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Book Review: Speak

Title: Speak

Author: Laurie Halse Anderson

Publication Date: 10 Anv. Edition March 19, 2009

Genre: Young Adult

Publisher: Penguin

Rating: 4/5 stars

Summary (from Barnes & Noble): “Speak up for yourself – we want to know what you have to say.”

From the first moment of her freshman year at Merryweather High, Melinda knows that this is a big fat lie, part of the nonsense of high school. She is friendless, outcast, because she busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops, so now nobody will talk to her, let alone listen to her.

As time passes, she becomes increasingly isolated and practically stops talking altogether. Only her art class offers any solace, and it is through her work on an art project that she is finally able to face what really happened at that terrible party: she was raped by an upperclassman, a guy who still attends Merryweather and is still a threat to her.

Her healing process has just begun when she has another violent encounter with him. But this time Melinda fights back, refuses to be silent, and thereby achieves a measure of vindication. In this powerful novel, an utterly believeable heroine with a bitterly ironic voice delivers a blow to the hypocritical world of high school. She speaks for many a disenfranchised teenager while demonstrating the importance of speaking up for oneself.

 My Review: This was an incredible emotional roller coaster of a read and I had tears in my eyes at many points in the book. It’s quite possibly the most powerful book I have read in a long time.

However, it’s so hard to do this book justice in a review without revealing too much of the plot. And it’s incredibly important that each reader experience the emotions that the revelations in the plot bring to life as they happen. Suffice it to say that this book broke my heart repeatedly for Melinda as her story unfolded across the pages.

While Melinda’s inner strength is what ultimately gets her through this dark period in her life she also puts a lot of herself into her art class. It is through her art that she begins to allow herself to experience and show the emotions she’s been fighting so hard to keep away. Her immersion into her art and the safety and freedom that she finds that are what help her to find her voice again

Anderson has written an incredibly thoughtful story that displays a great deal of emotion and pulls the reader directly into it. Plagued by anxiety, depression, and fear throughout the book Melinda still demonstrates a quiet perseverance as she goes about her daily life. As Melinda rarely speaks we depend on the inner monologue Anderson has developed for her that is both insightful and entertaining. Melinda has a quick wit and sarcastic humor and her inner thoughts are, at times, just the break we need from the heavier issues she’s facing.

I wish I could place this book into the hands of every incoming freshman girl and boy in High School to let them know that they too have the courage to speak out. That they possess the ability to help those around them by simply listening to their stories spoken and unspoken and by acknowledging their pain. A lesson that I think every teenager needs to have learned before they leave high school.

 

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Book Review: The Magicians

Title: The Magicians

Author: Lev Grossman

Publication Date:  May 25, 2010

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Plume

Rating: 3/5 stars

Summary (from Barnes & Noble): Like everyone else, precocious high school senior Quentin Coldwater assumes that magic isn’t real, until he finds himself admitted to a very secretive and exclusive college of magic in upstate New York. There he indulges in joys of college-friendship, love, sex, and booze- and receives a rigorous education in modern sorcery. But magic doesn’t bring the happiness and adventure Quentin thought it would. After graduation, he and his friends stumble upon a secret that sets them on a remarkable journey that may just fulfill Quentin’s yearning. But their journey turns out to be darker and more dangerous than they’d imagined. Psychologically piercing and dazzlingly inventive, The Magicians is an enthralling coming-of-age tale about magic practiced in the real world-where good and evil aren’t black and white, and power comes at a terrible price.

My Review: Every statement (well, at least most of them) I’ve seen about this book refers to it as “Harry Potter for Grownups” or “a way for adults to return to C.S Lewis’ world of Narnia”. I suppose both of those statements are accurate in their own way (as there are references to both in this novel), and it is most definitely a book for teens/grownups but the book is more than that and to simply compare it to two other great works of fantasy does not allow the book to stand firmly on it’s own story and writing.

It did take me a bit of time to get into the book, and I found myself having to re-read the first few chapters after I initially put it down and walked away from it for a month. Once I managed to get into the flow of the book and beyond the initial unsure feeling it gave me, I was able to settle in and enjoy the story.

At the very beginning I felt a bit put off by Quentin as he came across as a bit of a prat, however I managed to warm up slightly to him as the book went on and more characters were introduced. I believe he become more personable when seen side by side next to some characters who were a bit more out there in their ideals and behaviors. I found myself inexplicably drawn to this cast of misfit characters and curious to see what happened to them.

I found the magic of this book most intriguing, as it did not seem like the magic I was used to reading about. It’s certainly more Narnia type magic that Harry Potter, that’s for sure. There seemed to be more a focus on magical theory and history and process and fewer spells and incantations that would be quoted in my every day life for years to come. (I still try to use Accio when I’m feeling extremely lazy and don’t want to get up form the couch!)

Overall the book did not leave me feeling satisfied at the end and especially as I was left feeling that there were certain parts that were unresolved. However, I learned that there was to be a sequel and hopefully this can help resolve some of the lingering feelings and emotions I have leftover when the book ended. I’m sure I’ll pick up the sequel if only out of my own morbid curiosity about what happens to these misfits.

 
 

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Book Review: Pegasus

Title: Pegasus

Author: Robin McKinley

Publication Date:  November 2010

Genre: Young Adult/ Fantasy

Publisher: Penguin Group

Rating: 4/5 stars

Summary (from Barnes & Noble): Because of a thousand-year-old alliance between humans and pagasi, Princess Sylviianel is ceremonially bound to Ebon, her own Pegasus, on her twelfth birthday. The two species coexist peacefully, despite the language barriers separating them. Humans and pegasi both rely on specially-trained Speaker magicians as the only means of real communication. But its different for Sylvi and Ebon. They can understand each other. They quickly grow close-so close that their bond becomes a threat to the status quo-and possibly to the future safety of their two nations.

My Review: I’m going to start off my review by saying that this book is part 1 of 2 and this certainly impacts my thoughts on the story and on the review itself. This book absolutely has all the designs of a first parter as it is filled with a bit of back story and the set up of the conflict. There is very little conflict itself in the book until the cliff-hanger ending. While I’ve noticed that the overwhelming amount of back story is a common complaint against those who have read and reviewed Pegasus, I found the back story and the imagery beautiful and engaging.

Robin McKinley has fabulous at building immense and detailed worlds with her words and Pegasus is no exception to this. I was enchanted by this world that at first glance seemed like it could be Earth a few hundred years ago, however the closer you looked the more clearly the uniqueness of her creation shone through. In this world there is a centuries-old alliance between humans and pegasi and at age 12 Sylvi becomes to Ebon, a young, mischievous son of the Pegasus’ King. Ebon manages to uphold the noble and majestic view we have of a Pegasus, while at the same time showing that he can be as naughty, immature and devious as a human child.

The intricacies of the bonding rituals, sign language, and mutual respect that exist between the humans and the Pegasi is really what drives this story forward. McKinley has written multiple facets to the Pegasi-Human interaction. We see Sylvi and Ebon, her father and the Pegasus king, her mother and her quiet and modest Pegasus and each of these relationships servers to show just how complex and unusual this arrangement is. Each pairing helps the reader to understand just how little the humans and Pegasus understand this bond that they have shared for centuries.

It’s easy to get caught up in the beauty of the novel and the way McKinley paints a perfect picture of this world with her words. I for one can’t wait for the sequel as I’, aching to spend a little more time with both Sylvi and Ebon.

 

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Book Review: The Book Thief

Title: The Book Thief

Author: Markus Zusak

Publication Date: September 11, 2007

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publisher: Alfred A. Knop

*Purchased the book at a used bookstore*

Rating: 4/5 stars

I should probably state right off the bat that I am a history minor who concentrated on the Holocaust. As such I read so many books on the topic, both fiction and non-fiction, to gain a better understanding of that atrocities that occurred in Europe at that time. So right from the start I was pulled into to this book, curious to see how the events would play out from this unique point of view.

The use of Death as the omniscient narrator was one that was easily adapted to and it gave the book a unique feel that I don’t believe Zusak would have been able carry out any other way.  However, at times his commentary seemed to jar me out of the story and realize that I was not actually a part of what was going on.

From the beginning of the book I found myself interested in Liesel’s role as the book thief, as she stole her first book very early on. The books that she read and stole helped to build her relationships with those around her, relationships that may not have been as deep without the back drop of the stolen books. From her foster-father who uses The Gravediggers Handbook to lull her to sleep when she’s roused by regular nightmares about her younger brothers death, Max the hidden Jew who writes her a book of her very own and the mayor’s wife who has an entire library of books she allows her to steal.

This book will both bring you joy and break your heart, but it’s a journey that is worth the pan.

 

 

 

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Book Challenges!

In a way to jumpstart my reading for 2011 (as if I need more ways to do that), I’ve decided to signup for a few Book Challenges. These will perhaps push me to read outside of my normal realm of books and hopefully introduce me to a few new authors along the way!

I’m signing up for four challenges for this year. I think that’s good enough to get me going with reading and reviewing!


YA Historical Fiction Challenge (signup page)

Hosts : YA Bliss
Starts: 1st January 2011
Ends: 31st December 2011
Eligible Books: Young Adult or Middle Grade historical fiction.
Levels: Three; I’ve signed up for the third level which requires me to read 15 books
Prizes? Yes!

 

I love historical fiction, so this one should be a breeze! Here are some of the books I am considering, I’ll add more as I find them:

The Healer’s Apprentice by Melanie Dickerson
The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak
The Lost Crown by Sarah Miller
Wildwing by Emily Whitman
Nine Days a Queen: The Short Life and Reign of Lady Jane Grey by Ann Rinaldi


Most Awaited YA Releases (signup page)

Starts: 1st January 2011
Ends: 31st December 2011
Eligible Books: Any book released in 2011.
Levels: One: 12 books (review one per month)
Prizes? Yes! Each month one participant will win a book released in 2011.

Here are some of the books I am considering:

Across the Universe by Beth Revis
The Iron Witch by Karen Mahoney
Entwined by Heather Dixon
Where She Went by Gayle Forman


Into The Old World Reading Challenge (sign up page)

Starts: 1st January 2011
Ends: 31st December 2011
Eligible Books: Any books published BEFORE 2009 . All Genres included

Here are some of the books I am considering:

The Wild Irish: A Novel of Elizabeth I and the Pirate O’Malley by Robin Maxwell
The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak
Inkdeath by Cornelia Funke
Nine Days a Queen: The Short Life and Reign of Lady Jane Grey by Ann Rinaldi


Off the Shelf (signup page)

Starts: January 1, 2011
Ends: December 31, 2011
Eligible Books: Books that you own but have not read. Must own the books prior to 2011.
Levels: Seven; I will be trying for Level 2:  15 books
I’ll have to scan the shelf and separate out the books I haven’t read yet! There are quite a few though, that’s for sure.
 
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Posted by on 31 December, 2010 in Challenges

 

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