Monday, February 23, 2009

Rapunzel's Revenge by Shannon and Dale Hale

Most of us know the story of Rapunzel - the princess locked in a tower with super long hair and the prince that comes to rescue her by climbing up her hair. This graphic novel turns that story into a western with a far more independent Rapunzel. Interesting concept, yes, successful story, I'm not sold.

Rapunzel lives in a villa with Mother Grothel who has this amazing ability to make things grow. On her twelfth birthday, Rapunzel gets curious about what's on the other side of the wall and discovers a barren wasteland and mistreated slaves, including Rapunzel's mother (she never knew she was adopted!) Mother Grothel, angered at Rapunzel's disobedience, locks the girl in a giant tree for four years. During this time Rapunzel's hair grows exceptionally long. Come her sixteenth birthday, Mother Grothel visits and offers Rapunzel's freedom if she promises to be obedient, but Rapunzel refuses and she's left to die in the tree. This princess, though, isn't going to wait around to be rescued, so with her hair in the form of a lasso, she hooks a tree and swings to her freedom. She then meets up with a thief named Jack and his goose named Goldy. Together they steal and rescue their way through town on their way back to Mother Grothel's villa to teach her a lesson and to rescue Rapunzel's mother.

While it's nice to see a more independent "princess," I personally had a strong urge to chop off her braids. She used them as lassos, whips, fire twirlers, and rope for climbing. It seemed a little excessive to me, but, then again, what do you expect from a fairy tale / comic book? I don't know how I feel about the western setting. It's interesting, but I think I prefer more of a classic fairy tale setting. This graphic novel does have a sequel coming which I think will focus on Jack (as in Jack and the Beanstalk). Does this need a sequel, I don't know. I wasn't overly impressed with this book so I can live without a sequel. I just thought the whole thing with the braids was a little excess but maybe I just lack a good imagination. The authors did handle the transition from castles and knights to cowboys and thieves quite nicely. It was a flawless transition and it was encouraging to see a more self-reliant princess who doesn't need a prince to survive. Even when she's with Jack, she's the one in charge.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Lit Report by Sarah N. Harney

Books have the great ability to make an impression the reader. Sometimes they inspire or speak the things you've been unwilling to admit to yourself. Other times, books makes things seem possible or give people ideas of things they can and cannot do. They might make things seem easier than they really are, and that's one thing about this book that has me a little troubled. I personally felt that this book gives the wrong impression about teen pregnancy, even though it does qualify this impression with such a statement as, "I still don't think teenagers should be mothers. I really don't" (193). That doesn't change the fact that this book makes it look easy.

When the narrator, Julia, finds her best friend, Ruth, pregnant after one time of sex during a drunken party in which any number of guys could be the father, she jumps to action. This teen pregnancy has a few problems, such as an ultra religious set of parents that would send their daughter off to some pregnancy camp rather than help her deal with the situation. Knowing that Ruth's parents can't know about the pregnancy, Julia decides to help Ruth hide the pregnancy and then play midwife to help her deliver the baby and then they can drop it off at a church and pretend it never happened. With luck on her side, Julia learns her step-mother is also pregnant and planning a home birth (Convenient, right?) Under the disguise of research for a paper, Julia shadows the midwife and learns the tricks of the trade. When Ruth finally delivers the baby, with no complications, she realizes she won't be able to give it up and decides to keep it. In turn, her super religious parents disown her and Julia comes to her rescue with a place to live and a lifesaving solution for her step-mother who suddenly suffers from postpartum depression. After a minor mental breakdown on the fact that things aren't turning out the way Julia expects, her life still ends up happily ever after, as does Ruth's.

So things just seemed too perfect and that irks me because although it is fiction, there should still be a hint of realism in dealing with such a real topic. Teens get pregnant all the time and I feel like this book gives the wrong impression. It makes it seem like with the right amount of research, teens can have babies in bathroom stalls and everything will work out, when, in reality, it's really risky for both the baby and the mother. The whole thing with her step-mother's pregnancy just made it all seem too convenient and perfect. I mean honestly, what are the odds? And then, once the baby is born, the teen mother suffers no struggles. Sure her parents disown her, but she's not without a roof over her head or struggle to support her newborn. Yes, the novel does present the threat of postpartum depression, but even then, the character is thrown a life preserver and everything ends up great. This novel just leaves the reader so disillusioned about the reality of pregnancy and being a single mother. Another thing that kind of irked me was the fact that each chapter starts with a quote, or rather first line, of some famous novel. The narrator then explained the quote or the relevance in her life and while this is all unique and make the novel more stylistic, I felt like it detracted from the story. I didn't feel like most of the quotes really added anything to the story and it slowed it down a bit. Thumbs up for creativity, thumbs down for relevance.

Believe it or not, this was a relatively enjoyable story to read. I like to see that everything worked out and that characters grew, but it was just a little too perfect for my liking. Yes, I realize it's fiction and not real but when a book comes off as realistic fiction and not fantasy, there needs to be an honest attempt at realism. I think it's a bad move to encourage teens to hide their pregnancy and have it in a cabin without proper medical assistance. Realism aside, the book has it's positives, like the narrator is someone people can relate to, but some things are hard to overlook.

Monday, February 09, 2009

My Fair Godmother by Janette Rallison

The thought of a Fairy Godmother to grant you three wishes sounds like a dream come true. When she turns out to be only a fair or mediocre godmother, well, things don't turn out quite like you want. That's the situation Savannah finds herself in and the results are very enjoyable.

It all begins when Savannah's sister Jane "steals" her boyfriend Hunter. In search for a new date to prom, Savannah finds out that she has a fair godmother who can help with this task. Chrissy, her fairy godmother in training, takes on this job as an extra credit assignment to raise her grade in fairy school. It becomes apparent that the one reason Chrissy is only graded at "fair" is because she misinterprets wishes and jumps to conclusions. In an effort to find a "prince" to take Savannah to prom, Chrissy sends her to the Middle Ages first as Cinderella and then as Snow White. Savannah finds herself trapped there for weeks because Chrissy is busy shopping and partying. Thankfully weeks in the Middle Ages is only hours in modern times, but that doesn't prevent Savannah from realizing what a grueling life it was back then. Thinking she has her wish figured out the third time around, Savannah learns that her prospective prom date, Tristan, has been sent to the Middle Ages to earn the title of a prince to satisfy all aspects of Savannah's wish. Desperate to save him and make things right, Savannah heads back in time to save the day.

This novel is cute and quirky. For the most part it takes place in the Middle Ages/fairy tale time, with prince and princesses, dragons, ogres, and dark knights bent on revenge. Reminiscent of A Kid in King Arthur's Court this novel adds a dash of the 21st century as Savannah comes prepared for her trip to save Tristan with such modern amenities like shampoo and a flashlight and more advanced knowledge like how to make a bomb. The novel also has plenty of chuckles with such characters as a leprechaun, Memoir Elves, and a wizard's apprentice turned into a goat. The novel also has plenty of plot and twists as Savannah not only tries to make Tristan a knight, but also tries to solve the mystery of the Black Knight. Everything in this novel worked together to create a wonderful reading experience.

Anyone who dreams of a fairy tale ending should pick up this book to realize that fairy tales aren't as easy as they look, especially when given a fair godmother. Fans of the classic fairy tales will enjoy this book as it gives a hearty helping of the classic elements with just a dash of modern appeal. This book is definitely worth the time.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

Volume one of the series Chaos Walking. this is Science fiction though it has many similarities to the founding of our country. A space ship load of settlers has landed on New World. It was previously scouted and no human inhabitants were found. After landing, the settlers discover Spackles who appear human but have no written language and use no oral language therefore are considered inferior beings. There is also a virus indigenous to the planet that causes men to project and hear all their thoughts and the thoughts of others. While women can hear, they do not project. Originally the settlers came in hope of a clean simple, honest, safe, peaceful life with god to guide them. Readers need to try to imagine what it must be like to be able to experience silence, then suddenly have their heads filled with the thoughts and emotions of hundreds of people - 24/7 everywhere one goes and not be able to experience silence ever again. Men couldn't stand it. They blamed the Spackle and tried to kill them off. Some began to hate the women who could hear them but not be heard therefore could keep secrets while they could not. They split from the original settlement into many each trying to deal with the maddening intrusion of constant noise. One community was ruled by a twisted holy man who convinced the others to kill all their evil women and eventually to rise in power to take over the other settlements. That eventually would come when the last child born there, before the women were killed, became man. The time had come for the boy (Todd) soon to be man to undergo the final test and for the army to march. Todd is sent off by the men who raised him, didn't believe in the evil minister Aaron with the army in pursuit. Todd is to warn the other communities to prepare to be attacked but never quite carries out his mission being embarrassed by his inability to read well enough to read the message and not being a very likable, caring kid. He discovers Viola, his first female acquaintance at the site of a recent spaceship crash that killed her parents. The ship was a scout ship which was to have reported back to a larger ship of folks looking to settle. They run from the army together. Viola is a kinder person, a voice of reason. She also has some cool stuff from her space ship that helps the pair. This is a fast paced, exciting read that leaves a lot up in the air since there will be more volumes. Here are some things to think about - Perhaps the Spackle do not need written or spoken language because they do all their communication within their minds. What happens if/when the space ship Viola is from lands. Will Todd really escape the army from his home Prentisstown. Will the evil minister become ruler of the entire planet as is his desire? What happens to the relationship between teens Todd and Viola. JDW 2/3/09

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Ten Cents A Dance By: Christine Fletcher

The novel is considered fiction, but the story is based on a true story that takes place in Chicago 1941. The exact location takes place on the South side of Chicago were the stock yards use to be located. People live in cheap apartments that were close to the stockyards. They(the apartments) were like low income tenements. The families lived in tightly knit apartments that were very crowded.
Ruby is the main character of the novel, who does not finish High School. Ruby decides to work in a factory. After a while she becomes very bored, and finds the job repetitious. She quits this job, and looks for a new position. Ruby is seventeen years old, and quite attractive, but a bit immature.
Ruby learns from the neighborhood girls about a job opportunity at night, where you dance charging 10 cents a customer, who dances with you. Some customers, the men also give, a tip to their dance partners. Ruby always received a lot of tips, which helped her buy fancy dresses for dancing.

Ruby's Mother was ill, and could not work. Ruby had a younger sister called Betty. Soon Ruby had a step-father that she respected, and he helped Ruby not financially, but in general. The story goes on, and Ruby is disappointed, because Ozzie does not marry her. There are many intrigues that I will skip. The novel was fascinating, and at the same time Historical. Good for High School readers.
LRD 2/3/09

Undone - Brooke Taylor

Kori and Serena met one day in 8th grade in the girls bathroom, and on that day became friends. They have the same hair, the same bright blue eyes and could pass as sisters. Kori has always been the more out going of the two, while Serena tends to be in the background and not want the spotlight. On the first day of school their social psychology teacher, Dr. Ramsey, tells them to write down 5 things that would not happen to them during the term. A few days later Doc has the class decorate bags of flour to carry around with them and treat them like babies. That night Kori, Serena, and the rest of their friends go to a party. Kori goes off on her own, and Serena goes off with Anthony. The next day when she gets to school she could tell that something wasn't right. There's an accident by the school and Kori's car was involved. She doesn't make it. Serena refuses to believe that Kori is dead and that Kori will pop up somewhere alive and well. After the funeral Serena finds Kori's 5 things list and she sets out to complete what Kori can't do anymore, and figure out what Kori meant by "confront D" and "tell Serena". As Serena uncovers the mysteries of Kori's past she uncovers the truth about why she hasn't had a father around for the last 15 years, and why her mother has avoided the subject.

T.B. 2/3/09