Friday, October 22, 2010

Book Reviews

The Last Book in the Universe by Rodman Philbrick

Post-apocalyptic YUM. I had so much fun reading this book. The use of unknown words invented for the setting reminded me of A Clockwork Orange, but this is a little more readable and appropriate for multiple ages.

Also, this is a book about the importance of books, literacy and words. It also touches on the appreciation of beauty and bonds of emotional connection.

I love post-apocalyptic stories. The Last Book in the Universe is reminiscent of many of the classic post-apocalyptic books I read in my childhood. There's a lot of violence and darkness. All in all: creepy, wonderful fun.

After by Amy Efaw

After explores the dumpster-baby phenomenon through the story of fifteen-year old, overachiever Devon. The reader learns the secret behind Devon's incarceration through a series of flashbacks. After is disturbing, but interesting, asking the question: Why would someone throw their baby away?

I would have liked to see more of the detention center where the Devon lives and explored more of the characters there.

Though not appropriate for all audiences, After is a sensitive and pretty well-written treatment of a horrifying circumstance. I think teens in treatment would relate to it.  And I would recommend it to people who work with at-risk youth.

Thirsty by MT Anderson

At last, a vampire book that's not poorly written, boring, saccharin and stilted. Thirsty was MT Anderson's debut novel in 1997, long before Edward was a gleam in Stephenie Meyer's eye. The new cover is reminiscent of the black, white and red of the Twilight novels, but be assured, this book is nothing like Twilight.

I actually don't want to say anything much about it because I don't want to give anything at all away. Let's just say that this is a superbly written and gritty addition to the urban fantasy genre. October is a good month to read Thirsty, and I'm glad I did. I highly recommend it. Tight effective prose, well-developed MC, original premise. And don't forget, it's MT Anderson, so don't look for a happy ending. w00t.

Cracked Up To Be by Courtney Summers

Parker Fadley used to be perfect. Everything about her was perfect: grades, social life, looks, boyfriend. Something happened at a party to change everything and now all Parker wants is to be left alone. She does everything she can to push people away, but some just won't give up. What happened to Parker?

Courtney Summers delivers a raw, intense debut novel in Cracked Up To Be. The main character jumps off the page and the mystery behind her sudden change is compelling. What could make a good girl's life go so wrong? Summers' delivery lacks nothing.

Warning: Language and sexual situations.

Once Was Lost by Sara Zarr

Things are hard for fifteen-year old Sam. Her dad's the minister of a local church and her mom's in rehab. Sam thought she had faith, that she believed in God, but she begins to question everything when a girl from her church youth group goes missing.

Sara Zarr is a favorite writer of mine. She not only crafts absolutely gorgeous prose, she is also a kind and open person. Here are a few sentences from Once Was Lost:

"Out in the yard the ripe tomatoes are almost jumping into our hands."

"I remember the way everything disappeared, a mirage in the heat."

"He turns around, eyes red and watery, a smear of chocolate on his T-shirt, which is stretched tight across his stomach."

"I used to think my faith was mine."

"Gravity is powerful."

It's all very good. The juxtaposition of Sam's personal tragedy with the more public tragedy of the missing girl results in powerful realizations for the main character. Zarr gives us a poignant portrait of grief and loss along with some stirring discoveries. Sam's struggle to understand why these things are happening is totally relatable and completely profound. The characters are fleshed and real. The prose glistens. (Also, the cover is lovely.)

I highly recommend Once Was Lost.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Book Reviews Pending

Okay, there is a slew of book reviews because this is the first time in a week that I've had internet and and I read a lot of books last week. But now I don't have time because I have to write a midterm paper for Ethics. So they will be forthcoming.

Also I have views to share on categorizing literature based on the age of the main character.

Shout out to those who read this blog: Love you all!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Book Review - The Sky is Everywhere

The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

"Sadness pulses out of us as we walk. I almost expect the trees to lower their branches when we pass, the stars to hand down some light. I breathe in the horsy scent of eucalyptus, the thick sugary pine, aware of each breath I take, how each one keeps me in the world a few seconds longer. I taste the sweetness of the summer air on my tongue and want to just gulp and gulp and gulp it into my body -- this living, breathing, heart-beating body of mine."

Seventeen-year old Lennie Walker's sister has passed away suddenly. Now Lennie must navigate her grief, along with the mystery of a mother that can't be found and two boys that compete for Lennie's attention.

Carol recommended this to me. The prose is exquisite. I started crying on page 84. Didn't really stop either. What a beautiful, confused tale told in a beautiful, crisp way. I am so very impressed. Did I mention the prose is exquisite?

Those of you who are sensitive to language, be warned. But I highly recommend this novel. Shar, if you haven't, read this. That's all.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Book Review - Madapple

Madapple by Christina Meldrum

"Transparent clouds thread the sky, gray and cream, they stretch and cross. But beyond them, there are only more clouds, mountains of fleshy, cotton-filler white that seem to weigh against their gauzy cousins, and mock them."

Aslaug Hellig exists in a world she doesn't understand. She tries to make sense of this world, using what her mother taught her and forbidden bits of information that drift in from outside her limited experience. Strange and troubling things happen to Aslaug. Will she be able to find herself beyond her mother's definition, her family's definition of what she is, what she should be?

Meldrum says, "I wanted to write about subject matter I love and believe is important, specifically, the correlation between nature, science, religion, and mythology."

Madapple is intense, complex and intelligent. Beautifully written. I don't know that it would be appropriate for all young adults, as it is complicated and dense at times, and deals with darker subject matters. A fascinating read.

Warnings on: sexual situations.

Monday, October 4, 2010


Sometimes I feel like this novel thing is totally "rad" (as Christian would say), a "moral imperative" (as Neil would say), or even bigger than that. Maybe "epic" (as Kenna would say). (Well, even if the novel itself isn't epic, the project seems to be.)

And then sometimes, I feel crazy for even attempting it. Carol's written over twenty novels. Twenty? I should be drawing for at least two hours a day in my sketchbook. TWO HOURS. But more often I find myself writing. What if I could just do this? All day, every day. Write, write, write, write. Dude, I should get a grant for writing. Now, that would be rad.

In the meantime, art or writing, one or the other suffers.

My new goal for a quick and dirty rough draft is the end of this month. Then I'll have time to do revisions for the Delacorte First Novel Contest. Anybody else have any writing goals?

Friday, October 1, 2010

Book Review - Mockingjay

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

I finished the final installment in The Hunger Games trilogy yesterday. At the risk of spoiling the series for those who haven't read it yet, I will merely say that Collins left me satisfied. I stand my my original assessment that Collins knows what she's doing.

The main character in any story should always be changed in some way by the story. And Katniss is changed. Affected. Sometimes the change isn't one we would have wanted for the main character. But this is a dystopian people. Do people actually go into a dystopian hoping for a happy shiny ending?

Here's my advice: Read a dystopian like you read a Shakespearean tragedy.

I liked it. I am interested to hear other reactions. Once you've finished the series, comment and let me know what you thought.