Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, a list

Howdy, Friends. Since we lovely ladies at Oops...Wrong Cookie don't want to spoil anyone, here is a list review of some of the many magnificent bits from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

Weddings, Dudders, Potterwatch, Luna's painting, Lee Jordan, Royal, Rapier, River & Romulus, Mrs. Weasley, Neville!, Neville's Gran, Best friends, Freshwater Plimpies, Snape, Lily & James, The Hallows, Patronuses, Wild mushrooms, Kreacher, Dobby, Mirror shard, Hand-written letters, Invisibility Cloak, Small beaded handbag, "For the Greater Good", piercing blue eyes, Tombstones, Phineas Nigellus, Stan Shunpike, Barny Weasley, Penelope Clearwater, Shell Cottage, Fidelius Charm, Grawp, Snitch, Dragons, Chudley Cannons, Babies, Squibs, Gringotts, Imperius Curse, Albania, Goats, Hog's Head Inn, Room of Requirement, Hogwart's graffiti, The Quibbler, fake Galleons, Playgrounds, Crystal balls, Wit beyond measure is man's greatest tresure, "Which came first, the phoenix or the flame?", Secret-Keeper, Questers, Australia, Merlin's Pants!, Snatchers, the Taboo, Pick your own mistletoe, Cattermole, Runcorn, Hopkirk, Undesirable No. 1, French onion soup, Your Holeyness, Constant vigilance, Children's stories.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

A Higher Geometry - Sharell Byars Moranville

Anna Conway loves math. She not only loves it, but she’s really good at it too. So good, in fact, that she gets invited to a university math contest with the chance to win scholarship money. Anna is desperate to go. Her father isn’t convinced that it’s a good idea. After all, the life he sees for her is one that leads straight to marriage and children, not college.

Anna is an interesting character. In some ways she embraces society’s views of what a 1950s woman is supposed to be. She loves her boyfriend and is sort of prim and proper even though their relationship is becoming very serious. She defers to her parents in all decisions. In other ways she wants more – like a college degree and a chance to enter a male dominated field.

I’m sort of touch and go with historical fiction. Sometimes I really like it, and other times it irritates me to no end. I enjoyed this one quite a bit. I thought Anna was a realistic character and that she wasn’t just a 21st century girl plopped down in another time period. So in other words she didn’t suffer from Overly Plucky Heroine Syndrome, a disease that has infected many historical fiction books. I really thought that this could have been someone’s story. It was touching, and heartbreaking, and uplifting and I found I was really pulling for Anna to accomplish her dreams.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

So here are my impressions. I can't remember the book all that well, so I don't really know how closely they followed the plot, but it seemed like they followed it pretty much the same as the previous movies.

Harry was as bitchy and annoying on screen as he was in the book. This was my least favorite of the books and so it made sense to me that I didn't like the movie as much as the previous ones. It didn't have nearly enough Snape (God I love Snape), Ron keeps getting better looking, The twins looked cuter in the Goblet of Fire with their seventies look, they had unfortunate haircuts in this one, and Harry is sort of short. I wonder if he'll have a growth spurt? Dolores Umbridge was PERFECT. She was an unholy terror.

You have to sit through the first half of bitchy harry before the second half picks up and the action starts. Sirius' death felt a bit rushed, and darn it, there wasn't nearly enough Snape! Or for that matter Bellatrix Lestrange. Helena Bonham Carter was fantastic, but they needed more of her. And I never realized before, probably because I hadn't seen it yet, but Hagrid is Robbie Coltrane of Cracker fame. My friend recommended this British crime series to me about a psychologist that is brilliant, but a deeply flawed man. He has a gambling problem, drinks and smokes too much, and uses highly questionable methods. I love it. I always liked Hagrid, but now I might love him.

I really liked Book 6, so I'm sure I'll enjoy that movie more. And not to mention Book 7, only a week away from being released!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac - Gabrielle Zevin

After a fall that causes her to forget the past four years, Naomi must figure out who she really is. She forgets about her parent’s divorce. She forgets her mom remarried and had another kid. She forgets her friends. She even forgets her boyfriend Ace – and why she liked him in the first place. She tries to go through the motions like nothings changed, but it isn’t really working. Especially since she can't stop thinking about that other boy…The moody handsome boy with a dangerous reputation who told her he once wanted to kiss her.

This book was fantastic. It was amazingly well written. A central theme that runs through the book is what makes a person who they really are. Are we still the same person if we don’t have retain our memories? Will we like the same people? Have the same interests? Act the same way we always have?

Naomi wakes from her injury with no knowledge of the past four years. She’s forgotten major family dramas, like her parent’s divorce (and why they divorced – a very painful reason that led to an ugly divorce), she’s forgotten her best friend Will (and what they did together that complicated their friendship), she’s forgotten her boyfriend (He’s hot, but has assaholic friends and an obsession about her ponytail). So she’s got a lot to relearn. She’s depending on gut instinct to lead her to decisions. And she’s finding it hard to be the person that people seem to think she should be. Along the way she really struggles with expectations, both internal and external. She's always too cold, an unfortunate side effect of head trauma. She misses her mom, but feels like she should still be angry at her - even if deep down she knows she's not. She acts poorly and lashes out because of her frustration at not knowing anything at all about people who seem to know everything about her.

Naomi is a richly drawn character. And because she narrates the story, you are completely inside her head for the entire book feeling her shock, anger, frustration, and eventually her healing. The book follows her attempts to figure out a new life for herself, to find her place in the world, to regain her memory, and to reach a place where she can be happy.

The other characters were equally well developed. Will, her best friend will have you wishing you knew him in real life. A best friend who is makes mix CDs and is passionate about year book picture equality. James, the moody dark boy she falls for will have you thinking he’s a typical tragic romantic hero, but he throws a few curve balls along the way. And even her boyfriend Ace, the tennis player who could easily be a stereotype, turns out to be more than you thought he would be.

A fantastic book. I think I even liked it better than Elsewhere and that was a great book. Its got a pub date set for late August according to Amazon.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale

Shannon Hale's novels are just super. Super super. I was really excited to read this new book, and while it continued the Shannon Hale Superness, I didn't fall in love with it as I did her previous novels. I felt a little slighted and I wonder if it is because I had such high expectations. This re-told Grimm tale takes place in Asia as opposed to a fake European countryside, which is a refreshing change. Another change is that there are illustrations in the book that promise to be outstanding in the published version.

The story is told from the point of view of the maid, not the princess. Unlike the maid, the princess is dull and I often wished Dashti would just dump her and move on. Saren isn't cruel, but she was frustrating for me to believe in. I know the point is that we don't identify with the princess, so it's to Hale's credit that I found her so irritating.

Like in her previous novels, there are kingdoms at war and the girls play a role in bringing about peace. (The kingdoms have fantastic names. I wish I had my copy of the book at hand to write a few down.) Once again we have strong female heroines and a cast of interesting supporting characters. I recommend that first time Shannon Hale readers start with Goose Girl over Book of a Thousand Days. While it is a fine novel (and is -again- more middle-reader than YA), it does fall short of my enthusiasm mark. Now what I'm really waiting for his her graphic novel...

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Rucker Park Setup - Paul Volponi

Paul Volpini writes great books. Black and White, his first novel was pretty much perfection mixing basketball with friendship, race, and the justice system. The kids in the juvenile detention center loved it. LOVED it.There are some books they ask for over and over and that is one of them. I thought Rooftop, his next novel, was a solid book, but I didn't enjoy it as much. And so I'm glad that he went back to basketball for his third novel.

Mackey and J.R. are best friends. They've grown up together, live in the same building, and play ball together, and have complete confidence that they'll be playing ball together someday in the Rucker Park Tournament. Turns out they're right. They both get picked up by a team sponsored by a big time rapper and their team is moving it's way up to the finals. But things go wrong. A bet is made. It goes sour. J.R. gets killed. Mackey knows what happened. What he doesn't know, is what he's going to do about it.

This is a book your teen boys will fight each other to read. The basketball action is fast, dramatic, and engrossing, and there is a ton of it. The writing is fantastic and the story's got a great moral dilemma - will Mackey step up or will he fail his dead friend? They're going to eat this one up like it's ice cream.

The Week of Science Fiction

The Silenced - James Devita
Marina is a bit of a rebel. A big problem in a world where there is no freedom of speech, no freedom of movement, and the government rules with an iron fist. Marina cherishes the memories that she has of the time before the Zero Tolerance party came into power. A time before her mother had been labeled a traitor and taken away, a time when her father had a backbone and a personality, and a time when people were allowed to read and write anything they wanted.

She's heard of a resistance, she's even heard that they're growing stronger, but she's never seen even a bit of proof of it's existence. So, she decides, along with two of her friends that since the resistance doesn't seem to be coming to them, they'll start their own resistance. Regardless of the

Dystopian to the max. I enjoyed this novel, but it didn't have a whole lot of new things to say. What it did offer was a really fantastic female protagonist who you want to see win, it had some terrific double crosses that I sort of saw coming, but wanted to keep reading to know for sure, and some really neat surprises (like how Stofs - automaton like guards - get to their positions...whoa!!). And finally, it had good accessible writing (maybe sometimes a bit obvious) that younger teens will really enjoy.

And the author's note was really interesting. I'd like a historical fiction book written on the real White Rose resistance group in Nazi Germany. Someone want to get on that please? Thanks!

Epic - Conor Kostick
Michelle's already written about this one, so I won't say too much. I'm not even remotely a gamer, but I still really enjoyed it. And so I couldn't resist writing about it a little bit.

Colonizers have left earth and started a new life on New Earth. This is a new world without any violence. In fact, all disagreements are settled in Epic. A role playing game that functions as both economy and justice system. But people are spending more and more time trying to earn money in Epic to spend on battles to get the things they need in real life. And in real life things are starting to fall apart. Technology is not advancing, there aren't enough resources to go around. But nobody seems to notice, or even if they do, they aren't doing anything to fix it. Erik certainly doesn't realize the state of decline his world is in until an unfortunate turn of events shakes the foundation of his family. Erik and his friends know something has to be done and they're about to turn the game of Epic upside down.

Lots of double crosses, I wanted to see Central Allocations (the bad guys) crash and burn, and I really enjoyed the game of Epic. The writing was really visual and so I felt like I was right inside the game. Fantastic. There is a sequel and I'm looking forward to it. It will have to be a much different book than the first one and I'm really looking forward to seeing how that plays out. No pun intended :)

Notes for a War Story by Gipi

This graphic novel is published by First Second, which is quickly becoming my favorite GN publisher. I picked this one up along with several others in DC and I am so excited to read them all.
Notes is translated from Italian and the author/artist is "Italy's maestro graphic novel author." To top that, this particular book is his master work. How could I resist those tags?
Notes for a War Story is Guiliano's story. Guiliano and his friends Little Killer and Christian are homeless teens in a nameless war-torn country. Each boy has a different background, but Guiliano is the only one who actually has a family even though he has run away from them. The boys scavenge to survive and hook up with a big-time thug named Felix who is profiting off of the war. Felix and his gang offer a security and belonging that each boy craves, and soon our guys start working for Felix. The lines between right and wrong (which were never well defined in the first place) completely evaporate. The more involved they get, the more Guiliano starts to question Felix's intentions. And, importantly, are they the good guys, or the bad guys? What's a boy to do?

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Ana's Story: A Journey of Hope

Well Dear Readers, I've done and read the Jenna Bush Book. I have to say, it wasn't horrible. In fact, I see that it will actually have readers beyond her father's loyal servants. There's not much by way of plot and the story just moves from scene to scene efficiently in short chapters without much weight to them. It's purpose is to tell a simple story and teach us some things about people living with HIV. It's a quick read that would appeal to reluctant readers. There's drama, love, sex (!!!), abuse, and... hope. Since hope is in the title, you know it will end well. It's a very tidy book. The book also has full color pictures for almost every chapter. The pictures in my ARC were black and white and were rather lovely. (Photos by Mia Baxter)

So here's my thought: If Jenna Bush is actually as good as this book is written (and there are murmurs on that), why are we not seeing and hearing more of her? Her family should be putting her in the limelight and letting her speak. Seriously, her dad really, really needs her PR help right now. Bring on Jenna to talk about helping poor kids and stuff and her party girl rep should fade even more and maybe people will temporarily forget to hate her dad so much. Ella puede hablar en español tambien. Muy bueno, Jenna. I think this book will do well, so good for Jenna.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Enter Three Witches - Caroline B. Cooney

Mary's life seems to be right on track. She's betrothed to a nobleman, she's in the Macbeth household - a well thought of family, and she is treated very nicely by all she meets. But Scotland is at war with Norway and everything changes in a blink of an eye. Her father turns traitor, Macbeth meets three witches that prophesy great things for him, and then the murdering begins.

Cooney adds several new characters to the story. There is Swin the Scullery maid who is stealing food to feed her grandfather. Ildred, the lady's maid who is in reduced circumstances as the ninth daughter of a poor nobleman who is no longer able to afford any dowries. And, of course, there is Mary, an innocent girl who has to make some difficult decisions if she is going to survive.

I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this. I knew the story, I had seen the play, read the play, acted the play, etc...and frankly wasn't that interested in reading an adapted version. But I really got swept away. The setting, the characters, the mood, it all came alive with fantastic writing. It would be great for teens who have already read Macbeth and probably even better for those that haven't. I have a feeling it would draw them in and make them want to explore Shakespeare further.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

This Week in Joanna's Reading

Amelia Rules! Superheroes: vol 3 by Jimmy Gownley
I really love this series about 4th grader Amelia who goes through some tough times as her parents get divorced and she moves in with her aunt. This book focuses on the summer after 4th grade when her aunt moves to another house on the other side of town and Amelia and her buds make new friends with the kids there. All I have to say is: I AM A BRAVE GIRL! Oh, go read it to find out.

The Mysterious Edge of the Heroic World by E. L. Konigsburg
I'm currently reading this one and am about 1/3 of the way through. It's a lot like The Mixed-Up Files to me: eccentric old lady, precocious & highly intelligent kids, art, museums. I am liking it quite a bit, but I can't help but wonder if it's a little too highbrow for a general reader.
So I finished. It was more and more compelling as I got closer to the mystery unraveling. It helps to have read 19 Schuyler Place, but it isn't necessary. I still stand by my assessment that this book would appeal to a very narrow margin of youth readers.

what my girlfriend doesn't know by Sonya Sones
So has Sonya Sones written a bad novel? This is a sequel to
what my mother doesn't know and picks up immediately after that book ends. We have Robin and Sophie embarking on their relationship much to the disgust of their entire school. (Which I found a little outrageous.) But my goodness, it's compelling. Robin's POV is spot on and page 174 is absolutely superb. The book is swoon-worthy. I don't like the dude on the cover - he looks about 20 years old. And Robin has red hair.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Bad Tickets - Kathleen O'Dell

Mary Margaret just wants to be free. Free from her mother's instructions, free from her good girl reputation, and free from the life that has been pretty much mapped out for her. It is the end of the sixties, Vietnam is in full swing, and Mary Margaret wants to rebel from her safe, sheltered Catholic school existence.

Enter Jane, Mary Margaret's new best friend. She is beautiful, funny, exciting, and pushes her to do all sorts of things she never did before. She is all sorts of a bad influence, but mostly in a good way. Its because of her that Mary Margaret approaches the boy she's always had a crush on, its because of her that she begins to see that she doesn't have to just end up married and perpetually pregnant like her mom.

Nothing much happens in this book, but it won me over quickly. I loved LOVED that the girls experimented with drugs and had fun and nothing bad happened. How often does that happen in YA Books? Pretty much never. Usually they'd end up full-blown drugged out losers who have to pull themselves out of the gutter or they'd die or something equally clichéd. And then, of course, we would have all learned the moral lesson the Drugs Are Bad. So the fact that they experimented with drugs and there was no moral lesson? I think that might have been my favorite part of the book.

I liked that Mary Margaret had a good head on her shoulders and understood that she could maintain her sense of self, especially that she could maintain it when Jane wanted her to step into line with her ideas. And I even liked Jane, poor messed up Jane, who was silly and delusional, and ended up with a life that she will surely regret.

A very solid historical fiction.

This Week in Patti's Reading...

Tasting the Sky: A Palestinian Childhood - Ibtisam Barakat
A memoir of growing up Palestinian during the late sixties. Ibtisam is 3 when the Six Day War erupts. Her family flees from their home when they hear the Israelis will kill any who remain. Along with dozens of others, they attach themselves to a water tanker and hold on until they reach the border. There they take shelter along with other families until the war is over.

The author does an exemplary job of telling a story of a Palestinian family in an occupied country. She is able to tell us what it was like to grow up dispossessed and marginalized, without allowing her story to be one of blame or embitterment. This is one of the best books I've read all year.

Nineteen Minutes - Jodi Picoult
So we know even before we start that this is going to be a multiple narrator issue story, you know, since everything she writes is...This one about a school shooting stars Peter, our disenfranchised perpetually bullied school shooter; Josie, his ex-best friend turned popular girl is another. We also hear from Peter's parents, his lawyer, Josies' judge mom, and the police detective. The time frame jumps around from after the shooting to when they were kids, to right before, to during the shooting. I don't have much to say about this one, other than I thought it was OK, but lacked the intensity of My Sister's Keeper.

Beastly - Alex Flinn
A retold beauty and the beast story. This one set in modern NYC. Kyle, the incredibly gorgeous, self-centered, cruel popular kid is our beast. A shy, poor, abused and mistreated Lindy is our beauty. After Kyle plays a mean joke on a fellow student (who turns out to be a hot witch in disguise) he is cursed with an outside that matches his inside and can only be cured if he is kissed by his true love within two years. What was cute about this telling is that various fairy tale characters meet in an online chat room and discuss what's going on in their lives. Some of the dialog is clunky, but for the most part a cute story. It has a date of publication set for 10/07.

Green Angel
- Alice Hoffman
I had to re-read this one for a book club. This is a beautifully written (seriously Ms. Hoffman must have sold her soul to the devil - everything she writes is wonderful) story of Green who stays behind to tend to the garden while her family goes into the city to go to the market. A fiery disaster occurs and everyone in the city dies. Everything is covered in embers and ashes. Green is lost in her grief and copes by tattooing herself with black ink and thorns. She begins to heal when she must take care of others even if she refuses at first to take care of herself.

EPIC - Conor Kostick

This is the book I've been waiting for all year; the book that wouldn't let me put it down.

Erik lives on a planet called New Earth. On New Earth everything (and by everything I mean the government, the economy, the education system) on the planet is determined by the computer fantany role playing game called EPIC. Everyone from the very old to the very young plays EPIC and the world's leaders are comprised of the very best players. On New Earth, the game is reality.

The need for resources and the need to save his family pushes Erik to try to play the game a different way, a way that may enable him to battle the Central Allocations council for the right to a better world.

This book is filled with non-stop science fiction and fantasy adventure! And layered underneath all of the excitement are thought provoking questions about violence, classes, work, and most of all game-playing. I would recommend this book to anyone who ever even thought about playing WoW or Runescape. A sure winner!