I don’t know why I avoided “Speak” by Laurie Halse Anderson #Printzproject

While Monster was a book I had heard of, it was one that was just on my radar, but not as something I was either choosing to read or not choosing to read. (Gah, that sounds really stupid. What I mean is…I was neutral about it…). On the other hand, I have heard of Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson, and had actively chosen not to read it. This is the final book from the 2000 Michael L Printz honored books list, and I had to read it, whether I wanted to or not.

I don’t really know why I was avoiding it.  For one thing, my TBR list is pretty epically long — but if I’m being honest, I thought it seemed like it might be too depressing, or too preachy (really, why did I think that?), or something. I knew about it mostly from the posts going up around the times when it had been challenged, such as in 2013 when it was labelled “child pornography.” Seriously. Now, when I was reading it (actually listening to the audiobook), I didn’t actively think about the fact that I knew it had been challenged, but afterwards, when I was poking around on the Internet, I was shocked to be reminded of this.

Because the people who think this is are completely nuts and in need of a reading comprehension refresher.

Will this book make a parent uncomfortable? Probably — there is some strong language, but it’s no different than what teenagers are saying to each other, and frankly a lot cleaner. And, of course, it’s about rape. There’s so, so much wrapped up in just that one little word. And the idea that kids shouldn’t read dark books is just…so…horrifying. Dark things happen to them. Every day. That’s the horrifying part. Reading about someone who has gone through something and come through the other side, maybe that will make them hopeful.

For a book about such a hard topic, there was quite a bit of humor. I chuckled a lot. I cried a little, too. I remember being in high school and feeling so many feelings. Looking back, I know that I felt like the social order in my school was just as rigid as the one at Melinda’s school. I was a chorus kid, we were pretty far down on the ladder. The part I get now, though, is that everyone, no matter which group they were a part of, was just as insecure as my friends and I were. No one had it figured out, even if they looked and/or acted like they did.

I work at, and my kids go to, a MUCH smaller high school. I graduated with 200 kids in my class. There are only about 150 students TOTAL in our high school. There are still dividing lines, but these kids have been together since kindergarten and they can’t quite get away from each as easily as you can when there are hundreds of kids. I don’t know which is better. Just different, I guess.

I didn’t realize until after finishing that this was Anderson’s debut novel. It’s wonderfully written, and completely deserves the accolades it’s gotten. I’m glad I took on this project to read the Printz books, as it got me to read a really amazing book that I shouldn’t have avoided for so long.

I loved “Hard Love” by Ellen Wittlinger #PrintzProject

Another new to me author, thanks to my self-appointed task of reading all of the Printz award winning and honored books. Published in 1999, this was an Honor Book in the first round of awards in 2000.

I flat-out LOVED this book. So much so, that as soon as I’m done with the year 2000 Printz books, I’m going to take a short detour to read the companion book, Love and Lies. I’ve had the window open to write this post since yesterday, but I can’t think of anything to say, which is stupid, since I liked it so much. I feel like “gah….it was SOOOO good….” doesn’t really do the trick when I’m trying to use this space to think and write critically.

I suspect that some readers might find the zine culture that informs the book to be dated. I think the experience of the characters is universal enough, that a smart reader ought to be able to get over that pretty quickly. I did find myself wondering, as I read all of these Printz books, about how different they’d be if they’d been written in the age of ubiquitous smartphones and social media.

This book, would probably be about Instagram and blogging (do kids even do that?), and Snapchat, and YouTube, I suppose. Oh wait — I know — TUMBLR.

I think what drew me in to this book was that right away on the first page, the main character said something that sounded like a lot of teenagers I know:

I didn’t bother to remind him that I don’t really go to this school. People think I do, but it’s only my physical body, not me.

That snarky attitude made me want to know more about John, and I ended up caring quite a bit about what happened to him and to his friends. I watched him set himself up for a huge crash, and suffered with him when the inevitable happened. I am glad that the book didn’t end up with a tied-up-in-a-bow happy ending, but it wasn’t a sad end, either. He went on a journey and changed, and that’s what we want from any book, isn’t it?

The title of the book comes from a song of the same name, written by Bob Franke. The lyrics are in the book, and of course I had to try to find it on YouTube.

So I’ll tell you that I love you even though I’m far away
And I’ll tell you how you change me as I live from day to day
How you help me to accept myself and I won’t forget to say
Love is never wasted, even when it’s hard love

Yes, it’s hard love, but it’s love all the same
Not the stuff of fantasy, but more than just a game
And the only kind of miracle that’s worthy of the name
For the love that heals our lives is mostly hard love

Love — and life — are hard. And shouldn’t be wasted.

Time’s Twisted Arrow, Review and Blog Tour

TimesTwistedArrowTour

TimesCoverTitle and Author: Time’s Twisted Arrow by Rysa Walker (Goodreads | Amazon)

Publisher: Gypsy Moon Books

Genre: YA Science Fiction

Publication Date: October 1, 2012

Pages: 351 pages

Source: Received review copy as part of tour

Kid-rating: Clean.

Star Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis

“Sharp writing, a flair for dialogue and a big, twisting imagination.” – Kirkus Reviews.

They weren’t panic attacks. Of that, seventeen year old Kate is certain, no matter what the shrink told her parents. But it’s even harder to accept the explanation offered by her terminally ill grandmother – that Kate has inherited designer DNA from the time-traveling historians of CHRONOS, who were stranded in the past by a saboteur. Kate knows that her grandmother’s story could easily be the brain tumor talking, but that doesn’t explain the odd medallion or the two young men – one of them hauntingly familiar — who simply vanish before her eyes on the subway. It doesn’t explain Trey, the handsome stranger who now occupies Kate’s assigned seat in trig class. And it definitely doesn’t explain why Kate is now in an alternate timeline, where leaders of a previously unknown cult hold great power and are planning a rather drastic form of environmental defense.

In this new reality, Kate’s grandmother was murdered at age twenty-two on a research trip to the past, which means that Kate’s mother was never born, her father doesn’t know her and, for all intents and purposes, she doesn’t exist. The only thing keeping her from disappearing entirely is the strange blue medallion around her neck, and the only thing keeping her sane is her burgeoning relationship with Trey. To restore the time line, Kate must travel back to 1893 and keep herself and her grandmother clear of H.H. Holmes, the serial killer who is stalking young women at the Chicago World’s Fair. But that choice comes at a price – she’ll remember the past few months with Trey, but when he looks at her, he’ll see a total stranger.

My review

Time travel can be so tricky: if you don’t build it and sell it well, it falls apart. Luckily, Ryse Walker built this one quite well, and I loved this book a lot. I was pretty thoroughly convinced by the world-building, the character-building, and even though we are dealing with the confusion the comes with the implications of time travel as presented by this book, I was thoroughly satisfied by the way the author led us through everything.

Although there are 2 swoon-worthy love interests for Kate, our main character, the circumstances did not read like a clichéd love triangle to me. Other readers might disagree, but know that I’m getting tired of the triangle thing, so my radar is tuned pretty high for that.

I like books that don’t end up giving me every single answer — there was a nice resolution, but not a cliffhanger, and the possibilities for future stories in this book’s universe are endless. I look forward to seeing where Walker takes us next. There were lots of things hinted at, or left open that would be nice to have answered. With the twists involved in this book, I can only imagine what twisty ways in which we’ll get those answers.

I don’t believe in going on and on and writing my own novel in response to the books I’ve read: I like to know what people thought, so that I can find out if this might fit with something I’d be interested in reading. I could write a longer review, but I’d rather just suggest that if you enjoy time travel novels, you should check this one out. I enjoyed it and am looking forward to the next installment!

Author Bio

RYSA WALKER grew up on a cattle ranch in the South. Her options for entertainment were talking to cows and reading books. (Occasionally, she would mix things up a bit and read books to cows.) On the rare occasion that she gained control of the television, she watched Star Trek and imagined living in the future, on distant planets, or at least in a town big enough to have a stop light.

When not writing, she teaches history and government in North Carolina, where she shares an office with her husband, who heroically pays the mortgage each month, and a golden retriever named Lucy. She still doesn’t get control of the TV very often, thanks to two sports-obsessed kids.

Author Links:
Website: http://chronosfiles.blogspot.ca/
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6581077.Rysa_Walker
Twitter: https://twitter.com/RysaWalker
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheChronosFiles

Giveaway

There are TWO giveaways you can participate in:

First is for one (1) ebook copy of Time’s Twisted Arrow. Open internationally. This giveaway is only here on my blog. In order to enter, you just need to comment on this post. Be sure to enter a valid e-mail address when you comment, as this is how I’ll contact you. Entries will be open until March 10th at midnight. One entry per person, I’ll use Random.org to pick a winner.

The second giveaway is for the grand prize for the entire tour and includes a signed copy of Walker’s book, as well as a $25 Amazon.com gift card! (See the Terms and Conditions in the Rafflecopter form for the details).

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Book Review: The Archived by Victoria Schwab

16095936Title and Author: The Archived by Victoria Schwab

Publisher: Disney Hyperion

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Publication Date: January 22, 2013

Pages: 336 pages

Source: Purchased at iBookstore

Kid-rating: Clean. No qualms about suggesting to my 13 year old family members. I’m going to encourage the boys to try to read, for something different.

Star Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis

(from GoodReads)
Imagine a place where the dead rest on shelves like books.

Each body has a story to tell, a life seen in pictures that only Librarians can read. The dead are called Histories, and the vast realm in which they rest is the Archive.

Da first brought Mackenzie Bishop here four years ago, when she was twelve years old, frightened but determined to prove herself. Now Da is dead, and Mac has grown into what he once was, a ruthless Keeper, tasked with stopping often-violent Histories from waking up and getting out. Because of her job, she lies to the people she loves, and she knows fear for what it is: a useful tool for staying alive.

Being a Keeper isn’t just dangerous-it’s a constant reminder of those Mac has lost. Da’s death was hard enough, but now her little brother is gone too. Mac starts to wonder about the boundary between living and dying, sleeping and waking. In the Archive, the dead must never be disturbed. And yet, someone is deliberately altering Histories, erasing essential chapters. Unless Mac can piece together what remains, the Archive itself might crumble and fall.

In this haunting, richly imagined novel, Victoria Schwab reveals the thin lines between past and present, love and pain, trust and deceit, unbearable loss and hard-won redemption.

My review

I have read 19 books in January, and this is the first that is going on my Favorites shelf. And I have really enjoyed a lot of the books I’ve read this month.

This was SO good. A great strong main character, who is not without flaws. Interesting and unique premise that I thought was explained well, in just enough bits to keep me reading, but not in infodumps that were boring.

The secondary characters were also quite fascinating, and even though there is some love interest (and 2 boys), this was not a love triangle (thankfully). I was totally on board with how Mac was feeling about all of her relationships, and definitely have a new book crush in Wesley.

The mystery was well done and I did NOT see the solution coming at all. In retrospect, there was one moment when I wondered…but I shook it off. Silly me.

I’m trying to think if I have any quibbles to share, and I can’t think of any. At all.

I’d also like to say thank you to the author for making this a complete story without a big honking cliffhanger at the end. Is the door open for further stories? Absolutely. There was a lot left unresolved in terms of relationships, and maybe even the aftermath of what resulted from the mystery itself, but I am not left hanging — I’m getting tired of that. It does appear that this is first in a series, and I will definitely read whatever comes next.

Book Review: The Madman’s Daughter by Megan Shepherd

12291438Title and Author: The Madman’s Daughter by Megan Shepherd

Publisher: Balzer & Bray

Genre: Young Adult, Horror, Gothic, Mystery

Publication Date: January 29, 2013

Pages: 432 pages

Source: ARC tour

Kid-rating: Would my 13 year old boys like this? Probably not, probably too much kissing (and talking about kissing and about love and mushy stuff). They might like the horror bits, but I think it would probably move too slow for them. How about my 13 year old nieces? Hmmm. I think they might be a little too grossed out by the horror parts of this right now. Maybe in a few years.

Star Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis

(from GoodReads)
In the darkest places, even love is deadly.

Sixteen-year-old Juliet Moreau has built a life for herself in London—working as a maid, attending church on Sundays, and trying not to think about the scandal that ruined her life. After all, no one ever proved the rumors about her father’s gruesome experiments. But when she learns he is alive and continuing his work on a remote tropical island, she is determined to find out if the accusations are true.

Accompanied by her father’s handsome young assistant, Montgomery, and an enigmatic castaway, Edward—both of whom she is deeply drawn to—Juliet travels to the island, only to discover the depths of her father’s madness: He has experimented on animals so that they resemble, speak, and behave as humans. And worse, one of the creatures has turned violent and is killing the island’s inhabitants. Torn between horror and scientific curiosity, Juliet knows she must end her father’s dangerous experiments and escape her jungle prison before it’s too late. Yet as the island falls into chaos, she discovers the extent of her father’s genius—and madness—in her own blood.

Inspired by H. G. Wells’s classic The Island of Dr. Moreau, The Madman’s Daughter is a dark and breathless Gothic thriller about the secrets we’ll do anything to know and the truths we’ll go to any lengths to protect.(

My review

There was a lot to love about this dark, creepy tale. As with other books that I’ve had on my “high-expectations” list, I was a little leery to start this one, but thankfully, the ice/fog day we had on Monday gave me the perfect opportunity to read this in one fell-swoop and it was a great read.

And by “great,” I mean very twisted and weird and scary. It’s no surprise that this is based on The Island of Dr. Moreau by H.G. Wells, and I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that our main character’s father, Dr. Moreau, himself, is involved in some pretty horrifying science experiments involving animals and humans.

The choice to tell this story from the perspective of an imagined daughter (Juliet) who was abandoned by her father (and whose mother has since died), was an interesting one. She is very compelling, a young woman who is brighter and more capable than anyone will allow her to be. She does spend a little more time being dense than I would have liked, and not asking question sooner about some things that seemed to need questioning.

I was as surprised as she was, though, by the twists and turns her story takes.

The love triangle was a little overdone, in my opinion. That might just be me projecting, though, because I’m getting kind of tired of angsty love triangles. Books don’t always need triangles to hold my interest.

The cliffhanger-y ending of this didn’t bug me the way some of these 1st-book-in-a-trilogy tend to. Maybe because I actually figured out what was happening about 2 pages before Juilet did, which actually made the actual ending even more wrenching for me on her behalf.

This is a very excellent debut, and I will definitely be waiting for the rest of this story.

Also, I have to mention: I seriously hope all of the book covers are as gorgeous as this one. Love it. :)

(I read this as an ARC as part of an ARC tour. I will be mailing this book on to the next person in the tour just as soon as the weather allows me to actually leave my house. Also, the post office is now closed for the day).