Monday, June 1, 2015

Light and Love

This Raging Light
By Estelle Laure
Genre: Realistic YA

"Her dad went crazy. Her mom left town. She has bills to pay and a little sister to look after. Now is not the time for level-headed seventeen-year-old Lucille to fall in love. But love-messy, inconvenient love-is what she's about to experience when she falls for Digby Jones, her best friend's brother."

I don't usually read realistic novels (YA or adult), especially ones that revolved around love, because that kind of story doesn't usually appeal to me. But, I saw this book in the break-room at the library and started reading it. The situation and Lucille hooked me almost right at the start.

Lucille is an intense girl who's practical but also passionate. I didn't necessarily love her as a character, but I did feel for her and was definitely rooting for her to succeed. And although this book does have romantic love, it's not all about the boy. It's more about the love Lucille has for her cute, funny sister, Wren, the love for her messed-up and missing parents, and the love of two best friends.

This novel was heartbreaking and hard, but beautiful. It is very poetic, and the poetic-ness of her writing took me a while to get used to, but once I did, I could hardly put the book down. The subject and characters in this novel are raw and real, just like life, and will remain with long after the last sentence.

I give this novel a 3 out of 5 and recommend it for 16 year olds and up.

What I learned: If Lucille could face everything she did in this novel, I have no reason to complain about the small bumps of difficulties in my life.

Those who enjoyed this book might enjoy the poem by Dylan Thomas, Do Not Go Gentle.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Let me hear you ROAR!

The Roar
By Emma Clayton
Genre: YA Dystopian
#1 in the Roar Series

"Mika lives in future London, behind the Wall, safe from the Animal Plague beyond. Or so he's been told. But ever since Ellie vanished a all year ago, he's suspected his world may be built on secrets-and lies. When a mysterious organization starts recruiting mutant kids to compete in violent virtual reality games, Mika takes the chance to search for his twin sister-and the truth." 

I want you to be aware, before you read this book, or think about reading this book, that it's part of a series. I did not know that when I was reading it, so, when I got to the ending, I was very confused, agitated, and frustrated that the author left so many unanswered questions. This was an easy mistake to make, because there was nothing on the book to indicate that it was part of a series. I hate when publishers do this!

So, all the above has a huge impact on how I viewed and will review this novel. 

If I would have known there was a sequel, the abrupt ending probably wouldn't have bothered me. However, one aspect of it would have bothered me regardless. One of the main characters disappeared at the end of the book, like the author forgot about her. One minute she was there, the next, she was gone and not mentioned again. At the end of novel, even one in a series, everyone should be accounted for, whether they're in prison, dead, missing, etc. This was not the case here. 

I did enjoy parts of this novel, though. The suspense of knowing 'the secret' (even though I had a good guess) kept me turning the pages throughout the book to see what would happen next. Also, it had some pretty unique ideas, like the animal plague, and what the mutants could do (I won't give it away). I loved the latter. I also enjoyed how the author kept the parents in the novel. They're not usually in YA fantasy/dystopian novels much (for obvious reasons) but they kept cropping up here, and it was good to see their love and relationship fluctuate like any normal teenager's. 

Ellie was my favorite character by far; I loved her spunk and spark. I was disappointed the reader didn't get inside her head more, especially since she was the first person we meet. 

Due to all these factors, I give The Roar a 2.75 out of 5 and recommend it for 12 year olds and up. I'm still debating whether or not to read the sequel or not. 

What I learned: Everything the government tells you is a lie! (Ha. ha. Joking...mostly.)

*Readers who enjoyed The Hunger Games, Ender's Game, or the Uglies, Pretties, Specials series might like this novel. 

**What about you? What do you think about reading a book, and then finding out it's a series? Do you think they should be clearly marked? Have you read The Roar? Think you might or might not now? Let me know!

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Secrets and Spying

The Scarlet Pimpernel
By Baroness Orczv 
Genre: Historical Fiction, Classic 

"It is 1972 and France is in the grip of a seething, bloody revolution. Mobs roam the Paris streets hunting down royalists, barricades block any chance of escape, and every day hundreds die under the blade of Madame la Guillotine. But in the hearts of the condemned nobility there remains one last vestige of hope: rescue by the elusive Scarlet Pimpernel.

"Renowed for both his unparalleled bravery and his clever disguises, the Pimpernel's identity remains as much a mystery to his sworn enemy, the ruthless French agent Chauvelin, as to his devoted admirer, the beautiful Lady Marguerite Blakeny."

I loved this book! And lately, it's been hard for me to find books that I truly love. This novel had everything a good novel should possess: love, humor, excitement, and surprises that truly widened my eyes.

From the first page, I was hunting for this elusive Scarlet Pimpernel man, and when I realized who he was, I was completely surprised and elated. And the delightful surprises did not end there, but wait toward the end of the book like little treasures the author tosses at you. I don't know much (or anything, really), about Baroness Orczv, but this novel shows how clever and witty she is.

One of the few things I didn't particularly like about this novel was that the end seemed a bit brief. Don't worry, everything is tied up well, but I felt like with all that happens throughout the story, it wouldn't have hurt to elaborate on some of the events at the end. It seems like the Baroness (how fun to say that title) was just ready to be done spinning her tale.

Also, I wanted more interaction between the two characters, mostly at the end, for there was more to be said/done between them to my satisfaction. But, overall, this was a fantastic read, and I rate it a 4 out of 5. I recommend it for 15 year olds and up.

What I learned: Don't judge people, for you never know what's truly going on with them. The most likely costume/disguise is often the one that works best.

Readers who enjoyed this novel might also like:  The Count of Monte Cristo,  Legend, and The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Just Because

Just because poetry month is over doesn't mean we have to forget or ignore it until next year.  And so, I present to you a succinct, sweet little poem.

who are you, little i
By E.E. Cummings 

who are you, little i

(five or six years old)
peering from some high

window; at the gold 
of november sunset 

(and feeling that: if day
has to become night

this is a beautiful way)

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Ted Dekker and Historical Fiction

A.D. 30
By Ted Dekker
Genre: Historical Fiction
#1 in the A.D. 30 series

"The outcast daughter of one of the most powerful Bedouin sheikhs in Arabia, Maviah is called on to protect the very people who rejected her. When their enemies launch a sudden attack with devastating consequences, Maviah escapes with the help of two of her father's warriors-Saba, who speaks more with his sword than his voice, and Judah, a Jew who comes from a tribe that can read the stars. Their journey will be fraught with terrible danger. If they can survive the vast forbidding sands of a desert that is deadly to most, they will reach a brutal world subjugated by kings and emperors. There Maviah must secure an unlikely alliance with King Herod of the Jews.

"But Maviah's path leads her unexpectedly to another man. An enigmatic teacher who speaks of a way in this life that offers greater power than any kingdom. His name is Yeshua, and his words turn everything known on its head. Though following him may present even greater danger, his may be the only way for Maviah to save her people-and herself."

I'm usually leery about reading books with Jesus in them that aren't the Bible, since I believe the Bible is the primary way God reveals Himself to us. However, in A.D. 30, all the words Yeshua (Jesus) says are from the New Testament, except for some words he specifically to Maviah and another woman and some words he tells her in a dream. The way the reader is able to get into the people's heads and see their culture as close as possible without going to Israel helped me better understand the Jewish culture and see Jesus' words in a whole new light.

I was also surprised at the accuracy of it as well. Obviously it's fiction, and there was not a woman called Maviah who did all of the things in the novel, but there really was a suppression in Sepphoris by Varus and Aretas's army of Bedu, and other events and people that I can't say or it will give too much away. I love when authors use real events and people in their novels; sometimes real life is crazier than fiction.

Although I enjoyed the characters and plot, I couldn't get into this book very well. I wasn't very eager to read it, and I'm not sure why. Perhaps because the world wasn't truly new to me or because I longed to spend more time with Yeshua, and couldn't, or could just read the Scriptures to hear from Him. It was a good break from Dekker's sci-fi thrillers. He mastered this genre as well as those, if not better at times.

Due to all of this, I give this book a 3.5 and recommend it for 16 year olds and up.

What I learned: Everyone is precious to God. Forgiveness is more powerful than rage.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Poetry Fun

Not all poetry is deep, about a soul-mate or what it feels like to suffer the death of a loved one. And thank goodness, or we'd all be crying our hearts out each time we wanted to read something more lyrical. Here's a poem about the silliness of the English language to end the month of April on a light note (or rhyme ;).

Foolish Questions
American Folk Rhyme adapted by William Cole

Where can a man buy a cap for his knee? 
Or a key for the lock of his hair? 
And can his eyes be called a school? 
I would think-there are pupils there!
What jewels are found in the crown of his head,
And who walks on the bridge of his nose? 
Can he use, in building the roof of his mouth, 
The nails on the ends of his toes? 
Can the crook of his elbow be sent to jail-
If it can, well, then,what did it do? 
And how does he sharpen his shoulder blades? 
I'll be hanged if I know-do you? 
Can he sit in the shade of the palm of his hand, 
And beat time with the drum in his ear? 
Can the calf of his leg eat the corn on his toe? 

There's somthin' pretty strange around here!

Monday, April 27, 2015

Machines and Monsters, Oh My!

By Scott Westerfeld
Genre: YA Steam Punk
#1 in the Leviathan Series

Choose your Weapon: Beastie or Clanker

"Alek is a prince without a throne. On the run from his own people, he has only a fighting machine and a small band of men.

"Deryn is a girl disguised as a guy in the British Air Service. She must fight for her cause-and protect her secret-at all costs.

"Alek and Deryn are thrown together aboard the mighty airship Leviathan. Though fighting side by side, their worlds are far apart. British fabricated beasts versus German steam-powered war machines. They are enemies with everything to lose, yet somehow destined to be together."

This book was nothing like I've ever read before. In a good way, don't worry. First of all, it's steam punk. I've never read anything in that genre before, nor ever desired to, so I have nothing to compare this to, but it blew me away. The way that Westerfeld used facts from World War I and brought in highly imaginative creatures was so creative. I enjoyed the blurring of the lines of past and future, so that this novel truly could have taken place at any time. He always kept me on my toes, and I never knew what to expect.

The way Westerfeld used science and Darwinism was fascinating. I mean, animals that are made up of lots of other animals and can fly? So cool! Also, this book is laced with beautiful drawings that bring the reader into this unique world and help explain the machines and creatures Westerfeld invented for this tale. Without the drawings I might have been more frustrated and confused about what the creatures specifically looked like or how they worked, but since there were drawings, I could easily imagine these strange inventions in my head and didn't feel left out of the world.

This book was as different from the other novels I've read by Westerfeld, Uglies, Pretties, Specials, as a zebra is from a squirrel. I think that shows great talent on his part. But like in those books, I like how he creates new words for his characters to use, and I might have used one of them out loud at one point... And the characters! They're so funny, especially Deryn. I love her snarky humor and 'no-nonsense' attitude; she just pulls you right along with her and keeps everything fresh and funny.

The only thing I didn't particularly like about this novel was that the boy, Alek, seemed a bit 'weak' at the end. For being a Prince and a male character, I expected to pull more of his weight toward the end of the novel, especially when Deryn's soaring down ropes and threatening people. It was kind-of like Inheritance by Christopher Paolini all over again. But there's still hope! There's two more books in the series: Behemoth and Goliath. I do want to finish the series, but I'm not necessarily dying to.

I give Leviathan a 3.5 for all of the above and recommend it for 12 year olds and up.

What I learned: Oftentimes you have to take risks to grow, to change. Difficulties shape us into who we are.