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Archive for June, 2014

Reckoning by Kerry Wilkinson

Posted by Caitie F on June 30, 2014

Title: Reckoning18490660
Author: Kerry Wilkinson
Hardcover: 368 pages
Pub Date: July 1, 2014
Publisher: St Martins Griffin
Rating: +++++

Summary from pub:

In the village of Martindale, hundreds of miles north of the new English capital of Windsor, sixteen-year-old Silver Blackthorn takes the Reckoning. This coming-of- age test not only decides her place in society – Elite, Member, Inter or Trog – but also determines that Silver is to become an Offering for King Victor.

But these are uncertain times and no one really knows what happens to the teenagers who disappear into Windsor Castle. Is being an Offering the privilege everyone assumes it to be, or do the walls of the castle have something to hide?

Trapped in a maze of ancient corridors, Silver finds herself in a warped world of suspicion where it is difficult to know who to trust and who to fear. The one thing Silver does know is that she must find a way out.

Review:

I keep thinking dystopian is done. There are SO many dystopian young adult books, I should be sick of them by now, right? But I’m not because they are SO GOOD!

This isn’t just dystopian, it is also fantasy and has science fiction elements too. If you are a fan of any of those three things, you will probably adore this book.

Silver is a fantastic character. I adored her immediately. She is brilliant and uses that brilliance throughout the book, and not just for herself. She is also extremely kind and doesn’t discriminate against those of a lower class. She is also brave, not just in the big ways, but she is brave in small ways to help others.

The class issues in this book were fascinating and made it more than just another YA book. At first, the offerings, for the most part, stuck to the others in their class. Once they realize what their situation is, they realize they need each other, no matter how much they grew up with.

And their situation is quite disturbing. The King is a fantastic villain because you can picture a ruler like that. There is always more going on behind the scenes and that is also all really good.

This is one of my favorite reads of the year. It has everything I had hope for and more.

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Wonder by R. J. Palacio

Posted by Caitie F on June 27, 2014

Title: Wonder11387515
Author: R. J. Palacio
Hardcover: 315 pages
Pub Date: Feb 14, 2012
Publisher: Knopf
Rating: +++++

Summary from pub:

August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a facial deformity that prevented him from going to a mainstream school—until now. He’s about to start 5th grade at Beecher Prep, and if you’ve ever been the new kid then you know how hard that can be. The thing is Auggie’s just an ordinary kid, with an extraordinary face. But can he convince his new classmates that he’s just like them, despite appearances?

Review:

How did it take me so long to read this book? EVERYONE needs to read this book. I mean it. Every single person should read this book, especially students and parents.

I went into this book just knowing it was super good, sos I am not spoiling anything for you (but if you want to talk about things that spoil things, feel free to in the comments. This is a warning to all those that haven’t read it yet).

But I will say this – the characters are amazing and complex. They feel SO realistic. I know kids like all the kids in the book. They talked like kids. They acted like kids. Some are good, some are bad, but most are just trying their best to get through the day.

I am seriously in love with this book. It is one of my favorites, not just of the year, but ever. I have heard kids are reading it for school which makes me so happy. If we could all learn from this book, especially when we are young, this world would be a much better place.

Did you read and love this book too? Let’s talk in the comments!

 

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The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Posted by Caitie F on June 26, 2014

Title: The Night Circus 9361589
Author: Erin Morgenstern
Hardcover: 387 pages
Pub Date: Sept 13, 2011
Publisher: Doubleday
Rating: ++++

Summary from pub:

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway: a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them both, this is a game in which only one can be left standing. Despite the high stakes, Celia and Marco soon tumble headfirst into love, setting off a domino effect of dangerous consequences, and leaving the lives of everyone, from the performers to the patrons, hanging in the balance.

Review:

I can’t believe it took me so long to finally read this book! I have heard about it from friends and family for over a year now and I knew I would like it, I just had to take the time and read it.

I am so glad I did.

The book is pure magic. The writing is incredible and the story is completely spellbinding. I am not a person who likes circuses, but I want to go to that circus. I want to eat the food that was described. I want to see the magic show and visit the clouds. Since I can’t I may just reread my favorite passages again.

The competition is a really interesting set up and Celia and Marco were fascinating characters. It was really cool to see their different styles of magic, how they learned, and how those powers were used. They both lived such isolated lives.

I read this for my book club and we all loved it, which doesn’t happen very often. Many of us agreed that all of the side characters made the world feel more real and intricate.

The one things i will say is that it does get a little confusing with some of the time jumps and you have to pay attention to what year it was since it is not chronological. I had to go back a couple times to see where things took place in relation to other events.

This is a truly wonderful book and I can’t even talk about what I loved so much because it would give too many things away. If you haven’t read it yet, you should.

 

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Cultures of War: Pearl Harbor / Hiroshima / 9-11 / Iraq by John W. Dower

Posted by Caitie F on June 23, 2014

Title: Cultures of War: Pearl Harbor / Hiroshima / 9-11 / Iraq8608394
Author: John W Dower
Hardcover: 465 pages
Pub Date: Sept 7, 2010
Publisher: W W Norton
Rating: ++++

Summary from publisher:

Dower examines the cultures of war revealed by four powerful events: Pearl Harbor, Hiroshima, 9-11, and the invasion of Iraq in the name of a war on terror. The list of issues examined and themes explored is wide-ranging: failures of intelligence and imagination, wars of choice and strategic imbecilities; faith-based secular thinking as well as more overtly holy wars, the targeting of noncombatants, and the almost irresistible logic; and allure;of mass destruction. Dower’s new work also sets the U.S. occupations of Japan and Iraq side by side in strikingly original ways.

One of the most important books of this decade, Cultures of War offers comparative insights into individual and institutional behavior and pathologies that transcend cultures in the more traditional sense, and that ultimately go beyond war-making alone

Review:

This book took me a REALLY long time to read. I ran out of renewals at the library it took so long. It wasn’t that it was too hard to read (though I usually read narrative non-fiction and this is no, so it was challenging at times), it was that I would read a couple pages then stop and think about what I read.  I constantly wanted to talk about it with others, and often had interesting conversations with my family and friends.

It was really interesting looking at these four events and comparing and contrasting them and looking at them through a cultural lens.

My overall impression: we don’t learn from our past. At all. The same mistakes are made again and again, which is so frustrating. It also made me think about the US is a very different way, There was a lot that I wasn’t taught in school  and I wish I had been. It isn’t anti-US, but it looks at history critically and shows how other nations and governments view actions of the United States government.

During 2002-2005, I was in high school and while I paid attention to the news, I didn’t as much as I do now because I was worried about homework, swim team practice, and the upcoming show in theater or choir.  I didn’t know about a good amount of Iraq and I am really glad I took the time to read this and learn more. It opened my eyes and see the many mistakes that were made.

This is a challenging read, but if you are interested at all by the premise, I highly recommend it.  It shows multiple sides of war and how it has evolved.

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The Glass Sentence by S. E. Grove

Posted by Caitie F on June 12, 2014

Title: The Glass Sentenceglass
Author: S. E. Grove
Hardcover: 512 pages
Pub Date: June 12, 2014
Publisher: Viking Juvenile
Rating: ++++

Summary from pub:

She has only seen the world through maps. She had no idea they were so dangerous.

Boston, 1891. Sophia Tims comes from a family of explorers and cartologers who, for generations, have been traveling and mapping the New World—a world changed by the Great Disruption of 1799, when all the continents were flung into different time periods.  Eight years ago, her parents left her with her uncle Shadrack, the foremost cartologer in Boston, and went on an urgent mission. They never returned. Life with her brilliant, absent-minded, adored uncle has taught Sophia to take care of herself.

Then Shadrack is kidnapped. And Sophia, who has rarely been outside of Boston, is the only one who can search for him. Together with Theo, a refugee from the West, she travels over rough terrain and uncharted ocean, encounters pirates and traders, and relies on a combination of Shadrack’s maps, common sense, and her own slantwise powers of observation. But even as Sophia and Theo try to save Shadrack’s life, they are in danger of losing their own.

Review:

There is an incredible amount of imagination that went into this book. I actually stopped reading many times to sit and think about each region of the world in the different times, the animals, and the culture clashes that are constantly happening. This book is worth reading just for the world building.

There is a map at the beginning of the book. Usually, I ignore maps. It isn’t really something that interests me. I went back to these maps several times to see where they were and what might happen. It actually got me a little excited about geography, and that is not something I am interested in at all.

It helps that there is an incredibly well-paced plot and some great characters. It is a long book, so it is hard to read all at once, but readers will be so tempted.

I don’t want to say too much about the book because not knowing made it better. Even small spoilers will make readers miss out on discoveries and wonders.

Just know if you are looking for a middle grade book with a lot of adventure, really smart characters, and quite a bit of fun, pick up this book. It will bring out the explorer in us all.

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Pills and Starships by Lydia Millet

Posted by Caitie F on June 11, 2014

Title: Pills and Starships18528033
Author: Lydia Millet
Paperback: 256 pages
Pub Date: June 10, 2014
Publisher: Black Sheep
Rating: ++++

Summary from pub:

In this dystopic future brought by global warming, seventeen-year-old Nat and her hacker brother Sam have come by ship to the Big Island of Hawaii for their parents’ Final Week. The few Americans who still live well also live long—so long that older adults bow out not by natural means but by buying death contracts from the corporates who now run the disintegrating society by keeping the people happy through a constant diet of “pharma.” Nat’s family is spending their pharma-guided last week at a luxury resort complex called the Twilight Island Acropolis.

Deeply conflicted about her parents’ decision, Nat spends her time keeping a record of everything her family does in the company-supplied diary that came in the hotel’s care package. While Nat attempts to come to terms with her impending parentless future, Sam begins to discover cracks in the corporates’ agenda and eventually rebels against the company his parents have hired to handle their last days. Nat has to choose a side. Does she let her parents go gently into that good night, or does she turn against the system and try to break them out?

But the deck is stacked against Nat and Sam: in this oppressive environment, water and food are scarce, mass human migrations are constant, and new babies are illegal. As the week nears its end, Nat rushes to protect herself and her younger brother from the corporates while also forging a path toward a future that offers the hope of redemption for humanity.

Review:

I keep thinking there can’t be another creative and chilling dystopian book, but they keep coming.

This one is a little bit terrifying. Global warming has brought people very close together and almost all time is spent inside. Corporations have taken over society completely. People are living for a long time and go to special retreats to die “on their own terms” and everyone is always drugged by the corporations. The whole situation is very creepy and you know there is much more going on behind closed doors. Luckily, Nat and Sam get to peek behind those doors when they go to Hawaii for their parents Final Week and see that something has to change. But it is all very scary. You do not want to be in a society like this at all.

Nat is a really great character because she is how most of us would be. She is pretty accepting at first, until things start to not add up. Her brother is more influenced by those speaking out, which is great, but Nat is really what most of us would be like. Once she is skeptical, she starts to try to find out everything she can and save those she loves. She is very bright, but not to an unrealistic extent. She is still a scared teen, but she is a scared teen who wants to make a difference.

This is not a slow book and is very hard to put down. You will want to find out more about the society and how it all happened. It will make you start thinking about corporations roles in our world and where lines need to be drawn. It reminded me a little of the Matched trilogy’s society, only creepier because it is corporations.It laso might make oyu think abotu your own energy consumption. I know I have been trying to conserve more to keep this future from happening!

I really want to read the rest of the series now!

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Starbird Murphy and the World Outside by Karen Finneyfrock

Posted by Caitie F on June 10, 2014

Title: Starbird Murphy and the World Outsidestarbird
Author: Karen Finneyfrock
Hardcover: 384 pages
Pub Date: June 12, 2014
Publisher: Viking Juvenile
Rating: ++++

Summary from pub:

In her sixteen years of life, Starbird has never touched a dollar bill. She’s never been in a car. She’s never used a cell phone.  That’s because Starbird has always lived on the Free Family Farm, a commune in the woods of Washington State.  But all that is about to change. When Starbird gets her “Calling” to be a waitress at the Free Family’s restaurant in Seattle, she decides to leave behind the only home she’s ever known.

Nothing could have prepared Starbird for the World Outside, or for what it would teach her about the Family—and herself.

Review:

Who can resist a novel about a cult, especially when it is a YA novel? Not me! I was hooked the second I read the description.

And I could not put this book down. I have no idea why, but I have a fascination with cults, especially when the story centers around someone who doesn’t realize that they are in one. So there was very little the author had to do to get me interested.

Yet it delivered on every level. There were great characters. Starbid was smart, kind and optimistic. She was also very naive, but why wouldn’t she be? She didn’t know anything other than what she grew up with. She is so loving and caring towards everyone that the culture shock when she gets outside The Family is very shocking. Yet all of the things she was taught in her life help her.

She isn’t the only great character. I loved everyone in the Seattle branch of The Family and thought her outside friends and teachers were interesting too. As you read about the leader, Earth, you can see why people who had hard times would be drawn to him so much. He helped a lot of people, he just has some flaws too.

The romance(s) really stood out too. Relationships developed naturally, people started off as friends and then there was something there that wasn’t there before (did you sing as you read that? I did as I typed it)..

This is a great contemporary fiction. If you have any interest at all in cults or the shock of leaving everything you know behind, check out this book!

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Why Do Men Have Nipples? by Mark Leyner

Posted by Caitie F on June 6, 2014

Title: Why Do Men Have Nipples131529
Author: Mark Leyner
Paperback: 224 pages
Pub Date: July 26, 2005
Publisher: Three Rivers Press
Rating: +

Summary from pub:

Say you’re at a party. You’ve had a martini or three, and you mingle through the crowd, wondering how long you need to stay before going out for pizza. Suddenly you’re introduced to someone new, Dr. Nice Tomeetya. You forget the pizza. Now is the perfect time to bring up all those strange questions you’d like to ask during an office visit with your own doctor but haven’t had the guts (or more likely the time) to do so. You’re filled with liquid courage . . . now is your chance! If you’ve ever wanted to ask a doctor . . .

•How do people in wheelchairs have sex?

•Why do I get a killer headache when I suck down my milkshake too fast?

•Can I lose my contact lens inside my head forever?

•Why does asparagus make my pee smell?

•Why do old people grow hair on their ears?

•Is the old adage “beer before liquor, never sicker, liquor before beer . . .” really true?

. . . then Why Do Men Have Nipples? is the book for you.

Compiled by Billy Goldberg, an emergency medicine physician, and Mark Leyner, bestselling author and well-known satirist, Why Do Men Have Nipples? offers real factual and really funny answers to some of the big questions about the oddities of our bodies

Review:

I have wanted to read this book since it came out and finally got to it.

It was not for me. At all. It felt like the authors were trying too hard to be funny. I just wanted to know the answers to the questions. I didn’t need the set-up of a party or the conversations in the middle of the chapters.

I personally did not find it funny or entertaining. I have heard there are other books that answer the same type of questions, but do in a format that will more fit my taste.

What was the last book that just wasn’t for you?

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Say What You Will by Cammie McGovern

Posted by Caitie F on June 3, 2014

Title: Say What You Will18599754
Author: Cammie McGovern
Hardcover: 352 pages
Pub Date: June 3, 2014
Publisher: HarperTeen
Rating: ++++

Summary from pub:

Born with cerebral palsy, Amy can’t walk without a walker, talk without a voice box, or even fully control her facial expressions. Plagued by obsessive-compulsive disorder, Matthew is consumed with repeated thoughts, neurotic rituals, and crippling fear. Both in desperate need of someone to help them reach out to the world, Amy and Matthew are more alike than either ever realized.

When Amy decides to hire student aides to help her in her senior year at Coral Hills High School, these two teens are thrust into each other’s lives. As they begin to spend time with each other, what started as a blossoming friendship eventually grows into something neither expected

Review:

If I could have asked for any contemporary romance, it would l have been about a teenager with a disability where the book is not about their disability. It would be about all the struggles and triumphs of being a teenager.

Then this book came along and was everything I wanted it to be, for the most part.

Amy is incredibly bright and kind. She has a lot of the insecurities that so many teens have, with more struggles. She was always a character who happened to have cerebral palsy, it did not define her. In the same way, Matthew was a full and complex character, never just his obsessive-compulsive disorder. Together, they challenge and complement each other in wonderful ways.

It is such a hard book to put down because you want to stay in their world. Whenever one has a victory, it is hard not to cheer out loud. Whenever there is a setback in their relationships be it with each other, friends or family, it is hard not to tear up.

There is so much in this book about family and it is interesting because you can see WH YAmy’s mother is the way she is, but then you can see how horrible it is for Amy and how she goes so far over the top.

The only reason this has a five star review is that there is a plot point toward the end of teh book that bothered me. A lot. So it couldn’t just be a glowing review.

Even with that, this is a book worth reading and I hope you read it and love it too. I will read whatever Cammie McGovern writes next and I hope to see more books like this.

Posted in Review | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Future Flash by Kita Helmetag Murdock

Posted by Caitie F on June 1, 2014

Title: Future Flashfuture
Author: Kita Helmetag Murdock
Hardcover: 208 pages
Pub Date: June 3, 2014
Publisher: Sky Pony
Rating: ++++

Summary from pub:

For as long as she can remember, Laney has been having visions of the future that she sees when she makes physical contact with another person. Left on a doorstep as a baby, Laney’s past has always been cloudy to her, despite the clarity with which she can see the future. Her caretaker, Walt, claims to be her father, but Laney has a nagging suspicion that he isn’t quite telling her the entire truth. And when a new kid, Lyle, moves to her small town, Laney is dreading meeting him—she almost always gets a future flash when first meeting someone new, and the flashes aren’t always good. Unfortunately, her meeting with Lyle isn’t just bad; it’s painful. Engulfed in flames, Lyle’s future flash is the worst Laney’s ever experienced. But what does it mean? Is there anything Laney can do to change the future? And will she be able to save Lyle not only from a fiery death but also from the merciless class bully without becoming a victim of his antics herself?

Review:

When I read many supernatural books, I think about how great it would be to have some of the powers I read about. Not so much with this one. Having a future flash would make life pretty difficult, especially if you don’t know if you can change that future.

That is what Laney sets out to do. For the first time, she sees a future that isn’t just bad, it is deadly. Since she sees that Lyle’s future is coming soon, she wants to try to save, and learns a lot about herself and where she is from.

This is one of the most suspenseful middle grade novels I have read! The reader knows the fire is coming and spends every moment while in the pages thinking “is this it?”. While you sit and wonder, you also start to really love these characters and want them to survive.

This isn’t just a story about changing the future, it is mostly a story about friendship and family . Lyle and Laney both have complicated family lives and it shapes how they act. It adds a level to their characters that make them feel so genuine. You want to help these kids.

This is a good book with a new look at a concept that has been around. Midddle grade readers will especially love the characters.

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