Thursday, December 31, 2009

Local Library Wrap-Up

I signed up, albeit a little late, to read 50 books and didn't quite make it. I'm definitely joining up again for 2010 and will hopefully do a lot better next time!

1. Pretty Monsters by Kelly Link
2. Snitch by Allison van Diepen
3. Rapunzel's Revenge by Shannon and Dean Hale
4. Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes by Chris Crutcher
5. Tales from the Farm by Jeff Lemire
6. Was She Pretty? by Leanne Shapton (This was great, by the way.)
7. The Battle of the Labyrinth by Rick Riordan
8. Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel
9. Don't Cry: Stories by Mary Gaitskill
10. The Last Olympian by Rick Riordan
11. The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
12. The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams
13. Un Lun Dun by China Mieville
14. The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan
15. M+O 4EVR by Tonya Cherie Hegamin
16. Shanghai Girls by Lisa See
17. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
18. The Red Necklace: A Story of the French Revolution by Sally Gardner
19. The Dust of 100 Dogs by A.S. King
20. Censoring an Iranian Love Story by Shahriyār Mandanīʹpūr
21. Radiant Darkness by Emily Whitman
22. A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb
23. The Diamond Age: Or, A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer by Neal Stephenson
24. The Heretic's Daughter by Kathleen Kent
25. King Rat by China Mieville
26. Mariah Mundi: The Midas Box by G.P. Taylor
27. Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater
28. Dreaming in French by Megan McAndrew

Monday, December 28, 2009

auf Wiedersehen

Ocker, Christa Holder. auf Wiedersehen: World War II Through the Eyes of a German Girl. Austin, TX: Plain View Press, 2009. Print.

[Book cover credit:]

Caught in a battle between good and evil, we children of the Nazi generation - children of fathers who sang with zest "Deutschland, Deutschland uber alles" while doing the devil's work, children of mothers who stood by powerless to stop the evil from raging, children ignorant of other children condemned to gas - played and laughed and formed a strong bond. A bond broken the day we said auf Wiedersehen."

This slim memoir chronicles the years between Christa's family's evacuation before the advancing Red Army towards the end of WWII and their immigration to New Jersey. During this time, Christa, her sister, her parents, and, at times, her aunt and cousins, must pick up and move at a moment's notice on multiple occasions. Christa, who is an outgoing 7 year old at the opening of this memoir, makes many friends as she goes along: a horse named Lottie, an American soldier who gives her Hershey bars, the once-cranky owner of the villa where she and her family were placed during the evacuation, and the multitude of children who are also in some state of homelessness like she is. Every time her family moves, she must say goodbye, auf Wiedersehen, to her friends. It is hard enough, even with the help of the Red Cross, to keep track of family members during this upheaval. Christa is under no illusions that she will ever see any of these friends again.

Still, this is an uplifting memoir about how, even in the depths of war, life goes on. Christa and her friends play, put on puppet shows, and generally make do. The horrors of WWII are not kept out of this book, but they are kept out of the children's consciousness. Overheard conversations covering everything from the atrocities of the SS to how Christa's friend Gunter managed to get a little brother even though she wished for one more are present, but not understood by Christa. Readers will know what is going on, how it is affecting the lives of adults, and how much trouble they go to in order to keep the worst of it from their children.

This was published as an adult book, but I could definitely see even young teens reading it as part of a WWII or memoir unit. Content wise, auf Widersehen shows a lot less of the atrocities than current populars for young adults dealing with this subject matter, The Book Thief and The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, and it is a very un-prohibitive 142 pages short.

Book source: Provided by publisher for review

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas for those who are celebrating it today!

And because I couldn't say it any better myself, go check out

Sunday, December 20, 2009

9 out of 16 ain't bad?

Here's my list:

Kids and YA stuff:
  1. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
    - Review
  2. The Red Necklace: A Story of the French Revolution by Sally Gardner
    - Review
  3. The Heretic's Daughter by Kathleen Kent - Review
  4. Heck: Where the Bad Kids Go by Dale Basye
  5. The Vast Fields of Ordinary by Nick Burd - I placed a hold on this at my library at the very beginning of this challenge. I'm still 3rd in line to get the book.
  6. Blood Captain (Vampirates 3) by Justin Somper

  7. A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb
    - Review
  8. The Dust of 100 Dogs by A.S. King
    - Review
  9. Radiant Darkness by Emily Whitman
    - Review
  10. Tennyson by Lesley M.M. Blume
Adult stuff:
  1. Censoring an Iranian Love Story by Shahriyār Mandanīʹpūr
  2. Shanghai Girls by Lisa See
  3. Dreaming in French by Megan McAndrew - I just picked this up from the library a couple days ago, after putting it on hold at the beginning of the challenge.
  4. A Lion Among Men by Gregory Maguire - I've been told I'm getting this for Christmas, so I made a conscious decision not to read it now.
  5. King Rat by China Mieville
  6. Love Walked In by Marisa de los Santos
  7. The Secret of the Fire King by Kim Edwards - I've been reading this in between other things. I think I have 1-2 stories left to read from this collection.
  8. Shelf Discovery: Teen Classics We Never Stopped Reading by Lizzie Skurnick (this should probably go up there, but I want 10 and 10) - still 3rd in line for this at the library...
  9. All the issues of New Yorker that are stacked up on my coffee table to remind me that I just had to have a subscription. - didn't even make a dent...
  10. War and Peace - I'm more than halfway through now instead of only having read a third. ;)
So, if I leave off the books that I had library hold issues with and my future Christmas present, I've finished 9 (almost 10!) out of 16 challenge items. That's more than half! Of course, if I count everything like I should, I've finished almost half, but we won't talk about that. If I had changed my list to accommodate my lack of self-control when it comes to my reading tastes, I'm sure my stats would be much better. :)

Most importantly, I had a lot of fun and gave myself permission to read books that I knew from the get-go I wouldn't review here. I'll definitely be back for Spring Into Reading in March!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Mariah Mundi: The Midas Box

Taylor, G.P. Mariah Mundi: The Midas Box. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 2008. Print. Mariah Mundi 1.
[Book cover credit:]

When Mariah Mundi is sent to the Prince Regent Hotel, he knows that his life is about to change more than he can imagine. No longer a privileged son away at boarding school, he is suddenly an orphaned employee, out of place in his Colonial School suit. What he doesn't know is that he is the last in a long line of Colonial boys, all since disappeared, to be sent to the Prince Regent at the request of the owner.

This milder take on steampunk-y goodness was just what I needed to ease myself into the genre and get ready to read Leviathan (which is still languishing on a dresser waiting for me to have time to give it my undivided attention). This is, at heart, a fantasy/mystery book that happens to take place in a Victorian hotel completely run on steam. Upon arrival at the Regency Hotel, Mariah is immediately befriended by Sacha, a young servant girl who is almost as enamored with all of the steam-powered innovations in use at the hotel as she is with Mariah's predecessor, Felix. Sacha's infatuation with Felix, and Mariah's eventual jealousy over it, are the only hints at romance that exist. I read this at the same time that I read Shiver, making the lack of lovesickness one of the best things about this book.

Of course there are lots of other great things going on here too, such as:
  • a magic act
  • a kraken
  • a gruff sailor who knows a mysterious amount of things about Mariah
  • a shifty guy on a train
  • a pack of cards that can tell the future
  • a creepy doll that moves around the hotel without anyone knowing how or why (okay, she's not supposed to be creepy, but I'm not a big fan of dolls the size of 4yr olds)
  • and, of course, the title feature: The Midas Box. 
The Midas Box does exactly what you think it will, turn everything inside it into gold. It takes an amazingly long time for us, as readers, to discover why there isn't more gold floating around, given the existence of The Midas Box, but with all the other cool stuff going on, I never felt like I was missing anything while waiting for the box to appear.

I did, however, feel like something was missing with the ending. After so much detail throughout the book, I felt really let down by it. (No Spoilers, just to be clear) The ending felt a bit rushed. Everything had to happen before midnight, so things were definitely rushing, which I get, I just wish I had gotten to see more of it. All the good guys split up to run around and perform their various death-defying feats in order to beat the bad guys, and instead of seeing each person's part in the action, we're only shown one or two and then see them all meet up at the end so we know they're okay. I'm not a fan of this sort of thing. I prefer to be shown not told, but at the very least, I want to be told.

My issues with the ending are not going to be cleared up by the sequel, but I'll probably read it anyway once it makes it over here. There is a listing for book 2 on amazon, but it is basically a bunch of UK amazon marketplace sellers. amazon UK has all the good stuff:
Mariah Mundi and the Ghost Diamonds
Mariah Mundi and the Ship of Fools

Book Source: Philly Free Library

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Worldbuilders Fundraiser for Heifer International

The amazingly hilarious and talented Patrick Rothfuss, author of the Alex Award Winning debut novel The Name of the Wind, is holding a pretty awesome fundraiser on his blog benefitting Heifer International. In his words:

What's that you say? You'd like to make the world a better place while simultaneously winning fabulous prizes?

Well today is your luck day.

Heifer International is my favorite charity. It helps people raise themselves up out of poverty and starvation. All over the world Heifer promotes education, sustainable agriculture, and local industry.

They don't just keep kids from starving, they make it so families can take care of themselves. They give goats, sheep, and chickens to families so their children have milk to drink, warm clothes to wear, and eggs to eat.
In addition to matching 50% of your donation, Patrick will enter you into a lottery (1 entry for every $10) for some awesome bookish prizes. Signed books galore, people, including copies of The Magicians by Lev Grossman and My Invented Life by Lauren Bjorkman. Those are just two in a single day's post of prizes! There are tons more still to be announced.

Hop on over to Patrick's blog to look at his FAQs, announcements, and plethora of prizes or go straight to his page at Team Heifer to donate.

Even if you don't win anything, you'll be sending money to a good cause for people who really need it. And hey, you could win something really awesome too!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Ask and the Answer

Warning: This review doesn't have any spoilers for The Ask and The Answer, but it basically gives away the surprise ending of The Knife of Never Letting Go.

If you've never read either of the books in the Chaos Walking Trilogy, here's something that should whet your whistle, so to speak, and if you're in the same boat as me and think you might explode before the last book in the trilogy is published, hopefully this will hold you over for a while: "New World." This short story was published between The Knife of Never Letting Go and The Ask and the Answer, but it's really Viola's backstory, so everyone can read it.

Ness, Patrick. The Ask and the Answer. Somerville, Mass.: Candlewick Press, 2009. Print. Chaos Walking 2.
[Book cover credit:]

Who needs a booktalk? As if "Welcome to New Prentisstown" from the last page of The Knife of Never Letting Go wasn't enough.

And that's exactly where The Ask and the Answer picks up. No recap, no explanations, nothing. Todd wakes up after carrying Viola right to Mayor Prentiss' feet and she's not there. He spends the rest of the book trying to find her.

Meanwhile, the Mayor, now President, is making sure that New Prentisstown in no way resembles the Haven it once was, and he tells Todd that if he helps, he'll get Viola back.

And Viola? The Mayor has plopped her down into a House of Healing full of women whose thoughts, unheard like those of all women on New World, still scream of how they'll regain control of their city.

Oh.My.Gosh. I finished this book a week ago, and I still feel like I haven't had enough time to really process it in order to write a review. There is just so much going on with Todd, with Viola, with Wilf(!), with the people of what used-to-be Haven, with Davy Prentiss (who you'll actually CARE about by the end), just so much going on.

It was practically impossible to put down.

Character development did not waste away in the face of SO MUCH plot either. Viola and Todd both have to really grow up in order to survive in New Prentisstown. Both of them are faced with decisions that they don't want to make, where neither option seems like the right one. You will forget, long before the really bad stuff happens, that this is a book about 13yr olds.

Todd especially, who has been told that his compliance will buy Viola's safety, does a lot of things he wouldn't normally do. The point that people do unthinkable things in the name of war is really driven home. However, Ness does not leave the reader under the impression that what one does while at war does not stay with you. Though Todd takes part in some pretty gruesome acts for a really noble reason, there are CONSEQUENCES. Otherwise known as Book 3, Monsters of Men.

Long story short, I had mixed feelings about The Knife of Never Letting Go, I became obsessed while reading The Ask and The Answer, and I might die waiting for Monsters of Men to finally be released in the US. In September 2010.

Oh, and for those of you who may be worried about reading The Ask and The Answer after crying uncontrollably while reading The Knife of Never Letting Go (I know I can't be the only one that did this...), don't be! While some important characters do die (they are at WAR people) none of their deaths turned me into a sobbing mess. Your mileage may vary.

Book One: The Knife of Never Letting Go
Book Source: I bought it because my library STILL doesn't have a copy and I just couldn't wait anymore.