Thursday, July 4, 2013

The Dream Thieves, Maggie Stiefvater

The Dream Thieves (The Raven Cycle, #2)The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book II of The Raven Cycle, The Dream Thieves, begins where The Raven Boys left off. The group of four boys, all students at exclusive Anglionby Academy, although with varying backgrounds, have become friends with Blue Sargent, a local girl from a family of psychics, in the search for a mysterious and lost Welsh king. So far this reads as your typical YA modern fantasy, but it is so much more.

While the story is terrific, and the writing propulsive, what really captivates me about The Raven Cycle is Stiefvater's clear eyed look at the divisions brought about by class and culture among teens. Some have it all, some want it all, and some just want to get away - but it is not always what you would guess from the outside. Another unusual feature of Stiefvater's, and one that reminds me a bit of John Green, is the adults. Unlike many YA novels where the adults are either absent, neglectful/abusive, or caricatures, the adults in The Raven Cycle are fully formed, real people.

I don't want to give away too much about this book, but I highly encourage you to read it. The book is solidly YA in theme, but I personally didn't see anything that would be inappropriate for a mature middle schooler. If you haven't read Raven Boys, you still have a two months before The Dream Thieves hits stores to finish it. Start now.

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Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Neil Gaiman

The Ocean at the End of the LaneThe Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Neil Gaiman has done it again. Although this book is technically adult, I can't really figure out any reason a teen or even mature tween couldn't read it. There is one particularly upsetting scene of parental betrayal and implied sex and infidelity, but nothing compared to the explicit details in many realistic novels written for the YA market. With that settled....

This is a challenging book to describe. Fans of Neil Gaiman will recognize the Hempstead family and certain tonal qualities that mark it as uniquely Gaiman. However, fundamentally, this is a story about standing strong in the face of fear, the unique way children see the world and the power of friendship. More than that, I want you to discover on your own.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane is beautifully written and highly engaging. Since it is rather short in length, it is readable in a rainy afternoon.

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Thursday, June 20, 2013

Homeland, Cory Doctorow

HomelandHomeland by Cory Doctorow
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Oh Cory Doctorow, I do love your storytelling, I just wish you could resist the urge to lecture me for two pages about bit torrent. I get it, privacy good!

We meet back up with Marcus a year or two after Little Brother left off. The recession has hit and both parents are out of work. With no income and student loan debt piling up (lecture alert) Marcus drops out of University. He once again meets up with Masha, who, predictably puts him and Ange in grave danger in order. She has a flash drive of hundreds of thousands of pages of government documents, some classified, some not (wikileaks lecture alert). Marcus and his band of hacker friends need to figure out what to do with the information while the Department of Homeland Security closes the net around them (lecture alert). In the meantime, Marcus' notoriety bring him to the attention of a reforming independent candidate who offers him a job as webmaster.

It's all good fun and a great story with lots of valuable insights into the state of the world today and compelling themes ripped from the pages of boing boing and the Huffington Post, which is fine. It's great. But seriously, just scan the lectures.

The story speaks for itself so much better than the editorials.

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Anna Dressed in Blood, Kedare Blake

Anna Dressed in Blood (Anna, #1)Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What can I say, this was one creepy book. I don't read much horror, so maybe it wasn't as creepy as I thought, but definitely don't read it when you are home alone late at night in bed with no one around.

The basics: Cas is a ghost hunter. Cas finds the bad ones and dispatches them, just like his father did before he was the prey instead of predator. Now Cas and his mom, a "kitchen witch" travel the world ridding us of malevolent spirits. All of this goes fairly well until Cas runs up against Anna, the ghost of a young woman murdered in 1958. This former lone wolf acquires a pack of friends and not-so-friends determined to help him whether he wants it or not. He also discovers that Anna is different from any ghost he has met before in ways both good and bad.

Anna Dressed in Blood is a good creepy story that has the hallmarks of being setup as a series (the fact that it is titled Anna #1 should be the first clue.) As such, there are far too many loose ends left to be accounted for in future books and Cas is, in my opinion, far too willing to ignore what is right in front of him (hint: always listen to the cat, it says it right there in the first quarter of the book!) for someone who makes a living fighting for his life.

Still, I would recommend this wholeheartedly for upper middle and high school and anyone who can handle a little more suspense than me.

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Also, Kendare Blake has a cool animoto book trailer here.

Behemoth, Scott Westerfeld, Read by Alan Cumming

Behemoth (Leviathan, #2)Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I "read" Behemoth as an audio book and I can't praise it highly enough. The narrator is Alan Cumming and he does a fantastic job across genders, accents and languages. The story moves along quickly and Westerfeld does a masterful job of tying together his alternate history of World War I with a compelling adventure and light romance (as of Behemoth the love is unrequited).

Leviathan, I felt, dragged a bit in spots, and perhaps it was the narration, or the new setting of Istanbul, or the introduction of a few new characters, but Behemoth never slowed. As soon as the audio finished, I downloaded Goliath and am looking for an eleven hour stretch to hear it soon.

I highly recommend the whole series to anyone interested in history, action-adventure, or certain types of sci-fi/fantasy. Indeed, although the alternate world imagined by Westerfeld is science fiction, it is so lyrically rendered it has more in common with fantasy. This would be a delightful family listen. Add it to your next road trip and you won't be disappointed.

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Friday, June 14, 2013

A flight of angels, Rebecca Guay

A Flight of AngelsA Flight of Angels by Rebecca Guay
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Beautifully illustrated and well written, this graphic novel tells the story of an angel fallen to earth from the point of view of various fae creatures who find him. Each story reflect that creature's perspective on life, good and evil, and humanities place in the world. The illustrations shift stylistically to fit the tone of the story, but all are detailed, beautiful and evocative.

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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Sleep Like a Tiger, Mary Logue and Pamela Zagarenski (illustrator)

Sleep Like a TigerSleep Like a Tiger by Mary Logue
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Perhaps it is remembering my days with young children, but I do love a good sleepy book (hence the title of my blog: read to me tonight . Sleep Like a Tiger is a lovely gentle book where parents assure their little girl that she doesn't have to go to sleep, but this is how the whale sleeps, and the snail, and the dog and the tiger. The illustrations are truly lovely and invite close scrutiny: a key quality in a book parents might have to read again and again and again. This one is a keeper: borrow from the library, but buy soon after.

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