Sunday, February 26, 2012

Sunshine y Robin McKinley

I'm sure we're all familiar with Sunshine. I had heard about this book for years and finally picked it up on the recommendation of a friend. And I'm glad I did - it is definitely a good cure-all for all that paranormal romancy-vampires-are-so-awesome-even-when-they- are-100-year-old-virgins stuff that dominates teen fiction these days (despite this not being a YA novel as such).

And yet...and yet I had no idea what the hell was going on half the time. I'm more than willing to blame it on my 7 month pregnant brain, but I don't think it was all me.

What did I have trouble with? Well, it started with me not realizing this was set in an alternate reality (for lack of a better term). This was not our world. This story was set in a world similar to ours, but a world that had always had magic, vampires, and all manor of demon activity from the get-go. Actually, this didn't bother me. I liked it, but it may have set the stage, so to speak, for my confusion.

I never could understand the slang. None of it. I never even picked up on contextual clues as to what the heck it meant. But the thing that bummed me out the most was that Sunshine, our heroine, didn't know jack shit either. Yes, she's learning, but I've rarely met a main character that learned so gosh darn slow. Don't get me wrong - I liked her a lot. I liked her story a lot. I did not like that I finished the book and hadn't learned more about how her magic and the greater world functioned. I felt like there were missed opportunities. I missed me getting sucked into the story and yelling out, "no freakin' way" when something was revealed. Because there weren't any "no freakin' way" moments. That, my friends, made me sad.

Book Source = Library Copy

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Froi of the Exiles by Melina Marchetta

Review of Finnikin of the Rock.

This is what I had to say about Finnikin and man, does it ever apply here as well:

My first thoughts were basically about how dense this story is. To take a look at the book you might not think it was too long (it clocks in at around 400 pages which is nothing to snear at) but I swear by the time you're done you'll be convinced you read at least 800 pages. If not more. This sucker reads like a multi-volume epic. I mean there is just a lot of stuff going on in this book. I don't necessarily mean that in a bad way, but I did feel a bit like I had been put through the wringer.

Except for the fact that the ARC of Froi clocks in at, wait for it...593 pages. Oy. I think I gained muscle mass from holding this book while I read it.

So, was it good? Oh yes. It was very good. If you at all liked Finnikin, you are probably going to lose your sh*t over this one too. As gritty as ever, I think that it is a real strength of Marchetta's writing. She doesn't shy away from ugly realities. And nothing is uglier than war and revenge. All of our heroes are flawed. They make mistakes, they are often no better than their enemies except for the all important ability to accept responsibility and change.

As you can tell from the title, this is mainly Froi's story. He is sent on a secret mission by the court of Lumatere into the neighboring country of Charyn. Inevitably, what he finds there is more than what he had bargained for. There is court intrigue, internal struggle (where do his loyalties really lie? Where should they lie?), and surprising revelations.

Lucien of the Monts is also featured very prominently. With an interesting parallel story to the first book, he must decide the fate of the Charyn refugees living on the border of Lumatere. Are the Charyns just base animals or are they deserving of respect and humane treatment? Isaboe and Finnikin definitely take a back seat in this book - they are busy ruling their kingdom, the real action lies elsewhere.

The love stories are just as melodramatic and romancey as in the previous installment. I rolled my eyes once or twice, but I was expecting it this time and so it didn't bother me that much. Froi has really developed as a character, but still has his wildness. In this book he more than meets his match.

Froi of the Exiles will be published in March. You'll want to get your hands on it as soon as possible.

Book Source = Publisher Review Copy

Every Thing On It by Shel Silverstein

I've never been a big poetry reader. In fact, I don't think it would be far from the truth to say that I've actively avoided it throughout my life (and been annoyed whenever I couldn't). But I listened to a NPR story and I've heard everyone and their mom go on and on about Shel Silverstein, so when it finally came into the library I thought I would give it a try. Take it home and read it with my son and just see how it goes.

Well, dear readers, it went really great.

The poems are really funny and accessible to kids. They are just the right amount of gross and subversive. They are great to read aloud and have a wonderful rhythm. And his pictures really draw kids into the text.

Some favorites of my son were Bottle Opener (p.40), where the jovial fellow has lost all his teeth opening bottles with them. The Toilet Troll (p.191), about a troll who lives in your toilet and is just waiting for you to sit down. On more than one day I've woken up to see my son looking at me saying, "let's talk about the troll in the toilet." And he isn't freaked out like I was when I saw Gremlins and never wanted to use the toilet again. He is pure boy and wants to talk about why the troll is in the toilet and just exactly what the troll is waiting for. Potty humor at its best. He thoroughly enjoys Rude Rudy Reese (p. 148-149) for the same reason. What boy could resist someone falling into poo up to his knees? It would take a stronger kid than my son, that's for sure.

His all-time favorite is Tic-Tac-Toe (p. 110).

Let's play tic-tack-toe.
I'll take the X's
You take the --OH--
Sticking a tack in someone's toe
Is not the way to play, you know.

Fits of giggles and "again!" is what I hear when we read that one. So I'm sold. I've already requested Where the Sidewalk Ends and we're going to work our way through the entire Silverstein canon. I think I could get into this poetry thing.

Book = Library Copy

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Pitch Black & Anthony Horton

I came across a YA-related article while reading the New York Times this evening. It was regarding Anthony Horton, who many YA graphic novel readers will remember as the subject of his and Youme Landowne's acclaimed 2008 graphic novel Pitch Black.

On Sunday, Mr. Horton died in a fire in his underground subway home.

Here is the article and here is my 2009 review of the book.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Summer at Forsaken Lake ... coming soon!

It's no secret here that I am a fan of Michael D. Beil and his Red Blazer Girls mystery series. Earlier today I read that he has a new book (separate from RBG) out this summer. The RBG Facebook page also mentioned it is geared a little more towards boys. Double hooray!

Summer at Forsaken Lake comes out in June by Knopf Books for Young Readers!

In anticipation, Mr. Beil has released his childhood 8mm film "The Seaweed Strangler" as a book trailer. Check it out below. It's pretty fun. I especially like the victory swing around the pier post after the Strangler finishes with a victim. C'mon summer!

Friday, February 3, 2012

There is No Dog by Meg Rosoff

The love oops has for Ms. Rosoff is quite large and has been documented over the years. We are kind of fangirls. So it was actually with a bit of trepidation that I started reading her newest title. Would I like it? Would it live up to my expectations? I almost put it off because the whole thing kind of stressed me out. Nevertheless, I did pick it up and read through it very, very quickly, and with a whole bunch of enjoyment.

Although, to be honest, it was a few chapters in before I really started to get into and get in tune with the flow of the book. The first few chapters are dedicated to the set up of the story. Yes we’re getting introduced to many of the main characters, but we’re also getting primed to how this whole “God” thing actually works. And the way it works takes a little getting used to. Mostly because God (or Bob, which is his real name) is a total pill. He’s a teenage boy who has very few redeeming qualities. Which was a bit of a problem for me. I like to have strong feelings about characters. I want to love them or hate them, pity them or empathize, not just feel kind of indifferent. Which is how I felt about Bob. Indifferent. Maybe slightly annoyed. And by the time I finished reading, I ended up still feeling...kind of indifferent, but I fell in love with so many of the other characters that it didn’t matter too much in the end.

This is an enormously funny book (although probably not for those who take the bible as literal truth). It is quite blasphemous. In a good way. I mean, Bob sort of makes a lot of sense in the "why isn't God listening to me," sort of way.

There is Bob, the creator, who has very little follow through. Mr. B, the man charged with keeping Bob on track (no easy feat, in fact an impossible one). Lucy, the mortal girl Bob falls in love with. Eck, Bob’s beleaguered pet who is looking at a terrible impending fate due to a poker game. Mona, Bob’s mom, who wins some poker games (how Bob got Earth!) and loses some (how Eck speeds towards his doom!). And the fabulous Estelle, the daughter of the “head” God, who is (luckily) smart enough for everyone.

Rosoff really uses her wit and her writing, as always, is wonderful. I can’t say it is my favorite of her books, but his enjoyed it very much and I am so glad that I read it.

Book Source = Library Copy