Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Book Giveaway for my new blog





Whoooo wants to win some books? Three books, three winners!

Meg Cabot's INSATIABLE

PC & Kristin Cast's BURNED

Sarah Rees Brennan's THE DEMON'S LEXICON

So, as you can see, this is a new blog. One with only one follower (wait, can you count yourself as a follower? Either way, it helps me edit Google Reader style). So, I'm looking for some people to join me in discovering fantastic, mainly young adult and middle grade books (I'll branch out some in the summer. Variety is the spice of life, after all).

Now, there are already a ton of fantastic YA/MG book bloggers out there, who offer wonderful perspectives. However, I'm hoping to add a little more. In August, when my school year starts up again, one feature I'm adding to this blog are student reviews. Most of the reviews will come from my eighth graders (who range in age from 12-15) but I'm hoping to add in sixth and seventh graders as well as ninth graders (some great students I taught last year), so we'll have a whole range of readers writing about the books they like...or don't like.

I'd love to start the school year with a pile of readers (the better to convince my students to EDIT their reviews--and that others care about their opinions), so, to win, you have to be a follower.

And I haven't figured out the whole Google Docs contest form yet (another summer goal), so the rules are a little old-school. Leave a comment and tell me if you:

1 point: Followed this blog (you won't regret it, I promise!)

1 point: Tweeted about this contest

1 point: Mentioned this contest on your blog

Old-school but simple. This contest ends July 6th, 5pm EST and is open only to those in the continental US (sorry, I'm but a poor schoolteacher!).

Good luck and I hope you enjoy being a honey bee in our swarm!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Review: INSATIABLE by Meg Cabot

Meg Cabot's written a book about vampires. And, if you're anything like me, you're thinking, "Another book about vampires? Really? Gimmie a break."

Yes, more vampires. But Cabot puts her own spin on it--her main character, Meena Harper, hates vampires and all the hype that surrounds them, although she doesn't believe in them despite her extensive experience with the supernatural (She can see when people are going to die. Fun, right? Not when you're known as "You're Gonna Die Girl" all through high school.).

Meena's life is just not going well: her out-of-work brother's moved in with her, her promotion was given to the bosses' niece, her love life is non-existent, and she's been ordered to write a vampire character into the soap opera she works for.

Then she meets and falls for Lucien Antonescu, a prince with a lust for...life. Yep, he's a vampire, though Meena doesn't know it at first (though she does wonder why she can't see how he dies--understandable considering he's already dead). She learns this little factoid from Alaric, a hot vampire hunter (yep, a love triangle) who's got a personal vendetta against the undead and permission from the Pope to kill them all.

 Meena's a great character, typical of Cabot. She's feisty, intelligent, and able to hold her own. She gets mighty ticked off when the guys try to step in and take over or boss her around. Her brother plays the role of the annoying doofus, always wrecking Meena's plans. Lucien and Alaric play the roles of tough men determined to protect Meena from each other and from the evil Dominic, Lucien's brother and all-around bad boy.

While I liked all the characters (even the annoying brother), I wasn't not sure what to make of Lucien. He didn't seem fully fleshed out or maybe it was that he was just wishy-washy. He didn't want to hurt people but he sucked Meena's blood without her permission (Three bites and some of his blood and she'd be a vamp, too. He only got in two bites.). He claimed to love her but manipulated her and her emotions as if he were playing chess. There seemed to be more layers to him but Cabot didn't reveal them to us (I'm thinking there's a follow-up in the works).

Despite that, INSATIABLE is a fun read. I enjoyed Meena's reactions and interactions with the two men, how she wouldn't take crap from any of them, how she protected her friends and family even though she didn't really know what was going on. The writing was light and fast-paced, injected with Cabot's style of humor. While I was a little disappointed in the ending (I'm not going to ruin it and tell you why. But it's part of the reason why I think there are more Meena books in the works.), I didn't want to throw the book across the room (Trust me, this is a good thing. I've done it with a couple of books this year. What is it with the crappy endings of awesome books lately? Okay. Done. That's a rant for another time.) It's not a YA, either. There's some sex and some language. Not horrible or overly-detailed so I'd give it a PG-15 rating.

Final Grade for INSATIABLE by Meg Cabot: 90/B
Purchased

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Reviews: Netflix

Yeah, buddy--finally got my Nextflix working though my Wii and, therefore, on my TV. I know, I know. It sounds stupid to get so excited about it but I'm absolutely thrilled. Technology does that to me. Of course, it also helps that I'm easily amused. And there's a ton of great stuff available to stream: documentaries, TV shows, movies...yeah, this is a serious time-killer. But it so rocks.

Despite the fact that I've ingested a myriad of hours of TV, I've never been able to just sit in a chair and stare at the screen. (I think I'm a little ADD in that way. Multi-tasking is the only way I watch without getting bored.) I've done collages for three of my WIPs in an effort to get back in the writing saddle. One is going to need a serious overhaul (I'm gonna have to dump the first couple of chapters 'cause I started the story way too early. I tend to do that. Oops.) and two are still gelling in my brain and on the paper. Many choices and now, I've got the time (better use it while I've got it, huh?).

Now, I'm sure you're dying to know what I've watched so, instead of book reviews, I'm going to give y'all a couple of TV/movie reviews (You're excited, right? I know I am!).

WEEDS: Season 5
If you haven't seen this show, I highly recommend it (Get it? HIGHly? Geeze, I crack myself up.). A little background: When Nancy Botwin's husband dies unexpectedly, leaving her with two boys and a monster mortgage, Nancy must find a way to make money and fast. What does she do? She turns to the profitable business of selling pot to bored soccer moms and dads. Fast forward a couple of years and Nancy's gone hardcore. She's pregnant with the son of a Mexican drug lord, her oldest son has turned into a pot cultivator, and her youngest is the main dealer on his high school campus (including one of his teachers). Her brother-in-law (Andy) is still around and is in love with her but he's trying to distance himself from her (she is, after all, involved with the drug lord). Alanis Morrisette joins the cast as a clinic doctor and Andy's love interest. Great show. Lots of fun--I watched the whole season in one night because I wanted to know what happened. Nancy was not as interesting or, well, "there" as she had been the last four seasons. It was almost like she was going through the motions. Despite that, the rest of the characters and their troubles are more than enough to keep you entertained.

FINAL GRADE for WEEDS: 86/B (And so not for kiddies. Too much with the drugs and the sex and the cursing.)

DR. HORRIBLE'S SING-A-LONG BLOG
God, I love Neil Patrick Harris. Too bad he plays for the other team. And I truly do adore Nathan Fillion, especially as a smarmy, too-big-for-his-britches hero (The Hammer--and he's not talking about his hands, he says...). Great, quick little show (only 40 min, if I remember correctly). Made me laugh out loud as Dr. Horrible tried to get into the League while lusting after the girl of his dreams who is swept off her feet by The Hammer. Gotta warn you though, it's a tragi-comedy. I wasn't expecting the ending. *sniffle*

FINAL GRADE for DR. HORRIBLE: 93/A

FARSCAPE: Season 1
Such a trippy show (My students laugh when I call something this. But I can't help it--when it seems like the writers were smoking a little of Nancy Botwin's product or the show just gets into your head, I gotta call it.). John Crichton, a human scientist, is out in space testing a theory when he gets shot through a wormhole to an entirely new area of space. He winds up aboard Moya, a leviathan ship, as she escapes the Peacekeepers (the bad guys) with three escaped prisoners. The group travels the universe, trying to get home while evading the Peacekeepers. There are some very well-developed characters here with great back-stories. No Mary Sues among them and several are really anti-heroes. I really love Crichton's snarkiness as he tries to relate to the craziness he's been thrust into. And his pop-culture references are priceless, especially since they merely baffle his shipmates. It's a little cheesy at times (one of the main characters is a muppet, for goodness' sake), but that's part of its charm.

FINAL GRADE for FARSCAPE: 90/B

Yay for Netflix streaming and time to kill!

Originally posted to http://marybrebner.blogspot.com/ on June 14, 2010

Review: GROUNDED & THE LOST GIRLS

About this time every year, I get the travel bug. But I'm kind of a wimp when it comes to leaving the comfort and safety of my house. (I think it's known as "Couch Potatoitis".) It's not like I don't travel--I've been to Canada, Scotland, England, Columbia (well, the airport, which was an experience in itself. Lots of guns.), and Brazil. Still, travel isn't always in the cards so I have to satisfy my cravings in the next best way: books. So far, I've gobbled down two and plan on ingesting more this summer.


GROUNDED: A Down To Earth Journey Around the World by Seth Stevenson
NF Travel; 274 pages; purchased

Seth and his girlfriend, Rebecca, decide to leave their jobs and circumnavigate the world. Yep, the whole wide world. They set two initial rules for themselves: 1) To cross every longitudinal line, plus the equator, for the circumnavigation to count, and 2) Not to fly in airplanes. Ever. To get across the pond, Seth and Rebecca book a passage on a container ship and head off to Antwerp for the first major leg of their journey.

Crazy, right? After reading this book, I'm thinking maybe not. Air travel just isn't all that much fun anymore, what with the random pat-downs, long lines, and the chance to catch a raging fungal infection on your bare feet. It's harder, takes a little more effort to get where you're going but, as Seth points out, you also get to see all the good stuff that you're just flying over. With slow travel, the traveler has time to appreciate the world around him or her.And Seth writes about it with humor and imagery.

Most of the travel stories I've read, the folks did use a lot of ground transportation (cheaper, of course) but they also used planes to get across the pond. Seth provided a completely different take on around the world travel and almost inspired me to leave the lake this summer!

FINAL GRADE for GROUNDED: 93/A

THE LOST GIRLS: Three Friends, Four Continents, One Unconventional Detour Around the World by Jennifer Baggett, Holly C. Corbett, and Amanda Pressner
NF Travel; 538 pages; purchased

These three girls, all in their late 20's, are feeling the pressure. Working at high-stress jobs in NYC, they're on the road to adulthood (husband, promotions, kids, etc) and they're freaking out. So, after a girl-bonding trip to Argentina, they decide they want to ditch it all and travel the world, so they can find themselves. In honor of this search, they dub themselves "The Lost Girls".

Traveling 60,000 miles across four continents and through dozens of countries (many of which have never been on my itinerary), the girls never have the epiphanies or ah-ha moments they're looking for. What they do find are deep bonds of friendship, an appreciation for what they have, and an understanding of the world beyond their front doors.

This was a fun read--I plowed through it in about a day and a half, looking forward to each step of their journey. I also liked how the book was laid out: each girl wrote about her individual experiences, with her own voice. The reader really gets to know each person and how she grew during her travels. Jen realized she was in a relationship that wasn't good for her and that she could find love elsewhere; Holly took a more spiritual journey, became a certified yoga teacher in India, and got more in touch with her spirituality; and driven Amanda learned how to relax and enjoy her life while still succeeding.

The only thing that irked me was that Jen (Jennifer Baggett) tended to dwell on her age, how she was getting so old, and how she thought anyone over 30 was ancient. (Of course, thinking back, I probably had the same beliefs as her about age. Ah, 28. So young. So naive.) Otherwise, I really enjoyed their stories.

FINAL GRADE for THE LOST GIRLS: 95/A

Review: CHANGELESS by Gail Carriger

Blurb: Alexia Tarabotti, the Lady Woolsey, is finally married (um, spoiler, I guess) and living very happily among her husband's pack of werewolves. But, of course, something has to disrupt this idyllic life of hers: a curse of human-ness for all supernaturals in the London area. How is it that the wolves are no long wolf-y and the vamps are no longer biting? It's a mystery that carries Lady Woolsey and her husband to Scotland in order to solve it.

I'm really loving this series. It reminds me of the days when I devoured the historical romances, with all their ton this and Miss So-and-So that properness. I also appreciate the fact that, while this series is most definitely steampunk, it doesn't bash you over the head with its steampunkery. The floating airships are just another mode of transportation, the inexplicably complex communication devices are used by only those who can afford them, and the other steampunk "toys" are seamlessly interwoven into the Victorian world.

Lady Woolsey is a great character: strong, determined and very level-headed. Her husband...well, without giving anything away, events in the book make me not like him as much as I did in the first book. While most of the minor characters are very well drawn, I'm inclined to bash Ivy over the head and lock her in a closet with Lady Woolsey's annoying sisters. Fitting punishment for them.

I can't wait for the next one. Blameless comes out in September. (Too long!!)

Final Grade for CHANGELESS by Gail Carriger: 87/B (Only because she made me yell, "NO!" at the end of the book. I'm not so good with cliffhangers. No patience. But at least I didn't throw the book across the room.)

This book was purchased by moi.

Originally posted to http://marybrebner.blogspot.com/ on May 6, 2010

Review: CHANGES by Jim Butcher

I love this series (Urban Fantasy, Adult). I've loved it from the very first book, when we first met wizard Harry Dresden, to this book, the twelfth in the series. CHANGES provided me with exactly the kind of quick-paced, high action Harry fix I needed. It's been a while (seems like it was forever ago, though it was just last year) since #11.

Poor Harry. Guy can never catch a break. He finds out he has a daughter (yep, he was shocked, too), Maggie, who's eight. Susan (anyone remember Susan? She was one of Harry's girlfriends, wrote for a yellow tabloid about supernaturals, turned into a half-vampire by a Red Court biotch? Her.) calls him and tells him they have a kid together and now Maggie's been kidnapped by the Red Court. Harry freaks (who wouldn't?) and calls in all the markers he has out there to rush to to Maggie's rescue, before she's used in a terrible bloodline curse. (No spoilers in any of that. Promise.)

Harry has the holy Hell beaten out of him by assassins, demons, vampires, and fae folk; the White Court's too caught up in a power struggle to help out; and he really, really doesn't want to ask the bad guys for help. But he will if he has to.

Oh, I so want to tell you about the part where I yelled at Harry and then threw the book across the room because he did something stupid. I did immediately go and pick it up, watch him do said stupid thing and wonder the rest of the time (when I wasn't completely caught up in the crazy-wild action that goes on through the entire book) how he was going to get out of the mess he'd gotten himself into.

And then, at the end...OMG! Craziness that I won't share because I hate-hate-hate spoilers with a passion. Anyway, if you haven't ever read a book in the Dresden series, this is a great one, though you get the full impact of all the prior events. Butcher is great about only giving a cursory overview of past plots--thank you for that, Jim--and there are so many nuances within the past books. But I promise, if you start with this one, you'll rush to read #1-11 and then read 12 all over again. And love it even more.

I can't wait for the next one, though I have absolutely no idea with that'll be. However, I know he's said there'll be about 20 books in the Dresden series when all is said and done. Plus, his fans would stalk him if he didn't write a #13 because of the cliffhanger ending in #12.

Final Grade for CHANGES by Jim Butcher: 95/A
Purchased book

Originally posted to http://marybrebner.blogspot.com/ on April 10, 2010

Reviews: SHADES OF GREY, SILVER BORNE, EPITAPH ROAD

So, it's finally here: Spring Break! (oh, and pollen season has turned my red car yellow. But that's a totally different story.).

As usual, I have big plans for break, most of which will not get accomplished because I'll be READING! Yahoo! (and writing, of course)

Prior to break (Wednesday night, to be exact), I finally finished SHADES OF GREY by Jasper Fforde (purchased). Now, that one took me a good week to get through (and that's a long time for me--I'm a super-fast reader, when I get time to read, that is), not because it was bad but because it was so...dense. Yep. Dense is a good word. This was my first Fforde book, so I don't know if he always writes like this but I liked it. So much information, such a complex world with incredible attention to detail. Excellent characters, twisty-turny plot, amazing worldbuilding. (*sigh* I wish I could write like that!) Guess I'm on a dystopian kick, though this one wasn't a planned dystopian read. In the very far future, our descendants can only see one shade of color. There are violets (top of the heap), reds, yellows, blues, greens, and (at the bottom) the greys. Each operates within a strict code of conduct and people are "Rebooted" if they don't live up to expectations. Eddie and his father arrive in a town on the outer limits of civilization to find that all is not as it seems (isn't that the way it always is). Great book. First in a trilogy.

Final Grade for SHADES OF GREY by Jasper Fforde: 90/B

Now that it's break, I've already finished Patricia Brigg's newest installment in the Mercy saga SILVER BORNE (purchased). Loved it. Mercy's such a great character, with just the right touches of toughness and vulnerability that make her completely likeable. Briggs tied up pretty much all the loose ends (including Samuel, the lone wolf who's been living with Mercy) so I think this might be the last in this part of the series. *cries*

Final Grade for SILVER BORNE by Patricia Briggs: 93/A

Then, I sat down with EPITAPH ROAD by David Patneaude (purchased) this afternoon. And finished it. (okay, it was a pretty slim book, as compared to many, so don't be too impressed.) The premise of this dytopian YA is that 97% of the male population is dead due to a viral outbreak. Women now rule the world--and keep the men under tight control. Men aren't allowed to take on important jobs. Instead, they're restricted to the non-essential type jobs. Plus, the male population is kept down to a minuscule percentage, so they won't have an advantage or take control and ruin the world, the way they did pre-virus. The main character, Kellen, is one of the few boys alive in Seattle and has very little to look forward to. But, when his father's life is threatened by another possible virus outbreak, he leaves his tightly-controlled world to warn him. And finds out the truth--plus so much more. (I can't say much more or I'll give away the twist!) Great book. The idea of a rampant viral outbreak decimating billions is so creepy, because it could really happen.

Final Grade for EPITAPH ROAD by David Patneaude: 86/B

THE LINE is up next. Or maybe I'll finish THE BOOK THIEF (another great but super-dense book!). Or something else from my three-foot-high TBR pile. Yay!

Originally posted to http://marybrebner.blogspot.com/ on April 2, 2010

Review: PERCHANCE TO DREAM by Lisa Mantchev


PERCHANCE TO DREAM by Lisa Mantchev was magically fantastic, a great second book in the Théâtre Illuminata trilogy.

Here's the back cover blurb: Growing up in the enchanted Théâtre Illuminata, Beatrice Shakespeare Smith learned all about every play ever written, but she didn't know that she, too had magic. Now, she is the Mistress of Revels, the Teller of Tales, and and is determined to follow her stars. Bertie can make things happen by writing them, but outside the walls of the Théâtre, they don't go as planned. And her magic cannot help her make a decision between Nate, her suave pirate, and Ariel, a seductive air spirit.

When Nate is taken prisoner by the Sea Goddess, only Bertie can free him, and she and her fairy sidekicks embark on a journey, using Bertie's word magic to guide them. Bertie's dreams are haunted by Nate, whose love for Bertie is keeping him alive, but in the daytime, it's Ariel who is tantalizingly close, and the one she is falling for. Who does Bertie love the most? And will her magic be powerful enough to save her once she enters the Sea Goddess's lair?

I loved EYES LIKE STARS, the first book in the trilogy. The theater, the characters, the language. It was fresh and original and a blast to read. The theater, actually, was one of my favorite parts--it was a character in and of itself.

So, I was a little worried when some of the characters ventured out of theater, into the world. I did miss it but what a world Bertie and her friends walked into. Again, the setting becomes its own character, adding depth and layers to the story, driving the characters, and even the action, in some parts.

Bertie's fumbling with her new-found magic and status as Teller of Tales made me laugh as it went terribly wrong, even when she was trying to do something as simple as conjure up food or light a fire. When she asks the fairies to kindle a fire? Oh, yeah. The poor fairies turn into little flying torches. Stop-drop-roll, fairies, stop-drop-roll. (Plus, the language is absolutely amazing--I love how Mantchev weaves a spell with her words, picking up threads of Shakespearean plays and other stories and intertwining them with her own story.)

As Bertie drags her fairy friends (Cobweb, Moth, Peaseblossom, Mustardseed, from A Midsummer Night's Dream) and Ariel (an airy spirit from The Tempest) after her friend and love, Nate (the pirate from The Little Mermaid), she begins to fall for Ariel, who loves her in his own way.

I wasn't sure about Ariel at first, mostly because I really didn't like him in ELS. He was a self-centered jerk who had the hots for Bertie. But he grew on me in PtD. He was sweet and kind and caring to Bertie, he put up with her antics and her obsession with getting Nate back from the Sea Goddess (well, it was her fault he was taken), and he tolerated the psychotic fairies.

It's a great love triangle, especially since one of the players (Nate) isn't even physically present in most of the book. Nate "haunts" her dreams (another little side-effect of Bertie's magic), while Ariel has her days. And Bertie loves them both. What's a girl to do with two hot guys?

Final Grade: B+
Due out June 2010.
This copy was an ARC I got from the author--thanks, Lisa!!

Originally posted to http://marybrebner.blogspot.com/ on Mar. 7, 2010

Review: CANDOR by Pam Bachorz

You know those stories that just stick with you? The ones that, while maybe not the absolute best book in the entire world that you want to read over and over, you can't seem to stop thinking about? (Have you had enough with the rhetorical questions?) CANDOR by Pam Bachorz is now one of those books for me.

I finished it in one sitting, curled up in my bed yesterday, and I haven't stopped thinking about it. It even invaded my dreams. Okay, I did read it right before bed but still. It was disturbing. In a creepily good way.

Here's the back copy: In a town where his father brainwashes everyone, Oscar Banks has found a way to secretly fight the subliminal Messages that turn even the most troubled kids into model citizens. On the outside, he's the perfect Candor teen, and no one knows that he's built an entire business around helping new kids escape before the Messages take hold.
But then Nia Silva moves to town, and Oscar thinks she's perfect exactly the way she is. Soon he must make a choice: let Nia be lost to the brainwashing, or help her stay special and risk himself in the process.

I heard about the book first on Twitter (thank you, @EgmontUSA and @EgmontGal!) and was intrigued. As a teacher, I've had visions of brainwashing my students so that they'll all actually study and get their homework done and turned in on time (hey, a girl can dream) but, you know, it's not really feasible or moral. And I'm sure there are many out there who would like to change something about their loved ones, to make them somehow better. Pam Bachorz took the What If of it all and ran with it.

The main character, Oscar Banks, is the son of the town's founder and has worked hard to be the perfect son while avoiding the most subversive of the Messages piped through his town at all times. At first, I didn't really like him too much. He reminded me of those entitled rich kids who think that they can get and do whatever they want because they throw around their parents' money. But then I got to know him and I really felt for the kid. I was rooting for him to succeed with his plan to stay himself (rather than cave completely to the Messages and become the Stepford-like kid his father wants) and keep the girl he's fallen in love with whole, too.

I like the way the author built in consequences for moving to this planned community and listening to the Messages. People can never leave. At least not permanently. If they leave and don't have their special "music" to listen to, they'll go nuts and kill themselves. The now-perfect children do go off to college but they can attend only a select few, must live in special dorms and keep playing their special music while away. And I really like the back story the author's created, the why of the Messages--why Oscar's dad started them in the first place. Okay, I have to stop or I'll give away the whole story and I don't want to do that to you! Just read it. So good.

CANDOR is a fast-moving, disturbing debut novel. It reminds me (in a good way) of THE GIVER by Lois Lowry in that it's a society of people who have tried to create a utopia for themselves but succeeded only in creating a town of clones, where everyone thinks and acts the same.
Author Website: http://www.pambachorz.com/

Originally posted to http://marybrebner.blogspot.com/ on Dec. 27, 2009

Review: CATCHING FIRE by Suzanne Collins

Holy cats! I just finished one of the best books I've read this year-CATCHING FIRE, a young adult book set in a post-apocalyptic future (or is it dystopian? A little of both, I think). Make that one in a series. If any of you have not read HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins, you truly have to. And don't read any more of this review until you do-I have no desire to SPOIL things for you.

In HUNGER GAMES, we meet Katniss Everdeen, a 16-year-old girl from District 12, a poor coal mining district. She hunts, hangs out with her best friend, and goes to school. Sounds normal, right? Not so much. Her district is one of 12 under military rule and, every year, each district must send two children to compete in a gladiator-style fight to the death, a reminder to the people that rebellion will not be tolerated.

There is only one winner. Everyone else is killed by competitors or dies in a horrible manner thought up by the Gamemakers. Katniss's little sister, Prim, is chosen but Katniss volunteers to take her place. Along with Peeta, District 12's male competitor, Katniss heads to the Capital to compete in the games.

CATCHING FIRE picks up where HUNGER GAMES left off--with Katniss and Peeta settling in to Victor Village back in District 12. Katniss has abandoned her premise of being madly in love with Peeta and tries to renew her friendship (or is it something more?) with Gale but he has to work in the mines six days a week. They only have Sunday together.

Unfortunately, President Snow hasn't forgotten Katniss and her act of love during the Hunger Games. He saw it as outright defiance and rebellion. And he is going to make her pay--with her life and the lives of those she loves.

Though what she did was just a way to survive, Katniss (and her little mockingjay pin) has become a symbol of rebellion and hope to the Districts who have felt the kiss of the Peacemakers' steel-toed boots for too long.

Oh, yeah. It was fantastic. I can't tell you any more or I'll spoil it. I mean, I really want to tell you more but, no, I wouldn't do that to you. Just read it. Trust me.
 
*sigh* It bites that the final book in the series won't be out for another year. I can't wait. Guess I'll have to find some more good books to occupy my time.

Originally posted to http://marybrebner.blogspot.com/ on Sept. 6, 2009

Review: WINTERGIRLS by Laurie Halse Anderson

Just finished Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson, a YA contemporary novel (checked out from the library). Wow. I mean, just wow. It was sad and depressing and amazing. I don't think I could--or would want to--write a book like it. But wow.

I picked it up because I'd heard about it on Twitter and through several articles about banned books. I can't remember off-hand if it is one of the books that those parents who wanted to ban the books with gay characters from their schools and from their libraries. I hope not. It's a hard journey about a girl with anorexia. Her friend, who shared an eating disorder (bulimia, in her case), dies at the start of the book. Alone in a hotel room. And this poor girl, Lia, is left behind to struggle with both her demons and her friend, Cassie's.

Laurie Halse Anderson brings the reader deep into Lia's psyche, her endless counting of calories, the lengths she goes to to avoid eating and still make sure that her parents and stepmother think she's eating. It's a rough, rough journey. I had a very hard time reading some parts. That may be because I just don't understand it. I love food and can't imagine starving myself or even hating myself or my body to avoid eating.

How do you fix someone who is so broken? Well, you can't. They have to want to fix themselves.

All-in-all, an amazing book. But not a light summer read. 
 
Originally posted to http://marybrebner.blogspot.com/ Aug. 11, 2009

Review: EYES LIKE STARS by Lisa Mantchev


From the back of the book:

All her world’s a stage.
Bertie Shakespeare Smith is not an actress, yet she lives in a theater. She’s not an orphan, but she has no parents. She knows every part, but she has no lines of her own. That is, until now.
Enter Stage Right
NATE. Dashing pirate. Will do anything to protect Bertie.
COBWEB, MOTH, MUSTARD SEED, and PEASEBLOSSOM. Four tiny and incredibly annoying fairies. BERTIE’S sidekicks.
ARIEL. Seductive air spirit and Bertie’s weakness. The symbol of impending doom.
BERTIE. Our heroine.
Welcome to the Théâtre Illuminata, where the actors of every play ever written can be found behind the curtain. They were born to play their parts, and are bound to the Théâtre by The Book—an ancient and magical tome of scripts. Bertie is not one of them, but they are her family—and she is about to lose them all and the only home she has ever known.

This was a great book and not just for the kiddies (it is labeled a Young Adult book). It was humorous, adventurous, and kept me reading it until I was done. Mantchev is exceptionally creative, using her theater background and experience to add rich details to the plot. The characters each had their roles to play and they were well cast.

I loved Ophelia, who was drawn to water (no matter what play) and kept drowning herself in it. The fairies were fabulous--food-obsessed, potty mouths who were Bertie's best friends in the theater.

When Ariel first came on the scene, I couldn't get the Little Mermaid out of my head and had to look at the cast of characters to find out who he was. Then I really couldn't figure him out at all. Was he the bad guy? Is that why the Wardrobe Mistress had warned Bertie away from him? Was he a good guy? After all, the butterflies seemed to like him. I liked not knowing what he was going to do or who he really was.

The only character I really didn't like so much was Nate, Bertie's crush. He seemed a little flat, despite being a pirate, and a little too nice. Maybe that will change in the next book.

The end only began the characters' journey (though there were enough loose ends tied up that I wasn't yelling at the book to tell me what happened--I've done that before. And thrown said book across the room.) and I'm looking forward to the next Theatre Illuminata story.