Thursday, December 31, 2009

YA-Dystopian Reading Challenge Finished! I loved this one and will do it again if it is offered. Here is my pile:

1. The Giver by Lois Lowry
2. Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry
3. The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
4. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
Speak Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the dark and depressing tale of a freshman in high school who is shunned by her so-called friends and everyone else in school for calling the cops during a party in the summer. She retreats into her mind and stops talking but the memories of that horrible night won't leave her alone and eventually she has to let it all out.

I really felt the pain of high school in this book. I remember how things like the cafeteria and who you are going to sit with are HUGE deals when you are in it. It's a place I never want to be again. I enjoyed seeing the progress of Melinda as she begins to crack open and the words start to come out. She finds ways to gain her strength and confidence again.

There are definite parallels to Sarah Dessen's Just Listen, but the plots are developed differently. It is probably one reason I liked reading Speak so much, I really loved Just Listen.

I read this book in a few hours without stopping, for this reason and the well-developed character and prose it is more like a 4.75 for me.

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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Handle with Care Handle with Care by Jodi Picoult

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Six-year-old Willow O'keefe was born with osteogenesis imperfecta or brittle bone disease. Her mother decides to launch a wrongful birth lawsuit against her ob-gyn, who also happens to be her best friend.

I enjoyed learning about OI and how difficult life is with that disease. Other than that, I liked the book but it wasn't anything new from her other books; controversial topic: wrongful birth, lawsuit that tears the family apart, lots of drama during, before and after the trial, a sibling who is neglected because of the special-needs, sibling, etc. Also, this whopper of a book could definitely have been shorter and still gotten the point across.

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Monday, December 21, 2009

Beneath a Marble Sky Beneath a Marble Sky
by John Shors

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the absolutely exquisitely written tale of the love story between the daughter of the Hindustan Emperor and the man who created the Taj Mahal. Jahanara lives in a time where women are routinely raped and beaten by their husbands with no consequences. She defies the popular view of women as objects to be seen and used and not heard. I admired her strength and courage, putting herself in mortal danger in some situations to try to help a loved one.

I loved reading about the design and building of the Taj Mahal - obviously this is a work of fiction but I believe that the author was true to the techniques used in the 17th century. Every word and situation sparkled with a descriptive language that was a joy to read. This was a time where to be rich was luxurious, jewels, food, cashmere carpets, elephants, etc. And a time where to be poor was wretched, filthy and difficult.

This book was written by a male author, but I think he did a fantastic job of writing this novel in a woman's voice. Her worries about her family, her suffering in childbirth and other physical situations were very believable to me.

I was also inspired by how many times Jaha calls on Allah each day and in every situation where she needs help and guidance and would often pray until she received the answer even if it was several hours.

This book was very close to a 5 for me. The text was alive and beautiful and the story was one to inspire.

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Thursday, December 17, 2009

Catching Fire (Hunger Games, #2) Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

Book 4 for the Dystopian Reading Challenge

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Suzanne Collins has created another amazing book that stirs your emotions, captures your imaginations and involves you so much in the character's lives that you feel like they are your best friends. This second book in the Hunger Games series is about what happens to Katniss and her family after she returns a victor. Her family is well-fed and cared for and she is even able to help other less-fortunate families with her new-found wealth.

The struggle between the Capitol and the Districts heats up as people follow what they thought was Katniss' defiance with the berries in the Games. Katniss has to decide how she feels about Peeta and Gale and what to do about it.

There's not much I can add about this book that hasn't already been said better than I can. Suffice it to say, the book is as fantastic as the first, Suzanne Collins has an imagination that astounds and I am EAGERLY awaiting the next installment!

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Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Adoration of Jenna Fox The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Wow, this is an interesting book. It's hard to say too much about the plot without giving too much away, but basically it is the story of Jenna, an adored only child, who wakes up from an 18-month coma after suffering near-fatal injuries in a car accident. Jenna wakes up with no recollection of her former life and has to re-learn it slowly. In the midst of this, she starts to sense that things aren't exactly the same as they were before.

I really liked Jenna's character and seeing her go through the stages of discovering herself again and realizing the strength and will and courage that she never dared to exercise before for fear of upsetting the pedestal her parents' kept her on. Jenna always did exactly what her parents told her, but the pressure of being perfect started to get to her and I liked watching her break out of that shell.

I also really enjoyed the plot. The idea is unique and I couldn't tell even from page to page what was going to happen next. The plot moves along just right, keeping the reader hanging just enough before answering the next question in the story.

The story takes place in a society not so far into the future where the overuse of antibiotics by people 20 years before has caused serious problems. This seemed to point to us in present day. It was an interesting concept to think about. This world also has BioGel, a product that will preserve organs outside of the body for donation for years. I was intrigued by these things and wondered how realistic they are.

A really great read that kept me guessing until the last page.

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