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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

"Ship Breaker"- Literary Review

Ship Breaker (Ship Breaker, #1)Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

For fans of futuristic and dystopic literature, here's one that you'll enjoy! I won't even say that it's anything similar to The Hunger Games, other than it is geared towards Young Adults, simply because it can hold its own in this genre.

Nailer is a teen who is scraping for metal in deserted ships in the Gulf Coast region. He works dawn to dusk crawling in tight places for copper wire and signs of oil, and his only refuge is in the loyalty that he tries to foster with his crewmates. When he and a fellow crew member find a shipwrecked schooner off the coast of their island, Nailer wants nothing more than to find a way to escape his life and abusive drug addict of a father. However, he never expected to find Nita.

Nita is a swank, aka rich girl, who is a pawn in corporate trading to gain monopoly over the known world. She finds Nailer and promises him an escape to paradise if he can help her return to her father. Nailer, despite every instinct to say no, accepts. They are chased by bounty hunters, greedy corporate assassins and pirates, and even Nailer's father, Richard, in an adventure that I would consider exciting on an epic scale.

Adventure stories are not often well constructed, but with a dystopia, there's a lot of room to create a "new world". Bacigalupi does this with perfection; he constructs a desolate world, connects it to his teenage protagonist, which furthermore allows a young adult reader to connect with it. The aspect of abusive parent also plays in well, because despite pirates, disease and danger lurking around every corner, it's worse when it exists at home within your own family.

As a teacher, I would recommend this title to students as a great coming of age story, as well as an interesting and engaging read.

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Friday, August 16, 2013

"The One and Only Ivan" Literary Review

The One and Only IvanThe One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What an adorable little book that helps portray the message of helping others to today's youth! Applegate's Newberry Winner, "The One And Only Ivan" is a must read for young adults and anyone who just wants to read a feel-good tale.

Ivan is a gorilla who has lived at a mall for almost 27 years (!) and has a fondness for creating art. He draws, paints and sculpts for his animal friends Stella, an elderly elephant and Bob, a stray mutt. On the day a young elephant Ruby shows up, Ivan is forever changed by the notion to protect this newly introduced innocence, and he strives to make a change. He is "the mighty silverback" and will stop at nothing to save Ruby from the horrors that come with exotic animal showmanship.

The most impressive feature of this title was the style in which it was told. It is very simplistic and quite easy to speed through. It is a page turner indeed. This is not a style that can be mastered easily, and Applegate succeeds tremendously at telling the story of Ivan's mission to save Ruby, the humor that exists between the animal friends, and the sadness that lies within the backstory of animal captivity. This author will punch you in the gut when she has Ivan tell you his history, as well as have you cheering for him during his endeavors. I don't think I've ever done this for a young adult book, besides for perhaps Katniss in "The Hunger Games".

As a teacher, it is lower on the lexile level for students to read, however I would assign it for them to analyze for major themes, as well as develop connections to nonfiction texts and events, much like the true Ivan in which Applegate based this fiction work off of. I enjoyed reading "The One and Only Ivan", and I believe that many young adult readers will as well.

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Thursday, August 15, 2013

"The Graveyard Book" Literary Review

The Graveyard BookThe Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The first of my Young Adult lit class reads and I feel like I've stepped off on the right foot!

Bod has grown up in the graveyard ever since the murder of his parents. After his escape, he's adopted by a set of ghosts and a mysterious guardian, Silas, only prepared with the knowledge that a man named Jack is out to get him. Bod has many adventures with ghosts and ghouls within the graveyard, but also many encounters with the criminal minds of humans in the real world. Specifically, an outing with a new friend Scarlett may forever change his life in the ways that he thinks he knows it.

Having read "Neverwhere" by Neil Gaiman, (and not being a fan), I was hesitant to read this Newberry winner simply for the absurdity that could be served within the fantasy genre. However, considering that it was also a Newberry winner, may have persuaded me to go at it, instead of choosing another young adult pick for my class. Gaiman constructs a fantasy world that we encounter within our everyday reality; the graveyard is indeed mysterious and at some times, creepy. Furthermore, his character of Nobody "Bod" Owens, is a young boy who is trying to deal with the fact that all of his family members are the deceased visions that exist within this ghastly setting. Bod is still adventuresome, finding trouble behind unmarked headstones and down deep dark caverns, and all of these tales are somehow supposed to set him up for the encounter with Jack--the killer of his mortal family-- when he becomes older.

My issue was that the suspense was always building up to it and although it did indeed deliver us to a delightful twist, it dropped off after that. Bod does indeed encounter Jack, but after that, well.... I feel like it had much more potential with this plot line, considering that it was the one that I was focused the most on. My other, more subservient, issue is the context of using a graveyard as a setting. Yes, we have ghosts, crypts, headstones, ghouls, chants, and most of all--stories! I loved hearing all of the stories, but I felt like Gaiman kept trying to get them to all connect, even though they didn't actually or necessarily need to. Furthermore, what was the deal with Silas? His job is to Bod's guardian, yet he is neither mortal, nor dead. Help someone? Because this is the thing that I'm remembering most from this book and it shouldn't be.

As a teacher, I'd recommend this book to a young reader who was fascinated with the supernatural and wanted something different to read. It does have potential to be openly criticized by a large, younger audience, which is what I think Gaiman's goal was to achieve. Bod is a character who constantly asks how things work, and I feel like the readers will do the exact same.


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Monday, August 12, 2013

"The Maze Runner" Audiobook Rant

The Maze Runner (Maze Runner, #1)The Maze Runner by James Dashner
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

If you're looking to get your Hunger Games fix, then you've found your match! "The Maze Runner" is another one of those dystopian society books focused on teenage protagonists; kids will love it because it is a story of survival and beating the system. However, it was not my cup of tea.

Disclaimer! I listened to the audiobook, which I've found that that can often influence your perception on the book. I would have rather created the images of the characters, such as Thomas, Newt, and Chuck in my head, rather than hear them through my speakers on the way to work. It was a struggle I must say...

If you plan of diving into the mystery of "The Maze Runner", don't do it via audiobook.

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Tuesday, August 6, 2013

"Sing Me An Old Song" Book Review

Sing Me An Old SongSing Me An Old Song by Morgan James
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Folks, this one was an ideal summer beach read, but for one being in the midst of school starting in Midwest Indiana, I had trouble. Fighting to finish, I praise the author Morgan James for allowing me to review this book as a Goodreads giveaway, so I will provide my opinion in regards towards the novel's content and style.

In "Sing Me An Old Song", Mavis Banks Book is a Southern Belle who returns to her home as a ghost ten years after her funeral. Right off the bat I loved the idea of having a ghost coming back to their roots, because as an adult, I love reminiscing about old houses I grew up in and what they look like now. It's a fun idea, but for me, Mavis got a bit troublesome. As a teacher, I would have encouraged student writers to italicizes any and all relation to the ghosts movement and/or dialogue. However, since this is not the main technique in this novel, I got lost at times.

In "Sing", we also have the relationship between Niki and Jack, two roommates in Mavis' house that goes on during the story. For me, the chemistry between these two could have used more details... Yes they annoy each other at times, but the moments are often cut short because some sort of connection to Mavis comes up. At some times, I was annoyed that Mavis kept coming up.... Shouldn't the dead stay dead and forgotten? As the story progressed however, I learned why but read the book because I'm not spoiling it for you.

Overall, I award 3 stars due to literary entertainment that one could gain from reading James' new novel. It was my first exposure to her work, and after learning she writes mysteries (more of my forte), I'll have to check one out sometime.

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