Time for 2001 — “Kit’s Wilderness” by David Almond #printzproject

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After a week of work, reading other stuff, and life, I finally finished the 2001 Michael L Printz Award Winner, Kit’s Wilderness by David Almond.

And by “finally” — I mean it took me all week to get through it, because it started so slowly for me. I think I had a bit of a bias, having found myself underwhelmed by Skellig, his first children’s book. I felt like I had to talk myself into giving this a chance, and am glad I did, because I ended up enjoying this quite a bit.

It’s a little bit magical? mystical? with beautiful turns of phrases. I think that’s the thing that gets me with a lot of books I read now, is watching the words, and how simple they are, but how complex and amazing they turn out to be when put together by someone with skill.

This is a lovely gem of a book, and I hope there are still actual teenagers out there taking the chance to read this book.

Reading outside my comfort zone: “Monster” by Walter Dean Myers #printzproject

Monster is my first Walter Dean Myers. I read a lot of YA, but I trend more towards the SFF, and the occasional contemporary romance. I felt a little unsettled reading this book — when you read a romance, you know that in the end, the girl is going to end up with a guy, but the entire way through this novel, I wasn’t sure where it was going. Now that I’m done, I can look back and tell that part of that uneasiness was due to the very unreliable narrator, Steve. Was he or wasn’t he guilty? That was the question left for the reader to decide, regardless of how the jury voted and the final verdict.

The book was also unsettling because of the setting and subject matter, and even the format — Steve’s story is told primarily in the form of a screenplay, so it moves quickly, but you have to pay attention. There are very few spare words in this book. To some, this is probably a criticism — there is not a lot of character development, but it worked for me. It was easy for me to fill in the details of the lawyers and others.

One of the things I usually do after I read a book is go read other people’s reviews. As with any book, this has it’s supporters and it’s detractors. One of the criticisms I saw was that they didn’t like Steve very much. I find this interesting as a criticism, because I agree, I didn’t think he was very likeable — but I cared about him. I cared to find out what happened to him. Liking and caring aren’t really the same thing, and I’m not sure I’ve really read very many books before that made me realize that so completely.

Another interesting article I found was by a teacher titled Against Walter Dean Myers and the dumbing down of literature: ‘Those kids’ can read Homer. Alexander Nazaryan’s argument seems to boil down to the idea that instead of letting his students read Myers, he should be been making them read “classics” instead — Virgil, Homer, and more. I’m probably oversimplifying, but I’m not sure I see his point. Why does it have to be an either/or choice? Why can’t kids (or anyone, really) do both? If an amazing teacher can get them to read Homer and love it, then I’m all for that, but how many people have had reading ruined for them in school?

The number of books that people read in a year is horrifying low (even with people like me reading upwards of 100 books a year…), and I think I have to come down on the side of “if this is all the read, then that’s all right with me.”

This probably won’t be my last Walter Dean Myers, but I have a fairly long list of other books to read first…

I think I’m going to wrap up this post with a video of Myers from 2012.

Fairy Tale Friday, Book Review: The Duke is Mine by Eloisa James

9521508Title and Author: The Duke is Mine by Eloisa James

Publisher: Avon

Genre: Romance

Publication Date: December 27th 2011

Pages: 367 pages

Source: Purchased ebook

Kid-rating: Not for kids. It’s a romance novel: lots of sexual innuendo and um, actual you-know-what.

Star Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Synopsis

(from GoodReads)
This Duke is Mine

He is a duke in search of a perfect bride.

She is a lady–but a long way from perfect.

Tarquin, the powerful Duke of Sconce, knows perfectly well that the decorous and fashionably slender Georgiana Lytton will make him a proper duchess. So why can’t he stop thinking about her twin sister, the curvy, headstrong, and altogether unconventional Olivia? Not only is Olivia betrothed to another man, but their improper, albeit intoxicating, flirtation makes her unsuitability all the more clear.

Determined to make a perfect match, he methodically cuts Olivia from his thoughts, allowing logic and duty to triumph over passion…Until, in his darkest hour, Quin begins to question whether perfection has anything to do with love.

To win Olivia’s hand he would have to give up all the beliefs he holds most dear, and surrender heart, body and soul…

Unless it’s already too late.

Don’t miss a new version of The Princess & the Pea, asking an age-old question: What is a perfect princess?

My review

The Project Fairy Tale folks were supposed to try to stick to Young Adult books, and I do have some YA Princess and the Pea that I’m going to try to read, but there really isn’t a lot of YA Princess and the Pea stories. Frankly, there aren’t a lot of Princess and the Pea novels at all. As near as I can tell, most retellings are picture books and are mostly just illustrated editions of the original story itself. I’ve seen a few that look to be variations, (a princess and a peanut allergy, or a princess and a packet of frozen peas, that sort of thing…)

This is one of several adult romance novels that I found. I have somewhat gotten away from reading romance novels because so often the sex scenes are so outrageously over the top and stupid I can’t stand it. I thought I’d give this one a try (for research), and I’m glad I did. A lot of why I liked this book is the humor — the whole thing had me laughing out loud. It was a quick read that did not even try to take itself seriously (even in the bedroom), and I had fun the whole time I was reading it.

There was some over the top stuff (especially the ending, the peril at the end was forced and unnecessary), and some of the tension was a little artificially drawn out.

Was it silly? Sure, but sometimes a person needs a silly enjoyable read.

Some of the reviews I read took issue with the way that Olivia, our main character, treated her betrothed, Rupert, who is mentally handicapped. I had actually read these reviews before starting, so I was paying attention, and I have to say that I think these reviewers didn’t give the book enough of a chance. I thought their concerns were dealt with as the book progressed.

As far as the Princess and the Pea elements go:  I though it was pretty cleverly done here. Our heroine’s sister is an aspiring duchess, not a princess, but she is being tested by the Duke’s mother for their suitability as his potential mate. There is a pile of mattresses involved in the story, but no peas, and it wasn’t the duke’s mother that piled them up. This was part of the ending that was a little over the top, and by this point, I could have done without her shoehorning the mattresses in. I’d say that’s a pretty minor quibble on my part, though.

I had never read any books by Eloisa James before, and I will probably read more in the future, I enjoyed her voice and humor. If you like adult romance novels and are looking for something quick and fun, you might give this one a try.

Book Review: Cinder by Marissa Meyer

12497752Title and Author: Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Fairy Tale, Science Fiction

Publication Date: January 3, 2012

Pages: 276 pages

Source: Purchased, iBookstore

Kid-rating:My 13 year old boys would probably find the cyborg parts of this story quite interesting, but wouldn’t appreciate the fairy tale and romance parts of this quite as much as my 13 year old nieces will.

Star Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Synopsis

(from GoodReads)
Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. . . .

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

My review

I am such a failure sometimes. I was supposed be reading this 2 chapters at a time, participating in a read-along.

I read it all in like, two days. I meant to stop, but I couldn’t help myself.

I’m also something of a failure, because I waited so long to read this. I’m not sure why. I think it was because this book seemed to be getting an awful lot of hype, and I didn’t figure a Cinderella story about a cyborg mechanic could actually be any good.

It was, in fact, quite a bit of fun. I’m a fan of retellings/reimaginings, and this was a very unique take on the Cinderella story. I loved seeing how Meyer put bits of the story we know and love in to her very unusual tale.

I did enjoy the fact that this was set in a future China, rather than keeping it a purely Euro-centric story.

Yes, it’s Cinderella, so you are thinking you know how it’s going to turn out, but there are some twists and turns, some of which I thought were a little too obvious. So obvious that I thought it was pretty silly that Cinder herself didn’t make the connections once she learned part of the story of who she is. Also, it’s the first in a series, so of course, we don’t get a complete resolution at the end, we are left hanging on some points, as we head in to the sequel, entry, which is thankfully coming out soon.

I am looking forward to the sequel, Scarlet, which comes out in February. The reviews I’ve seen suggest that it is even better.

Book Review: Splintered by A.G. Howard

12558285Title and Author: Splintered by A.G. Howard

Publisher: Amulet Books

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Retalling

Publication Date: January 1, 2013

Pages: 384 Pages

Source: Hardcover, purchased

Kid-rating: In my opinion, some of the situations and conversations steer this towards an older crowd.

Star Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Synopsis

(from GoodReads)
This stunning debut captures the grotesque madness of a mystical under-land, as well as a girl’s pangs of first love and independence. Alyssa Gardner hears the whispers of bugs and flowers—precisely the affliction that landed her mother in a mental hospital years before. This family curse stretches back to her ancestor Alice Liddell, the real-life inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Alyssa might be crazy, but she manages to keep it together. For now.
When her mother’s mental health takes a turn for the worse, Alyssa learns that what she thought was fiction is based in terrifying reality. The real Wonderland is a place far darker and more twisted than Lewis Carroll ever let on. There, Alyssa must pass a series of tests, including draining an ocean of Alice’s tears, waking the slumbering tea party, and subduing a vicious bandersnatch, to fix Alice’s mistakes and save her family. She must also decide whom to trust: Jeb, her gorgeous best friend and secret crush, or the sexy but suspicious Morpheus, her guide through Wonderland, who may have dark motives of his own.

My review

It’s always a little nerve-wracking to start watching or reading something that you have been waiting for with high hopes. And it’s even worse to have said the object of that anticipation start off slowly…but thankfully, Splintered won me over, and we’ll all live happily ever after. For now.

Splintered hit a lot of the high points for me in terms of what I’m looking for in a story that’s a retelling or reimagining of another story. Top of that list is imagination — I like seeing thing I recognize from the original, but the retelling needs to be full of lots of new and interesting ideas, it will hopefully surprise me and keep me guessing, even if, in the end, the story turns out the way the original did — it just gets there using different means.

A.G. Howard is VERY imaginative! The ways in which she took the source material of Lewis Carroll’s story were fantastic (in several senses of the word!) While I was waiting for my copy (I was planning on reading this as an e-book on release day, only to be thwarted: the e-book version doesn’t release until the 15th), I downloaded a free copy of “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.” I’m not sure I’ve ever actually read it, or if I did, it was many many years ago. A person would not have to have read the book, because so much of Alice’s world is a part of our popular culture, but I think that having the original so fresh definitely enhanced my enjoyment of this book.

There were a couple of places where the writing seemed a little uneven to me, but those were minor. Something that bugged me was the constant reference to Jeb’s labret (a piercing below the lip, above the chin). I didn’t mind that he had it, a piercing like that definitely brings to mind a certain type of guy, but I felt like I was being pummeled over the head with it, and it would take me out of the story for a moment.

All in all, I quite enjoyed this book, the first of my debut author challenge reads and hope that Howard writes more. I would love to see her imagination and creativity at work in future books, and I’m guessing her writing will just get better as time goes on.