Friday, May 28, 2010

Woods Runner by Gary Paulsen

I always remember Gary Paulsen’s the Hatchet as one of the first books that I actually liked to read. Some people say that they liked reading since they could first read words, but that wasn’t me at first. I kind of had to warm up to the reading thing. I was also intrigued by the idea of a boy woodsman. It sounded different from anything I’ve been reading lately and so I decided to give the book a try. The story wasn’t blow me a way brilliant, but was still an interesting and enjoyable read. After Samuel’s parents are captured by a British and Indian raiding party he hunts them through the forest in order to rescue them.

The background of the action takes place during the Revolutionary War and highlights the violence that British/Indian/and Hessian troops committed against people in more rural areas of the colonies. These places were not so focused on the political and philosophical debates that fueled the fight for freedom, but were angered by the treatment they received at the hands of British soldiers. As such the story does contain war-time violence, and the effects that it had on young adults and children. At the end of each chapter the author included historical facts about the time period. Some topics include, “Treatment of Prisoners of war,” “War Orphans,” “Covert Communications,” and other topics that focus on the military operations of British and American Armies.

This is probably a good read for boys, who are interested in history and war, but girls are allowed to like it too.

Gary Paulsen's website

Friday, May 21, 2010

Two Dragon Books from Novik

*Will contain spoilers*
Empire of Ivory by Naomi Novik
I have to admit that I think the fourth book of this series is my least favorite so far. Temeraire and Laurence are in Africa trying to find a cure to an illness that has made all the dragons in Britain ill. The African setting wasn’t as interesting to me at first as say the dragon culture in China. Then the crew trying to find the cure is captured by a band of dragons in the interior of the continent, who are very angry about their people being taken by slavers. Then the African setting and culture starts to get more interesting and plot began to hook me in.

So, after they manage to escape from this angry band of dragons and return back to Britain, Laurence and Temeraire discover that the British have sent the plague upon the French dragons. They cannot condone this action, and consider it murder of fellow sentient beings, and therefore deliver the cure to the French. This of course is considered treason and the book ends on a rather sad note, as Laurence and Temeraire have to return home and face the consequences of their actions, which will probably include the hanging of Laurence.

Victory of Eagles by Naomi Novik

Although, I did not love the fourth book of this series all that much, I really did enjoy the fifth book. I think this may be my favorite Temeraire book so far! In this book Temeraire is going crazy in the breeding grounds waiting for new of what happened to Laurence. Meanwhile, Napolean invades Britain, as in actually lands troops on the shores and marches toward London. Laurence and Temeraire are desperately needed in the battlefield to fight, but can only do so if the military allows them to be reunited.

This was an excellent book because I loved seeing the dragons, lead by Temeraire, progress into their own little force. Temeraire convinces the dragons in the breeding grounds to leave and go fight again Napolean. Even when he doesn’t know what has happened to Laurence yet. The author also explores more fully the consequences of Temeraire and Lawrence committing treason. If you want to find out what finally happens in regards to that you must read the book!

Overall, I still love this series. I’m really glad that the fifth book was so good! The fourth book had me worried a bit, but Novik really delivered in the fifth book. So, I’m getting excited about the fact that the sixth book, Tongues of Serpents, comes out in July.

Contest Alert!
You can win a free copy of His Majesty's Dragon. Look at details on this post of Naiomi Novik's blog. If I know you and you want me to enter you just send me an email with your info!

Naomi Novik’s website

Friday, May 14, 2010

The put-down-list grows

What you don’t see on this blog is me putting down books. Right now it feels like I’m putting down books all. the. time. I don’t think I post very bad reviews anymore. I used to when I started out, but now I just don’t have the will or energy to post about books I don’t like anymore. I rather tell people about what I liked reading than what I didn’t.

I have to say that I’m really missing BYU library and their never ending supply of LDS fiction right about now. This is my put-it-down-for-bad-content reading journal for the past two months. Usually, I’d just let these little notes R.I.P on my computer, but I am so frustrated by having such a hard time finding good and clean fiction that I need to vent somewhere. My hubby is sick of hearing about it.

I think the fact that I have a book blog contributes to this frustration. Each good book that I read is like a little jewel I get to share with the world. I get to make it shiny and show it off. I really put a lot of care and research into the books that I read. I want high quality story-telling, decent writing (beautiful prose is a nice treat), and a decently clean read. I will admit that there is not a hard and fast rule for content. The Dead and Gone by Susan Beth Peffer was a very dark book and I really enjoyed it. I am not a Serial Killer was pretty gory and I really liked it also. In some cases a book comes down to personal preference, a lot of the books below are the case.

Sing me to Sleep by Angela Morrison
Didn’t finish because I couldn’t stand the sappy romance. Sometimes these types of books really bug me because while it is technically not smutty it is just as emotionally manipulative and unrealistic as regular-fare national market romance novel. Once the main-character and her romantic interest make-out all the other details of the setting and story plot line deteriorated until I couldn’t read any further. I have to admit I didn’t read that much further after their first kiss because the story became more focused on the main character finding her new crush/boyfriend to kiss behind pillars that to sing at competition. The story may have improved or not gotten worse after that. Sadly, I don’t read for the make-out sessions but for the plot line and couldn’t read further. I know lots of people enjoyed reading this novel. I guess I really despise romance that is physical attraction heavy.

Last Summer of the Death Warrior
When 2 out of the 3 woman introduced in the first 50 pages ended up being sluts in the worst sense of the word, I decided to quit while I was ahead. This was just after general conference and that may have influenced my decision not to read books that contained negative portrayals of women. The main-character is trying to investigate the death of his sister. He's convinced that the police are not looking into the suspicious deatils of her death and he's trying to find the truth. A long the way he ends up in a orphanage and meets a young man there who is about to die of cancer. This young man keeps bugging him and trying to be his friend.

Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi
Got 150 pages in and there was a really gory violence scene and the action was only going to ratchet up from there. Violence usually doesn’t bother me, but this was just gross and it really didn’t have strong enough redeeming qualities to make me want to finish it. The characterization was good I guess in a stylistic sense, but I just couldn’t relate to the characters. Their world-view and morals was so different from mine that I couldn’t sympathize with their decisions or actions at all. The book takes a very dark view of human nature, as the main-characters are in a poverty stricken society where people will sell body parts for cash, but also cut off each others fingers, steal, and let other members of their crew die just to get out. It was a well-written book, but really not the one for me.

These is my words by Nancy Turner S
This book was given to me as a gift so I thought I would try it out. I knew people at BYU who read and enjoyed it so maybe it wouldn’t that bad. Wrong! So very beautiful but so very violent and distressing. I could slowly feel myself growing more and more numb the further I read. I had to stop to preserve my conscience. I didn’t even get half-way through. Good-bye to another book. Sniff.

The could be bad so I don’t want to chance it list:
Finnikin of the Rock
The librarian raved about this one, and it looks so good. Then I read the intro and the prologue.

Immediate impression: This is going to be an allegorical retelling of the holocaust in a fantasy setting.
Visceral gut reaction to reading further: don’t want to go there.
Head says: Really I don’t want to be the type of person who stops reading books all the time.
Viseral gut says: still don’t want to go there…
Head says: I’m going to analyze this thing to death with this set up. I’m going to try and figure out what characters are the Nazi’s and how the government compares with Hitler’s fascist regime.
Gut says: so not fun.
Head: but maybe it will be good?
Gut: not interested. If I want to know more about the horror of the holocaust I’ll go read a real history book and retellings by actual survivors. I’m a big, grown up history major now. I can find information if I want it. In fact, putting the holocaust in a fantasy setting feels sort of insulting and disrespectful.
Head: you’re over-reacting a little.
Gut: I know, but still…
Head: Yeah, doesn’t seem very right…
Gut and head: we’re not going to like this book.

Graceling and Fire by Kristen Cashore
The librarian and the kids at the school were raving about this one! I had read the first few pages of Graceling by now and wasn’t really interested. Secret girl assassin on a job to kill someone isn’t someone I immediately identify with, as I don’t like people who kill other people. Especially, not those that do it for a living, obviously by the end of the book she’s going to get out of her killing-people problem with great personal cost and danger. Sounds really predictable and not very interesting.

But they were just so excited about it, and so I brought it home. Husband— mad reader that he is finishes both books in one day— says, “You won’t like them.”
So, after a little more discussion I decided he was right. There was content in the book that would bug me and make me put it down anyway. So I took them straight back without reading them. Arggggg!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Being Sixteen by Allyson Condie

Being Sixteen by Ally Condie

I loved so many things about this book! Ally Condie’s writing only gets better and better. The main character Juliet begins the book feeling like she is on top of the worlds. When your LDS turning sixteen is a big deal, as it brings with it the ability to date, and go to school dances, and drive, and for this particular character to get onto the varsity basketball team at her school. For a while it looks like Juliet does have the perfect life, and then her coach leaves the school for a college basketball job. The new head coach doesn’t like her, and she never plays. Then she discovers that her little sister Carly has an eating disorder and her carefully built expectations begin to fall apart.

Juliet struggles to keep her faith strong amid all these trials, and has to struggle with how to cope. I love how the author shows how she just keeps plugging away at everything, and how she grows. It is rewarding to read how the trials make her grow and mature as a character.

She begins to think things like this:

“But I couldn’t stand to think about so of those cheerleaders nodding their head and saying that they’d been right all along. I did not want people to give Carly the label of the Cheerleader with the Eating Disorder. Because she was more than that. She was beyond any label, and so was every other human being.”

I love that quote, and I love how it shows how trials make us think and grow in ways we wouldn’t otherwise. If Juliet’s year had been perfect she never would have seen how trite or harmful categorizing people into holes can be.

I love how the author shows that our choices often do affect others around us in negative ways. That family’s and friends suffer along with those that suffer from disorders and negative behaviors. I think the book showed a realistic portrayal of trials without being too depressing or melodramatic, but also did not trivialize them by having them solved through prayers and faith.

This more than just a story about a teenager dealing with her sister’s bulimia, and is the story about a teenager who learns who she is, explores what she believes, and how she reacts when the going gets tough. I would recommend to everyone.

I’m way excited that Ally Condie has another book, Matched, coming out in November of this year. Look at that awesome cover! Can’t wait!