Friday, February 25, 2011

Trapped by Michael Northrop

Might I start by saying I really liked the packaging for this book? Why not, eh? Ok, so I really liked the packaging. The cover was plain without being boring, was indicative of the title and the story. And I loved how each chapter started with the picture of snow falling which mirrored the cover. Really set the mood.

I found the story to be compelling and realistic and thought that the author made interesting choices. This was a disaster story, but with the kids being in a relatively good place. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the plot it is about several high school students who get stuck at school during a blizzard that turns out to be of epic disastrous proportions.

But all in all they’re pretty well off, they’ve got food, they’ve got shelter, they aren’t locked in with a axe-murderer (which if to be honest I was sort of expecting. I have absolutely no idea why, but I was).

It is sort of slow building, but you can feel their frustration and fear growing as their reality sets in. They were believably uninformed about some things. I was frustrated they didn’t go shovel the snow off the roof, but I understood that none of them would have worried about the weight of it collapsing the roof.

They also got up to relatively few hijinx. No breaking into the office to change files, no raiding the girl’s locker room. They were kind of rule followers scared of getting into trouble. Nothing wrong with that, but I was expecting otherwise so it did surprise me. I guess I've been conditioned by endless teen horror flicks to expect shenanigans.

There were a few things that confused me. The quickness of the snow was a major plot point, but how fast was it really coming down? If people were driving up to an hour or so before why did the teacher disappear and not come back? Surely the snow wasn’t that deep already? And if it was, why did they not get a rope and attach it to the door so he could follow it back? Is it not common knowledge to do that in a white-out? Why was it so cold if it was snowing so heavily?

I also didn’t quite understand why they didn’t scavenger up a supply of candles, since when I was growing up everyone I knew carried candles in their car and had a supply at home to keep them alive in case of emergency (a candle in a small room or car will keep you warm and alive y’all). I gave them a pass because maybe that is a peculiarity of Winnipeg or something.

An enjoyable book!

Book Source = Committee Review Copy

Battle of the Children's Books - Undead Poll

is up! If you've never followed this before, it is hands down one of the funnest things - bookwise - out there. Expect conversations between Joanna and I on it!

And, yeah, it is probably supposed to be private, but I totally voted for As Easy As Falling off the Face of the Earth. There was not enough love for that book!

Go vote now!

I don't get fan-girly often

But DANG I want to read this book!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Wither by Lauren DeStefano

Wither is set in a future time when genetic engineering has created something of a catch-22 for the human race, they can still reproduce, but they die early, really early. Girls at 20, boys at 25. There is one last long-lived generation that is beginning to die out, some are desperately trying to find a cure, some are fighting to end human life entirely. Those that are trying to keep the human race alive (and have the money to do so) kidnap young girls and sell them into polygamous marriages.

You can see why I wanted to read this one, what a premise! This is a total page-turner. I really wanted to see where this story was going to go and how it was going to end. It is a trilogy, so be prepared to not have all your questions answered, but there was quite a bit of growth both character and plot wise.

(Scroll over to see spoilers-->
The real strength of this novel was the author's ability to really delve into how a girl, Rhine, and her fellow sister wives would react to being kidnapped and forcibly married. It isn't very pretty, the author doesn't pull any punches, but she wisely chooses to have Rhine (who is our main protagonist and is telling us the story) not consummate the marriage. Instead it is the other two sister wives who consummate the marriage and so you can deal with the sexual politics of forced marriage without having to have your main character either be raped or become some male fantasy of a sex slave won over by her captor.

Yes there is definitely Stockholm Syndrome. But the author was really smart in how she portrayed the wives. Cecily, is young, an orphan and is more than willing to be the wife. Jenna, despises it, but has already been forced to sell her body to survive and is willing to spend her last year in comfort. Rhine has been protected by her brother and desperately wants to escape and get back to him. Complicating this whole thing is that their husband truly seems to have no idea that the girls were kidnapped. He doesn't, however, seem to mind having three girls who need to please him to survive. In fact, he doesn't seem to have any idea why they wouldn't want to be there. Which is disgusting and really not all that surprising.

The only other complaint I have is that in a world where technology can produce amazing holograms everywhere and for every purpose, surely someone would have thought to bug the wives quarters. Or at least put in a Teddy-Cam. Housemaster Vaughn seemed like he was fairly competent at being an evil SOB, so frankly I'm surprised he didn't think of that.
<--End of Spoilers)

I was somewhat unwilling to believe that the girls who are sold into these marriages absolutely needed to be kidnapped (other than it is needed to set up the tension in the story). The men who buy wives are incredibly rich. It seems to me, that in a world filled with such desperation, there would be more than enough willing girls that kidnapping and buying would be unnecessary. Wouldn't it be more economical to hold a cattle call audition American Idol Style? For a great review that isn't blanked out with spoilers, head over to Bookshelves of Doom.

Another one the teen ladies are going to go crazy over. Forbidden love, desperate death sentences to outwit, and a great premise.


Book Source = committee review copy

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Delirium by Lauren Oliver

Love, or Amor Deliria Nervosa, is a disease. It is the real cause of stroke, heart disease, and pretty much any other ailment that humans once suffered from. Then came the cure which is administered to every person at age 18. The cure calms you. The cure makes you safe.

Lena longs for the cure. She is counting down the days until her 18th birthday and she can be free of all her troublesome emotions and paired with her life partner. That is at least until she meets Alex. Alex has another outlook on the cure and suddenly Lena is questioning everything she took for granted. Not to mention having a little steamy romance, which is, of course, completely forbidden (and probably a little hotter because of it, right?).

I really liked the way the author built up the mythology around the cure. Every chapter begins with a quote from a text that kids grow up studying. Much comes from the hilariously acronymed Book of Shhh (or The Safety, Health, and Happiness Handbook).

I would have liked to have known more about the procedure. It seemed to be some sort of lobotomy. What I was most curious about is if this “cure” made a person free from desire and love how come the society is so interested in preserving the family unit? I found the descriptions of child rearing chilling. And truthfully I didn’t understand how the children weren’t all sociopaths or wickedly unhappy with the lack of love and human touch they receive from their birth on.

And further more, just how exactly does sex work? I mean really, let’s just get to the point, no? Lena makes a couple references to her wedding night and how she would have to let her partner put his hands on her. Surely a procedure that removes desire would kill the sex drive too? Is it proscribed sex? Is there a mandatory sex regimen that they have to follow? Is the procedure different for men and women?

Finally, why is it enforced so thoroughly and harshly? This world that Lena lives in is essentially a dictatorship. There is a narrowly proscribed way to act. There are people who watch and turn you in for infractions. What I didn’t get a sense of is who is benefitting from this? And for a world like this to function, someone has to be top dog and getting something out of it. Like a secret harem. Just sayin'.

Despite my questions, I did enjoy this and think that it will be a big hit for the teen ladies who will swoon over the hot and heavy forbidden romance.

Book Source = committee book

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Half Minute Horrors

30 seconds or less....stories by some of my favorite children's and ya authors, all horror. I had to read this one! And I can't believe it took me so long.

There are a wide variety and volume of stories, 72 in all, from one line to several pages, including illustrations and comics. Some of these made me shiver, some made me laugh, and quite a few made me have to share with friends and family. Can't wait to read some of these to kids that I know!

I really liked the Jon Klassen, which simply consists of a diagramed picture and numbered legend. Also, "Hank", "Heart Stopper", "Worms", "Chocolate Cake", "Skittering", and "The Doll." If you know a kid or adult who loves RL Stine (who has a story in this book) or old Twilight Zone episodes, this is the book for them.

I would recommend this one for 4th grade and up, with special consideration for the individual child's scare level. Some of these might be too disturbing for certain kids. However, they contain so many scary classics, gruesome tales, and down-right creepy fun, that I just want to share with everyone!

Oh, and you can share your own half minute horrors here: