The stories contained within are all odd and bizarre, and the reader is thrown into the action from the start. I believe this is the first time I have...moreThe stories contained within are all odd and bizarre, and the reader is thrown into the action from the start. I believe this is the first time I have read a story from the point of view of an elephant (Horton doesn't count), though I do wish I understand some of the stories better.
GENRE: Fiction: Short stories: historical fiction, fantasy.
SUMMARY: Black Juice is a collection of short stories that delve deep into the psyche of both human and animal. One story follows a herd of elephants as they search for their handler who has been taken from them. In another the reader witnesses a tribe’s harsh punishment for murder: the guilty party must stand upon a tar pit, while they sink slowly and their family sits nearby, until they are completely covered. In another a young, financially broke woman drives to a small town to attend her grandmother’s funeral, remembering what she’s learned from her relative along the way.
EVALUATION: This collection contains some of the strangest stories I have ever read. The premise in many of them is bizarre, the situations are often foreign, and the language and speech patterns of a number of the characters are very unusual. Yet the odd and weird hold a strong appeal for me and this book did not disappoint. This is a slower read than most, for there is much to process in the stories, both directly and from what is merely alluded to. While it took me longer to get into this book, it was well worth it, for Lanagan has crafted ten wonderful stories. For the record, I think my favorite was the elephant herd story (“Sweet Pippit”), and that was the first time, aside from perhaps Horton, that I read a story from the perspective of an elephant.
WHY I WOULD INCLUDE IT: This title is perfect for the teen reader that has an open mind, and wishes to be challenged a bit with their reading. After the reader has read through all of the stories once, they could read through it again and uncover new things, and perhaps find new ties and connections between the stories. This is certainly the mark of a well-written book. (less)
Symone (Sym) is a loner by nature. Instead of bonding with and confiding in the girls in her gr...more**spoiler alert** Genre: Adventure; historical fiction.
Symone (Sym) is a loner by nature. Instead of bonding with and confiding in the girls in her grade, she has developed a relationship with Captain Robert Scott, also known as Titus Oates. The trouble is, Titus Oates died ninety years ago, when his expedition to the deepest reaches of the Antarctic failed, and he died of exposure, never to be found. Sym has read so much about the South Pole, and especially about Titus’ journey, that she can comfortably carry on conversations with Titus in her head, although they seem quite real to her. At the same time, Sym recognizes that no one else can see or hear Titus but her, so she still has a decent grounding in reality and normalcy.
A close friend of Sym’s deceased father, “Uncle” Victor, has nurtured her love and knowledge of all things Antarctic-related since Sym was a little girl. Now that she is 14, Victor takes her on a trip to Paris, which is actually a subterfuge to whisk Sym away to the South Pole, via a touring company. Bit by bit, Uncle Victor is shown to have ulterior motives, until finally his madness is clear to everyone around him. Unfortunately, at that point, Victor has progressed too far in his plan for Sym to turn back home, so she, and the two others that are involved, must endure under life-threatening conditions.
Geraldine McCaughrean’s writing is excellent, and will even absorb readers who are not usually fans of this genre. The hints that things are not all quite right with Victor are evident early on, yet they are subtle, and provide just the right allure to keep the reader wanting to go forward in order to find out what happens next. The adventure portions of the journey are exciting, feel accurate, and are solid enough to elicit a true sense of dread for the characters in peril. Best of all, however, are the conversations that Sym holds with her imagined Captain Titus throughout the book. One certainly must wonder at Sym’s level of sanity, yet she proves her stability and strength when it matters most. That she may attribute these positive character traits to the imagined Titus are irrelevant, for it is clear what she has accomplished. This book has much to offer the teenage reader (and others) that takes a chance with it.(less)
SUBJECT/THEMES: Nazi Germany, survival, Jews, the Holocaust, friendship, copin...more**spoiler alert** GENRE: Fiction: Historical fiction, realistic fiction.
SUBJECT/THEMES: Nazi Germany, survival, Jews, the Holocaust, friendship, coping, parental bonding.
SUMMARY: For many years during World War II, Death was kept very busy by humans. Death narrates this story of Liesel Meminger, a human he has found intriguing. On the train journey for Liesel’s mother to drop her off at her new foster home, her brother died. During his funeral service, Liesel began an act that she would commit several more times over the next handful of years: she stole a book, a gravedigger’s handbook. Not fully understanding why her mother left her, Liesel learns to adapt to her harsh foster mother, and quickly warms to her kind and caring foster father. Her ‘papa’ teaches her to read, and she develops a close and unshakeable friendship with a neighborhood boy named Rudy. When Liesel’s foster family takes in a Jewish man to hide, it isn’t long before Liesel becomes attached to him, and she and Max form a special bond as well.
EVALUATION: This is a meaty, complex book. It started off a bit slow for me; I suppose I expected Death to have more of an involvement than a once-in-a-while spectator. The author keeps the number of core characters small, which enabled me to fully connect with them not too far into the book. Once that happened, I loved this story. It is full of hope, yearning, fear and desire. Each character has their own special way of expressing their emotions and dealing with the situations they are in. For Liesel, it is stealing books and reading them aloud. I especially enjoyed the many references to words in The Book Thief. Words became tangible and active participants in this story. They were thrown at someone’s feet, flung about, shoved, embraced, spit out and more. This book made me cry several times throughout the story, which is always the hallmark of strong writing for me: if it makes me cry. The time period is certainly a difficult one, though the difficult parts do not detract from the wonderful book as a whole.
WHY I WOULD INCLUDE IT: The power of words and how they are used is a recurring theme, one that I think most astute teen readers will enjoy. While any young adult collection should have a good share of titles that are good for ‘reluctant readers’, by the same token, a collection should also contain some thought-provoking, more challenging titles for teen readers that are hungry for such a thing. This book will fill that need. Other readers will be interested in how this story is told. Using Death as a narrator is something of a novelty, and how he is moved by Liesel provides a wonderful backdrop. The Book Thief could also provide some fictional research for students studying this time in history, or for English students that want to dissect the word theme that runs throughout the novel.
**spoiler alert** Genre: Historical fiction; coming of age story.
Eleven-year-old Junehee, who tells the story through her viewpoint, is a member of a...more**spoiler alert** Genre: Historical fiction; coming of age story.
Eleven-year-old Junehee, who tells the story through her viewpoint, is a member of a traditional 1960s Korean family, where her father’s mother lives with them. They are comfortable in their economic state, enough so that they can afford a helper. Junehee is the second oldest of four daughters, though her parents wanted to have a son as well for a long time. So when they begin to take care of an orphan boy, Pyungsoo, the dynamics of their family alter in a number of ways. Pyungsoo lost his family when the torrential rains caused his home to slide down a mountain.
Junehee’s mother is delighted to have a little boy in her house, and strives to make him feel welcome. Yet the oldest daughter, Changhee Uhnni, wants no part of Pyungsoo, and threatens her younger sisters against being nice to him. Junehee’s father is often absent. He works long hours, and then spends nearly every night away from the house. Still, the father wants the boy gone as soon as possible. Junehee befriends Pyungsoo when she can, though she is torn between wanting her mother to be happy and wanting to escape the warnings from Changhee Uhnni.
Over the summer, Junehee slowly begins to learn the truth about where her father goes at night, and she starts to understand that her mother is truly unhappy. Her mother has little to no voice in her own home, where her role is to take care of the children and the house, and remain in the background as much as possible. As time draws closer to find Pyungsoo an adoptive home, Junehee’s mother becomes more active in pursuing what she wants, and actively states that she wants to keep the boy. This drives a further wedge between members of the family, one that Junehee sorely wishes to repair.
Junehee matures and advances towards womanhood after this summer. Seeing how she deals with the problems she encounters and attempts to help mend her mother’s pain is inspiring. Kim provides her readers with an insight into a culture and way of life that feels like it could be a real account instead of a novel. Teens with siblings will especially grasp the difficulties often inherent in those relationships, even if the characters are in Seoul instead of America. The Long Season of Rain fulfills a number of needs of teen readers, including those interested in foreign places and those who wish to better understand how tradition plays a role in the family.
I'm almost embarrassed to admit that Philippa Gregory's historical fiction novels have taught me more about certain periods in history than I ever lea...moreI'm almost embarrassed to admit that Philippa Gregory's historical fiction novels have taught me more about certain periods in history than I ever learned in school. The easy writing, with a number of sex scenes always spread throughout her books, certainly helps.(less)
I know a lot of people *loved* this book. I certainly enjoyed it, and liked the characters. I found it easy to read, and now I look forward to seeing...moreI know a lot of people *loved* this book. I certainly enjoyed it, and liked the characters. I found it easy to read, and now I look forward to seeing the movie. My mom said that she found it very true to life, as she grew up with an African-American maid. My only complaint (and it feels like a medium-ish sized complaint), is that the entire plotline and story was so very predictable. I can easily see why this is going to become a movie, it felt like it was written to be one!
Still, I did like it a lot, and recommend it.(less)
I started this one, and even just the first few pages were creeping along for me, so I put it down at the end of Chapter I (just 24 pages!). I finishe...moreI started this one, and even just the first few pages were creeping along for me, so I put it down at the end of Chapter I (just 24 pages!). I finished a couple of other books in short order, and considered giving it another go, but I cannot bring myself to do it. There are so many books to read, and I haven't missed this one at all. Rather, I was enjoying my time AWAY from it. The only thing that kept it around as long as I did was my shallow impression that by giving up on this title meant that I could not tackle a challenging, difficult to read book.
I got over that. The "erudite characters" in The Dante Club can stay that way, and I'll not mind that they are likely smarter than I am. I bet I'm happier!
Since I didn't get so far I cannot provide much information about the story. There was a murder, there were maggots, there were poets, and there was discussion about the publishing industry. And it was all dull and long-winding and I never got to know any of the characters. Bah!(less)
Ken Follett sure knows how to tell a story, and he oozes character development skill. I got to know every character in the title well, for better or f...moreKen Follett sure knows how to tell a story, and he oozes character development skill. I got to know every character in the title well, for better or for worse. There were manipulators, the manipulated, the highborn, the lower class, and everything in between. I was eager to discover what these people would do next, and who they would do it to.
As a period piece, I cannot vouch for its authenticity (since I'm not an expert on London and South America in the late 1800s), but I can tell you that it didn't matter: it felt completely accurate. I was transported, and happy to be there.
The backbone of the book revolves around the banking profession, and while this holds zero interest for me, this didn't matter either. Follett can make weed pulling a fascinating profession as far as I'm concerned. Plus, I respect an author that isn't afraid to (view spoiler)[ kill off characters to better develop the plot. (hide spoiler)].
After page 400-something, this book took on a stronger soap-opera feel. This normally would have detracted from its rating, but I figure if I want to read a book enough that I can get through a 568 pager in 5 days, that can counteract the extra drama. It still did elicit some private eye-rolling towards the end, but I never wanted to put it down. Nice work!["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
I finished Part I, realized I wasn't enjoying myself, and then skimmed some of the other sections. The characters are well developed, and the lead gir...moreI finished Part I, realized I wasn't enjoying myself, and then skimmed some of the other sections. The characters are well developed, and the lead girl has an intriguing personality. I didn't care about the political and military problems with their town and elsewhere, the abundance of religious issues, or what was going to happen to the characters. When that happens, it's time to quit reading and move on to something else.
Still, Dunant has talent as a writer, and I am open to trying another of her titles.(less)
3.5 stars. This is a graphic novel with three stories, each of them relating to an adventurer that traveled around the world. The first story is of Th...more3.5 stars. This is a graphic novel with three stories, each of them relating to an adventurer that traveled around the world. The first story is of Thomas Stevens and his cycling-round-the-world journey. This was my second favorite. In the middle is the tale of how reporter Nellie Bly 'raced' around the world at a time when people did not give much credence to what women could accomplish. My least favorite was the last one, about sailor Joshua Slocum, who goes a touch wacko in this story. Then again, who wouldn't, out there alone on the sea for months?
The artwork feels perfectly like a depiction of those times. The shading, colors and line-work are a wonderful match for the fashion and (facial) hairstyles of the day. I'm curious how kids will like this, since it got such high accolades. I liked it, but I can't help but feel that I am missing something---so many LOVE it. I'll encourage my sons (13 and 10) to read it, and see what the intended audience has to say.
Meanwhile, it's worth a read, even if you don't have any specific interest in the subject matter. You might learn something! (less)
I normally fall asleep reading books, but it's rare that I cannot get past even a handful of pages after three nights of trying. This book got pretty...moreI normally fall asleep reading books, but it's rare that I cannot get past even a handful of pages after three nights of trying. This book got pretty good reviews, but it's just not for me.(less)
If I finish a book and am somewhat unsure how much I enjoyed it, a helpful measure is how long it took me to finish. What began as a 4-star book ended...moreIf I finish a book and am somewhat unsure how much I enjoyed it, a helpful measure is how long it took me to finish. What began as a 4-star book ended up a 3. I read it faithfully, a bit every day, yet I never yearned to read it, and didn't especially look forward to it. Perhaps the writing was a bit heavy, though I did enjoy the use of the narrator that speaks to the reader.
The story takes place in England in 1831, in a small town that is being struck by Cholera Morbus. We follow a doctor that is experiencing difficulty procuring bodies for his anatomy students to work on, and a teenage dress lodger that works two jobs to support herself and another. I learned that a dress lodger is a prostitute, basically, who wears a dress owned by her pimp. This dress helps her appear to be of a higher class than she is, and attract richer clients. To ensure the woman (girl) does not run away with the dress, she is followed by another woman, in this case, the Eye.
There are many odd characters and the story is quite intriguing. I liked it enough to finish it, though instead of that familiar melancholy that arrives with the end of a really good read, I just felt relief.(less)