I first became acquainted with Cornelia Funke’s writing when I read Inkheart. I quickly fell in love with her rich descriptions and quirky characters. I was disappointed when that trilogy came to an end because I had so enjoyed living in that fantasy world with Meggie and Farid… So how is it, then, that I managed not to read this book until nearly SIX years after it was published? Let’s just say that I have a terrible habit of ordering books that are sure to be popular, based on book reviews and the reading tastes of my library’s patrons, and then not getting to them when I select my own reading materials. I mean… I *know* that I ordered Reckless and Fearless when I was still a full-time librarian, but I just didn’t manage to read them myself. For the record — there are just WAY too many amazing authors out there for me to juggle these things in a way that won’t cause me distress! #LibrarianProblems
Fantasy readers who enjoy a blending of magic and the “real” world will definitely want to read this book. Jacob Reckless has a magical mirror through which he can access another world. He has always loved to go there to have adventures and to gather treasures he could bring back home, but his love for the Mirrorworld is tested when his brother, Will, sneaks through as well. Will is cursed and begins transforming into a Goyl (a creature with skin made of stone). With the help of his friend Fox — who can shapeshift between her human and fox forms, Jacob sets out to find a way to break the curse before it’s too late.
Long-time readers of my blog have suffered through my constant lamentations that everything is a freaking series … I sometimes read a book not realizing that it is the first in a series (ahem, Cinder) and just about die waiting for the rest of the series to be published. Back when this book first came out, I knew it was part of a planned series and made the conscious decision to wait until after all of the books were out before I read it. I had heard it was good and all, but I didn’t hear enough to lure me into actually cheating. The final book of this series came out in November, so I decided I was ready to binge-read the series (well, binge-listen to the audiobooks) this winter. Part of me is glad I didn’t have any major gaps of time in between the stories, but part of me is so mad at myself that I didn’t just suck it up and read these from the start. Such is life, right?!? Darned if you do, and darned if you don’t!
The Finishing School series is just so amazing that it’s hard to explain, but I will do my best to point out the various things I loved. The cast of characters, both normal and nefarious, was fabulous. I think I may have clicked with this series so quickly because Sophronia has a very Georgia Nicholson feel to her — awkward but lovable; smart but bumbling. She’s awesome enough that readers might want to be like her and not so perfect as to be annoying, you know? And although it’s a mystery and a fantasy that takes place in a finishing school, it is a lot sillier than Libba Bray’s [Gothic mystery] Gemma Doyle series. It still had plenty of mystery, and there were conflicts with supernatural creatures aplenty, but there was a much lighter feel to it overall. Readers who enjoyed the steampunk airships of Oppel’s Airborn series and Westerfeld’s Leviathan series will appreciate the fact that Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality is held aboard a dirigible. Not to mention the proliferation of gadgets, like exploding wicker chickens and mechanical wiener dogs! If you like steampunk, supernatural mysteries, and/or tales of girls who don’t quite fit in with their high society families, I recommend you check this series out.
When I read Fangirl last year, I fell hard for Simon, Baz, and the Watford School of Magicks. I was desperate to read more than was revealed in Cath’s posts. Fortunately, I happened upon an article about the impending publication of Carry On and knew it was only a matter of time before my wish would come true! The only problem was that my requests for other books and audiobooks from the library kept showing up, so I kept putting this story off. (It probably wouldn’t have been such a problem if I had gotten Carry On from the library and had a time limit, but I downloaded it from Audible and knew I had as long as I wanted. #firstworldproblems)
I think what I love most about Rowell’s writing is that it really nails all the nitty gritty, true-to-life details of adolescent friendships and romances. Carry On was extra awesome because it had all that PLUS magic, mystery, and monsters! The only things I found disappointing were that (a) I waited so long to actually listen to this audiobook, and (b) there was only one book! 😉 As a die-hard Potterhead, I really enjoyed comparing and contrasting the stories of Simon Snow and Harry Potter. Some people have argued that this story is too derivative of Harry Potter, but I fully recognize that there are a great many “Chosen One” stories and that having similarities doesn’t make it a rip-off. After all, some people say that Harry Potter is basically Star Wars! And though I am not big on re-reading anything, since there are far too many books out there waiting to be read, I have a feeling I will listen to this audiobook (or maybe even read the book) at least one more time…
I am almost embarrassed to admit that I had never read Hatchet before. I’ve handed this book out to countless kids operating under the mistaken impression that I had actually read it back when I was in elementary school. I mean, I clearly remember talking about it in 4th grade… But, as it turns out, I only knew the basic premise of the story and filled in the rest of my so-called memory with bits and pieces from another survival story we read at the time — My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George. Luckily, I decided to take the time to listen to this story to “refresh my memory” now that my son was reading it in school. (Oops!)
Brian was a fairly typical “modern day” kid. He spent most of his time on school and leisure activities, and he depended on adults much more than he ever realized. He wasn’t fat, necessarily, but he wasn’t exactly fit either. Finding food always meant going to the fridge or the pantry — at most, to a grocery store. So, when his flight to visit his father for the summer ended with a crash in the Canadian wilderness, Brian was not sure he had what it would take to survive. The only other passenger had been the pilot, and the plane crashed because the pilot had died of a heart attack. With nothing more than the clothes on his back and the hatchet [a gift from his mom] on his belt, Brian had to find both shelter and food enough to last until he was rescued… If he even *could* be rescued. Because no one, including Brian, knew exactly where his plane went down.
It’s no wonder Hatchet is the “gold standard” for survival stories. Paulsen masterfully balanced Brian’s hope and drive to survive with suspense surrounding the real-life dangers of the Canadian wilderness. I think this book would be an excellent precursor to lessons on disaster preparedness and survival skills, and it’s also sure to be a hit with kids who already enjoy wilderness-based activities like hiking and camping.
Jeremy Johnson Johnson was rather unlucky. Not only did his mom leave him and his dad, but his father became so crippled by depression that he became a total recluse. Jeremy became, in essence, the adult of the household and started taking care of things to the best of his abilities. After Jeremy was involved in a prank gone awry, though, he was ostracized by the townspeople who had previously given him enough work to get by. With the final “balloon payment” of the mortgage on his father’s bookstore [aka his home] coming due very soon, Jeremy began to panic. Fortunately, he had a friend, Ginger, who had a crazy plan and a guardian angel of sorts, Jacob, looking after him. Whether he was actually an angel is debatable, but there was no doubt that Jeremy could definitely communicate with the ghost of Jacob Grimm — one of the famous Brothers Grimm. Jacob was pretty sure he had not yet passed on completely because he still had a purpose on earth, and he was certain that his purpose was to keep Jeremy safe. Readers who are familiar with Grimm fairy tales will surely guess that something “grim” is in the cards, but they’re not likely to guess exactly what until it’s already too late. This clever combination of old-fashioned fairy tales and modern storytelling has plenty of suspense and plot twists to keep readers on the edge of their seats, and I’m glad I can finally settle back in mine again.
I would like to start off this post by apologizing for the lack of a post last week. I seriously thought I had posted something, but multiple curriculum nights and weeknight soccer games apparently broke my brain. To make it up to you all, and in celebration of my fREADom to read, I am going to post several reviews this week. I typically like to post multiple reviews during Banned Books Week, anyhow, so I’m going to keep the tradition alive with some “edgy” books.
Much like The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (which was the most challenged book of 2014 and yet *another* book I managed not to review even though I loved it), I fear that some readers will complain that I am the Weapon contains drugs/alcohol/smoking, offensive language, violence, depictions of bullying, and that it’s “unsuited for age group” — whatever THAT means! I honestly believe that we need to trust tweens and teens to make their own choice about what they’re comfortable reading, since their lives and their emotional needs vary greatly from person to person. If they aren’t ready to handle a topic that comes up in a book, they’re most likely to simply set it aside and move on. And if there’s something “too mature” in a book, it will often go over the reader’s head — unlike a movie that just spells it right out for ya! I also firmly believe that experiencing the repercussions of unsavory/risky behaviors vicariously through characters in a book is a much safer than testing things out in “the real world.” Wouldn’t you rather your children learned to have empathy for others by witnessing the repercussions of bullying in a book instead of blindly joining up with the bullies at their school because they didn’t really think it was such a big deal? I know I would.
Ben, aka the Unknown Assassin, is a finely-tuned, teenage hitman. He has been trained by “The Program” and reports to people he calls “Mom” and “Dad.” Ben is not his real name, of course. It’s just the name of his persona for this mission, and he will stop being Ben as soon as his mission is complete. This mission is different than the rest, though, because it has such a short timeline. Ben is used to taking time to find his mark, to get close enough to kill them, and then sticking around long enough afterward so as to not arouse suspicion. But this mission is supposed to be completed in no more than five days. Five days! With such a high-profile target, this mission seems nearly impossible. But, Ben is bound and determined to succeed. He’s never failed before, and he doesn’t intend to start now. Except… Something about this mission feels off. Not only that, but Ben also has feelings for the daughter of the mark. The fast pace, action, and adventure are sure to lure guys in, and the romantic undertones are well-balanced enough to enrapture love-crazed teenage readers without turning off the people who couldn’t care less. I definitely need to get my hands on the rest of this series!
Happy Banned Books Week!
Gerald Faust has a touch more than your typical teen angst. He has to deal with the fact that his one sister, Lisi, has left home [most likely never to return again] because his other sister, Tasha, is a complete sociopath and constantly tries to kill her siblings. Sadly, their mom coddles Tasha and refuses to acknowledge the situation. As bad as that is, though, it’s not quite as bad as the fact that Gerald is also infamous for being “The Crapper” on a Supernanny-like reality show when he was a child. His mom originally called the show for help because Gerald’s rages would lead to holes in the walls, but he soon escalated to crapping everywhere to get people’s attention when Tasha’s assaults and antagonizing were repeatedly missed/overlooked and he alone was blamed for his anger management problems. Now, Gerald’s stuck with no friends, continued anger management issues, and placement in a special education class that he doesn’t really need/deserve. Right as he fears he is about to finally break, though, Gerald starts to become friends with a girl [from school and work] named Hannah who’s dealing with some family dysfunction of her own.
As terribly heartbreaking as it was to stand by and “watch” Gerald suffer at the hands of his sister and parents, I was grateful that his story ended on a note of hope. It just makes me wonder, though — how *have* all of those kids who’ve been featured on shows like Supernanny been effected by their appearances? Have there been any others who ended up as infamous as Gerald? Or is this simply an embellishment of what could have happened? (Man, I hope none of those kids ends up like Gerald!) I would recommend this book to readers who enjoyed A.S. King’s Ask The Passengers and Chris Crutcher’s Angry Management.