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).


 
   
 
 
 

Ananya Singh, 11th Grade Book Review of Embassy Row by Quinn Fawcett

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