Republished under the name Belle, Belle and the Beau tells the story of Belle Palmer, an escaped slave who is taken in by a family of free blacks -- tRepublished under the name Belle, Belle and the Beau tells the story of Belle Palmer, an escaped slave who is taken in by a family of free blacks -- the Bests -- in Michigan. Belle must learn to adjust to free life and the idea that she can make her own choices and pursue her own goals. Belle and the Beau is part of a series of books (Avon True Romance) written by multiple authors, and reads as the hack job it most likely is.
Basically, there is only one circumstance that would make this book worth while to read, and that is as an American history companion in a 5th or 6th grade class. It is (heavily) peppered with facts from the era (Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, Frederick Douglass' Paper, various Af. Am. firsts, etc), but the way they are worked into the story is fairly lazy. It really seems as if Jenkins took a history lesson from a text book and put names to it. Everything is done fairly shallowly, and though it may help some students connect to the time a bit, there are much more worthwhile reads out there that work in the facts unobtrusively and realistically instead of resting them on the surface.
The writing too seems very lazy. It felt at times like I was reading a literature Mad Lib. So many of the sentences were set up the same way, with minor details changed: a fill-in-the-blank book. EVERYTIME a character made a joke or said anything remotely funny/sarcastic/etc., Jenkins would write "s/he cracked." Apparently the only way to tell a joke is to crack. Also, the only way to show mock anger is to plant one balled fist on one out-thrust hip. Everything seemed so half-hearted and churned out and formulaic. Even though Belle is an escaped slave living very near fugitive slave catchers, there is never any real sense of danger or tension. Every character is one-dimensional and cheesy. I feel like a traitor; this was written by someone from my region (which is why I read it), but Jenkins could have done a much better job and put a bit more heart and thought into this book. I don't know what age she was aiming for, but there is no excuse: there is a difference between simple and bad....more
The Thirteenth Child tells the story of Eff Rothmer, a thirteenth child. Her twin brother, Lan, is a double-seventh child, a position of great magicalThe Thirteenth Child tells the story of Eff Rothmer, a thirteenth child. Her twin brother, Lan, is a double-seventh child, a position of great magical power and potential. Unfortunately for Eff, the thirteenth child is said to be cursed, hazardous to those around them, and even evil. Eff is terrified that she will one day "go bad" and hurt those around her, so she tries desperately to control her magic, and possibly even rid herself of it. Eff must learn how to become her own person with her own magic, no matter what others may think.
Set in an Old West that mixes the familiar -- buggies and frock coats -- with the fantastic -- steam dragons and spectral bears -- Thirteenth Child manages to be completely true and now. The choices Wrede makes keep the book from being the over the top, cheesy affair it could have been in someone else's hands. She never overdoes anything or tosses in too many fantastic problems or elements. Her fantasy elements are realistic, and she always makes sure that her characters and Eff's development takes precedence. Eff's voice and narration, too, are very enjoyable, with fun little turns of phrase that pop.
I rarely say this when I read a good stand-alone, because I respect an author that doesn't milk it by turning it into a series (and often thinning it out as a result), but I really hope there's more to come....more
I read this as part of a challenge, and I had to go to the library and pick two books with my eyes closed. The first was excellent (Little Brother, reI read this as part of a challenge, and I had to go to the library and pick two books with my eyes closed. The first was excellent (Little Brother, review is here ); the second was Betwixt. If I hadn’t been reading this for a challenge, I would have put this book down after about 20 pages. Actually, I probably would have thrown it out the window....more
This book made me paranoid. Still. It’s a lasting effect that will have you looking over your shoulder and doubting whether you really want to be a paThis book made me paranoid. Still. It’s a lasting effect that will have you looking over your shoulder and doubting whether you really want to be a part of “the system.” Reading like a Snow Crash for teens, Little Brother tells the story of Marcus Yallow (aka w1n5t0n3; aka M1k3y), a (mostly) harmless 17 year old who is taken into custody by the Department of Homeland Security in a classic “wrong place, wrong time” scenario -- namely, the worst terrorist attack ever on US soil. When Marcus is finally released after days of interrogation and humiliation tactics, only to find that the DHS has effectively taken control of the world he knows and is abusing their power to spy on and terrorize innocent people, he vows to take them down. The result of this vow has Marcus embarking on a quest to technologically outwit and humiliate the DHS and the United States government that supports it in an effort to regain freedoms of speech, thought and action for US citizens. When I started this book I had some misgivings. Firstly, I was overwhelming struck with an image of Snow Crash, and was afraid that this was going to be a kiddy retelling. Also, the idea of a teen using computers to outsmart everyone (i.e. adults) immediately brought to mind that cheesy 80’s movie with the kid who has to play the computer to save the world, or whatever the hell happened. Then, there was the abundance (over-abundance?) of technological information (and by turns, protest-movement information, governmental/spy info, etc.); I was worried that this might overwhelm the book and completely lose less tech-savvy readers. My first two fears were unfounded. I quickly forgot about the 80’s movie, though there are striking similarities to Snow Crash (Doctorow even credits Stephenson in the acknowledgments [Cryptonomicon, not Snow Crash:]), as both books revolve around characters using technology to defeat a powerful enemy (in many cases with the law on its side). Because of this, there are bound to be similarities, but Little Brother holds its own. It is less culture-, language- and religion-based than Snow Crash, focusing almost solely on governmental abuses of power and human rights. As for an over-abundance of tech jargon and explaining, that is something that can only be determined person to person. The very tech savvy may find the breaks for explanation irritating and time-consuming, and those with little tech background may still be lost. But for the majority of today’s teens, the balance is right, as is the tone. Marcus reads authentic in a way that isn’t always pulled off in teen lit, and his indignation will feel right in tune with “rebellious youth” and adults alike. Marcus raises excellent questions about civil liberties and the dangerous trends of invasion of privacy, founded on sound and timely thinking (which makes it that much scarier). My only warning: there are those that will consider this book "dangerous." Some parents may not want their children reading about open rebellion and what may be seen as anti-government thinking. The book can also be a potential guidebook for a little "wrong-doing" -- caller-id spoofing, pirating, code cloning, and many, many things that most people don't want know, and those in charge don't want you to are talked about openly (even encouragingly) in this book, and Doctorow's acknowledgments in the back direct readers where to find some of the things discussed. This may be unsettling for some, but it is wholly in keeping with the spirit of freedom, free-information and the questioning and boundary-testing of the book. (I think every teen should read this and know they can question things; some parents and authorities may disagree.) There were honestly times when my heart was pounding reading this book; that just doesn’t happen, folks. Very compelling and unsettling. This book will make you paranoid. ...more
I was a little leery of reading this. I didn't really like the first book all that much, though I thought it had potential. But I am taking part in aI was a little leery of reading this. I didn't really like the first book all that much, though I thought it had potential. But I am taking part in a summer YA reading challenge, so I thought I'd give this a shot.
But first: Rebel Angels continues the story of Gemma Doyle, a 16 year old girl at Spence, an English boarding school. In A Great and Terrible Beauty Gemma discovers she is a very powerful girl, daughter of a member of a group called the Order, and able to enter "the Realms" and use magic. She also learns that all is not well in the Realms, and bad people would like to harness the magic for evil. In Rebel Angels, Gemma continues to secure the Realms and learn to manage the magic. The lines between good and bad blur a little more, and Gemma finds herself facing a number of difficult choices, among them who to trust and even who to love.
I did think it was an improvement over the first, though some of the things that bothered me about A Great and Terrible Beauty are still present in this, though to a lesser degree. In #1 I felt that the characters were flat and the story predictable, and I feel Bray has improved that here, though there is still room for further improvement. The dialogue, too, wasn't as cheesy in this one (I only rolled my eyes a few times). But I felt the relationship with Simon was underdeveloped (they meet each other a handful of times and he's one of the most wealthy, handsome and eligible bachelors in the country, and he's already hinting at marriage? Seems a bit much). Bray's handling of this is fairly indicative of her writing style in general. Rather than layer and develop things fully, she tosses them in in an exciting way, and then lets them fade or drags them out, but never really makes them feel authentic. She comes closer in this book, but still......more
I am a big fan of dystopic & post-apocalyptic fiction, and The Knife of Never Letting Go is one of the most compelling pieces of dystopia I have rI am a big fan of dystopic & post-apocalyptic fiction, and The Knife of Never Letting Go is one of the most compelling pieces of dystopia I have read in awhile. I am all sorts of in love with this book. Find out why at The Book Rat....more
Wildwood Dancing is retold fairy tale set in Romania of a century ago. Five sisters (beautiful Tati; sensible Jena, who narrates the story; lively IulWildwood Dancing is retold fairy tale set in Romania of a century ago. Five sisters (beautiful Tati; sensible Jena, who narrates the story; lively Iulia; smart Paula and young Stela) are left to take care of their estate, Piscul Dracului, when their father travels south for his health. They try to go on with their lives as before: doing chores, watching over his mercantile business, and sneaking out of their bedroom once a month through a secret portal that lead to a fairy realm where they dance until dawn. But when Tati begins to show feelings for a potentially dangerous creature from the Other Kingdom, and the girls’ cousin, Cezar, shows up to take over the affairs of the castle, Jena begins to fear that the world she knows is falling apart. With her best friend, a talking frog named Gogu, at her side, Jena struggles to maintain her independence and control while keeping her family together and her fairy friends safe. Wildwood Dancing retells the classic Twelve Dancing Princesses, as well as weaving in other traditional tales and bits of mythology in an interesting and clever way. Marillier’s use of Romania as a setting provides great depth to the story, layering in interesting culture and an appropriately untamed setting. Her writing is well-suited to the story, making it lush and fully fleshed out. The world she creates and the characters who inhabit it are detailed and dynamic, and though some things work out a little too conveniently and quickly for all the build-up, the story is enchanting and I was sad when it was over. Perfect for those who love retold fairy tales, historical and paranormal romance, and strong female characters.
Let me start by saying that in some weird way, this book blew me away.
Madapple is the story of Aslaug Hellig, a bright girl who was raised in near isoLet me start by saying that in some weird way, this book blew me away.
Madapple is the story of Aslaug Hellig, a bright girl who was raised in near isolation by her genius -- but disturbed -- mother. When Aslaug's mother dies, Aslaug goes to the only place she can remember her mother having taken her. The place, it turns out, is a former monastery-turned-church, run by an aunt she never knew she had. Aslaug moves into the church with her aunt Sara and her children, Sanne and Rune, and gets caught up in the distrubing world they have created for themselves.
Madapple mixes religion, mythology, psychology and (of all things) botany to create a very captivating and disturbing world for Aslaug to live in. Told through chapters set alternately in the present and in the past, Aslaug's story is revealed slowly and cryptically, making the book a potentially challenging read for some. Also, some themes and subject matter may be too adult and/or inappropriate for some readers, but for those who persevere and can handle the dark subject matter, Madapple is a strange little gem. It is little wonder that Meldrum, a first time author, was a finalist for the Morris Award....more
City of Ember is about a colony of people who live in the year 241. Their small city is on the verge of disaster: supplies are running out and they maCity of Ember is about a colony of people who live in the year 241. Their small city is on the verge of disaster: supplies are running out and they may be loding power. If the lights go out they will be plunged into absolute darkness and be unable to survive. Lina and Doon, two 12 year olds recently placed in jobs (Lina as a Messenger, Doon in the Pipeworks) set about rescuing the city of Ember.
I got sucked into this book much quicker than I thought I was going to, and even though some things were predictable, and some of the "messages" were a bit too heavy-handed for me, all in all it was really entertaining and a great book for the age group. There are a few others in the series (The People of Sparks is #2), which City of Ember has me eager to read....more
The Luxe is about turn of the century New York socialites falling in love and misbehaving. New York's darling debutant, Elizabeth Holland is poised toThe Luxe is about turn of the century New York socialites falling in love and misbehaving. New York's darling debutant, Elizabeth Holland is poised to marry one of the most eligible (and debaucherous) bachelors in the city, but her perfect life is not what it seems.
Gene Luen Yang blends three stories (that of the famous chinese Monkey god from Journey to the West; the story of Jin Wang, an American boy born of ChGene Luen Yang blends three stories (that of the famous chinese Monkey god from Journey to the West; the story of Jin Wang, an American boy born of Chinese immigrants; and Chin-Kee, a walking stereotype) into one humorous and thought-provoking story told in graphic novel form that reads like a self-effacing diary. His characters are funny and charming, and the three separate threads combine at the end to make them something greater than the sum of their parts. American Born Chinese is easily a one-sitting read, though much more time may be spent poring over the illustrations (which have a Bazooka Joe lightness to them), which capture the moods perfectly. Despite mild and rare cursing, this book can easily be shared with younger readers. Yang manages to deal with serious subjects with a light hand, respecting them without getting bogged down in didacticism or the pointing of fingers. His writing is fun, witty and playful, and his book charming....more
The graveyard book tells the story of Nobody Owens (called Bod), who escapes to a graveyard as a toddler after his family is murdered. Bod is given thThe graveyard book tells the story of Nobody Owens (called Bod), who escapes to a graveyard as a toddler after his family is murdered. Bod is given the freedom of the graveyard, allowing him to pass freely through the graveyard and learn the ways of the ghost inhabitants who are helping to raise him. This graveyard family teaches Bod how to see at night, to Haunt, Fade and Dreamwalk; they protect him from the outside world, and from the man who killed his family and would like to finish the job. But they cannot protect him forever, and Bod knows that one day he will have to confront the world and the dangers in it, embracing his destiny for good or bad. I was really excited to read this book, and even though I was in the middle of another, I found myself repeatedly picking The Graveyard Book up and opening to the brilliant first page. I finally caved in and set my other book aside so I could read this, and at first I was entirely disappointed and didn’t think I was going to like the book at all. I found Bod’s toddler years to be only tolerable. There was occasional cuteness, but nothing to hook me and make me want to keep reading (aside from the fantastic Gorey-esque illustrations). That all changed when Bod went to Ghûlheim; from then on I was absolutely hooked. The writing is clever and has a certain brightness mingled with the dark of the story. The book is sprinkled with interesting characters (with amusing epitaphs). The worlds Gaiman created are vivid and intriguing, with interesting and original takes on familiar mythology. Bod’s journey is relatable, even in all of its surrealness, and the overall message is incorporated well without being didactic. This is the sort of story I know I would have become completely lost in and obsessed with as a child. A warning to parents that there are some dark themes and scary elements, but overall I would recommend this to any child/young teen, especially those who like fantasy and darker elements. This would also make a fun read-aloud for parents and children, or a classroom, and the illustrations add to the story immensely. I would rate this closer to a 4.5....more
I am not going to lie, I fell in love with the cover and that was a big reason I had to read it. I am glad I did. The book takes place in Iran (PersiI am not going to lie, I fell in love with the cover and that was a big reason I had to read it. I am glad I did. The book takes place in Iran (Persia) around 100 yrs ago, and centers around a young carpet-weaving nomad, Anahita. When her father tells her that it is time for her to marry, and that the local khan (a boorish, crude man who holds the villages fate in his hands) is interested in her, riddle-loving Anahita comes up with a plan to weave a riddle into her wedding carpet, and marry only the man that can solve it. Her father is at first against it, but the idea takes on a life of its own, sweeping up the villagers and far-flung strangers. Some are shocked by Anahita's boldness, some envious of her chance at a choice in who she marries, but spirited Anahita (though she at times feels the contest has gotten away from her) cannot make her self submit to a life where she has no choice, and where her talents, personality and intelligence are not prized. The book changes perspective from Anahita to some of the men who pursue her and enter her contest, and though there are times when this can get a little frustrating, it is interesting none the less, and allows the reader to make a choice as well: who do we want Anahita to marry? I am not sure how likely the story is (a young nomadic girl in a culture and time when women do not have much of a say about anything), but there are always exceptions to rules, and there are always people who stand out and stand up for what they want. I think young girls will enjoy her journey and her fiestiness, and they will get a dose of culture as well....more