Friday, April 12, 2013

I lied...

I said that I would post more and then life got dramatically in the way. I hope to have a new book review up by Monday.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Death and the Maiden or Girls in Trouble 2

As I've said in the past, a huge amount of YA books are about girls in trouble. Here are two books from the subset of girls in trouble that also deals with death.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (YA)

Hazel is dying. Actually, she's been dying for years from thyroid cancer. Although she has survived much longer than expected, she knows that someday soon she will die since the cancer has settled in her lungs as well. However, Hazel is not a character who is going to teach the reader about dying with grace. Instead, she's going to live as much as she can before she goes. She meets Augustus Waters, who is charming and handsome and loves the metaphor of putting a cigarette (the killing thing) in his mouth and not smoking it. Gus is extremely lovable, as is anyone who loves a good metaphor, and as an aside, he has also been touched by cancer, but was saved through amputating his leg. Gus will convince her to go to Amsterdam to meet the author of her favourite book, An Imperial Affliction, to ask him what happened to all the characters after the novel finished.

This is a love story, of course, and it is both funny and sad. I read this on a bus and alternated between crying and laughing all the way home. There are some beautiful passages, and the characters go to Amsterdam! I feel that never happens in books. I went there a few weeks ago as a graduation present to myself, and I think Green really captures how beautiful it is. I loved Gus for being enthusiastic and charming and witty. Finally, I loved Hazel, since although she is bitter and exhausted and depressed, she still notices the beauty in the world.

I loved this book, but I do have to mention that a coworker noted that she found it too similar to Looking For Alaska, Green's first book. I didn't feel the same way, probably because I've read some of Green's lighter works as well, but if that's the only other Green novel you've read you may be disappointed by it. I wasn't though.

This is a choice quote for those who love people taking about love.
" I'm in love with you, and I'm not the business of denying myself the simple pleasure of saying true things. I'm in love with you, and I know that love is just a shout into the void, and that oblivion is inevitable, and that we're all doomed and that there will come a day when all our labor has been returned to dust, and I know the sun will swallow the only earth we'll ever have, and I am in love with you" (153)

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher (YA)

Clay receives a box of tapes in which Hannah, a classmate and coworker, explains the 13 reasons why she committed suicide. Each of those reasons align with specific people, in a specific order, and everyone involved will receive the tapes in the same order and will get to hear Hannah tell their part in her story. If they don't listen to everything and pass the tapes on to the next person, then someone else will release the tapes to the public.

The overwhelming feeling from Hannah's story is that a teenage girl can be completely ostracized for having (or being perceived as having) any type of sex life.  Of course, Hannah hasn't really done anything, but her peers spread rumours and humiliate her every chance they get to the point where she feels completely alone.

One thing that really bothered me about this book, was that Clay was very different from the other people on the tapes. He had a serious crush on Hannah and he tried to reach out to her at a party and help her. In spite of this, he still gets pointed out as a reason why she killed herself . Obviously, this lets there be a sympathetic narrator who tries to understand Hannah and her pain, but it leaves the reader with the overwhelming feeling that Hannah is being cruel. For me, Hannah works better as an example of the consequences of  bullying and shaming girls than as a character, which isn't a good thing if half the story is in her own words. I raced through this book trying to figure out Hannah's secrets, but I just didn't love it.

Fortunately, this book wasn't really written for me. It was written for teens who feel alone, and for others who need to know that words can have serious consequences. It has a huge following and at least at my library, always seems to be out.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Fly Trap and The Mysterious Benedict Society

Fly Trap by Frances Hardinge          (Children's)

I absolutely loved the first book, Fly By Night. It had an incredibly original plot and a main character who was considered unlovable by those around her, but who the reader knew was a wonderful person. Mosca Mye's name has dark connotations since she was born during the hours of the fly god, so everyone sees her as a skulking thief. It's even worse now that she and Eponymous Clent have fled the rebellion they may have caused and they find themselves in Toll. By day, only those born at the hours of  the bright and beloved Blessed can walk the streets. If you are unfortunate enough to have a name like Mosca, you have to live in Toll-By-Night and never see the sun again.

Of course Mosca has a problem with this, and she is going to  turn Toll on its head, try to steal its Luck and do whatever she has to to survive. Also known by the title Twilight Robbery, this book is both funny and intriguing.

The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart (Children's)

Yes, I'm a million years late to this book series, but this, the first book, was so charming that I had to write about it. It had everything I love: smart kids, shadowy figures bent on ruling the world, people who want to give themselves their own nicknames, narcolepsy, and one of the most obstinate female characters ever. If you love children who shave their heads to disguise themselves, if you love girls who have already run away to the circus, and now want to try something new, if you love infiltrating shadowy organizations, then you will probably love this book.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Sense of an Ending

The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes

I read through this book in a morning. It's very easy to do because it's so thin, and I wanted to know what had really happened. Now however, I wonder if I should have slowed down some more. What did I miss? What lies did I not see through?

Anthony is an older gentleman in his 60s. He has a quiet life, with one daughter who doesn't seem to think very much of him (though he may not realize that) and a very good relationship with his ex-wife.  In Part One, he tells the story of his youth, admitting throughout, that this is a very particular story, and that he really only has his memories to base it on. When he's at school, he  begins a friendship with Adrian Fine, a brilliant young man who ends up going to Cambridge. Afterwards, Anthony goes to university at Bristol, has a shaky romance with Veronica, visits her family for a weekend, the relationship ends (never very clear how it ended), Adrian and Veronica get together and Anthony writes Adrian two letters. Later Adrian commits suicide. Remember, this is all told as one narrative from Anthony's perspective.

Then begins Part Two, where Anthony comes back into contact with Veronica after her mother leaves him some money. Then Anthony's story seems to bump up against other people's version of events.

I have to say that I really enjoyed this book. I love unreliable narrators, and Anthony isn't one because he wants to lie about his life, but because his memory is unreliable. I just loved puzzling through this book. However, I'm actually still not sure what happened in the end. So please dear readers, what do you think happened?

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Also Known as Rowan Pohi

Also Known as Rowan Pohi by Ralph Fletcher (YA)

Bobby Steele has a few problems. 1) His mom left after his father did something unforgivable. 2) That means that he's stuck trying to take care of what family he still has. 3) He goes to the worst school in the city. 4) He's actually a smart kid, but he lives and goes to school with people who don't appreciate or value  smarts.

Then one day, someone leaves an application  to the elite Whitestone Academy on the table at the IHOP. As a joke, he and his friends make up a kid, Rowan Pohi (or IHOP backwards) and apply. They are surprised when Rowan gets in, but decide to kill him... or they think they do, until Bobby decides to be Rowan.

This is a fairly slight book, but it does deal with violence within families, issues of privilege, and the importance of a good education. I found that a lot of things happened on the surface and there wasn't a huge amount of real resolution. However, I did like Bobby's characterization, and I feel like there could be a few more stories written about him.

New Year, New Goals

So I did actually manage to finish the Cannonball Read, but it was really tight at the end. Because of this, I've decided to not try to complete it again this year, but I will try to keep on posting about the great books I've read. I'll try to post more consistently and stay on top of what I've read a bit more.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

CB # 51- 52 Miscellany

Snuff by Terry Pratchett

I was super excited to get a new Pratchett novel out of the library. In this Discworld novel, Sam Vines goes on vacation with his family to their grand estate.  There are some great fish out of water moments, as well as the equality and human rights themes that are often appearing in the Vimes novels. It honestly wasn’t my favourite Discworld novel, but I still enjoyed.

Darwin’s Bastards edited by Zsuzsi Gartner

This is a great collection of Canadian speculative short stories about what the future will be like. The stories are a great mix of funny and sad. One is about a future where being a celebrity is illegal, and a musicaologist goes to secretly interview an eighty year old Feist. Chaos ensues. Another story is a mystery involving the  wealthy who now live on golf courses. There is a love story about a long distance relationship between people who cannot travel legally. The stories are all really inventive.