A purportedly true, but billed as fiction, tale of a young man’s harrowing travels out...moreOriginal review posted at Layers of Thought.
3.5 stars actually.
A purportedly true, but billed as fiction, tale of a young man’s harrowing travels out of Afghanistan into various countries. Struggling as an illegal immigrant he eventually obtains political asylum in Italy.
About: Enaiat wakes up one morning to find his mother has abandoned him in Pakistan, after their small family’s flight from their home village in Afghanistan. Their village had been overtaken by the Taliban, who believe that Enaiat’s people have no value and treat them as such.
His mother, forced to leave her son for her survival, advises him on how to behave while he is asleep as she departs. So begins this young boy’s travels to many different countries where he is all but accepted. He finds that there are crocodiles not only in the sea but almost everywhere, with the title referencing an attempt to cross the Mediterranean in a too small rubber dingy to find relative safety. This is Enaiat’s amazing tale as he tries to find a home, sustenance and survival.
Thoughts: A short and engrossing novel at only 224 pages, it’s been translated from Italian to English. Author Fabio Ceda tells Enaiat’s story to the reader from the boy’s perspective – in the first person with occasional interjections and questions for the boy by the author. Due to the nature of memory and the lack of concrete evidence to support a factual book, the story has been designated fiction.
I listened to the book in audio and found it was hard to put down. I couldn’t stop rooting for Enaiat while admiring his ability to get by in the most horrific circumstances. This is my favorite kind of narrator – one who overcomes the odds no matter how difficult the situation, and Enaiat’s experiences where at times terrifying.
This book is a testament to the human spirit and the will to not only survive but to thrive no matter the situation. Highly recommended to anyone who is interested in the Middle East and particularly Afghanistan. It’s a 3.5 star read in my opinion and is also done well in audio. Recommended for adults but especially teens.(less)
A young adult dystopian that sounds so realistic in the audio version that it’s frightening. Funny and hea...moreOriginal review posted on Layers of Thought.
A young adult dystopian that sounds so realistic in the audio version that it’s frightening. Funny and heartbreaking, it will help readers think about what our world could become if capitalistic advertising is allowed to run wild in combination with technology.
About: It appears that Titus is a regular teenager, the only difference is that in his world everyone has a “feed” implanted in their brain. It transmits constant personalized ads into their vision and auditory senses, including a way to keep in constant contact with anyone at anytime. It’s responsible for the fact that actual reading has become a thing of the past, since all communications are voice and thought activated via the “feed”. Sadly, also in this world the oceans are toxic, sterile, and no fish exist all in response to their rampant consumerism.
It's all too normal for Titus and his friends. As they party, take trips to the moon, and ingest the occasional mind altering substance, they lead their “normal lives” with a “party on attitude”. However, this world view is about to change when Titus meets a girl named Violet who is very different from anyone he knows. He begins to realize that, along with all the teen fun and games, there is an underlying angst and horror which they are all trying desperately to ignore and marginalize.
Thoughts: I enjoyed listening to this book in audio, with its well done and interesting sound effects. Told in first person by Titus, it’s coupled with their future version of “teen speak”. I dare you not to go around calling friends and family members “Unit” instead of “Dude” or other current young adult colloquialism. There was a romantic element to the story which is told from the guy’s perspective which I enjoyed. With a realistic ending that is not your “drive into the sunset” cliché. There are a good number of interesting science based elements in addition to the implant – including cloning and hover cars, however the best bit is how the actual feed sounds in this audio version that I think is particularly brilliant.
I enjoyed this novel in audio and would recommend it for any teen (adult too) who enjoys a good dystopian. I could even imagine using the written version within the classroom as a modern day trade out for 1984 and Fahrenheit 451, or perhaps in tandem with required high school readings; giving a fresher perspective to the classics. I give this audio version a 4 stars, since in addition to the author’s creative technological ideas which are a key to the book, the reader and audio producer have also contributed to create a darkly funny and all to realistic “listen”.(less)
A perfect read for Valentine’s Day - Delirium is set in a future US, where love is considered a...moreOriginal review at Layers of Thought.
3.5 stars actually
A perfect read for Valentine’s Day - Delirium is set in a future US, where love is considered a disease and the cause for all social ills. Everyone by the age 18 is to be “cured” via an operation which is not entirely safe or effective.
Setting: Lena is like most normal teen girls - slightly insecure, and she does not realize her abilities and attractiveness as a growing woman. As she is coming up to this important date where she will have her operation to free her from this “disease”, she starts to become less comfortable within the world she has been raised and indoctrinated in. She begins to question what is beyond the electrified fenced boundaries surrounding her country and wonders if anything is beyond them in the area considered the wilds; and what about the people – invalids, who are said to have once lived there?
Thoughts: I enjoy dystopian novels – I would even say love them. I am guessing it is because of the science fiction element which they commonly possess, and perhaps the element of horror too. Happily there seems to be quite a few of the young adult variety being published at the moment. Another reason is that from my perspective as a woman and an adult reader with a degree in education – I have a strong belief around the importance of intellectual empowerment for girls and young women. This genre can be a way for girls to absorb something alongside their romance which may work toward in-depth thinking into science or politics. I like that.
Beyond the genre there are several things I liked about this novel. Lauren Oliver uses a technique where each chapter is preceded with a snippet of the “new world order” – these are the reworked laws, poetry, fables and mythology which have been changed and distorted by the creators of this twisted society - a method used by the usurpers of overturned societies since the beginning of recorded time. I loved this aspect, giving the story contextual interest and attesting to the power of literature and stories as a way to establish and maintain belief systems. She also includes a number of insightful thoughts and grounding ideas about love and human nature - perfect for a young adult novel - which encourages me to positively promote her books.
I did have two problems which are taste oriented and version related (I read an ARC version of the book). The first “niggle” is that the main character goes into depth about her feelings and emotions, which most women/girls will enjoy. For me it was just too much at several points. Additionally, when I read that the main character was about to vomit for the 10th time I felt like throwing up myself. It led me to think about what are the other ways a writer can describe extreme distress? I imagine that these bits have been edited out or changed since an ARC version is not entirely edited.
On balance, it is apparent that Lauren Oliver is a talented author. The book has a great premise, I liked the crescendo and the ending was a good one - heartbreaking but with that necessary element of hope and strength. The best news is that there are two more in the series coming in the next few years - Pandemonium (2012) and Requiem (2013). Both are the planned sequels to what I hope to be a very popular series. I give this young adult novel 3.5 stars. I liked it a lot.(less)
An epic young adult fantasy with a modern and creative twist. A humorous and mildly scary hero’s journey,...moreOriginal review posted at Layers of Thought.
An epic young adult fantasy with a modern and creative twist. A humorous and mildly scary hero’s journey, this book is perfect for smart youngsters from tween-age into ancient adulthood.
About: In a fantastical world where spells are created from magical languages, the main character Nicodermis is a trainee in the skills needed to create these spells. He believes himself to be an insignificant part of a bigger picture. There is a big problem with his spelling (he can’t), so his teachers place him with a variety of other “marginal” acolytes with various disabilities. Here he becomes a leader (of sorts) in a world which does other than appreciate them.
In this mountainous and almost medieval world, Nicodermis’ connection to his greater purpose is not quite clear and all is not well. Evil powers are bent on keeping everything as it is or worse - imbalanced and dark. They will do anything to stop the fates in motions of which Nicodermis is key.
My Thoughts: Fresh and inclusive of a wide variety of diverse types of characters, this is a fun read. Nary a bad word, or sexual reference, it’s a perfect read for young adults and those looking for a “clean” fantasy setting. The author has some interesting swaps for cursing which are in fact quite hilarious. Here are examples:
"Splattering spud”; “Ooo, you dirty son of a rat-eating butt dog!” And an example of a curse as bad as it gets - “Drink goat piss, you slimy pigeon penis”.
Kids of all ages will have to laugh at this. I did.
The characters are wonderful and loveable and Nicodermis is a very relate-able main character. A humble hero who is on his journey and refuses to admit that he may just be the one to save his world. There are also several flawed and interesting supporting characters - a blind old wise man with dreadlocks and magic gargoyles that are created from the written spells, a wonderful talking bird named Azure that loves to be scratched on its head (gosh darn cute and I want one), a dream dragon, and elemental ghosts. But don’t worry there are exciting and dark bits too involving a scary and ancient evil; also a clay Golem housing an amazing monster which is frightening and imaginative. This is definitely the beginning of an epic series.
An impressive first novel - the book has an easy to read style that is imbued with a subtle humor, a characteristic which is apparent on Blake Charlton’s blog and in his interviews. I cannot say one negative thing about this debut novel and am expecting some amazing fiction from this new and talented author. I can’t wait to read the next in this series, Spellbound, which I understand is even better than this first novel. 4 stars for this fun, creative and giggly debut novel.(less)
If you love books and lists, and are an eclectic reader, you will adore this series. Each recommend...moreOriginal series review posted at Layers of Thought.
If you love books and lists, and are an eclectic reader, you will adore this series. Each recommends books which are organized into themes, with great little descriptions; all are softbound, small and easy to read.
Books reviewed: Book Lust: Recommended Reading for Every Mood, Moment, and Reason ~ by Nancy Pearl More Book Lust: Reading Recommendations for Every Mood, Moment, and Reason Book Crush: For Kids and Teens
Thoughts: Nancy Pearl, librarian extraordinaire, has created this series of books (with the fourth to be released in a few days - its one for travelers) which contain organized collections of book recommendations, labeled under catchy little categories. Inside the categories are enticing snippets of the books in a very readable format.
The books are small and easy to handle with a soft cover. With her “lust” of reading, Pearl shares with the reader the books she loves and those which she knows about, creating more desire and adding to your ever expanding book list. I spent hours perusing these books, enjoying her fun and interesting recommendations.
Better yet, Nancy has a variety of philosophies which she labels “Pearlisms”. One is the “rule of fifty” which I have used recently when an abandoning a book (Pride and Prejudice – sorry Jane). What I love is that she gives you permission to stop reading a book when you are not enjoying it. It’s a free “get out of guilt card”. Here is her rule:
If you’re fifty years of age or younger, give a book fifty pages before you decide to commit to reading it or give it up. If you’re over fifty, which is when time gets even shorter, subtract your age from 100—the result is the number of pages you should read before making your decision to stay with it or quit. Since that number gets smaller and smaller as we get older and older, our big reward is that when we turn 100, we can judge a book by its cover!
I loved these little books and will be purchasing every one for my personal collection. 4 stars for Book Lust and Book Crush, and 4.5 stars for More Book Lust – since it has so many books I had never heard of. Highly recommend resources for teachers, librarians, and book lovers within every genre.(less)
Mini Synopsis: This is a children’s and pre-teen book where the main character is Keeper. She is an almost ten year old girl who lives on the beach by...more
Mini Synopsis: This is a children’s and pre-teen book where the main character is Keeper. She is an almost ten year old girl who lives on the beach by the gulf of Mexico in Texas. There are a menagerie of animals in her life - two dogs, a cat, and a seagull, but what is special is that she can hear them talk.
She is well loved and cared for by Signe, her mom by default, their friend Dogie (a healing war veteran turned local surf board rental guy), and an old Russian sailor named Mr. Beauchamp. Keeper is like many young girls of that age, still believing in the magical, which includes ghosts and “merfolk”.
One particularly bad day she gets herself into very hot water, or should I say ocean water, in an attempt to find her “real mother” whom she believes to be a mermaid. We can only imagine what can happen here, as myth and folklore are combined and fantasy seamlessly blends into reality in this sweet and heart wrenching tale.
My Thoughts: I loved this little book because it is a wonderful introduction to multicultural mermaid lore for a youngster (and in my case, adult). The author includes “merfolk” from different cultures within the story including characters whom are multicultural as well; their ethnicity is not completely defined. Because of these elements and more I believe Keeper will be an excellent teaching tool. It can be used as a spin-off for lessons on water safety, myth/fairy-tales/folklore and their definitions and differences, some science based lessons on geology and marine biology, as well as the defining of reality and make believe. All are important concepts in a growing mind, and if I remember correctly are included in many state curriculum.
Examining things further with the theme of adult “joint or supervised read”, the book has a number of time shifts where the author goes back and forth between the present and the past giving the story a complexity which some younger readers may struggle with, if not explained by or discussed with an adult. The story also includes issues around abandonment, as well as the importance of creating family ritual, which a younger reader may not completely understand unless they are discussed. These all can be very good things if the book is moderated.
In addition the book contains illustrations which are simple that will interest a younger reader transitioning into more wordy books. The author also has a way of creating simple yet very deep and meaningful language which cuts to one’s heart and which is lovely for both children and adults. I think that the most special aspect of the story is that it contains several wonderful and key GLBT characters. Lastly, the ending is the type which I prefer, not completely that of a fairytale but with a slight tweak making one think, feel, and remember.
Highly recommended reading for adults who like myth and folklore mixed with realism, and for those who read to and teach children. As for children I would say all but a few will love it. I am rating this a 4 stars. I imagine that this story will be nominated for a variety or children’s book award. (less)
Set somewhere in the future, within an enclosed world which has advanced technology, Trella lives in a crowded space where she is o...moreBasic Set Up Info:
Set somewhere in the future, within an enclosed world which has advanced technology, Trella lives in a crowded space where she is one of two factions - Uppers and Lowers. Trella is a Lower and because of this “lower” status she is required to clean the complex pipe systems of this metallic world and is designated a “scrub.” Trella is strong teen, slightly damaged, and prefers to keep to herself. As the story progresses and we become introduced to its dystopian society and its apparent class structure imbalance, drama and light romance ensue.
This is a wonderful introduction to science fiction and dystopian society for young adults and especially girls. I would have loved this as a “tween” in the 1970s. We had the Nancy Drew series, and authors like Laura Ingalls Wilder and Zilpha Keatley Snyder giving us mystery, historical fiction, and paranormal. Sadly, I remember no role models for girls within science fiction; goodness knows, I tried devouring the boy’s preteen section on science fiction from our local library.
Another positive element in this book is that Maria Snyder includes some basic concepts around political dystopian concepts for a younger reader. This I feel is important, since it can be then be a basis for understanding more complex worlds, as well as world history and current events. Highly recommended for adults interested in a light read, but especially for intrigued and intelligent girls (and boys too, since it is light on the romance). I give it a 4 star rating and am also excited that it is a first in a series. I believe the next is called Outside In and will be released at the beginning of 2011. (less)
Mini Synopsis: Actually 3.5 stars - (This is a series review with basic set up and setting information included but no spoilers.)
This is a young adult...more Mini Synopsis: Actually 3.5 stars - (This is a series review with basic set up and setting information included but no spoilers.)
This is a young adult series with the latest book This World We Live In being the last of the trilogy (I think.) It is set within the present day where an apocalyptic event has occurred. The moon has been knocked off its orbit causing a plethora of environmental disasters all over the planet. Tsunamis destroy coastal cities and that is just the beginning. As all normal life deteriorates the 17 year old main character, Miranda, in the first book tells us through her diary the events and her feelings as her life completely changes. It occurs within a Pennsylvania suburb setting. The second book is a parallel book where the main character, Alex, lives in New York City. In the third book the two main characters’ lives come together.
The last in the series – This World We Live In, was released on April 1, 2010.
The books all have a realistic feeling for what could happen if the world’s food, communication services, and other vital systems were to break down and gradually collapse and disappear. The author does a nice job of giving the reader a feel for this type of event and doesn’t skirt painful happenings such as death, which she does tastefully for a younger audience.
It’s a page turning series for young men and women which I would “safely” recommend for my nieces, grandchildren, and/or students. The behaviors of the main characters in the books show strong character; I would almost say an unrealistic sense of self and behavior (I think I would have gone bonkers under the circumstances). Nevertheless, it’s what I believe to be exemplary behavior for young adults, which I support. I also liked the fact that the two character’s belief systems, atheism and Catholicism, are non-judgmentally contrasted.
Susanne Beth Pfeffer has a strong and easy to follow writing style, which sucks you in and keeps you reading while caring about the characters. I completely devoured this series. I would rate the first two books in the series as 3.5 stars. I would say I liked the latest book the best due to its incredible and heartbreaking ending. This, I think, takes the book over the 4 star edge with its deeper internal conflict. Highly recommended for adults and teens alike. I also recommend that they are read in order, don’t be tempted to skip the second book – I almost did.(less)