Thursday, October 28, 2010

Time to Brag!

Yeah, so MacMillan decided that I needed a lot of books for free.
I concurred with their decision.
Tell me, which of these books would you like reviewed first?  Remember, I'm still on one book that I just recently got SIGNED, but hopefully I will have more time to read and review for your pleasure.
So . . .
here's the list:

Girl, Stolen (Christy Ottaviano Books)


Hold Me Closer, Necromancer

The Girl Who Became a Beatle

The House of Dead Maids

Solitary: Escape from Furnace 2

Tell me, what do you want to know about first?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Forest of Hands and Teeth- Carrie Ryan

I read this book ages ago.  I've been MEANING to write a review, really, I have! And now there's a sequel out and I should be ashamed at being so behind.

Anyway, The Forest of Hands and Teeth is about a teenage girl living in this tiny little strict village surrounded by a fence.  Beyond the fence, is the Forest of Hands and Teeth.

But what does that mean?  Hands and teeth?  What about, like, trees and squirrels?

Well, this forest is not a happy forest.  In act, it is full of . . .

ZOMBIES!  Whoo hoo!  They can never leave the village because they'll get attacked by zombies!  Therefore, the church people are in charge and think, 'hey, we have absolute power, so let's use it.'
And they do. And Mary, the aforesaid teenager, hates it.
The church keeps a lot of secrets from the villagers.  That kinda happens when people want to use their absolute power.
But then some bad stuff happens, as you would expect, since they are surrounded by zombies.
Now, what with the paranormal romance craze, we've come across many zombies these days who just aren't scary.
These ones are.  They eat your brains and rot slowly and have very little brain function.  You will not discover your Zombie Edward Cullen here.
Or your Zombie Justin Bieber.
Though that would be funny, come to think of it.
So their village gets attacked, and Mary and some chums of hers wander off through this incredibly elaborate gate system that runs through the forest trying to find another safe village.
This is the part I don't get.  See, there was a Zombie apocalypse, but somehow they managed to built a huge elaborate system of gates and isolated villages during the apocalypse?  So there's zombies attacking from every direction, and they can build all these fences?  WHAT?! Why don't they just shoot them and leave?

Anyway, if anyone understands this and would like to explain it to me, please do so.

And Mary, being a teenage girl, has some of those teenage girl worries like, 'do i like this guy or not?  hmmm..'  But this is a very minor part of the book.  It's more about trying to find a place where there are no zombies, and then dealing with all the dead people, and all the former family members who became zombies, which most teenage girls I know don't have to deal with.  Most.

So besides some of the things that I don't quite get, this book is worth checking out, because you know, it has zombies, and zombie killing action, and the main character is pretty cool, not some idiot who whines all the time, but actually thinks about stuff and tries to survive and deal with things.

I might read the sequel sometime.  Maybe.

Oh, and here's the sequel:

Monday, October 18, 2010

Annexed- Sharon Dogar

Okay, I admit it: I have never read Anne Frank's diary.
There, I said it.
However, I have read the play, seen a production on stage, seen a few TV specials, and went to visit the actual annex in Amsterdam.
None of it, except for visiting the actual annex, really affected me.  I have read countless books about the Holocaust, but the diary of a girl who was in an attic for two years never really sounded that interesting compared to people being tortured in camps or fighting Nazis. Perhaps if Anne had managed to write about the time she spent in Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen, I would have been more interested.
But going to the place where those eight people hid for two years was heartbreaking.  Just climbing the steep steps behind the bookcase door was sad. And it made it so it's too hard to watch anything on Anne Frank on TV, so I'm amazed I actually made it through this.
'Annexed' tells the story of Peter van Pels, Anne's sort-of boyfriend who lived in the annex with her.  This version of the story has Peter, feeling very alone, very powerless, and very teenaged.  He doesn't have Anne's gift of writing, but his story feels true; he's just a teenage boy who is confused and doesn't know what he feels or who he is, or if he's a coward for hiding when others are fighting.  In addition to normal teenage boy angst, he also has to deal with the fact that he's been told he's a 'cockroach,' that since he was born Jewish he should be eradicated no matter what he actually believes.  And he doesn't know what he does believe.
The book takes the reader through Peter's last years of life, starting with his fictionalized girlfriend being taken away and him ending up in the annex wondering what happened to her and what was happening to others.  He spends a lot of time by himself, at first finding Anne's presence irritating, but growing to love her as she matures, though he always feels second to her diary.  Interspersed with the chapters about Peter's life in the annex are his musings about his life as he's dying in Mauthausen. The story doesn't stop where Anne's diary stops; instead, Peter tells of them being loaded into the cattle cars, riding for days among the other 'undesirable' people with no food or water, no place to urinate, and no room to lie down. He tells of his days at Auschwitz; how he had to steal things to survive, how he never knew what happened to his mother or the Frank women, how his father died, how he was sent on a death march, leaving behind Otto Frank, the only link to his past, at Auschwitz where he was sure the kind man would die alone.  So much of this story is mixed up; no one is entirely sure what exactly happened to Peter van Pels, but it is known that he was at Auschwitz, that he went on a death march, that he died either on the march or at the Mauthausen sick bay, and that he was subjected to inhumane treatment and lost everyone he loved, even himself.
Taking the story of someone we all know of, but not well, and expanding upon it, can be a daunting task.  There are historical facts and there are the subjective musings of Anne; there is Otto Frank, the only one to make it out alive, and taking all of this and building a believable and likable character is quite a feat.  Sharon Dogar has created a story that people have wondered about for years; while we know what Anne said, we don't know how Peter felt, and perhaps Dogar has it completely wrong.  But even if that is true, which we will never know, this book still has a ring of truth in it, as the thoughts and feelings are so honest and Peter's experience most likely mirrored that of others like him, and they should not be forgotten.
"Do you hear me?  Is anyone listening?' he keeps asking.
Personally, I think a lot of us are.  Even though it happened many years ago, people are still listening to the ghosts of the past, and people around the world are trying to prevent such atrocities from happening again, though unfortunately, sometimes they still do. Maybe if more of us listen, we can chage that.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Someone Named Eva - Joan M Wolf

I cannot believe I forgot to review this.
Honestly. This book is great.
It's set during WWII, which is of course a popular choice of setting for authors, and it involves a girl from Czechoslovakia.
Her name is Milada, and the Nazis decide to be a bunch of jerks as usual.

Here is what I said on Goodreads:
"Man, Nazis suck, yo!
They like, killed all these people in Lidice as punishment for some people killing this one dude they liked, and then took out all the Aryan lookin' kids and forced them to become upstanding Nazis and then killed all the brown haired ones, and sent the Aryan ones off to German families and changed their names and told them the ALLIES killed their real families when in fact they were killed by Nazis or sent to work camps for being Czech.  And they weren't even Jewish like the normal Nazi targets!  They just didn't like them because of that dude being killed even though they had nothing to do with it!  Then do you know what they did?
They totally removed the town of Lidice from existence!  Like bombed the crap out of it and flattened and tore down EVERYTHING!
God, what a bunch of jerks!"
However, there is more to it.
Like, 'who is the someone who is named Eva?'
Answer: Milada.
She was very Aryan looking, they used all their Nazi measurement instruments to prove she wasn't one of those 'undesirable' people, even though she was Czech, and they generally don't like that.  That's why they holocausted (yes, I just made up that word) all the ones who didn't look the way they wanted people to look.
So Milada gets taken away, and then they tell her her name is Eva, and now she is German.  For a while, they train her to be German, though she doesn't much like it, since she's, well, not German and doesn't like the Germans because they went and blew up her town.  She eventually gets placed with some wealthy German family, but there is is this horrible smell nearby, which turns out to be  . . . well, you can probably guess.
But then the Allies do their thing, like they always do, and they take 'Eva' away from her new mother, who is very upset because she wanted three children because German women who had three children got medals for it during World War II. Yeah, that's how weird the Nazis were. Totally bogus.  But they send Milada back to Czechoslovakia, and she does find some of her relatives, though most have been killed because of the jerk Nazis, but well, you know how it sucks when your home is bombed and so many people who loved are never to be seen again.  Even if this has never happened to you, most people have enough imagination that they can understand that it does, indeed, suck.
The cool thing about this book was that it was NOT about a Jewish girl hiding, like Anne Frank - The Diary of a Young Girl, though of course that has value, and it is NOT about a Jewish guy in a camp, like Night ,  and while these stories are important, there are rather a lot of them.  I like this one because it's a bit different.  You don't learn much about this type of thing in elementary school, just about how the Nazis killed and tortured people in camps, and liked to bomb people, and hated everyone, and wanted to take over the world, not about them forcing children from other nations become like them.
It's not a long book, so you don't have to worry if you have commitment issues. But yes, read it.  It's good.

Other recommendations:

Friday, October 8, 2010

Sometimes, there are TOO MANY BOOKS

I am so behind on my reading.  I have all this brilliant stuff, and then I'm getting more brilliant stuff, and there is just too much brilliant stuff.
For instance, I plan on reading these titles:

And there are more as well.
So to the authors of all these books, please be patient? Please? If I like them I'll tell people in the library to read them too?  It's worth the wait? Really?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Sometimes, I get to meet authors in person!

See, I have photographic evidence:

December 2009- a fateful meeting between me (the brunette) and Jackson Pearce (the blonde). Yes, we are both extremely attractive, we know, there is no need to comment.   
December 2009 was a good month for authors.  Bad for some other things, like people who aren't authors who I encountered, but authors, very good. Not only did I meet Jackson Pearce, but I met Neil Gaiman.

I actually don't have a really good picture of me and Mr Gaiman, but I do have this:
December 2009, but not the same day: Neil Gaiman graced the city of Decatur with his presence. Many people I know, myself included, got to hear him babble on about all this stuff that was really interesting like his books and graveyards, and then we got signed books!  The very excited gentleman who appears to be confusing the crap out of poor Mr Gaiman whose hand must have been in tremendous pain, is this guy I know who I decided I should marry. This guy has a passion for video games, but he also likes graphic novels, and Mr Gaiman is signing Sandman: The Dream Hunters, which is a graphic novel that he wrote (hence, the reason he signed it).

However, most of the time, I just get them to sign my books, because that's proof right there, and I am not so vain that I must be seen with every brilliant author.  If I were, I would just get the aforementioned Guy I Decided to Marry to Photoshop me into pictures of everyone I admire ("Yes, that is me standing on Suzanne Collins' head! She is not just a literary giant, but an ACTUAL GIANT!").

Now, I could just show pictures of everything I have that is signed, but I would be afraid that people would then learn to forge their signatures on things and try to make money that way, which even I would be morally against.

Now, here are some books Jackson Pearce wrote:


And here are some Neil Gaiman wrote:


Sunday, October 3, 2010

Hunger- Jackie Morse Kessler

So the basic premise is . . . an anorexic teen girl becomes Famine, one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
Yeah, I know.  Totally guaranteed not to suck.
Anyhow, Lisa decided that since she's having trouble getting as thin as she wants to be, she should overdose on Lexapro in hopes of killing herself (Lexapro generally doesn't work for that, in case you were wondering.  But I still wouldn't recommend it). So then, Death shows up and offers her the job of being Famine, and for some reason, she decides to take him up on the offer, even though it's not a job she gets a paycheck for and can't exactly put it on her resume.
However, she does get a horse, and there are plenty of travel benefits, but  generally only gets to visit places in which people are starving.
Even though she has this 'great' new job, she still lives her ho-hum suburban life and keeps trying to lose weight, and of course her whole eating disorder issue does get in the way.  Her old best friend called her anorexic, so of course she now hates her, because in Lisa's mind, anorexic girls are thin, and she is fat (she must have missed the lecture on anorexia which states that even though anorexic people are skinny, they still think they're fat).  Her new best friend is bulimic, and Lisa is convinced that this chick is in control of her life, even though her parents and her boyfriend don't particularly like her.
But by playing the role of Famine, Lisa is exposed to the rest of the world, which is very different from her American suburban life.  She also discovers the power she has and how she can make life better or worse for
pretty much anyone, even the other Horsemen.
The only other book I personally have read which has an anorexic teen as the protagonist is Laurie Halse Anderson's Wintergirls. Hunger is very different from this book, since the protagonist in Wintergirls never really sees the rest of the world and how hunger can affect other people. While Wintergirls is more realistic, seeing as there is no paranormal element, just a hallucinating anorexic teenager girl, Hunger is still very relevant.  Because Lisa can see how starvation affects people around the world and can lead to War, Death, and Pestilence, it gives her a new perspective on her own life. 
Kessler admits to having been bulimic for a period of time, which certainly gives her an edge in writing this book.  The descriptions of the eating disorders are detailed and do not hold anything back.  Though the book is not very long, it is still very effective, meaningful, and entertaining.
Oh, and by the way, a portion of the proceeds from this book will go to The National Eating Disorders Association to help and support those suffering from any eating disorder. So you really ought to go buy it.  It comes out October 18th, but of course you can always pre-order it.