Life As We Knew It

June 25, 2009

lifeWhen Miranda Evans hears astronomers have predicted that a meteor is going to hit the moon, she doesn’t think too much of it.  But when it hits, because the meteor is denser than believed, it pushes the moon closer to Earth.  This change in distance completely alters life on Earth, creating tsunamis, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, floods, etc.  Miranda, along with her mother and brothers, must fight for survival in a new world of dangerous weather, decreasing supplies of food and water, lack of electricity and heat, and complete isolation.

Susan Beth Pfeffer wrote Life As We Knew It as a journal from Miranda’s perspective.  This makes the novel extremely compelling as readers get a true sense of what life is like for Miranda and her family.  We see her anger, fear, and sadness when dealing with this drastic change.  The descriptions are so vivid that it’s easy to get lost in the story, believing chocolate chips are rare delicacies and the sight of the large moon is unsettling.  Pfeffer’s second book is called the dead and the gone and follows the same scenario from the perspective of a new character in New York City.  I think I’ll be reading that one soon…


48 Hour Book Contest

June 8, 2009

48hbcOver the weekend I participated in the 48 Hour Book Contest hosted by MotherReader.  If you haven’t heard of it, the basic idea is to read as much as you can or want to over a consecutive 48 hour period.  Time you blog about your process or the books you’ve read also counts toward your time.  This year socializing – time you spent reading other participating blogs, commenting, or twittering – was also allowed to add into your time.  My friends and I decided to participate together at NerdGirlBlogging, the blog we share, so head over there if you want to see our posts.

I ended up with a grand total of 15 hours, 30 minutes and 1162 pages.  It was a great experience, and I got to read & hear about a lot of great books.  These are the books I read.

specialsSpecials by Scott Westerfeld

This is the third book in the Uglies series, published in 2006.  It has quite a bit of action in it, especially toward the end.  I didn’t enjoy this one as much as I had Uglies.  Probably because then the series and concept of the books were still new to me.  I  see Specials as the final act of the UgliesPrettiesSpecials trilogy.  However, there is a fourth book called Extras, but Tally is not the main character.  I wasn’t planning on reading it, but I’ve been told by others that they really enjoyed it, so maybe I’ll pick it up after a little break from the series.  I would definitely recommend Uglies to any YA reader, and you can read my review of that book here.

drums20girlsDrums, Girls & Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick

This is a really great story from 2004 about Steven, a geeky 8th grader trying to deal with school,  a girl who doesn’t know he exists, and an annoying five-year-old brother, Jeffrey, all while finding time to get better on the drums.  Steven’s year quickly goes downhill when he learns that Jeffrey has lukemia.  Written in first person, Drums really gives us a feel for what Steven and his family are going through.  It has a lot of really sweet, sad, funny, angry, and quirky moments, and I cannot recommend it enough.

devilishDevilish by Maureen Johnson

This was my first Maureen Johnson book, so I wasn’t sure what to expect.  It turned out to be a fairly quick read with supernatural elements.  Jane attends an all-girl prep school with her best friend Allison, who has somewhat of an inferiority complex.  Allison changes drastically when new girl Lanalee arrives at school, suddenly owning expensive things, dying and cutting her hair, and stealing Jane’s ex-boyfriend.  Jane soon discovers Allison has sold her soul to Lanalee, a devil-in-training who also wants Jane’s soul.  I enjoyed the character of Jane; she’s intelligent, witty, and fiercely loyal and protective of her best friend.  Devilish is a pretty light read, though it does have some slightly graphic descriptions at times, so I would recommend it to older readers who like out-of-the-norm supernatural books.

savvySavvy by Ingrid Law

This 2008 book has won numerous honors, including 2009 Newbery Honor and ALA Notable Book for Children 2009.  Main character Mibs is about to turn 13.  A big deal for anyone, yet in her family, turning 13 means you get your savvy — a special talent.  Mibs’ oldest brother creates electricity and another brother can cause hurricanes.  Two days before her birthday, Mibs’ father is in a bad car accident.  Mibs KNOWS her savvy is to wake him up, so she, her older brother Fish, her younger brother Samson, and the preacher’s kids Will & Bobbi embark on an adventure.  Along her journey, Mibs learns a lot about herself, her family, and growing up.  This was a fantastic story with great characters and an exciting adventure.  Highly recommended!  I’m looking forward to more from Ingrid Law.

lincolnsThe Lincolns: A Scrapbook Look at Abraham and Mary by Candace Fleming

I have only read the first two chapters of this massive book so far, but I’m enjoying it.  It’s a nice book to pick up every now and then to supplement reading typical chapter books.  I love the scrapbook feel, with the pictures and various chunks of text.  It’s such a great way to learn about two important figures in history and what living in their time was like.  I’m looking forward to finishing the book and learning more, but I can already see why it’s so popular and has earned so many praise.  A great book for a variety of ages!

masterpieceMasterpiece by Elise Broach

I’m still working my way through this chapter book too, but so far it’s very enjoyable.  Published in 2008, Masterpiece is the story of Marvin, a beetle who lives in a NYC apartment with a human family, including 10-year-old James.  Of course, the humans don’t know they are there, until one day when Marvin goes into James’ room to leave a birthday present and ends up creating a beautiful ink picture.  When James awakes and sees the picture, he’s amazed and even more surprised when Marvin reveals himself as the artist.  I love that the book is from the perspective of a tiny beetle.  I can’t to find out how Masterpiece ends.


Uglies

May 1, 2009

ugliesScott Westerfeld’s science-fiction futuristic novel Uglies is the first book in what was originally a trilogy.  Tally Youngblood eagerly awaits her 16th birthday when she will finally become a Pretty, joining the rest of her friends, family, and society by receiving surgery to make her physically, mentally, and attractively superior to the “ugly” littlies.  While waiting for her birthday, Tally meets Shay, a fellow Ugly.  Just before their shared birthday, Shay leaves the city in search of the mysterious city known as the Smoke – where some Uglies have gone to to escape the surgery.  However, before Tally can be changed on her birthday, the secret police – the Specials, tell her she must leave the city and locate Shay and the Smoke or she will remain an Ugly forever.

This was a great, compelling young-adult novel.  The science-fiction elements are very captivating, and although a little preachy at times (for example, the old civilization, the Rusties, destroyed their world with war and pollution), the futuristic aspects are really interesting.  The descriptions in Uglies were so vivid, I could easily envision what was happening.  The characters are also interesting, and for the most part, I didn’t have any problems with them.  I really enjoyed the short chapters in the book, which help push the story along, and the way the book ends leaving you ready for and wanting to read the next book in the series – Pretties.


2009 Teens’ Top Ten

April 19, 2009

YALSA recently released the nominees for this year’s Teens’ Top Ten!  Voting will take place during Teen Read Week in October, so there’s plenty of time to read them.  Last year’s top ten included Eclipse, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and Diary of a Wimpy Kid.  Here are the nominees…

Cashore, Kristin – Graceling
Cast, Kristin & P.C. – Untamed
Clare, Cassandra – City of Ashes
Collins, Suzanne – The Hunger Games
Fukui, Isamu – Truancy
Fukui, Isamu – Truancy: Origins
Gaiman, Neil – The Graveyard Book
Green, John – Paper Towns
Harris, Joanne – Runemarks
Hopkins, Ellen – Identical
Leitich-Smith, Cynthia – Eternal
Lockhart, E. – The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks
Marriott, Zoё – Daughter of the Flames
McMann, Lisa – Wake
Meyer, Stephenie – Breaking Dawn
Moran, Katy – Bloodline
Ness, Patrick – The Knife of Never Letting Go
Noёl, Alyson – Evermore
Palmer, Robin – Geek Charming
Pierce, Tamora – Melting Stones
Scott, Elizabeth – Living Dead Girl
Smith, Sherri L. – Flygirl
Weingarten, Lynn – Wherever Nina Lies
Werlin, Nancy – Impossible
Yee, Lisa – Absolutely Maybe


If I Stay

April 17, 2009

if-i-stay1This new young-adult novel by Gayle Forman has only been out for a few weeks, but already it has quite a bit of buzz – an interesting and serious plot, its own website complete with book trailer, and a movie deal (with Twilight‘s Catherine Hardwicke slated to direct).  From these alone, it’s on the fast-track to be one of the most talked about books of the year.

Seventeen-year-old Mia has a great life with her cool (no, really) parents, adorable younger brother, and fantastic boyfriend.  She’s a classically trained cellist, whose most difficult decision at the beginning of the book is whether to leave behind her family, friends, and boyfriend to go to Julliard in the fall.  However, tragedy strikes during a family car ride, and Mia discovers her family has been killed and she is in serious condition.  Now she must decide whether to let go and be with her parents and brother as a family or stay with her friends and boyfriend and live with unbearable loss for the rest of her life.

I did not love this book from the start, but as I got further into it and after I finished, I discovered I liked it better than I thought I would. If I Stay is extremely sad.  More than once I had to put it down because it was too depressing.  The book uses flashbacks juxtiposed with Mia’s out-of-body experience so that readers get a sense of what her life is like.  Her family seems a little too perfect since they get along all the time, but this is probably just to show how difficult it would be for Mia to not have them in her life should she choose to stay.  Mia also annoyed and frustrated me at times because I could see how much she still has to live for – lots of extended family, close grandparents, close family friends, her boyfriend, her best friend, her future, etc.  If I Stay is definitely a great book for understanding mortality and how hard life is.  As Mia says in the book, dying is easy, living is hard.  I can’t say this was one of the best books I’ve read this year (though that may just be because of how heavy it was), but I definitely think it’s worth reading!


Sorcery & Cecelia or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot

April 10, 2009

sorceryceceliaWritten in letters between two cousins, this 1987 (re-issued in 2003) book by Patricia Wrede and Caroline Stevermer is a fresh change from the typical novel style.  Throw in a setting of early 1800s England and some magical elements and the story becomes extremely interesting.  While Kate is off in London for the season, Cecelia is stuck back in the country without her.  The two describe their encounters with new friends, “odious” men, and mysterious events and soon realize their separate adventures are connected.

The story begins a little slow.  I had to start it twice after putting it down for awhile the first time, but it was great once I got into it.  Both Kate and Cecelia are relatable characters despite the time period that may be foreign to readers.  They possess a spunk that will make readers laugh and forget about the (now) strange customs of 19th Century England society.  Sorcery & Cecelia is perfect for readers who love the elements of Jane Austen but have trouble with the language of the classics.  If you like Sorcery & Cecelia, I’ve just discovered that there are two follow-ups:  The Grand Tour or The Purloined Coronation Regalia and The Mislaid Magician or Ten Years After.  I’m adding them to my to-read list now!


The Devil on Trial

March 30, 2009

devilontrialIt’s been awhile since I’ve blogged about a book for Non-fiction Monday.  Recently I read The Devil on Trial: Witches, Anarchists, Atheists, Communists, and Terrorists in America’s Courtrooms by Philip Margulies.  The book covers 5 specific controversial court cases, ranging from 1692 to 2006.  The first described is the Salem Witch Trials. Next up is the Haymarket bomb trial, followed by the Scopes Monkey Trial, and the trials of Alger Hiss and Zacarias Moussaoui.  Each section offers background of the time, what happened, why the trial was significant and controversial, the outcome, and what it means for the present and the future.

The book is well organized and kept my attention more than most non-fiction books I’ve attempted to read.  The large book format and occassional pictures help make the book manageable.  I had varying degrees of knowledge on each of the cases, but after reading about them, I feel pretty informed on all of them.  For example, I knew about the case of evolution vs. creation, in general, but I hadn’t realized that the ACLU searched for someone to raise the issue or that John Scopes was only 24 at the time of the trial.  The Devil on Trial would definitely be great for young adults interested in any of these subjects or on how the justice system works in general, especially in times of controversy when the trials may seem unfair.