Sunday, 25 December 2011

Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick

I'm totally raving about this book! Now, I'm not into chicklits, and I resolved never to review one on this site, but I'm ignoring that little technicality right now. I won't go into too much plot summary right now, but basically Nora meets a guy called Patch in her bio class. They hit it off (like really hit it off) and begin to love each other. But he's full of secrets and definitely has something going on beneath the surface. And then there's this guy called Elliot, who may or may not be a murderer, but Nora's best friend Vee certainly has a something-something for him. And finally, there's definitely someone that's out to get Nora- people close to her are mysteriously getting attacked.

I got through this book in a day because I just couldn't put it down. It combines the suspense of a crime novel with the romance of, well, a chicklit. The dialogue is so amazing, both in the sometimes innuendo-charged dialogue between Nora and Vee and the snappy, witty exchanges with Patch. Now there's a couple I'm actually interested in hearing about! Some parts of this book are downright scary- the last little bit, for example. I regret reading that late at night!

This is a fast-paced, fun read, with probably no literary merit or discussion opportunities. (Unless you want to discuss the merits of Patch, which believe me...).

In other words, go read it!

If you loved this book, you'll like:

Mortal Instruments Series by Cassandra Clare
Wicked Lovely Series by Melissa Marr  
Gemma Doyle Trilogy by Libba Bray

Monday, 19 December 2011

A Little Piece of Ground by Elizabeth Laird

The ten best things I want to do (or be) in my life.
By Karim Aboudi, 15 Jaffa Apartments, Ramallah, Palestine.
1. Champion footballer of the entire world (even I can dream).
2. Extremely cool, popular, and good-looking and at least 1.90 metres
tall (or anyway taller than Jamal).
3. The liberator of Palestine and a national hero.
4. Famous TV presenter or actor (famous, anyway).
5. Best-ever creator of new computer games.
6. My own person, allowed to do what I like without parents and big brothers and teachers on my back all the time.
7. Inventor of an acid formula to dissolve reinforced steel as used in tanks and helicopter gunships. (Israeli ones).
8. Stronger than Jamal and my other mates (this is not asking much)
9. Alive. Plus, if I get shot, only in the places that heal up. Not the head or spine, inshallah.
Added at a later date:
10.To live an ordinary life, in an ordinary country. Free Palestine.

This is the list of wants for a twelve-year old boy living in Palestine, under Israeli occupation. He along with his two friends, Joni Boutros and a mysterious boy from the refugee camp nicknamed ‘Hopper’, all hate the enemy and (with, possibly, the exception of Joni) are willing to become martyrs to free their country. They find a little piece of ground to call their own, and start clearing it to make a football pitch. They make a secret base out of an old car, oil drums, and other garbage, and even make a Palestinian flag out of painted stones in the corner. Karim and his friends start to enjoy their little piece of ground, but the enemy is always lurking nearby, ready to smother these hopes of happiness.

I completely loved this book. I think that it is important for people to read books from both points of view so as to better understand what is happening, and also so that we can avoid bias or prejudice when looking at this situation. Sometimes when we watch the news we feel really far away from the fighting going on in Palestine, but this book really takes you into the life of those who are being oppressed, and all their everyday fears.

I liked it more than I thought I would, because this book is not a documentary on what is happening in the Middle East, it’s a story of the life of a young boy who just happens to live in Palestine at the time of the occupation. The book focuses just as much on the conflict of the occupation as the conflicts Karim has with his parents, siblings, and friends. The book is not entirely one-sided, even though the protagonist is thoroughly against the Israelis, because of what Abu Feisal tells Karim about the enemy, ‘They are bad, good, moral, immoral, some greedy and vain, some kind-hearted and suffering, all just men, women, and children- just like the rest of us. Human beings’.

I loved the brotherly care between Jamal and Karim, both when Jamal wants the picture of Violette (which I found hilarious) and when Jamal rescues Karim from the scolding of his parents, and ultimately, the Israeli soldiers. I also loved how the deaths and killings were reported through a news cast, which I found very creative. The author took a difficult topic and wrote a great story out of it! A fantastic, illuminating, and important read. 

If you loved this book, you'll like:

Sunrise Over Fallujah by Walter Dean Myers

Junk by Melvin Burgess

Gemma longs to break free of her parents' overprotective grasps, so she can have the freedom she's always dreamed of. She loves Tar, a boy who ran away from an abusive father, and wants to protect him. After running away herself, she finds she adores the street life. But some of the friends she makes are dangerous, and soon she and Tar find themselves sinking into the depths of drug induced hopelessness. As everyone grapples with their addiction, questions arise. Who will fight it off- and who will be consumed?
This is a wonderful and important book. The author tackles the subject of drugs with precision and empathy. The characters all have hidden sides, and it is very clear how they change as a result of the drug use. Other issues are brought up, too: squatting and domestic violence, just to name a few. However, this book doesn't read like a textbook of cautionary tales; the author skillfully weaves the issues in among a story of the twisted paths love can take people down. Readers will find themselves feeling sickened towards the end, of the excuses the characters make for their addiction, and the things they do to fuel it. While they repeatedly say they can control it, it is very obvious they can't, and the description of their mindsets are vivid and heartbreaking. The changing points of view build up the story three-dimensionally, and the reader becomes so involved they can feel the characters' lives spinning out of control as if they were beside them. This book raises many questions, about whose fault it is that they ended up they way they were, provoking rich discussion. A must-read, but also a book that must be discussed.

If you loved this book, you'll like:

Lunch with Lenin by Deborah Ellis
Identical by Ellen Hopkins

Dozen Best Discussion Books

No, it's not English class all over again! These are beautifully written books with messages that can be explored, but are still great to read just on the surface. I added a couple words to give you a brief idea of what they dicuss.

Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson (Anorexia)
Junk by Melvin Burgess (Drugs)
A Little Piece of Ground by Elizabeth Laird (Palestine/Israel conflict)
Identical by Ellen Hopkins (Drugs, cutting, bulimia, sexual name it, this book has got it)
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie (First Nations issues- hilarious book though)
The First Part Last by Angela Johnson (Teenage pregnancy)
A Step from Heaven by An Na (Immigrant experience and family issues)
Perfect by Ellen Hopkins (Modelling problems, family issues, homosexuality, and many more) 
Looking for JJ by Anne Cassidy (Murder, prostitution)
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson (unpopularity and more...but to say it would be to give the story away)
Does My Head Look Big in This? by Randa Abdel-Fattah (issues around the Muslim religion, including wearing hijabs, dealing with weight issues- super funny)
Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta (depression)

Best Dozen Series

(What's the plural of series? Serieses? Seri?) Anyway, here are the twelve best out there. I've added a two descriptive words to give you a taste of what each is like. On some I cheated and added three.

Gemma Doyle Trilogy by Libba Bray (Thrilling and scary)
  1. A Great and Terrible Beauty
  2. Rebel Angels
  3. The Sweet Far Thing
Books of Bayern by Shannon Hale (Magical and slightly romantic)
  1. Goose Girl
  2. Enna Burning
  3. River Secrets
  4. Forest Born (actually I didn't like this one as much as the rest)
Fablehaven by Brandon Mull (Magical and exciting)
  1. Fablehaven (to be honest this one is horrible, but the rest are so good, just keep reading!)
  2. Rise of the Evening Star
  3. Grip of the Shadow Plague
  4. Secrets of the Dragon Sanctuary
  5. Keys to the Demon Prison
Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr (Dark and very romantic)
  1. Wicked Lovely
  2. Ink Exchange (this one was meh for me)
  3. Fragile Eternity
  4. Radiant Shadows
  5. Darkest Mercy
Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy (Witty and fast-paced)

  1. The Scepter of the Ancients
  2. Playing with Fire
  3. The Faceless Ones (the rest kind of go downhill after this one)
  4. Dark Days
  5. Mortal Coil
Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel by Michael Scott (Lots of magic/myths and fast-paced)
  1. The Alchemyst
  2. The Magician
  3. The Sorceress
  4. The Necromancer
  5. The Warlock
  6. The Enchantress
The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare (Funny, romantic, and fast-paced)

  1. City of Bones
  2. City of Ashes
  3. City of Glass (the rest after this seem like they were tacked on)
  4. City of Fallen Angels
  5. City of Lost Souls
  6. City of Heavenly Fire
Pendragon by D.J. MacHale (Imaginative and intricate plot)
  1. The Merchant of Death (Persevere! Persevere!)
  2. The Lost City of Faar
  3. The Never War
  4. The Reality Bug
  5. Black Water
  6. The Rivers of Zadaa
  7. The Quillian Games
  8. The Pilgrims of Rayne
  9. Raven Rise
  10. The Soldiers of Halla
Eon by Alison Goodman (Imaginative and great heroine)

  1. Eon: Dragoneye Reborn
  2. Eona: The Last Dragoneye
Swim the Fly by Don Calame (Hilarious and light-hearted)

  1. Swim the Fly
  2. Beat the Band
  3. Call the Shots
Alice, I Think by Susan Juby (Hilarious and light)

  1. Alice, I Think
  2. Miss Smithers
  3. Alice MacLeod, Realist At Last
Protector of the Small by Tamora Pierce (Exciting and fierce heroine)
  1. First Test
  2. Page
  3. Squire
  4. Lady Knight
*Note: I left out series like Harry Potter and the Hunger Games because they're already so popular- you don't need me to rave about them as well!

Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta

Finally, a book that portrays relationships realistically, especially the ones between girls and guys. Not all 'just friends' secretly have crushes on each other, as some authors would have you believe. Francesca, in Year Eleven, has moved to an all-boys school that has just started accepting girls. All her friends from her previous school are going to a different school. The other girls in the school include Tina Finke, a feverish petitioner for girl's rights in their school, Siobhan Sullivan, a girl whose (ahem) exploits are well documented on bathroom stalls, and Justine Kalinsky, who plays the accordion piano (no more said). These girls soon become her best friends, along with many of the boys. While there are many heartwarming moments of friendship, the author never makes the book seem to sappy or soap opera-y. After the guys show a sensitive, caring side, it's usually followed up by a comment on the 'endowments' of a particular girl. Francesca does develop a crush, but it's a smart, witty kind of crush, not a mopey one. Her life isn't ruled by her infatuation, a refreshing change to many other teen books.

A side plot to all this is that Francesca's mother is suffering depression and won't come out of her room. Francesca has to work out her perceptions of her family members throughout the book, especially her father, who she blames for her mother's condition. She also has to learn to let go of her old friends who treat her like a pet so she can be who she really is.

All of the relationships in this book ring true. It's heartwarming, hilarious at times (Spice Girls, anyone?), and very eye-opening. The characters are realistic and dynamic, and you'll never get tired of Francesca's smart alec retorts. One of the best books I've read all year.

If you loved this book, you'll like:

Criss Cross by Lyn Rae Perkins
Janey's Girl by Gayle Friesen
An Abundance of Katherines by John Green
Porcupine by Meg Tilly
Men of Stone by Gayle Friesen
Getting the Girl by Susan Juby
Paper Towns by John Green
The Isabel Factor by Gayle Friesen
Swim the Fly by Don Calame
Losing Forever by Gayle Friesen (and sequel, For Now)

Sunday, 18 December 2011

The 12 Days of Christmas

Alright, here's the first dozen- and just in time for Christmas, too! Snuggle up next to your roaring fire with one of these wonderful reads. For this list I chose some of the more (ahem) warm and fuzzy type books.

Paper Towns by John Green
Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier
Swim the Fly by Don Calame
Porcupine by Meg Tilly
Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta
Wolf Cry by Julia Golding
The Lit Report by Sarah N. Harvey
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta
The Isabel Factor by Gayle Friesen
A Curse as Dark as Gold by Elizabeth C. Bunce
Getting the Girl by Susan Juby

Reviews of each to follow...