Friday, September 22, 2017

reviews from Saleena 9/22/17

Here we go.

I'm not sure how to feel about this book.  I like the back and forth-ing and the character development.  Mike and his friends aren't specifically any group, just guys with a sort of band and they kind of hang out and do lots of nothing.  Then Mike starts to realize a few things, and yes, part of it is liking guys; but my problem is not that, it's that Mike says "he guesses he's bi now" and everyone sort of takes that as an excuse; like when are you really going to tell us you are gay?  So I was waiting for the author to throw in moments of "nope, I like guys and girls" but instead, he actually does have the character come out as gay.  The reason I bring this up is that being bi-sexual is so many times relegated to someone who just won't "pick a side"; and I was hoping that this would actually fill in some gaps instead of playing to the stereotype.  Other than the issue raised above, it is pretty well done.  Mike has a supportive family and his struggle is really figuring out if his friends will still like him (a valid concern for a teen); and if the boy he likes is worth all the aggravation of coming out.  Goslee does a good job, and I like the solid and supportive environment he provided and the characters felt spot on.  I just wish the bi issue hadn't been mentioned, or had been addressed at all, instead of as a place holder status until the character was ready to admit he was gay.

Ok, I admit that the cover pulled me into this one.....and I think, for the right reader, this would be a good book.  For me, it was rough, for a number of reasons.  The action is good, the main characters nicely written (if a bit predictable); but my sticking point was the constant references to "the great creator" and lessons about the nature of god and creation (it felt like a church lecture); and also, the massive amounts of math/geometry references.  I really struggle with geometry and spatial relationships, so it pulled me right out of the story every time they referenced "divine geometry" or whatever other terms they used.  I did like the bird-like "geniuses" that somehow magically focused your talent; but....why focused on MATH?  SHAPES?  For someone who is looking for a more intellectual fantasy with puzzles and such; this might be good...for someone looking for a fun escapist adventure; definitely not.

Cloud and Wallfish was NOT one I expected to like, but I genuinely fell in love.  Wallfish is actually Noah, who is pulled unexpectedly out of school one day and told that he is going along with his parents on a grand adventure, to East Germany (this was set during the time just before the wall came down and Germany was unified).  He has been given a new name, Jonah and he has a whole bunch of rules to follow, because they will be spied on and they don't want anyone to think they are spies.  But ARE his parents spies?  It's alluded to, but not specifically addressed, because this is Noah's story.  In East Berlin, he has no friends (because he stutters and he is an American Spy); but meets Claudia and due to pronunciations, they become Cloud and Wallfish (the German word for whale sounds like wallfish to Noah).  Claudia is struggling because her parents have disappeared and her grandmother is a mess, paranoid and falling into a depression.  We are told her parents died, but Claudia is convinced that they are in "heaven" which is West Berlin and they just abandoned her.  The two of them are pulled into the intrigues and tension of the times and Noah is struggling to figure out the world, his parents, his role and how to be Claudia's friend and supporter.  I really love this book.  I think what made it even better is that every so often a "secret file" would interrupt the story to explain what was going on, or provide outside detals none of the characters knew. All of those details really helped place the reader right there and understand what was happening, even more fully than the characters.  Check this one out, it's worth the time.

I put off reading this for a long while.  Not because I don't like Garth Nix or the Abhorsen trilogy but because I LOVE them; and I was SO disappointed with Clariel that I thought this would be just as awful.  It wasn't, it was wondeful.  Goldenhand starts a few years after the events of Abhorsen and features Lireal (one of my favorite characters).  There is a new big bad, who is really the same one, that didn't really die due to sorcery.  Lireal finds out how to truly send Chlorr into death, and it's by finding her original body.  Can she do it with an army of barbarians on the way to destroy them all?
I can't wait to hear this on audio (it's not out yet); and I am so glad Nix put this book out, it was amazing.

Teen Hyde just looked like a fun creepy book....and it was.  Baker does a good job of explaining the two parts of the main character (Cassidy and Marcy).  There is murder and mayhem and is a fun, quick read for teens who enjoy horror stories.

I misunderstood this one, thinking it was giants doing smuggling (like really big pirates); but instead it's about a boy who finds a giant that is being hunted for his extraordinary DNA by evil scientists...and he has to smuggle the giant to safety and also the kids have to defeat the evil scientists.  This is a cute adventure that will definitely appeal to younger tweens and teens....a fun, fast read.

This is part two of the Devil's Engine series, and even though I didn't love the first one, I figured I would try the next section anyway.  Honestly, some of the issues I had with the first one, were dealt with in this issue, and the writing is strong.  Some parts of it were predictable, but it was creepy and interesting and well paced.  Not my favorite book series, but I think teens will love it; and that is who should love it.

Argos was my most disappointing book; because I was hoping that either Argos would have some adventures, or maybe he snuck along somehow and was there with Odysseus on his adventures.  Instead I have a dog who is at home, recounting the troubles at home, while hearing about the adventures of his master from birds he has scouting and looking for him.  It makes the adventures of Odysseus very dry (they are told second hand and in a very brief synopsis....from BIRDS); and the rather intriguing things happening at home became also boring ...lots of "I wish my master were here" moments...not the book I was hoping for.  On a side note, kudos to the cover artist, that dog looks AMAZING and truthfully was one of the main reasons I tried to love this book.

Saturday, September 09, 2017

book reviews from Saleena 9/9/17

Between my love of reading about Native Americans and my having lived near a town named after him (it's in upstate PA); I had a familiarity with who Jim Thorpe was; but Sheinkin really delved into his life as well as into the lives of those around him.  He took the time to explain who Pop Warner was and why he cared about football, along with other historical figures and happenings.  Sheinkin also carefully pointed out the racism of the times and how they affected everyone, but especially the impact they had on the life of Jim Thorpe.  This book was really well done, not too long, not too difficult but VERY informative.   Loved it.

I really wanted to love this has everything I love; fairy tales twisted up; some of my favorite authors....and they are short stories so, quick and easy read!   First of all, I DID enjoy the stories for the most part, and some of them really stuck in my head (especially the story about Ursula from Little Mermaid).  But the book, for me, felt ....not fun and just awkward with the long vignettes after each story, talking about where the story idea came from; why it was written, and on and on.  Some of them were written by the author, and were interesting; but some were written by someone else and seemed to have no bearing on the story....while others seemed like fictional companions to the story we had just read.  It was confusing....and honestly, it felt unnecessary.  Why not just have the stories, and if you wanted to give a bit of background, have an intro to each?   It just left a bad taste in my mouth for the whole thing, which is a shame because I did enjoy some of the stories, but the book was so hard to read and it was hard to figure out what to read and what I could skip or avoid.

Something light and easy was definitely called for; and in walks Chi.  I love these books, so adorable and fun...and if you've ever had a kitten, very true.
Can't wait to read the next one.

Flunked was suggested by a few teens and I thought, "why not"; since it was another story based on fairy tale characters.  Overall, it was a fine book, interesting use of fairy tales & characters if a bit formulaic....but if I were in 7th grade....I would have devoured this entire series.  So, if you aren't old and jaded and like simple fun with traditional tales; give it a try.

Now Alex Flinn KNOWS how to twist a fairy tale.  I absolutely adored this book.  It's sort of the character of the wicked stepmom; and sort of also encompasses Rumpelstitlzkin and East of the Sun, West of the Moon and a few others.  I found the idea of the long lived witch who is encountering these people while trying to find the love of her life and interesting way to stitch together so many disparate stories.  Really nicely done!

I am really not sure about this book.  I liked the frank presentation of the characters and the two points of vew; but there were so many moments of "really?" when each of them were dealing with each many nerdy stereotypes "popular vs nerdy"  "nerds must be awkward" really took away from the story.  And the twist ending, really kind of ruined it for me (also, it wasn't so much of a twist as a creepy wink and a "know what I mean, nudge nudge")  So overall, not horrible; but not something I would recommend either.

Given that I am not familiar with the TV show or characters that this book is very much a part of, it was difficult to figure out what was happening; however, I quickly realized that I didn't actually care was a very typical "teen novel" with all of the tropes and stereotypes that come with it.  A forgettable book that I am happy to forget.

Who Killed Christopher Goodman is really good.  The beginning that throws you in, and then the "let's go back and see how we got here" I was not a fan of; but the characters were well written, the time period (it's set in the 1970s) is accurate and the interactions of the kids in this very small town seemed real.  This is a mystery that isn't really a mystery but is also a book about grief and the guilt we all feel when someone we know if we could have or should have made different choices and that somehow, they wouldn't have died.  I highly recommend this book.

I really had never read a biography about Isaac Newton, so thought it was time.  Losure does a fabulous job of explaining the time period and the man as well as his interactions with the world.  A fascinating biography with lots of interesting photos and actual copies of some of his notes.

World Beneath is a difficult read.  It's set in apartheid era South Africa and really is the story of one boy who is caught up in things and what it does to his life.  This is an important book, as it really highlights the horrors of what apartheid and Jim Crow (in the US) laws did to people......but it is not an easy or a comfortable book.  Highly recommended.

Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton, review by Nina Soukhanovskii

Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton.  A Quote to Consider: “With a shiver of foreboding he saw his marriage becoming what most of...