This was a short, quick read with a very funny main character who was likeable in spite of being unlikeable. Some mature content makes this book moreThis was a short, quick read with a very funny main character who was likeable in spite of being unlikeable. Some mature content makes this book more appropriate for 6th grade and up....more
Another lovely book in this series. Susan Cooper's writing is lyrical in some sections. Her descriptions of the landscape in Cornwall evoke the moodsAnother lovely book in this series. Susan Cooper's writing is lyrical in some sections. Her descriptions of the landscape in Cornwall evoke the moods of the characters and the themes of her work excellently. In this story, one of the things of power has been stolen, and Uncle Merry, Will Stanton and the Drew children must recover on the cliffs of Cornwall. All the elements from this series are present, but this story showcases the power of empathy and kindness and also depicts the loneliness that comes with serving only your own ends. Jane was a bigger player in this book, and deservedly so, as her actions have a large impact on this story. I was disappointed there wasn't much emphasis on Will Stanton's character in this book, but the rest of the story made up for it. Nobody does mood like Susan Cooper (at least among children's authors), and the sense of dread you get from the pacing and the descriptions is great....more
Primarily an ironic look at Victorian society, this book still seems to convey Woolf's interest in how experience changes the mind, looking at the sigPrimarily an ironic look at Victorian society, this book still seems to convey Woolf's interest in how experience changes the mind, looking at the sights and sounds of life in detail. In spite of trying to write a satirical little vignette, the author's artistic concerns and interests shown through. Not the most riveting of her works, but it was pleasant. I like how Woolf examined manners and other aspects of London society as seen through the eyes of a dog, a snobby dog at that. This wasn't a remarkable story, but it doesn't need to be. I have a feeling this was meant to give Woolf a respite from something else she was working on at that time. Much like her short stories, this is more of a curiosity than a necessary addition to the canon. I like the author's social commentary, but she shines more when writing about relationships and the affects of time on the psyche....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
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The Wicked and the Just could easily have been written by Karen Cushman, it resembles her work sCheck this review out and others on my blog: Get Real.
The Wicked and the Just could easily have been written by Karen Cushman, it resembles her work so much. She even blurbed it. I liked it though and don't consider it an outright ripoff. Medieval historical fiction about two girls dealing with widely different changes to their circumstances in 13th Century Great Britain. Cecily and her father are forced off their family estate by the older brother of her father, who has just returned from the Crusades and is the rightful heir to the manor because he is older. Cecily's father receives a post in Wales and may stay in a smaller home in an albeit more scenic location. Cecily is extremely angry about being uprooted and acts extremely imperious and bratty about the whole thing. Her passages are long and include all kinds of fun observations typical of a girl living during any time, let alone Medieval Great Britain. Upon settling in, Cecily meets Gwen, who lived in this house until the English showed up and more or less made servants out of all the native Welsh. The girls don't get along from the start. And Gwen's chapters are short and her mood is black. She hates these interlopers who have turned her into a servant.
It read very well, though I wish the author had provided some kind of glossary in the back. Many of the words were unfamiliar, and I couldn't make sense of some of the terms. It didn't ruin my comprehension, but it might frustrate a kid. Even though the chapters are delineated in alternating first-person, you don't get lost in who's who. I could tell the difference between Gwen and Cecily easily, because their speech patterns were different. And they referred to various characters with different spellings based on their different nationalities. Not something you'd necessarily hear when they spoke, but it adds a nice touch. Gwen's really hard and jaded. She loves her family and maybe even once loved the man who wants to marry her. But, in the wake of the English invasion, Gwen wants no part of the happy life she looked forward to before they showed up. Cecily meanwhile acts quite cruelly herself, and both girls come to learn what is wicked and what is just by the end. A great classroom book for middle-graders, who would have a ton of fun debating what constitutes justice and what constitutes revenge.
This book does not tie up neatly given the circumstances, but by the end of this story, some hard truths are learned by both girls. They may not end up friends, but given what happens to both of them, the understanding they reach and even mutual respect is satisfying. ...more
A good book about dealing with family issues. Ramona's father loses his job and this book deals with the effect it has on her family. Ramona also embaA good book about dealing with family issues. Ramona's father loses his job and this book deals with the effect it has on her family. Ramona also embarks on a campaign to get her father to quit smoking. I love the Ramona books. They really reflect the real lives of children and all they go through - good, bad and everything else....more
This was ok. I started skimming a little after the halfway point. The character development was too static, and Perry and Aria spent a large part of tThis was ok. I started skimming a little after the halfway point. The character development was too static, and Perry and Aria spent a large part of the book watching other people make active decisions rather than engaging in any meaningful choices themselves. Having two separate narratives worked in the previous book because you could see how each of them grew as they played off of each other. In this book, with the two of them separated for most of the book, it just created this "Meanwhile, back at the ranch..." kind of thing. Perry's section was less interesting than Aria's as he struggled to keep his tribe together after some infighting resulting primarily from her presence among them. Aria set off with their friend Roar to find Perry's absent sister in what amounted to a disastrous turn of events.
The pacing wasn't terribly bad, but I get tired of plot development with little character development. Draggin characters and dragging story made for a typically brittle part two in a trilogy....more
Super quick read about a boy named Nick who decides to make up a new word for pens called Frindle. This is at first done to annoy his English teacher,Super quick read about a boy named Nick who decides to make up a new word for pens called Frindle. This is at first done to annoy his English teacher, but it eventually becomes a declaration of independence. Nick can't figure out why some words have certain names, and when he doesn't get a sufficient answer, he embarks on an etymological adventure!...more
What a macabre little story that never gets strange enough to justify the odd beginning: Stella and Angel are staying with Stella's great-aunt LouiseWhat a macabre little story that never gets strange enough to justify the odd beginning: Stella and Angel are staying with Stella's great-aunt Louise for the summer (Stella's mother abandoned her, and Angel is a foster kid), and when Great-Aunt Louise dies unexpectedly one day, the girls bury her in the backyard so they don't have to go back into the foster system. Angel and Stella are very different and don't get along, but they must learn to work together to hide the fact that Louise has died. Over time, you can imagine that Angel and Stella learn to accept each other and become friends.
As far as this sort of thing happening, I think it probably has or even could happen. But I'm not sure I like it. I don't think Sara Pennypacker is encouraging children to do this, but more weight ought to be given to this. Stella tells the story and spends a lot of appropriate time reflecting on why her mother just can't seem to get it together. That to me seems like the story here, but it gets swallowed up by the side plot of trying to cover up Louise's demise. The author tries for some black comedy but doesn't really succeed, and instead it mostly just comes across as being in poor taste.
This book could have worked just as well without the whole "Louise is buried in the garden" premise. Two different girls are forced together and become friends... that could happen without the strange twist, and I think it would be more accessible to children, most of whom haven't buried their dead relatives in the backyard. Things don't wrap up entirely neatly at the end, but too neatly for my taste. You'll see. Stella's mother was too absent of a factor for me to really care that she never did turn up in person. Seems a bit convenient for me. Maybe fifth grade and up as far as audience? I'm not recommending it any time soon though....more
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So yeah - one star. I don't normally read books like this. I'm not too into paranormal or horrorCheck this review out and others on my blog: Get Real.
So yeah - one star. I don't normally read books like this. I'm not too into paranormal or horror, and I'm turned off by urban fantasy a lot of the time, with some exceptions. However, I gave this book a shot because I read a great review on a blog I like on the School Library Journal Web site. It's not hard to find if you're so inclined. I had issues with this book from the start. It's a modern-day twist on the Red Riding Hood fairytale. In this book, the wolf/wolves are werewolves who prey on young, vulnerable girls, and Red Riding Hood is depicted as two teenage sisters who hunt the wolves down and kill them. A little weird, but I was open to it. It seemed like it could have a cool feminist message, and the writer of said blog I mentioned above really harped on how great the bond was between these two sisters - the older of the two, Scarlett, was horribly disfigured protecting her younger sister Rosie when the wolves attacked them as children. Since then, Scarlett has defined herself as an avenging crusader, hell bent on eradicating the wolves. Rosie owes everything to her sister and works with her, but yearns for a different life. She also has a crush on Scarlett's only friend Silas, further complicating the situation.
I have several problems with this book. One, the author isn't that great of a writer. She loves to tell and rarely shows. You don't even really have to concentrate to get what's going on with this story. In fact, I was glazing over through the last third. Second, Pearce's inclusion of certain aspects of the traditional Red Riding Hood into modern-day Georgia don't really add up. For example, the girls wear red cloaks while hunting (yes, the kind with a hood). They don them in broad daylight with regular people around, who don't seem to bat an eyelash at the fact that it's Halloween all year for these kids. And then there's Silas, who comes from a long line of woodsmen who live in the forest and build their homes with their bare hands and who also know all about the existence of girl-eating werewolves. I don't get it either. While these are serious deficiencies, they don't absolutely ruin the book. They just make it pretty bland fare. My major problem with this story lies in how the author ultimately treats the plight of women (hunted by werewolves or in actuality living in a society that condones sexual assault; you may have figured out what's really going on here). It's nice that Scarlett and Rosie know how to kick ass, but by Page 150 or so, I came across an aspect of our culture I dread encountering in real life, let alone in a book: victim blaming.
These werewolves as symbols of sexual predators are attracted to vulnerable, helpless women who flaunt their sexuality. Scarlett and Rosie lure the wolves by exhibiting these tendencies. The wolves thrive on fear. Scarlett is out hunting one night and sees a large number of scantily-clad women, wearing lots of makeup and stumbling around drunkenly without a care. Scarlett dehumanizes them by likening their appearance to dragonflies, while Silas makes the statement that no longer makes this a feminist novel: It's like they're asking [for it]. I made a substitution here because he actually says they're asking to be eaten - same diff. Scarlett agrees with this sentiment. Now, I don't think Jackson Pearce intends to blame rape victims for their attacks; I just think she wrote herself into a corner and couldn't figure out how to get out of it. The protagonists are strong, but the victim blaming negates the good will outlined by the author in the beginning.
Soapboxing aside, I found the characters to be pretty flat. Silas was pretty blank-faced and bordered on creepy, and Scarlett was so consumed by revenge that at one point I thought she might want to consider counseling. I'm not judging - just saying. And here's Rosie caught in the middle of all of this. The poor girl just wants to take a few arts and crafts classes. Does it make her that bad of a person for wanting to make origami frogs for half an hour once a week instead of living and breathing hunting girl-eating werewolves for the rest of her life when there are other issues to be concerned about here? Seriously....more
What a nice surprise this book was! I saw it on that featured books section on the main page of this Web site, and the synopsis sounded intriguing. IWhat a nice surprise this book was! I saw it on that featured books section on the main page of this Web site, and the synopsis sounded intriguing. I love books about processing an event after it's over, which is what this story is all about. I loved Juliet, who at 32, has just finished writing under a pseudonym for five years about World War II. Her column was meant to provide a respite from this event while still focusing on it, and now that it's all over Juliet is ready to try something different... as soon as that comes along...
Something new pops up in the form of a letter from a pig farmer named Dawsey who lives on the Isle of Guernsey, which was occupied by the Nazis for the duration of the war. He came across a book Juliet used to own that still had her name and address on it. He liked it and was hoping for recommendations along the same lines. Through this minor occurrence, Juliet comes to learn all about the plight of the people on this island and the intricacies of their characters.
This was a short read with a tone that alternated between humorous and playful and reflective and profound. The entire novel is done in epistolary form, which is a refreshing technique even though it's not a new one. You also get a stylistic sense reminiscent of the literature, art and film from this time period without it coming across as hackneyed or like a pastiche.
I wish I could do this book as part of a club for teens at my library, but I know that I wouldn't have liked this book when I was a teen. It's a book about discovery and self-evaluation, but not the kind that comes with entering adulthood. It's clearly about a mature person who while still young is now trying to figure out what to do now that her early adult years are over. Within the context of such a life-changing event like World War II, it becomes even more profound....more
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If you read this book with a clipped Australian voice you can make it to the end without gettingCheck this review out and others on my blog: Get Real.
If you read this book with a clipped Australian voice you can make it to the end without getting too annoyed by all of the bad grammar and the weird dialect. If you read with an Appalachian voice, which to me is the only alternative given the parameters of the characters' speech patterns, you grow tired of that whole dialect thing quickly. Plus, it lends too much to a dust bowl vibe. You half expect the Joads to show up amid all of this talk of drought. Also, Battle Hymn of the Republic starts to loop in your head.
I picked this up because it got a good recommendation from School Library Journal. Amid all of this Hunger Games fervor, you can't have too many read-alike choices in your bag of readers' advisory tricks at the library. Very slow beginning, despite a promising first couple of chapters. The first 150-200 pages drag quite a bit. It doesn't help that there's not much description, spurred by the Cormac McCarthy style this author seems to be going for - no quotation marks for dialog, lots of terse remarks by the characters. This setting, a dust-ridden, future landscape in which most people live in a lawless world overrun by drug addicts and death matches, could have been so much more. However, the author doesn't describe it all that well and foregoes using her setting as a symbol of moral degradation, instead only conjuring dust storms when they suit her purpose.
Things picked up sometime after Page 200 - when Saba meets up with a bunch of scrappy revolutionaries and a drifter named Jack (are all drifters named Jack or is it just me?). At this point, actual action occurs even though Saba just spent the last 50 pages in a gladiator-style combat scenario. I like Saba, though she's very unlikable in a lot of ways. She'll do anything to find her kidnapped brother Lugh, but cares little for anything or anyone else - even her sister and the girls who save her from the death matches. But like the missed opportunity for good evocation of setting, Moira Young doesn't explore Saba's character as well as she could.
Things really rev up by the final third. Since the author squandered her early opportunities to make this book much more in depth and interesting early on, she had the good grace to turn it into an action story interspersed with romantic tension between Saba and Jack. It becomes much more predictable, but at least you know where things are headed at this rate. No longer left waiting for something bigger and more interesting to crop up, you can just sit back and let childish arguments and fights with flesh-eating worms wash over you like literary valium. I think I'm going to file this book under a pile of stuff that wasn't awful to read and gradually got better but ultimately turned out weak - stuff with sequels I may or may not get to any time soon. The main flaw with this book is a total lack of explanation for why things are the way they are. I can get over not knowing the details of the ecological disaster that brought us to this point, but why are people all hopped up on drugs? Why are people forced to participate in cage matches? What does this say about society? This had some of the same issues that Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi had - unexplained post-apocalyptic world, with characters that could have used just a bit more fleshing out. With Rossi's book, the writing was better and the characters were still more compelling than what I got from Blood Red Road. This book felt too much like a Hunger Games knockoff without the meat....more
Excellent book that stands the test of time! This is the sequel to Over Sea, Under Stone and it was a great second installment. While this book only cExcellent book that stands the test of time! This is the sequel to Over Sea, Under Stone and it was a great second installment. While this book only carries over one character from the previous story, the new cast is excellent. Will Stanton has traits with universal appeal for children and reminds me quite a bit of Harry Potter. This series actually shares many qualities with that one, and you can see that J.K. Rowling was probably inspired by and influenced by this series. Brilliant use of setting and great writing that foreshadows what's to come without coming off as over the top. A perfect quest story without the quest - in the traditional sense anyway; Will never leaves his neighborhood! I loved how Susan Cooper used aspects of traditional folklore and mythology to build her own story. The language is descriptive but appropriate for its intended age group. Lots of room for discussion in a classroom setting, and a perfect pairing for those interesting in reading something similar after finishing Harry Potter....more
For those hoping for new and deeper insight into this mysterious actor who died young in a tragic car accident, this book is a big disappointment. ThiFor those hoping for new and deeper insight into this mysterious actor who died young in a tragic car accident, this book is a big disappointment. This author is more concerned with re-cementing Dean's more popular portrayal as an all-American, heterosexual rebel than getting at any kind of truth about this person. Quotes are sparse and superficial, and bits of information that have long since come to light about Dean have been omitted in what seems like a blatant attempt by a biased, homophobic straight fan to save his boyhood impression of a tough guy movie star who inspired him.
This book has an almost instructional, elementary tone to it, which makes it seem more appropriate for teen audiences looking for background on the actor after stumbling upon one of his movies. I learned very little new information about Dean after reading this book, and I'm only a casual fan. The standouts about this book are the photographs. James Dean was extremely photogenic, and the photos taken of him showcase his personality far better than this author did. George Perry seems happy to continue to cloak Dean in mystery and adamantly denies long-suspected and more-recently revealed facts about the actor's bisexuality. He states it as fact rather than his own opinion, and I found this book woefully deficient.
What could have been an in-depth look at an outsider who spent his short life against the grain comes off as alienating. Teens who might have identified with the star's emotional issues and cloudy sexuality are left out in the cold here. I found the later sections of the book embarrassing in their tone.
However, this book was an easy read and engaging enough to keep you leafing through it despite the slight revelations about Dean. The actor's mystique and his compelling persona kept this book worth reading long after the appeal of its content was exhausted. I suppose you could say Dean rose above the raw deal he got in this book.
Another great biography, expressly written for teens about the life of another artist who went against the grain, is John Lennon: All I Want Is the Truth by Elizabeth Partridge. It has more for teens to dig into without romanticizing the musician's life....more
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This book is a love story, though not in the usual way. It's a brilliant narrative about the unbCheck this review out and others on my blog: Get Real.
This book is a love story, though not in the usual way. It's a brilliant narrative about the unbreakable friendship between two girls. Their friendship runs so deep that their lives seem fused. The cover art for this book is incredibly accurate. Two identical hands tied together: it's perfect. By the end of this story, you can't tell where one girl ends and the other begins. I don't know how to accurately summarize this book. All I can say is that many things aren't as they seem, and that others are exactly as they appear. In a world populated by Gossip Girl, Pretty Little Liars and their ilk, this book dares girls to be friends. But the word friend seems flimsy when describing the relationship between this pilot and spy during World War II. They are on a mission, flying over occupied France. The spy bails out of the plane when something goes wrong and is captured by the Nazis. She is separated from the pilot. To stave off her execution, the spy agrees to tell the Nazis everything she knows. But, what exactly is the truth here? What does the reader actually know in this story?
I can tell you that the reader can know with unflinching certainty that these girls are best friends. They get each other in a way nobody else does. They share everything. They don't have a lot in common, and their personalities are quite different, but they just understand one another. This book acutely describes what it's like to be best friends with someone. The connection is often instant and perfect. The best quote in the book is this: It's like falling in love, meeting your best friend for the first time.
I couldn't have said that better. The narrative is spare and eloquent, but also descriptive in the right spots. The settings don't need a lot of detail. You can imagine everything all too well. I love the voices of Verity and Maddie. They are authentic to the place and time and the ages of the girls but also feel timeless. I can't decide who I love more, though you're not meant to choose. These girls have it exactly right when they say: We are a sensational team....more
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As long as this book was (clocking in at 549 young adult, double-spaced pages), it also felt incCheck this review out and others on my blog: Get Real.
As long as this book was (clocking in at 549 young adult, double-spaced pages), it also felt incredibly short. An interesting premise: a girl who was abused throughout her life is taken in by a convent that trains women as avenging assassins. I picked this up because it got a star from School Library Journal, but boy did it disappoint.
It's funny how sometimes even a first-person narrative can still lack internal analysis on the part of the character. Ismae processed revelations - about herself and her circumstances - within single sentences before moving on to the next walk down a dark corridor. She takes to her new life as an assassin carrying out Death's orders like a duck to a water, but little is said about her motivation. Everything comes down superficially. This book could have been a great study in morality and ethics, a commentary about feminism in Medieval France or even an examination of how a mal-treated child can grow up to put that aside and learn to trust others. Sadly, this book was none of those things. I kept waiting for more and more never came.
The whole death's handmaiden aspect never excited me much, and I don't see why the author bothered to include it in her work. Whether or not there really was such a convent, why bother giving the sisters actual powers to commune with Death? That doesn't seem to be the big selling point of this kind of book to me.
The writing, while not amazing at first, was good enough to keep you interested... at first. It became rapidly more cliched. There are also random linguistic insertions throughout the dialogue to try to capture a historical time and place, but they were done sparingly and thus not effectively. You either have to go all the way or not at all. All in all, eh......more
A decent sequel to the first two books in the Lemonade War series. These books are highly readable, short and compact. Lacked that extra thematic elemA decent sequel to the first two books in the Lemonade War series. These books are highly readable, short and compact. Lacked that extra thematic element of the first two: economics and marketing in the Lemonade War and the justice system in the Lemonade Crime. Those interactive recurring elements made fairly typical stories stand out. This book that lacked that special element and was just a fairly typical story about a missing object. Evan and Jessie, in this story, arrive at their grandmother's farm after she accidentally caused a fire and had to stay a week in the hospital. Upon her release, they find Grandma isn't quite the same as they remember her. She has either dementia or alzheimer's, and that topic is treated pretty sensitively. Evan and Jessie also meet Grandma's neighbor - a 12-year-old boy named Maxwell, who has a form of autism or asperger's syndrome. That topic is treated fairly well until the end, when Jessie likens a particularly confusing conversation with him to being in a mental hospital. That's not an appropriate remark and doesn't ring true for an 8-year-old, who wouldn't understand what that means anyway. I think the author was trying to illustrate how a child would view talking to someone with autism, but it just didn't make sense.
Not a standout in the series, but fans of the first two will read this and probably enjoy it despite its lack of cohesion. This is a five-part series, so I'm interested to see where the final two will go. It would have been nice to see lemonade incorporated into the Bell Bandit in some capacity, but you can't blame an author for wanting to try something new. However, for a fourth-grader, sometimes that continuity is needed....more