Wednesday, March 31, 2010

I'm Participating in the 2010 Debut Author Challenge

The Story Siren

There are a lot of book challenges out there in the blogshere.  I have looked at many, but until today I haven't committed to one.  Yes, I am finally going to commit to a challenge.  This one is the 2010 Debut Author Challenge hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren.  I will attempt to read 12 titles this year for the challenge.  I haven't chosen all of my titles yet, but here is what I have so far:

  1. Dirty Little Secrets by C. J. Omololu (finished in March)
  2. The Iron King by Julie Kagawa (finished in March)
  3. The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting

Those are my first three picks, but there will be more to come.  You can follow my progress on the sidebar titled "2010 Debut Author Challenge." I will also post whenever I add a new book for the challenge.  If you are interested in signing up, or want to find out more about the challenge, go to 2010 Debut Author Challenge Information.

Thank you to Kristi for hosting this event.  I look forward to seeing if I can meet this challenge! 

What I'm Reading Wednesday!

After finishing Fever Crumb and Thirteen Reasons Why I feel like I have been floundering a bit this week. I am still reading (I have to stay ahead of my husband in the challenge), but I haven't had the enthusiasm for it. I could chalk it up as a symptom of these back spasms I keep having, but to be honest, I think it has to do with a lack of excitement.

I have my list of books that I have to read for the committee I am on, but so far I haven’t been eager to start. There are others I would rather read, and I think that may be another reason I am dragging my feet—obligation versus personal preference. To compound the problem, there is the fact that starting a new book is the hardest part for me. I should probably look at it as a chance to be surprised, but I am so afraid that the next book isn't going to be as good as the last one I read. And those last two were wonderful!

I do have hope though because I am working on two great titles right now. The first is This World We Live In by Susan Beth Pfeffer. It is a sequel to the two books, Life as We Knew It and The Dead and the Gone. It takes place a few months after the end of Life as We Knew It and brings in characters from The Dead and the Gone. It is ultimately a story of survival and another type of dystopian fiction book. Not one that has me raving about how good it is, but it is interesting enough to keep me going. I hope to finish it before the publication date on April 1st.

This World We Live In (Moon, #3)

I am also listening to a book right now that is excellent. It is The Dead-Tossed Waves by Carrie Ryan, a sequel to The Forest of Hands and Teeth. Ryan has me on the edge of my seat, and completely unable to predict where the story will go next. I can’t wait to find out. This one has me picking up the actual book when the audio stops, so it is definitely enticing.

The Dead-Tossed Waves

There are a few others I have started, but don’t know if I will finish at this time. For the complete list you can see the “What I am Reading Now” box in the sidebar.

As far as the challenge with my husband goes, currently the standings are: Him (14), Me (14).  We are neck and neck.  I don't think his challenge will help me with my resolution of 1.5 per week, but at least he has gotten me moving a bit faster.

What are you reading? Is there anything you would recommend right now?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Book Review: Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Title: Thirteen Reasons Why
Author: Jay Asher
Publisher: Razorbill (book); Random House /Listening Library (audio)
Publication Date: 10/18/2007
Genre: Teen Realistic Fiction, Suicide Fiction
Checked out both book and audio from public library.

Th1rteen R3asons Why Th1rteen R3asons Why by Jay Asher

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“I hope you’re ready, because I’m about to tell you the story of my life. More specifically, why my life ended. And if you’re listening to these tapes, you’re one of the reasons why.” (pg. 7)

When Clay Jenson first receives the unmarked package in the mail he is excited wondering what it is and thinking he might have received something interesting. When he opens it to discover the collection of cassette tapes, he is puzzled, wondering who would send a collection of seven audiotapes labeled 1-13 to him. When he puts the first tape into the cassette player, he discovers that they contain that story of a dead girl. The story of Hannah Baker who committed suicide two weeks before.

As Clay Jenson listens to Hannah’s last words he finds out things that will make his whole world turn upside down. Some secrets are meant to stay secrets, because when they are revealed they have the power to tear you apart.

I don’t know where to start with this book. I have read many really good books lately, but this one was outstanding. I remember reading a review for the book last year and thinking I needed to pick this one up, but I never got around to it until recently. I wish I had read it sooner. This book was fabulous.

I did listen to the audio format of this book, and felt that the format fit the style of the book. You are supposed to be listening to Hannah’s last words and her story, and by listening to the audio you feel like you are listening to her. In the book, Hannah’s words are italicized, but in the audio format we have a female narrator, Deborah Wiseman, being the voice of Hannah Baker. Likewise, Clay Jenson is voiced by Joel Johnstone.

Wiseman’s narration of Hannah is spot on. You can sense the anger in her voice and ultimately the helplessness and her circumstances overwhelm her. Joel Johnstone, does a good job voicing Clay’s confusion at getting the tapes, and his fondness for Hannah.

The story is remarkable no matter what format you choose. It demonstrates how little you can really know the people around you, and the secrets that they keep. This book was all about secrets, and how secrets can hurt you.

Highly recommended.

View all my reviews >>

Big Stephenie Meyer's News from USA Today

For all those who love Twilight, Stephenie Meyer will be releasing a novella The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner: An Eclipse Novella on June 5th at 12:01 am.  Find out more in this article from USA Today!

Meyer grants Twilight saga's Bree Tanner a 'Second Life'

I am interested in seeing what a Twilight novel will be like without featuring Edward and Bella.  I am not a diehard fan, but I can't wait to see what this one will be like!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Unsung YA Heroes

Each year there are thousands of books published and most of those books are never recognized by the main stream review journals.  Only the select few get through, and even then unless they win an award they become obscure.  Many of these books are really wonderful books and deserve to be recognized.  Out of this need rose the Unsung YA Heroes.  In January amidst the annual awards Kelly from YAnnabe blogged about this dilemma and the fate of these unsung heroes:

The Best YA Books You Haven’t Read

Now Kelly from YAnnabe is offering the Great Unsung Giveaway.  Visit her post for more details. 

The Great Unsung YA 2010 Giveaway

This is a wonderful way to recognize those titles that we enjoyed and didn't make it into the awards lists!  Thank you Kelly for doing this and bringing attention to these wonderful books!  Go to her website, check out the list of wonderful titles, and enter for your chance to win!

Book Review: Fever Crumb by Philip Reeve

Title: Fever Crumb
Publisher: Scholastic
Publication Date: 4/1/2010
Genre: Science Fiction, Dystopian Futures
ARC recieved from Scholastic via Goodreads First Reads.

Fever Crumb Fever Crumb by Philip Reeve

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Fever Crumb is the only girl in the Order of Engineers. In fact, she was raised by a member of the order, Dr. Crumb who found her as an infant, and deemed that it was only rational that he raise her. So fever has learned to be rational, to think like an engineer, and assist Dr. Crumb. When an archeologist by the name of Kit Solent request that Fever help him on his current dig, things for Fever change dramatically.

Meanwhile to the north of the city a movement of nomads threatens London agitating the people and setting everyone on edge. In a city where suspicion and fear run rampant, Fever is an oddity and a throwback that reminds people of the Scriven, the cruel rulers that the people of London overthrew a few years back. When she becomes the hunted, she must find a way to secure safety for herself in an unpredictable world.

I haven’t read the Hungry City Chronicles by Philip Reeve, but this book is just the enticement I needed to encourage me to do so. After reading Fever Crumb I want to know more about the remarkable world Reeve has created in his previous books where whole cities travel from place to place swallowing up smaller cities and villages in their wake.

Fever Crumb is a treasure trove of fiction. Reeve’s characters are well constructed and well rounded. I even find myself liking one of the potential villains Bagman Creech. The author’s descriptions and world building is fantastic. You can feel the paranoia of the common people, as well as the fear, corruption, and instability of their government. London was waiting to riot again and Fever is an unintentional catalyst for a dynamic chain reaction.

Well written and enjoyable. I can’t wait to go out and read Mortal Engines now that I have finished Fever Crumb!

View all my reviews >>

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Book Review: The Iron King by Julie Kagawa

Title: The Iron King
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Publication Date: 2/2010
Genre: Fantasy, Paranormal Romance
Purchased copy for review.

The Iron King (Iron Fey, #1) The Iron King by Julie Kagawa

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Not since Alice went down the rabbit hole, or Dorothy flew over the rainbow, has there been a book so exciting. Iron King is a wonderful fantasy adventure that takes us into Nevernever, the heart of myths and fantasies, where danger lurks behind every turn. This book was too good to put down, as our heroine escapes one perilous situation only to stumble into more trouble at the next turn. Iron King has something for everyone; action, adventure, danger, friendship, and forbidden romance.

Tired of her life on a pig farm, Mehgan Chase looks forward to her sixteenth birthday, when she hopes getting her drivers permit might add some excitement to her dreary life. When she comes home and discovers her brother, Ethan, has been kidnapped by faeries and replaced with a dangerous changeling, Meghan gets more excitement than she had bargained for, as she resolves to save Ethan from the faeries who have captured him. After her only true friend, Robbie, reveals to her that he is actually the mythical Puck or Robin Goodfellow of Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, Meghan enlists his help to venture into Nevernever to save her brother. As Meghan embarks on the adventure of a lifetime, she has no idea what dangers and revelations she will soon face.

There have been a lot of faery books published lately, and most focus on faeries interacting and living in our world. It was refreshing to see a book that dares to venture into fairyland, and the resulting story is top notch. Kagawa created a world where creatures of myth and legend roam, and what you say and the deals you make can have serious consequences.

My one criticism would be that the story’s climax came too swiftly. The entire story had been building towards this confrontation, but it was over in a matter of a few pages. The ending was a bit of a letdown after all the dangers and obstacles they face trying to get to the climax, but the journey to get there could not have been better. This quick ending may be partially due to the fact that this is the first book in a series, but still I feel with the time I invested in this novel I should have gotten more from the climax than the few pages it was given.

Still this was a fun and entertaining read and I find myself lamenting the fact that I have to wait another five whole months for the next installment in the series. I am anxious to see where Kagawa will go with the next book. Overall I found this book to be a very pleasant surprise. If you are looking for something to tide you over while you wait for the next installment, you might try Carrie Jone’s books Need and Captivate or the Wicked Lovely series by Melissa Marr. The next book, The Iron Daughter is due out in August 2010.

View all my reviews >>

Discussion Questions:

1. What did you think of the feud between Puck and Ash? How do you think that might play out in the next two books?

I felt that the feud between Puck and Ash was somewhat manufactured. I understand why Ash feels the way he does, but I think the author put it in simply to build the romantic conflict. There had to be some reason for the two to hate each other so that the competition over the girl is stepped up a notch. It creates more resistance to the relationship between Meghan and Ash. Kind of an Jacob/Edward type relationship and I feel it is being slightly overused in the genre lately.

I hope in the next two books that they find a way to get around Ash’s vow to kill Puck. I am hoping that Meghan can barter with Ash and get him to relinquish his vow for vengeance. Even Ash believes that it might have been hasty, but faery promises can’t be broken.

2. Favorite scene or line from the book? Could you relate to any of the characters?

The scene that made me chuckle was the one in New Orleans where Puck hales a carriage pulled by a mule and Grim hops up next to the driver and tells him “Historic Voodoo Museum and step on it.” For some reason that cracked me up.

Many of the characters were difficult to relate to because they were so unusual. You have dark and brooding Ash, and playful Puck, and Meghan who thinks she is ordinary but is actually extraordinary.

3. With whom did you identify with the most? And Why?

I could really identify with Meghan at the beginning of the book the most. I remember what it was like in high school being somewhat of a loner. Yeah I had friends, but admittedly I was a geek and was always afraid of being made fun of. It didn’t help that I wore my heart on my sleeve and you could make me cry at the drop of a hat.

4. Did you find the concept behind the Iron King- being a technology fueled modern day faerie- original or unbelievable?

The book has a very environmental theme. Our technology could be our undoing, and I can see this as becoming a more common theme in literature. Kagawa’s treatment of the topic is however most original in that the technology has spilled over into the fairylands. I think though, that they made the enemy almost too invincible since the ordinary fey can be killed by iron. It makes the tasks of Meghan and her friends in the future books nearly insurmountable.

5. Kagawa used a lot of mythical faeries in The Iron King, such as King Oberon, Queen Mab and Puck. Which fae from myth would you have liked to have seen added into the pages of The Iron King besides the ones she used?

I was happy with her choices.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

What I am Reading Now

I am starting to get on a roll and pick up the pace on my reading. I guess I have to now that I am competing with my husband for the most books this year. Right now we are tied at 11 each, but he is such a fast reader I really need to keep going. Everyone keeps asking what do you get if you win. We haven't negotiated that yet. Perhaps just bragging rights--in my household that would be enough.

The Iron King (Iron Fey, #1)

Started Iron King by Julie Kagawa yesterday and am alread more than a 3rd of the way through it already. I can't put it down. Can't wait to finish this one and review it.

Thirteen Reasons Why

I am also listening to the book Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher. This is an interesting book and listening to it is perfect for the subject. Before Hannah Baker committed suicide she recorded 13 tapes with reasons for her actions. The tapes are sent around to everyone she blames for her problems with the threat that they listen and pass it to the next person on the list or their secrets will be revealed to everyone. When Clay Jenson gets the tapes he doesn't understand why he is on Hannah's list, but he will have to listen to find out.

I actually have 3 more books that I am reading right now, but I will get to those at another time. These two will be the next I finish. I hope Iron King continues to impress me, so far it has been an exciting adventure.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Status Update on New Years Resolution and Husband's Challenge

Alright the goal was 1.5 books per week. At this point I should have read 16.5 books, but have only read 11. I am catching up, but at this point I think it might be hopeless.

My husband and I have a challenge going since I mentioned my little problem to him. Our challenge is to see who can read the most books this year. I think I might have taken the lead with number 11, but I am not so sure. I am trying to get him to sign up for Goodreads so that we can keep better track, but we will see.

Book Review: Maze Runner by James Dashner

Just finished another book. This one was a good one. Took me a while to get into, but it was well worth it. Now I just have to wait for the sequel!

The Maze Runner (Maze Runner, #1) The Maze Runner by James Dashner

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
When Thomas first wakes up he finds himself in a metal box moving upward. He only remembers his name, not his parents, where he came from, or any other details. Then the box opens and he arrives in the Glade where a bunch of teenage boys who also have selective amnesia greet him and introduce him to his new life in the center of a large maze.

For two years the Gladers, all boys, have attempted to solve the maze and find a way out, but without any success. A special elite group of Gladers, called runners, court a gruesome death everyday in a maze that is patrolled by mechanical monsters called Grievers. The Gladers have created a society where they keep order by making sure everyone takes part in providing for the needs of those living in the glade. There are those that raise animals for food, those who garden, those who build, those who cook and those who clean up. Thomas must now find his place among the Gladers, but he can’t shake the feeling that he remembers this place.

Then one day, a girl arrives and everything changes. Thomas must look deep into himself to find a way out of the maze once and for all.

At first I found this book thoroughly frustrating. The reader and Thomas have a million questions, yet everyone refuses to answer them. At points I found myself wanting to throw the book across the room, because I felt like I was getting nowhere. As the story progresses, you still don’t get many of the answers you want, but it gets more bearable when you discover that none of the characters have all the answers and that Thomas has more answers and knowledge than most.

This book is action packed and extremely fast paced. There is danger around every corner and even the Glade isn’t safe. Thomas can be a difficult character to like at times, but you do have to admire his boldness. Many of the other characters were interesting and I think I would have enjoyed hearing more from Newt and Minho. It was nice that Thomas had to realize, through the other Gladers, that the solutions they sought were not that easy to come by. In fact the others often reminded him that if the solution was simple they would have found it already.

This was an engrossing, action packed read. Recommended for fans of action books, mysteries, and dystopian futures.

Cautions for sensitive readers: First the obvious, this book is very violent. The Grievers are terrifying and merciless and sometimes the Gladers themselves are violent. There is no sex at all in the book. As for offensive language, the author chose to make up his own types of swear words, so you will often see the word “klunk” used where you would normally see a foul word.

View all my reviews >>

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The One I Just Gave Up On

I don't finish a lot of books. Many times I will pick up a book, read the first chapter, and never get back to it either because it doesn't interest me, I don't have enough time, or because I have more important things to read right now. This is the first time I have put down a book because its punctuation drove me nutty. The story was intriguing and I think I would have stayed with it had the author used quotation marks as she should.

Girl in the Arena Girl in the Arena by Lise Haines

My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Okay, I usually don't make a practice of reviewing something I haven't finished, but I just couldn't keep going on this one and I think it is important for me to say why so hopefully the word gets out about this.

The premise was interesting, the alternative history (as I would classify this), was also interesting. All in all, I think it might have made an interesting book, but there was just one problem I couldn't get past no matter how hard I tried.

The book lacks quotation marks. Instead of putting characters dialogue into quotation marks like most books do, this book used hash marks. I found this frustrating after a while because the spoken parts and the descriptive parts (for example: he said, she said, I say, etc...) are all merged into one. Here is an example copied exactly from page 203 of the text:

--There's a lot to consider, he said vaguely, ready to drop the subject.

I don’t consider myself the grammar or punctuation police, but this was more than a little annoying because the entire book is like this. Bloomsbury is a large enough publisher that I seriously believe they could have had someone edit this better. Hash marks are not quotation marks and there are reasons to use quotation marks.

On another note, I was also surprised that multiple professional reviewers failed to mention this in their reviews. Maybe it didn’t bother them, but it was certainly irritating to me and to the people I showed the book too. The only professional review journal that mentions this punctuation problem was VOYA who mentions that it makes the book difficult to read at first (VOYA 2010). The rest of the reviews were excellent and many people felt that Hunger Games fans would flock to this book. I just hope they have a better time reading it than I did.

View all my reviews >>

Book Review: Dirty Little Secrets by C. J. Omololu

Dirty Little Secrets Dirty Little Secrets by C.J. Omololu

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
“That was the trouble with secrets—the lies you had to tell to keep them hidden almost made you feel worse than telling the truth. Almost” (pg. 14).

Everyone has secrets about their life or their families that they don’t want to share. Things that you keep close and hope that no one ever finds out, for fear they might judge you harshly. Lucy’s secret is one she has been keeping for years. It has kept her from having friends, and from inviting people to her house. From the outside she and her family look normal, but on the inside is a different matter.

Lucy’s mother is a hoarder. She keeps everything and doesn’t clean anything. For years her mother has said that it is Lucy’s fault because she doesn’t pick up after herself, but if Lucy were to touch any of her mother’s precious treasures, Lucy’s mother would be very displeased. When Lucy had the audacity to clean her room so she had her own refuge from the junk infesting the house, Lucy’s mother took it as a personal insult. No one can come in. No one can repair the broken furnace, or the broken water heater. No one can witness their terrible secret. Then the unthinkable happens and Lucy must find a way to keep her secret safe.

This is a fascinating book. It is on a subject that we hear of on the news or from other sources, but it often isn’t a subject that we talk about much. It was interesting to hear the story from the point of view of a teen living in the mess and desperately trying to keep the family secret. She is surrounded by a situation that seems hopeless, though she doesn’t give up trying to protect herself from disaster.

The book is well written. I liked how the chapters, with the exception of the first, mark time from 9:00am the first morning to 5:35 am the next, and as the time passes, you can feel Lucy’s desperation grow. The reader is given a window into Lucy’s life, and the difficulties she has had living with a mother who hoards everything.

My one criticism would be that although you are told this story from Lucy’s point of view, it somehow lacked the emotional impact you would think it should have. I felt distanced from Lucy’s emotions, but perhaps that is because she is distanced from them herself. Still I think she should have reacted more strongly than she did to a few of the events in the book.

With the glut of vampire, dating, and fantasy books being published for teens, this book is refreshingly different, tackling a topic that is not often discussed in teen literature. In the Acknowledgements, the author includes a website that will help people who find themselves in Lucy’s situation.

View all my reviews

Book Review: Never Blame the Umpire by Gene Fehler

Never Blame the Umpire Never Blame the Umpire by Gene Fehler

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Kate has the perfect life and the perfect family. She has two great supportive parents and a wonderful little brother. She loves sports and is looking forward to spending her summer playing baseball and tennis and writing poetry in her creative writing class. The biggest problem Kate thinks she has in life is her disappointment when her parents fail to attend her opening season baseball game where she gets the game winning hit. That is until she finds out her mother is dying. The news rocks Kate’s faith in God to its core and leaves her wondering if God even cares.

This book is both heartbreaking and enlightening. The phases of grief that Kate goes through are realistic. She gets angry, she gets sad, she withdraws, and she tries to protect her mother. She can’t imagine a life living without her mother, she prays for a miracle, and she blames God when she sees that she isn’t going to get one.

The style of the book is interesting. The sentences are short which is good for young readers, but they are almost poetical in nature. In essence much of the book feels like one long poem which is interesting because Kate is writing poems and the text includes many of those she writes. In some ways Kate’s poems feel less poetical than the rest of the narrative.

This is a book that will make you laugh and cry. It accurately portrays a preteen dealing with grief and death. I would recommend this to anyone looking for books on grief, death, or faith. The author has done a remarkable job convincing the reader of Kate’s pain and sense of loss.

Cautions for sensitive readers: Be prepared to have a hanky handy. This one is a tear jerker. There are no other cautions for this book. It does not contain any foul language, sexuality, or violence.

Book received for free from Goodreads First Reads.

View all my reviews >>

Thursday, March 11, 2010

What I am Reading Now

Never Blame the UmpireDirty Little SecretsThe Maze Runner (Maze Runner, #1)

Since I finished two books this week that leaves me with a few less on my too reads list. I have set aside Julie and Julia for the moment, not because I am not enjoying it, but because I have other books to read that are more pressing for various reasons.

In the mail yesterday I received a whole box of ARC's which I am exstatic about. There are quite a few in that box I can't wait to read. Also yesterday I received a copy of Never Blame the Umpire by Gene Fehler from ZonderKids it was listed as a Goodreads giveaway and I was looking to purchase a copy for the library's Jr. High collection. I am only about 35 pages into the book, but I think I might have to recommend it to our children's selector instead. It is extremely interesting, but I am afraid it may be too young for the JH collection. I hope to finish it soon and post the review.

I am still reading C. J. Omololu's Dirty Little Secrets. So far the book is well written and you can really understand the narrator's fears about people finding out about her mother's hoarding. I need to sit down with this one and really get some reading done, but I think the Fehler book will come first.

Finally I am listening to The Maze Runner by James Dashner. This is an action packed dystopian future book. I seem to have more questions than answers about the book at this point, but I will keep listening. Hopefully I can get the book soon so I can read it and make a little more progress.

I have a stack of things I need to read soon, and we are close to getting our reading list for the Rosies, so I need to pick up the pace and get some books read.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Contest Craze at Princess Bookie

Do you like contests? Do you like to win books? Check out all the wonderful contests going on at Princess Bookie's Website:

Find all the information you need about Contest Craze and how you enter on her Contest Craze Reference Page.

Status Update on New Year's Resolution

Well I promised myself that I would read 1.5 books a week this year. We are 10 weeks into the new year so I should have read 15 books. Sad to say, I am not even close. I guess I need to pick up the pace a little. It would help if everyone in the family would stay healthy (including me), but I guess I just need to get moving. On the bright side I have finished two books this week so those two I have read a total of 7 books (granted I have skimmed a few others, but those don't count). PATHETIC!!! I need to get on the ball here. I am 8 behind my quota and falling faster everyday. Time to hit the books!

Book Review: By the Time You Read This, I'll Be Dead by Julie Anne Peters

I was just thinking as I typed out that title, that it is probably a good thing that I always type "Book Review" in front of my titles. Seriously though, this was an interesting book. I did have a problem with the novel, and maybe I am just being insensitive. I never quite bought the narrator's reasons for attempting suicide. I was a fat girl once (oops still am) and I was picked on in school--something I have discovered is pretty common even if you were popular in school. The other possible problem could be the way the story was written you are so detached from the narrator's feelings that you can't see the pain she is in. In either case, the narrator did not convince me. The story though, is important and timely. Almost everyweek you hear another story of bullying or harassment in schools, so the topic is important, I just feel the delivery could have been better. So here's the review:

By The Time You Read This, I'll Be Dead By The Time You Read This, I'll Be Dead by Julie Anne Peters

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Daelyn has been the victim of bullies all her life, and now, for the third time she seeks to end it once and for all. To end her pain and suffering, Daelyn has tried to commit suicide at least twice, but now with the help of a website, Through-the-Light, she hopes that she will finally be able to succeed. After her last attempt left her with no voice and in a neck brace, Daelyn is trapped in her own world of silence, while she attempts to withdraw from both her parents and her life. Although her parents and psychologist try to reach her, Daelyn is emotially distant from everyone around her until a young man, name Santana attempts to reach out to her. Will he be able to bring her back, or is it already too late for Daelyn?

I am not sure what I want to say about this book. Daelyn recounts the experiences she faced as an overweight child, and how she was bullied in several different environments. She never stood up for herself, or had anyone stand up for her. Even her parents were blind to see her pain. Yet I had difficulty seeing her as a truly suicidal teen. I think this may come from the fact that Daelyn is emotionally closed throughout the book. She is emotionally closed to the other characters of the book as well as to the reader. So you don’t feel the reasons behind the suicide attempts.

Although the story is a first person narrative, the author tells you what happened to her more than shows you, so there is a serious emotional disconnect that leaves you unsympathetic to the narrator, which can be a fatal flaw in a novel such as this. I believe the reader would have been more sympathetic to Daelyn’s plight if they could have felt or better understood pain. In a sense the emotional disconnect of the character was a double edged sword, it worked both for and against the author’s intent in this book. While it made it difficult for readers to understand Daelyn’s motives, it did allow us to see when she finally experiences the chink in her armor with Santana.

While I feel the book could have been better written, I believe that the book is timely and is something that needs to be discussed with teens. All over the news you hear about teen bullying and even suicides as the result. It is an important topic that needs to be discussed.

Sure there are mistakes that Daelyn made, she didn’t speak up for herself or point out her bullies, but there were mistakes made by her parents, the schools, the therapist, and of course the bullies. It seemed like everyone had their eyes closed to what was happening to Daelyn and no one ever asked her to explain to them what the issues were until it was too late. Now she feels like nothing they do will change her mind, and she doesn’t even want to reach out to them.

It is important to discuss bullying. It is happening and a new kind of bullying has emerged cyberbullying. Perhaps more book like this and Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why are needed to bring this issue of bullying into the light where we can actually talk about it.

At the end of the book, you will find discussion questions and more information on suicide and bullying. It also includes a list of suicide warning signs. The end matter is essential and a good resource for those looking for more information. For more books on this topic, readers might read Jay Asher’s novel Thirteen Reasons Why or you might try the nonfiction book Letters to a Bullied Girl: Messages of Healing and Hope by Olivia Gardner where two teens decided to help a bullied girl by sending her letters of hope.

Cautions for sensitive readers: This is a very delicate and sensitive topic, but made more so by the fact that the website listed in the book give methods of suicide that the sensitive reader may find disturbing. This is definitely a good book to sit down and discuss after reading.

ARC courtesy of Ingram Library Services.

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Monday, March 8, 2010

Book Review: Incarceron by Catherine Fisher

Incarceron (Incarceron, #1) Incarceron by Catherine Fisher

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
First off, let me say that this book is a bit hard to describe. It is a unique fantasy/sci fi/dystopian book that takes place in two worlds. First there is the world of Incarceron, the cruel prison that watches all the prisoners, recording their lives, and in some cases causing their deaths. Then there is the world outside of Incarceron, where although the people appear to be free, they are actually confined by the Era. Everything must be in Era. Everything not in Era is illegal. Although the more wealthy may have such modern conveniences as washing machines, everything must be scrupulously concealed so that it appears to be an Era centuries in the past.

Finn is a prisoner in Incarceron, and though everyone states that no one ever comes from outside the prison and many believe that outside doesn’t exist, Finn knows he has seen the stars and was not born in Incarceron. Finn’s memories are full of holes, and on occasions he gets flashes of things not from Incarceron. He longs to find out more, and to find a way out of the prison. When a woman in the prison mentions a key, Finn believes he may have found a way out.

Claudia is the daughter of the Warden of Incarceron, a formidable and scheming man. Her father has arranged for her to marry Caspar, who will one day be King. Claudia longs to be free of her engagement with the sniveling Caspar, and longs to be free of the confinements of the Era. She also seeks Incarceron, her father’s best kept secret. Although she knows the prison exists, she doesn’t know where it is. She doesn’t even have proof of the prison’s existence, until she finds a key and ends up communicating with a young man named Finn.

The dichotomy of the book is interesting. You have two separate worlds, a world that appears to be perhaps 17th century and a prison world that is a technological machine governed by what appears to be an artificial intelligence. In both worlds you can see that the society is more technologically advanced than we are now, but the outside, where Claudia lives, does its best to make you think time has stopped somewhere in an era past. Meanwhile, inside the prison, you see how the technology has been integrated into the bodies and lives of the prisoners.

I have to say that I like this book from the very beginning. It was gripping and I didn’t want to put it down. It is probably one of the most original fantasy novels I have read in a long time. Both Finn and Claudia were likable characters struggling to survive in their own prisons. Incarceron was not only a setting for the book, but a character. It is a scary unpredictable place. It watches you, knows you and interacts with you. Incarceron will try to bend you to its will or it may just destroy you.

In the end, I found myself wanting to know more about the prison’s intelligence and how it became what it did. You also find you self wanting to know more about the other characters, like Claudia’s father, and the Queen. The book leaves you wanting more, so I hope that the sequel, Sapphique, due out in December 2010 will address some of these questions.

This is definitely a favorite for me. Highly recommended.

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Blog With Bite Incarceron Discussion Questions
1. Claudia was portrayed as a very strong character, did you think bravery lead her steps into Incarceron or do you think she just played a card in the prisons hand?

I thought Claudia was brave but more than a little headstrong. She would get something in her head and then try to pursue at all costs. She wouldn’t settle for not knowing, even if it meant endangering herself or others. So to answer the question, I would say that bravery and stubbornness led her steps into Incarceron.

2. Although Jared and Claudia's relationship is purely student/ teacher....did you pick up any undercurrent of sexual tension between them?

I thought that perhaps at times there was more to it than just the student/teacher relationship, and you could definitely tell how much Jared cared for Claudia. He risked a lot more than Claudia did if their actions were discovered, because he was so much more disposable than she was. I can’t believe that he would willing risk so much, without having some feelings for her.

3. Spill! What are your predictions for the next book {Sapphique }? What are you looking forward to/what do you hope gets explained before the grand finale?

I would definitely like to see more of the warden and what happens to him, but I also want to see if they find a way to get the others out and how Finn does in his new life.
4. What do you think of the relationship between the Warden and the Queen in regards to the big picture?
The Queen is entirely too powerful, and too devious. You know the warden helped her, but he did it because he had to, she essentially blackmailed him. It kind of made him a bit more sympathetic as a character and not as evil as he first appeared.

5. Do you think that Finn is the only one besides Sapphique who has escaped or left Incarceron?

You know, I don’t know. I suppose it is possible since they managed to find a way, but it is really difficult to tell given the clues from the book, and how hard it was for those two to manage it.

6. What is your take on the futuristic aspects mixed with the period clothing and mannerisms? Is this what would be considered Steampunk or is it more Science Fiction? 

This was an interesting plot device. I think the dichotomy of the period clothing and advanced technology was the first thing that really appealed to me about this novel. I liked how these two things fit together in the story, and how it made this world so much more intriguing. Overall though, I think of it much more as Science Fiction rather than steampunk. Steampunk tends to take place in the past with technology that didn’t exist in that time period. This story did the opposite, it took place in the future, where there is advanced technology, but everyone plays at living in the past.

Finished Incarceron by Catherine Fisher

I finally finished Incarceron by staying up late last night. I had actually planned to finish it two weeks ago, but with my crazy schedule, and a sick kid, I haven't really had time to read much. The review for Incarceron is forthcoming. I just need to think about what I want to say a little more. Did I like it? Yes the book was absolutely fabulous, but the ending took me a little off guard and I am not sure what I want to say about it. Don't worry, I don't plan on spoiling the ending for anyone who wants to read it, but let me say I wasn't prepared for the surprise at the end--definately wasn't what I expected. I did love the book and the fantasy...more to come in the review. Now which of my numerous reads should I devote my attention to next???

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Too Much To Read, Too Little Time

As you can probably see it's been a while since my last post. There has just been too much going on. Yes I am still reading, slowly but surely. Usually I am only getting a chapter at a time done. I don't know what I am going to do when I have to start reading seriously for the Eliot Rosewater Committee. I just haven't had time and a certain two year old, doesn't like it when Mommy reads books for herself--he thinks all books should be read to him. That might work if he weren't so impatient.

I am nearly finished with Catherine Fisher's Incarceron and I have to say I am loving it. If I could just find the time, I would sit down and finish it once and for all.

I am listening to the third House of Night novel, Chosen by P. C. and Kristin Cast. I can't say I am enjoying that one as much. The novel has potential and the story is interesting, but the use of language is terrible. I am not opposed to foul language in books, but there is such thing as too much, and then there is the problem of the completely made up words. I swear if I see or hear the word "ho" or "hoish" again in the book I think I will scream. The authors try too hard to sound "teen" and let me tell you I haven't heard any teens sound like this. Not to mention, the narrator is so often sick to her stomach, that I think she should see the doctor about acid reflux--good grief!!!

I am also reading By the Time You Read This, I'll Be Dead by Julie Anne Peters. It is well written, but I am having trouble sympathizing with the narrator. I will keep reading to see where it goes, but I don't know if I will be able to ultimately like this one. I am not convinced about the narrator's reasons for committing suicide.

Dirty Little Secrets by C. J. Omololu is another book I have picked up recently. It is a facinating story about a teen whose mother is a hoarder. When the unthinkable happens Lucy, the protagonist, must decided what to do to keep her secret hidden. It is a unique topic in a YA book and will be an interesting read I think.

Now, if I could only finish something. This is starting to get frustrating. Need more time, no more sick kids, sick self, or broken major appliances... Maybe then I might finish one of these books. Until then, I guess I will keep attempting to read and hope that I finish something soon.


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