Here's another one. This is Virginia Woolf still finding her voice as a writer. Certainly if she had written like this throughout her career she wouldHere's another one. This is Virginia Woolf still finding her voice as a writer. Certainly if she had written like this throughout her career she would have been remembered, but probably not celebrated as a genius. This story still has some of the hallmarks of her famous writing - focus on characters' perceptions, use of setting as a symbol for the characters' journeys, lyrical writing and even irony. This story began calmly and slowly and then came to a pretty sincere climax. The personal voyages of the characters mirrored the real voyage they took on their travels.
Only gets four stars because the final turn of events could have been executed a bit better and more could have been said about how it affected the main character internally as well as externally. Though, in one sense, it seems like Woolf wrote the ending she did for Rachel Vinrace because she herself was going through an incredibly hard time personally. This was written during the worst breakdown of her life, and it seems as if she was trying to say that the logical conclusion to all of Rachel's inner turmoil is to succumb to a physical illness.
This book (interestingly) is similar to Woolf's last book in that it's more outwardly scathing toward society and political and social issues. It's a book about big questions and universal relationships rather than a story focusing on the more personal aspects of unique individuals. These characters felt very real to me, but they were more like archetypes. Very good....more
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What a mess! What a chore! What a dragging letdown! Daughter of Smoke and Bone had its problems,Check this review out and others on my blog: Get Real.
What a mess! What a chore! What a dragging letdown! Daughter of Smoke and Bone had its problems, but I did enjoy much of it. This book started off awkward, began to come together a little bit at the midway point and then just spun so far off course I had to start skimming to get through the morass of shit that was a series of ridiculous, coincidental plot twists, endless war machinations and far too many points of view. I'm at a loss at this point.
What made Daughter of Smoke and Bone unique was the writing, which made the real world seem surreal, like a fairytale. The voicing of the characters (except for Akiva) was spunky and realistic. Real teen emotions merged with a fun, descriptive setting that was by turns gothic, timeless and vibrant. Karou was such a great character - a blue-haired assassin of sorts who actually hopped and skipped across the globe, accepting her strange life as a human girl raised by monsters but still filled with the loneliness that comes with being neither here nor there in the fabric of the world. I sympathized with her loneliness but also admired her buoyancy in light of it. The reader meets a very different Karou in Days of Blood and Starlight - a self-loathing, self-punishing, flattened shadow of a girl who lets the world steamroll over her like that's all she deserves...
I can understand that however in light of the betrayal she experienced at the end of Daughter of Smoke and Bone. I get that the fairytale, quirky writing from the first book doesn't really work in this new setting on the outskirts of the desert in Morocco - a stone fortress designed to serve as the birthplace of a re-engaged war. This book just felt so desolate, and not in a way that made me care about the story or the characters. The setting was described flatly when it was mentioned, which wasn't much. Given that Karou feels desolate herself, it would have been nice to make use of a crumbling kasbah to reflect that. I learned more about Eretz, the world where the angels and chimaera live, and I didn't care for that. I couldn't connect to it. So unreal, I found no footholds in this strange place.
Akiva continued to be an endless navel gazer in the sequel, filled with regret, pain, despair, ruin, etc. I get it... he ruined Karou's life. Move on. He does take positive steps to try to redeem himself, but every time he turned up I expected him to go to a dark room and listen to the Cure and cry. I still don't understand why Karou and Akiva fell in love and remain in love. It's not even that Akiva killed her people when he thought she had been betrayed and killed. There's just no explanation beyond vague, ephemeral imaginings.
There were so many chapters, characters, vignettes. I couldn't think because the narrative kept shifting. I prefer a more narrow focus. War is such a bore, such a drag. What is the wider issue? A story about war should never be just a story about war. I anticipated a wreck of a sequel after finishing Daughter of Smoke and Bone. That story had serious narrative flaws, aside from the strange plot coincidences and the endless navel gazing. But... I thought Laini Taylor might be able to get over that and get back to writing an unusual story about teenage loneliness in a surreal but still familiar world. That was the story I liked. I don't care for the stupid creatures and Akiva the stalker and that little troll of a friend Zuzana (what is her purpose? seriously). I'll keep a lookout for the last book, but mostly because I wonder if Laini Taylor can figure out how to dig herself out of this....more
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Reading Rose Under Fire was at times so harrowing that I had to work hard to contain my nausea.Check this review out and others on my blog: Get Real.
Reading Rose Under Fire was at times so harrowing that I had to work hard to contain my nausea. The vivid detail in which Elizabeth Wein described what the women in this book went through as prisoners of the notorious NAZI work camp Ravensbruck left little to the imagination: experiments, filth, terror, starvation and loss — the women who survived their imprisonment in this hell were irreversibly changed. That they managed to forge relationships under the constant threat of death is a testament to the will of the human spirit. That people are also as capable of treating their fellow human beings in such horrific ways leaves one with a warring sense of hope and disdain for humanity.
Rose Under Fire is a Holocaust book, which means this story is filled to the brim with accounts of how more than 11 million people were led to their deaths. Sometimes as I read I thought to myself, 'When is this going to end?' The reader learns that Ravensbruck began as a tough work camp for women that rapidly devolved into a hospital of horrors, finally succumbing to little more than a gas chamber during the final days of the war. Possibly one of the worst details I had to stomach as a reader was the fact that the prisoners built their own killing fields. I still can't think of it without becoming queasy.
The impact of the above information is far reaching. I don't think enough can be said about what happened during the Holocaust, as one of the most terrible times in human history. Wein is a great writer, and the devastation Rose experienced in captivity is portrayed poignantly and harshly. All the same, each successive episode of existence in the camp became harder and harder to take. About halfway through I began to feel machine-gunned by the story. With so much further to go before the end, I dreaded continuing.
As good as the author is at conveying the scope of human emotion and tenacity, I found aspects of this story to be highly problematic. This is a companion to Code Name Verity, a spy thriller on the surface that at its core is an examination of peoples' capacity for love and endurance. Rose Under Fire brings along two characters from its predecessor — Maddie and Jamie. While I was pleased with the progression of their story, I found their placement in this book unnecessary and pointless. As seen through Julie's eyes in Code Name Verity, Maddie (and even Jamie) were vibrant, nuanced characters. Rose doesn't share the same bond with these people that Code Name Verity's hero did, so they felt like ghosts haunting this new narrative, rather than living, breathing characters.
Additionally, the structure of Rose Under Fire was awkward. The beginning comprised an account of Rose's life as an RAF pilot, with not much to bring her character to life, aside from her eyewitness accounts of the world during wartime. In fact, she functioned as little more than a narrator of events throughout the entirety of this book. A second section gives way to letters between the rest of the cast, detailing Rose's disappearance while flying over France. This caused the narrative to drag a bit. However, perhaps the main impediment to developing the story and the characters was the heavy inclusion of Rose's original poetry. Writing was a large part of this character's identity, but readers didn't need to see so much evidence of her work littered throughout the book.
The most effective aspect of this book was the hardest to take: Rose's account of her time at Ravensbruck. It was awful and probably went on longer than a reader should reasonably be expected to deal with such a terrible thing, but the terror of that place was drawn impeccably. Perhaps Wein's biggest misstep in her writing with this book is that in her desire to tell the story of Ravensbruck, she sacrificed the development of the rest of the story elements.
It's with a heavy heart that I write this review, because I loved Code Name Verity with a capital L. That book was so perfect in so many ways, and to segue into this only tangentially related and flawed side trip was disheartening. I would recommend this book to those seeking to enrich their knowledge about the Holocaust, and it's a great book for teachers to use as supplemental material in a lesson on the Holocaust. It's highly effective in illuminating life at Ravensbruck. But, as a piece of literature, Rose Under Fire misses a few marks....more
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What does death do to a family? How does grief take shape? When and how do the survivors heal? MCheck this review out and others on my blog: Get Real.
What does death do to a family? How does grief take shape? When and how do the survivors heal? My Sister Lives on the Mantlepiece explores these questions and others with solemnity, sarcasm, realism and even a bit of humor.
Jamie is 10 years old, and even though he doesn't much remember his sister Rose before she died from a terrorist attack five years ago, he and the rest of his family continue to live with her spectre. At the start of the story, Jamie, his older sister Jas (who is Rose's twin) and their father have relocated from London to a small northern town after Jamie's mother left to live with another man from a counseling support group. Because Jamie remembers little of his sister, he resents how her memory has taken his family hostage. He can't remember life before grief, drinking, fighting, distance. Jas is 15 and forced into the role of caretaker because the adults are neglectful and consumed with remembering Rose.
I loved the kids. They had a great relationship, and it was portrayed realistically. Siblings can be surprising when circumstances call for emotional support. I liked how even though Jas expressed her resentment about Rose through changing her appearance, she remained a well-adjusted and normal person. It's too easy to turn a kid into a drinking, drugging mess when it's been done so many times. Jamie is hopeful, pissy, fragile and sarcastic about his family situation. Starting at a new school, he doesn't make friends easily, except for when he meets Sunya, a Muslim girl who sits next to him in class. More accurately, she makes friends with him. Undaunted by his reticence, she sense something in him and reaches out.
However, Jamie feels guilty, because his father says when acting out, "Muslims killed Rose." It's great to watch Jamie come to terms with what happened to his sister, how his father expresses his grief and whether people are more than the labels they receive or take up.
I liked how this book examined serious issues with care but also found the humor in things, too. It kept the story from getting too emotional, heavy-handed or in your face about driving home lessons. And, while you see hope for the future in this story, things don't drastically change for Jamie's family. They shouldn't. Grief is powerful, and sometimes people finally come to terms with it in strange and subtle ways. I also liked how the story's climax was anti-climatic. I would have rolled my eyes a little at some points if the author hadn't written this story the way she did.
There are some questions about where this book belongs in a library collection, though. This story is about a 10-year-old boy, who makes observations appropriate for his age. But, there is a fair amount of cursing and talk about drinking and other more adult issues. I think this book is for grades 5 and 6, despite the swearing. It's nothing very bad, but the book requires some guided reading from adults I think. I'm not sure kids would pick this up unless it's part of a curriculum, but that doesn't mean they won't find value in it. Personally, I think all the better that kids only experience it in school. Teachers can provide context for the observations, language and situations.
Definitely a top pick in a fairly dry year for children's literature. We need more kids like this out there in books....more
Holy crap. This book was intense. Like of all of the works by Woolf I've read so far, things end as you start racing toward a different (or new) levelHoly crap. This book was intense. Like of all of the works by Woolf I've read so far, things end as you start racing toward a different (or new) level of consciousness - right on the cusp, and you are left gasping as things don't come to a definitive resolution. How can anything really be resolved though when life is always in context and always on the verge of new beginnings?
I loved the shifting points of view and also toward the end the way characters uttered the same or similar phrases without actually speaking them aloud to each other. Major shifts in character relations or plot lines were uttered (as is typical with Woolf) without preamble and anticlimactically so as to in fact amplify their significance.
This book is about death, but it's also about reconciling yourself to how life changes - some things stay the same and others fall away unforgivingly. There is also the comfort of shared experiences. Not my favorite of Woolf's books but definitely the most far-reaching in terms of impact....more
A slow starter that gradually grows into a thrilling tale of espionage set during the American Revolution! This book has classic children's literatureA slow starter that gradually grows into a thrilling tale of espionage set during the American Revolution! This book has classic children's literature written all over it in the vein of stories like My Brother Sam Is Dead, The Witch of Blackbird Pond and Johnny Tremain. Avi mixes hefty amounts of period vocabulary and language with real historical figures to successful effect. Sophia Calderwood becomes a spy in the home of British General Clinton in hopes of avenging her brother's death at the onset of the war. It is there that she learns of a plot between a British officer who boarded in her family's home when she was 12 and a famous Continental general. Torn between duty to her country and her brother's memory and her lingering childhood feelings for the charming enemy officer who once lodged in her home, Sophia must decide which side she is on as the time draws near for the plot to be executed.
A little heavy on historical detail at times, but overall the reader can learn a lot about the period without growing so bored as to put the book down. Sophia is an admirable and realistic heroine, who behaves fairly authentically for a girl her age; she ages from 12 to 15 by the end of the story. The ending was a little dramatic, and I had trouble believing in the depth of some of Sophia's feelings, but on the whole, this was a riveting tale of espionage. And, the spy is a girl - a great hook to use during a book talk!...more
What a creepy, strange, dark little book. Reading this felt like wielding a blunt instrument. The writing veered this way and that sometimes with littWhat a creepy, strange, dark little book. Reading this felt like wielding a blunt instrument. The writing veered this way and that sometimes with little connection between scenes and characters. Told from several points of view, this book is a grim tale of prejudice, human stupidity, cowardice, loneliness and a kind of blundering savagery. Laurel Shelton has spent her life in what the people of her town consider to be a cursed cove. Her brother Hank has just returned from World War I without a hand. Their mother died long ago, and their father only died within the last year. Laurel spent about a year in what the author repeatedly refers to as this gloamy cove - an experience she all but vows not to relive. The Shelton farm has been neglected, and the house itself lacks a calendar and a working clock. Laurel sees no reason to replace these things - preferring to orient herself to the days of the week based upon when the family's only friend - an old man name Slidell - shows up periodically with supplies and information. The people in town have always avoided the cove, saying it brings ill fortune to its inhabitants. And Laurel is shunned as a witch because of a birthmark she has on her arm.
This book is very short, and you do experience a sense of place while reading, though the sense of place is perhaps not as evocative as the author would like. The writing had a lot of gaps and lacked nuance. The characters were thinly drawn, and it was hard to get at anyone but Laurel, though she herself was more an animate incarnation of numbed loneliness, combined with a naive dreaminess about the future.
One day Laurel comes upon a man in the woods playing a flute. After he is nearly stung to death by bees, she brings him back to the cove and revives him. Purporting to be an illiterate mute, Walter agrees to help Laurel's brother repair the farm. Laurel meanwhile has designs on Walter, who seems to immediately reciprocate the instant Laurel turns her gaze upon him. Their relationship had little development or detail. It merely happens and seems to develop primarily because they both happen to be in the same place at the same time. Walter has a secret that the author seems to want to readers to guess right away because of the note he provides right before the first page. This secret brings doom, gloom (or should I say gloam?) and disaster upon everyone.
The villain of the story had an unnecessary level of time given to his narrative arc. Chauncey Feith is a cowardly army recruiter who preferred to stay at home rather than fight overseas. He is a lifelong fool who was bullied as a child and continues to experience bullying as an adult. His personality is hollow, foolish and without consequence. To give so much time to his story was worthless, because the author seemed to envision this villain as a stock character. His actions were obvious, and his character had no depth. His end was probably the only appropriate thing about him.
Regarding the end, without totally giving it away, it was abrupt and brutal. The last 30 pages were a race to a dead end. I'm not sure what the larger picture was with this book. The characters had little to say, made few connections or observations and were more or less stereotypes. And what individuality they possessed wasn't expanded upon to any kind of satisfying degree. I won't be reading anything else by this author....more
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A fascinating story that sheds light on a turbulent time in Irish history, as well as the phenomCheck this review out and others on my blog: Get Real.
A fascinating story that sheds light on a turbulent time in Irish history, as well as the phenomenon of bog bodies. Fergus McCann's brother Joe is doing time in a Northern Irish prison for collaborating with terrorists during the Troubles - a brutal period in Irish history that culminated in violent deaths on the sides of Republicans and Unionists alike. Joe and the other prisoners in his bloc are undergoing a hunger strike as part of a protest, and this decision not only puts strain on Joe, but also his family.
Fergus doesn't have hardcore political affiliations. He believes in a united Ireland, but he believes more in getting out of a war-torn world and becoming a doctor, as long as he can pass his graduation exams.
From the outset of the story, the mood is gloomy, depressed and tense. Fergus and his uncle Tally begin the story illegally harvesting peat, so they can sell it to people as fuel for heating homes. During their illicit endeavor they happen upon the long-dead but well-preserved body of a girl. The story of how the girl came to be in the bog merges well with the draining goings-on of Fergus' family issues and the political strife of the times. The writing and the atmosphere were great. The story felt timeless, but still managed to include elements from the era (the early 1980s) without seeming dated. Everything felt very remote - a consequence of the mood of the book - and yet the story evoked the right emotions when necessary.
One complaint I had involved the lack of detail in some instances - particularly in reference to the character Cora, who I thought got a bit of a raw deal in the end as far as her portrayal went. Sometimes things passed by with characters, but not enough time was lent to the characters' motivations. However, the surreal nature of the story more than made up for this flaw, and I enjoyed the book from beginning to end. Strangely, this seemed like a story that would resonate more with adults even though I found the tone and style appropriate for teens. I would recommend this book to both audiences. ...more
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Guessed what this might be all about (in one sense) early on and hoped I was wronCheck out a full review of this book and others on my blog: Get Real.
Guessed what this might be all about (in one sense) early on and hoped I was wrong. It's unfortunate when you're right about something you don't want to be right about. This story was transparent, caricatured and underdeveloped. The narrative devices were distractingly stylized and attempted to mask the thin characterization. Bits and pieces of good writing sometimes emerged but were later obscured by melodrama. This story relied heavily on a trick, and it wasn't much of a trick anyway. Veers slightly into a kind of magic realism later and then abruptly ends. Disappointing, as E. Lockhart is a better writer than this by far. I felt a little bit like I had picked up the book equivalent of a Lifetime movie. Gets two stars instead of one because it was thoroughly engrossing in spite of itself. Just goes to show that even when you're off your game, you're still kind of on it anyway....more
This book was wonderful. Virginia Woolf succeeded completely in capturing the quiet tumult of the mind in this work. The links and gaps between our inThis book was wonderful. Virginia Woolf succeeded completely in capturing the quiet tumult of the mind in this work. The links and gaps between our interior thoughts (and the exterior world's impressions and interruptions on them) were beautifully conveyed here. I put this book down in high school after 50 pages or something, but sticking with it the second time around (by now probably 12 or 13 years later?) was worth it. It's hard to describe this book, but the things we say and the things we don't say (and how we interact with each other under both sets of circumstances) is shown spectacularly in this. For a book with so little happening I began to be riveted as I read on. It is clear that the unrepentant passage of time and the changes that go with it were at once beautiful and rending to the author. Her characters feel concrete and ephemeral at once based on small details about their behavior. ...more
Good book about animals, particularly Ospreys. Takes place in Scotland and the author definitely emphasizes that with the number of English referencesGood book about animals, particularly Ospreys. Takes place in Scotland and the author definitely emphasizes that with the number of English references and colloquialisms throughout the book. This book has two specific sections that readers will readily be able to spot. Good characters, but not for the faint of heart....more
This is a story within a story (or maybe I should say stories within a story). A monster visits 13-year-old Conor O'Malley one night after he has wokeThis is a story within a story (or maybe I should say stories within a story). A monster visits 13-year-old Conor O'Malley one night after he has woken up from another nightmare in which he has been visited by a different and unnamed monster. The monster who does visit is embodied in a yew tree that he can see from his kitchen window. This monster is going to tell him some hard truths about life, and Conor is going to have to tell the monster some truths by the end of their time together.
Bleak and yet funny, this is a moving story about coming to terms with loss. The illustrations and spare prose amplify the chilling atmosphere, and toward the end, telling the truth feels like running the last leg of a race. This is a scary book, but it's also an important one and a necessary one for the right person to read. I'd give this whatever award it qualifies for....more
This is called Mrs. Dalloway, but most of the book is experienced through the eyes of others. Virginia Woolf very cunningly depicts how the profound cThis is called Mrs. Dalloway, but most of the book is experienced through the eyes of others. Virginia Woolf very cunningly depicts how the profound can take place within the minutiae of a single day. This book isn't so much about Mrs. Dalloway herself as it is about the life Mrs. Dalloway leads (and this is shown even when experiencing the world through the eyes of people she has never met). You still get a sense of the world she inhabits. Virginia Woolf's prose is excellent. Some passages you can't help but read aloud because of how descriptive and eloquent they are. Big Ben sounds hours throughout the course of the novel to orient the reader to how much (or in fact how little) time has passed. Time passing has a two-fold effect on the novel. These characters are grappling with the fact that for most of them the happiest moments of their lives are long since over. Woolf demonstrates that life is intense and wonderful moment by moment. However, when these moments of joy pass, Woolf asserts that the loss of them sometimes cannot be remedied. In light of her own suicide, she succeeds and fails in seeing the joy we are capable of experiencing each day....more
Another good one by this author. This is a sequel of sorts to Saving Francesca, but with Tom Mackee as the main character (though he shares the novelAnother good one by this author. This is a sequel of sorts to Saving Francesca, but with Tom Mackee as the main character (though he shares the novel with his Aunt Georgie). In Saving Francesca, it was intimated that Tom had some troubles, but nothing that seemed to get him especially down. In this book, Tom is two years out from losing an uncle to a terrorist attack in London and his family has completely broken down in the wake of it. Tom gets lost in drugs, etc. and ignores all of his old friends. Georgie meanwhile is pregnant at 42 from a guy she broke up with seven years ago for cheating on her. After hitting rock bottom one night, Tom winds up living with Georgie and they both try to rebuild their lives from this point.
This book could have been marketed as an adult novel due to its mature themes and the fact that none of the main characters are teens. What I love about Marchetta is how authentically she writes about teens and clearly adults as well after reading this story. I especially love how she can portray a scene cluttered with emotional strife that soon after evolves into people coming out on the other side in a very anti-climactic way (i.e. awkwardly getting ice cream with your whole extended family after having a blowout with your kind-of boyfriend in the kitchen). There are a lot of Australian references in this book, but it doesn't diminish your enjoyment. I ignored much of it and I didn't feel like I lost anything for it.
This book was very high on my list of quality books this author has written. I think I summarized my reaction to Jellicoe Road for a class as feeling gutted. This book doesn't do that, but it's a different kind of story (more mature, more encompassing in that it involves more than one main character - really, Tom's whole family is a character). What I really appreciated was the way serious moments or revelations were expressed or shared quietly in this book, sometimes in silence (see a particular phone conversation in this book as an example).
You don't need to have read Saving Francesca to understand this book at all, but it was interesting to see how the characters changed from one book to the other. Tom is much more than just a joker now, and secondary, almost flat, characters from Saving Francesca became much more vivid in The Piper's Son. Tara Finke really changed for me, as not just an outspoken girl, but actually someone very vulnerable and unsure of herself. Siobhan Sullivan, who was kind of just a jaded girl who slept around, exhibited a lot of strength in absentia (because she never physically appears in the book). By the same turn, Francesca blended more into the wall in this book. Will probably reread this book as I have reread most of Marchetta's stuff!
Good book in verse about a girl dealing with the death of her grandmother due (probably) to alzheimer's. The book starts with the grandmother incohereGood book in verse about a girl dealing with the death of her grandmother due (probably) to alzheimer's. The book starts with the grandmother incoherent and ill and continues with her death and how the girl deals with it. A good book for dealing with the loss of a family member. Not overly detailed given the subject matter, but it's good for younger kids who wouldn't want to be bogged down with lots of introspective details....more
Read this in a few hours after work. It's a really quick read told using current media as a storytelling venue. The original Dracula was told using leRead this in a few hours after work. It's a really quick read told using current media as a storytelling venue. The original Dracula was told using letters, diary entries, news articles, etc. This story is told through Web pages, text messages, e-mails and Internet news articles. It's your basic horror-thriller. Engaging, unique (comes with an interactive mobile app) and the characters actually have some appeal despite the narrow venue provided for development for them. The original, from what I remember, had Jonathan Harker as the main character and teller of the story. In this version, he provides some of the exposition, but the author gives you a twist and makes Harker's girlfriend the hero. Fun little book. ...more
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This book was an intense page-turner and yet difficult to get through because of the subject matCheck this review out and others on my blog: Get Real.
This book was an intense page-turner and yet difficult to get through because of the subject matter. The dramatized story of Arn Chorn-Pond, a Cambodian boy forced into the life of a slave and then a child soldier under the Khmer Rouge regime. This is an understatement to say that this was a terrible, terrible time for humanity. Akin to the Holocaust, Arn is separated from his family, forced to kill others to survive and then armed by the Khmer Rouge in the final days of the regime. This book is probably best suited to eighth grade and up, though adults will find this material difficult to digest as well. Arn lived right in the middle of what came to be known as the Killing Fields - people were buried alive, had their organs cut out before their own eyes and executed en masse because of their perceived association with the old government.
I'm a bit speechless about this book. Arn is adopted by Americans, but his troubles don't end there. Americans remained suspicious of him, and he is plagued by nightmares of what he endured. He was nearly worked to death, but somehow managed to survived through luck and his own ingenuity. He becomes a member of a nationalist band comprising children, who are ordered to play when people are killed, so no one can hear the screams and the gunfire.
This book comes with an afterward and sources for more information about the Khmer Rouge and how to help rebuild Cambodia, which is still recovering from the effects of this short but terrible time in history. A short book, but gripping page by page. Patricia McCormick took a risk by giving Arn's voice a dialect reflective of a non-native speaker of English. It worked well, and you got a better sense of who he was by allowing his voice to remain the way you would hear it if he spoke to you himself.
A brilliant portrait of someone who never gave up even when he lost hope. ...more
Great book for about 6th- through 8th grade. Amos begins his life in strife, with his mother dying giving birth to him. He gets passed around to varioGreat book for about 6th- through 8th grade. Amos begins his life in strife, with his mother dying giving birth to him. He gets passed around to various care givers until finally settling into an unusual family circle with his father, his native american stepmother, his mother's sister and her partner and their son. The book covers 26 years and uses the skill of being able to find wells in the land as a metaphor for survival....more
This is a quick read for a quiet weekend. I started this book on a Friday, and even after working all day Saturday I still managed to finis*3.5 stars*
This is a quick read for a quiet weekend. I started this book on a Friday, and even after working all day Saturday I still managed to finish it on a non-compelling Sunday. I wanted to say this was a "good" read, but that would imply some sense of happiness could be gleaned from this story. I came across a review of this book that stated reading it was like watching a pendulum swing, and that's a very accurate description. Probably an even more apt simile would be to say the narrative is constructed like an elastic band that is repeatedly pulled tight and then released. At multiple points in the Solitude of Prime Numbers Paolo Giordano brings the narrative to such a tense position that you can't help but think things HAVE TO change for these characters. But in the blink of an eye, the author sends the story right back to where it started, with everyone dazed, unhappy, angry, afraid and arrested by the world around them.
Alice and Mattia are both extremely damaged people, become so due to trauma experienced during childhood. They see something in each other that reflects their own loneliness back to them, but as hard as they try to go beyond arms length in their relationship, they are unable to do so. This phenomenon is explained in the principle of prime numbers - divisible only by one and themselves. Alice and Mattia make attempts throughout their lives to move beyond their inertia but in the end are consumed by the desire to remain as they are. They're sadder for it but also relieved and finally at peace to know that this is the course their lives will take. In one sense you wonder if there is a tiny bit of hope left at the end, but I'm not sure I can see that in between the lines.
The prose is done in a style that tells rather than shows, which left the characters somewhat impenetrable. Such a device is often self-conscious and ultimately conceited even though I've seen it in other stories that largely pulled it off (including this one). There were some really profound moments in the writing, and the pendulum described above created a lot of dramatic tension. But, at times things became artificially dramatic for no apparent reason other than to further the atmosphere of isolation.
This book reminded me a bit of Splendor in the Grass, except with math and set in Italy . If you've seen that movie this will all become clear to you, though that movie probably ended with a little more hope in mind for the characters. A conflicting book. ...more
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This was a great book. The Raven Boys makes use of the good things about Stiefvater's most well-Check this review out and others on my blog: Get Real.
This was a great book. The Raven Boys makes use of the good things about Stiefvater's most well-known series The Wolves of Mercy Falls (Shiver) but in a more understated (and therefore easier to take) manner. This story is also more complex and intricate without being needlessly complicated. The Raven Boys has a great sense of pacing. It starts slowly but steadily, with small developments popping up in every scene without leaving you catching your breath if you don't finish. While thrilling, that kind of writing can be a bit of a cheap parlor trick if the rest of the story doesn't have anything to give. In this case, the rest of the story delivers. The characterization built subtly, and I found that even though this story was a paranormal tale, it made sense to me within the parameters of the plot line. A couple of things were left unanswered, but I found them to be intriguing and more a necessary plot device than a failure on the part of the writer.
So what's this about? It's hard to say, because this story isn't what you think it is. Blue is the only girl among a group of boys that sets out on the search for an ancient Welsh king believed to be sleeping rather than dead. If you wake him, he will grant you any favor you ask. Blue finds herself among these boys because she learns through her family of professional psychics that she and the boys' leader Gansey are connected: after seeing a vision of him in a churchyard one night, Blue learns this is only possible for her because either Gansey is her true love or she kills him. And, on top of this, Blue has always been told that she will kill her true love by kissing him.
You would expect a horribly angst-ridden drama fest from this, but it's not that at all. In fact, no one kisses anyone by the end of this story. Stiefvater lays the groundwork for a story about friendship, secrecy, betrayal, many kinds of non-romantic love, obsessive determination and finding your true self and your true purpose.
I liked Blue. She was tough, funny and fairly optimistic in spite of herself; for someone who accepts that she's fated to kill her true love, she takes each day in stride. Blue also held her own among these guys. Additionally, I liked Blue's relationship with her psychic mother and her friends. Too often adults are absent in YA novels, and I'm sorry - that's not realistic a lot of the time. In the Raven Boys, Blue has an active and open relationship with the adults in her life. They felt real, and I enjoyed that.
Gansey and his friends are all complicated, each in their own way. I don't want to get too into that part, because their relationships to each other really drive the action of the story in a lot of ways. When this story ends, you're left contemplating how they all end up. Maybe it's the time of year, but this was a fun story that had some excellently chilling aspects.
One last point: fans of The Dark Is Rising series by Susan Cooper will flock to this series. The Raven Boys borrows heavily from the mythology used in this children's classic, so consequently some of the plot lines are similar, but in the best way....more
This was a strange book, which you might expect from the author of Tender Morsels. Much like that book, The Brides of Rollrock Island is captivating aThis was a strange book, which you might expect from the author of Tender Morsels. Much like that book, The Brides of Rollrock Island is captivating and yet disturbing, hard to read and yet a valuable book to experience. This story is based on an Irish legend about women being born from the hearts of seals. An ill-treated and vengeful witch named Misskaella can draw women from the seals of Rollrock and does so for the island's men for a price, but the price the men pay is of course much larger and far-reaching than they bargained for. This book is hard to take but not so hard to take that you question whether to finish it. Much like Tender Morsels there is light at the end of the tunnel. The seal women of Rollrock are beautiful, nurturing and strange. They are also not meant for the land; they are detached and sad and always longing for the sea.
This is a book about thoughtlessness, cruelty, selfishness and selflessness at the same time. It's very cynical at first glance - would all men just forsake their wives, sisters and mothers for the chance to have an enthralling, fantastical seal wife who will wrap them up in a limitless cocoon of devotion? This longing for a seal wife is more than a desire for fantasy fulfillment though. I couldn't help but sympathize somewhat with one of the characters when he asked for a seal wife even though he knew he shouldn't. There's a sense of safety and communion involved with this. Don't get me wrong though - there's abject cruelty involved in taking a seal wife. Readers will see how many layers there are to human longing and suffering in this story.
Just the same, it was hard to read. Margo Lanagan writes in a way that makes you think she's out to paint portraits of senseless misery. It's a hard trek to the light at the end of the tunnel. One flaw with this book is that I didn't really enjoy the vignetted nature of the narrative. While each of the stories was connected, I think I would have preferred if Lanagan worked with a narrower set of viewpoints. I also wanted a stronger viewpoint from the seal wives. They came off too much like a conglomerate of sad, hollow-eyed women without singular identities.
This is worth checking out, but read carefully and set out to work hard. Lanagan is a strange author but a rewarding one. A final observation, Lanagan is marketed as a YA author, but I think her books are too complex, too harsh and too layered to be considered teen novels. She asks her audience to make adult observations. That's not to say teens can't do that, but she's not a YA novelist....more
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What a weird little book. That was the first thought that came into my mind after I finally finiCheck this review out and others on my blog: Get Real.
What a weird little book. That was the first thought that came into my mind after I finally finished this story. The writing in parts was good, and sometimes I found myself caught up in this hard tale about two orphans trying to make ends meet in Victorian London. However, the plot lines never fully gelled for me, even when they finally intersected, and I couldn't get invested in the story. Honestly, Schlitz did a good job replicating a Dickensian style, in all its wordiness, broken dialect and cast of strange characters that ultimately have no real bearing on the story despite how they connect the plot threads. It took a long time and a lot of self-enforced reading to get through this story, which didn't become gripping until the final third.
Schlitz worked hard at constructing a realistic world, and I could see every detail in my mind. You could see how she won the Newbery Award for her non-fiction book about Medieval Times - she does her research and has a keen attention to detail. I just couldn't get fully into this story. It was hard to connect with the characters for a long time, and something about the story felt a little stock. I'm not sure this will find much of an audience. I almost dropped this book several times out of boredom, but I felt guilty about not finishing.
There were some fairytale elements to this story, though I liked that part of the story the least. At one point, a child is turned into a puppet, and later on you learn the villains are more than they appear to be. That aspect just didn't add much to the story for me. An interesting commentary on dealing with grief was outlined throughout the story, but none of the very separate elements in this book came together. Oh well......more
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This book was scary! It got so scary that I didn't even like reading it during the daytime. AndCheck this review out and others on my blog: Get Real.
This book was scary! It got so scary that I didn't even like reading it during the daytime. And yet, at the same time, I found myself bored at certain parts. To say the stars align in the Diviners is true from all angles - the fates of every kind of 1920s New Yorker converge in this story, and it's not ultimately for the better. When Evie O'Neill is exiled to New York for divining the secrets of a well-to-do young man at a party in her hometown in Ohio, she is ecstatic. New York is just the right size for a larger-than-life flapper, but when Evie arrives to stay with her uncle (who is curator of the Museum of the Creepy Crawlies), she gets a lot more than she bargained for. I have to hand it to Libba Bray that the more than Evie bargained for is not sex, drugs and rock and roll, so to speak. She comes into her power and winds up working on a murder case with her uncle, who is called in to consult on why the victim has strange occult symbols on her body.
Evie meets so many characters, and the reader meets so many more. Keeping track of everyone and all of their related plot points was exhausting. I loved Bray's writing, though it often mirrored F. Scott Fitzgerald a little too much for my taste. I just couldn't become invested in any one character because the author kept jumping around. I read over 350 pages of setup. The last leg of the plot started to race, but I almost put the book down several times. Also, I'm not sure what the overarching message of this book was. These kids were all outsiders, but I didn't get any commentary about what any of it all meant. What was the author trying to say about bringing together the teen versions of Langston Hughes, The Greay Gatsby's Daisy Buchanan, Lurch from the Addams Family and so many other characters who should have been so much more interesting than they were.
The only character I really wound up connecting with was Theta. She seemed as bored with the story as I was in parts. Her backstory is complicated and had teeth. The rest of the characters either had cliched histories or I never learned enough about them to care much. I also became confused about who had super powers and which kinds. I loved the atmosphere in the story too, but it was so hard to care about a lot of what was going on. Just the same, I'm intrigued enough to give the sequel a shot, but I hope Bray dispenses with the setup and the character leapfrogging and just writes a story. ...more
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True to its word, the latest installment in The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater is about dreamsCheck this review out and others on my blog: Get Real.
True to its word, the latest installment in The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater is about dreams and the things we take from them. However, not all dreams come with sleep, and in this story dreams are more often akin to nightmares. The Dream Thieves is a surreal and complex book about the nature of secrets, desire, fear, obsession, self-loathing, love and malice. It is also a story rife with anxiety. I dreaded reading this book. My discomfort however did not stem from the presence of a supernatural threat, or a fear that a character might meet an untimely end. My sense of dread in The Dream Thieves, appropriately, grew out of the author's examination of the characters' troubled and troubling psyches.
Adam, who is perhaps the most troubled member of the cast, succinctly reveals the nature of this story early on when asking himself what he wants: "To feel awake when my eyes are open." This line conveys the struggle all the characters face throughout — the disconnect between what they want and what's actually before them.
The Dream Thieves continues the characters' quest to find the ancient Welsh king Glendower, who is possibly lying buried in a rural town in Virginia. Picking up from the ominous conclusion of The Raven Boys, this book brings a different focus to the search. There is less to do with the search itself and more to do with the searchers. The quest for Glendower took a bit of a back seat to the psychological plundering everyone did in this book, and I have to say that turned out for the best. Maggie Stiefvater is a descriptive writer able to create a sense of atmosphere so palpable at times one feels transported to the scenes she draws. Even at her most middling, Stiefvater knows how to set the mood. She also knows teens. The struggles the kids in this story face make real-world sense despite their supernatural trappings, and the characters' voices are authentic.
This is a sophisticated series that still manages to remain suited for the intended audience. Some of the author's narrative choices however may frustrate readers who want immediate answers to the many mysteries in these books. Additionally, character revelations are often brought to light through the observations of others, thus preventing readers from fully examining character motivations. This is a fairly complex technique that at first would seem shoddy. It's not; Stiefvater by doing this is fully getting at the nature of perception and relationships. The Dream Thieves is about the most unknown corners of existence — our own minds. Therefore, there will be gaps in the narrative at times. I will admit that more needs to be said about certain occurrences, but with two more books to go in this series, I'm expecting more development later. At its heart, I consider the Raven Cycle to be more of a mystery than anything else. There are quite a few twists and turns throughout, and The Dream Thieves in particular possesses a conclusion that delightedly leaves the reader on tenter hooks....more
Super affecting and super uplifting story of the Jewish resistance during the Holocaust. This resistance came in several forms, including combative, bSuper affecting and super uplifting story of the Jewish resistance during the Holocaust. This resistance came in several forms, including combative, but also through distributing leaflets, protesting, smuggling and through armed uprisings in camps. This book is very sad but also a story of hope and courage. Each chapter discusses a specific incident or individual story, and the author provides resolution at the end of each situation. You know how things turned out for these people for good or ill. The photographs that go with some of these incidents alternate between hopeful and horrific. When first-hand accounts are provided they really amplify the text, though I would say this is one element that could have been included more than it was. Sometimes though describing the incident itself is enough to illustrate its severity. The courage of these people is unparalleled....more
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This was an affecting story about the real-life Kindertransports that evacuated Jewish childrenCheck this review out and others on my blog: Get Real.
This was an affecting story about the real-life Kindertransports that evacuated Jewish children to England from Germany during the Holocaust. Franziska Mangold and her family are practicing Christians but according to the Nazis her Jewish ancestry is enough for her family to be considered Jewish now.
After Franziska's father is imprisoned, her mother makes the difficult decision to send her to England as part of a refugee program that pairs German Jewish children with English Jewish families. Not particularly close to her mother prior to her evacuation, it is in England that Franziska finally experiences the comfort of having a mother and brother. Despite an initially rocky start, Franziska learns about Jewish culture, what it means to be a family and more.
This story had a strange cadence to the narrative, which was never easy to adjust to right up to the end. The tone was simultaneously distant and yet immediate. The same goes for the descriptions and interactions of the characters. At times I felt like I had a clear picture in mind of who these people were, but in others it seemed vague. The tone was definitely appropriate for the subject though, and while the story was sad at times, it wasn't horribly hard to take.
While not inappropriate for upper elementary, it's perhaps too mature and dense for that age group to grasp. This book is better suited to middle-graders, who can more readily understand the horror of the Holocaust. Younger students may not be able to take or understand the rupture Franziska's German family experiences because of the war. Still, a unique topic among the stories of the Holocaust and worth looking at in this interesting book....more