Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Fault In Our Stars by John Green



Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten.
Insightful, bold, irreverent, and raw, The Fault in Our Stars is award-winning author John Green’s most ambitious and heartbreaking work yet, brilliantly exploring the funny, thrilling, and tragic business of being alive and in love.

My Thoughts:

On page 55, Hazel says, "I was kind of scared to go down there. Listening to people howl in misery is not one of my favorite pastimes. But I went."

That's how I felt about this book. Sarah, from The Prosers, was the first person to recommend it to me, and this book kept cropping up everywhere. But I was afraid to read it. No matter how long ago my mom died of cancer, the feelings will always be raw. Plus, I've had cancer--the non-terminal kind, but still. Plus, I have kids. Enough said. But the things people said about this book intrigued me enough that I finally picked it up. 

It was wonderfully written; funny and poignant and full of characters I would love to know. I'm always happy when a young adult story can be true to life without sex, and that's not the case in this book. And it's a whole book about people who are terminally ill, so death and other difficult subjects are broached on a daily basis, so I recommend this book for adults and mature teenagers. 

5/5 stars


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling

Synopsis:


When Barry Fairbrother dies unexpectedly in his early forties, the little town of Pagford is left in shock. Pagford is, seemingly, an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, but what lies behind the pretty fa├žade is a town at war. Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils…. Pagford is not what it first seems. And the empty seat left by Barry on the town’s council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen. Who will triumph in an election fraught with passion, duplicity and unexpected revelations? Blackly comic, thought-provoking and constantly surprising, The Casual Vacancy is J.K. Rowling’s first novel for adults.


My Thoughts:


I got about 20 pages into it and put it down. I don't think I'll be picking it up again, and it makes me sad...I thought I was more than willing to give JK Rowling a fair shake. But I couldn't do it. Here's why:


1. The language. Come on, Joann. Seriously. Was it really necessary to make me wander through a cesspool just to prove to me that I'm not at Hogwarts anymore? 


2. Lack of a central character. By 20 pages in, I want to have met at least one character that I feel an inkling of sympathy for. Unfortunately, all of the people I met in Pagford were just icky. 


If I was head over heels for one of the characters, I might have pressed through the language, or vice versa. Thank you for not making it difficult to stick to my values on this one. 


Unfinished--but I give the first 20 pages 1/5 stars. Did I mention that I'm sad about that?

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Kill Switch by Chris Lynch

Synopsis:

All Daniel wants to do is spend one last summer with his grandfather before he moves away for college and his grandfather’s dementia pulls them apart. But when his dear old Da starts to let things slip about the job he used to hold—people he’s killed, countries he’s overthrown—old work “friends” show up to make sure he stays quiet. Was his grandfather really involved in a world of assassinations and coups, or are the stories just delusions of a crumbling mind? On the run from the police (and possibly something worse) before he has time to find out, Daniel may have to sacrifice everything to protect his grandfather from those who would do him harm.

My Thoughts:


I was so excited by the premise of this book. I love spy stories and thought a teenager trying to protect his Jason-Bourne-gets-Alzheimer's grandfather could be a great read. However... 

This was the most disturbing book, filled with some of the most unlikeable characters, doing the most icky things that I have ever finished. I finished it mostly because it was pretty short, and I was almost all the way through it before I realized it wasn't going to suddenly improve. The ending seemed as though the author realized he was hating it as much as I did and gave himself a page to wrap things up. I'm sure there are people who might enjoy this book. However, I was definitely not one of them.


1/5 stars

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Surrender by Elana Johnson


The Synopsis:
Forbidden love, intoxicating power, and the terror of control… 
Raine has always been a good girl. She lives by the rules in Freedom. After all, they are her father’s rules: He’s the Director. It’s because of him that Raine is willing to use her talent—a power so dangerous, no one else is allowed to know about it. Not even her roommate, Vi.  
All of that changes when Raine falls for Gunner. Raine’s got every reason in the world to stay away from Gunn, but she just can’t. Especially when she discovers his connection to Vi’s boyfriend, Zenn. Raine has never known anyone as heavily brainwashed as Vi. Raine’s father expects her to spy on Vi and report back to him. But Raine is beginning to wonder what Vi knows that her father is so anxious to keep hidden, and what might happen if she helps Vi remember it. She’s even starting to suspect Vi’s secrets might involve Freedom’s newest prisoner, the rebel Jag Barque....
My Thoughts:

I liked Surrender so much better than the first book (Possession.) Vi, Zenn and Jag are only minor characters in this story, but it doesn't matter, because Raine and Gunner are amazing. The story will mean a lot more to you if you have at least a passing knowledge of what happened in Possession. This is an exciting read with a fun love story.

5/5 stars

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers


Seventeen-year-old Ismae escapes from the brutality of an arranged marriage into the sanctuary of the convent of St. Mortain, where the sisters still serve the gods of old. Here she learns that the god of Death Himself has blessed her with dangerous gifts—and a violent destiny. If she chooses to stay at the convent, she will be trained as an assassin and serve as a handmaiden to Death. To claim her new life, she must destroy the lives of others.
Ismae’s most important assignment takes her straight into the high court of Brittany—where she finds herself woefully under prepared—not only for the deadly games of intrigue and treason, but for the impossible choices she must make. For how can she deliver Death’s vengeance upon a target who, against her will, has stolen her heart?
I'm still not certain whether I just read a young adult book or a historical romance...If the definition of young adult is any book with a young adult for a protagonist than that's what this book is. The themes were much more in-line with books written for adults. I liked this one, mostly because of Ismae's growth throughout the book. 
4/5 stars

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Legend by Marie Lu



Born into an elite family in one of the Republic’s wealthiest districts, fifteen-year-old June is a prodigy. Obedient, passionate, and committed to her country, she is being groomed for success in the Republic’s highest military circles. 
Born into the slums of the Republic’s Lake Sector, fifteen-year-old Day is the country’s most wanted criminal... 
From different worlds, June and Day have no reason to cross paths—until the day June’s brother is murdered, and Day becomes the prime suspect. Now, caught in the ultimate game of cat and mouse, Day is in a race for his family’s survival while June tries desperately to avenge her brother’s death. But in a shocking turn of events, the two uncover the truth of what has really brought them together and the sinister lengths their country will go to in order to keep its secrets.
Imagine Hunger Games as a murder mystery, and with a (slightly) faster blooming romance. If you think that might be something you would like, read this right now! Legend is a little less gory than Hunger Games, but is probably appropriate for the same age group.
5/5 stars

Friday, August 31, 2012

What I Read Over Summer Vacation by Melanie Crouse

Trying to keep two blogs rolling at the same time is trickier than I would have guessed. I'll get the hang of it someday, but in the meantime, come check out What I Read Over Summer Vacation at The Prosers! I've also made a list of books I plan to read this fall.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Book Thief


The Book Thief
By: Mark Zusak
576 pages
Published in 2007

Looking at my goodreads account, it appears that I might be the last person in the world to read this book, so perhaps there is no one in the world left to care about my review. But just in case...this one is for you!

Summary:

Where to begin? It's a simple story really, about a very complicated time. I should begin by mentioning that it is narrated by Death, who has a very different perspective on the tragedy of dying. Death is tired, and senses that the more he interacts with humans, the less he understands them. He says that he often overestimates humanity, that he often underestimates humanity, but that he rarely estimates it. The last sentence of the book is, "I am haunted by humans."

On the course of Death's journey, he picked up a book written by The Book Thief about her life and her experiences. He uses that book as a reference for telling her story, and he makes particular mention of his own memories of her life--times when she has brushed against Death's world.

The book thief is a foster child named Liesel living in Mochling, Germany during World War II. Unable to read, Liesel is the last person in the world I would have expected to become a book thief. But although she cannot read in the beginning of the book, and although the process of learning to read is painful and slow, Liesel senses the innate power of words to transform her brutal life. The Book Thief is not only Liesel's story. It is the story of her foster parents, her best friend Rudy, and a Jewish man named Max.

Review:

A review for The Book Thief in the School Library Journal says, "Zusak not only creates a mesmerizing and original story but also writes with poetic syntax, causing readers to deliberate over phrases and lines, even as the action impels them forward.
" I couldn't have said it better myself. The story of The Book Thief is a simple one--probably simple enough to have been a much shorter book. But the narration is phenomenal, pulling us out to see the bigger picture and then pulling us back in to Liesel's life. It's been such a long time since I found a book written so lyrically that was also action-packed enough to keep my reading.

Death doesn't have any sense of mystery--as an omniscient narrator he often blurts out what is going to happen hundreds of pages from where you are reading, or five pages from where you are reading. In some ways I appreciated that, because I'm not usually a fan of tragedy, and it gave me time to get prepared. It is a tragic book--was there anyone living in Germany during World War II whose life was not tragic?

The best reason to read this book is the characters. They are amazing; heroic and simple, complicated and human, all at the same time. Hans, Liesel's stepfather, is definitely the hero of the story, with Rudy, Liesel's best friend and partner in crime coming a close second.

Don't be fooled by the crazy way publishers choose to market their books. If the book is about a teenager, it is placed in the young adult section. This book is definitely written for adults, not teenagers, though as with many books, there is a certain sophisticated subset of teenagers who might enjoy this book a lot.

As you are deciding whether or not this book is for you, picture me sitting in my family room, crying (almost keening, really) for the last twenty pages or so. My younger children are all sitting around me, rubbing my arm and cuddling into me, because they don't often see me reading SAD STUFF. It was worth it though.

Melanie gives this book 5/5 stars

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Scrambled Eggs at Midnight
by Brad Barkley and Heather Hepler
288 pages
published in 2007


Summary (from  Goodreads ):


Calliope (or Cal as she calls herself ) wants nothing more than to stay put, to stop traveling cross-country with her mother, sleeping in a tent, abandoning all belongings whenever they pull up stakes. Eliot misses the happy times he left behind when his father decided to open a camp for kids looking to lose weight and find Jesus.When Cal and Eliot meet by chance, they feel an immediate connection.Together they must face their isolation, the threat of yet another move, and the deepening of Eliot’s father’s obsession with money and God.This smart novel, featuring unforgettable characters, colorful backdrops, and even a few recipes, is as funny as it is romantic.

Review by: Jessica
I completely fell in love with this book.  I loved Cal's deep, artistic-ness and Eliot's shy dorkiness. I thought the progression of their relationship was very natural, especially when Calliope starts to pull away near the end, as her move draws near. And if I loved Callipoe and Eliot separately, they were completely, totally perfect together. They were so amazing together. I have no words.
      The writing was also perfect. Everything flowed together and felt just so easy and lovely to read, like reading poetry or drinking hot chocolate or listening to a lullaby. 
Example.
‘The hole in the lake, goofy,’ she says. She wears her sneakers unlaced and I keep thinking she’s going to trip and fall head-first into the water.
I put my foot on the front of the boat to steady it while she climbs in, and her hair falls across her shoulder and brushes my arm. Her smell is vanilla and cinnamon, but it’s like a lid dropping down over another smell, musty clothes or an attic trunk, maybe, and I remember that she told me she’s been sleeping in a tent for the last ten nights. When she leans to get in, the bottle cap falls down against whatever else is there and makes that sound again. And that sound becomes *her* sound, like the can in the water, like if I ever had to find her in the dark I wouldn’t look for her, I would listen for her, and I would know that sound out of all the others in the world.


Another example because I just love examples, don't you?:
“She looked like she believed in something, or wanted to, and I hoped to hell it wasn’t God, not in the way The Dad believes, because all that does is make him forced and desperate. No, it was something else, not just that I saw a pretty girl and just got all excited. I mean, yeah, that part is true, and she really was gorgeous, and the freckles covering her, the freckles on top of freckles all spread out and folding into one another made her skin look like it had grain and texture, like polished wood, like it would feel smooth to the touch, and so soft. I knew that. But it wasn’t how she looked.” 
All in all, this book was beautiful and perfect and consisted of everything wonderful in the world.
5 out of 5


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Bloomability

I apologize for the lack of picture here, and I'll add one as soon as I'm back on my own computer. In the meantime, you can find the book here.

Bloomability
by: Sharon Creech
273 pages
published in: 2001

Summary:
In Dinny's first life, her family followed her father all over the country, searching for the right "opportunity". Dinny's older brother and sister get in more trouble with each move, until her brother ends up in jail and her sister has a new baby. Without warning, Dinny is carted off to Switzerland with an aunt and uncle she's never met before. Her uncle is the new headmaster of an international boarding school there. Among students from many different cultures, Dinny finally finds a place she belongs--but that doesn't stop her from wishing she could return to her family.

Review:
This isn't the first time I've read this book. In fact, we listen to an old audiotape of it every summer. It's influenced my children's lives enough that my daughter has listed "Lugano, Switzerland" as her hometown on facebook, and when we're really excited, we suddenly break into Italian: "andiamo" and "Sono libero!" You come away loving people so much, and with an understanding of different points of view. Dinny's new friends discuss deep topics like war and arranged marriage from the point of view of many different cultures. It would have been so easy to make Dinny's family seem like the villains in this tale, but instead, Sharon Creech takes the time to make them all sympathetic characters, and you really understand why it's so hard for Dinny to stay away.

My favorite character: Guthrie, the boy who looks out the window and only sees the sky, and feels no qualms telling his friends that he is an "invisible eyeball" and "sono potente." Love him!

I give this book 5 stars. It's entertaining enough for the whole family, though my younger children were a little upset by an avalanche scene near the end. Still, I'm glad we read and discussed it as a family. Even my teenage boy enjoyed the story, though I'm not certain he would have picked it up on his own.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Everneath


Book review of EVERNEATH by Brodi Ashton

Blurb-from Goodreads

“Last spring, Nikki Beckett vanished, sucked into an underworld known as the Everneath, where immortals Feed on the emotions of despairing humans. Now she’s returned—to her old life, her family, her friends—before being banished back to the underworld... this time forever.

She has six months before the Everneath comes to claim her, six months for good-byes she can’t find the words for, six months to find redemption, if it exists.”

Everneath is a young adult paranormal romance based on the mythology of Hades and Persephone and Orpheus and Eurydice.    I’m a sucker for a modern take on mythology especially the Hades/Persephone thing, so I was really excited about reading this book.

I liked her take on the mythology.  I thought it was a fresh--kind of morphed Greek mythology with vampires--unlike anything I’d seen before, and I really wanted to see more of Everneath and see more of the Everliving.   The beginning was very intriguing, and ending was very satisfying (Okay, I may have shed a few tears).

But the middle dragged a bit.  It felt like the story was stretched out to make it longer.  I’d read a whole chapters where nothing really happened.  I also had a hard time connecting with Nikki.  I didn’t understand her motivation, why she came back, what she hoped to accomplish.  Nor did I really feel her pain.  In fact, all the three of the main characters were all a little weak.  Jack seemed a little too perfect, and I had a hard time getting a feel for Cole.  I never felt as if he really had a strong bond with Nikki.  He worked pretty hard to get her for a few chapters and then just seemed to give up.  That felt inconsistent to me.

I give it a 3.5/5 stars.  I did enjoy it, but it could’ve been so much better if the characters had been better developed.  I might read the next one because I’m really fascinated with her mythology, and maybe the characters will get more interesting as they are further developed.  I can always hope.

Overall, this was a pretty clean story, and I suggest giving it a try if you’re interested in fresh, modernizations of Greek mythology and YA love triangles.

~MaryAnn

Monday, July 2, 2012

Alcatraz and the Shattered Lens

Alcatraz Versus The Shattered Lens
Alcatraz and the Shattered Lens
by: Brandon Sanderson
published in 2010
292 pages

For: Middle Grades and Up! This one needs stars and trumpets to announce that it's a book boys would enjoy.
Rating: 5/5 stars

Summary:
If you haven't had the pleasure of seeing Brandon Sanderson's less serious side, you're really missing out. This is book 4 of the Alcatraz series, so you should start from the beginning with Alcatraz Versus The Evil Librarians. Alcatraz doesn't realize that his propensity for breaking things is actually a talent--all the Smedry's have talents like that. He'd have found out a lot sooner if his grandfather's talent wasn't always being late for things. Now that Alcatraz knows, the future of the human race rests on his shoulders...because the evil Librarians are coming! Their mission is to keep mere mortals as downtrodden as possible. It turns out that Alcatraz is actually from a country the Librarians have deleted from our world maps...a country where the name of Smedry is both revered and feared.

My favorite quote:
"Anyway, what just happened is something we call a teddy bear on the mantle. This is an ancient storytelling rule that says, "If there's an exploding teddy bear that can destroy people's clothing in a given book, that teddy bear must be used to destroy someone's clothing by the end of the book."

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Prosers Read

Welcome! This will eventually become a vibrant, exciting blog filled with book reviews of middle grade and young adult literature, both new and old. There will also be reviews of books that don't precisely fit into the MG/YA category, but might be interesting to that audience. The reviews will be written by teenagers and adults, and possibly even by pre-teens. Unfortunately, we're still working out the details. Please come back soon!