Saturday, April 30, 2011

Dick and Jane and Vampires by Laura Marchesani ★

Dick and Jane and Vampires
by Laura Marchesani (no website)
August 2010
Grossett & Dunlap

See Dick play.  See Jane play.  See Dick and Jane play with a vampire!

Keeping with the current literary trend in mashups (see Pride and Prejudice and Zombies), Dick and Jane and Vampires does not disappoint!  I was absolutely delighted to see this classic book (somewhat revised) on the library's shelf.  I'm a little too young to have grown up learning to read completely off of Dick and Jane, but I'm very familiar with its story and art, and this book stays so true to the originals, it's amazing!  Although the material may be a little too frightening for very young readers, adults will laugh out loud from the clever ways Marchesani has Dick and Jane interact with the vampire.  This scene, for example, takes place in the store when Dick, Jane and Sally go shopping with Mother.

Mother wants something.
The man can help.
That is not a man.
That is something else!

Ahh, I love it.  And there's a lovely event at the end which causes Dick and Jane to exclaim "Vampire is happy!  Happy, happy, happy!" As I'm happily sure that these hilarious mashups will continue to be published, I'd like to offer a few suggestions:

Little Women and Werewolves
Gulliver's Travels to Transylvania
As I Lay Dying . . . from a Vampire Bite

The possibilities are truly endless!  Anyone else have a good idea for a mashup?

Gallagher Girls by Ally Carter

I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You (Gallagher Girls Book 1)
by Ally Carter
March 2007
Hyperion Book CH

The Gallagher Academy for Excetional Young Women is a fairly typical all-girls school - that is, it would be if every school taught advanced marital arts in PE and the latest in chemical warfare in science, and students received extra credit for breaking CIA codes in computer class.

I really wanted to label this one as a children's book*, but that's a very difficult thing to do when the main character is fifteen years old.  While the premise of this book is very young adult, the silly spy paraphernalia (think Inspector Gadget) and lack of any real suspense or plot outside the squeaky clean romance made this more a book for tweens than teens in my opinion.  That said, I did enjoy the read and may even read other books in the series.  It is more likely, however, that I will try one of Ally Carter's other books instead, such as Heist Society, which was a YALSA Teens' Top Ten in 2010.  I would still recommend this book, however, to younger girls who are in between Nancy Drew and true young adult books such as The Gemma Doyle Trilogy.

The Gallagher Girls Series
I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You
Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy
Don't Judge a Girl by Her Cover
Only the Good Spy Young

*Reclassified as Tween

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Matched by Ally Condie

Matched (Book 1)
by Ally Condie
November 2010
Dutton Juvenille

In the society, officials decide.  Who you love.  Where you work.  When you die.

Like most dystopian fiction, Matched begins by introducing us to the perfect society.  Officials micromanage every aspect of your life.  From how much you eat and when to the exact day that you'll die (on your eightieth birthday) to who you'll love and be married to before then.  Cassia has always allowed the Officials to do what's best for her and trusts her society implicitly.  Especially when she is matched with Xander, her best friend from childhood for lifelong love and companonship.  Cassia has some very difficult decisions to make, however, when her perfect world cracks and then shatters.  Why has her grandfather given her illegal and dangerous poetry (such as Dylan Thomas' Do not go gentle into that good night)?  What does the red pill do that she has been forced to carry for years?  And perhaps most importantly, why did she see Ky's face instead of Xander's on her match data?  Tamer than some dystopian novels (such as the Hunger Games), Matched is a good introduction to humanity's pursuit for the perfect society, or an enjoyable read for fans of Lois Lowry's classic The Giver.

Matched Books
Reached (TBR November 2012)

If you like Matched, try some of these other Dystopian novels.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Dystopian and Post-Apocalyptic

Utopia Now!
Sinclair Lewis put it best in Main Street when he simply stated, "We want our utopia now."  And we must.  How else do you explain all these books written about dystopian societies created in the pursuit of perfection?  This is a genre that has seen a huge boom in the publishing (especially in the young adult) industry lately and with it, brings a few questions.

What the heck is a dystopia?  Sounds like a disease.
In a way it is a cure that mutated into a disease so you're definitely on the right track!  Dystopia is a play on the word Utopia which is a concept for an imagined state of perfection within a community or society.  In dystopian fiction, an organization or government has taken a diseased society (such as the one we currently live in) and tried to fix it, usually through complete control over every aspect of an individual's life.  The end result is a seemingly perfect society . . . or is it?  Thus, a dystopia is born.

What about post-apocalyptic?  Is that the same thing?
In post-apocalyptic literature, the focus is generally on surviving a catastrophic event of some kind that nearly destroys humanity.  From the ashes of such events, dystopian fiction is often built.  In other words, they are very different, but not mutually exclusive.  In fact, combining the two has become increasingly popular over the years, which is why many of the books on this list may have post-apocalyptic elements.

So why should I read such weird sounding books?
Although some of the concepts in these books may sometimes seem a bit ridiculous (um yeah, like I totally want to look like everyone else and be a Barbie doll!), their underlying message to be ever vigilant in our care and awareness of ourselves and our communities is important for all people.

Pure by Julianna Baggott
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
The Host by Stephenie Meyer

Young Adult
Enclave by Ann Aguirre
The Selection by Kiera Cass
Eve by Anna Carey
Crossed by Ally Condie
Matched by Ally Condie
The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins
The Maze Runner Series by James Dashner
The Pledge by Kimberly Derting
Wither by Lauren DeStefano
Dark Life by Kat Falls
Incarceron/Sapphquie by Catherine Fisher
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Nomansland by Lesley Hauge
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engle
The Giver/Gathering Blue/Messenger by Lois Lowry
Legend by Marie Lu
Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi
The Tomorrow Series by John Marsden
Delirium by Lauren Oliver
The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
Maximum Ride by James Patterson
Divergent by Veronica Roth
The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan
Inside Out/Outside In by Maria V. Snyder
The Uglies Series by Scott Westerfeld
Blood Red Road by Moira Young

The Atherton Series by Patrick Carman

To learn more about reading lists, browse the about page.

Monday, April 11, 2011

StarCrossed by Elizabeth C. Bunce ★

by Elizabeth C. Bunce
October 2010
Arthur A. Levine Books

Celyn Contrare serves as a lady-in-waiting to shy young Merista Nemair.  Her days are spent dressing in velvet and brocade, attending Lady Merista, navigating court gossip, and charming noblemen over lavish feasts.  And at night she picks locks, steals jewels, forges documents, and collects secrets.

This book was wonderful!  After reading Bunce's debut novel A Curse Dark as Gold a few years ago, I was thrilled to see she had a new book out with a very exciting premise.  As Celyn is running from the king's inquisition she takes refuge as a lady-in-waiting to Lady Merista.  Little does she know, however, that her current position will place her in more danger and dig up more secrets than she ever wanted to find.  This book had all the intrigue, magic and adventure that I craved when I picked it up.  A few things you should know before reading it, however:

1. I was totally lost for the first few chapters.  Things were happening very quickly and in a way that didn't follow traditional storytelling.  This wasn't necessarily a bad thing although it contributed to number two.
2. It takes forever to get into this book!  All the really awesome stuff doesn't start happening until much later.
3. This is going to be a trilogy and even though everything is more or less wrapped up at the end, I WANT MORE NOW!!!  I'm not a very patient person . . .

So you've been warned, but don't let that stop you from enjoying this wonderful young adult fantasy!

Bitten by Kelley Armstrong

by Kelley Armstrong
June 2010 (Reprint from 2001)

I have to.  I've been fighting it all night.  I'm going to lose . . . Nature wins out.  It always does.

It's always fun to take my interest in paranormal romance and read something intended for adults rather than teens.  After enjoying Kelley Armstrong's Darkest Powers trilogy, I decided to give Bitten, the first book in her Women of the Otherworld series a try.

Elena Michaels is a beautiful woman with a successful career.  She has a nice apartment and a kind and thoughtful boyfriend.  She has lunch with coworkers and watches movies on the weekend.  She also turns into a wolf once a week or so when the urge can no longer be ignored.  Turned against her will, Elena has done everything in her power to stay away from her pack and fellow werewolves.  She wants a normal life, with a normal job, and a normal family.  When her pack goes to war, however, Elena must decide whether to risk normalcy to save a way of life she never wanted.  A fun (if steamy) read, I was not disappointed in Armstrong's debut novel.

Fat Chance by Deborah Blumenthal

Fat Chance
by Deborah Blumenthal
March 2005
Red Dress Ink

A love story of food and fantasy.

Maggie O'Leary loves food.  She loves it so much, in fact, that she writes a column that justifies and in fact gives you reasons not to diet.  Her message about being overweight is "Live with it and love it."  When her column soars into popularity, however, she receives a call from Hollywood's super hot, rising star Mike Taylor, requesting advice on the way fat people think for a movie he's filming.  Going against everything Maggie has told her readers about loving your fat, she goes on a secret diet to prepare for her meeting with Taylor.

This wasn't a terrible read, however, there are many chick lit books out there that handle diet issues better.  Honestly I didn't even agree with Maggie's dieting advice as much of it seemed pretty unhealthy.  If you're looking for a book about a girl who's uncomfortable in her own skin who tries to change for a guy and learns some really good lessons in the end try Jemima J by Jane Green.  It's fabulous.

Friday, April 8, 2011

House of Night by P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast

Marked (House of Night Book 1)
by P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast
September 2009
St. Martin's Press

Just when I thought my day couldn't get any worse I saw the dead guy standing next to my locker.

Seems like the only way to get your vampire novel noticed these days is to be certain that you've added some very different twists or elements, and House of Night certainly has a few of those.  Think Arthurian priestesses combined with pagan rituals mixed with native american mysticism all taking place at a Gothic boarding school.  In Zoey Redbird's world, vampyres and humans coexist peacefully.  Occasionally, a vampyre will "mark" a human, beginning the transformation process.  Marked humans are sent to the House of Night school where they learn about vampyre religion, habits and sexuality, apparently.  Marked, the first book in this series was a fast, fun read, however, the lines between YA and adult are definitely blurred whenever sex is involved.  This series may be a little too "hot" for most young adults so proceed with caution.

House of Night