Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Audiobook Review: "Linger" by Maggie Stiefvater

Title: Linger (The Wolves of Mercy Falls, #2)
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Publisher: Scholastic Audio, 2010 (print from Scholastic, 2010)
Narrators: Dan Bittner (Cole), Pierce Cravens (Sam), Emma Galvin (Isabelle), Jenna Lamia (Grace)

**Spoilers for Shiver follow. You've been warned.**

In this second installment of The Wolves of Mercy Falls series, Grace and Sam are getting used to the fact that Sam is a human for good now. Things seem wonderful on the surface, but something is happening inside Grace, something resulting from the original wolf bite she got as a child. Meanwhile, new wolf Cole can't stay wolf, as he so desperately wants to do, and Isabelle is still wracked with guilt over the death of her brother. They find they are drawn to each other despite their frosty exteriors and complicated interiors.

Though this isn't my favorite series, I did enjoy Linger, more so than I liked Shiver. Stiefvater goes much more into depth with the science behind the werewolf shifting, the characters were more interesting, and it ends on a nice little cliffhanger.

Grace and Sam are very eyeroll-inducing; they're so damn sweet it made me sick. But the book was saved by Grace's mysterious illness, throwing a wrench into their paradise, and by Cole and Isabelle's narrations. I really loved Cole and being inside his head, and his fame added a delightful problem into the plot. This book needed drama and problems, and luckily we got them.

The narrators did a nice job reading the different voices. Again, my favorite was Cole's narrator, Dan Bittner. Everyone else seemed to put a little bit too much inflection into their performances, which annoyed me at first but I got over it pretty quickly.

What I can't understand is why EVERY. SINGLE. ADULT. was so incredibly awful. I hated all of them, except the bookstore owner who was only in one scene. Grace's parents are absolutely detestable and, p.s., are horrible parents. Isabelle's father is a disgusting man and truly a villain. I can't understand why adults are painted in such a horrible light as a general rule here. I know it's supposed to be the teens against the world, but really.

Overall though, despite my misgivings, I am curious to see where the story will go. I love the werewolf mythology Stiefvater created and will certainly pick up Forever at some point.

Disclosure: I got this audiobook from my library.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Top Ten Books I Think Every Teen Should Read

Another top ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke & the Bookish. Today is my day over there, so if you go over you will... see exactly the same thing as what I post below. Here are my top ten books I think every teen should read. (Let's face it, only librarians and bookish people consider 12- to 19-year-olds to be young adults.) This is a hard list to compile, since every teen is different. I'm going to try my best to cover a wide range, so bear with me. Let's see how I do.

1. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher. It's important to know that the gossiping you do and the little ways you affect others can have much more impact than you realize. And it's finally out in paperback. It's worth it, trust me.

2. Paper Towns by John Green. Not only does this awesomeness in book form have themes of identity and the way we look at others, it is just a good time all around. I love this book.

3. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. A coming-of-age classic with the simple message of looking beyond the outside of a person.

4. Feed by M.T. Anderson. Teens today will see eerie similarities between Anderson's future and our present, especially with the way we see the world decay around narrator Titus. It's very sobering, at least it was for me.

5. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. A tough but all too common issue in our world is expertly handled here. A great conversation starter.

6. Any Shakespeare. There are too many references to the Bard in EVERYTHING we consume via the media, it would only help to read some of his stuff.

7. Grimm's Fairy Tales. Again, so many references in everyday life come from the fairy tales, especially those compiled by the Grimm brothers. And it's dark stuff too. Scholars have studied fairy tales for years, and for good reason: they tell us a lot about our selves.

8. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. Probably one of the best books I've ever read in my entire life. A look at life in poverty on an Indian reservation, as well as an examination of identity. And despite its heartbreaking moments, it is chock-full of humor.

9. Seedfolks by Paul Fleischman. This gem of a novel shows how each individual in a neighborhood comes together to create a community where there wasn't one before, thanks to a garden. Oh, and it's super short.

10. Annie on My Mind by Nancy Garden. One of the first (if not the first—please let me know in the comments if you know this) books focusing on a homosexual relationship where one of the two lovers doesn't die. I thought this book was a great way to see (and better understand) a homosexual relationship if you are used to a heterosexual point of view.

There you have it, my top ten. Let me make clear that this is not my top ten YA books that I love the most. Though I do love these. What are your top ten? Link to your post over at The Broke & the Bookish!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Giveaway of "Forever" by Maggie Stiefvater!

Hi all! In apology for being so inactive on here, I'm giving you all an "I'm-sorry" present. Here's a giveaway to win a SIGNED ARC of Maggie Stiefvater's Forever, out this month!

I had the pleasure of meeting Maggie, along with Libba Bray and Meg Cabot, at a Scholastic lunch celebrating This Is Teen! earlier this summer. Again, I'm sorry for the terrible posting job I'm doing talking about these events.

Anyway, if you'd like to enter to win this lovely autographed ARC, please fill in the form below! Some rules:

Must be 13 years or older to enter.

This giveaway ends at 11:59 p.m. EST on July 31, 2011.

US or Canada only.

Only one entry per person. I will find out if you enter more than once; trust me, I check.

Good luck my friends! No need to be a follower to enter, but it would be appreciated.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Review: "Withering Tights" by Louise Rennison

Title: Withering Tights (Misadventures of Tallulah Casey)
Author: Louise Rennison
Publisher: HarperTeen, 2011

Tallulah Casey is off to the Yorkshire Dales for a summer college course at Dother Hall, a performing arts school. She goes for a laugh and to escape her brother's butterfly sandwiches, as she has never really had much experience performing and has very knobby knees that are too high on her legs. But she's surprised to find that she quite enjoys it there, and with her new friends and a number of boys around, thanks to nearby Woolfe Hall and the village of Heckmondshire, she hopes she can pass the summer course so she can return. She hopes the end-of-summer performance of Wuthering Heights, inspired by their location in the English moors, will be her ticket.

Withering Tights has no real coherent storyline or plot aside from Tallulah making it through the summer, but that doesn't really matter. That will only affect you if you do no like the funny, because Louise Rennison is hilarious. The wit in this book is sharp and delicious (I realize that also can describe cheddar but bear with me). I found myself laughing out loud a lot—Rennison's comedic timing is often perfect.

The setting was great, especially if you're an Anglophile. Rennison doesn't shy away from using English slang, and she adds a helpful (and also very funny) glossary at the back of the book. I love the words she uses; it adds so much to the book as a whole, and it probably wouldn't be as funny without the language.

Like I said, there's no real storyline, Tallulah just chronicles the summer. Of course, characters and little subplots are followed, like Ruby and the baby owls ("hooray!") and Tallulah's encounters with at least four boys (there is a lot of boy stuff, but it's more like Tallulah is just trying to figure out how to deal with them, since she's only 14). And speaking of characters, I don't think there is a dull one in the bunch. Every character is individualized, and some might be described as "normal," but in here that term is relative. The only one I really dislike is Cain, for reasons you will all realize if you read it, but I have a feeling he'll play a pretty big part in the following books in the series.

I'll definitely be picking up the next book in the Misadventures of Tallulah Casey series. I found that I'm more fond of Tallulah than I ever was of Georgia Nicholson, though I do like those books too. And side note: Georgia is Tallulah's cousin. Maybe we'll see a cameo later on!

Disclosure: I won an ARC of this title from Steph Su (thanks Steph!).

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Review: "Elijah of Buxton" by Christopher Paul Curtis

Title: Elijah of Buxton
Author: Christopher Paul Curtis
Publisher: Listening Library, 2008 (print from Scholastic, 2007)
Narrator: Mirron Willis

Elijah was born free in Canada, in a settlement called Buxton. His parents escaped slavery in America, making it to the security and relatively happy life—and Elijah was the first baby to be born in this new country, away from the shackles America would have placed on him and his family. But life isn't perfect for the people of this community. Many still have family members who didn't make it to Canada, others have lost family to death, and most still bear the scars, both physical and psychological, of slavery.

Elijah lives in relative peace and security because of his ignorance of the way it is in America, but when one of his neighbors is robbed of the money he was going to use to free his family, Elijah makes a dangerous journey down south, past the Canadian border. He sees horrors he hopes to never see again, if only he can make it back home.

I first read Christopher Paul Curtis last summer for my children's literature class, and I've been meaning to read more of his work ever since. His books, though they have roots in racism and slavery in America, also tell incredibly engaging stories full of humor. In this Newbery Honor–winning book, also the recipient of the Coretta Scott King Book Award, Curtis does an incredible balancing act, pacing the drama and danger with the more lighthearted parts of the story, and does not shy away from the horror to which slaves were subjected. Elijah of Buxton is a funny and alternately searing account of life during the mid-1800s for black people in both America and Canada. Vile characters interact with good-hearted ones, and men with good intentions make bad decisions. I couldn't often couldn't stop listening, even after I had reached my destination in my car.

Curtis also includes an excellent author's note at the end, giving a brief history of Buxton and what in his novel was real and what he fictionalized (which should always be included in a work of historical fiction). As a bonus, Curtis reads this himself in the audio.

Mirron Willis's narration was perfect. He read the dialect with authenticity and just the right amount of emotion, portraying Elijah's confusion, naivete and conviction with all the charm Curtis gives Elijah. I fell in love with Elijah through Willis's voice and excellent portrayal.

If you're looking for a way to while away the hours of your morning and/or evening commute or on a long road trip (especially with kids who have the patience to listen to audiobooks), I highly recommend this one to keep you company.

Disclosure: I got this from my local library.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Review: "Anya's Ghost" by Vera Brosgol

Title: Anya's Ghost
Author: Vera Brosgol
Publisher: First Second, 2011

Anya, daughter of a Russian immigrant, insecure in her body, and just trying to fit in at her private school, ends up finding a friend in the most unlikely of places. After falling down a well, Anya discovers a skeleton... and its ghost that's been hanging out down there for about 90 years.

At first, Anya is obviously freaked. But she escapes from the well, with help from Emily (the ghost). Who ends up following her out. Emily turns out to be a great friend, helping her with school and boys, but Anya soon figures out that Emily is here to stay... whether she likes it or not.

This graphic novel is beyond awesome. The illustrations are outstanding, all in black, white, gray and muted purple. The pacing of the story is excellent too—we jump into the story right away with Anya's fall, discovery of the skeleton, and subsequent befriending of Emily Reilly, who died 90 years ago after she fell down the well herself.

This is also a mystery. Anya promises to search for Emily's murderer, who she says killed her parents and then chased her through the woods the night of her fall. But Emily seems strangely uninterested and not very eager for Anya to start her search. She's much more interested in finding Anya a way into the heart of her crush, basketball star Sean. Even when Anya isn't interested anymore. Slowly we begin to see Emily's true personality and psychosis, and Anya tries to uncover Emily's history.

I had to keep going back after finishing this to just look at the illustrations and relive parts of the story. There is true terror within the pages, but a more subtle terror than you might expect in a ghost story.

There's also a lot in here about acceptance of yourself and your culture, with Anya's denial of her background and attempts to keep her family out of the line of sight of her schoolmates. She avoids another Russian student at her school because he acts too "fobby," without giving him a chance at any sort of friendship because of his social status. Throughout the plot, she has to come to terms with all of this.

Whether you read graphic novels or not, this is one you should go out and read immediately. The story and illustrations are in perfect harmony to make for one scary and mysterious ride.

Disclosure: I got this from my local library.
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