Sunday, January 1, 2012

Book Reviews for December

Jacob T. Marley by R. William Bennett

Ty and I received this from my maternal grandparents for Christmas. I'm a big fan of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, so I didn't know what to expect with this.

I really, really liked it. A lot. Written in the pseudo-style of Dickens, this tale focuses on Marley, Scrooge's partner we never got to meet, since he's deceased at the beginning of A Christmas Carol. Much is revealed about Marley's life and Scrooge's as well, to everyone's benefit (especially the reader's). I don't want to give anything away, but if you make reading A Christmas Carol part of your personal Christmas celebration, I suggest you add Jacob T. Marley to the tradition.

Highly recommended.

Beastly by Alex Flinn

An urban teen retelling of Beauty and the Beast.

The narrative is told from the Beast's point of view. The prose isn't
very memorable, and I was mostly bored until Beauty showed up. It was okay. Most teens would like it. Warnings on: Language.

Something to note: In the book, the Beast is a BEAST. With hair, and claws and fangs. As in the traditional telling of the tale. Why, when they made this into a movie, does the Beast look like this?

There are plenty of girls who would date this guy. What makes him so repellent? Facial tattoos? Piercings? Big deal. I consider this creature design a FAIL.

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

This book was my big discovery of the holiday. Ty gave it to me for Christmas, and I would be hard pressed to find something more creative. Plus, it's steampunk!

Set in an alternate past, during the events of WWI, Leviathan follows the paths of two teens, Prince Aleksandar (son of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. . . yes, THAT Franz Ferdinand) and Deryn Sharp. Following the deaths of his parents, Aleksandar flees the land of the Clankers in a Stormwalker (think mech-warrior) to escape plotting countrymen. Meanwhile, Deryn is training (in disguise as a boy) to be an airman aboard the Leviathan, a genetically engineered airship designed by the Darwinists.

It's too complicated and wonderful to describe here. There are gorgeous illustrations by Keith Thompson too.

Highly recommended.

Michael Vey: The Prisoner of Cell 25 by Richard Paul Evans

Cyndal got this for Christmas, so I stole it for a few days.

This book tells the story of Michael Vey, a teenager with a secret. I'd say it's a cross between X-Men and Jumper, but with powers focused on electricity. The narrative was funny in places, and my elementary school-age boys enjoyed listening to me read it aloud.

I think Cyndal will like it. I understand that there are two more in the series to come.

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg

I'd never read this Newbery Medal winner, so when we ran across it at the library book sale, Geary tossed it into my bag.

Claudia is tired of boring life with her family, so she determines to run away to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to live with her little brother Jamie. While there, they hide from security, make money by dredging the wishing fountain, and explore exhibit after exhibit. Following the museum's inclusion of a new piece of sculpture nicknamed Angel, Claudia and Jamie research the statue's history, hoping to prove it was created by Michelangelo. Their quest takes them to the house of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, where they learn the truth.

This charming little book is a little dated (part of its charm) and all about art! Highly recommended.

Kneeknock Rise by Natalie Babbitt

" From the moment young Egan arrives in Instep for the annual fair, he is entranced by the fable surrounding the misty peak of Kneeknock Rise: On stormy nights when the rain drives harsh and cold, an undiscovered creature raises its voice and moans. Nobody knows what it is—nobody has ever dared to try to find out and come back again. Before long, Egan is climbing the Rise to find an answer to the mystery. "

I loved this sweet book. Another Newbery winner Geary slipped into my stack.

A quick read recommended to all ages.

Butterfly by Sonya Hartnett

Ran across this book at the library book sale. As we were walking out, we just stopped for a moment into the special book room. I debated buying this, but only for a moment. I've read Surrender and The Ghost's Child by Hartnett (reviews on this blog) and really admired her work.

"Plum is soon to turn fourteen, and one evening she stands in front
of a mirror with her school dress around her ankles, her body
reflected naked and distressing in the glass. . . . Her hands
gather her hair in a dense ponytail, and her face, unshielded, looks
round and inflamed, her eyes the tarred tips of poison darts. Her
arms are strong, her neck utilitarian, not vulnerable at all: indeed,
Plum’s entire body is somehow too much – too tall, too thriving,
too there. "

Butterfly tells the story of 13-year old Plum. She stands in front of the mirror one morning and realizes she's ugly. After this realization, she makes a series of discoveries, is put-upon by frenemies, and turns fourteen.

This is a GORGEOUS book. The prose is Hartnett's signature amazing style, lyrical and lovely. The only yummier prose I've read is Marcus Zusak in The Book Thief. Highly recommended. Warnings on: strong language, sexual situations.

The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle, adapted for graphic novel by Peter Gillis, with art by Renae DeLiz and Ray Dillon

Yes, I know we've all read it. But read it again. And then read this version.


Batman Noel by Lee Bermejo

Stoo gave this book to me for my birthday. He handed it to me and after I unwrapped it, said, "It's A Christmas Carol. With Batman."

And that's exactly what it is. Fantastic artwork and a great twist in storytelling, Bermejo's work is a revelation. Non-purist fans of A Christmas Carol will like it. Fans of Batman (of course) will like it. Some might be surprised to find that the Scrooge character is Batman himself.

Thanks Stewart. I loved it!

Warnings on: Violence, language.

The Upstairs Room by Johanna Reiss

This Newbery Trophy book tells the true story of two Jewish girls living in Holland who have to hide in a Dutch family's home to escape the Germans.

I love the way it's written, in the innocent perspective of a child.

I will recommend this to my girls. I think it would be good to read as a family as well.

Warnings on: disturbing situations.

War Horse by Michael Morpurgo

I'm a horse person. And I love books. Needless to say, I am a sucker for horse books. When the preview to the film came out, I cried in the theater. To the preview. I haven't seen the film yet. I wanted to read the book first.

Like Black Beauty, War Horse is told from the horse's point of view. It takes place in England during the First World War. It's sad. Mostly. But has a happy ending.

Recommended, especially for horse lovers.

So I was lying in bed at my parents' house, finishing up this book. My mom knocked and came in to tell me something. She took one look at me and said, "Are you crying? Are you okay? What's wrong?" I held up the book and shook my head. She laughed. "Oh." She knows me well.

The Limit by Kristen Landon

I met Kristen Landon at the Teen Book Fest. She was very nice and signed the book for me.

The Limit is YA fiction, set in a creepy near-future. The basic idea: if you go over the government-imposed debt limit, they take your children.

Matt is in middle school, living a normal adolescent existence, when he learns that his parents have gone over their limit. So begins the drama. Well, it's not too dramatic, or suspenseful. But I love the concept. Middle-grade readers should eat it up.

Warnings: No questionable material.

Wither by Luaren DeStefano

So I didn't pick up this book for months because I hated the cover art. As you know, I don't like photos as book covers. Especially photo-covers that look like French mag fashion spreads. Also the book was in hardback, which is incredibly expensive, especially for people who are used to shopping at library book sales. But I had just finished the last of my book pile I'd brought down to AZ for holiday reading (ten books) and needed something, and I happened to be in Barnes & Noble, and there it was, in paperback. I couldn't resist. In spite of the cover.

To be honest, the cover grew on me. It's totally symbolic, and actually kinda cool.

Here's the beginning of the official description, because I've written a bunch of reviews and I'm tired:

By age sixteen, Rhine Ellery has four years left to live. A botched effort to create a perfect race has left all males born with a lifespan of 25 years, and females a lifespan of 20 years--leaving the world in a state of panic. Geneticists seek a miracle antidote to restore the human race, desperate orphans crowd the population, crime and poverty have skyrocketed, and young girls are being kidnapped and sold as polygamous brides to bear more children.

I didn't know if I would like it. But I did. And even pieces that would normally bug me, holes in the plot and such, didn't get in the way of my enjoyment. This is a plague book, a post-apocalyptic and a dystopian all in one. Yum!

Recommended for older teens and adults. Warnings on: sexual situations (nothing graphic) and disturbing imagery

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