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Sunday, July 31, 2011

Rumo & His Miraculous Adventures by Walter Moers

Rumo, the spoiled Wolperting in a Hackonian farm, has the jolt of his life when he and his owners are kidnapped by Demoncles, one-eyed giants that live on a floating rock. And that's only the beginning. This book is filled with stories within stories, miraculous adventures, stupendous fights, and the slightest bit of romance. There are incredible creatures and interesting, fantastical characters. Walter Moers has always had an amazing imagination, and it shows in his loopy, eloquent writing. Rumo had a small role in The 13 ½ Lives of Captain Bluebear, but in this book, his character comes to life.

Even though this is a 687-page book, you'll most likely tear through it. Seriously, this book appeals to most everyone. It's got action, drama, love, adventure, fantasy and so much more that I can't even put into words. Really. You have to read this book. It's my favorite out of Moers' works. It's got so much stuff in it, your brain will hurt.
Rating: 9.5 of 10

Friday, July 29, 2011

All Unquiet Things by Annna Jarzab

     When I first read this book, I started out thinking the narrator was a girl, and was extremely surprised when they were referred to as a he. The book is split into four parts, switching perspectives between Neily, a boy whose ex-girlfriend was shot and killed, and Audrey, who was that girl's cousin and best friend. The girl was named Carly, and she was a substantial heiress. All Unquiet Things is a masterfully written book that's thought-provoking and has a couple twists. It's nothing too heavy, and it's a real page-turner, to say the least.
     Neily has always been haunted by Carly's murder, him being the discoverer of her corpse(don't worry, this isn't gory), but he has no obvious reason to be. A man has already been convicted for her murder. That man happens to be Audrey's father, Carly's uncle. Audrey, like everyone else in the city, believed that her father committed this heinous crime until just recently, when she was forced to admit that some of the facts just didn't add up.She enlists the help of at-first-unwilling Neily in order to prove her father's innocence, but more than that, to find the truth about Carly, about her life and death.

Rating: 8.5 of 10

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Spinning Out by David Stahler

Frenchy (Gerald) and his best and only friend Stewart are in high school together, barely surviving with their usual combination of smoking and plotting meticulous pranks. Even though Frenchy just goes through the motions more, instead of really focusing on his schoolwork; and Stewart is very concerned with grades and tries really hard, but they both get good grades and do well in school.

Another difference between Frenchy and Stewart is their family/background. Frenchy is from a much poorer family than Stewart. Frenchy's dad was in the army, but sadly he came back from the army with post traumatic stress disorder and killed himself. His mom is a police officer. Stewart's family is a lot more 'well off', and his family has a lot of money and hippie inclinations.

When the school drama department opens auditions for the upcoming production of the musical the Man of La Mancha, Stewart convinces Frenchy to audition with him
. Against all odds, they get the two lead roles: Stocky, short Frenchy is cast as Sancho, and Stewart, tall and thin, gets the lead of Don Quixote/Cervantes. For Frenchy, the play is a fun thing to do, that he ends up enjoying more than he thought he would. But for Stewart, the play becomes more... his reality.

This book was beautiful. It reads genuinely, really sounds like teens talking, and it comes across as real, honest, painful, and suspenseful. My favorite quote from the book was something like: The best people in life make the world a bigger place and then help you grow to fit into the bigger world. Great book, but it is sad, and intense. It is a good summer read, but a little more on the heavy side.

Monday, July 25, 2011

How Not to be Popular by Jennifer Ziegler

This book has a tired concept, the girl who shuts herself off in order not to be hurt, but this book accomplishes it beautifully. Sugar Magnolia Dempsey, Maggie for short, has been moved around her entire life by her hippie go-where-the-wind-takes-us parents. When they end up to Austin, Texas, she knows better than to get involved with anyone before she moves again. After all, she's just had her heart broken by her now ex-boyfriend. But as she attempts to humiliate herself and avoid romance, she, of course, sets trends and is getting hit on constantly.

However, what sets this book apart is the well-developed characters with intense personalities. There are characters that are added in for no real purpose, but even those throw-away characters have personalities, habits, and quirks. This book had a very predictable plot, but it was the sheer obscenity of the things Maggie does to separate herself from the rest of her high school that kept me reading, as well as laughing, all the way to the end. I recommend this book to anyone looking for a light summer read.

Rating: 8 of 10

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

File:The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.jpg
Junior is a budding cartoonist living on the Spokane Indian reservation. He only has one friend, due to his eccentricities including his severe medical problems. Junior is determined to have a good education, so he leaves his reservation in search of a good school. He ends up going to an all-white school in the neighboring town.

I liked this book, but it really depends what you are in the mood for. It has a lot of sad concepts, and lots of people died, fought, broke friendships and broke promises. Also, it is really not the most appropriate book... at all. If you are looking for a fun, light read, don't read this book!!!! However, if you are looking for a thought-provoking, intense, depressing book, this is the one for you.

Rating: 5 out of 10

A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

A great and terrible beauty is a haunting book that kept me thinking about it for weeks after I finished reading it.

Gemma Doyle is the series' main character, and she leaves India after the death of her mother. She attends a private school in London. Gemma is haunted with her mothers suicide. At first; Gemma is an outcast at the Spence School for young Ladies. Soon, she finds the most popular girl in the class in a terrible situation. Gemma promises not to tell anyone about Felicity's bad situation, and they form a strong friendship with Gemma's roommate Anne and Felicity's best friend Pippa.

Unfortunately, Gemma is still tormented with her visions and a young man she meets, Kartik, a member of a group of men called the Rakashana that she must close her mind to the visions or else something terrible will happen.

During one of Gemma's visions, she is lead to the caves that border her school's grounds where she finds a diary written 25 years ago, by a 16-year-old girl named Mary Dowd. Mary also attended Spence, and had the same haunting visions that Gemma had, along with her friend Sarah. Gemma learns about an ancient group of powerful woman called the Order. Members of this "Order" could open a door between the human world and other realms, help spirits cross to the afterlife, and had prophecy, clairvoyance, and the ability to make illusions. Gemma and her knew friends create their own order, but bad things start happening...

This book is great, interesting, and scary. Libba Bray writes so well, and she makes you feel like you are in the book with Gemma, Pippa, Felicity and Anne. I loved this book, and you will too!

Rating: 7 out of 10

The 13 1/2 Lives of Captain Bluebear: A novel by Walter Moers

This is a warm, happy, creative book about a little bear that has 13 1/2 lives. I loved it, and laughed, cried, got scared, and probably threw the book at the wall several times. It is a little slow at the start, but stick with it: it's worth it.

Life 1: Bluebear is a tiny baby, floating in a Walnut shell in the North Zamonian Sea, next to a huge whirpool the Malmstrom, Bluebear is rescued by a tiny crew of minipirates. He lives on seaweed and water, and learns the minipirates ways of singing, waves and knot tying, but before long he gets to big and has to leave to go to a mysterious island...

Life 2: Bluebear discovers a group of hobgoblins in the new island, and he is so scared of them he has a tantrum. He cries, shrieks, pounds his hands and feet on the ground, and feels like he is certain he will die. Well, he doesn't, because the Hobgoblins are so entranced by his emotional performance they ask him to do it again and again, every night. Eventually, he becomes repulsed by this, and he builds a raft and sails off in search of a new life.

I don't want to spoil the book by telling you about all his lives, but they are funny, silly, and it's really hard to put this book down (even though you kind of have to, it's 703 pages...) Read the book to find out about his other amazing adventures!

Rating: 10 out of 10

Friday, July 22, 2011

Dash & Lily's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan

   This book starts out with Dash, a boy who stumbles across a notebook inside an unpopular bookstore, with  instructions inside that lead him all around the store, picking up obvious classics, such as French Pianism, An Historical Perspective, and Fat Hoochie Prom Queen. This notebook belongs to Lily, a girl whose gay brother is wanting her to get a boyfriend, and tries to amend this gaping loss by leaving a notebook in a bookstore. Smart way to find a real man, right? But of course, the person who finally picks up the red notebook is intelligent, cute, and oft described as "snarly". The notebook's instructions leave off with a dare, and the dares continue as the notebook switches hands. The two communicate this way, hiding the notebook in strange places.

 I enjoy this book because it has characters that are both entertaining and original, a rare combination. However, Lily's "voice" becomes annoying, and at some points you will want nothing more than to throw the book on the floor and walk away. Stick through it, and you'll find a great big somewhat love story, filled with mishaps, wax museums, Washington Square Mommies, jail, transvestites, and so much more. I, personally, liked this book. It was witty and charming, and I fell in love with this set of authors.

Rating: 8 of 10

My Most Excellent Year by Steve Kluger

This is the story of three kids: TC Keller, Augie Hwong and Alejandra Perez. When they're assigned to write about their most excellent year, they all agreed it was ninth grade. That was the year TC fell head over heels in love with Ale. The year Augie slowly realised he was also falling in love, but with a boy. The year Ale moved to a public school for the first time in her life and felt terrified. The year she decided to detest TC wholeheartedly.

This book alternates perspectives, and mainly it is through diary entries to chosen idols, and IM's/Chats between characters. For TC its his mother, for Augie its diva of the week, and for Ale, it's Jacqueline Kennedy.

What is this book about, really? A lot of things. Love, and finding true love; family, in the broadest sense; friendship that lasts forever; baseball; musicals, divas, and drama (all thanks to Augie); politics (Thanks to Ale) and Magic, that comes in many forms, one of which is a little deaf kid who believes in Mary Poppins.

This book was unforgettable for me. The writing made me laugh all the way through. The romance kept me on my toes, all the different relationships and their eccentricities.

The only thing I didn't really love was the stereotypes, and the baseball. I'm not a huge baseball fan, but I still loved this book and fell in love with the set of characters.

Rating: 9 out of 10

The Big Crunch by Pete Hautman

First off, I'd like to say that the inside cover was VERY intriguing. Because, the girls name is June, not Jen, as it says in the front flap. Awkward... But, anyways, it states that it is not "that" kind of love story, and I was happy to hear that because I'm pretty tired of the stereotypical love story, which the cover of The Big Crunch kind of conveyed it to be.

Well, despite those problems, the book was pretty good. Some backround: June's family moves around constantly. Her dad has a job of helping companies that are failing/going bankrupt/whatever. As you can tell from that, they go around to all different places to find companies that are having a hard time, and help them through that. This makes it so that June's family is constantly moving, and she can't really get committed or make friends that are to keep. 

June starts to pity date Wes's friend Jerry who is running for class president. It is kind of a pointless relationship, and doesn't really add much to the book, but... Jerry and June (Ew, their names sound weird together, huh!) break up shortly after they get together, they break up after Christmas break. She and Wes have been secretly seeing each other at that time, and I guess she just decided that she liked Wes better than Jerry, and went with him.  

June's family ends up moving, which tears apart her and Wes's relationship. They really love each other, though, and they try to make it work even when she is gone at a new school. They stay connected through texts and phone calls, and when June finds out that she can come and stay with her dad back where Wes lives, and they make up and have a good relationship. It ends on kind of a sad/cliche note, but it is when June and Wes say that no matter what, they will always love each other even though they will never see each other again. (June is moving again.)

I had a couple problems with the inside cover (besides the obvious, name changing incident.) This is part of what the front cover states:
"Jen (June) and Wes do not "meet cute." They do not fall in love at first sight. They do not swoon with scorching desire. They do not believe that they are instant soul mates destined to be together forever. This is not THAT kind of love story."

1) "Jen (June) and Wes do not "meet cute." Yeah, they don't "meet cute", but that happens later, when they run into each other (literally) at a convenient store and June breaks her glasses and gets a black eye. (Wes is not hurt at all, in turn) 
2) Well, "They do not fall in love at first sight." But...
3) They do "swoon with scorching desire",   later in the book. (A lot, which was kind of annoying.)
4) If "They do not believe that they are instant soul mates destined to be together forever", why are they so sad when they are separated, and if they aren't destined to be together forever, why does he steal a car and drive all the way to see her in the middle of the night, a long ways away? 
5) It is that kind of love story. :(

Rating: 6 out of 10

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Septys

It is about a 15 year old girl named Lina. She lives in Lithuania in
1941. She has a great family and life, and is very content with
everything. One night Soviet soldiers burst into her house, forcing
Lina and her family (except her dad) into the back of a truck, and
they are with several other neighbors. She is confused about what she
has done wrong and where her dad is. Her family ends up being deported
to Siberia, forced to suffer through bad conditions like starvation,
lack of clothing and proper shelter, hard labor and other things.

They along with hundreds of families and people are slaves and they no
longer have any control of their own lives. Despite the life that Lina
lives in Siberia, she still shows the personality of her old self. She
continues her art to leave in trails for her father to find her, she
takes risks, and she falls in love with a mysterious boy. Her spirit
has not been completely lost.

She finds her self hopeful for a way out of the 25 year contract they
were forced to sign (even though they didn't sign it, they knew that
they would still keep them there for 25 years.) Ruta Septys wrote Lina
as a girl who must work through a terrible time, not as much as a
historical event featuring a girl.

I also learned a ton about what happened in Eastern Europe during the
40's. In school I learned a lot about Hitler and Germany, but not as
much about Stalin and the Siberian labor camps. I hadn't even heard
about it before reading this books. Maybe this book can inspire people
to get more connected with current events and learning from the past.

The writing was simple, but emotional. It's an intense book, filled
with pain and happiness, but is a great read. Even though the issues
are big and painful, the book is uplifting because she never loses her
wish to survive.

Rating: 9 of 10