Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Witch of Blackbird Pond

The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabethe George Speare

A classic YA novel and winner of the Newbery Medal, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, is a work of wonderful historic fiction. It is the story of Katherine "Kit" Tyler, an orphaned girl from Barbados who journeys to Connecticut in 1687. A forward thinking young woman who is thrust into the Puritan society of her aunt and uncle.

Kit is an outsider in the strict community, likened to a tropical bird, she feels isolated and alone. That is until she meets a kindly old woman who has been labeled a witch by the local townspeople. In reality she is not a witch, but a Quaker who is considered to be just as bad by Puritan society.

Not only is this a story of prejudice and isolation, it is a love story. Kit is courted by a local wealthy young man, while having friendships also with a young sailor and a minister-in-training. All of this makes for an interesting love triangle of sorts that has a predictable but happy ending.

Modern teens will be able to identify with Kit's feelings of being an outsider. Most teens will probably not even notice that this book dates from the 1950s since it has such a contemporary feel. I recommend it to all.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Alcatraz versus The Scrivener's Bones

Alcatraz versus The Scrivener's Bones by Brandon Sanderson

Alcatraz Smedry is back!!! For those of you who read my post on Alcatraz versus The Evil Librarians, you know what a huge Alcatraz Smedry fan I am and how I have stated that this is one of the best books I have ever read, well the sequel to this awesome book did not disappoint.

Picking up a few months after the last book left off, Alcatraz continues his autobiography (published here in the Hushlands as a work of fiction by the author Brandon Sanderson because somebody needs to take the fall if the librarians find out). Alcatraz is without his beloved Grandpa Smedry, who has traveled to the library of Alexandria to fin Alcatraz's father. Alcatraz being a good grandson heads off with a band of relatives and friends to rescue his grandfather from the perilous clutches of a new form of librarian (soul sucking curators), while also being chased by a yet another form of librarian, Scrivener's Bones.

On his side, Alcatraz has flying glass dragon piloted by his cousin Australia (sister to the last book's Sing), his friend and former protector Bastille, Bastille's mother (a knight), and his uncle. Once again, Alcatraz and his group get into some wild and hilarious adventures in a library. This book will leave readers impatiently waiting for the next installment.

I recommend this book to everyone!!

The Hobbit

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

When talking about classic young adult literature, one must discuss The Hobbit. Published back in 1937, Tolkien originally wrote this fantasy tale for his three sons. It has since went on to touch the hearts and lives of both children and adults alike.

I recently was coerced into reading this book by my husband, a fantasy and Tolkien fan. Knowing its history as a great young adult book, I decided I must read it. I must say that The Hobbit is certainly different from much of the young adult fantasy novels today.

It is the slow-paced tale of Bilbo Baggins, a Hobbit who sets out with a group of dwarves and a wizard in search of a dragon's horde. Baggins at the beginning of the story is a reluctant member and only joins the quest on the suggestion of Gandalf the Grey (a real wizard's wizard). You see Hobbits don't do adventures and it is only because of his ancestor, Old Took, that he really has any adventure in him.

Family lines are important to the story and Tolkien does a good job of incorporating them. As any reader of his Lord of the Rings trilogy can attest (The Hobbit is the prequel/companion novel to this set), Tolkien is all about the history and culture of his world. A known linguist, Tolkien even wrote a language for the books, but I am getting off point now.

Back to The Hobbit, the quest for the dragon's horde ends up being a minor part of this book. The real story takes place on the journey to the dragon. This is probably why the subtitle of this book is: There and Back Again. Through the group's journey readers are introduced to the world of Middle Earth, and important aspect of the book for anyone wanting to read The Lord of the Rings.

Overall, I have to say that this book is definitely finer literature than most young adults are use to. It is very slow-placed, but the characters are wonderful and enduring. I recommend this book to anyone who wants to read The Lord of the Rings or who enjoys in depth description in their fantasy novels.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Ink Exchange

Ink Exchange by Melissa Marr

In this sequel to Marr's daring fairy tale, Wicked Lovely, the reader follows the life of one of Aislinn's friends, Leslie. Leslie, a minor character in the first book, is a troubled seventeen-year-old girl whose life has been turned upside down. Her mother has abandoned the family; her father is an alcoholic, and her brother is a drug addict who has even sold Leslie for drugs.

Leslie keeps her dark life secret from Aislinn, who has become more distant now that she is the Summer Queen (Leslie does not know this). Leslie believes that her way to free herself from her past is to get a tattoo. She feels that the marking of her skin will truly make her belong to her. However, Leslie is unaware that the Dark Court has been using the tattoo parlor she frequents to suck the emotions from mortals and that the Dark King himself has taken an interest in her.

Along with Leslie, the reader is given more background on Niall, another minor character from the first book. Niall is a former member of the Dark Court who possesses an unusual and dangerous talent. He also has a history with the Dark King, Irial.

Irial is the third main character of this book. In him, the reader sees not only the darkside, but the good trying to come through in some small way. We learn that being a king is not all that it is cracked up to be.

I found this book to be much more fast paced than the first one and actually even better than its predecessor. I highly recommend it to readers of the first book; it will not disappoint.

Warning: Contains drug and alcohol use, sexual references, references to rape, and foul language.

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Sea of Monsters

The Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan

A little note of disclaimer on this book, it is the second in a series and I just realized I never reviewed the first book, The Lightening Thief. The first book is awesome and a great read for middle schoolers on up. I especially like to recommend it to my boys who are a little reluctant to read.

This book picks up about a year after the last one. Percy Jackson, our hero, is a demigod or hero (the son of Poseidon and a mortal woman). Percy spent the first twelve years of his life not knowing his true identity, that is until a centaur and a satyr found him and brought him to Camp Half-blood, a summer camp for demigods.

In the first book, Percy goes on a quest with his satyr pal Grover and another half-blood named Annabeth to retrieve the lightening bolt of Zeus. Now, Percy must save his beloved camp as well as his best satyr friend. With the help of Annabeth and a baby cyclops, Percy journeys into the Sea of Monsters to save Grover and bring back the one thing that will save the camp.

Deterring Percy on his quest is the new activities director for the camp, Tantalus, and an evil half-blood named Luke. Percy also faces his normal disadvantages, such as being unlucky and dyslexic, not to mention being one of the least favorite person of some of the gods. Did I also mention all the monsters he will have to face along the way? Hey, it is all in a day's work for a thirteen-year-old hero.

I really enjoyed this book. I find Percy to be an every man's hero and a good role model to kids who may feel like they don't fit in or who struggle academically/socially. I once again recommend this book to middle schoolers on up (upper elementary would probably enjoy it as well).

Friday, October 24, 2008


Private by Kate Brian

Never have I read a novel so lacking in any kind of moral fiber or general humanity as this book. Private is all about Reed Brennan a fifteen-year-old girl from small town America who has just received a scholarship to attend a prestigious private boarding school. Reed brings to this wealthy school little money and a lot of baggage.

At Easton, her new school, Reed meets the Billings Girls, a group of rich girls who live in the best dorm on campus. Reed learns from them to forget about herself and do what the others want with little or no consequence for their actions. I was sickened by how Reed went from a girl who didn't care if she was popular to a girl who only went to this new school to be popular.

The characters seemed very one-dimensional filling in stereotypes found so commonly in young adult literature (I use the term literature very loosely here). There was no moral growth of any kind from the characters and in the end Reed succumbs to the pressures of the cool girls and does whatever they say with little to no resistance.

Unless you are dying to read a vapid, shallow read with nothing to it, I suggest you stay far away from this book.

Note: Sexual situations, Foul language, Drinking and Drug use

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Gregor the Overlander

Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins

I just finished listening to Gregor the Overlander. This is a fantasy story about an eleven-year-old boy (Gregor) and his two-year-old sister (Boots) who fall down a shaft in their New York City laundry room into an underground world. In this world, humans live side-by-side with giant bats and cockroaches.

Gregor, whose father disappeared two years ago, learns that his falling into the Underland was prophesied centuries ago. He is the one who will be the "warrior;" the one who will defeat the evil giant rats and bring light to the Underland. Gregor doesn't see himself as a warrior, just as a kid who is trying to get him and his sister home.

Gregor, much like Frodo Baggins of Lord of the Rings fame, is sent on a quest with several inhabitants of the Underland, including two members of the human royal family and two cockroaches. Along the way the group encounters mental and physical challenges that tests the group's strength and resilience. An action-packed adventure reminiscent of Lord of the Rings or The Lightening Thief, young readers will enjoy the story of Gregor, an unusual hero of extraordinary talents.

While I thoroughly enjoyed this tale and look forward to the next installment, I did not care much for the reader on the audiobook version. I highly recommend this book, especially for middle schoolers, but suggest maybe skipping the audio version.