Monday, June 22, 2009

The Hunger Games

Collins, Suzanne. The Hunger Games. Hunger Games Trilogy. 1. New York: Scholastic Press, 2008.
[Book cover credit:]

Cybils Award - Fantasy and Science Fiction, Young Adult (2008)
A Horn Book Fanfare Best Book (2008)
Locus Recommended Reading, Young Adult (2008)
ALA Best Books for Young Adults (2009)
Amelia Bloomer List (2009)

RAW is pretty awesome, and UFC is pretty hard core. Both look like tickling competitions compared to The Hunger Games: twelve boys and twelve girls, all 12-18 years old, thrown together to see who can live the longest, ie kill everyone else off. Actually kill them, none of this "no rules but play fair" crap that they pull in other extreme fighting arenas. Sounds cool, right? Well, it would be if The Hunger Games was played by a bunch of rich jerks with too much testosterone who train for it their whole lives. Those guys are there, of course, but other kids are picked at random to participate too. Kids like Katniss's sweet, barely twelve years old little sister, Prim. When Prim is selected, Katniss goes against all reason and volunteers to go in her place. With nothing but the desperate desire to survive, Katniss is going to play in the most important game of her life, The Hunger Games.

Seeing as how I'm the last person on the planet to read The Hunger Games, except for my mom who tried to steal my copy while I was home visiting last week, I don't feel like my review needs to be all that in depth.

This book rocks. Read it.

But if you take the dust jackets off books to read them like I do, don't read it on the beach or your beach buddy will get a really funky sunburn from the reflection of the gold mockingjay on the cover...

Sunday, June 7, 2009

48HBC is done for me :(

Well, I didn't do as well as I'd hoped:

books: 4
pages: 1327
time reading: 12:32
time blogging and stuff: 2:00
giving me a grand total of 14:32 hours

Not overly impressive, but maybe my last weekend to run errands before a cross-country trip wasn't the best timing for me either. I had fun though! And this definitely put a dent in the pile of books I was thinking about trying to fit in my carry-on!

Saturday, June 6, 2009


Napoli, Donna Jo. Hush: An Irish Princess' Tale. New York: Simon Pulse, 2008.
[Book cover credit:]

ALA Best Books for Young Adults

Melkorka, the first born on an Irish king, is used to wielding a kind power over those around her. After a trip to Dublin, where her brother is injured, Melkorka's power begins to ebb. No one has power over the fever that wracks the body of the boy who should be the next king and threatens the kingdom. When she and her sister Brigid are taken by a marauding slave ship, it seems as if Melkorka's power will be gone forever. With the help of others taken in the night, she learns that small victories also hold power, and her silence holds her captors in awe and fear of her. Will it this new, small power be enough to carry her fragile spirit through the trials of slavery? Will it carry her home?

I loved this book. This is the first of Donna Jo's young adult books that I've read, and it holds all the magic of story and words that she displays in her early chapter books. Most of the book, especially after Melkorka and her sister are taken, takes place in Melkorka's head and through her eyes. Her transformation from a spoiled princess to a strong and defiant young woman is slow and natural, as are all her misgivings about herself along the way that we are privy to.

The setting and the story are, as in all of Donna Jo's books, well-researched and richly described. We see them through Melkorka's eyes, eyes that have never left her corner of Ireland, so the detailed descriptions do not distract from or feel out of place in the story. The customs and actions of the various peoples Melkorka comes across during her travels on the slave ship are also described and their nationalities and trade routes are explained. Why is the Russian slave trader that capture Melkorka at a Norse tri-annual democratic gathering? For reasons a, b, and c, which the reader learns as plot elements rather than fact.

The handling of the slave trade is also delicately handled. These men do not only pillage, and the young girls who are not raped early on, Melkorka included, are later sold at a higher price because of their virginity. The rapes are not graphic, but they are present. Melkorka's first night with her new owner is told through her series of denials rather than what is physically happening to her. The pain, physical and emotional, and rage and anguish are still there, but the violence is not. Especially in a book where the rape of female slaves is omnipresent, this way of handling it is both honest and tactful.

I love Donna Jo. I have yet to read a book of hers that was not beautiful. Read her books and, if you have the chance, see her speak. She's amazing.


Shusterman, Neal. Unwind. New York: Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2009.
[Book cover credit:]

ALA Best Books for Young Adults (2008)
Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers (2008)
Top Ten Quick Picks (2008)

Following the Heartland War, a second civil war between the pro-choicers and the pro-lifers, a compromise is reached. There will be no more abortions, but parents can choose to "retroactively terminate the pregnancy" of a child that does not meet expectations by the age of 13. Parents can choose to unwind their teenagers. Too many fights at school, bad grades, simply being unexceptional. Anything can convince your parents that you're not worthy to reach adulthood. Anything can turn you into an Unwind.

I heard about this book during that dead time when there were no more hardbacks left and no paperbacks yet. I feel like I have been waiting forever for it to come out in paperback, and it was worth the wait. The book follows Connor, whose parents chose to have him unwound; Risa, who is a ward of the state who is not special enough to be worth the money it would take to house and feed her until her 18th birthday; and Lev, who has always know he would be unwound as a tithe from his parents, the 10th percent of their children. Each grow and change as normal teenagers have a tendency to do, but they do it while hiding from the cops and traveling in an underground railroad type connection of protectors. Their romances and fights never manage to take precedence over their anger, betrayal, hurt, and fear about the orders that have been given to end their "undivided" existence, but they do reinforce the normalness of all of the teenagers depicted in the book, which makes the thought of them being unwound all the worse.

Given the content, especially the origins of the concept of unwinding teenagers, this book was decidedly not preachy. In fact, while you know that unwinding is really really wrong before you make it out of the first chapter, a definitive stance on abortion is never taken. The ways that society can go wrong when a single idea is carried out to its horrific extreme, however, are illustrated in a way that is perfectly clear. As are the consequences of knowing right from wrong, seeing others suffer, and doing nothing about it.

What the Dickens

Maguire, Gregory. What the Dickens: The Story of a Rogue Tooth Fairy. Somerville, Mass.: Candlewick Press, 2009.
[Book cover credit:]

On a dark and stormy night. Wait. Do over. On a very dark night with no power because of a possible hurricane (much better), Dinah settles down to listen to her cousin, Gage, tell a story. While she feels isolated in her house with only her brother, sister, and cousin for company during the storm, she hears the story of What-the Dickens, a hyphenated name much like Winnie-the-Pooh, who was hatched alone in a tuna can after a storm, much like the one Dinah is trying to forget is happening now, instead of in a pile of 80 or 90 of his siblings. Dinah and her family fear the storm raging outside and the lack of food within, all while worrying about Dinah's parents who are out in the storm somewhere. What-the-Dickens' story is either a fairytale, a distraction, or a silly waste of time, as Dinah's brother says, but when What-the-Dickens finally finds others like him and is STILL all alone, and in danger to boot, things get interesting, both in the story and in the windswept house.

Having read many of Maguire's books for adults, I was assuming this would be a twist on a story I knew, not that I really know any stories about the tooth fairy, and I thought it would be a dark one at that. Instead it is a light, whimsical tale that is completely new, just with names that I already knew. It's a nice break from all of the issue fiction and paranormal teenagers that I've been reading about lately, and I didn't even know that I needed a break. No heavy thinking involved. Just a really good story.

Friday, June 5, 2009

After the Moment

Freymann-Weyr, Garret. After the Moment. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2009.
[Book cover credit:]

What is the most important? The moment you meet someone? The moment you realize you're in love with that person? The moment that tears you apart? The moment you realize that person will forever be "the one that got away"? Watch Maia and Leigh go through all of these moments, and then some, and decide which is the most important for yourself. Then see what comes After the Moment.

There is a lot going on in After the Moment. There is divorce, the bond between step-siblings, death, jailed parents, absent parents, emotionally over or under-available parents, anorexia, school bullies, a BIG fight, and more that is too integral to the main turning point of the plot to list. Because there is so much crammed into the barely-over-300-pages of this book, I don't think that any of these issues are given the attention that they deserve. In fact, I would hesitate to give this book to anyone who is actually dealing with the consequences of the situations discussed in the book. The characters recover much to quickly to offer any comfort.

The one exception to this is Maia's anorexia. When we meet her in After the Moment she is already in recovery and off of her meal plan, all of which is discussed openly and frankly in the text. Though she still struggles in the beginning with eating in front of people, she progresses throughout the book with her recovery. Whether this is because a million other things happen to her that take precedence in the plot or because she is actually moving forward in her recovery may be open to interpretation. By the time we see her again years later when Leigh is looking back on their relationship, there are no outward signs of her struggles, even at a dinner party. The life after anorexia is hopeful, as is the life after everything else the characters have gone through.

Even with all of this, it felt real to me while I was reading it. It wasn't until I finished the book and realized that Millie's grieving over her father's death hadn't been fully covered or resolved (along with a myriad of other BIG ISSUES that could have been more fully dealt with). My adult brain looking back on reading a YA novel wanted more from the treatment of the characters and their feelings from this book. When I was just reading it, however, it worked.


The 48 hour book challenge starts.....NOW!

Well, really, about 15 mins ago.

Since 1 out of every 6 hours can be spent blogging and stuff, maybe I'll manage to figure out some kind of graph of my hours/pages for the sidebar. Last night C was talking about how cool it would be to enter my pages read and hours reading into excel to build some kind of graph to determine my average rate of reading per book. Might be cool...but I'd rather just have an hours out of 48 that I've read/blogged and a running total on page numbers.

The latest you can start is Saturday morning at 7am, so if you see this before then and think it might be cool, SIGN UP!