Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Book Review: The Language of Thorns: Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic by Leigh Bardugo

If you are a fan of Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse books, you will not want to miss this collection of short stories set in Grisha. Bardugo relates that these folk tales and fairy tales are of the sort the characters in her Grishaverse novels might have heard when they were growing up. No worries if you haven’t read the Grishaverse novels, but this book might lead you to them.

Six tales, each magical and mysterious in its own way, await you. The Witch of Duva is a tale reminiscent of Hansel and Gretel but much edgier. In The Too-Clever Fox, a hunter is traveling throughout the countryside eradicating the animals in the forest. Koja, a clever fox thinks to outsmart the hunter. Can the less-than-perfect second daughter of a poor family save the village from the ravenous monster, who is a second son of the king? Read  Ayama and the Thorn Wood to find the answer. If you are into mermaids, When Water Sang Fire will be one not to miss. 

All six of these tales capture the imagination. Some will teach a valuable lesson. As you turn the pages, do not miss the ever-changing illustrations in each story. They are almost as interesting as the stories.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Book Review: Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds


Award winner.
Coretta Scott King Honor
Newbery Honor
Printz Honor
Walter Dean Myer Award

Written in free verse
(which is not my thing),
I sat down one morning
to try and force my way through.
But before I knew it
I couldn’t turn the pages
fast enough to
keep the story going.           

Brother Shawn murdered and
Will knows the neighborhood rules:

    1.   Crying. Don’t.
No matter what.
    2.   Snitching. Don’t.
No Matter what.
    3.   Revenge. Do.
    No matter what.

So he finds his brother’s gun
and he’s on his way
to right a wrong
when the elevator
sets him on an otherworldly trip.

From the 8th floor to
the ground floor, the deceased
will step on with a little word
or two for Will.

Don’t want to give
too much away.
You need to experience
this book for yourself.
See the cycle
of violence some live
each day.

What does Will do?
Follow the
neighborhood rules
or break the cycle?
No regrets 
will you experience
from having read
this novel.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Book Review: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

A novel ripped from the headlines but in this case, we are given unlimited access to the thoughts and feelings of the central character. What an eye-opener that is for the reader! You may have heard of this book even if you haven’t read it yet.  A debut novel, it quickly because a New York Times best seller for this Mississippi author.

Starr Carter lives in a poor, black neighborhood and attends school at a posh suburban prep school. It’s like she’s trying to balance two separate lives. After attending a party in the neighborhood that breaks up due to a fight and gunshots, Starr is in the car with her childhood friend, Khalil, when they are pulled over by police. In front of her eyes, the unarmed Khalil is shot and killed by police. Starr is thrust into the aftermath – social unrest, police investigation, grand jury testimony, media coverage – all while trying to deal with her grief and anger.

This is a well-told story. There are too many components to mention them all. Starr’s father wants to stay in the neighborhood; Starr’s mother wants to move to the suburbs. Starr’s boyfriend is white, and her father doesn’t know about him. One of Starr’s best friends at school is a racist that doesn’t even realize she is one (and it takes Starr a while to figure that out). Khalil might have been a drug dealer but if he is, will you be sympathetic when you hear why? Starr wants to do the right thing but she is scared and what she says or does not say may destroy her community and endanger her life and the life of her family.

I agree with a review I read that this is a book that should be read by everyone, not just teens. 

Monday, March 19, 2018

Book Review: Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner

Do you think about what someone might be doing when you send them a text?  Do you ever send a text when you think/know they might be driving?  In Goodbye Days, Carver Briggs is waiting on his three best friends (Mars, Eli, and Blake) to pick him up from work, and he sends them a simple text:

 Where are you guys? Text me back.

Their vehicle rear-ends a semi-truck and all three teenagers are killed.  When the driver’s phone is recovered, it contains a partial response to Carver’s text. This book covers the ensuing days with flashbacks thrown in.  Carver deals with guilt, grief, and the possibility of criminal charges for negligent manslaughter.  He starts a friendship with the girlfriend of one of his friends and she is an ally at school where no one knows how to treat him anymore.  Blake’s grandmother wants Carver to spend a goodbye day with her to share memories and say goodbye to Blake.  Eventually, Carver will spend a goodbye day with Eli’s and Mars’ family as well. 

I picked this book to read because I had previously read The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner, and it was a truly good read.  This book did not disappoint.  It was thought-provoking.  I also learned a few new words like pareidolia, synesthesia, and oeuvre.  In his previous novel (and this one as well), I feel connected to the characters.   Both novels also touch on teens questioning the religion of their parents.  This is a natural question during the teenage years:  Do I share my parents’ beliefs?  Zentner speaks to this issue without belittling or negating anyone’s belief system. 

One of the lines I liked:  “For the most part, you don’t hold the people you love in your heart because they rescued you from drowning or pulled you from a burning house.  Mostly you hold them in your heart because they save you, in a million quiet and perfect ways, from being alone.”