Monthly Archives: July 2012

“Shadow and Bone” by Leigh Bardugo

First of all, cool author name. Beautiful cover art. Original Russian inspiration to a slightly historical fiction-feeling fantasy. Yeah, sign me up. This is a book I would love to see on the big screen, just as much as any of the Harry Potters, and I mean that. It’s a book with a map in the beginning on a double page spread. Enough said.

It starts out like other YAs, but in that third or fourth chapter, the conventions get a big twist, and happens again just after the mid-point.

It has it’s flaws and it’s weak chapters and its girly moments as any fantasy/war story does with a teenage female protagonist, but all flaws aside, the overall experience is filled with original yet familiar world-building and high levels of conflict. While other novels have “world-built” better or deeper, and yes, I would have like a little more from the book in that respect, the majority of the creatures, characters, and environments were better than most, and maybe I’m being too critical. I really, really, liked it, but I did want to know more about the class distinctions and Grisha powers. The culture’s details were never overkill going on and on, and it was never underdone either. I guess it found a happy-medium.

There was just enough Russian insipred diction and dress and decor in “Shadow and Bone” to keep me invested and curious about this place called “Ravka”, however some people may find it thin in some of its details. Considering this is the beginning of a YA trilogy though, and this novel truly set off Bardugo’s career on the right foot, I am eagerly anticpating the next novel. It should expand on what has already been set-up, and if it does, this is going to be a best-selling series.

The wait may be a while though, since Shadow and Bone was released very recently.

If you enjoy original plot twists, stakes which continue to climb and climb, total fear at the three-quarter mark when it seems all hope is lost, splashed with magical beasts, light court intrigue, and some coming-of-age romance (the weakest part of the novel), then this excellent first installement of “The Grisha Trilogy” is for you.

Some writing was weak and you might skim a few pages here and there, but over all, this 4/5 book gets a 4.5/5 from me just because the ending was exciting and seemed terrifyingly hopeless and I really got sucked in. That was well-executed, and Miss Bardugo knows how to write conflict. This has “make me a film” written all over it.

For fans of The Wizard of Oz, The Princess Bride, The Lord of the Rings, Graceling, and Grave Mercy. (If you haven’t read Graceling, and you’re a girl, read it now.)

4.5/5

MH

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7/14/12 – Book Haul Update

Just a brief reminder, as much for myself as for you, about the books I’d like to read over the next 6 weeks before summer — sigh — ends.

  1. Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
  2. Partials by Dan Wells
  3. Seriphina by Rachel Hartman
  4. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
  5. Story of Beautiful Girl by Rachel Simon
  6. In One Person by John Irving

Check ’em out before I do.

MH

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“Insurgent” by Veronica Roth: a reaction to the novel

This is not a traditional review. It’s a reaction. And I’m doing this because I don’t feel like writing today, plus this is a second novel in a series by Veronica Roth, and I don’t want to waste your time if you’re not interested in the series. If you are curious though, please read my first blog review about the first novel HERE to decide if it’s worth your time.

The truth is, with every author writing a trilogy or worse, it’s hard to get genuinely excited for a series anymore. A lot of these author in Young Adult take a premise that could be a book or two at best and make them between three and seven obnoxious, money grabbing books. If you read my blogs from the past few months, you’ll know I complain about this regularly.

That said: I can honestly say the “Divergent” series is deserving of the buzz and should be THE NEXT BIG THING. A movie will come, and when the third book is out, this will hit the roof, just like Mockingjay did for Collins’ and her less than impressive “Hunger Games” Series.

Divergent is better. I’m sticking to it.

Which brings me to the reaction to “Insurgent” which came out in MAY 2012:

This was the best sequel to a “book one” I’ve ever read in Y.A.

It had the impact of Harry Potter while being Sci-Fi. It carries weight and angst and romance and violence. Veronica Roth continued to write a fast-paced story here, and, yes, it’s not perfect writing and can sometimes go on a bit, but nowhere near the extent of other Y.A. authors. You read Veronica Roth’s work because it’s so visual and has a lot of energy. It’s the series I would equate most to “reading a movie.” This is not poetic or artsy writing, in fact it is very utilitarian in its use, but you can’t turn the pages fast enough.

You read because the plot and story rules. She works with her strengths well. She does what she does damned good.

So I give it a 4/5, just like the first installment. These are not really sepearate books, but a three part, very long story. “Insurgent” picked up exactly where “Divergent” left off, which will be jumbling to someone who hasn’t read the first book in ten months, but it’s nothing a brief wiki visit can’t fix. Overall, this continued the adventure at the same calibur as the first one, which isn’t always the case for sequel movies and books. God knows there’s a lot of shit out there. But if you liked Divergent or if my PREVIOUS REVIEW entices you, go NOW to your library.

And the Ending, the last chapter, no, the last page, is a Holy Crap Moment. Enjoy that.

I’m sad there’s only one book left.

The stakes are raised, people die, and this plot runs deeper than affecting just five factions.

I’ve said too much already. Go. Go!

4/5

MH

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“Blankets” by Craig Thompson: an illustrated novel review

“Blankets” by Craig Thompson is a unique and mature graphic novel which was never a collection of comic issues, but a decidedly heavy and intentional one-shot novel told through pictures and text. A hefty 400+ page black-and-white journey with dark issues that are anything but black-and-white, this tale is ambiguous enough that many may not know how to feel about it, and some may not even like it — but if you consider yourself a lover of well-executed visual art or if you are a graphic novel aficionado, read this right away.

This title is so close to a 5 but the end was a bit to ambiguous for me. The meat of Thompson’s story, however, is truly a novel; a well-written one, that happened to be illustrated, and deserves respect.

This is an adult book for 17 and up, and here are a few reasons:

Implied molestation, child abuse, child negligence, scenes showing the difficulties of mental retardation and family life, drug use, violence, harsh language, nudity, frontal male gentials and topless females, and scenes discussing, inferring, and almost showing the act of masturbation.

So yeah. Adult stuff.

I would love to ask Craig why he felt he had to tell THIS story in THIS style, (why not just a real novel), but that question is kind of answered in the text. This is a story about finding our purpose in life; making decisions to live for others or ourselves or God. It also touches on how many of us felt growing up: awkward and wishing for acceptance and love. Some of us still feel that.

It’s a story loaded, and I mean freakin’; loaded with Christian guilt and hypocracies, showing how bad organized religion can be for a particular youth. And he backs up the claim of why he lost his faith in this novel. You’ll see. Oh, you’ll see literally. Or is it “graphically”?

Top 20 Most important graphic/illustrated novels of all time, I’d guess.

4/5

MH

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“The Boy in the Striped Pajamas” by John Boyne: a book review

Simply put, this is one of those fablelike books that come around once a lifetime, filled with messages about humanity that serve as entertaining lessons for children, teens, adults, and the elderly. This is just good writing — just a book, not meant for any sub-genre category.

In this brief book, about 210 pages, big font and margins, you can fully absorb yourself in one day into a Holocaust story told in a way that is as unique as the title. Without ever saying “Holocaust” or “Auschwitz” and leaving out painful slangs and hyper-violence and sex, this still hits hard and will stir you deep. Through our collective culture’s global understanding and our personal interpretations of what happened in Poland and Germany in WWII, we’ve all been given a lifetime of details from our movies we’ve watched and our lessons from school and the stories we’ve heard from the elderly.

With this personal information we all carry, and our own relationship to it, the author shows us something fresh; he shows us this time in human history through the eyes of a naive nine-year old son of a Commandant who lives just outside of a “camp” and makes friends with a Jewish boy on the other side of the fence. Third-person, but mostly from Bruno’s perspective, we watch a German boy’s desire to be around others and find happiness through very specific cultural “lenses.” German lenses. Heavy stuff and easy to empathize to nearly all the characters.

(The movie adaptation was great, but I still recommend reading the book first.)

Staggeringly simple, short, and tightly written, this novel is equally harsh, inventive, artistic and important — while most importantly, being accessible to any age.

Worth owning and a Must-Read. One of the great “Holocaust” tales, just as important (if not more so) for kids to read than “Diary of Anne Frank.”

5/5

MH

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