e hënë, 10 gusht 2009

Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick

Due for release just before Halloween, this debut novel is geared towards the teen/young adult crowd. High school sophomore Nora Grey is disappointed in biology class when she has to sit next to the myserious transfer student, Patch. Soon she begins to feel a dangerous attraction towards him; and the more she finds out about him, the more her mind tells her she should stay away. Then there's the new student Elliot, who seems to have a thing for Nora. Her best friend Vee encourages her to pursue Elliot, but Nora is drawn towards Patch...despite the mounting evidence that he may have sinister designs for her.

I wasn't sure what to think when I picked up this book. I almost never read paranormal-type books, and it's even rarer that I read books aimed towards the teen crowd. I thought I'd end up reading just a few chapters, and then setting the book aside for a more adult one. Much to my surprise, I ended up being very drawn in by this book, and not only finished it but finished it in just two days:-). There's plenty of action here, with a little mystery thrown in to keep you reading. And the attraction between Patch and Nora certainly throws off some sparks. Overall, this was a fun and entertaining teen read, and I am interested in reading the sequel when it comes out.

e shtunë, 8 gusht 2009

Under This Unbroken Sky by Shandi Mitchell

Set in 1937 Canada, Under This Unbroken Sky tells the story of two families at odds. Ukrainian immigrant Teodor Mykolayenko, his wife, and their five children are struggling to farm the prairie land they hope to someday own. Due to Teodor's recent incarceration (because of him "stealing" his own grain), he is uneligible to own land in his own name. Agreeing to help him out, his partially unhinged sister Anna buys the homestead, with the arrangement that after he pays her back the land will be his. Anna has troubles of her own, with a good-for-nothing alcoholic husband (Stefan) who has, once again, abandoned her and her two children. The trouble really starts when Stefan returns home, prepared to reap the rewards of "his" land.

When I first started this novel, I wasn't sure I would like it due to the writing style. It's written in the present tense, with short and sometimes simple sentences. To me, it almost read like a screen-play, and I found it jarring the first 50 pages. Once I got used to the style, however, this book completely sucked me in. By the end of the book, I appreciated the writer's style because it fits the tone of the story so well. This is an intense read; things start to spiral out of control for the characters and you can't help but really feel for them. This book will have you reading into the wee hours of the night to see what happens. I highly recommend it, and will be looking forward to the author's next book.

e martë, 4 gusht 2009

Shanghai Girls by Lisa See

Sisters Pearl and May are modern and somewhat spoiled girls living in Shanghai in 1937. Working as "beautiful girls", they are hired by artists who paint their pictures for calendars and other advertisements. Although their parents don't approve of this work, Pearl and May are modern young women who enjoy the status and relative wealth these modeling jobs provide.

All this changes when the girls discover that their father has not only gambled away the family home and fortune, but their earned money as well. To get himself out of debt, their father has sold the girls as brides for two unknown men in America. In the background of all this, Japan has invaded China and is advancing on the city of Shanghai.

What results is a fascinating story of families torn apart, not just by circumstances but by lies as well. I thought Lisa See did a very good job making the past come to life with this book, just as she did in Snow Flower and the Secret Fan (I haven't read Peony in Love...yet). The conflict between the three generations is something everyone can relate too, as is the ignorance of youth. The culture shock the Chinese immigrants experienced in the novel really makes it clear how difficult it is to fit into a new (and sometimes hostile) society.

The one and only complaint I have about the book is that the story seems to go off the rails a bit at the very end. I almost felt like Ms.See wanted to end the book as abruptly and easily as possible, so she threw that in there. Fortunately, I found the rest of the book so charming and wonderful that the ending did not take away from my enjoyment of the book.

e shtunë, 1 gusht 2009

The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood's latest book The Year of the Flood is another of her dystopian offerings. It's many years in the future (Atwood never gives an exact date), and humans have finally managed to destroy much in the natural world. Many animal species are extinct, pollution is rampant, weather is out of control, and society is buckling down to live out the days the best they can. Into all this comes the "waterless flood", a disaster that has wiped out nearly all the humans in the world. At least two have survived: Toby, the manager of a high-end spa who has barricaded herself inside; and Ren, a dancer/prostitute who was in the "sticky zone" (a type of sick bay) when the disaster hit. Now, separately, the two have to try to survive in this strange new unpeopled world. Will they ever find each other? And, the bigger question: did anyone else survive?

I really liked this book; it's not only a great read but very thought-provoking as well.
The story is told with flashbacks to Ren and Toby's former lives, which added a lot to the book; it made an interesting contrast to see what things were like before the waterless flood. Toby is tough, smart, and resourceful; and it's always wonderful to see a strong female protaganist (one reason I love Atwood's books). I also thought Atwood did an excellent job of showing how bad things could possibly get on earth in the years to come, without being preachy about it.

I did have two minor quibbles about the book, which is why I gave it four stars instead of five. The first was the annoyingly cute futuristic names many of the things are given: "Anooyoo", "violet biolet", "SekSmart", "Mo'hairs", "Sea/H/Ear candy", "liobams" (if names will really be this cheesy in the future than the world is indeed in trouble;-)!. Yes, it's a very minor thing, but for some reason it grated on my nerves a bit. The other quibble I can't say without giving away spoilers, but it has to do with some coincidences that happen towards the end of the book. I didn't find these coincidences to be very plausible.

Minor quibbles non-withstanding, I could barely tear myself away from the pages of this book. I highly recommend it, especially if you like your sci-fi with a mix of great literature.

e diel, 26 korrik 2009

Await Your Reply by Dan Chaon

"Await Your Reply" starts out with three seemingly completely unrelated stories. College drop-out Ryan is on the way to the hospital with his Dad, after a horrible and maiming accident. Teenager Lucy leaves town with her former high school teacher, George Orson. And Miles Chesire has received yet another mysterious letter from his missing (and possibly psychotic) identical twin brother, Hayden. As all three stories emerge, it becomes clear that there is more to these characters than meets the eye.

This book starts out with a bang, and doesn't let up. The intensity of the plot--and the big question: are the stories related?--will keep you reading well into the night. Part mystery and part psychological drama, the book does a good job of showing what people are capable of under desperate circumstances. I thought the writing was very good; and liked the way the story develops. The relationships between the characters (in particular twins Hayden and Miles) are interesting to read about as well. My rating: 4/5

e premte, 24 korrik 2009

The Famished Road by Ben Okri

A young Nigerian boy named Azaro is caught between two worlds: the real world, and the spirit world he came from when he was born. He's in a constant struggle to keep his soul here in the real world, with the spirits trying to get him to join them again in their world. Azaro's real world family lives a hand-to-mouth existence, with his father doing manual labor jobs for very little money, and his mother peddling what cheap goods she can get ahold of. They live in a compound in the ghetto, and are often in conflicts with the neighbors and landlord because of the father's sometimes eratic behavior. Add to this political thugs, herbalists, boxers, beggars, witches, and other strange beings and you've got a rich and powerful story.

This book is possibly one of the wierdest books I've ever read. I can't say I always understood it, but the journey through it and into Azaro's bizarro world made for some of the best reading I've had this year. I highly recommend this book for anyone who enjoys imaginative storytelling.

Steeped in magical realism, it has everything from talking animals to dream adventures to witches and curses. The setting however is very grounded in reality, and it makes in interesting contrast to read about the fantastical creatures and then the ghetto finally getting electricity in the same chapter. The writing is wonderful; Okri has such a perfect way of expressing himself that it really makes the story come to life. Not a book I'll forget any time soon, I hope to read more by this talented author. My rating: 5/5

e enjte, 16 korrik 2009

Baking Cakes in Kigali by Gaile Parkin

Tanzanian native Angel Tungaraza is one busy lady. She is still adjusting to life in Rwanda after having moved there a year before due to her husband's job. She is also busy raising her five orphaned grandchildren, and runs her own cake-making business. Not only does she bake and decorate amazing cakes, but she gives out advice to her customers as well.

This is a cute, sweet, and touching book. I would classify it as a "gentle" read, although it does briefly touch on the violence that happened during the 1994 genocide (the book is set in 2000). It was interesting to see a perspective of Rwanda several years after the genocide; the few books I've read set in Rwanda were either about the genocide or set before it. And it was sad to see how HIV/AIDS had affected so many of the characters' lives. Despite these bleak topics, the book has an uplifting feel to it as the main character tries her best to better the lives of her neighbors, family, and friends. My rating: 4/5