Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Attack of the Laurens... and a Jess!

Sunday I had the amazing opportunity to see Lauren Oliver, Lauren Morrill, Jess Rothenberg, and Nova Ren Suma at the most recent author's salon at the Hudson Valley YA Society in Rhinebeck's Oblong Books. I go to these events as often as I can, and I am always blown away by the amazing YA authors I have the opportunity to meet and how passionate they feel about their target audience: young adults.

But what really blew me away about this particular salon was just how young they were! These young women are successful. They are published. And many, through social media, have demonstrated their pure star-struck pleasure at finding their books on the shelves of their favorite bookstores (like the Strand). When we read these books with our students or our children, I think the idea of who the author is can be lost on any reader (myself included). SO coming to an event like this can make that person real for you, and in my case, often it can also make the book better for you!

So what were my impressions of these young women? Nova Ren Suma is that deep, poetic writer who would appeal to the young women in the world who aren't quite sure where they belong. They are original, unique, and content to be so, but they are looking for something deeper and more serious from their life and their choices. Suma can deliver a means for that introspection they crave so deeply. Not to mention she was wearing FABULOUS shoes!

Lauren Morrill is a RomCom junkie. Yep, we all love our RomComs, even though we might pretend we don't when the literary and cinematic snobs of the world mock them (because let's face it, we are all still teenage girls inside our adult bodies, insecurities and all). And Morrill is unapologetic for her love of them, which I love so deeply about her! Meant to Be was so much fun, but her new book is described as "Parent Trap meets the Cutting Edge". WHAT?! Sound incredible? Yeah, I thought so!!

Then there is Jess Rothenberg, the author of The Catastrophic History of You and Me. She openly talked about her decision to write a book about a girl's heart literally breaking in half and killing her was the result of a bad break-up. She joked that it was the perfect revenge on the guy if it ever got published (Ha! And it did!). I loved that she talked about this catalyst for writing, especially since we so often keep our true emotions, especially about heartache, to ourselves. She was so honest and candid, and she is a great role model for all those girls out there. Don't get angry, don't wallow. Instead, Write About It!

And then there is Lauren Oliver. Oh, Lauren Oliver! This was the second time I had seen her at HVYAS, AND *swoon* she recognized me! While Oliver can be considered the heavy hitter here in terms of sheer amount of published books, she is still so down to earth and honest. She is hilarious to watch on these panels and unapologetic about her PR for her books ("How many of you have read the first two books in the series? Awesome! And the rest of you, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR ALREADY??!!"). Her enthusiasm is infectious, and you can't help but want to read every single thing she has written once you have heard her speak!

So why should we send our kids to author readings and panels? Because there is something so satisfying about listening to an author and realizing they are human. They are people who love RomComs, who go through bad break-ups, who are spazzy and hilarious. They MAKE their books even more exciting! So take your kids to an HVYAS event. They are awesome!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

This Story Was Meant to Be

"I ended up acting like every single word out of Mark's mouth is a jewel crapped out by a fairy princess."

There is something about a trip to a foreign land that makes romance so inevitable. Especially for a person who has never really experienced romance. In Lauren Morrill's Meant to Be, London sets the stage for crushes, love, and adventure.

Julia is a rule-abider. She follows the rules, does her homework, and is obsessed with all things British. She read Romeo and Juliet when she was in sixth grade, her favorite band are the Beatles, and she can't get enough of Jane Austen. This may have been the result of hearing of her parents' magical time in London before they had her. After her father died when she was seven, London became the connection Julia had to him, and to the magical love her parents found there. So when she has an opportunity to spend ten days in London on a school trip, she jumps on the chance... before she realizes none of her friends are going along. Leaving all of her friends and her crush (or Meant to Be, MTB), Mark, home, she packs her guide books, her No. 2 pencils, and her pocket Shakespeare and decides to take a risk once in her life.

Once in London, it is clear to Julia why her parents loved it so much. All the history and culture surrounding her is everything she could have hoped for. Unfortunately, she is stuck with Jason as her "trip buddy". Forced to go everywhere with Jason is a nightmare, but nothing is going to stop Julia from experiencing the London she has dreamed about for years. When Jason makes her sneak out of the hotel and drags her to a party in the city, she decides to break the rules for once. Of course the hangover she experiences the next day pretty much solidifies it won't happen ever again, but she is intrigued by one experience from the night before- a boy she apparently met (but doesn't remember) named Chris keeps texting her. He wants to meet her. He finds her irresistible! 

When in London! Julia answers the texts, but with Jason's advice, plays a little hard to get. Meanwhile, she realizes Jason is quite so bad after all. He might be annoying and his brutal honesty might blow her romantic ideals out of the water on a daily basis, but at least he isn't as awful as she thought he was. But now Julia, a girl who has never even told a boy she liked him, is caught between the crush she has romanticized for so long, the boy who believed she was a model, and the boy who makes her so angry she could throw him into the water. Sometimes it takes a foreign country to bring out the truth in your emotions! 

At first, when I started this book, I thought Julia was a little too juvenile for the age she was, but it didn't take me long to realize she was just very sheltered. She had self-imposed that sheltering, throwing herself into books and school and anything else that couldn't get her hurt, because she had experienced the biggest hurt a child could ever experience- the loss of a parent. Basically, Julia was a big ole nerd! And she was unapologetic about it! She loved her No. 2 pencils and her Shakespeare, and she didn't make any excuses about it! But she is also pretty sassy. And there is nothing that makes me happier in YA than a snarky nerd who loves her nerdiness and isn't afraid to tell people to stuff it!

But the romance in this story is so much fun. Lauren Morrill is the next Sarah Dessen or Stephanie Perkins, who are some seriously heavy hitters to be in league with! But Morrill belongs there. She can write fabulous contemporary romance without all the "I saw him. He is the one. My life will be over if he doesn't pledge himself to me" nonsense we see too much in YA. She was able to make Julia finally see into the depths of her different relationships, friendship, crush, parental love, etc., without making it feel cheesy. Instead, it felt really honest and beautiful. I loved this story, and if you like Dessen and Perkins, you are going to love it to. It is also an incredibly clean romance, so feel free to give it to any age who meets the reading level (moderate). I truly feel my journey to this book was Meant to Be!!

And if you get a chance to swing by Rhinebeck today, Lauren Morrill will be there with Lauren Oliver, Jess Rothenberg, and Nova Ren Suma for the latest Hudson Valley YA Society Reading! I know I will be there! Will you?

Saturday, April 27, 2013

When Death Wants to Die

In the final book of the Riders of the Apocalypse series, Jackie Morse Kessler writes about the final horseman, the Pale Rider... Death. And Death has been having a very difficult time lately. In Breath, he contemplates the most final act he can ever choose- his own death.

Death never gets a day of rest. The job is continuous, exhausting, and there is never a day of relief. As he visits his riders, especially War, his handmaiden and companion, he realizes there is nothing to compel him to keep going with this interminable life. Death is suicidal. Of course, that means if Death goes, the entire world goes along with him. It signals the end of the world, the beginning of the apocalypse. Death is not human, but that doesn't mean he doesn't experience emotions like the people he guides and works with. But there is one piece of unfinished business... a boy and a chocolate bar. 

Xander's biggest worry in life is finally telling Riley he is in love with her. He has been trying to tell her for years, but he can't find a way to get the words out. But when Death arrives on his balcony, he has a lot more to worry about. As the boy who gifted Death with a chocolate bar, he is the young man whom Death owes. But the story is more complex than a simple debt, and when Xander realizes Death's suicidal tendencies, he knows he must do something to stop the end of the world. And sometimes, all people need is someone to really listen to them.

I am not sure how to really express my feelings for this final book in this series. I loved the first and second book. They were raw and gritty and phenomenal. Then came the third book. It wasn't as powerful as the first two, but it was OK. All three had serious situations, the characters had a lot of soul searching to do, and that is what made the books simply amazing. But this book lost the situations and focused solely on the soul searching, and honestly? It got a little old for me. I can't say I disliked the book, but I can definitely say it wasn't my favorite. That doesn't mean it didn't end the series fairly well, but I expected more from Kessler, especially after her first two books were so controversial and REAL.

But still, this isn't a bad series. I think the first two books are the best, but it is important to know this book can't be read without having read the beginning of the series. You just won't understand all the dynamics between Death and the Riders. I love the idea of Death becoming suicidal. It just blows my mind with twists and paradox. How is that possible?? So, there was definitely a redemption out of this story, and if you read the first three books, you simply must read this one too. 

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Taken Hostage

When survival is your primary focus, it is hard to think about the things you can't control. But when your boys are Heisted, it makes life particularly difficult to deal with. In Erin Bowman's dystopia, Taken, life in Claysoot isn't enough for Gray, especially when his Heist looms so close. 

In Claysoot, all boys are Heisted when they turn 18. The citizens of the town have no control over the Heist, but they know they lose their boys before they have the opportunity to become men. When Gray watches his brother, Blaine, be Heisted, he refuses to accept the loss of his brother and his own impending Heist. Although he is slated to the one girl he can see himself with forever, he knows forever isn't an option in Claysoot. The boys must be active before their Heist in order to keep the population going. And Emma isn't interested in keeping the population going when all that they have to look forward to is grief and loss. But Gray refuses to just accept their fate. He wants to see what is over the wall despite the charred bodies that always come back. But he expected to go alone.

When Emma follows Gray over the wall, he is mad at her for risking her life at first, but then he realizes how lucky he is to have her with him. They don't know what to expect from over the wall, but it certainly wasn't what they found- another civilization. A domed city full of people and run by a man trying to save the people of Claysoot is more than Gray and Emma could have ever hoped for, but their story isn't that simple. There is more to Frank, the leader of the dome, than he cares to share with them. Emma and Gray's skepticism is what will keep them alive, but it is also what will put them in danger. With layers and layers of deceit and lies surrounding their lives, Gray feels like the unraveling of one layer only leads him to more confusion. But he will get to the truth, even if it means risking everything he has ever cared for. 

I actually thought this was a really good dystopia. With so many books in the genre popping up, it is hard to weed out the bad from the fabulous, but this book is firmly in the pretty good section. There was a point when I had a difficult time keeping all the different layers of lies and deceit together, but you just have to read each new pack explanations with skepticism, the same way Gray did. Trust no one, and you might have a chance. I also liked that the story didn't end perfectly. There were some great sacrifices and some realistic situations (like when Emma thought Gray was dead) that made the book seem more practical for me. Those situations certainly ticked me off as I was reading the book, but in retrospect, I appreciated being surprised by such a familiar genre and not knowing what to expect next. 

This is a great story for any age/grade, and it would be best for a somewhat strong reader, since there are subtle situations that might be missed with a struggling reader. It is broken into three distinct stories, which gives the book three nice breaks in the action to recoup and soldier on. I really enjoyed this story and look forward to seeing where it goes next. The story ends on a cliffhanger, but it isn't the kind of cliffhanger that leaves you fuming. It was a nice break that will have you pre-ordering the next book as soon as it is available. So overall, I thought this was a great start to a promising series and I am looking forward to seeing how it turns out!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Catastrophic History of One Girl's Journey

I am not one who generally seeks out an "afterlife love story," but there was something about Jess Rothenberg's story The Catastrophic History of You and Me that kept calling to me. And I am glad it did. 

Brie's heart broke in half. Literally. Jacob, the boy she loved, broke her heart in half and now, being D&G (Dead and Gone), she must travel through the five stages of loss. Fortunately for Brie, she has a guide through her adjustment to life beyond life: Patrick. Patrick might be goofy and sarcastic, and his clothes are Sooo 80's, but he just wants to help Brie through her denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally, acceptance. 

But the journey is made worse by Brie's ability to see her family, friends, and especially Jacob. The boy who told her "I do not love you" and cleaved her heart in two has some secrets of his own. As Brie spends time watching her friends and family live their lives without her, she realizes how much pain and suffering her death has caused. Through her stages of grief, she takes out her feelings on the people she left behind, even when Patrick cautions her against it. But in the end, it is Brie who must accept her death the most. Even if there isn't much she can change about what she left behind.

I honestly didn't know what to expect about this story, but I really liked it! I am always skeptical of the ghost girl seeks the boy story (weirdness), but this one was so darned sweet and endearing, but also a little snarky and fiesty at times! Brie really experiences each of those five stages, and when she is angry, boy is she angry! She is so mad she is willing to act without really thinking of the consequences or even seeing the full scope of the circumstances. And her anger feels true and realistic and sincere. I can just imagine any girl in her situation reacting and feeling the way Brie does. And it is heartbreaking. Sometimes funny, but mostly heartbreaking.

This is a really unique story and would appeal to anyone looking for the romantic comedy books that also have some meat to them. It is a story that really examines grief as you survive it (in one capacity or another) and there are some definite twists to the story you will undoubtedly enjoy. They certainly surprised me, and I was left really satisfied by the end of the story. It is a very clean book that deals with some serious situations about love, family, friendship, and relationships. I think that makes it a fabulous story for a wide range of readers. And I can't imagine anyone not wanting to see where Brie takes you next!

We Barely Have a Pulse on This One!

When the world was clearly facing an end, the consolidation of humans seemed to be the only thing left to do. In Patrick Carman's Pulse,  over 90% of the earth's population lives in controlled states while the rest of the world is left to its own devices. A few people live outside the states, but life isn't easy on the outside.

Faith hides an important secret from everyone. Her parents are drifters. There are two kinds of people on the outside of the states: those who can't give up their freedom and the drifters who don't really know where they belong. No one trusts the drifters, so Faith doesn't tell many people about her parents. But as more and more people leave the outside for the states, more and more schools are closed and Faith is forced to move around herself often. But at her latest school, changes seem to be happening.

Everyone relies on their tablets for school and the rest of their lives, but it is illegal to hack the tablets or use them for anything they weren't intended for. But teenagers never follow rules like that. Kids have developed a way to create "Wire Codes" which is a code that creates a kind of hallucination or "drug" when entered in the tablet and watched. When Faith is forced to take two Wire Codes without her knowledge, it starts her on a journey of which she won't come back from. Doors are opened to her abilities, abilities she didn't even know she had. But Faith will quickly realize she is in over head in a world she barely understands. 

I have to be honest and say I finally gave up on this book at page 270, about 100 pages shy of completion. I never quit on a book that far into it, but I really had to force myself to get that far to begin with. The book just wasn't all that exciting and I had absolutely no investment in any of the characters. It took over 200 pages just to introduce the idea of the Pulse. Frankly, that is ridiculous. The first 200 pages of the book were just Faith's wanderings and involvement with different boys and getting herself into odd situations. It could have been scrapped entirely because it didn't even accomplish its primary purpose- to make me give a hoot about Faith. It isn't that I disliked Faith, I just didn't have any feelings toward her whatsoever. And the rest of the characters are there so briefly and superficially it hurt my emotional connection to the book. 

So I finally gave up. There was a weird clash of a dystopia and super-tech stuff like the tablets. This can be done if explained well (Under the Never Sky), but nothing was explained until 2/3 through the book, so it just managed to be a strange combination the whole time. And it wasn't even completely explained by then! Just a partial info dump and background to the story, but there were too many holes in the story. So my suggestion is to take a pass on this one. It isn't worth the effort of trying to get through it. There are far better dystopias out there. 

Monday, April 22, 2013

City of Crazy Twists

While the series seemed to end neatly with the third book in The Mortal Instruments, it seemed Cassandra Clare wasn't ready for it to be over. Continuing the story of the Shadowhunters brings Clary, Simon, Jace and the others back again to make sure the world doesn't end at the hands of evil... again.

As the Shadowhunters try to adjust to life as kids, not heroes saving the world, they find themselves struggling to continue as thought everything is normal. Now that Jace and Clary are sure they aren't related, they feel like they can finally show their feelings for one another, but it isn't as simple as that. Since returning from the big battle, Jace hasn't been acting like himself. Suffering from terrible nightmares, he is almost terrified to even be around her. In his dreams, the awful things he does to Clary are so terrifying, he would rather avoid her than put her in danger.

But there is more going on than just a difficult adjusting. Shadowhunters are being murdered. At first, it seems like a simple attack from a Downworlder, but the story can't be simple as the bodies continue to pile up. When their investigations start coming up short, they enlist Simon as help, the newly adjusting Daylighter, a vampire who can walk in the sunlight. With every vampire faction, every evil being, clamoring to get Simon on their side, they have access to even the most elusive of creepy crawly, but Simon isn't as predictable as he used to be. Being a vampire requires blood, and the hunger is instinctual. While he can't imagine hurting someone, he might not be completely in control of his urges. Predictable or not, Simon is at the heart of the evil goings-on and the Shadowhunters must once again rely on the younger members of their order to get to the heart of the dark forces threatening their kind.

I am not sure how I felt about the continuation of this series because I really felt the third book was final and very complete. I know Clare has a penchant for beating a dead horse, and I assume this was her way of continuing with the familiar since it seemed to work so well in the past. With that said, I can't say I didn't enjoy this book, because I really did. I think the whole Jace angle was a bit much, but I liked that Simon played a larger role in this book. I think his story line has really evolved and I hope to hear more about him in the next two books to come. I do, however, hope Clare does give this series a deserved end and doesn't keep it dragging on until I regret reading them. It is so frustrating when an author just doesn't know when it is time to let go of a series. 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Things a Brother Knows

Things a Brother Knows
Guest Blogger Brad M.

I recently read Things a Brother Knows by Dana Reinhard. It's a pretty good book, and it's also a fiction novel. The book tends to revolve around Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) which many of the marines suffer from when they come back from the war. 

It's about a young man named Levi who is 18 and his older brother whose name is Boaz, and who is just coming back from the war after being overseas for 3 years. Boaz comes back messed up, and he stays in his room and won't come out much and hardly ever talks to his family anymore. Then Boaz goes on a trip. He is supposedly hiking the Appalachian Trail, but he is really going somewhere else, and that is just an excuse. The day that he goes off, he leaves Levi a map full of addresses of the places he will be staying at. It's a hint saying come with me if you want, and Levi goes with him.  They bond together over the trip, and the two brothers get to Washington, DC at the end where their whole family meets up, and even people they have met along the trip are in DC with them.

The book was good; it was well written and detailed. However, I feel it was a little too long. In my opinion they could have come to the conclusion that Boaz needed help earlier. The book is interesting, but the end is a buzz kill. The book seems to draw you closer with every turn of the page, but the ending is a cliff hanger. The book talks a lot about PTSD.  That's what Boaz has, and he is just coming back from the war; he was enlisted for three years. I feel the book skips out on what PTSD really is, and I also feel they should talk about the steps of recovery. 

The book affected me in a couple of ways. I learned a little more about what PTSD is. However, it did not change my thoughts about the war. I feel we should have pulled out after we got Bin Laden. I also don't feel that the war is pointless, and I feel we should respect every person that enlisted in the army. This book does a good job of depicting struggles of veterans and their families.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

And the Light Cometh

You start a series and you love it. You read each book in the series hungrily, devouring it like it was your first meal in months. Then you come to the last book. You have been waiting for this book for years (literally!). You want to read it as fast as you can to find out what happens; you want to savor it and make it last since there are no more. What do you do? If you are anything like I was with Light by Michael Grant, that moment where you consider "savoring" it lasts about 24 hours until you can't take it anymore and rip into it like a ravenous beast!

Life in the FAYZ has never been easy, but now that the gaiaphage has taken a body, it is even more dangerous. No longer just a green blob controlling minds from the depths of a cave, Gaia can travel around, is growing exponentially, and can use the powers of any living kid in the FAYZ. The kids are scattered now that the wall has gone clear, and most are spending their time looking through the dome at their parents in the hopes that they will soon get out. In the meantime, no food is being harvested or fished, kids are starving right in front of their parents, and Gaia has a plan. If she can take a body, so can Nemesis (the disembodied Little Pete), and she must prevent him from doing what she did if she plans to escape the FAYZ. She must kill every kid possible to prevent him from taking a body.

What Gaia doesn't expect is that while her body allows her to to be more mobile and therefore more powerful, it also makes her more human, complete with the ability to be hurt and feel pain. Sure she can heal herself through Lana's power, but she can still weaken. This was unexpected, and it makes her realize she must be more careful in her plan. But Caine and Sam are out there, and although they never had a brotherly connection, there is one thing they can do together as the most powerful kids in the FAYZ. They can hunt Gaia. But how do you kill a creature with every power in her arsenal? 

Oh Holy FAYZ Batman! I can't even take it. I want to cry knowing this series is over and I want to REJOICE with how it ended. I absolutely loved this book, this series, these characters, and everything in between. Part of me wants to BEG Michael Grant to write more about these kids, but the rest of me is so happy with the way it ended (despite it being bittersweet), I don't want to ruin the feeling of finality. I was so worried this ending was going to disappoint, but how silly I was. How could the author who wrote this brilliant series NOT come out with a heart-stopping conclusion? And oh boy, did he!

So here comes my plea. Put this series on your shelves of your classroom, your library, your kids rooms. This is a series that can get even the most reluctant students reading (and it has! I have seen it with my own eyes!). It is exciting, entertaining, heart-stopping, and you will not be sorry if you turn a student onto this story. It is mature and gruesome at times, but in a world where our teens can smell BS a mile away, this series will make them read and think like adults. They will know how much respect Grant has for them, because he isn't afraid to go dark with his stories. He isn't afraid to challenge teens to think about their lives, the privileges they enjoy, and the things they would fight to the death for. And that is the kind of stuff our young readers want to read. So do it. Put this series on your shelves. Peddle it to your teen readers. And make sure the kids of the FAYZ enter your heart too! 

Saturday, April 6, 2013

My Divine Intervention

The mind of Libba Bray must be like a creeptastic wonderland full of so many ingenius scenarios. Each book she writes is so different from the last, so my start with The Diviners was a journey where everything was unexpected. And that was what made it so wonderful.

After her parlor tricks got her in trouble back home, Evie O'Neill was sent to live with her uncle Will in NYC. Taking it as the beginning of her rise to fame and fabulousness, Evie is excited for the move to the big and beautiful city. What she didn't realize was that Uncle Will's Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult was the laughing stock of the city and dubbed the Museum of "Creepy Crawlies". But never one to give up or fail to spin things her way, Evie isn't disappointed by the Creepy Crawlies- she is going to take NYC by storm.

When a serial killer begins leaving mutilated bodies around the city, Uncle Will is consulted by the local police. Evie, the ever-thinking young woman that she is, knows how to spin this to save the museum and rocket herself into the spotlight. When she begins to give exclusive interviews to a reporter, she makes sure he mentions the museum, and of course, photographs her on her good side. But the Pentacle Killer has escalated and there are no clues as to who he might be, only more and more carnage left in his wake. The truth of the killer might be too "out there" to believe, but Evie and the rest of the Creepy Crawly crew aren't afraid of the unexplainable... they live to explain it!

I don't really think my description of this book does it justice. In fact, I think it makes the book seem a lot lighter than it truly is, so please know this is a very, very creepy period piece. The murders are really gruesome, and I don't want to give anything away, because the book is best enjoyed with an element of surprise, but you will certainly be creeped out when they get to the bottom of the pentacle killer. I think this book might appeal to both horror fans and historical fiction fans, but it is quite long and might discourage a struggling reader. Despite it's size, it reads like a 200 page novel- you will blow right through it. So if you know a reader who needs a spunky heroine and a creepy story, you should think about the Diviners.

One thing I think might divide readers is the main character, Evie. She is bold, brash at times, self-serving, and headstrong. She acts without thinking, which puts her and her friends in danger over and over again. I can see how this might be totally grating for some readers. And yes, she can be impetuous and annoying, but there is also something charming and funny about how she acts before she thinks. I think if you go into her character thinking she is obnoxious, the book  is going to be tough to get through, but if you see her as a willful young woman, you will enjoy her more. The supporting characters in this book are really fun and will make the story even more dynamic than the story with just Evie. 

But this setting is also something to pique your interest. The language, slang, and jargon can be novel at first, but it helps you to feel like you have been submersed int he time period along with the characters. For many students who live in their bubbles without much thought to times long past, I love a fun period piece that takes a historical time and combines it with an exciting story. And this book has it in spades!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Book Thief

Guest Author Review by Filipa S.
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Books have never been hard for me to begin, but I never seem to get to the end. So when I first pick up a book, the first thing I do is read the last page and see if it captures me. While I was doing my usual inspection of The Book Thief, I became so intrigued by that last pages that I knew I would be able to read the book from cover to cover.
The introduction to the book is an explanation by the narrator (who is death itself) of the three times he catches the Book Thief stealing. By giving a color to each location of the stolen item, the first in snow, the second in fire, and the third in darkness, he paints the reader a picture of the Nazi Flag. This gives a time period over which the book takes place. Then death introduces the reader to the main character, Liesel Meminger, by explaining their first interaction. From then on the book is split up into ten parts, and on the first page of each part the narrator gives a few key words that hint to what will happen.
Liesel is a young girl whose mother is unable to raise her. Liesel and her younger brother (who dies before they make it) are sent to be raised by a foster family in Molching, Germany. She has a strong desire to learn to read, precipitated by her curiosity over the first book she had stolen. Her foster papa slowly taught her how, and once she could read, words and letters intrigued her. Her adventures on Himmel street fill up the pages of the book, describing how she saves a Jew, joins a gang, and gets into countless trouble with her best friend, Rudy. The reader follows the life of this young girl until the end when her passion for words is what saves her life.
The Book Thief was a compelling, long, and descriptive book. The first parts of the book are captivating, but towards the middle it is very slow moving, although it picks back up near the end. I really like the way the narrator moves in and out of the novel and occasionally gives insight to what is going to happen in the future. I would recommend this book to someone between the ages of 15 and 19.  Not only is the plot stimulating but the historical content is a good backdrop for the storyline.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Zombies and Alice Have Gone Missing!

When you hear Alice in Zombieland, one would assume there was going to be either some Wonderland riffs, some brain eating zombies, or, better yet, an amalgamation of both! But with Gena Showalter's first book in the White Rabbit Chronicles, you shouldn't make any assumptions.

Alice and her sister are used to their father's crazy paranoia, but it doesn't mean they like it. Never allowed out at night, forced to live like shut-ins except for school, all of it makes for a very difficult childhood, especially when you know he is just plain crazy. But when a car accident kills Alice's father, mother, and sister, she is the only one alive in the car and the only witness to the creatures that crept through the darkness to rip them apart and eat them.

Shipped off to her grandparents' house, Alice encounters a very secretive group of kids. She is intrigued by them even though there is every reason to stay away from them. But when she is attacked, it becomes clear there is something dark and disturbing out there, and that group of kids are somehow connected. The answers are heavily protected, but Alice is determined to find out what the things are that killed her family, especially since now they seem to be after her. 

Did you ever watch a movie after seeing the trailer for months that portrayed a hilarious comedy only to find out the movie was completely depressing? Do you remember that feeling of being cheated? Well, welcome to my experience with Alice in Zombieland. I would have been fine with no actual references to Alice in Wonderland if there were real zombies, but instead, the "zombies" are absolutely nothing like zombies. No resemblance save for death. Instead, they are more like malevolent spirits which feed and infect your soul with their malevolence, turning you into your own dead malevolent spirit. In fact, they are afraid of light, only come out at night, must be battled while the hunter is in spirit form, and are killed by a super-strong light a hunter emits from their hand over the "zombie's" heart. Sound like any zombie you have heard about? I didn't think so. So why would you even call them zombies and get my hopes up?!

I have no idea, but sadly, that ruined this book for me. It could have been halfway decent if I wasn't expecting something completely different. Instead I was terribly disappointed and struggled to finish the book. So, I am torn about reading the second in the series because it had potential, but I was so annoyed by the whole zombie debacle. I did, however, LOVE the grandparents who took Alice in. They were so wonderful and endearing, and I wished I knew them in real life (especially when they tried to use "hip" language to let her know they were "cool"!). So I will see if I can bring myself to read the next book in the series. Maybe if I forget my disappointment in a little while, I will realize the parts I actually liked were redeeming... but until that happens, I am swirling in my own bitter disappointment over here!