Monthly Archives: December 2011

Liesl & Po by Lauren Oliver

Liesl & Po was a really cute book by Lauren Oliver. The author’s voice greatly reminded me of Kate DiCamillo’s in The Tale of Despereaux. Perfidy. Ineffable. Tee hee.

L&P told the story of Liesl, a recently orphaned little girl who had spent the last couple of years locked in the attic by her evil stepmother after her father’s untimely (and suspicious) demise. A ghost named Po and it’s (ghosts have no gender) ghost pet a cat/dog (animals forget what they were too), Bundle appear to Liesl one night. They help her escape the attic and embark on an incredible journey, involving an alchemist, a foreign princess, a thief, a dim-witted guard, her father’s ashes, and the greatest magic in the whole world. Not to mention her new friend Will (the alchemist’s much abused young apprentice), who has been admiring her from afar for months. 

This story was really adorable, and Oliver’s language was crisp and concise. She said that she wrote this book as a personal catharsis after the death of a close friend. I enjoyed her portrayal of the afterlife–how things seemed to just blur together, and how trivial tidbits, like one’s gender and species, are soon forgotten. This book, like Holes by Louis Sachar, introduce many different elements and characters, yet somehow ties them all together in the end.

I would recommend this book for any child dealing with the loss of a parent, or even as a teaching tool to give them a gentle perspective on death. Liesl & Po reminds us that death is nothing but a horizon, and a horizon is nothing save the limit of our sight.

3.5 of 5 stars

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The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

I have been meaning to do a Hunger Games post for a long long long time. I read the book earlier this year at the urging of my 13 year old sister. What the heck does she know? I had my doubts, but The Hunger Games series definitely goes down as one of my all time favorites. Action, adventure, a tyrannical government, a battle royale, a love triangle, mutant animals, a dystopian society… This book has it all.

Now it’s getting all this buzz and blowing up because of the new moving coming out next year–just like when the Twilight movie was made. However, before you watch the movie, you’ve got to read the books! It’s the cardinal rule. Deal with it.

Read them.

All of them.

NOW.

(And you have no excuse not to. We’re talking about a book written for teenagers, not Tolstoy’s War and Peace. And you’re smarter than a teenager, right? … Right??)

THG takes place in North America after the world has been destroyed by a series of devastating wars. Only 13 colonies or “districts” are left and all are ruled over by a central, tyrannical government. Each district is responsible for the production of a certain good: electronics, textiles, coal, etc… The “Capital” controls the distribution of all these goods, and all but the richest in society are starving to death.

Enter: the Hunger Games.

Each year, there is a drawing of names and two contestants–a boy and a girl–are chosen for a battle royale-style reality show that pits children and teens against each other until only one is left standing. The winner is awarded fame and fortune, and most importantly, food for their family.

Katniss Everdeen, of District 12, has been the sole supporter of her mother and little sister since her father died in a mining accident. Her superior (and illegal) hunting skills, along with her best friend Gale, have helped keep them alive for years.

So it’s just natural instinct for Katniss when her sister’s name is drawn for the  Games, to step in and take her place. Saving her life, yet risking her own. Will she make it out alive?

Enough of the plot synopsis, let’s get to the juicy stuff. I just want you to know that if you don’t read this book soon, you will be making a grave mistake. This is the stuff that all authors hope to produce. THG is a edge-of-your-seat, up-all-night-biting-your-nails page-turner. Guys read it, girls read it, moms, and boyfriends. Everyone. Collins achieves the perfect mix of action and storyline, leaving frustrating cliff-hangers at the end of every chapter to keep you reading more.

I really can’t critique this series to tell you the truth. I was sad to see some of the characters get killed off, but that’s the way of The Games, I suppose. I dare you to not get attached.

Thankfully, I read these on the Kindle and once I finished I was able to order Catching Fire while in bed, during the middle of the night. This books makes you wonder what you would do in a situation like Katniss’ and whether you’d survive. Would you be willing to kill others to save yourself?

The saga continues in Catching Fire and Mockingjay–both of which are also a must-read. THG is my favorite of the three, but you won’t be able to stop there, I guarantee it. This is THE book of the year.

5 of 5 stars


Slice of Cherry by Dia Reeves

Oh, Missus Reeves, how sick and twisted you are! Writing a YA book about two teenage serial killers… Female serial killers, no less!

Good for you…

I finished Slice of Cherry the other day, and I have to say I really enjoyed it. What’s not to love about two 15 year old girls obsessed with evisceration?

The story takes place in the little Texas town of Portero, a nowheresville known for strange monsters, doors that act as portals to other worlds, and the infamous “Bone Saw Killer”–who just happens to be Kit and Fancy’s father.

Unfortunately for the girls, the Bone Saw Killer has been aprehended and is awaiting execution on death row. Not to mention the fact that the sisters have begun to capitulate to the killing urges of their own… And what if their mother finds out?

And to make things even more interesting, two handsome brothers have been following Kit and Fancy around town. Looking for love, apparently. The only problem is that the Bone Saw Killer murdered their father. So is it really love, or is it revenge that the boys are looking for? Especially when it becomes obvious that crazed, sleep-walking Gabriel has killing urges of his own.

I really enjoyed this book, because it didn’t turn out the way I had anticipated–and that doesn’t happen very much anymore. I liked the twisted sickness of it, because most authors (especially YA authors) don’t dare go that far down the rabbit hole. The beginning was the best, because Kit’s cheerful, bubbly personality quickly turned psychopathic and blood-thirsty…that’s just a great combination. I wish that she had kept her murderousness longer though, and that Reeves had gone into the gruesomeness of the girls’ crimes with a little more detail. The town of Portero was extremely interesting in and of itself, and I would’ve appreciated learning more about the culture and the deviant forms of wildlife that called the dark forests home.

I also wanted there to be more explanation for the body-part trees (in Fancy’s “happy place”). More detail about their functionality would’ve been interesting. Also, Cherry should’ve appeared at least two more times throughout the course of the story.

But all in all, it’s definitely something different. Although Slice of Cherry didn’t make me stay up all night biting my nails (the true hallmark of a page-turner) it’s still worth your while.

This book will make you reconsider underestimating teenagers…

3.5 of 5 stars

 


Abarat: Absolute Midnight by Clive Barker

Oh… Clive Barker, you had me fooled, you tricksy devil! Here I was sitting around, waiting for years for the third and FINAL installment in the Abarat series to come out, and what do you know? You leave a freaking cliff hanger at the end! A clear opening for another book! *sigh* And now I get to wait some more… 

I’ve been following this series for about six years now, and I believe that Barker’s work is one of the most sprawling fantasy epics produced in a long time. Plus he paints all of the art work for his books himself, which I really respect. Not quite as magical as Harry Potter (which has pretty much achieved classics status at the point) but pretty amazing nonetheless. I can picture this as a great CGI movie in a few years.

Absolute Midnight is the third and heftiest book in the series thus far. The tension between Candy Quakenbush and co, Christopher Carrion, and Mater Motley has reached an all time high and war has erupted over the 25 islands of their world. (One island for every hour of the day–set up like a clock face–with an ocean in between. Plus one hour to grow on, duh.) Carrion has disappeared, and is presumed dead and Mater Motley has risen to power. She intends to blot out the sun, the moon, and every star in the sky, imposing Absolute Midnight on all of Abarat and thus achieving total domination. Pretty intense stuff.

I really enjoyed this book, although I will say I didn’t get to read it properly. I had to consume it in 15 minute time blocks a few times a week during lunch break. Because of this, it took a looooong time to read. Plus, I made the executive decision not to re-read the other two simply because I don’t like to repeat myself and I didn’t want to eat up time on something I’d already read. Oh well. I still appreciated the story.

However, as is typical in any series, I still feel like the first book was the best. There were parts of Absolute Midnight that seemed to drag a bit, and some scenes I felt weren’t needed at all. I also didn’t like how quickly and randomly a love interest was thrown in the mix for Candy–especially directly after a conversation with Carrion about love. It just seemed too convenient.

Everyone should give Abarat a whirl at least once, maybe twice if you liked it. And any die-hard fan should definitely read book three. It wasn’t my favorite, but we’ll just have to see what Clive Barker has left up his sleeve in another three years…

3 of 5 stars


Dark Inside by Jeyn Roberts

Sorry about the long pause between postings, it’s exam week and my final few days in college before graduation. I’m so excited! But with great power comes great responsibility, as we all know… Unfortunately that great power comes in the form of term papers, exams in languages I don’t know, and coordinating family members who don’t like each other.

However, somehow in all this madness I had time to read Dark Inside by Jeyn Roberts. And boy, I’m glad I did. (My dreams were not happy, but I was entertained nevertheless). 

Her first novel–by her own description–combines The Road and 28 Days Later. Neither of which I’ve seen, since I’m a big chicken and I hate things jumping out at me. (Whatever, judge me all you want, but watching people get tortured à la The Human Centipede is not my idea of a good time).

The story takes place in a world suddenly ravaged by natural distasters, terrorist attacks, and a hypothesized virus/body snatcher that turns normal people into savage blood-thirsty killers. And not in the dead-eyed shuffling zombie way. I’m talking cognisant, hunt-you-down-and-drag-you-kicking-and-screaming-from-your-house killers. And guess what? To top it all off the power is out, cell phones and radios don’t work, and police and doctors are just as likely to kill you as anyone else–so what do you do?

Something about the way this book was written really freaked me out. It had a believability that a lot of other horror novels don’t have. Roberts made this scenario seem like it could really happen. It posed the question that, if the absence of communication–which has so long been our crutch–is kicked out from under us, how many people would really know how to survive?

The plot was a bit cheap, and getting to really know any one of the four main characters was not really possible because of the constant action–but in this case it worked. The story represented the world as a whole, and the action was the focal point, not the participants. But, the events and the cringe-inducing violence were enough to scare me, even with the lights on and a sleeping boyfriend by my side. So that’s a success in my book.

Definitely worth the read if you’re in for a bit of a creep-fest.

5 of 5 stars