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Thursday, October 7, 2010

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

All I can say is this blogging business apparently takes a kind of dedication/discipline that I'm still working on developing but wished I was better at "right now".  I actually have been doing quite a bit of reading since I last blogged...I just didn't note them in the blog :(  ANYWAY since this school year has started and is settling a bit I thought I'd give it another try....

 I liked this story...one of the things I especially liked, was how easy it was to follow even though the storyline format is one where the story is told from the alternating points of view of two characters-- Grace and Sam.  This type of story device is often confusing for middle school readers, but this story flows seamlessly from Grace's telling into Sam's telling.  

 Grace is a self-reliant older teen who has in large part been raising herself since her parents are too involved in their jobs and own lives.  Grace is loved, but basically ignored.  One of Grace's longtime favorite activities been has been watching the wolves outside her Mercy Falls, Minnesota home every winter.  Grace is most drawn to one in particular wolf with amazing yellow eyes.  Grace is certain that this yellow-eyed wolf is the same wolf who saved her from a pack of wolves who attacked her when she was younger.

Sam leads two very different lives.  In the spring and summer, he's a human, but when the  temperatures cool in the fall and winter, he turns into a wolf.

When Grace meets Sam, they have an immediate connection and one look at his yellow eyes makes Grace  certain that Sam is her wolf because his amazing eye color is unforgettable.     Grace and Sam's connection is so strong that it doesn't take them long to realize that they've loved each other for years as impossible as that may seem.

As the temperatures get cooler, Grace and Sam struggle to keep Sam in his  human form.  The increasing cold threatens to take Sam  away from Grace forever  because the problem with being a werewolf  is that the longer you're a wolf, the less time you get to spend in your human form until one spring, you don't change back and are only a part of the wolf world for the rest of your life. One of my least favorite parts of the story is the way Grace goes about trying to keep Sam in his human form, but even then, I was amazed at her persistence and the lengths she would go to.

All in all an enjoyable read and I look forward to the next book in the series: Linger  which I've ordered for the library and should be arriving soon.

 My rating:

A good read.
Category: Fantasy/love story

Thursday, July 15, 2010

North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley

This book is a gift… wonderful and richly complex yet at the same time easy to read and identify with.  I suppose Shrek would use his “layered like an onion” analogy, but you get the idea…there’s a lot here.  For any reader who has ever been on the receiving end of verbal abuse, or struggled with their sense of self-worth, many situations in the book will tug hard on emotions, however the author uses such situations seamlessly showing the main character Terra and her mom coming to grips with the reality of their lives and how hard it can be to break free of the day to day.

I liked the use of maps and cartography terms to shape the storyline, and while many  teen readers I will recommend this book to in the library may not share my enthusiasm, the format won’t detract from their enjoyment of this amazing coming-of-age/romance story.  As I read through the book, I found myself sticking bits of scrap paper between a number of the pages so I could go back and re-read certain bits and lines because the author has such a knack for imparting “good stuff” within the storyline without appearing to do so. 

I marvel at main character Terra’s growth during the course of the book-- I think the quote by actress Ruby Dee sums it up best:

“The kind of beauty I want is the hard-to-get kind that comes from within--strength, courage, dignity.” 

My rating: 
M-m-m-m a very good read.
Category: Realistic fiction

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Nancy Farmer series

Ever since I was a kid growing up 8 miles from town without a TV in the house, I've LOVED reading book series.  My brothers and I used to fight over who'd get to read any new books that came into the house first (especially books in a series), the same way lots of kids argue with their brothers and sisters over which TV show to watch; which is why I'm happy that I finally got around to finishing The Island of the Blessed, by Nancy Farmer this week.  The Island of the Blessed is the 3rd book and conclusion to the story started in The Sea of Trolls (1st) and The Land of the Silver Apples (2nd).

I first decided to read these books because they were by the same author who wrote one of my favorites, The House of Scorpion (more about that later).  I was surprised at the complete change in these stories had from that first book.  This series is full of Norse mythology that was way cool.  Nancy Farmer, the author, is an expert researcher who has a nice way of putting factual information into a very readable story format.

All three of these books are full of humor, history, mythology, and adventure. The series as a whole is deceptively complex given the fact that readers encounter Vikings, trolls, dragons, elves, sea hags, overbearing fathers, and all sorts of other interesting stuff in the same book. As a bonus, just in case you are new to these characters or situations...Ms. Farmer includes appendices or glossaries at the end of every book to help fill in the details.

The series starts with the Sea of Trolls when eleven-year-old Jack, who had been happily apprenticing with The Bard, and Jack's five-year-old sister, Lucy, are captured and enslaved by the Northmen heading off to destinations unknown but where undoubtedly the Vikings will be pillaging. Though Jack's situation as a captive is nerve wracking, the author has a nice way of interjecting humor at times too:

" 'I know how exciting pillaging is,' the giant said fondly, ruffling Jack's hair. It felt like a blow. 'No matter how much you're tempted, just say no.'
" 'Just say no to pillaging. You got it?'

The story continues in The Land of Silver Apples where among other trials, Jack's sister Lucy is taken by Elves and he has to travel underground to their lands to get her back. What happens to Jack underground involves several great sacrifices and difficulties with the Elves whose immortality and lack of compassion make them cruel, vain, difficult to please and fickle.

In the final installment of the saga, The Island of the Blessed the apprentice bard Jack and his Viking companion Thorgil, come up against the vengeful spirit of a mermaid which leads to a journey taking them into the land of the fin folk and beyond.

Besides the engaging story line and relate-able characters, what I personally liked best about this series is the interesting way that conflict (or tolerance) of differing religions, cultures and customs is experienced-- where no one way of doing something or belief system is put down, and all have something to offer.  Not to put too fine a point on it, but this is a great message...and an enjoyable way to hear it.

 My rating:

A good read.
Category: Adventure

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Lockdown: Escape from Furnace #1 by Alexander Gordon Smith.

Tony B. told me he liked really liked this book and Tony's dog liked it so well...well he pretty much ate the cover right-off the first copy we had in the library (thanks Tony for being so up-front and responsible about replacing the eaten book)!

"Beneath heaven is hell, beneath hell is Furnace"...Creepy, disturbing, gross are all words that describe this story, but it's the creepiness that pulled me in.  How DOES a person deal with an impossible situation and false imprisonment?  How does a pretty ordinary kid go from being a bully at school to a criminal?   When 14 year old Alex is framed for murder, he becomes an inmate in the new teen prison, Furnace, which is worse than maximum security prison, and worse than anything your nightmares can dream up.   Furnace is home to brutal inmates where gangs kill kids, sadistic guards oversee forced labor and escape is impossible.

Despite Alex's desperate situation, he becomes sickened enough at his experiences he takes action against the "unspoken and expected" that other inmates have managed to ignore,  and is very nearly killed for his effort.

A  fast-paced thriller of a book with relate-able characters and an "OMG" cliffhanger of an ending that had me pre-ordering the sequel soon after I finished reading Lockdown so we could find out what happens next.

Not  a book I'd recommend for younger readers, or those who are disturbed by mildly graphic or gross description.

 My rating:
A good read.  (nice change from vampire books)
Category:  Thriller 

It's taken for freakin ever...but it's now or never

I don't know WHY I've had such a tough time getting this book blog started...I really like reading and writing isn't something I dread, but somehow I've made this project a much bigger deal in my mind than I wanted it to be...it feels kind of silly not really wanting to start...a bit like I've caught a touch of  commitment phobia or something-- sooo not me.  Anyway, while I'm waiting for the weather to cool off a bit before heading  back out side to get to work in the gardens-- I thought I'd give it a go.

Basically, I want some way to keep track of the books I've been reading (mostly the ones written for teens) and even though I've never been one to journal or keep a diary...blogging seems like a pretty good way to help me keep track of what I've read and why I liked something or didn't.  I'm going to start by revisiting the books that I've read this past year and also add books as I finish reading them.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Do Overs--One of life's great gifts

I'm in the process of reorganizing and reworking the Middle School Library's web page. Look for a slightly different spin from "Blog the Book" in the not too distant future.