Holes (Holes #1)
Author: Louis Sachar
Publication Date: 8/20/98
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
A darkly humorous tale of crime and punishment. Stanley Yelnat's family has a history of bad luck, so he isn't too surprised when a miscarriage of justice sends him to a boys' juvenile
detention center, Camp Green Lake. There is no lake - it has been dry for over a hundred years - and it's hardly a camp. As punishment, the boys must each dig a hole a day, five feet deep, five feet across, in the hard earth of the dried-up lake bed. The warden claims that this pointless labor builds character, but she is really using the boys to dig for loot buried by the Wild West outlaw Kissin' Kate Barlow. The story of Kissin' Kate, and of a curse put on Stanley's great-great-grandfather by a one-legged gypsy, weaves a narrative puzzle that tangles and untangles, until it becomes clear that the hand of fate has been at work in the lives of the characters - and their forebears - for generations. With this wonderfully inventive, compelling novel that is both serious and funny, Louis Sachar has written his best book to date.Review:
I am very sad that I never read this as a young person, because I think that I would have loved it even more than I do now. I think that it probably would have blown my mind. I have to applaud Louis Sachar for being so courageous in a children’s novel.
Effortlessly weaving together the past, present, and ancient history of these characters, Mr. Sachar examines the impact of our history and the nature of hope and human compassion, all while maintaining a light, humorous quality. This is a book for children, but one that never speaks down to children. It is both mature and youthful.
Stanley is tried and convicted for a crime that he didn’t commit, sent to a reform camp for boys, and forced to work day after day in the hot sun digging holes – without any hope of aid. He’s treated callously and unfairly, but he must learn to keep going, get along with the boys around him, and survive.
This is not a book that promises (like so many other children’s books do) success and rewards for good behavior, for choosing all the right paths. That’s not what real living, real maturity is all about. It’s about learning to deal with adversity and tragedy and failure when they come – because they will. It’s about making the right choices even when there are no rewards, no promised successes, simply because they’re right. And more than that – it’s about choosing kindness and compassion, even when everything around you is hard and unfair.
The only part of this novel that I don’t quite like is the ending, which seems to undermine the more realistic quality of the rest of the novel. I wish that Stanley and Hector could survive happily without a fairy tale ending, because
after all of that, they know that they don’t need one to be happy. But I think that as a child, I would have enjoyed seeing them win the day.Perfect Musical Pairing
Brett Dennen – Darlin’ Do Not Fear
This is a very sweet song about growing up and holding onto hope during the hard times.
Your confidence is faultless your faith etched in stone
and neither could comfort you from the wild unknown
So bury your burning hatred like a hatchet in the snow
Darlin' do not fear what you don't really know.
Singing the Dogstar Blues
Author: Alison Goodman
Publication Date: 4/12/12
Seventeen-year-old Joss is a rebel and a student of time travel. This year, an alien student, Mavkel, from the planet Choria, has chosen Joss as his study partner. Can this very different pair manage to live together--even learn from each other?Review: Singing the Dogstar Blues
is that rare specimen of YA fiction called science fiction
. That's right, not dystopia or rather dystopian romance, not sci-fi romance, but real deal sci-fi. There are no love triangles in it, no angst, no moping around boys. Gee, no wonder nobody read it. My library book was bought 6 years and looks as if nobody ever even touched it.
Joss Aaronson is a 1st year student at a time travel school. She is about to be paired up with her permanent TT partner who would accompany her on all her adventures. Her partner turns out to be the first alien admitted to the TT school Mavkel. For some reason he feels Joss is his perfect mate. Mavkel's race is deeply dual. Its species live in telepathically connected pairs. Mavkel needs to establish a psychic connection with Joss without which he can't exist. After several failed attempts to connect, the couple's last resort is to travel back into the past to seek the missing ingredient to assist their union.
Great things about Singing the Dogstar Blues
1) time travel! - I craved more of it though.
2) aliens! - Mavkel is the cutest alien with a fab personality and the whole concept of his society is very curious.
3) futuristic setting! - loved the cyberpunky feel of it.
4) emphasis on developing of friendship instead of romance!
5) a heroine who kicks ass and who is rebellious without being annoying.
6) mystery! - yes, an actual mystery involving assassins, sperm donors and DNA.
I mean, what's not to like here? Why aren't there more books like this? It is always such a pleasure to read teen books that are both entertaining, light and not dumb. I can't read Le Guin's complex and thought-provoking sci-fi all the time, right? Some fun teen sci-fi is necessary too. 4/5 star
Babe in Boyland
Author: Jody Gehrman
Publication Date: 2/17/11
When high school junior Natalie - or Dr.
Aphrodite, as she calls herself when writing the relationship column for her school paper - is accused of knowing nothing about guys and giving girls bad relationship advice, she decides to investigate what guys really think and want. But the guys in her class won't give her straight or serious answers. The only
solution? Disguising herself as a guy and spending a week at Underwood Academy, the private all-boy boarding school in town. There she learns a lot about guys and
girls in ways she never expected - especially when she falls for her dreamy roommate, Emilio. How can she show him she likes him without blowing her cover?Review:
For those of you who read my reviews, this one might feel like a bit of déjà vu.Which is exactly how this book feels to me.
Granted, sometimes this premise is done well.
But mostly, it’s not.
I actually think that this theme could use a reboot, especially in this day and age, with gender roles becoming more and more fluid and undefined. I would love to see one of these characters discover that the old, “Men are From Mars, Women Are From Venus” paradigm is a load of crap and that we’re all actually just human beings, more similar than we are different. Why do boys say they’ll call but then don’t?
Perhaps because they’re playing into age old stereotypes about how they’re supposed to act, or perhaps they’re just nervous about failing miserably, like we all are. Is it true that boys think about sex every eight seconds?
No, that’s not true. They actually think about it every five seconds, just like we all do.
So yes, this book does not exactly bring anything new to the table. In fact, while I was reading it I was so strongly reminded of that 1980’s film, “Just One of the Guys” that I made my entire family re-watch it with me in the name of research. On Christmas. It’s a good thing that they love me.
It turns out that there really are quite a few similarities. Both main characters are high school journalism students, who cross dress in the name of research and are hoping to win a prize. Both characters infiltrate a new school. Both are popular as girls, but then become losers as boys. Both characters are bullied by the popular guy. Both can’t seem to get their boy persona quite right, until they give in and stuff a sock down their pants. Both have that scene where they run to a boys’ urinal, only to stare at it in dismay. Both must fend off unwanted advances from a girl. Both end up falling for a boy who’s a loser-fringe type guy but also has a perfect physique and a winning personality (because you know, that happens
But I guess that I could have just described many of the large number of movies, television shows, and books that have all capitalized on this idea.
I did enjoy Natalie learning to appreciate the “underdogs hiding in plain sight
” around her, and her growing respect for the non-superficial characteristics. But then most of that seems nullified when she falls for Emilio, a character who has very little substance at all, and seems mostly defined by his stellar abs and caramel skin.
And if anything, Natalie emerges from her little experiment with gender roles even more solidly defined. ”There is a divide, though, between male and female worlds, and those worlds have different rules, different customs, different cultures.”
She exults in her freedom from “boyhood”, becoming even “girlier” by wearing pink and glitter and indulging in exaggerated emotional responses.
This is a fun, fluffy, cute read but it’s been done before. Many times. If you’re looking for something novel or revolutionary, I would give this one a pass.Perfect Musical Pairing
Midnight Star – Girl’s Got Something Boys Ain’t Got
If you’re going to flash back to the eighties anyway, might as well just go there! For journalism antics,
cross-dressing, and traditional gender roles only slightly challenged, I would actually suggest watching this movie! It has a zany brother! And thirty year olds playing high schoolers! And boobs!2/5 Stars
Author: Michael Thomas Ford
Publication Date: 10/1/08
Blurb (GR): I'm not crazy. I don't see what the big deal is about what happened. But apparently someone does think it's a big deal because here I am. I bet it was my mother. She always overreacts.
Fifteen-year-old Jeff wakes up on New Year's Day to find himself in the hospital. Make that the psychiatric ward. With the nutjobs. Clearly, this is all a huge mistake. Forget about the bandages on his wrists and the notes on his chart. Forget about his problems with his best friend, Allie, and her boyfriend, Burke. Jeff's perfectly fine, perfectly normal, not like the other kids in the hospital with him. Now they've got problems. But a funny thing happens as his forty-five-day sentence drags on—the crazies start to seem less crazy.
Compelling, witty, and refreshingly real, Suicide Notes is a darkly humorous novel from award-winning author Michael Thomas Ford that examines that fuzzy line between "normal" and the rest of us.
It feels a little weird to say that I felt a book about a 45-day program in a juvenile psychiatric unit was really funny. But it was—in parts. This book, written in journal entries from day one of the program until the last day, focuses on Jeff’s evaluation of why he tried to kill himself. His voice is reminiscent of Holden Caulfield, only he doesn’t call everyone phonies—just whackjobs.
Jeff introduces us to the other young adults in the unit, some of whom come and go during his stay. He also has to see a psychiatrist during his time in the program, the delightful Dr. Katzrupus. (or Cat Poop, as Jeff dubs him) At first, I felt like we weren’t getting to know each supporting character well enough but isn’t that the point? I mean, Jeff is in this program solely to figure out what his issues are. These are his journal entries we are reading. And it all felt real—I felt anxious with him, sad for him, mortified with him, and so hopeful that maybe it would all work out. The relationship he had with his sister made me laugh the most, though.
While this book definitely deals with a lot of morbid topics, the feel is decidedly optimistic for the most part. I enjoyed the fact that Jeff was very matter-of-fact about most things and the conversations he had with people didn’t really tiptoe around the serious stuff. His doctor/patient relationship with Dr. Katzrupus was a highlight as well.
I’d definitely recommend this book to anyone looking for a male voice in the female-saturated YA world. Though I hope this wouldn’t affect anyone’s choice to read a book or not, there are some M/M sexual scenes. Just putting that out there. I’ll definitely read more from this author.
A Little Wanting Song (aka Chasing Charlie Duskin)Author: Cath CrowleyPublication Date: 6/8/10
Publisher: KnopfBlurb (GR):A summer of friendship, romance, and songs in major chords. . .
CHARLIE DUSKIN loves music, and she knows she's good at it. But she only sings when she's alone, on the moonlit porch or in the back room at Old Gus's Secondhand Record and CD Store. Charlie's mom and grandmother have both died, and this summer she's visiting her grandpa in the country, surrounded by ghosts and grieving family, and serving burgers to the local kids at the milk bar. She's got her iPod, her guitar, and all her recording equipment, but she wants more: A friend. A dad who notices her. The chance to show Dave Robbie that she's not entirely unspectacular.
ROSE BUTLER lives next door to Charlie's grandfather and spends her days watching cars pass on the freeway and hanging out with her troublemaker boyfriend. She loves Luke but can't wait to leave their small country town. And she's figured out a way: she's won a scholarship to a science school in the city, and now she has to convince her parents to let her go. This is where Charlie comes in. Charlie, who lives in the city, and whom Rose has ignored for years. Charlie, who just might be Rose's ticket out.
Told in alternating voices and filled with music, friendship, and romance, Charlie and Rose's "little wanting song" is about the kind of longing that begins as a heavy ache but ultimately makes us feel hopeful and wonderfully alive. Review:“We were the only three people awake in a world half asleep and the air felt heavy with maybe.”
The Aussies hit it out of the park again. Seriously, I’m beginning to wonder if there is something in the water down under that allows them to produce amazing YA lit. (or maybe all of it is put through a strainer and only the best of the best is published in the US—either way, I haven’t read a bad Aussie YA book yet) And I can’t wait to get my grubby hands on Graffiti Moon
Charlotte (Charlie) Duskin has been going to stay in her grandparents’ town every summer since she was young. Though she lost her mother several years earlier, her grandmother recently passed away and her father and grandfather are still mourning their losses. Charlie always saw Rose, Dave, and Luke playing around town but was never a part of their fun. Before she left the city for the summer, she had a huge fight with her best friend and was embarrassed in front of tons of her peers. She’s looking for an escape.
Rose Butler feels stuck. She’s lived in the same small town forever and, though she loves her family and her two best friends, she wants to go to school in the city. After taking an entry exam and winning a scholarship, her summer plan is to befriend Charlie Duskin and then return to stay with her family so she can attend the school. Only no one knows about Rose’s plan…and there’s that lovely hump of an entire childhood of being a total jerk to get over.
This author takes several of my pet peeves and then serves them back to me on a silver platter. And they tasted like enchiladas….mmm, enchiladas. We’ve got shifting narrators—usually, this is a major buzzkill for me but I smiled over and over when the author replayed the same conversation from the other side. And a musical theme—I usually tire of that after a chapter or two. I get it, you like the GD guitar. Here, it was endearing. Charlie’s personality and the song lyrics (which are interspersed in the text) are just lovely. I especially loved her snark—“tell anyone who doesn’t like it to shove it up their arse.”
When it comes down to it, this book is between 4 and 5 stars for me but I'm feeling especially happy after reading it so BAM! 5 stars it is. 5/5 stars
Froi of the Exiles (Lumatere Chronicles, #2)Author: Melina Marchetta
Publication Date: 10/3/11
Publisher: Viking AustraliaBlurb (GR): Blood sings to blood, Froi . . .
Those born last will make the first . . .
For Charyn will be barren no more.
Three years after the curse on Lumatere was lifted, Froi has found his home... Or so he believes...
Fiercely loyal to the Queen and Finnikin, Froi has been trained roughly and lovingly by the Guard sworn to protect the royal family, and has learned to control his quick temper. But when he is sent on a secretive mission to the kingdom of Charyn, nothing could have prepared him for what he finds. Here he encounters a damaged people who are not who they seem, and must unravel both the dark bonds of kinship and the mysteries of a half-mad Princess.
And in this barren and mysterious place, he will discover that there is a song sleeping in his blood, and though Froi would rather not, the time has come to listen.
Gripping and intense, complex and richly imagined, Froi of the Exiles
is a dazzling sequel to Finnikin of the Rock
, from the internationally best-selling and multi-award-winning author of Looking for Alibrandi
, Saving Francesca
, On the Jellicoe Road
and The Piper's Son
I’ve been a fan of every other Melina Marchetta
book I’ve read, which is all of them, so it sort of pains me to say that Froi of the Exiles
was frustrating and unsatisfying for me. I’m still going to give it three stars because even when Marchetta is (subjectively to me) not on her game, she still has a way with words that blows nearly every other YA author out of the water. Originally, I tried to keep my review entirely spoiler-free but it just wasn’t happening. There will be a few spoilers but they are ones that are not likely to surprise you while reading the book. Oh, and there will be Finnikin spoilers, just so you know. *sigh* And we’re off…
The number one reason why this book couldn’t work for me was the relationship between Froi and Quintana. It is not a spoiler to reveal something you find out in the first few pages—Quintana has basically been systematically raped for years. While it is happening, she goes off into another place in her mind a la Precious
(based on the novel Push by Sapphire) and her daydreams. She has been maltreated for years and everyone thinks she is more or less insane. Also, she is described as having weird teeth, bird’s nest hair, dirty clothes, and several personalities. Okay, so…
Hot. How could anyone NOT be attracted to that? All jokes aside, I couldn’t get behind a relationship that disgusted me from the onset. To sleep with a girl who has never had a healthy relationship with anyone, especially if you are doing it under even quasi-false pretenses is a bit scary. I don’t want to call it sexual abuse but it kind of felt that way to me. I know many other readers feel that Quintana is an intriguing character and love her down to the ground. To me, she felt like a confused, somewhat simple-minded girl with lots of strength and motivation but who was absolutely vulnerable nonetheless. I don’t require a strong heroine all the time, that isn’t the issue. The issue is a balanced relationship and here, I just never saw it. Near the end of the novel, Quintana shows immense growth as a character and if I read the third book in the series, I think I will enjoy her more. Froi’s decision to sleep with Quintana was morally questionable. It reminded me of United States of Tara
where a woman with multiple personalities and her husband have an agreement that his sleeping with any of her alters is cheating. While her body might be there, her mind isn’t and that isn’t fair to her. Even later in the book, Quintana is randomly growling at points.
I read a lot of fantasy and romance. In romance novel series, a significant number of authors have a tendency to bring past couples from other books in as characters. Look! See how happy they are! They were happy then but they are even happier now—look at the babies! While I find it annoying, I don’t always mind when this happens in romance books. I do
mind when it comes up repeatedly in fantasy and Froi is the only book I can think of as an example. Look at Finnikin and Isaboe! They are so unbelievably well-suited to each other. They are so attracted to each other that they do it up against walls and in closets, tra-la-la! If it were just once or twice, I wouldn’t even note it but it made up a large portion of the novel. On a similar note, I now know another thing that I don’t ever want to read about in another fantasy novel: breastfeeding. How long should someone breastfeed a child? I don’t know nor do I care to think about it while I’m reading a fantasy novel. (unless a woman is breastfeeding dragons or something) Froi of the Exiles was something like 620 pages long. Finnikin and Isaboe had their moment in the limelight in the first book of the series. We certainly could’ve gotten a taste of how sublimely perfect they are together and how they can communicate by looks and how they can’t keep their paws off of each other in a few less pages.
The tone of this novel is about 400% darker than any of the author’s other work. That’s fine, I don’t mind dark, nor do I mind sex. (in fact, I enjoy
these two things in books) A friend told me that Froi seemed more realistic because there was so much emphasis put on the seedier elements of the atmosphere during wartime. Everybody seemed to be either having sex or talking about having sex or if not that, murdering other people. I have no experience living in an active warzone but every character seemed to have sex on the mind, even when they weren’t near any actual fighting. Before you go into this one, you should just know that everyone has slept with everyone else or if they haven’t, they’ve certainly thought about it or are going to in the near future. It got to the point where I just rolled my eyes and skimmed over sections of the book and I never, EVER do that with Marchetta books. (by sections I mean a paragraph here or there, not any significant amount of text)
I’ve been putting off this review for ages because I just have a bad taste in my mouth about it. I read it with a friend and our google document has over 20,000 words. I am rereading it and laughing because in Chapter 6 my friend wrote, “In general, I am getting more into it. Not a huge fan of travelling around, but looks like they are almost there.” Hahaha, yeah right. There is just so much movement in this book. Everyone is always going somewhere. Just GET THERE already—collect what you came for and go back, or stay. Whatever. I’d understand it if it was like a quest to Mordor to destroy the ring that binds them all
but that isn’t the case here. (side note: Turns out I also guessed Froi’s father in Chapter 6 as well) Froi basically spends the entire book moving from one place to the next but I was more interested in his story than the other two storylines that appear in the book. When Finnikin and Isaboe aren’t doing it, they are having political meetings with otherzzzzzzzzz, oh sorry, I just fell asleep while I was typing. The other storyline is about Lucian of the Monts, whom I adored in Finnikin but who has turned into a huge douche in Froi. Let’s say it all together now, COMMUNICATION. Learn it, live it, love it.
You know what I was thinking about while I was reading? Every one of Melina Marchetta’s books deals with a child with a missing parent. In Looking for Alibrandi
, Josie’s dad is gone but comes back. In Jellicoe Road
, Taylor’s parents are gone and also the guy in the tree side story. In Saving Francesca
, her mother is lost to depression. In The Piper’s Son
, Tom’s dad was gone to him, and in Finnikin of the Rock
, he grew up with no mother and was missing his father for years. Now we can add Froi, Quintana, and Lucian to the list. Finding family is a huge theme for her--It’s all about who you are and where you came from. I think this is really interesting but I really enjoy stories about people who don’t know where they are from, DON’T find out, but come to terms with it and become their own person. It is always hard to define yourself when people are pointing out the similarities between you and your parents. I’m not going to spoiler who Froi’s parents are but I saw that one coming down the pipeline pretty early.
This review is getting too long. I always start to space out after a few paragraphs of a review so I’m assuming I’m not alone in this. I did not truly enjoy the process of reading this book but on the upside, it seems as if almost everyone else did. If you want to know anything else about what I thought of this book, let’s talk about it in the comments. For now, I’m just going to share some more comment highlights I found in our google document:
“If you are making shadow puppets with someone, it’s safe to say things are getting pretty serious.”
“And why make out Froi is some legend in the art of tongue work? AWKWARD.”
“HELLO, people. Wake up and realize that Beatriss needs people to work the land and there are bajillions of Charynites just chillin’ with their vegetable patches and nowhere to go. Problem, meet solution.”
“ ‘Just ask me! Just ask me! I can’t say the answer without you asking the question!’ Bitch, please. If you can say it when he asks, you can say it anytime.”
“RAPE.GRAVINAS. STOP PLANTING VEGETABLES!”
“Everyone’s stories/pasts are so DRAMATIC. This is real, solid DAYS OF OUR LIVES stuff.”
“I am quick to say, ‘because she is an idiot.’”
“Everyone’s life sucks. Everything is more convoluted than it should ever be. ALWAYS BE ON THE LOOKOUT FOR A TWIN.”
“That meeting with the Belegonian dude? www.snoozefest.com.”
“Yes, I noticed that smooth segue.”
“Why are all the characters such hardened tools? Where is the relaxed, carefree character? Where is MM’s (Saving Francesca
- type) humor? …It is not a relaxing read.”
“Why is she always growling?”
“I just love it when guys take my hand and then put it on their crotch.”
“Maybe Froi and Quintana are somehow brother and sister and it is incest and the little king will come out with extra limbs. Or maybe some cannibalism. You know they’ve been having crop problems. Next step: People eating people.” 3/5 stars
Stray (Touchstone, #1)Author: Andrea K. Höst
Publication Date: March 20th 2011
Publisher Andrea K. HösthBlurb (GR):
On her last day of high school, Cassandra Devlin walked out of exams and into a forest. Surrounded by the wrong sort of trees, and animals never featured in any nature documentary, Cass is only sure of one thing: alone, she will be lucky to survive.
The sprawl of abandoned blockish buildings Cass discovers offers her only more puzzles. Where are the people? What is the intoxicating mist which drifts off the buildings in the moonlight? And why does she feel like she's being watched?
Increasingly unnerved, Cass is overjoyed at the arrival of the formidable Setari. Whisked to a world as technologically advanced as the first was primitive, where nanotech computers are grown inside people's skulls, and few have any interest in venturing outside the enormous whitestone cities, Cass finds herself processed as a 'stray', a refugee displaced by the gates torn between worlds. Struggling with an unfamiliar language and culture, she must adapt to virtual classrooms, friends who can teleport, and the ingrained attitude that strays are backward and slow.
Can Cass ever find her way home? And after the people of her new world discover her unexpected value, will they be willing to let her leave?Review:
How useful would you be in an apocalyptic or post-apocalyptic situation? My best friend and I had a discussion about this for a while the other day. (Well, to be honest I have this discussion all the time.) While we obviously tally people’s skills up in the positives column, we were in agreement that two of the biggest advantages a person can have is their ability to just go with the flow and their tendency not whine or complain about things. The reason I bring this up is because the first third or fourth of this book is about a teenage girl, Cass Devlin, walking home from school and suddenly finding herself in a completely foreign place. As she walks around, the thinks about what is going on in a very logical manner.
She thinks about where the sun is located, how long the days are, what kinds of wildlife is around, what she might be able to eat, how to actually make
things from raw materials. Gosh, thanks for that Andrea K. Höst
, because my reading partner and I were so excited to read about a character who actually thought about all the things a person should
be thinking if they are somewhere they have never been before. I’ve read several books since I finished this one (as has my reading partner) and we’ve repeatedly said “Ugh, Cass Devlin would never
do something like this.” I also enjoyed her sense of humor about her entire situation and the new society she finds herself a part of.
The interesting thing about this book, and this could really be a positive or negative depending on the reader, was how it was very in-depth setup for the rest of the series.
What this book needs is a kickass editor to contain the awesome. Here is a very scientific graph I’ve made for the occasion:
Wouldn't we all like to have that problem? I’d get overly excited if I were the author, too. It is clear that Ms. Höst has mapped out this world, its inhabitants, the powers, technology, and the history...and I was into all of it! At a point, while I never lost interest, I was looking for a little less description of every single power, its amplification, and the different spaces the teams went to. (this sentence probably makes very little sense but I don’t want to ruin the plot of the book for future readers) Several of the characters intrigued me and I wished we got to know a few of them more in depth rather than tens of them by name only. In the end, this book has the potential to be a five-star read for me if it was completely edited. (There were a couple affect/effect, hanger/hangar-type errors but overall, the writing was fun and there were very few errors for a self-pub) However, the final product as it is was quite enough to make me buy the remaining two ebooks in the series to see how it all pans out and definitely enough to recommend it to a lot of people.
Surprisingly, there is no concentration on romance, at least not in this installment of the series. There are
a few hints and several possibilities but it was nice not to have that weighing down the plot. Instead of Cass wondering about what X or Y dude thinks of her, she actually wonders about how everything in the world works, how she might get home, and the ramifications of her choices. Crazy!
To the author, if you are reading this at any point (which you might be!), please write a survivalist or post-apoc novel! I will read it and love it. Until then, I'll continue with this series and enjoy those ones.
I never would’ve found this book without Goodreads. My pal Chichipio
has an aversion to buying books that cost more than $5. Sure, I often yank his chain about this habit but this is it, Gonza, your REVENGE. I really loved this book, so thank you. (be sure to check out his review
Looking For Alibrandi
Author: Melina Marchetta
Publication Date: 1992
For as long as Josephine Alibrandi can remember, it’s just been her, her mom, and her grandmother. Now it’s her final year at a wealthy Catholic high school. The nuns couldn’t be any stricter—but that doesn’t seem to stop all kinds of men from coming into her life.
Caught between the old-world values of her Italian grandmother, the nononsense wisdom of her mom, and the boys who continue to mystify her, Josephine is on the ride of her life. This will be the year she falls in love, the year she discovers the secrets of her family’s past—and the year she sets herself free.
Told with unmatched depth and humor, this novel—which swept the pool of Australian literary awards and became a major motion picture—is one to laugh through and cry with, to cherish and remember.
When I was in school, we routinely had to complete projects about our heritage. People asked (and still ask) “what are you?” meaning what is your nationality. A lot of these projects ended up with discussions about why third or fourth generation Americans still call themselves Irish, Italian, Korean, Filipino, Greek, etc. instead of saying they are American first. My blood is pretty watered down at this point—Irish, Swedish, German, Spanish…but it really doesn’t matter. I’m sure kids in other primarily immigrant countries had to do the same kinds of projects/presentations. I identify most with the mish-mash of cultural traditions that my immediate family celebrates and those of my dearest friends than those of any specific country from which my ancestors hailed. Sometimes I wish I was full-blooded something, or at least enough that I could be part of an ethnic community but until American Mutt becomes an ethnic category I think I’m out of luck. It is fun to go crazytime on St. Patrick’s Day, make Pepparkakor, and put sauerkraut on tons of stuff though. As much as I couldn’t connect with Josie’s Italian culture, I totally understood the Catholic school and community situation. It’s a close-knit community and everyone knows everyone else’s business. This is especially true when people have a lot of siblings. (Josie was perhaps lucky in that regard) And feeling guilty about everything? GUILTY! Anyway, I totally understood Josie’s confusion about her identity and her and several other characters’ confusion about their futures.
I kept putting this book off because it was the last contemporary YA Marchetta book that I’d yet to read, and I’ve been told many times that it was probably her weakest book. (which to me meant that it would still be better than 98% of the YA out there) Turns out I think it was my favorite Melina Marchetta reading experience to date. The narrator for the audiobook was perfect. I watched the movie the other day and I almost wished (slash actually did wish) that some of the characters had the narrator’s voice instead of the actors’ voices. I wish I could take back watching the movie because it felt trivial compared the book. I suppose that is what I truly enjoyed most about the book, though—Josie was living everyday life and getting up to no good with her friends, seeing a boy her family might disapprove of, and feuding with a girl at school but all the while she was thinking of her cultural identity, what she would do in the future, how people’s individual life choices affect where their paths go, and about the difference between sadness and pure despair. (I absolutely bawled during the death and funeral scenes)
I think I felt a real affinity to Josie as a student-- our experiences weren’t that far off. All-girl’s Catholic school. Uniforms. Nuns. She is much more of an overachiever than I was. I never cut school but I used to leave early when I had free periods to hang out at my sister’s apartment and play cards and watch movies. (oooo, rebel.) Anyway, I’m sure you all don’t give a crap about my high school antics and really, if you aren’t already reading Melina Marchetta’s books, I don’t know what I could do to persuade you. I could tell you that her books are beautifully written, that each one of them is emotional in a different way, that her characters are multidimensional, that she understands families and friendships more than most authors, and that each one of her books is a favorite of mine. All of that is true, and if you haven’t already started reading her back catalog, you are truly missing out. But if you’re still reading this I bet you’re my friend and you already have read one or more of her books. That’s one of the reasons you are awesome. (Yeah, you.)
Feeling Sorry For Celia
Author: Jaclyn Moriarty
Publication Date: 1/10/02
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Life is pretty complicated for Elizabeth Clarry. Her best friend Celia keeps disappearing, her absent father suddenly reappears, and her communication with her mother consists entirely of wacky notes left on the fridge. On top of everything else, because her English teacher wants to rekindle the "Joy of the Envelope," a Complete and Utter Stranger knows more about Elizabeth than anyone else.
But Elizabeth is on the verge of some major changes. She may lose her best friend, find a wonderful new friend, kiss the sexiest guy alive, and run in a marathon.
So much can happen in the time it takes to write a letter...
A #1 bestseller in Australia, this fabulous debut is a funny, touching, revealing story written entirely in the form of letters, messages, postcards—and bizarre missives from imaginary organizations like The Cold Hard Truth Association.Feeling Sorry for Celia
captures, with rare acuity, female friendship and the bonding and parting that occurs as we grow. Jaclyn Moriarty's hilariously candid novel shows that the roller coaster ride of being a teenager is every bit as fun as we remember—and every bit as harrowing.
HERE IS A REVIEW!!!! RIGHT HERE ON YOUR COMPUTER SCREEN!!!
Like the other Jaclyn Moriarty
book I read recently (Finding Cassie Crazy
), this is written in epistolary format and includes letters, the backs of postcards, and random notes. The notes from Elizabeth’s mother were probably my favorite bits as they all started in a similar way to how I started this review (HERE IS A NOTE!!! RIGHT NEXT TO THE REFRIGERATOR!!! ) and her mother would give her topics to think on and/or discuss—what she thinks of purple nail polish, what a catchy slogan could be for a product, or thoughts on socks. (I have a lot of thoughts on socks and have, on numerous occasions, been accused (rightly) of stealing socks from my roommates. I practice the old “sibling rule” that if you leave it in my room, it becomes mine.) Liz’s mother cracked me up--“I hope you feel better today. Please ring me at work if you are dead."
Because I read one other Ashbury High book before this one, I can’t help but compare and I enjoyed Finding Cassie Crazy
more. The humor was more consistent and I found myself more invested in each of the relationships. The tone here felt more serious and, while I did find much of it humorous, those moments were further apart. (how many times can I say the word ‘more’?) Rather than focusing on a group of friends and their pen pals, Feeling Sorry for Celia
catalogs the formation of one friendship (Liz and her pen pal Christina) while Liz is simultaneously having trouble in her relationship with her best friend Celia. I had a hard time with Celia’s character because she was flighty and (overly) adventurous. I see how Celia’s home situation contributed to her wanderlust but it doesn’t mean that I think she’s a good friend to Liz. The developing friendship between Liz and Christina was lovely, as they both supported each other from the get-go and actually cared what was going on in the other’s life. Celia seemed like one of those friends you dread calling because they will just ramble on about their life and never ask you about how you’re doing.
My friend and I were talking the other day about authors we adore enough to read everything they ever write. I think Jaclyn Moriarty is a kindred spirit. (Anne with an ‘e’ would definitely think so) She is funny, her characters are endearing, and she is successful at wring epistolary YA. Keep doing it, JM, and I will keep buying and reading everything you write. In fact, I have the two remaining Ashbury/Brookfield books already lined up.3.5/5 stars
Singing the Dogstar Blues
Author: Alison Goodman
Publication Date: 7/15/99
Publisher: PuffinBlurb (GR):
Seventeen-year-old Joss is a rebel, and a student of time travel at the prestigious Centre for Neo-Historical Studies. This year, for the first time, the Centre has an alien student, Mavkel, from the planet Choria. And Mavkel has chosen Joss, of all people, as his roommate and study partner. Then Mavkel gets sick. Joss quickly realizes that his will to live is draining away. The only way she can help Mavkel is by breaking the Centre's strictest rules . . . and that means going back in time to change history.Review:
I’m always on the lookout for a fun space-related story. Singing the Dogstar Blues
isn’t set in space but there is a very futuristic feel to it and ALIENS so it definitely hit my sweet spot. If you are wondering if this book reads at all like Goodman’s other book Eon
, the answer, at least for me, is absolutely not. I enjoyed Eon
but the pacing was off and I wasn’t especially attached to any of the characters. That’s not the case here. Joss Aaronson attends a prestigious time-jumping school and holds one of 12 coveted spots in the program for her year. She is a comp, which basically means that her mother used a donor to have her and comps are looked down on as genetically manipulated because people can use up to even 5 or 6 donors to create the child of their choice. She is snarky, sassy, and unlike Eon/a, it doesn’t take her eras to figure out what is going on around her. Thank goodness for that.
Overall, the book has a bit of a campy and adventurous feel. The plot primarily revolves around Joss and her new school partner, Mavkel, the first alien to be admitted. As expected, there are enemies and allies in the school administration and amongst the students but Joss and Mavkel hold this entire story on their backs and they succeed in doing so. I couldn’t picture what Mavkel actually looked like but it didn’t hinder the character development. His personality came through even with a language barrier and extensive cultural differences. He and Joss bond over music and that is where the title of the book comes from.
There are hints that this was Goodman’s first novel—the writing definitely favors utility rather than description, for instance. Since this is what I prefer in my sci-fi, I was more than happy with the style. And Ms. Goodman actually surprised me with a plot twist near the end. (I laughed out loud at the Petri dish scene) I wish this book started a series so we could find out how Joss and Mavkel’s partnership continued to develop during their school years. As it is, I guess I will just have to hope that Alison Goodman writes some more sci-fi one of these days.4/5 stars