Saturday, February 24, 2007

The Book Thief by Zusak

I enjoyed this book, source of much controversy. But, I cannot think of many teens who would. Perhaps someone with great interest in history and the Holocaust. Liesel, started stealing books when she was just nine. She saw her brother die while on a train, going to a foster home. Stealing a book gave her comfort. She found such comfort many times over the years 1939-1943 or so. At the time she could not even read. Papa Hans, a kind compassionate man who loved the accordion would help her through that. Late at night after one more nightmare woke her, they would go to the basement and read and write on the basement walls and listen to and play the accordion. She became a great lover of words. She read to Mrs. Hermann who had a whole library from which to steal. She read in basements to frightened people with bombs falling outside while waiting all clear. And, she wrote her story. Its a story of small joys and great losses. Its the story of a gentile who helped hide a Jew, who stole food, who loved Rudy the blond haired friend who could run like Jesse Owens, Black Star of the Nazi Olympics and her foster parents Papa Hans and Mama Roza. It is narrated by death who should not have been following the life of the girl, he was kept busy enough collecting souls during the great war.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Fairest by Gail Carson Levine

This story is a fantasy set place in a Kingdom called Ayortha. In this kingdom two things seem to be valued - singing and beauty. The main character - Aza - is abandoned as a child and raised by innkeepers. While she has a beautiful singing voice, she lacks the kingdom's standard of beauty. She is extremely tall with black hair, pale skin and red lips, many even liken her to ogres. As Aza cleans the rooms in the inn, she finds that she has an amazing ability to "illuse" or to throw her voice and mimic the voice of others. It seems, though, that only she is capable of doing this. Despite her lacking beauty, a duchess invited Aza to be her companion to the royal wedding (her intended companion became ill and Aza was the right fit for her clothes). One day while in the royal garden practicing her illusing, the new Queen Ivi realizes her talent and suddenly asks her to be her lady in waiting. Aza is delighted by this offer, especially because it would entail a wage that could be sent to help her parents, and it would allow her to spend time with Prince Ijori, whom Aza found herself attracted to. Sadly, on that same day, the King suffered a dramatic injury that left him incapacitated. With this sudden claim to power, Ivi makes drastic changes to the kingdom, some that even make the people consider rebellion. At the same time, the Queen has trapped Aza into illusing for her, since the Queen cannot sing, and Aza is unable to do anything about it becausethe Queen threatend to throw her in prison and destroy her family. Meanwhile, Aza notices a magic mirror on the Queen's table that suddenly makes Aza appear beautiful. Intrigued by the mirror, Aza finds out that it is controlled by a being called Skulni who is capable of controlling people. The story continues where the Aza and Ijori fall in love and then the people in the castle find out about Aza's illusing and believe that she is controlling the queen and making her do these horrible things for the kingdom. Aza drinks a magic potion which makes her beautiful - furthering the people's suspicions that she can't be trusted. She is sent to the dungeon, but escapes with a guard who was sent by the Queen to kill her . The only reason Aza survives is because she saves the guard from the Ogres. Aza is brought to live with the gnomes who keep her safe, even though the guard tells everyone she was killed. The rest follows the typical Snow White story - poison apple and all, except when she eats the apple, she becomes trapped in the mirror with Skulni and finds out he has some disastrous plans for the future. Needless to say, but Aza won't let that happen. I'm sure you can all guess, then, how the story ends...

While that description is extremely long and detailed, a lot of the story has been left out. The main problem I had with this story was that the back of the book sets up: "A new novel set in the world of Ella Enchanted" I read Ella Enchanted and considered it my favorite book for some time. I went into this book expecting it to be very similar and found it to be completely different. This book was a lot more serious, which was a letdown when I went in expecting some comedy. While it isn't fair to judge a book based on its predecessors, to remind the reader of the previous books leads them to expect a few more similarities than two or three names. Another complaint I have about the book was the emphasis on singing. Multiple songs had been written in the novel because of its importance in the kingdom, but I didn't particularly feel as if they added anything to the novel. True, it created a conflict for Aza as she was forced to illuse for the Queen and it created a stronger created culture, but overall, it was a distraction. I found I could even skip over the songs and not lose anything regarding the plot. I personally felt that half the songs could have been taken out. My final complaint regarding the novel was its importance on beauty. This world already has enough trouble with girls thinking they're not pretty enough, that I don't feel it should be emphasized in fiction. The pay off wasn't even that great. The epiphany that Aza should love herself as she is isn't even that big. Sure Ijori loves her because of her ugliness, but it seems as if she just feels that if he can love her, then maybe she can learn to love herself too. It didn't seem like she really realized that she was beautiful; she just accepted and dealt with what she was given.

Don't get me wrong, this book was a nice read. It has a lot of interesting scenes and I liked the adaptation of Snow White that it presented. Maybe I'm just a bit of a nit-pick and prejudicial because of my favoritism for Ella Enchanted. I just felt that this book didn't lead up to what it led me to expect.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Anahita's Wooven Riddle By: Meghan Nuttall Sayres

The novel to me is exciting on each page. It deals a lot with Persian culture, and customs that is foreign to me, but fascinating.

It all takes place in the 19th Centuryin what we know now as the country of Iran. A bit of History to know is that the Persian Empire, was neighbored in the North by Russia, and the Southern part of the Persian Empire was dominated by the British.

Anahita is a beautiful girl who is a nomadic weaver in this novel. In fact she is what the whole book is about. Her Father one day comes up with the idea that it is time for her to marry. This is a long event throughout the book. We might say it is a task.

In Persian days, the tapestry Anahita works on is called a "qali" which is a colorfull tapsestry. Anahita decides to weave a "qali" with a riddle, or a meaning to determine her suitor, and husband. It's a contest of winning the bride Anahita. Suitors came from far away places. Even a Prince, a Khan(Tribal Chief), a School Teacher,Reza who taught Anahita how to read, diplomat, and a sheperd.

This novel depicts age old tribal customs, and the beginnings of reforms that would change women's way of life. Weavers wove different colors of threads, that told us Persian Culture. Poetry in Persian was called "sufi". Anahita loved poetry.

I do not want to give away Anahita's suitor that wins her hand in marriage, so you need to read this great novel. Every page of the book was exciting, & new to me.
LRD 2/12/07

ALphabet of Dreams By: Susan Fletcher

This is a fictional story based on an exiled daughter Mitra, who is disguised as a boy with her younger brother Babak. They are both from Royal blood from Persia. In order to survive the brother & sister, they both become beggars.

This is an interesting novel about a brother, and sister trying desperately to rejoin what is left of their family in a city called Palmyra. Unfortunately, in a way, Babak the brother , has a very unusual gift. If he sleeps with an item belonging to someone, he can interpret the person's dreams. This dream teller is found out by an evil Magus, who reads the stars, and finds out a new king, is coming.

Soon Mitra, and Babak find themselves on the road to Bethlehem, which is nowhere near the city called Palmyra. They cross the dessert, which is stifling hot, and do not eat much. The author of the book, and sister actually took an adventure trip where the story of the book occurs.

I enjoyed the book with all the adventures, and experiences. The book is worthwhile to read.

LRD 2/12/07

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Love Undercover by Jo Edwards

This books is very girly. It has the secret crushes and the gossip and revenge that just screams girly girl (I can't think of a better way to phrase it). In this novel Kaitlyn Nichols's father, a secret agent, brings home a boy for witness protection. The boy, Blaine, is Kaitlyn's age and, as part of his cover, is enrolled in her high school under the disguise of her third cousin. Naturally Blaine is attractive and Kaitlyn finds herself in love with him. The only problem is that he's posing as her cousin and then there's the whole "his life is in danger and he's only here of the time being" problem. Then, while Kaityln is harboring these feelings for Blaine, she has to deal with him forming a friendship/relationship with her archnemisis who pretends to be her friend to get close to Blaine. And there's also the fact that previous crush starts to show interest in her that makes her life a little bit more hectic.
This story is cute; it's an easy read. I like that there a pop culture references, but they become a little excessive, almost showing the true juvenille side of the novel. I also felt that posing Blaine as her cousin was asking for trouble from the get go. It was obvious that she'd form an attraction to him, so why make him a relative? A close family friend would have worked just as easily, give or take some story creation. At the same time, the ending, while happily ever after like almost all chick lit, made it just a little too cheesy. Overall, though, the novel was a nice read if you're looking for a true girly book.

The Real Question by Adrian Fogelin

Fisher Brown is a straight-A student, studies alot, and hasn't missed a day of school ever. Fisher is also studying for the SAT's and his father is pressuring him to do really well so he can go to Yale. One weekend when Fisher's father goes to take care of his mom, Fisher agrees to go along with Lonny, a neighbor, to help fix a friends roof. When Lonny and Fisher get to the house Lonny tells Fisher that it is his ex-wife's house. As Sunday night comes the roof isn't completely finished and Sissy asks Fisher to stay one more day. He agrees and then the next day as Fisher is working on the roof, Lonny goes to a neighbors for some beer, and when Sissy comes home she fears that Lonny has run away again, and promises to take Fisher to the bus station. Fisher stays for another day and really wants to get back home and back to school. On Wednesday, Lonny and Fisher set off to get Fisher to the bus station. Finding that Lonny stole his money Fisher goes to the local library and one of the librarians lets him use her cell phone and he calls Dez, one of his best friends. She comes and gets him and when he gets home his father is angry at him for lying, but at the same time is happy Fisher wasn't hurt. So the real question is who can you trust? The answer to it is your friends and family who will stand by you in whatever you do, no matter how uncharacteristic of you it is.

T.B. 2/7/07

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Incantation by Alice Hoffman

At the beginning of the Spanish Inquisition, many Jews converted to Christianity rather than flee their homes or be killed. Often they only presented the appearance of Christians, continuing to practice the Jewish Faith in the privacy of their own homes. Now these pretend Christians known as Marrano's or Pigs are being arrested, burned and once again fleeing. Estrella, a young teen had no idea she was of such a family or that her grandfather's secret room in the basement held many illicit materials. Her friend Catalina and she have been drifting apart as they grow, love of the same boy is only part of the reason. Catalina, angry with Estrella again, betray's her family to authorities. She has seen the list of clues to watch for to catch the Marrano's. Estrella's family fits. Estrella discovers that she and her faimily are not what she long thought herself, brother (a seminary student), grandparents and mother to be and suffers terribly from the betrayal. A haunting, painful look at a dark moment in history. Very short and easy to read at just 165 pages.