Monday, August 31, 2009

Friendly Reminder

Hey everybody!

Just a reminder, September 1 is the release date for two amazing books! Be sure you read Catching Fire and Hate List!

The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

Todd Hewitt is the only boy in a town of men, in a world where everyone can hear everyone else's thoughts. In school, he was taught that the same virus that caused the inescapable thought Noise also killed the female population. But when Todd comes hears a pocket of complete silence in the swamp outside town, the town's reaction puts an end to everything Todd thought he knew. To survive, Todd, his dog Manchee (who also makes thought Noise), and their mysterious new companion must go on the run. Their only hope lies in Haven, New World's first and largest city.

But can they get there before Todd's past catches up to them?

The Knife of Letting Go is an action packed read that will keep you guessing and get you thinking about the nature of good and evil, truth and lies, right and wrong. A must read for lovers of adventure.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George

The King of Westfalin has a problem. The royal treasury has been depleted by a 12 year war that his soldiers only narrowly won, and here he is, spending his country's dwindling gold on dancing slippers. The twelve princesses of Westfalin are wearing out their shoes much more quickly than anyone should, and the King can't figure out why. He locks them in their bedrooms every night, and every morning he finds them exhausted, and with worn out dancing shoes. The royal maids and palace guards haven't seen or heard anything, and the princesses seem unwilling or unable to explain themselves. What's a king to do?

This retelling of the Grimm Brothers' classic tale, The Twelve Dancing Princesses (or the Shoes that Were Danced to Pieces), is hands down the best fairy tale adaptation I've read in quite some time. The language was as fresh and easy to understand as it was vibrant and descriptive. The thirteen central characters (the twelve princesses and the soldier who comes to investigate their problem) are all fleshed out in interesting ways, which is a feat in and of itself. The addition of a villain is exactly what this story needed to make it novel length, and the suspense was absolutely pitch-perfect.

The Princess of the Midnight Ball is an excellent way to spend a free afternoon.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

*This book is a sequel to last year's The Hunger Games. If you have not read the Hunger Games, please stop reading this review and head to your local library or bookstore and get a copy. It will be the most satisfactory decision you make all week.*

I've read thousands of books in my lifetime. Literally, thousands. In most of those books, there is some element of predictability; the "coming of age" story, the "stop the world from ending" story, the "boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back" story. As unique as each individual book may be, they all fit within a larger framework.

All but Catching Fire. I can honestly say that I was unable to predict a single thing that happened in this book. I all but inhaled the story in a desperate attempt to figure out what was about to happen, and every time I thought I might have it figured out, Ms. Collins threw me another curveball.

Catching Fire is an exciting, edge-of-your-seat, get-angry-if-you-must-do-anything-else-before-you-finish type story. It's the best thing I've read this year. Catching Fire will be released on September 1, and I hope you'll get your hands on a copy. It's well worth your time.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

If I Stay by Gayle Forman

It's the strangest thing. One minute, Mia was enjoying a weekend drive with her family. The next, she was standing by the side of the road looking down at her own mangled body. She watches from outside herself as the paramedics load her into an ambulance, and whisk her away to the trauma unit. Now, Mia faces the most difficult decision of her life. Should she wake herself from the coma and face life alone? Or should she let herself go and rejoin her lost family?

The emotional punches in this book hit in just the right places. Mia's love for her parents and devotion for her brother make it very convincing that she'd want to die with them rather than live alone; her love for her best friend, boyfriend and grandparents provide valid reasons for her to stay. Her dilemma is very real, and not at all the angst-fest it could have turned out to be.

Mia's story is an examination of not just one life, but of how the lives of people who love each other intersect. It's not just Mia's life that passes before her as she tries to make this impossible decision. Her life is inextricably tied to the lives of the people who love her, which makes her choice all the more difficult. Ms. Forman manages to make this book both bittersweet and feel-good, which is a feat in itself. I'd highly recommend this one.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

How Oliver Olson Changed the World by Claudia Mills

Nine-year-old Oliver's parents are always making decisions for him. When he gets home from school, his mother has already decided what he should have for a snack. When he has a homework project his parents take over, which leaves him with barely anything to do. When Oliver comes up with a great idea for his diorama of outer space, his classmate Crystal convinces him to step out on his own and start trying to make his own choices.

I loved Oliver as a character. He was sweetly funny, and his narration captured the frustration and disappointment of his situation with perfect realism. Our world is full of parents like Oliver's; Wikipedia even has a page on Helicopter Parents. Perhaps, if those parents could look through Oliver's eyes, he could change more than just his own world.

Ash by Malinda Lo

After the death of Ash's father, she is forced into indentured servitude for her stepmother and two stepsisters.

Sound familiar? Yeah. Me too.

Cinderella adaptations are thick on the ground, and while the premise of this one seemed unique, the execution did not. Everything about the language and style of this book feels like something I've already read. It's painful to say, since I'm a great lover of fairy tales (and I so wanted to like this one), but this is less than stellar.

For fairy tale adaptations that feel more fresh and unique, I'd recommend Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George, or A Curse Dark as Gold by Elizabeth C. Bunce (reviews of both will be coming soon).