Monthly Archives: October 2011

Shine by Lauren Myracle

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This was an extraordinary and haunting book. Cat and Patrick had been best friends all their lives, growing up in a tiny town in the hills of North Carolina. When Cat is 13, she suffers a sexual assault, and withdraws from everyone in her life, including Patrick. Therefore, she watches from the sidelines as he enters high school and is tormented daily for being gay.

Three years later, Patrick is attacked and left for dead at a gas station. Cat is furious that the local police are not making much effort to solve the hate crime. So, as Patrick lies in a coma, Cat sets off to investigate on her own, and starts to come to terms with her own assault and it’s aftermath. She starts talking to people again, trying to get to the bottom of the crime, and also getting to know her town and classmates again. Things start getting tense and dangerous as she gets closer to the real attacker, and Cat realizes she might need allies after all.

This was such an amazing book – an important book. I read it all in one sitting yesterday, and haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. I’m even going out of order in my reviews to write about it sooner! The characters are stunningly real – flawed and scared and good and wonderful all at once.

I read a negative review of this book today that said the author forgave too much. I respectfully disagree – there was a lot of forgiveness in this book, but that was the lesson, the whole message. There had been so much violence and upheaval in that town already, and I really felt like the characters reached a peace that could not have been achieved had there been a horrible witch hunt. I respect them for being able to forgive, when there was so MUCH to forgive.

This is a big book – a book that should be taught in schools, read with families, talked about with friends. It made me realize exactly how much hate and pure ignorance still exists, even in our modern times. That people are just plain clueless about what it is to be gay, and are afraid of what they don’t understand.

I know that’s not news, but it shocks me, still. That is why this book is so important – so these conversations can happen, and bring some light to the ignorance.

Go get this book – talk about it with young people, talk about it with older people – think about it’s messages.

Still here…

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Have not abandoned this – just haven’t read anything I loved lately – except for “The Night Circus” by Erin Morgenstern…review pending, though I doubt you need my endorsement of it at this point – everyone’s already raved about it! I think it may be the best book I have read in years.

Also in the middle of “Daughter of Smoke and Bone” by the fabulous Laini Taylor…stay tuned for that one. So far it is fantastic.

Also it is snowy. Too soon. But it is a little pretty. I guess I can admit that.

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

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This was such a gorgeous and harrowing book. It is the story of 15 year old Lina, a promising artist with a close family who is taken in 1941 from her home in Lithuania by the Russians and put into a labor camp. She manages to stay with her mother and younger brother, but their father is taken seperately, and jailed far away from the rest of the family. Lina and her mother and brother are forced on a terrible journey in a dirty train car to Siberia. They form unique bonds with their fellow travellers, and everyone copes with the events in their own desperate way. They end up at a forced labor camp, and are cruelly worked with very little food. The illness and humiliation are horrible.

But somehow, Lina and her fellow prisoners find ways to survive. They steal food and firewood from the soldiers, they hold secret Christmas parties, and Lina draws pictures. She draws the people she has met, maps the places they have been taken, and hopes to pass these drawings along, person to person, until they reach her father in prison.

Lina also has a romance, with fellow prisoner Andrius. The circumstances are obviously not ideal for falling in love, but the two learn to help and trust each other. I loved their romance, and how they managed to communicate even when Lina gets taken to a new camp far away – with a book that Andrius gives her.

This was so well written. Such a good cry, and good history. It made real for me a period in history that gets skipped over in school. A period in history none of us should forget.

Also loved all the comments about the artist Munch. He’s Lina’s favorite, and she talks about him and his work all the time, and draws strength from it.

Gorgeous book, and something I think people need to read. Good for a large range of ages, but it does get a bit graphic in parts, describing all they go through.

The Summer I Learned to Fly by Dana Reinhardt

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This was a quick read, but very touching and real. Drew is a quiet 13-year-old with no true friends besides her mom and her pet rat, Hum. She helps out at her mom’s gourmet cheese shop in a city in between LA and San Francisco. Drew keeps to herself, pondering the weird world of Jr High and reading “The Book of Lists” – a notebook written by her father, who passed away when Drew was three.

Then one day she meets Emmett Crane, a boy who is constantly hungry, and bears mysterious scars. They are drawn to one another, but it takes a few rocky starts before they trust each other enough to divulge secrets. Drew finds out that Emmett has run away from home, and is seeking a miracle. He plans to find a hot spring that was in a legend he was told as a child. This hot spring is supposed to bring healing for the people you love. Emmett’s brother never learned to talk, and they have no money to get him help. Emmett is willing to risk everything to help his brother, and Drew quickly gets swept up in helping him reach his goal. She has to make some big decisions, and risks damaging her relationship with her mother in order to start breaking some rules to help her friend.

I loved this book – it felt so real. Drew and Emmett are such great characters, and their friendship is great. They’re 13 and 14, so there is plenty of awkwardness and tension, but also just real, genuine friendship. I loved that they were a boy and a girl who were just friends – the author didn’t feel the need to pair them off, send them to college together and live happily ever after. They share one sweet kiss, then part ways.

I also loved the mother-daughter relationship. Since it’s been just the two of them for so long, they have a fun and trusting relationship, but Drew is classically 13 – pushing boundaries and feeling misunderstood, yet missing all the struggle her mother is going through. Drew never sets out to hurt her mother, but ultimately puts her through a lot of worry. On the other hand, her mother doesn’t really take the time to listen to WHY Drew is suddenly breaking rules. In general, very realistic and believable.

Loved it. Go read it!

The Dagger Quick by Brian Eames

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This is a classic young-boy-falls-in-with-pirates story, but man is it good! Kitto has a clubfoot, and is convinced by his father that this makes him unfit to follow his dreams and go to sea. When his mysterious pirate uncle shows up and his father is killed, Kitto heads off on the adventure of a lifetime to avenge his father and save his mother and brother. Kitto’s ship is full of pirates, but they are realistic in that they are a rather motley crew who are just trying to make a living. The other ship, however, is more your typical pirate villians. A creepy captain with a severed nose and a fondness for murder and mayhem has Kitto’s remaining family on board his ship as ransom. Kitto is determined to rescue them, but his uncle is feeling torn about surrendering the barrels of expensive nutmeg that he has waited many long years to reclaim. The Uncle is a great character, very well-rounded and has many human failings, but ultimately has you cheering for him. Kitto is pure gold – love him. His mother taught him to visualize the outcome he wants and believe with all his heart that something will be so. This helps him through countless dangerous and difficult situations. He is so determined and brave and real. Just lovely. The minor characters have great backstories and depth to them as well, even characters that only get one or two lines.

This book was clearly well researched, and Eames teaches middle school, which has helped him find a voice that young readers will love.

This is a must read, and would appeal to many ages and both boys and girls.

Miss Peregrines Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

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Oh my goodness. I read this all in one sitting, which I don’t usually have time for. I am SO glad I did on this one! Miss Peregrine’s¬†is billed as a horror, or dark mystery book, but it’s not really. I found it strange, and sad, and lovely. Jacob is the main character, and at 15 he is the only one in his family who wants to spend time with his ailing grandfather. Grandpa Portman¬†has told Jacob stories about the children’s home he lived in during World War II. He tells Jacob of the small island off the coast of Wales, and the strange children who lived with him – the invisible boy, the girl who can create fire with her bare hands, the boy with bees living inside him – Jacob thinks these stories are fairy tales. But when his grandfather is mysteriously killed by monsters that only he and Jacob can see, Jacob goes on a quest to find the island and the children. He seeks closure with his grandfather’s death and the stories, but he also needs to prove to himself that he isn’t crazy.

When Jacob arrives on the tiny island, all he finds is a crumbling ruin of the children’s home. Locals tell him that the home was bombed during the war, and only Jacob’s grandfather survived. Undaunted, Jacob starts investigating the house, and crosses a portal back to 1940 – the very day the bomb falls. The day is set on a loop, so that the day resets right before the explosion. No one ages, but they have been there since the real 1940. They cannot leave, or all their borrowed years will hit them at once, and they will die. Once through this portal, Jacob discovers that all his grandfather’s stories were true – all the strange children really do exist – and so do the monsters. Jacob must decide whether he will return to his ordinary life in Florida, or stay in 1940 with his new friends. There is a lot at stake, and Jacob may be the key to saving the peculiars – and he may be one of them!

The photographs that illustrate this book are actually real photos – though some may have been doctored many years ago. Ransom Riggs tracked down all these photos from various collectors, and wrote his story around them. The photos are fascinating and strange, and bring life to the story. The writing was excellent, and I hope there will be sequels!

Dr. WHO?

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OK, without too many “spoilers!” – can we talk about that Dr. Who finale?! Holy bowties. One of those finales that kind of leaves you breathless. So many questions, and so many crazy answers! The handfasting! The eye-drives! Amy Pond and her amazing train office! (I want one.)

So much love. Cannot WAIT for more. And I also need to go back at re-watch Silence in the Library (GET it? SILENCE in the library?! Whoa!)

I’m just floored by how much prior planning this must have had. Everything connects! It’s insane. Steven Moffat is amazing.

Unrelated awesome – Arrested Development is coming back! Hooray!