Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Darkwater by Catherine Fisher

Dial Books, 2012

Sarah lives in a squalid home in an equally squalid village.  She is her father's only hope and earns enough for the little they have by cleaning the one-room school, ruled by a tryannical mistress.  Over the village lays Darkwater Hall in all of its somber glory.  Once owned by the Trevelyan family, it now has a new owner, Lord Azrael. 

Sarah may be poor but she is proud.  A Trevelyan herself, she's heard stories of how the once powerful family lost everything, but that doesn't deter her from keeping her head up and her lineage alive.  But it kills her when she meets the new lord of Darkwater Hall for the first time.  He doesn't deserve it....it's not his.  When her situation goes into dire straits, she has nowhere else to turn to but the generous offer made by Lord Azrael to come work for him....

Fast forward over a hundred years ahead.  Tom knows his station in life but it still doesn't keep him from longing to be a part of the prestigious school that his mother works for as a maid.   His only friend is Simon, who isn't even real.  And one day, while coming home from the village, he meets a girl he's never seen before and a drifter who has a fascination for Tom. 

All Tom needs is a break...someone who'll offer him a chance.  When an accidental meeting takes place between Tom and the new chemistry teacher, the offer Tom has been waiting for happens.  All he needs to do is accept this gift from the new teacher, whose name is Azrael...

Catherine Fisher takes the long-told tale of Faust and recreates it into a unique spin that only she possesses.  Not only does Fisher write about parallel lives, but fashions into it magic, family secrets, and a world within a world contained in a precious glass vase.  Because of her signature storytelling, this is a book that will delight or confound the reader, but one that continues the tradition of Faust (1806) to The Devil and Daniel Webster(1937) to today.  The characters are descriptively protrayed and the darkness or naivete of a character's personality is highlighted by the scenery and words Fisher selects.  Even the font of the book denotes a certain antiquity that plays into the whole novel.  For those readers who enjoy magic, a touch of alchemical science, historical fiction, and a rich story fabric, this is one they'll enjoy. JH-HS. 

Paired fiction novels:

Monday, February 25, 2013

My Book of Life by Angel by Martine Leavitt

Farrar, Straus Giroux, 2012

Angel's life took a turn when her mother passed away.  Rebellion and anger set in and she would run away, even if it was just the mall.  Her father, still grieving, didn't know what to do with her...didn't know what to do with the family.  So Angel continued to run.
And she ran into the arms of Call...

He understood her like no one else.  He gave her attention and a shoulder to lean on.  He fed her, noticed her, played the gentleman for her.
And he gave her candy, the kind that'll hook you, sink you...

And now Angel's life is about survival.  What started as just a few favors for Call's friends turned into days on the street, eking out a living only to give all the money to Call.  Money for a place to crash, for a meal to eat,
For more candy...

But Angel is creating another turning point in her life.  She no longer wants the candy, although she craves it.  Her body aches and her mind isn't numb to her life, but she wants out, wants to feel,
Wants her family...

The only family she has now are the other girls and women on the streets in Vancouver - Serena, Nena, Connie.  But they are also deserting her, leaving her on the streets alone,
While their bodies are found, one by one....

But Call has other plans.  Not only for Angel, but for another girl he has found.  Angel knows the blackness in Call and has decided she won't allow him to create another victim.
Another child on the streets...

But can she?  Are Call and the candy he gives so readily that easy to turn away?  And will her family still want her back after all she's done?

Martine Leavitt has written a gritty novel-in-verse based on real events of missing and murdered women who worked Vancouver's downtown Eastside between 1983 and 1997.  The characters are fictional, but the reader will very much feel for Angel and the others.  Emotion runs high for both characters and readers as well.  While Angel is living the horror, the reader, like me, can't quite fathom how this horror can exist.  Not since Scott's Living Dead Girl has provocation crept into my reading like it did with Leavitt's book because of the developed emotional reaction the reader may feel. Leavitt has found a way for beauty and ugliness to exist together.  One from the free verse writing she does so well and the other through the life of a young teen girl within the pages.   Recommended for mature high school readers. 

Friday, February 15, 2013

Breathe by Sarah Crossen

Greenwillow, 2012.
It's dangerous to go outside.  The land is barren, the weather can be savage, and only those brave or wealthy enough even think about venturing into this vast wilderness.  But they stay close to the Pod.  If not, they face a cruel death...

The Pod.  A city encased with a protective shield.  But it contains something that you won't find outside...oxygen.  It comes at a cost, but it keeps the citizens alive.  A company called Breathe was the first to generate artificial oxygen to keep humanity alive when nature failed.  It keeps the Pod's oxygen at a minimally survivable level, but there are limitations.  No one can walk more than three mph (unless you have a tank).  Everyone has a certain allotment, and if you want more, the cost is high.  And like all cities, there exists a hierarchy.

Zone One is closest to the outside, where the Premiums live.  Quinn is a part of this society, but more than that, his father is the CEO of Breathe.  Quinn lives a life of privilege, and although he sports the Premium tattoo, he doesn't truly live the lifestyle.  He wants to be known for who he is and separate himself from his father's shadow.  It can be tough...

Zone Two is the second tier where the Auxiliaries live.  They work hard and do all they can to transcend their societal level and live more comfortably.  Bea understand this all too well.  Why?  Because her best friend is a Premium, and although Quinn doesn't know it, she's crossed the line between friendship and love...

Zone Three is the inner city, rife with poverty, stealing, and danger.  Alina has dedicated herself to stealing.  Anything she can find to help out the resistance is a challenge she's willing to take.  She knows the consequences, but she also knows some tricks about living in a world where oxygen is kept at a bare minimum.  Her training and stealth allows her to go beyond what Auxiliaries have and what Premiums believe is their right...

Their lives will meet and their survival is at stake.  Trust is tantamount, but will their prejudices keep them from aligning themselves and can they truly cross this boundary with each other? 

Crossan writes a dystopic novel not only about survival but also about political intrigue, rebellion, and human rights.  The subject in this book is new, and the reader gets to live vicariously in a completely different dystopian society uncommon in this genre.  Written in three distinct voices, Crossan allows the reader to see multiple points of view as well as in the minds of each character, making them all too real.  This is an excellent literary device, which potentially creates character bias and favoritism which is the reader's choice.  The rich characterization paired with a fast-paced plot make this another book to place in the hands of those craving more dystopia teen lit.  Recommended. 

Monday, February 11, 2013

Infographic: Fiction Meets Non-Fiction

Infographic can be viewed online at: https://magic.piktochart.com/output/3922de45-655d-48dc-844e-1ba2ba5da348#.URme2PI3tiw

Trinity: A Graphic History of the First Atomic Bomb by Jonathan Fetter-Vorm

Hill and Wang, 2012 (a division of Farrar, Strauss & Giroux)

I have freely admitted that I do NOT like science or math.  I was always one of those people who excelled in literature and history, but numbers and letters make no sense to me.  If you told me that there was an amazing book about science I would love, I would have lied and said, "Sure!  Bring it on!" but the book would be stashed away, never to be read.  Until this book....

The atomic bomb and all of its terrible beauty is laid bare in this graphic novel from the first inception to the final aftermath.  It traces the A-bomb's lineage back to 1898 to the aftermath and its effects on the world.

Along the way, Fetter-Vorm also includes biographies of the many men and women who were part of the Manhattan Project from Einstein (who was first recruited to approach the President) to General Leslie Groves (who oversaw all of Los Alamos from beginning to end) to J. Robert Oppenheimer (the father of the inception of the bomb).  This historical part of the bomb was intriguing, stuff I love.  And then came the science part....

Electrons, neutrons, charged atoms.  Fission and fusion.  Atomic numbers and mass numbers.  Uranium, plutonium and isotopes.  While I read, my mind absorbed all of these facts, and they made sense! The reason behind this?  Fetter-Vorm uses analogies that made it more understandable, but more than that, it was the illustrations that made science (at least for me) really gel and stand out. I've sat through lectures about atomic numbers but all it took was two pages on this graphic novel for it to truly click.  That's the power of great writing and powerful images.

Then there's the politics.  Of course I've heard about the Manhattan Project, but I never fully realized how secretive it was (and I mean SUPER secretive) and how our political figures reacted and used this information, from Truman to Stalin and everyone in between, spies included.  The author showed the reader the first committee ever created for this project to the Potsdam Conference for the world leaders at the time.

But this story would never have truly unfolded if it weren't for the graphics.  They made everything come alive, from the fascination of U-92 vs. U-238 to the first detonation near Los Alamos, to the final, grisly destination at Hiroshima.  "A picture is worth a thousand words."  That saying aptly applies to this book and its subject.  This book is all about relationships, either at the atomic level or between men, and one that will fascinate as well as educate. Thank you Jonathan Fetter-Vorm!  This is history I've never really learned and am so thankful someone created a graphic novel for it. 
Highly recommended for 7-12 grade.

Streams of Babel (Streams of Babel, #1)Fire Will Fall (Streams of Babel, #2)  Fiction Pair:  Streams of Babel and Fire Will Fall by Carol Plum-Ucci ( http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2213336.Streams_of_Babel )

Thursday, February 7, 2013

TCEA 2013 Presentation: Less is More

I wish Google Docs had an embed button, but nope...they give you a link to share :)  So here's the presentation from TCEA.  Enjoy!


Sorry about the link!  It should work now. 

Monday, February 4, 2013

Superbowl Commercial and the Library

Libraries are everywhere, even in the Superbowl 2013 commercials!  Did you see this one?

Friday, February 1, 2013

What Kind of Reader Are You?

I linked to another blog that has this great infographic! According to this chart, I'm a speed reader...what are you?

What Kind of Reader Are You?

Falling for You by Lisa Schroeder

Simon Pulse, 2013

"The road to happiness is paved with good deeds for others."  That's what Rae's grandmother used to tell her, and Rae understands the truth of this.  Her life though, is another road paved with pain, heartache, and secrets. 

Rae lives with her mother who doesn't pay her much attention, and her step-father Dean, who is a controlling, angry person.  Every day she comes home to this, and Rae only wishes she could live the happy teen life she sees in her friends.  And then along comes Nathan....

The first time he saw Rae, he knew she was the one.  Rae couldn't believe that this hot new guy at school would single her out, but he did, and their relationship begins to bloom.  It doesn't matter that he sometimes is forgetful.  It also doesn't matter if he gets first choice, regardless of what Rae thinks or says.  He's her first boyfriend, and Rae loves the feeling of someone else loving her back.  But then again, she also knows something isn't quite right about Nathan...

So, in a balance between light and dark, Rae continues to live her life.  The bright side of her life is that her poetry is published anonymously and she loves her job at the florist shop.  The dark side?  Her having to give her paychecks to Dean, who lost his job, and how obsessive Nathan is becoming.  She fears the dark. 

Rae's life couldn't get any worse.  But there is still hope in the world, which she sees through the anonymous person buying flowers for the hurt and hurting, the flourishing poetry in the school newspaper, her friends, and Leo...wonderful, caring Leo...  But the dark is always lingering, ready to capture her and make her stay.

Lisa Schroeder is best known for her novels-in-verse, and this book truly showcases her talent as a novelist.  Her poetry still has its own voice in this novel as well; her verse can be found scattered throughout the book.  Schroeder also creates an interesting timeline, starting with the present and going back six months.  The reader gets to be involved in Rae's life through her memories as she lays in a hospital bed hovering between that light and dark, which Schroeder offers to the readers through poems, relationships, and emotions.  All of these elements combine to make a great connective story with Rae at the hub.  Job well done!
book trailer:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=00VFQKaaQUY