Libri Dilectio: September 2010

20 September 2010

Itty Bitty Book Review: Living Dead Girl

Living Dead Girl, Elizabeth Scott
(Gr 9+)
Simon Pulse September 2008. Reviewed from library book.

When she was 10 years old, Ray took Alice from a school trip and hid her away from the rest of the world. Now she’s 15 and living in a nightmare. Ray starves her to keep her small, but she can’t stop growing. Soon Alice will be too big, too old, too wrong for Ray. Will finding him a new Alice save her life, or just put off the inevitable?

Review in 75 words or less:

This is a hard book to read and a harder book to stop reading. It’s not a book that I can say that I liked, but it is a book that I read in one sitting and couldn’t get out of my head afterward. The story telling was powerful and, unbelievably enough, had a sense of hope throughout. The reader feels that human spirit will endure and that a good person can overcome hell. (74)

16 September 2010

Book Review: Behemoth

Behemoth, Scott Westerfeld
(Gr 7+)

Coming 5 October 2010
Simon Pulse, ARC picked up at ALA by awesome co-worker

In this sequel to Leviathan readers find Deryn Sharpe, a British girl masquerading as a boy, still sailing through the skies with her closest and also unlikely ally, Alek, heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire. While their two countries are at war and vastly different – the British are Darwinists who believe in genetic engineering while the Austrians are Clankers who abhor the creatures of the Darwinists and rely on metal machines – Deryn and Alek trust each other completely.

As the airship Leviathan comes closer to Istanbul to try to keep the Ottoman Empire out of the conflict, the British servicemen aboard start to question the presence of Alek and his Austrian entourage. While Deryn knows that Alek and his men would never do anything but help the crew of the Leviathan, she is only a midshipman with little sway over the ranking officers. Rather than be held prisoner aboard the ship that he helped save, Alek makes a break for freedom and finds himself on the streets of Istanbul, right in the middle of a revolution.

I loved Leviathan, it was creative, exciting, and over the top awesome! Obviously, I had super high hopes for Behemoth, and, overall, it lived up to them. I still loved the characters, the setting, and the action. This time Deryn and Alek are very much on the same side. They are more loyal to each other than they are to their countries. Actually, Deryn is starting to feel something more than friendship for Alek, but, sadly, he still thinks she’s a he. Frankly, stories like this always make me feel really bad for the disguised girl. She seems to hope that the boy will sense that she’s a lady in love, but the poor fella just thinks she’s his (male) buddy.

Westerfeld has kept this world feeling fresh and interesting. It is so vividly described and the illustrations are amazing. This is the type of book that will excite your imagination. Much of the setting feels like another character. The streets of Istanbul pull the reader in while the Leviathan itself continues to feel like a main character. I loved the way the city was described. I could smell it, hear it, and see it really vividly. It made the story even more engrossing.

Something that bothered me is that the namesake of this installment plays a very small role in the story itself. I wasn’t really sure if I ever got a good picture of it in my mind, but, since this is only a galley, maybe the finished version will  be a little more concrete. The other thing that struck me, and a coworker, as odd is how hard the author has to work to keep his protagonists together. Logically, they shouldn’t be and a few moments seem clumsy in the way our heroes are kept from going their separate ways. It’s certainly not a big problem and doesn’t keep me from being any less crazy excited for the next book! I need it right now…um now…how about now…

09 September 2010

Book Review: Hunger

Hunger, Jackie Morse Kessler
(Gr 9+)

Coming 18 October 2010. Harcourt Graphia
ARC provided by publisher.

Lisabeth is seventeen and she hates the way she looks. She knows she’s fat and that if she can just lose those last pounds, then she’ll be pretty. Only problem is, no one else can see it. Not her former best friend, or her parents, or her boyfriend, but Lisa knows. She counts every calorie that goes into her mouth, restricting her diet more and more while exercising off the little that she does eat. Her life is in a downward spiral until the night a strange man comes to her home and says, “Thou art the Black Rider. Go thee out unto the world.” Now Lisa is Famine, one of the four horseman of the apocalypse and it isn’t just her food she has to worry about.

This is a very unique look at anorexia and the effects it has on a person. The story jumps back and forth from realistic fiction to fantasy without ever really being either. Lisa’s life as Famine, the Black Rider, is separate from her life as Lisa the girl who won’t eat, but also inextricably linked. Frankly, it made the story interesting and a little confusing. Not so much because I wasn’t sure what was going on, but more that my brain was unsure how to react.

Lisa is a sympathetic character who readers will be drawn to right away. Her struggles feel real, in that she still loves food and wants to be normal, but her insecurities plague her and keep her fighting to lose more and more weight. I found her relationship with her boyfriend to be really interesting. I had trouble figuring out what he knew about her or what he suspected.

The supernatural elements of the story are best illustrated by Lisa’s horse. As the horse of a rider of the apocalypse, he’s invisible to all mortals, but always there – even if the only one who knows is Lisa. He stands in her yard, just on the outskirts of normal, waiting to take her to far away places to do her work as famine. Like the horse, the fantasy elements cling to the edges of the novel, waiting to jump out in the spotlight and take the reader somewhere they haven’t been before.

Overall this was an enjoyable story and a very quick read. Look for it on shelves in October!

08 September 2010

Waiting on Wednesday: The Dark and Hollow Places

Waiting on Wednesday is masterminded by Breaking the Spine. Check out her blog for more upcoming releases that bloggers are waiting patiently for.

Coming 22 March 2011
(yeah…looooong wait)
The Dark and Hollow Places, Carrie Ryan

Synopsis from Goodreads:

“There are many things that Annah would like to forget: the look on her sister’s face when she and Elias left her behind in the Forest of Hands and Teeth, her first glimpse of the horde as they found their way to the Dark City, the sear of the barbed wire that would scar her for life. But most of all, Annah would like to forget the morning Elias left her for the Recruiters.

Annah’s world stopped that day and she’s been waiting for him to come home ever since. Without him, her life doesn’t feel much different from that of the dead that roam the wasted city around her. Then she meets Catcher and everything feels alive again.

Except, Catcher has his own secrets — dark, terrifying truths that link him to a past Annah’s longed to forget, and to a future too deadly to consider. And now it’s up to Annah — can she continue to live in a world drenched in the blood of the living? Or is death the only escape from the Return’s destruction?”

I have LOVED the first two books in this trilogy, The Forest of Hands and Teeth and The Dead Tossed Waves. Now I can’t wait to see what will happen next! If you haven’t read any of Carrie Ryan’s books, you definitely should! You won’t regret it.

07 September 2010

Book Review: Linger

Linger, Maggie Stiefvater
(Gr 9+)
Scholastic July 2010. Reviewed from purchased copy.

Sam has finally been cured, he’ll never be anything but a normal boy for the rest of his life. Now he and Grace can finally settle in to a relationship where they are both on equal footing. However, the universe has different ideas for these two. Now it’s Grace who can’t seem to hold on to her form, who is fighting to stay herself. And the new wolves are starting to shift back into humans, one in particular is causing lots of trouble for Sam. Cole St. Clair wants to be a wolf more than he wants to be a human, but he can’t seem to stay in either body for long. In between his times of wolfishness he finds himself drawn to Isabel, but he knows that all he’ll do is hurt her. Sam has to find a way to protect the wolves, trust in his own cure, and save the girl he loves before time runs out.

I loved Shiver so so so much. The story was easy to lose yourself in and I loved the idea of werewolves that whose shifts were dependent on temperature not the moon. I had really high hopes for Linger and was not disappointed. No, I didn’t like it as much as Shiver, but I didn’t really expect to.

Linger is the second book in a trilogy, which to me, means it will be the weakest. Well, until the third one comes out. The second book in a trilogy is always weak until you read the end, then you get a new appreciation of the middle. Linger was still a great book. The writing was as beautiful as ever and Sam and Grace are still the cutest couple. I liked the addition of Cole and Isabel’s relationship. Without it some of the tension of the book would have been lost. This time around both Sam and Grace are human so they start to have more human problems; issues with families, friends, etc. Until, of course, when Grace starts getting sick. Instead of the story getting a little slow during the non-supernatural elements of their relationship, we get a whole new couple to read about while still following our old favorites!

The plot line of Linger moves a little slower than Shiver, but overall it is a great book. The descriptions of the forest were so incredibly lush that my imagination could take a little break and just let the book do all the work. I love a story with a real sense of place. In Maggie Stiefvater’s books the setting becomes just as much a main character as anyone. She really makes the natural world important in all her books. I think it’s a great way to make teenagers care more about the environment. Instead of beating them over the head with messages of conservation, write a beautiful story set in a magical wood. It’ll go a lot farther.

My one problem with Linger isn’t really something that can be helped, because the problem I had was that it ended! That’s why I don’t like second books! I already have invested my feelings into the characters, I care about them, I’m interested in the story because the first book sucked me in. Second books just mess up the stuff that got fixed in first books and emotionally beat me up before leaving me bruised and confused by the side of the road…or something less violent. Anyway, the point is…my only real problem with Linger is the fact that Forever, the third book, won’t be out for another year! Yeesh.

06 September 2010

Summer Reading Round Up (2010)

Okay, so summer is officially over! Time to put away the sunscreen and sandals and break out the jackets and socks. Fall is my absolute favorite season so to really get it started and leave summer’s heat behind, I thought it was time to round up my summer reading! Last year I read 35 books and my favorite was When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead. This year I actually managed to read the exact same number, even though I was planning my wedding!

June: 11 books (13 last year)
July: 11 books (10 last year)
August: 13 books (12 last year)

My favorite book that I read this summer was The Boyfriend List by E. Lockhart. I haven’t reviewed it yet (even though my reading didn’t suffer due to wedding stuff, my reviewing did!) but I will soon. Actually, my favorite book that I’ve read so far in 2010 is The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau Banks also by E. Lockhart. I think I’ve found my new author obsession!

This was a great summer. I read some really awesome books, had some great programs at work, and married my best friend! I hope everyone else had as much fun this summer as I did!

Happy Fall!!!

Book Review: The Alchemyst

The Alchemyst: The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel, Michael Scott
(Gr 6-8)
Delacorte Books for Young Readers, June 2008.

Sophie and Josh Newman are twins living in San Francisco. They’re very close and work right across the street from each other. One day, Sophie looks out the window of the coffee shop she works in and sees Josh’s workplace, a book store owned by an older couple, Nick and Perry Fleming, is under attack. Without thinking, Sophie rushes headlong into the fray, effectively tangling herself and Josh up in a centuries old conflict. Nick and Perry are really Nicholas and Perenelle Flamel, who have been alive since the 1300’s. Nicholas is a famous alchemyst and his ancient rival, Doctor John Dee, has finally tracked him down. Dr. Dee is after Flamel’s most important treasure, a book, older than even it’s owner knows, with the power to save or destroy the world.

This is a nominee for the 2011 Rebecca Caudill Award, and so, a must read for me. Sadly, it was not a good one. The story dragged for me when it should have been exciting and was confusing and rushed when it should have been slower. Scott introduces the reader to his main characters, Josh and Sophie, and then clumsily drops them into the action. They witness the attack by Dr. Dee and, for some reason, this means that Nicholas Flamel now has to take them with him on a quest to get back the book and also tell them all his secrets. He says it’s because Dr. Dee will kill them for having witnessed the attack, but when Dee sees them again, it takes him a moment to remember who they even are. He is definitely not planning their demise, until after he sees them a second time in Flamel’s company. I hate when fantasy stories just sort of stumble into the action. If a kid is going to become entangled in a magical adventure, I want it to at least feel plausible. It can be fantastical, obviously, but don’t just tell me that they have to be part of the action now. SHOW me why!

That was my biggest issue with this book. It’s complete lack of SHOW! It was all tell. My seventh grade English teacher would be appalled. There were really only five events in the whole long book which were supplemented by lots and lots…and lots of talking. I suppose a younger reader, with no advance knowledge or history of mythology would appreciate the didactic tone of the novel, but I was bored stiff. Maybe the future books in the series are better, since all the back story has been explained, but frankly, I don’t want to find out.

Obviously, I did not enjoy this book, but I was interested in the idea behind it. The writing style wasn’t really for me, but I could see how others might like it. I did love Scathach, she was the most interesting and fun character in the story. Frankly, I think Michael Scott should just go ahead and write a book about her! She was smart, quick witted, and an awesome fighter! Maybe if there had been more scenes prominently featuring Scatty, I would have liked the whole book more!

Okay RCYRBA 2011…That’s 11 done…9 to go!

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