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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, a review by Stev17

Hello there, my avid fans! I’m back! And I’ve been reading! What exactly have I been reading, you ask? Oh, this and that, but what I’m here to review is Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan. I read the hardcover version from the library, and had I bought it, it would have been $16.95. Thank goodness for libraries.

Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist is about two teenagers, Nick and Norah. The chapters from Nick’s point of view are written by David Levithan, and the chapters from Norah’s point of view are written by Rachel Cohn. They planned nothing in advance and emailed the book back and forth chapter by chapter.
Anywho.  Nick, the poor schmuck, has recently been dumped by his girlfriend of six months, Tris. He is the bassist in a band with two other guys (their band is lacking a drummer) and he is a music fanatic. Norah has recently gotten rid of her controlling boyfriend, Tal. She spends her days looking after her best friend Caroline while they roam Manhattan clubs at night.  Norah is a music snob who dislikes the Beatles. Which makes me like her less.
I know, sounds cliché. But it gets better.
Nick’s band has finished playing at a little club, when Nick notices Tris with a new dude. Nick has no inclination to talk to her, so he turns to the nearest girl and says “I know this is going to sound strange, but would you mind being my girlfriend for the next five minutes?” The girl happens to be our lovely Norah. This is where the chapter ends. The next chapter begins in exactly the same place, only now it’s from Norah’s point of view. It starts out with, “I answer his question by putting my hand around the back of his neck and pulling his face down to mine.”
Now we all know what happens next. Nick and Norah fall helplessly in love and live happily ever after, yada yada yada. WRONG. Nick and Norah end up in several odd situations and encounters afterward, driving Nick’s car, Jessie, to this club, taking the train to that one, ending up in a Korean grocery store and a restaurant that serves good borscht. It’s an interesting night.
So, a little more about Nick and Norah… Let’s start with Nick. He’s somewhat shy, and extremely sarcastic. He stands up for his car, Jessie, when people call her names, and he writes poems and lyrics. He’s mostly motivated by desire to either get back together with Tris or get over Tris. He’s kind of centered around Tris. In the beginning, Nick’s nothing but a sad, heartbroken dude, but by the end of the book he’s had all these deep insights and he sees Tris for the, ahem, meanie she is. He certainly knows more about himself at the end of the book, and he’s learned more about other people in general.
Norah’s turn! I didn’t like her quite as much as I liked Nick, but she’s cool in her own way. She goes to a Catholic school, her dad’s a big record company CEO, and she wears flannel shirts. She’s Jewish, and she’s only ever had one boyfriend, Tal, who was, overall, not a swell guy. Norah is also sarcastic and she’s snarky and prickly at times, but it seems like she’s trying to hide inner turmoil and terror. Once upon a time she was motivated only to protect Caroline, and maybe to get Tal out of her head. All that clears up, and by the end of the book, she really just wants to get to know herself and Nick a bit better, which she starts to do nearing the end. She’s certainly more confident about herself (really confident, not the fake I’m-hiding-behind-swear-words-and-sarcasm confident).
I’m pretty sure the theme of Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist was something along the lines of Once you let go of the past and its issues you’ll be better off and happier. There’s some serious letting go of the past going on here. The authors seem to be saying that the past is the past and holding on to it is only going to make you bitter and unhappy.
Oooh, now comes my favorite part of the blog post: I get to tell you my opinion! YESSSSSSSS! Okay, here goes. I really, really, REALLY loved this book. It was sweet and VERY funny. I especially liked the chapters written from Nick’s point of view. I felt closer to him than I did to Norah, and I thought his voice was deeper and funnier at the same time. Norah’s chapters were good, just… Less so. I thought hers were a bit weaker than Nick’s. Nick’s chapters were more in depth and better written, almost like poetry.

I don’t predict that Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist will end up a classic or anything, but it was definitely worth reading. In fact, I read it twice. I think it would be really interesting to write an entire book the way Cohn and Levithan did, emailing chapters back and forth without any prior planning. It certainly explains some of the odd twist the book had.

But what do I think of the ending, you ask? I thought it was rather satisfactory. It left me wanting to know more about Nick and Norah, in the same way we want to know more about Harry and Ginny or Percy and Annabeth. I suppose I’m just a sucker for a good love story. I’m definitely going to seek out more books by David Levithan. Not so sure about more Rachel Cohn, though. I’ve already found another one by Levithan and Cohn, Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares which was almost as good and just as funny as Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist. In the vast forest of contemporary fiction, I think Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist is probably one of the taller trees. Darn good book.

Oh! And I got an extra special little surprise! In the back of the book, written on a blue sticky note, was this message: “If you love this book as much as I story.” This was followed by a large and mildly creepy smiley face, and the date 8/7/09. This is why I love library books. And people who read them.

I’d rate this book Four out of Five Chocolate Bars.

Now I know you’re just dying to hear about what I thought of the cover. I thought it was kind of cool, especially the fonts in which the title was written. I liked that Nick’s name was in an almost Gothic font, while Norah’s was in a more modern, practical font. I feel like their names as written kind of describe them. However, I thought the bottom half was kind of random. As if the publishers couldn’t think of anything more meaningful than a couple kissing. I mean, sure, it’s a love story, but it’s a good thing I don’t judge books by their covers. The cover didn’t suit the book’s originality. I’ve seen a cover that was a dark purple, and smack in the middle was “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist” in the same fonts as my cover, and with a heart made of an earbud cord around it with Manhattan at night sort of reflected in the background. This cover made MUCH more sense to me. It has all the awesomeness of the name fonts, while incorporating both the music and love that the book is about. AND it looks really good. The city at night in the background was a nice touch, and it tied the cover into the book even more. Me gusta.

One thing about this book: mucho swearing and sexual content. Just saying.

All right, you’ve heard my thoughts, now off with you! Seek out Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist ASAP and read it and love it. Thank you. And. Goodnight.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Catching Fire, a review by Sammy G.

Title- Catching Fire (The Second Book in The Hunger Games)
Author- Suzanne Collins
Format- ebook
Price- $5.99 on Amazon.com and 9.99 on BarnesAndNoble.com

Plot Summary-
Catching Fire starts out with the victory tour for Peeta and Katniss. Right before it President Snow shows up and basically says if you don’t convince EVERYBODY that you love Peeta I will kill Gale. So they go on this Victory Tour and Peeta proposes to Katniss, she accepts, but even that isn’t enough to convince President Snow. Life goes on and eventually it is announced that in the 75th Hunger Games tributes will be chosen from the existing pool of victors! And for district 12 that means the 2 tributes will be Katniss and Peeta or Katniss and Haymitch! When the drawing happens it is decided that Peeta will go in with Katniss again. During the training and interviews Cinna and Portia, their stylists, come up with more amazing outfits. Also during one of the interviews Peeta drops 2 huge bombshells and says that Katniss is pregnant and that they already got married in secret. Finally the real Hunger Games begin but I won’t tell you what happens because that may spoil the book for you.

Important Characters (edited for length):
Katniss (main character)- She is courageous, a victor of the 74th Hunger Games, a beautiful singer, in love with Peeta and Gale, named after an edible root, great with a bow and arrow, and she hates the Capitol.
Peeta (main character)- He is great with words, a victor of the 74th Hunger Games, an amazing painter, he has been in love with Katniss since he first saw her, he is strong, and he hates the Capitol.
Gale (main character)- He is a great hunter and trapper, in love with Katniss, and he hates the Capitol.
Haymitch (main character)- He is a drunk, the victor of the 50th Hunger Games, and the mentor for katniss and peeta in the 74th and 75th hunger Games. He also hates the Capitol.
Prim (Katniss’s sister)- She is sweet, innocent, and almost everyone absolutely loves her.

Theme- I think the theme of the Hunger Games is to stand up for what you believe in no matter what.

1. Interesting back story
2. Great plot and characters
3. Easy to visualize

1. Confusing at times
2. Said is used a lot
3. I wish they would have played it out

Evaluation- Over all it is one of the best books I have ever read and encourage anyone who hasn’t read it to read it.

Ending Thoughts- I personally did not like the ending, but without it the third book would be completely different.

Rating- 4.5 chocolate bars

Cover Thoughts- I think the cover is a good cover because it matches the other covers and the mockingjay is basically the symbol for the whole story.

Appropriateness- The only inappropriate thing is Haymitch’s drinking. (and kids killing each other.)  For ages 9 and up.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Secret Life of Bees, a review by Tanna

Title: The Secret Life of Bees
Author: Sue Monk Kidd
Format:  I read a paperback version of the book.
Price:  $14.00.

The story begins on a Peach farm owned by T.Ray Owens, where he and his daughter Lily (both white) live and work. He isn’t very nice and doesn’t show affection and is sort of abusive. T.Ray has had a bad attitude towards Lily ever since she accidentally killed her mother. When T.Ray tells Lily that her mother left, she runs away, and along the way, breaks Rosaleen out of jail from the hospital. Rosaleen looked after her along their journey of running away, and also, from when Lily was 4. Before running away, Lily had found a Black Mary picture with ‘Tiburon, SC’ written on it, so that’s where she went. She goes to the house of August Boatwright(who is a black woman of BUZZness (tends to bees and sells honey)), who openly accepts her into the home, which is also home to August’s sisters May and June. Lily and Rosaleen spend their summer there with the Boatwrights, befriending others along the way, and working for August to help keep the honey business afloat.

 Lily Owens is a 14-year-old white girl born on July 4th, 1950 living with her unloving father T.Ray in Sylvan. She is looked after by Rosaleen and can trust her with anything. She is also confused about all of the racism that is occurring around her.

Rosaleen Daise is a large black woman who isn’t afraid to openly speak her mind. She looked after Lily after her mother died and has created a strong friendship.

August Boatwright, also African American, opens up her home and welcomes Lily and Rosaleen into it after Lily lies her way into staying. August had cared for Lily’s mother when she was younger, and knew Lily was her daughter right from the start, but wanted to wait until Lily was ready to talk about it.

Theme:  One of the themes of the story is mothers. That theme is shown throughout the book a lot, for example, Lily loses her mother, and when she goes off to find out more about her mom, she learns a lot about herself, and also, meets other women who now acted as mother figures to her. Another example of the theme is the Virgin Mary(a.k.a. Black Madonna) guided all of them through the twists and turns on the rollercoaster of life. 

Strengths- The entire book was just one big strength because it was so well written and had so many lessons and such in it. Another strength was how strong the women were in this book, even though they had less rights in that time.

Weakness(es)- The start of the book wasn’t very attention grabbing and a bit boring.

Ending Thoughts- The ending of the story was excellent and very enjoyable. Some of the things that happened in the end I had hoped for, but there were also some additional things that made the ending not as good. 

Rating: 4.5 chocolate bars out of 5.
Cover Thoughts: The cover of the book suits it very well because it has the honey jar with the picture that led the main character to where she was destined to go. I also liked how there was just a solitary bee on the cover as well because it looked like it belonged there, and without it, the cover would be more bare. 
Language: Some swearing that wasn’t too dominant in the book, but there was also some offensive language in the book, too. There was a lot of racism in the story because of the time period it taking place in, which was just when the Civil Rights Act has been passed.
Violence: There was some violence where there was beating and cruel treatment, but it wasn’t too dominant and only in a few parts.
Sexual Content: There was barely any, if not, no sexual content in the story at all.
Mature Themes: Throughout, Lily was finding herself and growing up, but there weren’t really inappropriate mature themes.
I would recommend this book to ages 13 and up. 

Monday, May 28, 2012

Zach's Lie, a review by Brandon

Title: Zach's Lie
Author: Roland Smith
Format: paperback
Length: 211 pages
Price: $3.99

I finished reading the book Zach's Lie by Roland Smith in about four days.  The book has a third person narrator, and every chapter begins with one of Zach's journal entries.

The book starts out with Zach's (who is actually known as Jack in this part of the book) retelling of the night when three men came into his house and warned him, his sister, and his mother not to go to the police.  The police arrive on their own and ask what happened.  When they discover that Zach's father is in DEA custody, they decide to stop keeping quiet.  As a precaution, the DEA has to relocate the Osbourne family in the witness protection program.

They are moved to Elko, Nevada, and have no contact with their previous friends and family.  They are now known as the Grangers, and Jack's name becomes Zach.  But they haven't seen the end of those three men that came to their house in the night.

Zach starts out extremely upset and skeptical about moving to Elko, Nevada, but ends up liking it.  He grows up about the whole situation towards the end of the book.  He grows to like Nevada because the new friends he makes and well, I guess the food.  If given the chance to move back home, I think he would stay in Elko.

This book teaches that moving is not always a bad thing because you still make more friends.

I liked that the book wasn't too long, but it was pretty quick, and I felt like there should be more so I guess it's a good thing they made a sequel called Jack's Run.  It was very suspenseful and even was able to spark emotion in the reader, and I liked it a lot.  I suppose that's all thanks to Roland Smith's excellent writing.

Zach's Lie ended with a major cliff-hanger, implying that there would be a sequel written.  I definitely want to read this sequel.

Rating:  I would give Zach's Lie 4 out of 5 chocolate bars
Cover thoughts:  the cover has a picture of Zach on the front with unnaturally blue eyes.  He actually has brown eyes but was to wear blue contacts.  I thought it was interesting that it related to the book in only that small of a way.
Appropriateness:  There was no sexual content or bad language in the entire book, and only one or a couple brief scenes of violence.

All in all, it was a pretty good book and very underrated.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Twenty Boy Summer, a review by Brooke

Title: Twenty Boy Summer 
Author: Sarah Ockler
Format: Paperback copy
Price: $8.99

Plot Summary:  An interesting story about two girls undergoing a mission. What mission you may ask? While planning the “ABSOLUTE BEST SUMMER EVER; The A.B.S.E” the Anna and Frankie come up with a plan.  Months after Matt’s death, Frankie’s brother dies in a tragic accident and Anna and Frankie survive. Anna has been putting off telling her best friend about the boyfriend she had. Matt was supposed to tell Frankie about the sudden love.

Frankie and Anna are going on a vacation to Zanzibar Bay for twenty days. Anna and her friend decide to meet one guy every day for their vacation. Frankie’s idea.  Thinking nothing of it, Anna agrees. Can Anna love another guy after losing one love of her life before?

Main Characters:
Anna: The best friend of Frankie. She mourns over the loss of Matt. She neglects telling her best friend what happened that night when Anna and Matt fall in love.
Frankie: Frankie is Matt’s sister. After Matt dies, Frankie becomes a whole different person. She starts to shut other people out of her life and she changes her appearance.
Matt: Matt is introduced in the beginning of the book. Anna keeps thinking if she were to have another boyfriend she would be cheating on a “dead guy” Matt’s memory lives on throughout the book by all the characters.

Strengths and Weaknesses: The beginning and the ends of the book were very well written. The middle of the book could get kind of boring but then the action would pick up and there would be twists to the story and you couldn’t put the book down.

Ending thoughts: All throughout the book I was on the edge of my seat wondering what was going to happen next! Everyone seemed to be okay and they accepted who they were.

My thoughts on the book: Looking at the book, I thought it would be a sappy-love story. It’s much more than that. Anna and Frankie put themselves together piece by piece and figure out who they are.  The imagery and use of description are impeccable! There is some humor involved in the sad parts to lighten up the mood. Overall it was a very enjoyable, well-written book!

Theme: The theme to Twenty Boy Summer is never give up hope. Anna thinks she’ll never find someone else after the loss of Matt. Another possible theme to this book would be that loosing a loved one can be hard but life can still go on.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 chocolate bars
Appropriateness: Some minor swearing. Some sexual content is mentioned.
Cover Thoughts:  I personally think that looking at this book may seem like this is for a younger audience. Twenty Boy Summer is a book that I believe can be read by any age group that is mature enough to handle the language and content of this book. The cover picture is eye-catching yet subtle.


Thursday, May 24, 2012

Will Grayson, Will Grayson, a review by Sydney

Title: Will Grayson, Will Grayson
Format that I read: eBook
Price: $8.99

Plot: Two young men, completely and utterly opposites are both growing up and going to high school in/around Chicago, and then, one evening, the cross paths and their lives change.
One of the Will Graysons has yet to “discover” his sexuality, the other finds his love to be right in front of him. However, this is not a cliché love story. The story goes back and forth from the perspectives of each character every other chapter. In the beginning of the story, it is not exactly clear that the perspectives are changing from character to character.

Character Analysis:
Will Grayson: Goes to school in Chicago and has yet to truly discover his sexuality. He first thinks that he is in love with his online friend, but then he discovers that it was all a fluke. However, throughout the novel he becomes more sensitive and more at peace with himself and others, as opposed to being more hotheaded and aggressive. He seems to not be too motivated towards the beginning of the book, but in the end his motivation is love. (Sounds cliché, right?)
Will Grayson: Lives in the nice suburbs of Chicago. He doesn’t really understand how significant his best friend, Tiny, is until he has competition. Will slowly falls in love to someone that has always been there, yet he has been too oblivious to notice. In the beginning of the book, he doesn’t seem to care about much, kind of a whatever kind of guy. Throughout the book, he becomes more motivated when he falls for a girl, Tiny’s musical, and his friendship with Tiny.
Tiny: Tiny is one Will’s best friend, and the other Will’s love. The “Chicago” Will Grayson and Tiny meet up in Chicago when Tiny is headed out after a concert and Will his meeting his so-called “internet love”, Isaac. Will becomes upset when things don’t go as planned with Isaac. Then Tiny and Will coincidentally meet, and everything changes. Tiny is motivated by writing his musical and Will Grayson and all of his other “boy crushes”. Tiny begins to find himself through the plot of his musical.
Theme: This book is important because it contains a myriad of beneficial themes like self-acceptance, being true to you, and not giving up. It is important to understand these themes because they are significant life lessons that you can extrapolate.

Strengths, Weaknesses…: The book was very entertaining; I couldn’t really put it down when I started it. It is full of surprises- for the better, and the worse. The writing was written in such a way that was very powerful to me, and I was able to kind of comprehend how each character was feeling, and I really enjoyed that aspect. When compared to other books I’ve read, I would have to put this in my top ten, at least. I could honestly say that there really are no weaknesses for this novel, perhaps maybe less cursing next time, but hey, it happens. I can’t really choose a favorite part of the book, but if I really had to, I would choose the scene during the musical because a lot of very important things happen during this time.

Book Ending: The ending of this book was pretty satisfying. My only concerns were that I just did not want the book to end… it could have gone on and on without it getting irritating. The ending was good because all of the puzzle pieces kind of started to “fit together”.

Rating: 5/5 chocolate bars

Book Cover: The cover isn’t really too catchy, I probably would not have picked it if it weren’t for Mrs. Hoole’s appealing book talk on it.

Appropriateness: The book contains explicit themes and language. I would recommend this book to a mature audience, however I think that it has to do with your comfort level and also parental consent.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Serpent's Shadow, a review by cutiegreek333

The Serpent's Shadow (Book 3 in the Kane Chronicles)

Author: Rick Riordan

Format: Hardcover

Price: $19.99 @ B&N

Dear Blog Reader,
This book is about Carter and Sadie Kane saving the world from an impending apocalypse. The chaos snake, Apophis, is planning on swallowing the sun, and Carter and Sadie must capture it's shadow and drive it from the our world. Plus both of them have their own challenges to face. Carter must accept that he was chosen for power, his crush (Zia) might be lost forever by hosting Ra (the sun god/king of the gods), and he is in charge of a psychopathic ghost magician who is basically the only one who holds the key to defeating Apophis -- the catch -- this magician will do anything to gain power including dealing with an evil apocalypse snake and killing Carter and Sadie. Sadie has to deal with her mortal crush, Walt dying from an ancient curse that has no cure, and her immortal crush, Anubis, the god of death, being declared off-limits. Sadie also must save her godly friend Bes (the god of dwarfs and ugly) by saving his shadow, she needs Walt's help but the spell might be too much for him. With the help of the hunting goddess and Sadie's quick thinking (who knew Jelly Babies were evil?) Sadie and Walt must track down Bes' shadow. But will that be Walt's last stand?Add this plus a giant blue god named Hapi, an old god retirement home, and a murderous ship captain whose head is a double sided axe and you get another great work of Riordan fiction.

I believe the theme is stick together and you will endure.

I believe the strengths of this book are the multi-pov between Sadie and Carter. Another strength is Riordan's descriptions of Anubis from Sadie's perspective, and from Carter's perspective. The only thing I see wrong with the book is how much it is alike to the Percy Jackson series, but no worries, they are different enough to be separate books.

Ending thoughts:
I thought the ending was kind of abrupt. But other than that it was beautiful.

I would rate this book a 4.5 out of 5 chocolate bars.
This book is appropriate for any age but it is about 6th grade reading level or higher.
Cover thoughts: The cover accurately describes one of the climactic scenes in the book but doesn't give away too much about that scene or the book in general.

Yours Truly,

Friday, May 18, 2012

Percy Jackson The Lightning Thief, a review by Kyle

Title:  Percy Jackson: The Lightning Thief
Author:  Rick Riordan
Format:  Paperback
Price: I borrowed it from the library

Summary:The storyline of this book is centered on a 12 year-old boy named Percy Jackson. Just after the end of 6th grade Percy Jackson finds out that there is something different about him than other kids this age. He is then taken to a camp by his best friend Grover that is safe for other kids like him to train and practice fighting monsters after a nightmarish journey with his mother driving him and Grover and a Minotaur snatching his mother away from them just as they reach camp. At camp, Percy learns more about himself and his godly parent, The God of the Sea -- Poseidon -- and one of the Big 3 brothers which include Poseidon, Zeus, and Hades. When Zeus discovers his master bolt is missing (his weapon that allows him to create and shoot lightning at will), Zeus then blames Poseidon for this theft and declares war on him unless the bolt is returned by the Summer Solstice. Percy is sent on a quest to retrieve the masterbolt which is believed to be in Hades' possession in the underworld and return it to Olympus, helped by Grover and a smart daughter of Athena named Annabeth who will also become his other close friend. Does he succeed? Read and find out!

Characters:  Perseus Jackson: The protagonist of the story. Percy seems to be a good-natured, friendly, brave, and willing to risk his life to save friends. Percy is on a quest to retrieve a very powerful godly weapon and save his mother from the underworld. Throughout the story his motivations never seem to waver from saving his mother from the clutches of Hades.

Annabeth: A blonde-haired, smart daughter of Athena who becomes close friends with Percy Jackson. In the beginning of the story Annabeth just wanted to go on the quest with Percy just to get out of camp and find out if she was “any good” in the real world. However in the duration of the book she comes to genuinely like Percy a lot and they become very good friends.

Grover: Of the trio that goes on the quest to retrieve the masterbolt Grover is the only non-human. He is a Satyr who is best friends with Percy and Annabeth. He also plays the reed pipes (rather badly). In the beginning of the book Grover does not seem to be too intense on going on the quest to be a big hero, he just goes along because he feels that it is his duty as Percy’s assigned Protector and one of his best friends. Then, on the quest Percy relies on him quite a bit for all their safety and Grover steps up to the plate ready. His motivations never change from wanting to help Percy and protect him. 

The main important ideas in this book drive home the idea/feeling that no matter how bad or depressing a situation may be if you want it badly enough and you trust your friends then it will turn out all right in the end. Percy learns that in the story and matures a lot by the end of the book.

He also becomes more aware of how quickly life can go so that is a sobering thought but Rick Riordan also makes the book humorous and a extremely enjoyable read. At the end of the book Percy trusts his mother enough to make the decision herself that will affect her and Percy’s life.

Percy becomes a much more flexible person personality-wise also. Even though it goes against his very nature to obey oppressive orders, Percy consents to listens to his elders. 

Some of my favorite parts of the book are the humorous parts. Rick Riordan wrote an awesome adventure/quest book that had awesome, amazing characters that made it seem like you were there with them due to the fact that it is written from Percy’s POV. He goes into depth with their emotions and dialogue. The storyline is also perfect. It has a lot going on in it and Rick Riordan spaces it pretty nicely so that the book is not a read like a Harry Potter book but yet it is thrilling.

The ending was good for me because at the time that Rick Riordan just wrote it, I don’t think he fully knew that he would be writing a full 5 book series so it was okay if he fast-forwarded a little bit.  I am looking forward to reading the other 4 books in this series by him; I hear from friends that it is an excellent series. For a book about Greek mythology it is amazing that he found a way to make a series about Greek myths. It’s like a story about old myths told by Greeks within a modern storyline.  

Rating: I would definitely give it 5 out of 5 chocolate bars in rating.
Cover Thoughts:  Between the 2 book’s covers I definitely prefer the original over the cover that has a picture of the movie on it because it shows what the author envisioned Percy Jackson looking like not some actor being paid a bunch of money to act in a movie that destroyed the book’s good rep.
Appropriateness:  The book’s appropriateness is good for kids that are just starting to read chapter books and for older kids as well because it has the right kind of humor for all ages: It’s not perverted humor but it's not stupid 1st grade potty jokes either. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Mirror, Mirror: a review by Shannon

Book Title: Mirror Mirror
Format: Paperback
Price: $14.95 (U.S.)

Plot Summary:
Bianca de Nevada is just a seven-year-old girl living with her father, Don Vicente, at their beloved farm Montefiore. She has no relevance whatsoever to the life of a Pope's envious daughter, and therefore, Bianca is innocent to any crime charged against her...right? Wrong. When the young and beautiful daughter-of-the-Pope Lucrezia Borgia subtly forces Don Vicente to go on a presumably hopeless quest to find the Apples of the fabled Tree of Knowledge, Bianca is left stranded on her father's farm under the charge of Lucrezia herself. As the years pass, the hope of Don Vicente's return becomes less and less dominant, and by age eleven, Bianca still resides with Lucrezia Borgia. Bianca's growing charm and beauty begins to entrance those around her, leaving Lucrezia dismissed and very, very...jealous. Getting rid of the child seems the only way to go, but Lucrezia never counts on the involvement of seven (eight?) "dwarves," a stolen mirror, a repenting hunter, and Bianca's own persistence, and it's these very things that ultimately decide the fate of the trickster...and the tricked.

Character Analysis:
Bianca de Nevada----

Description: Bianca's age increases throughout the book, but she starts out at age seven and ends in her early twenties. Bianca is a polite, curious, caring, beautiful girl (inside and out) who dearly loves her home, Montefiore, as well as her loving father. She helps around the home, but Bianca doesn't really have any good, good friends because she keeps to herself and the servant-girls mostly ignore her.

Motivations: By age eleven, Bianca's hope is that her father will return home, but when she wakes up at the dwarves' house, her motivation is to understand the dwarves (magic?) and to be able to find her way home. The hope of her father's return still rests in Bianca's mind as well.
Growth: Bianca starts out as a curious seven-year-old with a small eye for trouble, and her curiousness doesn't exactly evaporate even as she ages. She does become more independent, especially because of the disappearance of her father, the only parent she has even known. Bianca's knowledge of the world increases as well. For example, she takes extreme caution when Lucrezia shows up at the dwarves' in disguise. By the end of the book, Bianca has become a smart, sensible young lady, yet I had the feeling that she retained at least some of her younger self's curiousness.

One of the strengths of Mirror Mirror was that it was very creative, in terms of taking a well-known fairy tale (Snow White and the Seven Dwarves) and twisting it up so it had a fresh, innovative voice. I anticipated this to be a very predictable book, but on the contrary, I was surprised at many points throughout the book because of the creative turns the story took. Another strength with the book was that while some characters were based on characters from the original Disney story, each character had its own unique personality that was very interestingly expressed through dialogue, motivations, and basic interactment with each other. I also liked how there were additional characters not involved in the Disney story. This helped to give Mirror Mirror its ingenuity.

One of the weaknesses in the story was that it was a little confusing at some parts because of the fact that Maguire switched perspectives so frequently. Although that was a cool touch, it was also a little overwhelming sometimes when I was trying to grasp what had just happened. Then again, perhaps if I were older, the frequent switching wouldn't even make a dent in the understanding I had of the book (this wasn't a huge problem--just a minor issue). Sometimes it was confusing when the scene involved the "dwarves" because of the giant metaphor (was it just a metaphor?) that the "dwarves" were rocks. As the story progressed, though, it was easier to tell what was going on with the dwarves.

My favorite part of the book was probably when Bianca lived with the dwarves, especially when Lucrezia Borgia came to visit because it was climatic and--in the former mentioned--sometimes funny. The creative names for the dwarves also told a lot about their personalities, which was cool.


I thought that there were two important lessons in the book that kind of coincide. The first is this: What a person looks like on the outside doesn't always reflect who they truly are on the inside. The second: If you let greed and obsession overtake you, you will lose who you are as a person, because it's more important to appreciate who you are than wish to be something you're not.

Ending of the Book:
I thought the ending was very satisfying once I read it over and realized what had happened. The ending was satisfying because it wrapped up the book very nicely but also gave the reader room to speculate what would happen to Bianca and the rest of Montefiore in the future.

The genre was definitely fantasy, but it was set in a real time period (the early 1500s), which gave it--despite its unrealistic pieces--a rather familiar feel. I like how the author used Lucrezia Borgia, a real (now deceased) person too, because it contributed to the book's uniqueness.

Although I haven't read any other books by Maguire, I'd like to, especially Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West because it sounds interesting (in the point of view of the "bad guy" in the Wizard of Oz). Other books by Maguire include Lost and Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 chocolate bars
Cover Thoughts: The cover I had was a picture of Montefiore in all its lush, green expanse, as well as seven of the dwarves traipsing up the path to the farm. In the middle of the cover, there is an oval hole that reveals the face of seventeen-year-old Bianca de Nevada, who is holding an apple. If you open the cover to the first page, you can see the picture of Bianca from the front, as well as what was concealed by the rest of the cover: Lucrezia and a man (either the hunter or Vicente, probably). This cover is really cool to me because it totally symbolizes the book in two ways: one, the cover looks like a mirror, and two, it shows that what's on the outside isn't always what's on the inside.
Appropriateness: In this book, there is sexual reference. As for the rating, I guess it depends on what you're used to in a book. I'd rate it Vampire, personally, but some might say Death.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Cracked, by K.M. Walton: a review by Gracey

Title: Cracked
Author: K.M. Walton
Format: hardcover
Price: $16.99

Now, this book was not a very happy book and had a pretty good ending, so I'm going to try not to spoil it for anyone.

This book consists of two main characters, one of whom is named Victor, who has been bullied by the other main character, Bull, since kindergarten.  Throughout the story, the perspectives of the chapters change between Victor and Bull.  Victor keeps talking about how much he hates Bull and just wants him to die.  Also, about his parents and how  he hates them.  While Bull, on the other hand, has some issues of his own.  His mom and dad are both alcoholics and keep stealing all of his money.  So, Bull takes out all of his anger on Victor.  But, when Victor tries to kill himself by taking some sleeping pills and ends up in the hospital, who does he find there with him?

Bull.  So they have to learn to work out their problems together.

Both of the characters grow throughout the book by somewhat learning from their own mistakes and taking responsibility.

The theme for this book, to  me, probably would be one: to not bully, and two: to not run away from your problems because sooner or later they're going to sneak up on you and kick you in the butt.

Some of the strengths of this book to me personally were probably how the perspectives kept changing and also how the problem was resolved.  One weakness I found was that it was a depressing book, but I guess I'm the one who chose to read it so I guess that's my fault.

It's hard to talk about the ending without being a spoiler but I feel this book had a decent ending just because everything seemed to somewhat work out in the end.

Rating:  4 out of 5 chocolate bars (because I ate the fifth one :)
Appropriateness:  PG-13 if it was a movie because of the language and suicide.  Also the theme would be complex for young readers.
Cover Thoughts:  Well, the cover kinda gave me the idea that it would be a sad book because there are pills on it, so I just hypothesized it being about death or something around those lines.

If you want to read this book it is possibly at your local library or at a nearby bookstore.