I think I was partial to this book just a few pages in, when Tip started describing how little cats like being in cars. I started reading this book whI think I was partial to this book just a few pages in, when Tip started describing how little cats like being in cars. I started reading this book while I was moving halfway across the country, with not one but three cats (no aliens, though). So the observations about Pig's traveling behavior were spot on!
The premise for the book, both in terms of plot and how it's delivered (two variations on a school essay followed by an extended version that Tip doesn't intend to let anyone else see), are excellent. And I loved all of the different pictures and comics that were included as well. Tip is hilarious and sarcastic, and she clearly is a (bad?) influence on J.Lo - I loved it as he started to use sarcasm around Tip after all of her hilarious attempts to explain his presence. I'm sorry I borrowed this book from the library - as soon as I finished it I wanted to read it again!...more
So I first heard about this book back in August, and when I got my new library card it was the first book I requested for inter-library loan. That wasSo I first heard about this book back in August, and when I got my new library card it was the first book I requested for inter-library loan. That was early September, and I only got the book on November 12th, and there are still people waiting in line for it! I read the first 147 pages in fits and starts, thanks to having to work the day I got the book. However, once the Hunger Games actually started (page 148), I sat down and couldn't bear to set the book down. It's a book that had me audibly gasping and cheering - driving my fiance up a wall while I was at it.
Suzanne Collins has created a fantastic world here - we are given details describing Katniss' life and the country of Panem as needed, so there's no awkwardly long passages of exposition to catch us up on the world. It is simultaneously familiar (the idea of barren wastelands and people living in resource-poor areas are all too common in real life and in literature) and yet horrifyingly different (a government keeping its citizens in line by forcing them to sacrifice children to battle to the death for the rest of the country's entertainment).
Many people have brought up that this isn't a wholly original book - it has bits of "The Lottery" and "Battle Royale" and even "Survivor" sprinkled in. But what makes this story fantastic and feel utterly original and compelling is the combination of those familiar elements, and the excellent characters Collins has created. I utterly enjoyed being in Katniss' head for almost 400 pages; she is bitter, she is cynical, but she is also incredibly smart, resourceful and caring. She takes risks constantly, and it's that quality that has kept her and her family alive, both in the Seam of District 12 and in the Hunger Games themselves. Accompanying Katniss are a cast of colorful characters, from Peetra, her fellow tribute from District 12 in the Hunger Games, to the variety of people who help prepare her for the Games themselves. Everyone is distinct (well, except the three women in charge of making Katniss "presentable" via an extreme makeover, but I have a feeling that was intentional).
I was completely incoherent when I finished the book. In fact, when I reached the last page and discovered this was merely the first book in a trilogy, all I could do was drop the book and have a minor freak out because I wasn't ready for the story to be over! Waiting for the second book is going to be painful - I have absolutely no clue what is going to happen next and already I'm going crazy - but if it's half as good as this book was, it'll be worth the wait!...more
As another fan of zombies and YA lit, I've been looking forward to reading this book all summer, but I was terribly disappointed and frustrated by theAs another fan of zombies and YA lit, I've been looking forward to reading this book all summer, but I was terribly disappointed and frustrated by the wasted potential.
The author does a good job from the beginning evoking a sense of unease about Hannah, her father, and their new home in Maplecrest. Part of this mood comes from the hints that Hannah's father has a dark past as a former police officer. A dark past that is brought up every time Hannah mentions her dad, moving, or police officers (at least once per chapter?). And yet we never get the payoff about what this terrible past is. Also, we're told that Hannah's father often works odd jobs that he hates since, for some reason, he can't be a police officer any more, but all we know about his current job is he's some kind of courier that conveniently gets him out of the way so Hannah's story can happen without the protection of an adult. The sense of foreboding his heightened when Hannah meets the super popular, and eerie, cheerleading squad - and the lone voice of dissent, Lukas, that says they're not nearly as perfect as Hannah thinks they are.
I really wanted to like Lukas - the idea of a kid fighting zombies by what he's learned in comic books could have been used to great effect, but he also fell short.
I also had a lot of problems with Hannah herself. First of all, she's almost completely unlikable for 90% of the book. I can see an element of realism in her defensiveness, first because she's a teenage girl and second because after moving so often she probably would have developed some abrasive coping mechanisms, but I couldn't find a single redeeming quality in her that made me want to root for her. And when she's finally faced with the incontrovertible proof of the zombies, she takes it way too well and all of a sudden seems like a little bit of a zombie fighting prodigy.
And finally, this may be me just being a little paranoid, but the book seemed to have no problem with promoting at least mildly abusive relationships. Lukas keeps coming back to Hannah like a kicked puppy (he in fact is often described as having puppy dog eyes) because he likes her so much he'll put up with the abuse just to be near her/rescue her, and Hannah when Hannah begins dating a guy in the school, she talks about how he forces/commands her to do things - and she likes it. After suffering through the glorification of stalking/abuse in the Twilight books, maybe I'm being over sensitive, but with hints of abuse popping up in two separate relationships it seemed a little "off" to me. ...more
I read this book the first time a few months ago - back when Clinton and Obama were still virtually neck and neck in the primaries. It's an extremelyI read this book the first time a few months ago - back when Clinton and Obama were still virtually neck and neck in the primaries. It's an extremely interesting, and powerful book. A few times the writing got to me in such a way that I had to put the book down to compose myself a little bit!
The great thing about this novel were the small details. Like a chance meeting between Eleanor and a young (Republican!) Hillary Rodham! On the flip side, the big detractor from the novel were the small details. The author isn't a fiction writer by trade, and sometimes it seemed like she crammed extraneous information into the book just to prove how well she researched the election and the time period in order to make Eleanor's candidacy as historically accurate as possible. But these are small detractions, and don't make the book unreadable by any means....more
What a fun read! Normally I'm not a big fantasy fan, but I had a lot of fun following Charlie's exploits as she tries to rid herself of her masively mWhat a fun read! Normally I'm not a big fantasy fan, but I had a lot of fun following Charlie's exploits as she tries to rid herself of her masively malodorous fairy. This was a quick, light read, that was lots of fun, but did have some unfulfilled potential. Suspense enters the book after the school's star water polo player starts kidnapping Charlie to use her good-parking-fairy powers, but that plot enters and is resolved extremely quickly. I also would have loved to see more explanation of why New Avalon is so different from the rest of the world - what has made them so self-centered as to believe all famous people belong to them?
Two great points about the book: First, I loved the playful language throughout. It was easy to pick up on most of the slang (anything that wasn't easy to identify through context was identified for Steffi, the new boy in New Avalon Sports High who thinks everyone's slang is bizarre) and really added to the sense of this being a very different world.
Secondly, how awesome is it that this book is full of young women who love to play all sorts of different sports, and it's not a big deal at all? So often in young adult novels, even well adjusted and talented young women become self-conscious of their sports abilities, and are looked at by other characters as weird. The only person who seems to think Charlie is weird for liking sports is her little sister, and that hardly counts. It was a wonderful addition to the novel that really helped create a unique setting....more
A very fast and exhilerating read - I couldn't put this book down despite being absolutely exhausted after my first day of work (and was almost late cA very fast and exhilerating read - I couldn't put this book down despite being absolutely exhausted after my first day of work (and was almost late coming back from lunch on my second day because I spent more time reading this than eating...)
At first when I reached the end of the book, I was a little disappointed. I felt that the author had dropped in several interesting ideas and characters that never had their full potential realized - then I flipped to the front jacket flap and saw this is the first in a trilogy and got very excited!
The story reminded me in a lot of ways of MT Andersons's Feed or Scott Westerfeld's Uglies series, but Wasserman threw in enough original details and a very fascinating world that this book felt more like a worthy successor to those great books rather than a cheap imitation. I absolutely can't wait to see what happens next!...more
Overall I liked the story well enough, but something about the narrative style really bugged me. There were times when I definitely felt like I was reOverall I liked the story well enough, but something about the narrative style really bugged me. There were times when I definitely felt like I was reading a book from the 80s. Maybe it was my subconscious trying to figure out where the book had been updated (and some of the updates felt really obnoxious. An over-reliance on dropping brand names and updating the reference to old TV shows by dropping in "on DVD" after the title).
I might check out the rest of the series from the library, once I get all the paperwork so I can get a darn library card, but it's not at the top of my list.
One thing I did like: the covers for this series are awesome, and I'm not usually a person who comments on cover art. The cover for the second book might be my favorite (it's a play on the famous "Girl with a Pearl Earring" painting)....more
I first read this ages ago, and then recently realized it was the only YA Scott Westerfeld book I didn't own, so when I found it for cheap I added itI first read this ages ago, and then recently realized it was the only YA Scott Westerfeld book I didn't own, so when I found it for cheap I added it to my collection. On the second read-through I remembered why it wasn't already part of my library: it's a decent book, nothing terrible about it, but there's nothing terribly compelling about it, either. Lots of wacky hijinx, but the reasons for that hijinx were never very strong....more
I love the idea behind this book. After reading Edith Wharton's "Kerfol" just before getting this book, I was excited to read Noyes' take on the contiI love the idea behind this book. After reading Edith Wharton's "Kerfol" just before getting this book, I was excited to read Noyes' take on the continuing adventures at the haunted house, but I felt that the delivery never quite lived up to the premise. It took me awhile to really get into the first story, but I think overall it's my favorite in the collection, followed by the final story. The three in the middle are all good stories, but not as creepy and thrilling as I'd hoped they would be....more
I wanted to like this book. Ever since it came out I've heard people raving about it. I've read MT Anderson's "Feed" and loved that. So I was very disI wanted to like this book. Ever since it came out I've heard people raving about it. I've read MT Anderson's "Feed" and loved that. So I was very disappointed at how bored this book made me feel.
For one thing, the book started to contradict itself just a few pages in. We're told almost immediately that Octavian and his mother are the only people in this strange academy that have names - and then proceeds to periodically refer to 03-01 as "Mr. Gitney" and a few other people are given names as well in addition to/in place of the numerical system. Additionally, this part of the book was just dull. There was really no conflict - there were vague hints that a conflict would be forth coming, but really for the first third I only read because of so many people's insistence that this was, in fact, a fabulous book.
And the book did pick up about a third of the way through when a new financial backer for the academy shows up who has very different ideas about how the experiment on Octavian should be run. Now we have conflict...kind of. And that's how I continue to felt for the rest of the book: there was a bit of a conflict, a bit of plot, to keep the story going, but overall there really never was anything in the story itself to keep me interested. I never felt a compelling reason to care about how Octavian was being treated, first as an experimental subject, then as an increasingly-abused slave. While there were some unflinching looks at how slaves were treated in pre-Revolutionary America that was interesting, they were such fleeting glimpses that it wasn't enough to hold down the story....more
Real review: I've read more books on the Salem Witch Trials, fiction and non-fictShort review: I loved this book.
Long review: I really loved this book.
Real review: I've read more books on the Salem Witch Trials, fiction and non-fiction, kidlit, YA and adult fiction, then I can count. It's a fascinating piece of history, and one that obviously leaves lots of room for authors to explore. But I've never read an account that brings quite this perspective on the trials, told by the daughter of a woman who was hung as a witch (Martha Carrier).
Most of all I loved the narrative style of the book. The story begins well before the trials in nearby Salem Village begin, yet from the very beginning there is a sense of danger lurking throughout the book, first from disease, then cruel neighbors, before the specter of Salem's trials appears on the horizon. Sarah is a fully realized character, who has her noble and not-so-noble moments (like all 9-11 year olds, she has moments where she hates her siblings and her parents, and partakes in several childish pranks as her only means of acting against a cruel world), and is a powerful narrator. Her time at the Salem Village prison is an absolutely heartbreaking element of the story, bringing me to full blown tears at one point.
Kathleen Kent did a fabulous job researching the book and bringing minor, but powerful, details to the story, from how girls who weren't accusing their neighbors of witchcraft rebelled against a constricting society, to the multitude of indignities women were forced to suffer through while imprisoned awaiting their trials, sentencing, or deaths.
One minor nitpick that I want to bring up just to encourage people to read past it: the framing device of the novel is a little forced. Sarah is writing a letter to her granddaughter to explain her life, even though her granddaughter has, apparently, never openly expressed an interest in knowing. It seems like an awkward, forced, and completely unnecessary opening. Don't mind it; just move on to the meat of the story and you will be hooked!...more
I wanted to like this. I really did. But I gave up about 100 pages in. The extremely dense text never pulled me in. This is clearly an extremely wellI wanted to like this. I really did. But I gave up about 100 pages in. The extremely dense text never pulled me in. This is clearly an extremely well researched book (which is why I gave it two stars) about a fascinating person, but it's too long and dry for anyone but a serious researcher....more
I think it was partly the fear of running into this world that made me change my mind about becoming a teacher...
This is a solid book with a solid stoI think it was partly the fear of running into this world that made me change my mind about becoming a teacher...
This is a solid book with a solid story, but absolutely no depth. There's nothing really specific I can pick out about what I disliked (except every interaction Anna had with her parents. I was supposed to believe she was a graduate from Columbia, but when she was with her parents it was like she was thrown back into middle school-complete with a melodramatic running away from home scene!). The book kept me turning the pages, even though the ending was pretty obvious from the beginning. But Anna fell into this tutoring world way too quickly, and sprang back out, unharmed, just as fast. Everyone Anna encountered felt like a caricature, and paradoxically that feeling increased the more time was spent with them! Characters that we met once or twice at least had hints at depth, but characters like Randi, or Anna's parents, who feature prominently at times, are thin and flat; merely props for Anna to lean on for awhile until she makes it to the end of the book. ...more
Only half of this book felt truly compelling to me: Oksana's story, that of a Russian girl who leaps at the opportunity to exchange life in her impoveOnly half of this book felt truly compelling to me: Oksana's story, that of a Russian girl who leaps at the opportunity to exchange life in her impoverished village for a glamorous life working as a waitress in London. Unfortunately, her benefactors aren't helping her out of the goodness of their hearts, and in fact sell her into prostitution. This was a heart wrenching story, especially as Oksana's chapters would alternate between the horrors of life as a forced prostitute and the desolation of her previous life in Russia. Bit by bit her complex story unfolds in such a way that we definitely understand that neither existence was good for her, but without giving so many gory details as to make this inappropriate for a general young adult audience.
The other half of the book is told by Hope, a spoiled, rich English girl who believes her parents are ridiculously uncool and unfair because they expect her to go on family vacations and eat dinner at the table. When Oksana briefly escapes her current captor, she and Hope cross paths, and Hope tries to help her, without understanding what Oksana is trying to escape. When Oksana and Hope are captured by Oksana's "owner," the book begins a nose-dive into After School Special territory. It feels like the author didn't think her audience could empathize with the story without an observer who closely resembled their own relatively privileged lives.
I would have loved to see a story focusing entirely on Oksana and other young women like her. The author then could have focused on showing us this horrible existence, rather than shoe-horning in trite platitudes from Hope's point of view (for example, when Hope finally realizes that Oksana is a prostitute, she makes a point of noting that prostitutes are supposed to be adults and wear make up and sexy clothes and "want it" - a common misconception, and one that needs to be addressed more often, but there have to be more elegant ways of presenting it)....more