all of her hiding places.  So, she's on the run.  Peter is a well-to-do member of society; or at least his parents are.  He has no interest in his parents or their interests; but one day while snooping he comes across a reference for the Persephone Project.  He idly researches it (he's quite good with computers) but he has barely done more than look around when strange men kick in the door to his house and steal his computer.....warning him against reporting the crime and threatening to hurt him and his family if he doesn't leave well enough alone.  Confused and frightened, Peter begins to look more deeply into the situation; he meets up with Noa and the two of them begin to realize the depth of this conspiracy...and the imminent danger they are in.  Can they figure out everything in time?  Why do these men want Noa so badly? 


In this sequel to Etiquette and Espionage, we continue with another adventure with Sophronia and the gang at Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy.  This time she stumbles upon a plot to kidnap her best friend and her brother as a way to force their parents to do (or not do)....something.   Can Sophronia figure out what is happening and keep her friend safe?  And more importantly, can she do it while still negotiating the perils of being a lady of quality?   This is a great followup to the original...a steampunk fantastical adventure with werewolves, magicians and vampires...and a strong, fiesty leading lady determined to save the day.  Definitely a "to be read immediately" choice.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

11/23/13

Sick, so running late....but, on a good note; read some good books!

I couldn't resist trying this one.....cover is amazingly creepy and story sounded like a good ghost story (and I love those).  I think that the author did a pretty good job.....she set the story in an abandoned asylum....and interspersed text with random creepy pictures. The storyline is sort of classic horror as well; summer school and university has converted an abandoned asylum into dorms.....creepy mysterious things happen and a few kids go digging into restricted areas (who wouldn't) and find secrets about the institution; which of course tie into a killer......I think my only complaint is that it kind of went textbook on the plot.  Nonetheless, I enjoyed the story.






House of Hades....at last I found you!  This latest incarnation of Riordan's Percy Jackson adventures doesn't disappoint....except at the end when I have to wait another year or two to find out how it ends (but at least this one isn't a cliffhanger).....lol

If you haven't read these books, GO,  GO NOW!  The movies were terrible, but the books are amazing.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

11/13/13

Herbach's character of Felton Reinstein has really hit a chord with me.  I feel like he just needs a hug and a bit of encouragement.....and perhaps I could smack his mom in the head....just a little?  Anyway, in this latest installment Felton is trying to choose which college he wants; but he's so lost amongst all the hullaballoo of sports recruiters and his mother is so focused on her own issues that she doesn't even accompany him on college visits...even when they are across country.....sheesh!   Anyway, Felton's earnestness and his innocence just speak to my mommy instincts......but I think teens would really identify with his confusion and will enjoy watching him grow up as much as I have.

Fangirl is a book that was HIGHLY recommended to me by everyone.....and at first I just wasn't interested.....so I took another look....and while I still don't think it's as amazing as some of my colleagues; I do understand some of the appeal.  The basic story follows two sisters, twins, through their freshman year of college.....Cath is a fangirl writer and her sister Wren is much more outgoing.  They take divergent paths in college; and you really begin to care what happens to them.......what detracted from the story for me; and perhaps, for others added to the appeal; is all the fangirl fiction she writes.  Rowell includes excerpts from the Simon Snow stories (a sort of cross between Harry Potter and Twilight books) that Cath creates; and they aren't just snippets; but short stories interposed amongst the fictional storyline...and sometimes echoing what is happening in Cath's life.  This makes sense in fan-fiction; but for the reader (at least for me) it was hard to read excerpts from a nonexistent story....and it actually sounded in places like it might be good....which almost made it worse...since neither the series nor the fan-fiction is "real".   So, my suggestion is to try it for yourself and see what you think!  And then, let me know....I'm feeling very much out of the loop lately; what with me not enjoying all the highly touted titles my colleagues say I should.....

I am very late to the party with this one...since it came out in 2010....but what can I say; my "to read" pile is VERY deep and growing ever deeper.

Anyway, the idea is that the main character, Alex, is date raped and at her very exclusive school; rather than getting administration involved the students can appeal to the Mockingbirds...a secret student run organization dedicated to righting wrongs.  Alex is a very realistic character; not sure at first if there has been a crime; and the story really focuses on the belief that "only a yes means yes"...which is something that everyone needs to remind our teens and our adults.....sleeping or passing out isn't assent; it's just asleep or passed out.  So the story is a good one; and the scenarios read true.....give it a shot

I found this book a bit hard to read; but definitely a page turner.  It revolves around a group of girls (and one guy) who all attend dance school together.  When one of them, Diamond, is abducted; the dynamic of the entire group is shattered.  I like that Draper showed the parts of life that don't change when a friend goes missing... and I also like that she didn't delve too deeply into what happens to Diamond...we know it's bad; but we don't see all the details.  This is a real slice of life book; and worth checking out.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

11/7/13

Deanna's life changed forever the night her dad caught her in the back of a car with one of her brother's friends.   He was 17, she was 13; and yet somehow; it was all her fault....in her dad's eyes, her peers at school and to her small town in general.  She can't wait to get out of high school and get away from the constant chatter about being a slut....especially since that was the only time she did anything.  Her life is complicated by being in love with her best friend (who is dating her other best friend) and her brother who lives in the basement with his girlfriend and their infant daughter.  Can she find a way to rise above it all?
I love this story....it felt so real and so raw and just sucked me in.  I also liked that Zarr didn't try to make everything neat and tidy; because, let's face it...life is messy.

Boy Nobody never says his name....he is an assassin and he's really good.  He stays that good by not getting involved and following his training....never asking questions just doing what he's told.  When he is sent an unusual job with a 5 day turn-around in NYC; everything changes.  The man he is sent to kill is very high profile; and reminds him of his father; whom he hasn't thought of in ages.  The daughter seems like someone he could care about; and when his emotions get involved.....everything changes.

This is a fast moving thriller with several twists that make it a fun and exciting read.  I kind of hope Zadoff does another one just so I can see what happens next.

The Vindico are the evil supervillains pitted against the League of Heroes.  They had gone into hiding for years; but now they have emerged...and they have taken hostages.  Specifically they have taken young proteges, that they are hoping to turn into the next generation of supervillain.   The teens are enjoying their new powers; but they aren't sure that either group is really out for more than revenge.....plus, the line between villain and hero is much blurry than you might think.
This was another fun adventure story.  It will definitely appeal to anyone who enjoys comics and stories in that genre......give it a shot, see what you think!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

10/24/13

John Lewis, civil rights leader and much more has decided to put his life story into a graphic novel format......this is important to him because he said reading the story of Martin Luther King in a comic in 1968 made a huge difference in his life and in understanding the civil rights movement.  Now he wants to make that same impact on someone else's life through these books......I must say, it is a compelling story and very well illustrated.  This is a book you and everyone should read.




Peculiar is, well, a bit peculiar itself.  It's an interesting magical adventure set in an alternate world where the door to the Fey opened and then stranded many of them here when it closed.  The two main characters are so different, it really makes for a fascinating journey watching them alone and seeing how they meet and how they change each other.  Arthur is a member of Parliament, but quite determined to stay out of anything important; very content with his "nowhere" life....until he accidentally stumbles on information on another member killing children.  Bartholomew is a changeling (mother human, father faery) who sees a changeling captured and stumbles into the whole murderous scheme; ending up a target himself.   This story moves quickly and has a lot of action.....it was interesting and fun......give it a go!


I have been meaning to read Mandela's autobiography for years...and I feel a sense of accomplishment for finally doing it.....=)   He definitely led an interesting life and I am so glad I made time to read this......if you don't know who he is, google it....then read this book.....it's not short, but it's well worth the effort.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

10/10/13

Battle Magic is the continuation of the "Circle" books...in this one Briar and his protege are caught up in a war.....and he needs to figure out how to save her and the kingdom from the emperor.   As is typical of Tamora Pierce, there is nonstop action....and lots of intrigue......if you love her Tortall books, you will adore this one (and I love Briar anyway....he's one of my fav characters)





Gulledge explores a shy artist and the process of coming out of her shell in this graphic novel.  I really like Paige, and her friends.....it felt like a journal of someone I should know......=)







Sadly, I just couldn't get into this book.....it was just blah......maybe you should try it and see what you think.....ttfn

Saleena

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Alchemyst

I know this series is older, and I actually read a few of them, but it was ages ago....so I'm revisiting the series through the audio books......and I love them.  The Alchemyst is the story of twins who inadvertently stumble unto the world of immortals in trying to save their friends, the nice booksellers across the street.  It turns out they are actually part of a whole world that the twins knew nothing about....and now they are fleeing for their lives from various gods, goddesses and other immortals in order to save the world......and perhaps the presence of the twins wasn't accident.....maybe it was fate, because there is an ancient prophecy regarding twins......who will either save the world, or destroy it.   If you haven't read this yet, you should......=)
Saleena

Thursday, September 19, 2013

9/19/13

Reality Boy is a no-holds-barred look at the life of a "reality star" who never really asked to be on tv and who has never made his peace with the results.  Gerald was on a "Nanny 911" type show when he was 5; and was made infamous when he, out of extreme frustration and a cry for help began to defecate in various places around the house....like his mother's shoes, or the dining room table.  The Nanny show didn't actually help anyone in their family and ending up only exacerbating the existing problems...and now Gerald at 17 is still struggling to deal with the fallout.  Gerald goes to anger management, he tries to hold his temper; but he still has a psychotic sister, an apathetic mother and an absent father.......In this book, A.S. King examines the real reality of reality shows and the aftereffects it can have.  She is also giving us a close up look at a family in crisis and we get to tag along as Gerald finds his way to a better life.

Golden Girl is the sequel to Dust Girl.  Callie is now in Hollywood looking for the portal and a way to her family.  She is hoping to sneak in and rescue them, as she isn't confident enough to "storm the castle" and take them back.
I think Zettel does a great job of showing readers the intersection of Faery and Hollywood fairy tale while setting the story in a 1930s historical setting.  If you like stories of the fae and are looking for something different, this is the series for you.



Sadly, Raven Boys disappointed me....I had heard so many good things and was really excited to finally read it......but I found it a bit drawn out and boring......sigh
The basic idea is that there is a little town in Virginia with lots of magic floating about.  Blue is told she will be responsible for someone's death, and so is determined to find this Gansey whom is fated to die.  This sets off a chain of events that no one anticipated.  Don't take my word for it though, borrow it and give it a shot....see what you think.

Saturday, September 07, 2013

Divergent review

Divergent Review
 
Divergent takes place in the Chicago area during an untold time in the future. Everyone is divided into one of five factions: Abnegation (the selfless), Erudite (the intelligent), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Candor (the honest). Every year, all the sixteen-year-olds take an aptitude test to determine which faction they belong in, and shortly after taking the test, they pick their faction and undergo initiation. However, for Beatrice “Tris” Prior, her aptitude test results are inconclusive, thus making her “divergent”, an unusual and dangerous thing to be. She chooses the Dauntless faction, and from there, she must survive the risky initiation process while hiding the fact that she is divergent. Meanwhile, tensions between the Erudite and Abnegation factions increase, hinting at a possibility at a faction-wide war.
 
The recent trend in dystopian teen novels continues, and although I’ve found it to be getting old, I had no qualms against Divergent. It’s been likened to The Hunger Games with its futuristic setting and empowered female protagonist, but it is most definitely not an imitation. Although Veronica Roth is a new author (Divergent being her first novel), she writes with the ease of a seasoned writer.
 
My favorite aspect of the novel would have to be Tris’s character. She’s not a perfect person and has many flaws, but she knows this and understands this. She can be selfish, unruly, stubborn, and overly talkative, but she is also brave and intelligent and understanding. Her character development over the course of Divergent can be seen clearly with each passing page. She’s a complex protagonist, growing and maturing throughout the story.
 
There’s a little bit of everything in Divergent, not overly abundant in any one category. It’s part action, mystery, love story, adventure, science fiction; in short, even if dystopian novels aren’t your favorite genre, there’s something for everyone in it. There are different subplots within the plot, which all converge in the end. Despite it being over 500 pages, it’s a thrill ride of a book, with rarely any dull points. You’ll grow attached to the different characters, and sometimes it will feel like the events in the story are actually happening to you.
 
Divergent is the first book in the Divergent trilogy, followed by Insurgent. The conclusion, Allegiant, will be available October 22, 2013. There are also four short stories told from the perspective of Four, another character in the Divergent series. A movie is also in production, starring Shailene Woodley as Tris, Theo James as Four, and Kate Winslet as Jeanine Matthews. The movie will be released in late March of 2014.
 
Review by Kaitlyn San Miguel on September 6, 2013

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Book Thief review

The Book Thief Review

Easily one of my favorite novels geared for young adults, The Book Thief is a poignant story of family, loyalty, death, the effects of war, and love. Taking place in Nazi Germany and narrated by a personified version of Death (who is more of a bleeding heart than a soulless Grim Reaper), the story revolves around Liesel Meminger, a young orphan girl who goes to live with her new foster parents, the Hubermanns. The relationships between Liesel and her foster parents, her neighbors, and a Jewish fist-fighter that her foster parents hide in their basement during World War II, are all examined. Throughout the story, Liesel is a notorious book thief, stealing books from unlikely places that include graveyards, a local book burning, and even from the mayor's wife's library.

The plot itself is absolutely intriguing, and Zusak's writing style is fluid. It's unique from books of similar topics in that it doesn't hold back; every scene bursts with raw emotion. Liesel's youthful innocence, which later is taken away from her by the effects of war, is a stark contrast to the bombings, beatings, and senseless killings that occur. Flashbacks, flash-forwards, and temporary cuts from Liesel's life to Death's job of gathering souls around the world during this devastating period of time occur quite frequently and are very normal in the novel. Everything is shown as being connected to each other,  with all the stories intertwining at the end.

What really makes The Book Thief one of my favorite books, however, is the characters. Each one is written with remarkable depth, and it's impossible to not feel attached to such memorable characters as Hans Hubermann, Rudy Steiner, and Max. However, this book should come with a warning label; it is incredibly sad, and you're going to need a box of tissues by the end of it. Though Death gives you an insight as to how the ending will play out, it is still a blow to the stomach when it finally arrives.

The Book Thief is also now a major motion picture, slated for release in November of 2013. Actors include Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson as Hans and Rosa Hubermann respectively, and Sophie Nelisse as Liesel.

Review by Kaitlyn San Miguel on August 30, 2013

Saturday, August 24, 2013

8/24/13

Veronica's world is full of ghosts.  No one is really sure why, but after The Event (an undefined catastrophe) there were suddenly a lot of ghosts everywhere.  She isn't afraid of them, but she IS weirded out by her English teacher who keeps staring at her.  As she and her beau of the moment, Kirk, begin to dig deeper into why some ghosts appear and others don't; they begin to uncover secrets some people would like to keep buried.
I loved the suspense and creepiness of this story.  It was a really quick read, and even though I would sometimes get annoyed by Veronica, she was a really great character.....I guess, in a way, it's a compliment that I got annoyed; I really felt like I could reach through the book and smack her around.....kind of like at the movies when you shout "NO! Don't go down the stairs"......I think anyone who enjoys spooky tales will enjoy this one.

I will admit it.  I love Felton.  Not like a romantic love, more like a mom love....but love it is.  I wanted to hug him and tell him it was ok in the first book, Stupid Fast....and now in Nothing Special; I still feel like he needs a friend and a hug more than anything.  Herbach does an excellent job of making Felton seem real.......like I wanna drive to Wisconsin and meet him real........for those of you who haven't read Stupid Fast, GO, do it now!  Felton in this book is still struggling with his transformation from joke to jock; and he worries about everything.....right now his principal worry is his little brother, and also about how somehow his entire life seems out of control; and he's convinced that it's all his fault.   I can't stop raving about this book, and can't wait to read the next installment "I'm With Stupid".......fast read, awesome characters, real life drama.....what more could you want?

Thursday, August 22, 2013

8/22/13

Finally finished this book, it was a hard book to take only because of how much my heart ached for all the injustice served to the family who's mother inadvertently did so much for the world of medicine.  The story is factual and the author worked really hard to involve all the "cast members" in the telling of it.  This is a bestseller that lives up to the hype and should be read by everyone.......really......go read it......

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close review



Jonathan Safran Foer is an author who has risen out of the blue and is growing into the most phenomenal author of his generation.  Jonathan Safran Foer, author of Everything Is Illuminated, released a novel I had never heard of until it recently became a motion picture. It goes by the name of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, and is one of the absolute best books I have ever read.
Oskar Schell is a journey-bound, curious-minded individual. He is yet to be twelve years old, but his mind is far above that of children his age. He constantly takes scavengers and hunts for unknown treasures that have been set up for him by his father, until one day a tragic event puts an abrupt end to his glowing light. His father is killed in the terrorist attack on the twin-towers in New York City that we know as 9/11. Without his father, Oskar struggles to find happiness in his life.  But one day, he finally needs to know why. He takes to his father’s office, and finds not what he was expecting; in a vase, there is a small envelope with a single key inside. He sets off to find the matching lock, traveling through the city day in and out.
A story which seems to be an ordinary child on a journey is far, far more. It is a new kind of heart break; the struggle of loss from a brilliant child who has had his childhood suddenly ripped from him.  He meets the most unexpected of people, whose stories are dryly realistic in a way that completely halts a reader. Both in Oskar’s family, his grandfather and grandmother, and friends who he meets along the way, the reality is heavy and heart-wrenching.
Jonathan Safran Foer has crossed new boundaries with this book, and claimed territory that could make this book a long-lasting classic. There is an honesty to it that is absolutely impeccable.
If you read and like Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, I also recommend Everything Is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer, and The Fault in Our Stars by John Green.

Written by Geena Elghossain on August 19, 2013. 

Saturday, August 17, 2013

ender's game review

It is essential to start by saying that this book easily makes my top ten favorite. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card uses a celestial scenario to get across a message far beyond the boundaries of ordinary science-fiction. Without having to decipher long descriptions or difficult passages, Card indirectly tells a story of human wrong and revoked innocence.
The most important aspect of a story is how it ends—whether it because it is unexpected, or simply because it has a strong resolution. When the protagonist, Ender, finds out the truth of his training, it is a complete surprise to the reader. One can feel both the excitement and shock of the people around him and the betrayal and disappointment of Ender himself.
Ender’s reaction and thoughts in response to the truth are spot-on in character. Ender is still a child, who has been taken in to be this hero without ever being told. Through his innocent thinking, the reader is exposed to a statement that goes against human instincts:  the enemy lives too. Ender learns of the Buggers, the enemy, and he is haunted by the thought that by defending his own people, he is simultaneously destroying another race. He remains unable to comprehend how, then, defending earth is the right thing to do.  This concept sticks with the reader even after one has finished the story. 
There is nothing I did not like about this book. The story is simple but the meaning is deeper. It could be both enjoyed just for the premise as well as the message that Card discreetly gets across. The characterization is strong and exposes stereotypical falsities of all-good heroes and all-bad enemies. I look forward to reading the sequel to see how the story line progresses, though Ender’s Game standing alone was phenomenally executed.
If you read and like Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card, I also recommend you read Dune by Frank Herbert.

Written by Geena Elghossain on July 19, 2013

8/17/13



Quintana of Charyn is the conclusion to the trilogy begun by Finnikin of the Rock.   Finnikin and Quintana are caught in the middle of politics all while trying to not only survive but to find each other.  They don't really believe that they will be allowed to stay together but they truly love each other and that despair and sense of loss stays with you throughout the novel.  This book was marvelously complex and really packed a lot into the story.......Marchetta did an amazing job of tying up the series, and also of ending the series in a satisfying and believable way.  Loved it sooooo much!


Game is the book that follows I Hunt Killers....and is just as packed with suspense and craziness as the first.  In this book Jazz is called upon by the NY Police to help with a serial killer case that has them stumped.  Of course, it turns into a crazy game and of course Jazz gets more involved then he should......buuuut.....in THIS book, Lyga leaves us with a cliffhanger that will make me crazy while I wait for the next one........I can't tell you what it is, but let's just say that pretty much EVERYONE is in danger at the end of Game......and I have no idea how Lyga will resolve it but I can't wait to find out.



In Enchanted we once again see a fairy tale world, but the author has mixed up a whole mess of tales, and given the family a whole host of various powers/abilities to deal with them.   The main story is a sort of Princess/Frog thing, but then added into it is an evil king who feasts on his wives for everlasting life....and a rivalry between fairy godmothers .......and also bits of Jack & Beanstalk, Cinderella and a wealth of other.  It seems like there should be another coming out as there were some dangling ends of tales at the conclusion of the story, but I don't know if one is in the works or not....we shall see I guess.....  =)

Friday, July 19, 2013

7/18/13

This round I read a couple of books labeled "must read"  and once again, unimpressed......sigh.....I think I will never be on an awards committee or indeed serve as any sort of "literary expert".....because the stories that they love I find boring....or weird......or both.......anyway, Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock is the story of a young man who has decided to kill his nemesis, and former best friend, as well as himself.  The story takes place mostly on the one day, which also happens to be his birthday.  He goes around giving presents to people, some well received, others not so much......and is actually called on his odd behavior by his beloved English teacher who tells him to call him before doing anything dangerous.  Leonard has a moment when he realizes that killing his former best friend won't actually change the things that have happened; which reinforces the suicidal thoughts....I won't say the ending.......ok, I will because it ties into the reasons for my feelings on this book....so here.....SPOILER ALERT!!!

There, duty finished, so, Leonard calls his teacher who helps him through his crisis and forces Leonard's mom to come home (she spends most of her time in NYC).....but then, his mom doesn't believe that he was suicidal and he ends up in essentially the same place he was before......which is where the story ends......WHY?  If you're going to write a book about a suicidally depressed kid, why would you LEAVE him in the same place with some bandaid of a "oh I feel better today, I'll never do it again" ending?  It's terrible, and depressing......and honestly leaves you feeling awful, like, hey look, he lived...and still no one cares.....oh and yeah he confessed to being raped....and since he didn't tell his mother only his teacher, no therapy, just the same old same old........why the critics liked this book I will never understand......blech.......

Sadly, along the same lines......is Maggot Moon.
I ended up completely confused with this book....it was set in a sort of alternate world...kind of looking like Nazi Germany but seemed to be set in America......and the main characters find out that the "Motherland" is staging a moon landing to impress the world with their power and he decides to make a statement of protest with it instead.  I really didn't understand this book, especially as it wasn't clearly an alternate history book, nor was it set clearly somewhere else......and it was just hard to read.......lots of violence......not my cup of tea at all, so I'm sure it will win numerous awards.....sigh..



Now we move onto my accidental trip through multiple fairy lands...haha......first up, Dust Girl...Callie is a bi-racial girl pretending to be white on a farm with her mother in 1930s Kansas, right in the middle of the worst of the dust bowl.  Unbeknownst to her, she is also not completely human, which she finds out when her mom allows her to play on her long lost dad's piano and everything in her world changes.  Callie's mom disappears, and she is left on her own in a world suddenly full of "other" people who have now recognized her as one of their own.....and perhaps the person to fulfill a prophecy of great import.......Callie is determined to find and rescue her mom and is accompanied by a young man, Jack that she meets along the way.  I really enjoyed this story and it's mixing of historical truths set in reality and magical beings getting along right under everyone's noses......it reminded me very much of American Gods by Neal Gaiman.....loved it SO much!


Kill Me Softly had a great premise, but I was less than blown away by the execution.  Mirabelle is an orphan raised by her godmother's with a strict set of rules to live by....just before her 16th birthday she decides to go back to where she came from and see her parents' graves.....sort of trying to find herself and understand why things are the way they are.  What she finds, instead, is a town where fairy tales really happen...and that she is inside one of them......and now she needs to figure out her own fairy tale in order to stop it......I enjoyed the idea, sort of like Once Upon a Time the tv series....and it was alright, it was just frustrating to me that Mirabelle didn't recognize any of the fairy tale elements right under her nose.....I realize the author set up the premise that she wasn't allowed to read fairy tales, and there probably are people who don't know them; but it was frustrating to me.......maybe if I didn't read them all the time I wouldn't have had so many "why don't you get it?" moments with the protagonist. I also found her incredibly whiny and a bit too naive to be believable completely......but hey, just my opinion.  All in all, a nice book but not a great one.

Looking Glass Wars is one I have been meaning to read and never got around to....and boy, what an awesome and fun book!  Alyss is sent from Wonderland when her parents are killed by her Aunt Redd, and ends up in Victorian London where she is completely confused by the lack of magic.  Alyss becomes Alice when she tells the story of her childhood to a family friend (she was adopted by the Liddell family).....which, of course ties into the whole origins of the story.......I loved the writing and the intricacy of the intertwining story lines.....the action is swift and intense and the characters are really well created and much more "badass" then the tame little story of Wonderland I loved as a child.   I can't wait to read the next two parts of the trilogy!

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

A Monster Calls

 
 
 
 
A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness is not a widely known novel but it is absolutely beautiful. It was inspired by an idea from Siobhan Dowd, who was unable to write it herself because she was inflicted and taken by cancer. It follows a young boy, Conor, facing his own monster—the fear of losing his mother to cancer. Knowing that the novel was not just written as a story, but as a dedication, makes it all the more moving.
The illustrations by Jim Kay throughout the story are stunning and the absence of color successfully grasps that darkness which the story portrays. When one thinks ‘illustrations,’ think of animated sketches and undetailed characters—not of such an obscure tail. The images are those of a nightmare, of the monsters which all children fear, making it an almost deranged picture book.
It is fact that this book need be publicized more and shown to the world because it is genuine and flawless. In the words of John Green, “Patrick Ness is an insanely beautiful writer.” The story holds honesty to a matter which is hard to cross successfully, but Ness does effortlessly.
Ness does not lie. The end is not uplifting or joyful but depressing and bittersweet. As Conor faces his biggest fear, he tells the truth and by that is able to accept the truth. As a writer I must say it successfully leaves the reader with something to think about; resentful truth, breaking strength, and the cruel reality of devastation.
It is most likely that you have not read A Monster Calls, and thus I part with only the recommendation that you read it before anything else. It is a short read but a valuable one. It is one of the few books I believe is truly perfection.
Written by Geena Elghossain on June 29, 2013

7/3/13

7/3/13
This is a lovely biography on Georgia O'Keefe.  It has lots of examples of her art, as well as a brief but informative look at her life. 
Very nicely done, and a GSTBA nominee for 2014.





I had seen this book lying around, and wasn't sure if I would like it.....it looked like a Dexter story, but for teens.......However, I took a chance and I'm so glad I did.  Jazz is the son of an infamous serial killer, and he literally learned about murder from the criminal side of things from his earliest memories.  When his father is caught and incarcerated, he has to try to reprogram himself......and thus far, he's been successful; but he lives in terror of someday turning into his father.  He has only his best friend and his girlfriend to help keep him on track.  Then murders start happening again, and naturally, everyone starts to think the son is following in the father's footsteps.  So Jazz decides to help find the killer himself......which is the start of the REAL trouble.
I really enjoyed this.  The pace was amazingly fast, and Jazz as a character just felt so real.....and unlike the tv show or books for Dexter, he is fighting AGAINST being a killer.  His struggles are real, and you can see his life through flashbacks or when he hears his father's advice in his head (which is never a good sign).   I can't wait to read the next one!  If you want a fast paced adventure with some mystery tied in....this is a great choice.


So, with the movie out, I decided it was time to read World War Z.  I have to say, it was really really good!  I don't know how they are turning it into a movie (though of course, now I need to see it to find out); as the entire story is told through multiple viewpoints, as a documentary of "those years" before all of those who survived those years are gone.  The politics and depth of this are marvelous, as is the general zombie horror element.  I highly recommend this.






This is the sequel to Princess Academy.  It involves that students from the Princess Academy going to the capital and inadvertently getting involved in a revolution.  Miri is the main character, and she is a friend of the soon to be princess......she is expected to be a bridesmaid at the wedding.  As she is getting to know the big city though, she finds that the gap between the "haves" and "have-nots" is huge and growing larger every day.  People are starting to talk about revolution, and Miri is conflicted about the whole thing.  I really enjoyed this story.  The revolution process seemed very similar to the French Revolution, but the outcome wasn't as awful, thanks to Miri's magic.  I really liked how confused Miri was, thus allowing the author to let her explore all the possible outcomes for the readers.  Once again, an exceptional book by an amazing author.


Neil Gaiman, ANYTHING Gaiman is kinda required reading for me as a HUGE fan.  I honestly was a little unsure of this as it started, with the older man at a funeral and all that was happening in his world.....but when he goes back to his youth (the main portion of the story) the pace really picked up.  I love the subtle references to the fae, but nothing overt........and the menace of the "baddies" really comes through loud and clear.  I really really liked this, a very short, fast read and I think teens AND adults might like it, although, with the protagonist aged 7 or 50 (? not defined but his children are grown) it might be a hard sell to some teens.  A very interesting and arresting story.

This is a very, very odd book.  I couldn't decide if I should feel sorry for the protagonist or hate her.  I also don't think the storyline was consistent; it frankly confused me a lot.  There were some VERY intensive scenes (that I'm not sure were really necessary).  I wanted to like this, but I just finished the story feeling.....honestly feeling confused and unhappy.  I wanted a resolution.  I know that she was brainwashed, but I don't feel that excuses all of her actions.  There was also the question of whether or not she was manipulated, or even if her brother was still alive.  I would definitely not recommend this book....but if you read it and disagree, feel free to let me know (maybe you can explain it to me).


 
   
 
 
 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

           Although I am not keen on reading novels of fantasy or anything of the sort, The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien was interesting enough to keep my attention for the entirety of the book. Bilbo Baggins, a hobbit, lives in a world not so similar to ours. There are dwarves and elves, goblins and great wolves, enemies and allies both. Bilbo is not one to seek adventures but when his unexpected guests arrive, he is left with no choice. There 13 dwarves, led by Thorin Oakenshield, and a respected wizard named Gandalf. Bilbo is requested to travel with them in their journey to the mountain of Smaug, a magnificent dragon who stole the treasures of their very own families.

            Bilbo accepts with hesitance because he does not think he is fit for the job, but Gandalf insists he is the best robber around. As their adventure proceeds, Bilbo is found to be more and more useful. With the help of a mysterious ring that Bilbo finds and new friends they meet along the way, the dwarves and hobbit make it to the dragon cave. There, they are faced with the most important question they will face: how, exactly, are they to get past the dragon to their rightful gold?

            Tolkien’s imagination is undoubtedly fantastic. The world which he creates is realistic but at the same time is nothing we will ever see. There are plenty of creatures which are all described effectively, but it is quite confusing when they are all introduced. All of the dwarves are in fact brought in within a few pages, and there is no way to keep track of who is who. It was a very choppy introduction and because he did not ease into the story, I was lost for at least a couple chapters.

            Although I appreciate that Tolkien never runs out of plot, I think he also jumps around too much. All of the situations of the group tend to have a “but wait, there’s more!” ending. There is always a plot twist at the last minute and they evade any unwanted results. The author could have made the story more fluid by being less abrupt and expected.

            Overall, Tolkien is wildly creative but the plot was too frantic for me. You might enjoy this book more than I did if you like fantasy, and are not one for lengthy plots. If you read and like The Hobbit, I suggest you read the most-acclaimed book of Tolkien’s (and sequel to The Hobbit), The Lord of The Rings.  You may also enjoy Atemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer.
Written by Geena Elghossain on June 23, 2013

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Although The Perks of Being a Wallflower is Stephen Chbosky’s first popular YA novel, the character and story he creates is masterful. Charlie has always been afraid of the world and too shy to make friends, but through his freshman year of high school he develops and resolves to change this.
            Charlie’s point of view begins to change when he meets his mentor and first real friend, his English teacher. This character is most known for the acclaimed quotation from the novel, “we accept the love we think we deserve.” As the year pursues, Charlie approaches his classmate Patrick, who along with his step-sister Sam, becomes his new best friend. 

            At the conclusion of Charlie’s year, the reason for Charlie’s timid nature is revealed to us. I loved how Chbosky executed this: the reader always knew Charlie had dealt with a traumatic experience in the past but we never were told what happened. Even the foreshadowing was very discrete—what exactly happened was completely unexpected.

Through Charlie’s changing life and new experiences, we are able to see him as a person. He is kind hearted and although he makes hurtful mistakes, he recognizes them and learns to take responsibility.

I think the most fantastic quality of Chbosky’s writing is his character development. We are given insight into his character’s motives and perceptions of life. This is seen not only in Charlie, but his friends as well. Where Sam is perfect in Charlie’s eyes, we are also able to see her flaws—she struggles with self-worth and never really fixes it.  Through all of their words and choices we can see their dynamic and whole personalities. I t is definite to say that Chbosky’s characters will never be ‘flat’. None of them are entirely perfect or entirely flawed; he allows us to see that everyone is a little bit of both.

I enjoyed this novel as well as the film. The casting for the film was exact to how imagined the characters, and the story line was carried out well. It certainly did the novel justice.

If you read and liked The Perks of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, I also recommend Looking for Alaska by John Green (which I have also done a review for), and Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson.


Written by Geena Elghossain on June 15, 2013

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

                Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult is an emotional page-turner following a small town after a shooting at their local high school. Picoult writes with a brilliant with a new take on this topic by following characters that are unexpectedly affected by the devastation. These people include the killer himself, Peter Houghton, and his grieving parents who never suspected a thing from their very own son. 
            It is amazing how Picoult is able to make the reader feel pity for the killer. Naturally a person looks at someone who murders as a horrible and evil person, but here we are forced to ponder a twisted statement: the murderer was somebody’s son too.  By allowing us to see into his past, Picoult enables us to feel empathy for him. He was bullied his whole life and never had any real friends except Josie Cormier, who abandoned him in high school.
            Josie was always a very smart and motivated student, daughter of Judge Cormier, her mother. Josie was friends with Peter as a child but in high school, leaves him for the popular crowd. She also gets a new popular boyfriend, who bullies Peter and fuels his anger.  Josie witnesses an important part of the shooting but apparently cannot seem to remember. This piece of the story ultimately has a big impact at the end, in which Picoult finds a conclusion that will shock even the most unsurprisable readers.
            Picoult shows the impact of the shooting on people who weren’t directly involved: Peter’s defense attorney, the other students, Peter’s loving mother and father, and Judge Cormier. The variety of different angles is at first hard to catch on to, but overall adds a massive amount of insight into the reality of the situation.
            I recommend this novel because of this insight. It  presents a concept that is simply riveting. It is a slightly longer read but if given the time is very doable. It’s shocking to me that this hasn’t become a movie because there is extensive and quality material which could make for a beautiful film. Non-readers would also be given the privilege of being able to experience the story. If you read and like this book, I also recommend My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult and The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold. 

            Written by Geena Elghossain on June 8, 2013

Saturday, June 08, 2013

If you find me is a heartbreaking yet exciting story of a girl who is kidnapped by her mother and lives alone in the woods for 10 years, until she is located by her father.  As she adapts to modern living, and a non-abusive parent; she is also forced to reckon with the lies she grew up with as well as struggle to reveal her deepest darkest secret that might force her father to send her away.
I raced through this book, it made me cry and cringe but was so hopeful.......I cannot say enough about this, give it a try.





Chris Crutcher's newest novel is kind of a mixed bag.  It's a combination of his "traditional" high school story (lots of kids who bond together through shared adversities) alongside a creepy suspense novel.  It doesn't sound like it would work but it does.  Essentially the Period 8 kids are kids who use this period to talk to each other and deal with tricky life situations.  Then one of the group disappears, and suddenly nothing is the same.  Everyone is acting differently, and strange things start happening......can they figure it out in time?
I enjoyed this, although I did figure out the villian quickly, I don't know if others would have spotted it also or if it's just because I read so much.  If you are looking for a creepy story set in real world situations, this is a good one.


Shadow and Bone is an amazing story of war and lies set in a fantasy universe.  Allie finds out that she has powers when she and her group are trapped in "The Fold' (a dark impenetrable shadow unleashed by an evil magician).  Now she is taken from her life and thrust into the tricky life of royalty and politics.  She needs to learn to use her powers but she also needs to learn who she can (and can't) trust.  Will she figure it out in time?
I really really enjoyed this dark fantasy.  It was interesting and different and a very fast adventure.  I can't wait to read the next one.

Seems I was destined to read several suspenseful creepy books in a row....haha.....You Know What You Have to Do is an interesting look at a girl who hears voices.  She is pretty sure that this isn't normal, but thus far the voice isn't telling her to do anything she didn't really want to do.......until it tells her to start killing people.  Can she really get away with it?  Is she crazy?  Does she care?  These are all questions you'll be asking as you read this exciting and fun book.





Cricket is almost 18, and has a reputation of violence.  This doesn't bother him much, as he knows he only fights when he has to, but society doesn't agree.  He is worried about what happens after high school.  He lives in a catholic home for boys, and is the oldest one there, helping all the younger boys and protecting them when necessary.  But that isn't exactly a life goal, as he's pretty sure he won't be allowed to stay after graduation.  Should he become a drug dealer?  Should he just hire himself out as muscle?  Maybe professional fighting is the answer?  Or maybe he should just end it all.  Cricket is struggling with his future and then he starts to really connect with his crush.  Is it possible for Wynona to actually like him?  All of these questions come up when he writes a paper for English class "Write a letter to someone you don't agree with"...and his letter begins with "Dear Life, You Suck"  and ends with a promise to just quit living.  His English teacher challenges him to define why life sucks and in the process of writing this paper, he really starts to look at his life; what has happened to him and whether or not he wants to find a future.
I loved this book soooo much!  It made me cry and I wanted to reach through the book to hug Cricket.....or slap him as he made terribly bad choices.  This is the perfect book for anyone who enjoys realistic fiction; and doesn't mind an edgy character who isn't afraid to say what he thinks.  READ THIS!!!



Daybreak is another comic to add to the zombie genre of fiction.  It was actually pretty interesting as just a slice of life in a world where everyone is just struggling to survive in a world of zombies. 







I love history.  I found this and thought "hey, a history of multicultural America.....sounds good".  And it was.  It is a brief summary of the history, woefully not given enough attention in schools.  It is not an easy read.......but should be an essential part of any students education......also Takaki writes history very well.  This isn't a dull boring book of facts, but an engaging and sensitive look at racism and American life throughout our history.   A book not to be missed.

Amal Unbound Book Review by: Raheem Ahmad

Amal Unbound Book Review by: Raheem Ahmad Aisha Saeed’s Amal Unbound is about a girl named Amal who lives in pakistan and goes to school...