This stunning, engrossing and, yes, at times delightful debut novel deserves a one-word review: Krasivaya. Krasivaya is a Russian word that means "beThis stunning, engrossing and, yes, at times delightful debut novel deserves a one-word review: Krasivaya. Krasivaya is a Russian word that means "beautiful, but with strength."
BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY is just that, beautiful and strong. Every step of the way. Moreover, the narrator Lina Vilkas is krasivaya to the max and a character you will never forget. If this sounds like I am excited to share the good news about Ruta Sepetys's debut novel, let me tell you, "excited" doesn't quite get there. I am enthralled. There are a few characters in novels whose names I will never forget. Becky Thatcher, Anne Frank, and now Lina Vilkas. She will live with me forever and my life is enriched because she does.
You can read what this book "is about" elsewhere online. It's the first-person narrative of a 15-year-old girl caught up, with her family, in Stalin's inhumane deportation of Lithuanian familes to Siberia in 1941. Think Hitler was bad? He didn't win the war. Stalin kept the Lithuanian (and other Balkan) families in forced-labor camps in Siberia (and elswhere) well into the 1950s. Families? Yes. Well, those who survived.
Lina's love of life and her daily struggle to understand humanity while "safe in the arms of hell" ripped my heart out and set it on the table so I could look at it... still beating... page after wonderful, chilling, beautiful page. That said, please don't be afraid of this book. Lina wants you to know. She wants you to see and she wants you to celebrate the small victories for her and her family and the other families around her.
As Lina describes her happiness to help others, a happiness she had to learn, the reader finds a happiness in reading of the ultimate triumph of the human heart to be, well, human. Or, as Lina puts it: "We'd been trying to touch the sky from the bottom of the ocean. I realized that if we boosted one another, maybe we'd get a little closer."
If you want to read writing better than this, you're going to have learn a foreign language. BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY receives my vote for best Young Adult novel of the decade. Beyond that, I'd recommend it to anyone of any age who still has a breath of life left in them. Lina will remind you what life is all about. And, what the hell, you get to learn a little history along the way. Expect a Newberry Medal.. but don't bet against BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY being short-listed for a National Book Award. Yes, it's that good and Ruta Sepetys is that rare of a writer. Krasivaya!
Be prepared to enter a brand new world in Roddy Doyle's classic "coming of age" novel, PADDY CLARKE, HA HA HA. The brand new world is your own childhoBe prepared to enter a brand new world in Roddy Doyle's classic "coming of age" novel, PADDY CLARKE, HA HA HA. The brand new world is your own childhood.
Okay, I don't like the phrase "coming of age" for novels that feature a youthful character who, by the end of the story, learns something. In the best of youth-protagonist novels, and PADDY CLARKE heads that group, the works are not so much about "coming of age," but of "being an age." Period. It's a whole world when it's done right and the reality of the moment is as magical as life itself.
Face it, we learn something every year of our lives. We "come of age" rather constantly or we aren't actually alive. Guess that happens. Roddy Doyle, on the other hand, is alive every minute of his life in his books and all we need do to join the living is read PADDY CLARKE, HA HA HA.
Okay, you figured it out. At this stage in my writing life, which involves doing novel-length stories, I have found no other "how to" text on writingOkay, you figured it out. At this stage in my writing life, which involves doing novel-length stories, I have found no other "how to" text on writing as helpful as Balker Snyder's SAVE THE CAT. On the surface, Snyder talks about how to write a screenplay. More importantly, though, he plainly presents the elements we all should consider when creating story in/for any media/genre. It's simple pie, actually. And sometimes plain ol pie is the best. Here's one example.
That said, different "how to" books fill needs for writers at different points in their own development of their craft. For people just starting out, you might do better with a "pep talk" how-to-write book all about how following your own heart matters because some people have and they have done well with that. Chances are, though, they learned something about story structure first. ...more
I'm here to mention books I love. David Almond, beginning with KIT'S WILDERNESS, my introduction to the author, is writing well beyond the scope of noI'm here to mention books I love. David Almond, beginning with KIT'S WILDERNESS, my introduction to the author, is writing well beyond the scope of normal YA stories... in eloguence, in topic, in setting, in drama. Few books are being published that reach the down-deep hidden away current history of being a person. I'm happy to report that all of David Almond's fiction does just that. If you're looking for easy-think chapter books that lay out adventures step-by-step, stick with Nancy Drew. If you're looking to grow from what you read, there is no better way to grow up than by reading David Almond.
SKIPPY DIES is not going to be the perfect book for everyone. It just happens to be the perfect book for me. And Paul Murray is the perfect writer forSKIPPY DIES is not going to be the perfect book for everyone. It just happens to be the perfect book for me. And Paul Murray is the perfect writer for when I feel like tugging on my big boy slacks and reading something that makes me go "Wow, I can't believe you just wrote that, you mf s.o.b., it is so incredbile, I have to read it again to see if I can catch up." SKIPPY DIES is wonderful, beautiful play by an author who knows how to ride the swings with no holds barred. Better put you seatbelt on. Paul Murray is going to show you how to turn a swing set into a roller coaster that simple keeps going higher and higher and higher... And, oh shit, someone dies? By the way, it's just some kids in school. Like Superman is just a guy with a cape. ...more
Welcome to Bumfuck Kansas, 21st-Century Pilgrims in the war on terror. Okay, the actual name of the town is the title of the book, Callisto. If you doWelcome to Bumfuck Kansas, 21st-Century Pilgrims in the war on terror. Okay, the actual name of the town is the title of the book, Callisto. If you do not laugh reading this darkly delicious and outright riotous satire, it is because you are too busy banging your head against the wall at how very close the narrative comes to summing up our government's mindset on fighting terror.
P.S. You don't fight terror, it fights you. ...more
Can't write my own review, so I'll go with the Kirkus Book Reviews notice. Hope this is okay.
STARRED. DEAD RULES Author: Russell, Randy
Review Date: MaCan't write my own review, so I'll go with the Kirkus Book Reviews notice. Hope this is okay.
STARRED. DEAD RULES Author: Russell, Randy
Review Date: May 15, 2011
Not your usual paranormal romance.
Romeo and Juliet meets Daniel Waters in folklorist Russell's wry teen debut. After a deadly freak bowling accident on a double date, high-school junior Jana Webster (of Webster and Haynes, regional champions in Duet Acting, as she's quick to mention) finds herself in Dead School, right in her hometown of Asheville, N.C. As in real high school, rules and cliques govern Dead School. Jana, a Riser (with a promising placement after graduation), is supposed to avoid Sliders (whose fates are on a downward spiral). Since Sliders still have an attachment to Earth, she asks Slider Mars to help her communicate with her boyfriend and love of her life, Michael Haynes. While Jana plots to kill Michael so they can be together forever, Mars believes Dead School is a chance to learn how to change their destinies. The pacing intensifies as Jana discovers the truth about her death, and the real star-crossed lovers emerge. Sarcastic quips and double entendres drive the story's humor, but it's the sensitivity of the supporting characters (like Beatrice, who after inviting her crush to her church picnic and sneaking off to the woods with him so he can feel her up, dies when a stray lawn dart strikes her head) that allows Jana (and readers) to see laughter within tragedy.
Smart, angry, and desperate, Shavonne, 17, is in juvenile detention again, and in her present-tense, first-person narrFrom BOOKLIST (Starred Review):
Smart, angry, and desperate, Shavonne, 17, is in juvenile detention again, and in her present-tense, first-person narrative, she describes the heartbreaking brutality that she suffered before she was locked up, as well as the harsh treatment, and sometimes the kindness, she encounters in juvie. With a mother who is a crack-addicted prostitute and a father she never knew who died in prison, she was sent into the foster-care system as a young child. One foster mother needed money for drugs, so she forced Shavonne, 11 at the time, to go with a man who raped her. While she was locked up, Shavonne gave birth, and she is glad that her daughter is now in a kind foster home.
As the title suggests, the story leaves room for “something like hope”; with all the pain and sorrow Shavonne endures, she is never broken. Not only does the African American teen survive, but she also nurtures needy fellow inmates, and she bonds with her counselor even as she tries to escape a vicious, racist supervisor. More than a situation, the story builds to a tense climax: What is the secret Shavonne cannot even think about?
Shavonne’s voice—witty, tender, explicit, and tough—will grab readers. In the tradition of Walter Dean Myers’ and Jacqueline Woodson’s novels, this winner of Delacorte’s 2009 prize for best YA debut gets behind the statistics to tell it like it is. — Hazel Rochman ...more
From BiblioReads: DOGSLED DREAMS: Twelve-year-old Rebecca dreams of becoming a famous sled dog racer. She’s an inventive but self-doubting musher whoFrom BiblioReads: DOGSLED DREAMS: Twelve-year-old Rebecca dreams of becoming a famous sled dog racer. She’s an inventive but self-doubting musher who tackles blinding blizzards, wild animal attacks, puppy training, and flying poo missiles. All of her challenges though, seem easier than living up to the dogs’ trust in her abilities. Rebecca runs her huskies along the crisp trails near Thunder Bay, Ontario, where northern lights flare and dangerous beavers lurk. Through the bond she shares with the dogs, Rebecca learns that hard work, dedication and living in the moment bring their own rewards.
Book review: Exhilarating. When Rebecca is dog sledding the reader quickly becomes one with the sport, the dogs and the scenery along with Rebecca. I was drawn into the world of dogsled dreams learning quite a bit about the nuances of the sport, but most importantly learning what matters most to this 12-yr dog-loving old girl who not only yearns for a chance to race and prove her capability, but also for the sense of family she’s been missing. It’s very easy to get lost in the pages of Dogsled Dreams. ...more