Libri Dilectio: March 2011

28 March 2011

Book Review: The Dark and Hollow Places

The Dark and Hollow Places, Carrie Ryan
(Gr 9+)
Delacorte Books for Young Readers, March 22, 2011. Reviewed from library book.

When Annah was only five years old she went exploring in the Forest of Hands and Teeth with her twin sister and their friend, Elias. They thought it would be fun to find out what lay beyond their village, but they ended up lost and separated with the unconsecrated tearing at the fences around them, desperate for their flesh. Annah ran with Elias until they reached the Dark City and she’s lived there ever since, not knowing what became of her sister. She’s been on her own in the city for three years and Elias has been out fighting the unconsecrated as a recruiter, all the while hoping to find some trace of Annah’s twin. Annah had just lost all hope of him ever coming home, when she sees a face across a crowd, her face. She knows that this is the sister she’d left behind so many years ago, but no reunion is simple in a world overrun by the dead who have returned to stalk the living.

This is the third (and final?) installment in the series that began with The Forest of Hands and Teeth and continued in The Dead-Tossed Waves both of which are fabulous and NEED to be read before this one. Really should be read before even reading a synopsis of this one, certainly before a review. If you haven’t read the first two books, stop right now and go get them! Seriously, you’ve been warned.

I like that each of the books in this trilogy (?? seriously, are there more?!) has a different narrator. We started with Mary, then her daughter Gabry, and now Annah. I slipped easily into both Mary and Gabry’s narration, but it took me a little longer to warm to Annah. She’s much more brusque, closed off and dark than either of her predecessors – although, her life has been much harder. Both Mary and Gabry were raised in relative safety with families who loved them. Annah lost her family at five and was alone with Elias for her entire life, but really all alone for the last three years. She didn’t have a village full of friends and neighbors, just strangers in a city full of fear and uncertainty. Her story was a good one for this trilogy (?) to end on because it was so different from either Mary or Gabry’s.

Through reading these books, I feel like I’ve been able to examine life in very different parts of this world. Mary’s village, while small and backward, was safe and full of family. Just those darn Sisters, yeesh. Gabry’s village was larger than Mary’s, safer, and better governed. Annah’s is by far the largest, but also the most dangerous. Of all the places these girls lived, I’d want to live in Gabry’s seaside village of Vista the most, but reading about Annah’s was the most exciting. She lives in a city that I’m assuming is the remains of New York. Her home is controlled by the Recruiters who care little for the people outside their own order. Her life is hard and bleak, but she is still filled with the need to fight for survival.

Fans of Ryan’s first two books will devour this one with equal relish. It’s a fast paced adventure that will leave you literally unable to stop reading. Definitely add this book to your reading pile and get ready to sleep with a nightlight…and a machete. Just in case.

15 March 2011

Book Spine Poetry

I’ve seen book spine poems all over the place lately! They looked like so much fun that co-worker J and I decided to try it out for ourselves today. We’re getting ready for a creative writing program for grades 3-5 that meets tomorrow and, since our topic is poetry, this fits perfectly! We’re going to pull a cart of books with interesting titles for the kids to use to try writing their own spine poems. I’m pretty excited! Here’s what we came up with.

Try this yourself (if you haven’t already)! It’s really fun! Wanna see more/learn more about these poems? Check out Travis @ 100 Scope Notes. He’s got all sorts of great stuff!

05 March 2011

Book Review: Cryer’s Cross

Cryer’s Cross, Lisa McMann
(Gr 7+)

Simon Pulse, February 2011. Reviewed from library book.

Cryer’s Cross Montana, population 212, and home to Kendall Fletcher. Kendall has lived there all her life and now hopes to escape the small town by getting into Julliard for dance. One day, a high school student mysteriously disappears without a trace. After an extensive search, the town settles back into a, mostly normal, routine. Until another student, Kendall’s best friend, disappears. The town believes there is a serial killer preying on their teenagers, but Kendall, who has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, notices things that others do not. She starts to feel and hear strange things that can’t be ignored. Then an intriguing new boy in town catches her eye, but she’s not sure if she can trust him or if he’s more closely linked to the mystery stalking the town than he seems.

My interest in this book came from the fact that I really enjoyed the author’s previous books (Wake, Fade, and Gone). Lisa McMann has such a unique writing style. Her use of present tense and the way she almost distances herself from the narrator makes the reader feel a little more like a viewer than some other books do. Usually I feel like I’m right inside the main character’s head – feeling everything they feel and seeing everything from their perspective. McMann doesn’t let us get as deeply into the character as some other authors do, while still giving a reader a sense of their personalities and feelings. Frankly, at first, her writing style was off-putting to me, but once I get involved in one of her stories, it flows in a way that I find interesting.

Cryer’s Cross was hyped as being a seriously scary novel, but for a lot of it, I was just confused. Teenagers have started disappearing without a trace in Kendall’s small Montana town, but without much of a sense of fear. Kendall is (obviously) upset when one of the missing teens is her best friend/platonic boyfriend, but she has a weird reaction to it. She goes from being consumed with grief one moment to super duper focused on the new boy at school.

At the beginning of many of the chapters is a passage from someone or something. They started out just weird and confusing, then became more creepy, but never all out horrifying. I did figure out what was going on pretty quickly. No, I suppose I didn’t have all the details, but I had enough. I don’t read a lot of horror/scary books, mostly because they either scare me not at all or too much! This one fell into the not at all category.

Overall this is a reasonably creative story, but I didn’t like it as much as I liked the Wake Trilogy. That storyline was MUCH more creative. If you’re looking to read a book by Lisa McMann, try those instead. This one honestly reminded me of an episode of “Are You Afraid of the Dark,” which, now that I think about it, might be a good thing! I did like this book, just not as much as McMann’s others.

02 March 2011

Book Review: Wither

Wither, Lauren DeStefano 
(Gr 9+)
Simon & Schuster, March 2011. Reviewed from ARC borrowed from friend.
Coming 22 March 2011

Rhine Ellery is 16 and by the time she turns 20, she’ll be dead. Rhine lives in a world ravaged by genetic engineering. Now males only live to 25 and females to 20 before a mysterious illness kills them. The aging “first generation,” unaffected by this deadly disease, is working obsessively to find a way to save their children. The first step towards survival is to keep the human race alive by forcing young girls into polygamous marriages with well to do young men. Rhine is one such bride – kidnapped from her home and sold into marriage with two other young women, one 18 and one only 12. Rhine’s only thought now is escaping and returning to her brother in New York, but she’s starting to feel attached to her sister wives and she does have a good life in her new home. And then there’s Gabriel, a servant in her husband’s home, who is becoming more important to her every day.

This was one of those books that I couldn’t put down. Looking back on it, I’m not sure what it was that kept me ravenously turning pages. It is not a thriller, not a horror story, or even one of those stories that really keeps you guessing. At it’s heart, it’s a morality tale, an examination of the human spirit. Yeah, that sounds cheesy, really cheesy. However, in this case it really is true.

Rhine loves her twin brother, he is all the family she has left in the world and the two of them rely on each other to survive. She starts out her imprisonment determined to find a way back to him, no matter the risks or how impossible the journey. But, the longer she stays in the safe, comfortable, luxurious mansion, the more she starts to feel at home. It isn’t just having servants to fulfill her every whim, or a library stacked with more books than she could read in a lifetime, it’s the sense of safety. No one will try to kidnap her here (granted, that’s because she’s already been kidnapped), no one is breaking into her house trying to steal food, and speaking of food, she has it! Lots of it! All the food she’ll ever need.

Then there are her two sister wives. These two girls started out as just two other prisoners, but soon become Rhine’s best friends and her true sisters. Rhine often finds herself feeling that she is a better sister to her fellow wives than a wife to her husband.

With all this to tempt her, should she still try to escape? The ultimate question of the novel is one of freedom. Rhine may be comfortable and she may love her sisters, but she isn’t really free. Her every move is controlled. Her husband, Linden, is her enemy. He is the man who pulled her away from her home and away from her brother, or is he? The more Rhine learns about her new family, the less certain she is of anything.

This is a wonderful story that will suck you in and keep you burning the midnight oil until you turn the last page. The descriptions are vivid, the characters are all fully realized (even the secondary ones), and you will find yourself jumping from one side of Rhine’s argument to the other. You’ll be rooting for her to run away as fast as she can one chapter and then telling her to get comfy and stay right where she is the next. Put this one at the top of your reading list and look for it in stores and libraries on March 22nd!

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