Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Book Review - Matched

Matched by Ally Condie

Matched is a dystopian romance. I met Ally in October and she's just really sweet. I heard rumors before this book came out about the advance that Ally got and I was like, "Whaaaa?" And people talking about how it's the next Twilight. It's hard to believe that something could live up to that amount of hype. But it does.

Here's why: Ally is a skilled world builder. I believed. The Society is scary. The scary part about is that this could actually happen. In fact, here in the United States, we're already on the path. I don't talk about politics on this blog, but I do know that intelligent writers can predict absolutely possible futures. When a society lulled into complacency by luxury and ease allows small freedoms to be taken one by one, eventually all the freedoms will be gone. This is what happens in Matched. And it's scary.

The romance doesn't interested me, but that's only a personal preference. I'm not the type of person who turns pages to find out who the heroine ends up with. But readers who like a good romantic story will. I do care about what the character decides to do with her situation. Cassia will do big things. Matched: nice minimal prose, convincing setting, lovely familial relationships. No questionable content.  I'm looking forward to the sequel. Highly recommended!

Update on Matched July 2012: Cyndal loved Matched.  She couldn't stop talking about it.  "Mom, I need more books like this.  Mom, when is the sequel coming out?"  But she hasn't been able to get into Crossed.  I need to push that book more, because the final installment is coming out this November!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Book Review - The Anatomy of Wings

The Anatomy of Wings by Karen Foxlee

"This is the story of Elizabeth Day. I have pieced it together with my own two hands. I have made it from things I saw and things I did not see but later knew. It is made from the tatters of terrible things and the remnants of wonderful things. I have sewn it together before it fades."

Eleven year-old Jenny tries to navigate an ocean of grief following the suicide of her older sister Beth in this stunning debut novel.

Set in a small Australian mining town, The Anatomy of Wings explores love, loss, isolation and just plain how hard teenager-hood can be.

Everything about this book is gorgeous. Characterization, voice, setting, prose. I am excited, emboldened and in awe that books such as The Anatomy of Wings exist. This is a beautiful book, but very sad. Pretty heart-shattering actually. Warning on sexual situations and a bit of language. Highly recommended.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Book Review - The Maze Runner

The Maze Runner by James Dashner

I thought this would be a dystopian, like The Hunger Games. It's actually apocalyptic or post-apocalyptic. I won't talk too much about it because I could wax eloquent on how much promise it had and how much it didn't live up to the promise. Concept was amazing. At least what I could figure out of the concept.  As far as the prose, there were a lot of general descriptors, (such as nasty. As Karen Anderson would say, "Don't you DARE use the word large. That's just a place-filler and you know it.")  BUT I will read the sequel.  Because I want to know what happens.

Cyndal loved this book and I think it's perfect for her age group: 12-14.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Good Books

I found out that my daughter... MY daughter reads the last page of a book before she finishes the book. MY daughter.

"I don't read the last page first," she said. "I only read the last page when I get to a boring part in the book."

MY daughter.

"It's too much of a temptation," she confessed.

Still...

"I finished Uglies!" She was very excited to report it.

"Did you like it?" I wanted to know.

She nodded. "It was really good."

"Did you start Pretties?" I asked her.

"Well, I tried to start reading it at recess, then my friend came and started talking to me and telling me about how a bird pooped on her sister, so I got a little distracted. So I only read one page."

Rereading this still makes me laugh.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Book Review - Paint The Wind

Paint The Wind by Pam Munoz Ryan

Middle-grade adventure, Paint The Wind is about Maya, an eleven year-old orphan who lives with her severe paternal grandmother. Maya's parents died when she was young and she doesn't remember much about them. All she has left of her mother is a box of plastic horse toys and a photograph. When her grandmother passes away unexpectedly, Maya is sent to live with her mother's family. Over the course of a summer, Maya not only learns to ride a horse, but discovers a well of strength within. As she begins a journey to find herself, she finds connections to her parents as well, especially her mother.

Paint The Wind is a beautiful book, reminding me a lot of King of the Wind, The Black Stallion and Black Beauty. (I've been a horse lover forever.) It felt very nostalgic for me and it offered a connection between myself and my own eleven year-old daughter, Cyndal, who gave me the book for Christmas.

I highly recommend Paint The Wind to girls at the middle-grade level. This lovely book will appeal to horse lovers especially. A lively, poignant adventure for all.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Books of 2010

So here it is, the reason I started writing book reviews: to keep track of the books that I read, so that I can have a cumulative list. Of course, I started this blog in June 2010, so the 2010 list isn't comprehensive. It begins in the middle of April.

The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane
Paper Moon
Around the World in 80 Days
Living Dead Girl
The Chosen One
Glimpse
Speak
Sweethearts
Story of a Girl
Christian Heidicker's WIP
Fablehaven
Fablehaven: Rise of the Evening Star
Fablehaven: Grip of the Shadow Plague
Fablehaven: Secrets of the Dragon Sanctuary
The House of the Scorpion
Everything Is Fine
Feed
Stargirl
Jay’s Journal
The Book Thief
Wintergirls
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
Twisted
This is What I Did:
Ender’s Game
Speaker for the Dead
Catalyst
Chains
The Hunger Games
Catching Fire
Mockingjay
Ship Breaker
The Monstrumologist
13 Reasons Why
Boy Toy
Madapple
The Sky Is Everywhere
Once Was Lost
Cracked Up To Be
Thirsty
After
The Last Book in the Universe
Surrender
The Everafter
Lifted
The Ghost’s Child
The Road of Bones
Bright Blue Miracle
Best American Short Stories 1993
Falling Boy
Plague Year
The Road
The Labrador Pact
Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief
Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Sea of Monsters
Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Titan’s Curse
Peeps

That's it?? 57 books in eight months? I thought the list would be longer and more impressive. I think I'm leaving some out.... Anyway, most of these are reviewed here on the blog. And all the ones for the 2011 list will be reviewed, since it's kinda my thing now. :) Here's to literacy, the magic of getting lost in a good book!

Book Review - Wolves, Boys...

Wolves, Boys & Other Things That Might Kill Me
by Kristen Chandler

I met Kristen Chandler last October. She is a delightful person, and quite generous. When I asked her to sign a get well card for my friend who was very ill and couldn't come to the signing, she said, "Here, take this. I'm not in the hospital," and handed me a copy of her book for my friend. I had her personalize the copy for my friend, so I wouldn't be tempted to keep it (it's an illness).
My friend was very appreciative and ended up buying me my own copy over Christmas break, since she loved the book and thought I would enjoy it. I did enjoy it.

Sixteen year-old KJ Carson lives in a small town in Montana (the size of town where everyone knows everyone), right on the edge of Yellowstone. Her dad is a guide for outdoor excursions and KJ assists. The book begins with the new school year, and follows KJ through her adventures with a new boy in town, the school newspaper and the Wolf Reintroduction program at Yellowstone. The writing is matter-of-fact and carries the irony of KJ's voice. Very pleasant to read. The thing I think I'm most impressed with is how the town seems to pop out of the pages. I got a very strong sense of place. I felt I could walk the streets of West End (and freeze to death doing it!) and recognize places and people. During the course of the novel I became very angry at supporting characters. This is a sign of great writing! I laughed aloud at some parts, which is nice. There's also an environmental message, but Chandler delivers both sides nicely, so that the reader is left with as difficult a decision as the rest of the town. The novel is obviously well-researched and painstakingly crafted, without feeling so. I highly recommend Wolves, Boys and Other Things That Might Kill Me. A very enjoyable debut novel!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Book Review - The Girl Who Could Fly

The Girl Who Could Fly by Victoria Forester

Middle-grade contemporary fantasy. My daughter recommended this book to me. I've decided that I will read all books that Cyndal recommends. She's eleven and I feel like reading books she likes will give me insight to the workings of her mind.

First of all, check out the cover art. I know! I couldn't stop looking at it. It's an interesting choice, considering that it gives away some of the mystery of a villain character. But this book was adorable. Very very sweet. When the main character, Piper McCloud finds out she can fly, her parents ship her away to a school for children with powers. Stephenie Meyer said that this book is a cross between "X-Men and Little House on the Prairie", which is true.

Great fun for middle grade readers. Exciting, The Girl Who Could Fly also explores the effects of abandonment, grief, loneliness and learning to be an individual in the face of persecution. I would recommend this for 8-12 year olds (especially girsl) with an interest in paranormal adventure.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Book Review - Peeps

Peeps by Scott Westerfeld

Okay, let's see a raise of hands. Who here is SICK of vampires? Yeah, me too.

I met Scott at the Provo Library in October. Everyone was dressed in steampunk to celebrate his Leviathan series, which I hear is amazing sci-fi fantasy. He was very nice. "You know what I love about this?" he said as he signed my tattered copy of Uglies. "It's been read more than once." Yep!

Back to Peeps. It's good. Yes, it's a vampire book. Yes, there's a forbidden romance, but it's not all gooey saccharin romance like in some vampire books we know. It's mostly gross and creepy. According to Westerfeld's supernatural world, vampirism is caused by a parasite. Parasite positives are called "peeps". And boy does Westerfeld give us some wonderful examples of parasites and how they work in hosts, achieving optimum virulence and all sorts of icky things.

I love a good twist on an old theme, and Peeps is just that. Remember how much I liked MT Anderson's Thirsty? Like that, only more scientific biological description and more hope. But you know, everyone has more hope than MT Anderson, except maybe Chuck Palahniuk.