Monday, January 24, 2011

Proust and the Squid review

Booktalk: Have you ever wondered how humans developed the ability to read?  Or what exactly is going on inside the brain of a child who is learning how?  What happens when everything goes right?  What happens when it doesn't? This fascinating book will tell you all the science and a fair amount of the stories surrounding reading.  Not only will it answer your questions about reading, it will get to to start asking the right ones.

Rocks my socks: The subject is of course fascinating to me and it covers the history of learning how to read pretty well.  It goes from the beginnings of reading in civilization discussing what we can glean from archaeology all the way to what happens inside the brain of a child with reading difficulties.  While I am fairly comfortable with archaeology, my B.A. in theatre has left me somewhat lacking as far as knowledge of neuroscience goes.  Still, I found this book highly readable and was able to understand it all, largely due to the wonderful narration and copious amounts of anecdotes and analogies to guide me through the story.

Rocks in my socks: Wolf has a tendency to talk in wide, sweeping metaphors that she uses to sum up her views on the subject a bit too often and it eventually became a bit repetitive.  What I found most annoying was the fact that she has copious notes at the end, which I probably would have enjoyed, but I never really used.  This was because rather than setting them up as footnotes with in-text references via superscript number they're just listed in the back by page number.  While I often check footnotes if they come at the end of a sentence that I find interesting and want to know more about, I am unlikely to constantly interrupt the flow of my reading to check a mystery grab bag of notes for the pages I've just read.

Every book its reader: I'd hand this to any librarian or teacher who works with children.  It really contains a lot of great insight in how to best encourage literacy and teach reading.  It also contains a lot of great stuff about pre-reading like helping children become familiar with phonemes through rhyme, etc.  It would be a great read for parents with small children for this reason.  Finally, I think it is a must-read for anyone who works with or is the parent of a child with dyslexia or other reading difficulties.  The author herself has a child with dyslexia and she handles the topic in a really wonderful way that explains what is going on and what to do about it as well as emphasizing the advantages of having a different way of thinking and processing.

Proust and the Squid by Maryanne Wolf

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Weirdest Bookmark?

I've seen a lot of odd thing shoved inside books during my years working at an independent bookstore and various libraries, but this stove piece found inside a book returned to my current elementary school library is perhaps the weirdest to date:
It isn't even flat!  Also, this is an elementary school library so it was returned by a kid.  Kids should not be hanging around stoves, pulling pieces off!  This is very concerning...

The Dreamer Review

Booktalk:  Neftali looks up to his father and is eager to please him, but everything that he does just seems to disappoint him.  Neftali's father disapproves of the little treasures that he stops to pick up wherever he goes: a pinecone, an old boot, a shell.  His father disapproves of his slender physique, even though Neftali can't do anything about it.  He is embarrassed by Neftali's stutter when his friends come to visit.  But the most common reprimand Neftali hears from his father is "Stop that incessant daydreaming!"  Neftali wants to please his father, but how can he stop contemplating the world when it is full of such wonders?

Rocks my socks: True to its title, this book has a lovely lyrical, dream-like quality about it that is simply charming.  It reflects the personality of Neftali perfectly and this mood is enhanced by lines of verse and surreal drawings appearing regularly throughout the text.  My heart went out to little Neftali and I treasured the glimpse I got into the workings of his mind.  This was made all the more interesting by the fact that the novel is loosely biographical.

Rocks in my socks: While I did enjoy the dream-like quality and I think it fit perfectly with the subject matter, it did make for a slow pace.  I also didn't like the way Neftali's age accelerated so rapidly at the end of the book.  For most of the book he's 7 or 8 and the pace and aging follows that of a normal narrative.  Then, in the third to last chapter he jumps to 11, then he's 13 in the penultimate one, then in the last chapter he's getting ready to leave for college.  I felt like they were separate stories added on for the benefit of adding more biographical detail about later incidents in his life to show how he became the poet we all know, and it interrupted the flow of the narrative for me.

Every book its reader: I'd give it to readers 3rd grade and up who enjoy poetry.  It's certainly not for anyone looking for an action-packed adventure novel, but fellow day dreamers will be able to appreciate it and find a kindred spirit in Neftali.

The Dreamer  by Pam Munoz Ryan, illus. by Peter Sis

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Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Boneshaker Review

Book Talk: At the crossroads lies a ghost town, abandoned years ago under mysterious circumstances.  When Arcane was founded, they moved it up the road a bit to avoid the site and hopefully the bad luck of the old town.  But when a traveling medicine show stops by the same fate threatens to destroy Arcane. Somehow, Natalie finds herself in the center of it all and she risks everything to unravel the mystery, but when the time comes will she be able to save the town and look the devil in the eye?

Rocks My Socks: The book has wonderful atmosphere, and the main character has wonderful spunk.  The book brings together a lot of elements that I love to read about in novels: traveling shows, automatons,  and deals with the devil.  I also love all the minor characters populating the story.  Natalie is the main character, but the story is really about the town and as such we get to know a lot of its residents.  The whole book has a delicious feeling of an old folktale being told around a campfire and there are beautiful illustrations throughout.

Rocks In My Socks: There was a lot in the novel that should have either been cut or expanded on.  For example, there are two male characters that are portrayed as Natalie's best friends in the first part of the book and it seems as if they were going to be major supporting characters.  However, partway through the book they just dropped out of the narrative without explanation and are never mentioned again.  There's also a drifter character who I enjoyed, but didn't seem to really serve much of a purpose.  One of the central images, that of Natalie holding the automaton of herself, didn't make any sense to me. It seems like a lot of effort just to vaguely creep her out.  There's a lot of information in there that isn't really necessary to the reader and just seemed to clog up the narrative and confuse the main storyline.  None of this really affected my experience reading the story, however, because I assumed they were there for a purpose and would appear again later on.  It wasn't until after I finished the book and looked back on it that I realized how many loose threads and extraneous details there were.

Every Book Its Reader: I'd give it to 5th grade and up boys and girls looking for a supernatural adventure or fans of historical fantasy.  Adults looking for a light supernatural romp will enjoy this atmospheric novel as well. A quick warning, though: the book bills itself as having 'steampunk elements' on the inside flap, but I think this is a bit misleading.  The only element having anything to do with steampunk is the automatons, and the novel is powered by supernatural forces much more than steam.

Support your local independent bookstore and buy it through indiebound or check it out from your local library today!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Prince of Mist Review

Book Talk: Max's family has picked up their lives in the capital to head for a small sea-side village to wait out the war.  Life is supposed to be safer for them in this out of the way town, but from the moment they arrive Max can sense that they're in danger.  When his father tells him the story of what happened the family that lived in their house before them, he becomes even more suspicious.  Soon his youngest sister is in the hospital and his older sister and their new-found friend are left alone, except for the haunting presence of the prince of mist.

Rocks My Socks: The novel has a strong and eloquent narrative voice that I really enjoyed. It also takes its time introducing the characters in the beginning so that by the time their lives were in danger I really cared about them, which is an important factor that I think a lot of horror misses.  The atmosphere of the novel is wonderful--suspenseful, without being over-the-top.  It reminded me of a Hitchcock film.  The novel was haunting without being too disturbing.  There were a couple scenes where I wished I had more company around me than my cat (especially considering the role of cats in the novel) but these scenes were helped out by the fact that thanks to Dr. Who I have already had a strong fear of statuary coming into the book (don't blink!)

Rocks In My Socks: The climax of the novel slipped a bit too far into the realm of romantic melodrama for my tastes.  In addition to not being my cup of tea, I felt that it was a change in tone from the rest of the novel which left it feeling a bit lop-sided.  The main character is very strongly and clearly max for most of the novel and he's the one I cared most about, but in the climax he really only played a supporting role.

Every Book its Reader: 7th and up.  I'd give it to anyone looking for a good, quick read full of suspense.

The Prince of Mist by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

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Cosmic Review

Book Talk: Liam is not your average twelve-year-old.  He's taller than most adults and he's already started to grow facial hair.  A lot of the time, this can be a real drag--like when the other kids start calling him 'wolverine' but when Liam decides to make the most of it by pretending to be an adult he finds out that what sets him apart can lead to experiences that are totally cosmic.  The only problem is that now he's stuck miles above Earth, in space, with a bunch of kids.  Suddenly pretending to be a dad isn't so much fun, and more than anything what he wants is his own father to come and save them all.  But his father doesn't even know where he is, and even if he did, how could he get to them in space?

Rocks My Socks: The narrator is delightfully snarky, I particularly enjoyed his remarks on golf: "When you say 'hazard' to normal people they think of ice on the road, or fog, or sudden invasions of Night Elves.  Golfers think you mean sand.  Or a puddle with a duck in it."  This comment comes after chips his ball into the back of the golf cart to get it onto the green.  That's my kind of golf game!  The narrative voice is definitely what kept me turning the pages.  I also enjoyed the exploration of the father/son relationship.  By pretending to be a father, he gains a unique perspective.  He even borrows his dad's parenting book to use a manual, which leads to some good comic moments.

Rocks In My Socks: The premise of the novel is completely preposterous.  No one is going to send four kids and an adult into space after a week's training with no professional to accompany them.  I don't care how sketchy the group is, if they have enough wherewithal to send people to space they'll have enough common sense not to send unescorted children up.  This novel definitely requires a heaping spoonful of suspension of disbelief, and the portion was so big it was hard to swallow.  The plotting and characterization is also pretty standard and predictable.

Every Book Its Reader: 4th grade and up.  I'd give it to fans of humor looking for a light read.  The main character plays World of Warcraft a lot and makes analogies between that and his life throughout the novel.  A knowledge of MMORPGs isn't necessary to enjoy the novel, but fans of online gaming will definitely get more of out the novel than non-gamers.

Cosmic by Frank Cottrell Boyce
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Sunday, January 2, 2011

Mockingjay review

Book Talk: Katniss has been rescued from the arena, but the hunger games aren't over yet.  The playing field as just got much bigger.  Peeta and her are still being used as pawns in a game as the Rebels and the Capitol fight for control over the districts.  Katniss is told that she's still important and needs to continue to play the role of the mockingjay to bring the districts together in their fight against the capitol, but how can Katniss perform when everywhere she goes death and destruction follow and Peeta remains in the hands of the Capitol?

Rocks my Socks: Based on the buzz I'd heard online I came into this novel with pretty low expectations, but I was pleasantly surprised.  I was frustrated by the previous installment because I felt like just as it started to explore some interesting issues it was thrown off track by another games.  This time most of the novel is spent exploring who's right and who's wrong if anyone and where to draw the line.  The characters become more layered as more is revealed about them and they are pushed further by extreme circumstances.  There is still some action, especially in the end, but since they remain in the real world, real issues continue in this part.  It's also doesn't take up nearly as much time as the Games in the second book.

Rocks in my Socks: The narration of the books was a bit overly dramatic and dark at points, especially the beginning and end.  I couldn't help but read these parts using the batman voice in my head.  For all that these books are supposedly anti-war and violence Katniss seems rather obsessed with vengeance and is an eager soldier.  She forgives a lot of people, but really it's only people who are pretty easy to forgive.  I can't think of a single instance where a character that's truly hard to forgive is exonerated because they've already seen too much death and violence.  In fact violence seems to be the main way problems are solved.  The characters don't show as much growth as I would have hoped for at the end of a trilogy.  Perhaps the biggest and most annoying rock in my sock was the epilogue.  If there are legitimate loose ends that can't be tied up in the regular time line of the book, then it's okay to add an epilogue.  But if all the loose ends of the book are tied up and the point of the epilogue is just for you to say a sentimental goodbye to your characters as an author then keep it to yourself and don't publish it. It's better to leave those kinds of things to the imaginations of your fans instead of robbing them of a chance to make up their own future for the characters.

Every Book its Reader: I'd recommend it to fans of the series.  If you've enjoyed the series, then it's worth finishing it with this book.  I don't think it would make sense to those who haven't read the first two books--I had difficulty with it at times and it's only been a year since I read the first two books.

************spoiler/rant alert********************
So there are two things I wanted to discuss, one positive, one not but they are definitely spoilers so I've added them down here.  First the good: even though I was rooting for Gale at the beginning of the book, I'm glad she ended up with Peeta.  I'm sorry but not wanting someone to kiss other people is not the same as being in love with a person.  What kind of crappy romantic origin story was that?  I don't think Gale ever really wanted her, he just didn't want anyone else to have her.  He lost any points he had gained in my mind the moment we first saw him working on those cruel traps, and of course I knew where that would wind up--in a heavy-handed lesson in morality.

The bad: Okay, so my knowledge of archery basically comes from Robin Hood and most of my physics from Big Bang Theory, but I don't think that last arrow would have killed president Coin.  It would have had to go straight up and then down, which would mean that it would lose the momentum from the bow when it changed directions and rely mostly on gravity for the way down.  To kill Coin instantly before the doubtless immediate medical aid could save her she'd have to hit a vital point.  I don't think she could hit the heart at that angle so it'd have to be a head shot.  Even hitting her neck medics probably would have saved her in time.  It would have had to go pretty high to gain enough momentum for gravity to pierce a human skull, which would give snow time to get out of the way. As I said my knowledge of this is pretty shaky, but it's bugging me so if you have any further insight into the possibility of this working please leave it in the comments. Also I'm confused about why Katniss votes for another hunger games at the end and about whether this actually comes to pass.  the best reason I could come up with was that perhaps it was to fool president Coin into thinking she was on her side so she'd have the chance to kill her, but I think Coin would have been standing there whether the vote had passed or not.  If you can clarify this for me, please do because even the idea that they proposed holding another games is so abhorrent and depressing considering everything they'd just been through that it makes me a bit sad that they didn't all die and allow a new species to take over.

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
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Saturday, January 1, 2011

Behemoth review

Book Talk: Just as Alek is starting to feel like he belongs, Austria joins the war and he becomes a prisoner of war.  He can't stay on the Leviathan as a prisoner, so he escapes to freedom in Istanbul.  Deryn hates to see him go, and she hates how much she hates to see him go even more.  Maybe it's for the best.  Now she can focus on being a soldier and stop mooning over some stupid boy.  But fate brings them together again, and Deryn has to figure out how to stay loyal to her country despite her feelings and above all she has to make sure no one discovers her secret.  This would all be a lot easier if it weren't for the anarchist girl Alek falls in with.  In a town where so many cultures live side by side and dozens of languages are spoken, how can anyone make sense of the confusion?

Rocks my Socks:  The setting is as wonderfully realized as in the previous novel, and here we get even more details as we explore the cultural melting pot of Istanbul.  The love triangle that forms with Alek, Deryn, and the rebel girl is deliciously awkward.  A device called the Tesla cannon makes its appearance, and even though it's used by the Germans any reference to Tesla earns brownie points in my book.  There is also a new beastie introduced in the book that's a talking primate--what's not to love?  The illustrations are once again excellent and well-placed throughout the novel.

Rocks in my Socks: There isn't that much of Darwin's granddaughter in this book, and I like her.  My main objection however was that I've read another book in this series without being rewarded by the big reveal scene that I've been waiting for.  Granted, it wouldn't really have made sense to have it this early on in the series, but gosh darnit I still have to wait for a new book to come out before I can read it and that is definitely a rock in my sock, however unjustified the criticism may be!

Every Book its Reader: I'd recommend it to fans of steampunk, fantasy, and alternate history.  There is some violence and death, but very little for a war novel.  I'd give it to 6th grade and up or younger if they're strong, mature readers.  I wouldn't recommend reading this without Leviathan first and I'd further recommend that waiting until the last book in the series comes out before picking it up.

Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld, illustrated by Keith Thompson
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Moribito Review

The last three books I've read consist of the first book in the series, followed by the second book in a series, and then the third book in a series.  They all belong to different series, however.  It's funny how that worked out.  To start us off we have the first book in the Moribito Series

Book Talk: Balsa is a fighter and a body guard, but even she isn't prepared for the mess she finds herself in after rescuing the second prince from drowning one day.  Balsa has no love of royalty, but before she knows it she's risking her life and fighting foes natural and supernatural to protect the boy.  She soon realizes that much more is at stake than just one boy's life, but how can she defeat a  foe that she can't see and knows nothing about?

Rocks my Socks: A great, fast-paced fantasy adventure novel.  The author is Japanese (it's translated into English), which really makes it stand out among all the western fantasy stories in the market.  The novel is fantasy and not historical fiction, but just as English and American fantasy novels often take place in worlds based on Europe in the Middle Ages, the world of this book is rooted in Japanese culture in the same period.  I also love the exploration of gender in this book.  The strongest magician and the strongest warrior are both female while the male lead is a healer.  The land of the novel is populated by a foreign cultural group who took over the land of the natives and the themes explored involving the interplay between the two are also fascinating.  There is a romantic subplot, but it's minor and well-handled and doesn't detract from the action sequences.  There are great two-page illustrations at the beginning of each part.

Rocks in my Socks: There were a fair amount of moments, especially in the beginning, where I felt that basic aspects of the world were a bit awkwardly explained and shoe horned in without really matching the flow of the novel.  This usually involved aspects that weren't unique to the fantasy world but were drawn from history so that most Japanese readers wouldn't need the explanations.  This lead me to think that they might have been added in by the translator to help western audiences follow the plot.  It was particularly frustrating to me because I've studied Japanese history a bit and I've taken two years of the language at university, so it felt a bit obvious to me.  I can see why these explanations were needed though, especially for a young adult audience, but I do think they could have been handled better so it didn't disturb the flow of the novel as much.

Every Book its Reader: I'd recommend this to fans of fantasy adventure novels in general and especially to those with an interest in Japanese culture.  The book isn't terribly violent for an adventure novel; I'd say that it would be best appreciated by 6th grade and up but it could be read by strong readers of a younger age.  Adults who are looking for a Japanese fantasy novel or a good quick read would enjoy it as well.

Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit by Nahoko Uehashi, translated by Cathy Hirano
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Plain Kate Review

Book Talk: Plain Kate's mother died in childbirth, and after her father catches witch's fever and follows her mother Kate is left alone in the world.  Fortunately, although Kate's looks may be plain she is extraordinarily talented with a knife.  In fact she's so good that some people think she's a witch herself.  When a stranger with actual magical abilities comes to down and starts making it look as if she's casting spells she's forced to sell him her shadow for the chance to flee town before she's burned at the stake.  She has to find a new place to fit in before the spell is completed and her shadow disappears completely, but where could a shadowless orphan possibly belong?  When a new, strange sickness starts causing a panic people start looking for someone to blame, and Kate is a perfect candidate.

Rocks my Socks:  Kate's sidekick is a talking cat.  That's enough to sell me.  Cats have such amusing personalities that it's always entertaining to give their haughty pride a voice.  There are also a lot of strong female characters, which I always enjoy.  Kate herself is a great example.  She manages to survive on her own through skill and persevering, she is willing to risk herself for others and her beliefs, she is able to see the sparks of goodness despite all the horrible things happening around her, and she is able to forgive and move on with her life.  She works hard at her skill in addition to being born with talent.  She's a great role model as far as I'm concerned.  I also really enjoyed the character Linay, who steals her shadow. He's definitely not a good role model, but he is wonderfully morally ambiguous.  There's a lot of meat and subtleties to his character.

Rocks in my Socks: I read a lot of glowing reviews of this book before reading it, so I came in with really high expectations, and they weren't quite met.  The book is a well-written fantasy novel, but I wouldn't call it exceptional.  The plot is enjoyable, but not particularly original or striking.  The moral, while handled well enough, is the same lesson about the treatment of outsiders that appears in virtually every book involving witchcraft and small towns.

Every Book its Reader: I'd give this book to 7th grade and up fantasy fans, especially those who enjoy talking animals.  The female presence is stronger than the male presence in the book, but there's no romantic subplot or particularly feminine elements, although it does spend some time talking about periods.  Still, I think it could be enjoyed by boys as well.

*************Animal Status Spoiler Alert*************************
I've added this in because I know some people won't read books that involve animals without knowing whether or not they survive in the end.  If you are one of those people (and you know who you are) rest assured that although the cat seems to die at the end, he is brought back to life.

Plain Kate by Erin Bow
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Crunch Review

Book Talk: Dewey's parents are off on their annual anniversary trip, and he's in charge of the family bike repair shop while they're away.  Normally they'd have a baby-sitter, but now that his older sister is 18 they convinced their parents that they could take care of themselves and Dewey is eager to prove that he can handle the responsibility. If only they had known what they were getting themselves into.  Suddenly the oil supplies that had been running low run out entirely and Dewey's parents are stranded where they are, along with the rest of the country.  With all the cars out of commission, the business in the bike shop really picks up.  The repair jobs pile up faster by the minute, parts start costing more, bike thieves multiply, and if the crisis isn't resolved soon mob rule threatens to take over.  Dewey's never missed his parents more, and they're never been farther away.  How will he ever be able to cope until they get back?

Rocks my Socks: With all the oil running out this book has a very realistic post-apocalyptic air, but it's also the most charming post-apocalyptic book I've ever read.  Bad things happen and everyone is pushed to their limits, but the kids are able to constantly rise above it and focus on the good things that are happening as well.  They end up trusting people they shouldn't, but that doesn't cause them to stop trusting everyone and their trust in other people is rewarded.  It's a wonderful moral, but it's conveyed in a very realistic way and not at all heavy-handed.  There are also other nice themes woven into the plot such as them growing some of their own food, and biking, and taking junk and recycling it into art--I think it will go over very well in Marin county, where I live.  Plus the main character is named Dewey, so as a student of library science I have to like it.  It's my favorite juvenile fiction book of the year--and I don't even know how to ride a bike!

Rocks in my Socks: If I was pressed to find something I didn't like about the book it would be that the gender roles aren't very balanced.  The female daughter is in charge of watching the five-year-old twins while the two boys handle the bike repair shop.  The adult female characters also seem to be mainly involved with child-rearing while the male characters are truck drivers and cops and bike repairers.  Not that there's anything wrong with a woman devoting herself to children, heck I work at an elementary school library myself and I love my job, but it would be nice to also have a female character who was a bike repair expert or a cop.

Every Book its Reader: I think that this book has really broad appeal.  It has some meat to it, but its overall tone remains pretty light-hearted and outright humorous at times.  I'd recommend it to any kid who enjoys realistic fiction.  It would be a great read aloud for a class, too.

Crunch by Leslie Connor
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The Birthday Ball Review

Book Talk: Princess Patricia Priscilla is not looking forward to her sixteenth birthday ball.  At it she will have to decide who to marry and each of her suitors is more repulsive than the next: Duke Desmond of Dyspepsia who is as ugly and irritable as a warthog and forbids all mirrors in his kingdom, Prince Percival of Pustula who has altogether too many mirrors and a heart as black as his oily hair, and the Conjoint Counts Colin and Cuthbert who never have enough time to care about something like mirrors because they are constantly squabbling.  So, Princess Priscilla decides to escape her boring castle life for one week before her ball and see what it's like to go to school as a normal village child.  Her birthday is fast approaching, but she doubts she will ever get her wish.

Rocks my Socks: This book was absolutely charming.  A light-hearted fairy tale full of rhymes, alliteration, and simple morals.  The characters are the kind of ridiculous caricatures you'd expect from a fairy tale and the ending and the whole story is satisfying in the simplicity with which it wraps up everyone's problems.  The illustrations by Feiffer are delightful and set the perfect tone.

Rocks in my Socks: The plot is definitely basic and predictable, but it's meant to be.  There wasn't anything to really sink your teeth into and all the characters and morals were pretty superficial, but that's also appropriate to the style Lowry seemed to be going for.

Every Book its Reader: I'd recommend it for children of all ages.  I don't know if many boys would read it based on its title and cover, but there's actually a fair amount of potty humor in there thanks to the twins (along with the much-needed moral that this isn't always appropriate) so I think that they'd enjoy it if they did pick it up.  For that reason it might make a good read-aloud book.  The book is, as I said, really basic and juvenile so I wouldn't recommend it to adults as a serious read, but because it's a very quick read it might be a fun few hours for adults wishing to reconnect with their inner child.

The Birthday Ball by Lois Lowry, illustrated by Jules Feiffer
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Luna Review


Book Talk: Regan loves her brother and wants him to be happy, but his secret is keeping her up at night, literally.  Although her brother seems like any other boy, he feels like he's a girl.  He knows what might happen if his secret is discovered, but constantly hiding who he is takes its toll.  His one refuge is sneaking into Regan's room at night to try on dresses and apply make-up.  It's the only place he can be himself.  But eventually there comes a day when night-time excursions aren't enough.  He longs to show the world who he is, but even though Regan loves and accepts him, she's afraid that the rest of the world might not.

Rocks my Socks: I really enjoyed the characterization in this story, especially for Regan and Liam/Luna.  The characters really have some meat to them and they protagonists are not perfect and they make mistakes and I love that.  I also found the issues explored fascinating and am glad that someone wrote a YA book about it.  The story was also compelling and I found myself staying up late to finish it in one sitting.

Rocks in my Socks: I felt like the focus of the novel was too split.  The narrator is Regan and I feel like she's supposed to be the protagonist, but the way the novel is told it feels like the main character is really Liam/Luna.  Liam/Luna is the character that has the biggest change from beginning to end and is the center of the story arc.  But there is also a fair amount that's just about Regan and parts of Liam/Luna's story that are left untold.  The most frustrating part for me was that I really like Regan's story line as well and I felt that the novel ended at the completion of Liam/Luna's story arc and left Regan's unfinished.  I suppose part of the point of the story is that Regan's life is focused around Liam/Luna rather than herself but that didn't make it any less frustrating.  There were also a lot of flashback scenes peppered throughout the novel that eventually seemed a bit redundant.  Since I stayed up late to finish the novel I ended up skimming over the flashback sequences near the end of the novel so that I could get on to find out what was happening in the plot.

Every Book its Reader: I'd recommend it to 9th grade and up who enjoy contemporary issues fiction in general or glbtq fiction specifically.

Luna by Julie Anne Peters
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The Ribbajack Review

The Ribbajack: and Other Haunting Tales

Book Talk: This collection of short stories may be by the author of Redwall, but if you're looking for cuddly animals you're looking in the wrong place.  These stories mostly revolve around school-aged human youth and the creatures that do appear in the stories are anything but cuddly.  If you want to find out what a Ribbajack is and what it can do, then pick up this book.  I'd wait until day light to read it, though.

Rocks my Socks: These stories are wonderfully atmospheric and perfectly capture the horror that literature has taught me to associate with English boarding schools and the countryside of Great Britain and Ireland in general.  Thank goodness I was raised in America!  On a more serious note, these stories have a dahl-esque sense of dark justice that I simply adore.  The sense of justice, albeit dark, means that there are also some nice little morals in the stories.  Also like Dahl, the stories are definitely dark, but they're actually not terribly violent.  The violent bits that do exist are mostly left up to the imagination rather than described in detail, which I prefer.

Rocks in my Socks:   As much as I enjoyed the atmosphere of these stories the pacing was a bit slow at times.  I started reading this book in the spring and only finished it in November.  The stories were good and I enjoyed them when I eventually sat down to read one, but I never felt particularly compelled to keep on reading.

Every Book its Reader: I'd recommend this to fans of suspense/horror or anyone with a taste for dark literature.  The gender of the main characters switches depending on the story so I think it would be great for both boys and girls.  As I said it's not graphically violent, but it is rather dark.  I'd suggest it for 7th and up.

The Ribbajack by Brian Jacques
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Runemarks review


Book Talk: Ragnarök has come and gone and new gods are rising to replace the old.  The first order of business for the new religion is to stamp out any remaining traces of the old.  This involves casting suspicion on anything that has a hint of the old religion about it.  This is an unfortunate set of circumstances for anyone so unlucky as to be born with a runemark of the old region on their skin.  Which is exactly what happens to Maddy.  Bad luck seems to follow Maddy wherever she goes, that is until one day when she finds out that it's harder to kill a god than people supposed, that the old religion isn't entirely gone, and her rune mark could be lucky after all.  

Rocks my Socks: The book is post-Ragnarök, which means post-apocalyptic-Norse mythology- fiction.  What's not to love?  The market is completely saturated with Greek mythology spin offs right now, which makes this book a refreshing change of pace.  Don't get me wrong, I love Greek mythology but it's just nice to see something different, besides I'm a total sucker for trickster gods and Loki plays a major part in this book.  Maddy is also a refreshingly strong female lead who isn't burdened by any romantic subplots to make her act goofy.  

Rocks in my Socks: Magic comes a bit too easily to Maddy.  I wish she had to work a bit harder and take more time learning to train her skills.  Instead I feel as if she's just endowed with skill and it gives her a free pass to get them out of any tight situation they find themselves in.  I feel that her being lucky and endowed with power isn't a great lesson for kids whereas being endowed with power but still needing to work to learn how to use it properly is a much better moral and more realistic.  

Every Book its Reader: I'd recommend this to fans of fantasy adventure and mythology, especially Norse.  Some previous knowledge of Norse mythology would be helpful, but I don't think it's really necessary.  There's some violence in the novel, but nothing more than your average fantasy adventure novel and no romance.  I'd recommend it to boys and girls middle school and up.  I think it could be easily enjoyed by adults as well, especially with the dearth of Norse mythology fiction out there.  

Runemarks by Joanne Harris
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Tunnels Review

Book Talk: Every kid has their hobby: some do sports, some play videogames, but for Will, it's digging.  Will's father guides him in digging tunnels likely to unearth archaeological finds around town, and some of the stuff they find is amazing.  Will never thought he'd find a friend his own age who understood his passion, but one day he befriends fellow-outcast Chester and he shares his tunnel with him.  It's a good thing too, because Will has never needed a friend more.  His father has disappeared, his mother has never really been there for him, and his over-achieving sister has just about had it with all of them.  Finding out what happened to his father is difficult enough, even with the help of his friend.  But there's more than Will's father waiting for them underground, and soon Will and Chester are in a world of danger.

Rocks My Socks:  Once Will and Chester make it to the underground world the pace is very fast and engaging.  The descriptions of the other world are detailed and interesting.  There are several endearing characters in the world and a lovable pet as well.  I enjoyed reading about Will's passion for digging and the descriptions of what that entailed.

Rocks In My Socks: The books spends entirely too much time on events that take place before Will discovers the underground world and it makes the novel very slow to take off as well as making the novel feel very lop-sided.  The characters are mostly two dimensional and predictable.  Even with suspension of disbelief there were many aspects that just didn't make sense to me in the world of the novel or felt shoe-horned in without real justification for the sake of amusement or to advance the plot.  The world is well described but built on rather flimsy foundations.  The book is also another sufferer of Useless Adult Syndrome with almost all of the adults laughably helpless or inexplicably evil and bent on torturing children. The pictures are good, but there will be none for hundreds of pages and then two just a few pages apart and what was chosen for illustration seems more or less random.

Every Book Its Reader: This book is definitely aimed at a male audience, but could be enjoyed by girls as well.  I don't think this book would be engaging enough for adult readers, but I could see middle school fantasy adventure fans enjoying the book--especially if they can make it through the slow beginning to the fast-paced underground world.  There is a fair amount of violence and some torture, but nothing too gruesome.

Tunnels by Roderick Gordon and Brian Williams
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