Sunday, October 31, 2010

Tales from the Brothers Grimm and the Sisters Weird

Tales from the Brothers Grimm and the Sisters Weird
by Vivian Vande Velde

Take a cup of fairy tales, add a tablespoon of irony, and a dash of snark and you get a whole new take on the stories of the Brothers Grimm.  These aren't just fractured; they are completely smashed and then rearranged in some strange mosaic that sometimes only vaguely resembles the original tale.

Take, for example, this line from the Beast of the original "Beauty and the Beast":

Beast was looking at the man skeptically.  "Your daughter's name is Beauty?" he asked.  "What kind of name is that?  What did you do, call her 'Hey, you,' until she grew up, and then, when she turned out to be good-looking, you finally settled on a name for her?  Or did you call her Beauty from the start, simply hoping for the best, trusting to chance that she wouldn't turn out to be a dog?"... "I suppose she's lucky you didn't call her Honesty," Beast said.  "That's a fine virtue, too.  Or Sweet Breath. Or Mathematical Ability."

Final thoughts:  This is an older book that's been around a while, but I'd never had a chance to read it.  I am a fan of retold tales and a few of these were hilarious.  Unfortunately, they aren't all great.  There was a definite inconsistency in the quality of the tales.  Some of them felt very well thought out, while others felt like throwaways designed to fill space.
Rating: 3/5

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Gimme a Call

Gimme a Call
by Sarah Mlynowski

Imagine how much better your life would be if you could just go back in time and fix all the stupid mistakes you made in the past.  You could stop yourself from tripping in front of the cute guy you like or getting that horrible haircut.  Maybe you could even stop yourself from dating the person who broke your heart!

When Devorah (Devi, for short) drops her cell phone in the nasty, mold-filled fountain at the mall, the phone seems to stop working completely, until Devi realizes that the one number she can call is her own and the one person it rings to is herself... 3 1/2 years ago. 

Now Devi has a chance to change the past, once she can persuade her 14-year-old self that she's for real.
She can become a better student, avoid losing her friends, and avoid getting her heart broken by her boyfriend of almost four years... IF her past self can handle the stress.  

It's not easy to completely change who you are, especially when your future self keeps calling and screaming about all the changes.

And there are many.

Is changing the past worth taking the risk on the present?

Final thoughts:  This is a roller-coaster book.  It grabs and doesn't let go.  It's a super quick read and delves into everything from the time-space continuum to finding balance in life.  Definitely a book for anyone who's wondered "What if??"

Rating: 5/5

Saving Francesca

Saving Francesca
by Melina Marchetta

All her life, Francesca has had her mother to tell her what to do.  And, while she thought her mother was a pain who was smothering her and never allowing her to do what she wanted, she never imagined how awful not having her mother would be.

It's not that her mother has died; it's that she's sunk into a serious depression.

Happy, in-control, play-a-song-to-start-the-day-mom has become trapped in her own sadness, under the blankets of her own bed.

Now Francesca must help her father take over the household chores that her mother always did.  She must keep up her little brother's spirits so that he doesn't become to scared or sad.  She must find a way to deal with starting her new term at a very recently, now formerly, all-boys school.  She must figure out who her real friends are.  And she must figure out how to deal with leader of her section who seems to see right through her fa├žade and right into her soul.

(That last one probably wouldn't be too hard to figure out on her own if it wasn't for the fact that he has a girlfriend already even though he keeps finding excuses to kiss Fran.)

Can Francesca become the girl her mother's always wanted her to be without her mother there to guide her?  And will that person ultimately be the person Francesca wants to be, too?

Final thoughts:  This is an excellent book to share with older children who are dealing with depression, either their own or someone else's.  Francesca's problems are real and realistically portrayed.  She goes through ups and downs like anyone else caught in the middle of this type of thing and she struggles to figure out who to blame for what's going on.

Rating: 4/5

Friday, October 22, 2010

Book Blogger Hop

Book Blogger Hop

Wow!  It feels like I just did this and only one book reviewed between!  Arrgg.  Of course, the fact that I've been in training sessions all-day, everyday for the past week, arriving home exhausted, and just vegging in front of the TV my have something to do with that.  Luckily, I have a few new books downloaded to my Kindle, so I'm hoping to get a little reading in soon.

Today's question:

"Where is your favorite place to read? Curled up on the sofa, in bed, in the garden?"
 
Personally, I'm a fan of the couch.  Mine is a recliner, but when I'm reading, I tend to not recline.  I must be curled.  Reading while sitting in a straight pose may be great for posture, but not for getting into a good book.  Maybe I just like hugging myself while lost in a book.  Hmm... 

Off to hop around and visit others!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Banned Books Week

I know that Banned Books Week was last month, but I LOVE this display, which was linked at my favorite Library Comic Strip, Unshelved!



Sunday, October 17, 2010

Jane

Jane
by April Lindner

In this modern retelling of Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre, Jane Moore is a nineteen-year-old college student forced to drop out and seek a job as a nanny after her parents' death.  Her older sister and brother have taken the inheritance money and left her with almost nothing.

A plain Jane in every sense, Jane has never been one to pay attention to fads or celebrities, which makes her the perfect candidate to take over as the nanny to Maddy, child of rock superstar, Nico Rathburn.

Initially, her job is fairly easy.  Nico is out making the publicity rounds, preparing for his next big tour, so Jane's duties are fairly light.  She takes Maddy to and from preschool and keeps her busy the rest of the time.  When Maddy is away, Jane has time to wander the town and hone her painting skills.

One day, on the way to a horse ranch to paint, she is nearly run over by none other than Nico Rathburn, and so begins the retelling of the classic love story.

Final thoughts:  I'm mixed on this one.  I LOVE Jane Eyre and that may be the reason I'm so torn about this.  If I wasn't so familiar with the original material, I may have loved this book, too.  Unfortunately, the author also loves Jane Eyre and she works hard to incorporate as much of the original book as possible, including some of the original dialogue.  It's disconcerting to read when I have both books in my head.  Most of the story is successfully updated, but there are a few things that just didn't work in the update.  Instead of living with  a hated aunt and then spending much of her childhood at Lowood School, Jane instead has a mother who constantly tells her she's not pretty and always believes the abusive older brother.  Instead of told in one cohesive chronology, the author chooses to use flashbacks, which pull the reader out of the moment.  And, sadly, the relationship between Nico and Jane doesn't progress as well as that of Jane and Mr. Rochester.  She goes from confused to in love in just a few pages.  
And one final thought: the author seemed to feel the need to add a sexual element, including a bedroom scene.  It wasn't necessary and seemed like a forced element to try and modernize the story, rather than a natural progression of the relationship.

Rating: 3/5

Friday, October 15, 2010

Book Blogger Hop

Book Blogger Hop


I did this once a couple of months ago, but hadn't done it again until now because I could never get enough time to hop around to the other blogs.

This week's question:

"When you read a book that you just can't get into, do you stick it out and keep reading or move to your next title?"

I usually try to stick it out for as long as possible.  There have been a couple of books that I've just completely given up on and others that I'd wished I had.  I hate quitting things, but sometimes it just has to be done.  I quit The Fetch because it was just annoying and I wish I'd quit Bleeding Violet because it was just all-around awful and The Red Necklace because it was a mess.

So now to hippity-hop to some other blogs...

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Julian Game

The Julian Game
by Adele Griffin

Raye is an outsider in a world of insiders and cliques.  A scholarship student at a well-respected, very expensive, all-girls school, Raye is a late enrollee and completely out of the loop.  Her one friend, Natalya, is an outsider by choice, and the only person Raye trusts.

One evening, the two of them create Elizabeth Lavenzck, a profile on a social networking site like Facebook or MySpace.  Their creation is an exchange student from Poland who is exotic, says all the right things, and goes to all the right places.  She's instantly popular and makes "friends" with whomever she invites.

It was just a bit of fun.  Neither girl meant any harm.

However, when Raye tries to get on the good side (as opposed to the ignored site) of popular girl Ella Parker, Elizabeth become something dangerous.

Ella gets Raye to set up a boy who did Ella wrong at a party.  She wants revenge against Julian and Elizabeth can get it for her.  But Raye feels guilty and lets Julian in on the scheme.  

Unfortunately, she also falls for Julian, so she becomes the bullseye on Ella's target.  And now that Ella has seen what damage the Internet can do, she's become an expert at using it against Raye.

What can Raye do when every attack is virtual and there's no way to take it down?

Final thoughts:  I got my Master's researching Cyberbullying, and it's also the hot topic of the hour, but reading this was hard.  It's so very well written that it gives me chills.  Luckily, Raye has people around her who love her and a good head on her shoulders, but this book could definitely have gone down a different path.  Having a young son, watching him already master getting around online, I know that his future academic career is going to be vastly different than mine.  I never had to fear a bad picture getting online or forums dedicated to tearing me down.  What kids have to face today is beyond scary.
This is the perfect book to show to those who think that cyberbullying is just a fact of life and it's just kids being kids.  It's kids being cruel in a way never done before.  This isn't a 2-second insult in front of a crowd that shames and embarrasses.  This is an online post that can NEVER be fully destroyed and will always be there to haunt the victim.  Griffin nails these fears, and it's all the scarier for it.

Rating: 5/5

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Reality Check

Reality Check
by Jen Calonita

When Charlotte, aka "Charlie", is scouted by a producer for the new Fire and Ice Network for a reality show to rival The Hills and Jersey Shore, she and her friends immediately accept.  It's not every day that you get to do what you do every day and get paid $10k an episode for it.

However, it seems there are a few complications:
  1. It's "scripted reality".  All locations must be scouted, some scenes are staged, and even fights have to be re-shot when things go wrong with the equipment.
  2. Zac.  He's hot.  Charlie likes him.  And he doesn't want to be on the show.
  3. Brooke.  She's supposed to be Charlie's best friend, but fame goes to her head.
  4. The Producers.  They want more juicy fights and less boring talk about clothes and babysitting.
The dream of fame and fortune becomes a nightmare of epic proportions with fights, screaming, backstabbing, and the realization that once you're on TV, no one around you can be trusted. 

Can Charlie figure out a way to stop it all before all of her friendships (and her first possibly-serious boyfriend) are destroyed?

Final thoughts:  Slightly better than cotton candy in the sense that there is a serious message snuck in about how much of reality television is really "real".  Most of the stereotypes in YA fiction are here, but they're decently written.  This one's good for any girl who watches reality TV and dreams of being one of "them".

Rating: 4/5

Just a Geek

Just a Geek
by Wil Wheaton

Years ago there was a show about the future.  It was a future that had been dreamed up by one man and put together by a cast of thousands in five different versions of one-hour shows spanning decades in our television history.  The show that started it all was Star Trek.

One boy, Wil Wheaton, joined the second version of Star Trek, nicknamed TNG for The Next Generation, and he was supposed to represent the newest generation of Star Fleet hopefuls.  He played the son of the ship's doctor, and he just happened to be extremely smart and often knew the ship better than many of the adults around him.

Many viewers hated him and even created their own fan clubs dedicated to ripping his character apart.  Unfortunately, they often tore down the young actor at the same time.

For years, Wil Wheaton has fought to separate himself from that show and that character.  Just a Geek is a book about his own struggle to come to terms with his Star Trek past while embracing his future as a writer and geek.

Now he's become a well-respected actor and he runs his own site at WWdN: In Exile, which used to be known as Wil Wheaton dot net.  This is his personal autobiography derived from his many online posts, which he has occasionally edited and then commented on in this book.  

Find out the real truth about a child actor's struggle to succeed in the adult acting world while supporting a family and dodging the past.

Final thoughts:  I've been reading Wil Wheaton dot net, WWdN: In Exile, and @wilw on Twitter for a while now and have really enjoyed his insight into conventions, writing, acting, and life.  He's become the guy everyone wants to be buds with to hang out, swap stories, and just be a geek without fear of people staring at you like you're insane.  Many of the stories are ones that he's shared at conventions and, his recent shared creation, W00tstock.  If you're interested in a preview of his amazing writing, just search for him on YouTube and watch his performances at w00tstock and PAX.  Fans of ST:TNG should definitely read this.

Rating: 5/5

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