Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Fox and Phoenix

So I started reading fox and Phoenix by Beth Bernobich, and I was a little lost, right off the bat. So I'm like, okay, it's a fantasy novel, I'll give it some time. But it just never kicked in. I was halfway through the book and I didn't understand anything. It was super scattered and everything was new and nothing was explained as far as her invented terminology and world, and there were references to a past adventure of sorts. So I start to think, "Hey, did I pick up a sequel?" and scan the cover. Nothing. The back of the book. Nothing. Look inside the book. Front flap. Back flap. Also written by. Nothing!! So I gave up. I didn't like it and I didn't understand it because I didn't know this world. Then internet research let me know that it is a sequel. TO A SHORT STORY PUBLISHED ONLINE. For real? Maybe do a better job of letting people know next time you write a book, Beth. Cuz this was just lame. 

Monday, July 30, 2012

Steinbeck's Ghost

Steinbeck's Ghost is a cute YA novel about a young boy who lives in California, near the John Steinbeck house as well as the Steinbeck library. The library is going to close, and it's up to him, and his fellow library patrons, to save the library!  Buzbee makes lots of Steinbeck references, which is neat if you're a Steinbeck aficionado, but makes a narrow demographic for a young adult novel. That is, of course, unless his goal is to encourage today's youth to delve into Steinbeck, but it's really too specific with certain novels. I really can only recommend this book if you love, and are well-read of, Steinbeck. However, it did encourage and inspire me to read more Steinbeck! So look forward to new Steinbeck posts from me! 

The Last Days

More of a companion novel than a sequel to Peeps, The Last Days tells the story of new characters: Moz, Zahler, Pearl, Alana Ray, and Minerva, as they form a band in apocalyptic New York. The vampires from Peeps continue to occur, under the guise of them going mad, the sewers are gushing black water, and the earth is shaking. Randomly, it reminds me of the Duck Tales episode when they're in the Bermuda Triangle. Overall, I had similar feelings for The Last Days as I did towards Peeps, but with the additional sex and language in this it's much more of an older YA novel than, say, a middle school YA novel. So, don't expect too much, but no need to hate. 
Peace out!

Friday, July 27, 2012

The First Princess of Wales

After I read The Irish Princess, I thought it would be worth it to look into more books by Karen Harper, and I found The First Princess of Wales. I thought it sounded super neat! An earlier time period than I've read and new characters; I'm always up for that! So I checked it out from the library and started reading it, when I realized that the original title was Sweet Passion's Pain. If I had known that in the first place, I don't know that I would have picked up the book. It sounds a little like a harlequin novel! But I was already into the book and liked it so far, and it didn't seem naughty, so I kept reading. 

The First Princess of Wales is a historical fiction set in medieval times about a young girl, Joan of Kent, who is brought to Queen Phillipa's court and meets and falls in love, and lust, with Edward the Black Knight, Prince of Wales, who returns her lusty feelings, and perhaps her love. However, the Queen and King do not find Joan to be a suitable match for their son and she is quickly married off to someone else., despite the fact that Edward and Joan have become lovers and intend to stay that way. [Their lovemaking is not described in awkward detail.] It felt a lot like that game we used to play: Do, Date, or Marry. Or was it Do, Dump, or Marry? Either  way . . .

This novel just didn't read the way I thought it would. It wasn't what I thought it would be. [I also came into the novel thinking it was about the York/Lancaster split. My bad! But I'd love to read a book like that if anyone knows of one!] What I thought would be at least the middle, if not earlier, was the end! It took so long to get there, and then there was nothing after! I wanted to read more and was disappointed that it was already over. If I wasn't so determined to finish the book though . . . it's just that Harper's books take soooo long to read! They draaaag on and on! Both of hers that I've read have taken me much longer than I would have though given the number of pages and subject matter. I feel like I should like her work, but I just really don't. I kept finding myself thinking that it would have been more exciting if Philippa Gregory had written it. She's much more of a captivating author. Gregory also includes a family tree when necessary, which Harper didn't. I really needed one, because Joan and Edward are related, probably third cousins given my reading, but sometimes they talked and made it sound like a much closer relation. A family tree would have been helpful. Gregory, as most historical fiction writers, also adds an author's note or a historical note at the end to explain what was truth and where liberties were taken. Harper did no such thing. So I went to my easiest and closest resource: Wikipedia. And Wikipedia makes Joan sound so much more interesting than the book ever did!  It talks about her plotting to get even with the king for her fathers death, as does the back of the book, but that was hardly present compared to her pining over Edward and their illicit rendezvouses!  Harper clearly took liberties with her characters, especially their ages in relation to one another and when events happened, and was inconsistent throughout. 

Really, it was like Karen Harper took some characters from history and instead of writing a historical fiction, she wrote a romance. And it was a very strange romance at that, given that *ahem* force was often used. Anyway, there were some good parts, but I expected a much higher caliber of writing and, frankly, research about the subject. The First Princess of Wales was a bit of a let-down for me. 

The Whipping Boy

For the sixth graders medieval unit, they were put into different reading groups with classmates on similar reading levels. The Whipping Boy was the book I read with my group. It's about Prince Brat and his whipping boy, Jemmy, and how they run away from the castle & encounter some real characters! 

It was a cute little book with a good moral, but the students thought it was pretty lame and I tend to agree a little. It was written to a much younger audience. I think Jordyn would like it much better than my students did. It's much more for a younger audience, and I didn't think it was that great for a Newbery. I expect a lot when I see that seal, and The Whipping Boy, while cute, didn't quite live up to that standard. 

Thursday, July 26, 2012


As I started my journey into the world of Peeps, I thought I was seeing how Westerfeld has matured as an author, how Peeps can easily lead into Uglies, but then I saw that all of his novels are published in (or near) 2005. Crazy. He must have had them all stocked up before he got a publisher. But back to the story: Peeps is an apocalyptic novel centered on parasites which cause people to become Westerfeld's version of vampires. Our hero is Cal, who is trying to save the world. 

Being a lesser book of Westerfelds, it was a neat read, though, because Westerfeld likens vampirism unto parasitical infestation in a very plausible and understandable manner. One caveat: this novel is geared towards middle and jr high schoolers, but there's lots of "horny talk." So read it before you hand it to your child and decide for yourself if it's appropriate for your kiddo. It's written for them & a decent read. 

Now enjoy this quote from Westerfeld on Peeps
"Maybe there are too many vampire novels, I thought. But that was part of the challenge, to see if I could do something that felt new and interesting, while still being full of bitey goodness. (Unsurprising confession: I am a Buffy fan.) So the book had to be original, but also icky, scary, funny, tragic, and (ahem) not sucky.
Besides getting a new take on the sunlight-impaired, my other big concern was that my vampires should actually make some sense as far as science goes. So I started doing some vampire research, reading a bunch of books about ratsparasitesbites and stings, and biology.
After consuming all there was to know on these subjects, I came up with the four important features that any vampire novel (of mine) had to include:
natural selection,
sexual attraction,
parasitic infection,
and Elvis memorabilia."
Read on, my friends! 

So Yesterday

So there's this really hip dude, Hunter, and he's a cool hunter. He finds and 
sells new trends to his corporate sponsor. He goes to 'cool tastings', or product testings. 
He finds what's cool, before it's cool, and then the sponsors make it cool. Until Hunter
meets Jen, a real-life Innovator. And together they go on a crazy adventure which
begs the question: Is cool real or not real? Is it real because we make it real?
Because we think it's real? Or is cool really cool on its own? 

The whole time I was reading So Yesterday, it felt like I had read it before. But it felt super current, so that couldn't possibly be true. So I checked the publication date. 2004. Wow. Guess not too much has changed. And it's possible I've read it. I don't think I have, but whatever. I digress. Back to the book. It was okay. A little predictable. No engaging characters. And let's be real: kind of a lame plot. But, you know, if you're bored and there's nothing else around, give it a go. You won't hate it. 

The Night Dance

"A person's fortune may rise or fall as the wheel of fate spins,
 but a person's character remains constant"

The Night Dance is Suzanne Weyn's version of "The 12 Dancing Princesses." She felt the original story was missing something, missing the why, so she wrote her own. Weyn places her tale in Arthurian times and it includes the legends of that time as well, especially of Lady of the Lake, as well as elements of a romance novel. It was a cute little story, but not anything special. I would have just as much enjoyed reading the picture book I had of "The 12 Dancing Princesses" when I was a child. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Tent

The Tent  is set up like a book of short stories; Atwood prefers to call them "mini-fictions", but to me, they almost seem like brainstorming blurbs, spurts of inspiration, or trains of though. This is definitely the weirdest and least favorite of my Atwood reading so far. I did like the following: "Three Books I won't write soon", "Bring Back Mom", "Tree Baby", and "But it could still". I especially like that in "But it could still" it gives the message that despite everything, it could still turn out alright. "Tree Baby" was also very touching. 

These little redeeming gems, though, didn't overcome the rest of the drudgery that just didn't work for me. 

Cat's Eye

Of all of Margaret Atwood's novels, Cat's Eye is most close to The Robber Bride. It's got a similar setting and similar characters, but it's more of a coming-of-age story. To be honest, I kept expecting a Jodi Picoult-style twist, and it never came. Like The Robber Bride, Cat's Eye is mostly told in flashbacks, starting with WWII, as it approaches the present of the 1980s, and discusses many of the cultural changes at that time, especially feminism. 

I really liked Cat's Eye, but at the same time, I kept waiting for the twist, waiting for the "so what?" of the story. It was good, but not my favorite Atwood. It was the Atwood version of a mean girls story, and how one must work to overcome it, but I didn't really like or need the grown up point-of-view. I felt like it didn't add too much to the story, but at the same time, we couldn't see the growth and change without the difference of time. 

So, it didn't really live up to my expectations, but at the same time, I don't feel like I wasted my time reading it. I did enjoy it and I recommend it as a coming-of-age or coming-to-terms-with-life novel. 

Read on! 

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Robber Bride

The Robber Bride is a different sort of novel than what I was expecting from Margaret Atwood, but it was still a hard book to put down! The title references 
the Grimm Brothers' fairy tale: The Robber Bridegroom which I had never heard of before, but you can read here

Atwood is writing to her age group in this tale, which is an older deomgraphic than I usually read, but it was still intrinsically an Atwood novel.  The narrative rotates between three old friends, Tony, Charis, and Roz, as well as the past and the present.  The three women are tied together by one more woman, Zenia, and the university the four attended.  Zenia, the dead and the vil, ties these women together as she destroys their lives, betrays them completely, but she never gets a chance to tell her story (though I would have loved a Zenia point-of-view!). 

The women think they have moved past Zenia and the pain she has caused, until they see her while they're out to lunch, or at least, they think they do. Is Zenia still alive? And how can she hurt them now? 

As I already said, I could hardly put this down.  This was a great novel. I loved it. Read it & read on!

Distant Waves

Well, folks, now that I'm caught up on blogging about my life, I think I'll start blogging about books again :) 

Distant Waves by Suzanne Weyn tells the story of a young girl named Jane as she comes to age in a world of mysticism, Tesla, and the Titanic. Jane's mother, a medium, is down-on-her-luck, and after a strange encounter with Tesla, she moves her family to the town of Spirit Vale, which is fully of mediums. Jane's mother and twin sisters are quite sold on the idea of mysticism, but Jane isn't quite convinced. 

Jane and her older sister are working hard to make it on their own, outside of Spirit Vale.  Jane encounters Telsa again, she even has a little crush on his assistant, and makes Tesla the subject of her article for a journalism contest. 

Thanks to mysticism, Jane and her family end up on England, and then the Titanic. Disaster, obviously, ensues, and Tesla may be involved!

I found Distant Waves  to be an interesting YA Historical Fiction read, though it was a little more speculation than actual history when you come right down to it. It was a cute book, nothing amazing, but I liked it well enough. Plus, Tesla's pretty awesome!