Sunday, May 29, 2011

Review: Redheart by Jackie Gamber

Redheart is an adventure story for fantasy readers who enjoy foreign lands and mythical creatures. It’s a soaring tale about outsiders who find friendship in each other. I enjoyed how several characters are connected in ways they are unaware but must figure out. It added a bit of mystery. My favorite characters were Kallon and the dragon hunter who must learn to work together even though they hate each other.

Summary: “Kallon Redheart lives with his back turned on his fellow dragons, on humans, and on everything he once understood. Riza Diantus is a young woman with dreams too wide to fit inside her village fence. Their unexpected friendship is risky in Leland Province, where drought has stripped the land and superstition has cowed its people. And the danger only grows. Fordon Blackclaw, Dragon Council Leader, resents Leland's time-worn venur system. He has inflamed tensions between dragons and humans to the brink of war. He wants to trample humans into utter submission, or wipe them off the face of the land. Anger erupts, scorching innocent lives in its path. When Riza is threatened, Kallon is the only one with the power to save her. But first, he must confront his past and the future he stopped believing in. He must claim his destiny." 

Much of the story is revealed through characters’ verbal interactions. While characters must interact I wished the third-person narrator would have narrated more of the story to keep the plot moving. This is probably just my reading preference, though. The age of the characters was a bit ambiguous but to me they all felt like adults. While some parts, like the dragon interactions, felt like a young adult novel, others, like Riza's interactions with the much older dragon hunter (though rather innocent), felt out of place. So, I had trouble determining what age range this book is for.

Redheart is the first in a series yet stands well on its own as a single read. If you’re looking for an adventure story or know someone who loves reading about dragons and magical kingdoms Redheart may be what you’re looking for.

Publisher: Seventh Star Press, LLC., 2011     Pages: 294
Rating: 2.5 Stars     Source: Free from publisher. Thanks, Seventh Star!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Armchair BEA Post 1: Introductions

So, BEA stands for Book Expo of America which is a giant deal in the publishing industry. Those of us not able to attend the expo in NYC can participate online with blogs through Armchair BEA. I participated in Armchair BEA last year and it was a lot of fun so I was happy to hear that it was being undertaken again this year!

refried bean chili eater
Today's prompt: Who are you, and how do you Armchair? I'm Chelle (that's pronounced shell) and I'll be Armchair BEA blogging from my desk. Most of my reading goes on in a big stuffed blue chair but the PC's at my desk so here I am, too. 

Random fact about me: I put refried beans in my chili. Chili is not a soup, it's chili, and as such should never be my humble opinion (sorry I just finished watching My So Called Life).  

For standard info about me see my About Me page. For information about being student, read my Musing of a Grad Student posts found in the labels in the right column. Last but not least, here are some titles I really want to read this summer:
  • Harry Potter - that's right, I've never read it. I know, I KNOW! I'll get on that.
  • Any Neil Gaiman book...I've started Coraline and like it so far.
  • The Crossing (The Border Trilogy, book 2) by Cormac McCarthy
  • The Long Ships: A Saga of the Viking Age by Frans Gunnar Bengtsson
  • and so many more that I'm just going to stop here.

Happy Armchair BEA everyone! 
Check out all the fun and interesting posts by those who are at the Expo on the Armchair BEA Central website!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Review: The Dead-Tossed Waves by Carrie Ryan

If you've hung around The Prairie Library for awhile you know I'm a fan of dystopias. I really enjoyed Ryan's The Forrest of Hands and Teeth for it's bizarre society...and of course the zombies were perfectly creepy. I didn't mind the obligatory romance either. The characters were well-rounded...yada, yada. I loved it.

The companion novel, The Dead-Tossed Waves, picks up several years after Mary's escape from the zombie infested forest. Gabrielle, Mary's daughter, lives in Vista, a walled-off sea city. Gabrielle is not like Mary. She spends much of the novel wishing things had been different, indulging in "if only"s. This was rather off-putting for me. Unlike Mary, who was always looking towards the future, Gabrielle is stuck in the past. It felt like I was reading the same lines over and over again -- things like "only yesterday things were better" or "a week ago so-and-so kissed me and life was good" -- and it really got plain-old-fashioned boring. The dystopian part, which is what I was reading for, was barely there. I wished more focus was given to Vista and its social dynamics. I felt like I didn't know the town.

Zombies strike (but not often enough), people fall in (and out) of love, (not so mysterious) mysteries and twists abound. And Gabrielle just didn't cut it for me. She was a little too damsel-in-distress.

That's the truth, how I really felt when I was reading the novel. I do suggest reading the first novel, The Forrest of Hands and Teeth, if you enjoy dystopias or zombies. Since The Dead-Tossed Waves is a companion novel, and not a sequel, you needn't worry about having to read the "next" book. What about you all? Did you like The Dead-Tossed Waves?

Publisher: Delcorte, 2010     Pages: 416
Rating: 2.5 Stars     Source: Public Library

Friday, May 13, 2011

Review: The History of Mary Prince: A West Indian Slave, Related by Herself edited by Moira Ferguson

Mary Prince was born a slave in Bermuda (a British colony) around 1788. She became the first black women to escape to England (blacks were “free” as long as they stayed on English soil) and this account about her journey from slavery to freedom is as fascinating and inspiring as it is horrifying.

The History of Mary Prince is a rich narrative, in the genre of slave narratives, which is focused on enlightening readers on the brutal nature of slavery. Along the way, Mary’s narrative gives interesting accounts of salt harvesting in the West Indies, the politics of both the anti- and pro-slavery moments, and the precarious role of black women in the 19th century. Mary’s narrative is multi-layered. Since she could not write, Mary’s story was transcribed by another women. Mary’s editor, Mr. Pringle, was also the secretary for the Anti-slavery society and Mary’s employer in whose house she lived. With this knowledge, gaps arise in The History, little idiosyncrasies that appear to be censored or altered in some way that will make Mary’s story palatable to its intended audience.

The marginalia make The History absolutely fascinating. Moira Ferguson’s excellent introduction sheds light on English and West Indian politics that influenced Mary, her many owners and the the making of her narrative. Also, Pringle’s short preface and lengthy supplement prove the intensity of the anti-slavery campaign. In the appendix, Ferguson includes copies of newspaper articles of two court cases surrounding The History and other contemporary events which influenced the abolition of slavery in the West Indies in 1833. 

Those interested in slave narratives should put The History of Mary Prince at the top of their list. Also, those interested in the making of history through narrativity, autobiographies, black women narratives and British history will appreciate this text. This book counts towards the POC Reading Challenge!

Publisher: University of Michigan Press, 1997     Pages: 173
Rating: 5 Stars     Source: Purchased Copy

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Review: Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice by Phillip M. Hoose

The Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955 protested racial segregation. You probably remember Rosa Parks who refused to give up her seat on the bus, BUT did know it was a 15-year-old girl who started it all? A year before Rosa took her now famous seat, Claudette Colvin, acting entirely on her own and fed up with racial segregation, refused to move for a white passenger. Claudette was drug off the bus while shouting "It's my constitutional right!" She was jailed that night and eventually testified "as a key plaintiff in Browder v. Gayle, the landmark case that struck down the segregation laws of Montgomery and swept away the legal underpinnings of the Jim Crow South.

The structure of this book is amazing and to take full advantage of it I highly recommend reading the hardback. The photographs are in black and white and several take up full pages. They give readers a glimpse into how racial segregation affected lives in the South. There are several photos of Claudette and her family, too. Separated from the main text are black boxes offering extra information that the reader can choose to skip over, continuing with the story, or stop to read to learn more about issues and people introduced in the text.

Claudette's bravery, her struggle for justice, once on the bus and again in court, as a teenager no less, is inspiring as much as it is informational. Claudette's story is an excellent choice for middle schoolers, or anyone, looking to learn about the Civil Rights Movement and how one person really can make a difference.

Publisher: Farrar, Strause and Giroux, 2009     Pages: 144
Rating: 4.5 Stars     Source: Purchased Copy

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Review: A Long Way from Chicago by Richard Peck

A Long Way from Chicago is a novel told in stories. Joey is nine when he and his sister, Mary Alice, begin visiting their Grandma in rural Illinois each summer. Their visits begin in 1929 and end in 1935. Grandma is an eccentric character, living on the edge of town, who takes matters into her own hands.

Each story is something of a tall tale. While Joey and Mary Alice are from “the big city” where Al Capone and Public Enemy Number one, John Dillinger, hang out, more often than naught, the kids are more scared of the bizarre adventures grandma takes them on than anything they knew in Chicago. The Depression is raging and they occasionally bump shoulders with drifters and poverty. Grandma’s questionable methods of doing good thrust Joey and Mary Alice into uncomfortable but funny situations.

Joey’s grandma reminded me much of my own grandma with her frugal ways and crisp manner. Grandma was tough but her chocolate chip cookies said I love you. If you’re looking to feel nostalgic about grandparents or would like to share fun stories with your kids then this book may be for you. As for me, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Publisher: Dial, 1998     Pages: 192
Rating: 5  Stars   Source: Purchased Copy

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Book Poetry Contest and Giveaway Winner!

Congratulations to Melody at Fingers & Prose! You've won an uncorrected proof of Robert Hass' The Apple Trees at Olema  and a used copy of Selected Poems by Emily Dickinson! Here's Melody's poem made out of book titles:

   after the quake,
            things fall apart.

          march a thousand acres
            for the children's sake--
              a voyage long and strange.

            the blood of flowers.
              small wonder.

          as I lay dying,
            everything is illuminated.

Great poem, Melody!