Cannonball Read IV

A bunch of Pajibans reading and reviewing and honoring AlabamaPink.

Archive for the tag “Young Adult”

loopyker’s #CBR4 Review #15-#18: His Dark Materials, Books 1-4 by Philip Pullman

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A bit of a cheat on this one in my rush to get some more up for the CBR4 deadline. Review combining Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials, Books 1 thru 4, The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, The Amber Spyglass and short story, Lyra’s Oxford is at Loopy Ker’s Life.

Funkyfacecat’s #CBR4 Review #30: Twilight by Stephanie Meyer

Everybody knows what happens in Twilight, right? Bella is an angsty sixteen year old who is pale and clumsy and Edward is an angsty 80 year old vampire who is pale but swift and strong and sparkles in the sun like a marble statue of diamonds, or words to that effect. They meet when Bella moves to Forks, Washington, where Edward and his “family” live because it’s so cloudy all the time that the sun can’t reveal their true sparkly identities…And they hunt bears and mountain lions rather than people. Bella and Edward develop an intense connection, but this might endanger her life because…he is a vampire who may not be able to resist his…urges.

Things I like about Twilight: Bella and Edward have conversations. They may seem trivial, but they are genuinely interested in each other and they like talking to each other and finding out about each other, which is refreshing considering in how many YA and other romance novels love at first sight happens and then there’s a complication and then things end happily and then you realise that the protagonists have barely spoken two words to each other EVER or been in the same room without exchanging a couple of cute lines and then jumping into bed together / cut to complication and separate angsting until the reunion as the end credits roll and you picture them like Elaine Robinson and Dustin Hoffman sitting on the bus staring into space as it rolls into the sunset all “right, what now? Will this ever not be awkward?” In the films, of course, the conversation was replaced with moody looks and lip-biting and stupid music.

Things I don’t like: HE WATCHES HER SLEEP AND LISTENS TO HER SLEEPTALK WITHOUT HER KNOWING HE IS THERE. So wrong.

Stuff that’s supposed to come across as romantic but is actually creepy as hell is perhaps endemic to a certain kind of YA literature – consider all the random fistfights and possessiveness in which Elizabeth Wakefield and Todd Wilkins were enmeshed in the Sweet Valley High series, for instance. Anyone else have any other examples? I’d be really interested. Or examples of the opposite, well-crafted and realistic and non-creepy relationships in YA lit? And if no one else has read SVH…I’ll get me coat.

The Scruffy Rube’s #CBR4 Review Supplement (#s 27-43)

In all of my reading and writing it would be easy to say that I’m thinking too much about books that are meant to be little dollops of entertainment. That may well be true, books may just be meant as minor diversions for over-stimulated minds. But through the past year I realized how the various reading role models I have had in my life taught me how to read, how to love reading and how to use reading to think.

So, after I finished my half-cannonball back in August I kept right on reading and thinking. Balancing all that work with the job I’m paid to do was a little difficult and I only just finished reviews for all of the books read in that span. Rather than reprinting some or all of those reviews here, I wanted to give any readers of this site access to my other site where they can read the complete reviews of various books that might interest you. (If you or someone you know–particularly an administrator–believe this is in someway a misuse of the Cannonball Read site, I sincerely apologize and will remove it ASAP.) Take a look, click around and see what you think of everything else I managed to read this year.

All reviews (plus other older reviews and fancy blog style shenanigans at The Scruffy Rube

Post 1 Book Club Books:

#27–The Unbearable Bookclub for Unsinkable Girls, by Julie Shumacher (2 stars)

#28–Frozen by Mary Casanova (3 stars)

#29–Matched by Allie Condie (2 stars)

#29.5–The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind  by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer (illustrations by Elizabeth Zunon) (2 stars)

#30–A Strange Place to Call Home by Marilyn Singer (illustrations by Ed Young) (4 stars)

Post 2: Mock Caldecott Award Candidates

#30.25–Oh No, by Candace Flemming (illustrations by Eric Rohman) (4 stars)

#30.5–Words Set me Free, by Lisa Cline-Ransome (illustrations by James E. Ransome) (4 stars)

#30.75–House Held up By Trees, by Ted Koosner (illustrations by Jon Klassen) (2 stars)

#31–Extra Yarn, by Mac Bennett (illustrations by Jon Klassen) (5 stars)

Post 3: Mock Newberry Award Candidates

#32–Mighty Miss Malone, by Christopher Paul Curtis (3 stars)

#33–Glory Be, by Augusta Scattergood (1 star)

#34–The One and Only Ivan, by Katherine Applegate (4 stars)

#35–Wonder, by RJ Palacio (5 stars)

Post 4: Mock Printz Award Candidates

#36–Never Fall Down, by Patricia McCormick (4 stars)

#37–Code Name: Verity, by Elizabeth Fein (1 star)

#38–Year of the Beasts, by Cecil Castelluci (art by Nate Powell) (5 stars)

#39–Every Day, by David Levithan (4 stars)

Post 5: Books with lessons of the year

#40–Remains of the Day, by Kazuo Ishiguro (5 stars)

#41–Daughter of Smoke and Bone, by Laini Taylor (5 stars)

#42–A Room with a View, by E.M. Forster (5 stars)

#43–Cinder, by Marissa Meyer (5 stars)

Goddess of Apathy’s #CBR4 Review #12: The Carrie Diaries by Candace Bushnell

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Welcome to the 1980s, Carrie Bradshaw style! If you are like me, most of what you know about Carrie came from the HBO series Sex and the City. I never read author Candace Bushnell’s column in the New York Observer, and I have never read the book Sex and the City. Even with my simple knowledge based on Sarah Jessica Parker’s portrayal of Carrie, I was smitten with the character and her hapless-in-love cohorts. Most people know that Carrie is  Candace Bushnell’s alter ego, so that meant there has to be more to the story of Carrie than just her sexual and dating adventures as a grown woman. She had to start somewhere, and The Carrie Diaries takes the reader back in time to a place where Carrie was a senior, a virgin, and a non-published writer.

I admit I am a person seemingly stuck in nostalgia for the 1980s and many times, stuck in high school. As a teacher of high school students, I have perpetually been on the verge of graduation for twenty years now. I love to read a good high school novel. It is familiar to me because I spend at least 180 days a year in that mind-set so it is comfortable and rarely changes. There is always drama. There is always gossip. There is always that hope for goals and dreams coming true, if you can just get along with the popular crowd or avoid that bully, it will all be over come graduation. I enjoy thinking that at least the characters in the books I read can finally get out of town and make something of themselves in the big city. We all know how The Carrie Diaries will end: she will move to New York. She will become a published author. She still might not be lucky in love. Two out of three ain’t bad.

Candace Bushnell takes the reader back to Carrie’s senior year. Carrie is the oldest sister in a family of three girls, with an overprotective widower for a father. Carrie has a nice little collection of friends in this book, but I felt sometimes that Bushnell didn’t completely flesh them out, instead, picking a few here and there who were pivotal in helping Carrie reach her goal of making it to New York City. If I had not gone back and looked up those character names, I would’ve never remembered them, they were that forgettable. I couldn’t forget the new boy at school, Sebastian Kydd, who is handsome, wealthy, perfect, and trouble . I guess Carrie’s taste in the wrong  type of men was established at an early age. I didn’t forget the outrageously named characters who cause lots of friction in Carrie’s life with school and Sebstatian: Donna LaDonna and Lali Kandesie. Donna is the most popular girl in school and she is loved by many suitors and feared by everyone else, except Carrie. Lali is a longtime friend of Carrie’s, but we all remember how tenuous our high school friendships were when a boy was involved.

I did enjoy learning about Carrie’s senior year in high school, and I was surprised to learn she was once a competitive swimmer. I never got that vibe from her in the TV series. I wish that Bushnell had explored the death of Carrie’s mother and how that affected her life. I almost think that Bushnell intended to write more on Carrie’s life prior to Sex and the City‘s timeline, but now the CW has the new series, The Carrie Diaries scheduled to air in 2013, so I don’t know what Bushnell intends to do with Carrie. I am interested in how this new TV series will be presented and if Carrie Bradshaw will appeal to a new generation of viewers.

Goddess of Apathy’s #CBR4 Review #11: Tears of a Tiger, by Sharon Draper

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Tears of a Tiger is a young adult novel that grips your interest from the first page, a newspaper article from November 8. A seventeen year old star basketball player from Hazelwood High, Robert Washington, is killed in a horrific automobile accident, but he wasn’t the driver. The driver was his intoxicated friend, Andrew Jackson. The article paints a grim portrait of the wreck and painful death Robert endured as he was trapped in the car, burning to death.

Robert’s suffering was great, but Andrew is living with the guilt of his destruction of the dead and the fallout that affects the living. Andrew’s inability to grieve and cope affects everyone with whom he comes in contact.He’s not the only person suffering from the aftermath of the accident. Two other boys were in the car, too, B.J. Carson and Tyrone Mills. But B.J. and Tyrone have other things in their lives to deal with on top of the sadness surrounding Robert’s death.  What about Robert’s family? Andrew’s family and his girlfriend, Keisha? The pain is too much for all of them.

The book is written through a series of letters, articles, homework assignments, and dialogues. All the characters weigh in on the loss of Robert and Andrew’s downward spiral. The characters are real; they joke and dream like most teenagers. The story is timeless and heart wrenching. Even if you aren’t a teenager, you can identify with the story and the world created by Sharon Draper.

I read this book with my high school students in May. When they first looked at the cover, they scoffed at it, thinking it was a baby book. Yet, when we listened to the audiobook and read along in the text, you could’ve heard a pin drop every day and every class period. Tears were shed and there was so much meaningful discussion about the book and the characters. The book spoke to them and moved them because they felt the story. I know it’s not Shakespeare or some other dead white dude that is supposed to be important, but this book made an impact and I’ll be reading it again with this year’s students, and expect that same magic.

Goddess of Apathy’s #CBR4 Review #10: The Divine Wind, by Garry Disher

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The Divine Wind is is a young adult historical fiction novel that I am currently reading with my high school students. I read it before they did, and I was entertained by the plot and character interactions as well as the multiple examples of conflict. So far, students have enjoyed the book as much as I did.

The setting is Broome, Austrailia both before, during, and after World War II. Broome is a seaside town with a mix of culture and ethnicity. The narrator is Hartley Penrose, a seventeen year old son of a pearl master, Michael Penrose. His family also includes a sister, Alice,  and an English born mother, Ida Penrose. Hartley has a friend and love interest, Mitsy Sennosuke, a Japanese girl whose father, Zeke works for Michael Penrose as a pearl diver.

With war looming in the background, the cultural and ethnic differences begin to rise to the surface causing all types of conflict between families and friends. My students are half-way through the book and have found so much to discuss about relationships: can you choose whom to love? What if your parents don’t want you to be together because of race/ethnicity/culture? Can a relationship survive multiple challenges? We have discussed cultural differences of the English, Australian, Japanese, and Aboriginal. We have discussed the conflicts of the expectations of the time period and conflicts between countries in war time.

Garry Disher has so many little nuggets of historical and cultural information. I was not familiar with Broome, Australia past or present. I did not know what pearl divers did. I had no idea what the Register of Aliens was. Yet, I found myself exploring the Internet for information about Australia, stumbling upon the NFSA Film Australia Collection on YouTube. I’ve read countless informational articles about Australia’s beginnings and its geographical landscape, looked at Google Maps Streetview to see Hartley’s viewpoint at Cable Beach, and what Chinatown looks like in Broome. I’ve investigated the newsreels of the time, the music, fashion, and movies that might have been playing in the tin-topped cinema of Sheba Lane. I’ve share that information with my students and it has brought the text to life for them.

I think the book is interesting and entertaining. Disher’s language is plain, but he has some statements and sentences that are meaningful on multiple levels.  I recommend the book for light reading and it shouldn’t take long for you to enjoy it. All the outside research is purely optional.

loopyker’s #CBR4 Review #11: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games coverI had this review ready to publish last week, but after the recent tragic news about the Newtown shootings in the US I took some time to rethink it. I don’t think that event changes my feelings about about my review below. I feel that despite the violence in the book, The Hunger Games is more relevant to our current-day reality TV and our culture of competition and voyeurism than to school shootings or violence against children specifically. But the media attention around such events has haunting similarities.

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I finally got on the bandwagon and had my first experience with The Hunger Games. I listened to Book 1 as an audiobook. Prior to that I had managed to avoid most of the hype. I didn’t want to ruin it for myself if I ever did read the book or watch the movie. I hadn’t heard of the book until the movie came out, but several friends had, and loved both the books and the movie, so I was curious but the general description of children having to fight to the death just created Lord of the Flies flashbacks, so I wasn’t seriously interested. I absolutely hated Lord of the Flies reading it in class in early high school. I reread it once later to see if I had a different opinion as an adult. I didn’t.

I’m very happy to say that The Hunger Games was a completely different experience. I’m not sure if it was because the viewpoint for The Hunger Games was a girl vs the boys in The Lord of the Flies, or maybe it was because there was a much better back story for the characters leading up to the fighting so that you cared about them a lot more. I have no intention of re-reading The Lord of the Flies for a more direct comparison. Although, now that I’m thinking about it, I think that what stuck with me in The Lord of the Flies was the cruelness of the children, whereas in The Hunger Games is it is the compassionate moments that stay with you afterwards. I much prefer the latter.

The Hunger Games is told from the point of view of a 17 year old girl, Katnis. She has been the head of her family since her father died when she was 11 years old and her mother went into a depression. They live in a poor, post-apocalyptic North American, coal mining community called District 12. Districts 1 thru 12 each specialize in a different industry and are controlled by The Capitol, mainly through keeping them in extreme poverty.

Read the rest of the review at Loopy Ker’s Life

loopyker’s #CBR4 Review #09: Answer Me, Answer ME by Irene Bennett Brown

In my online library, a quote described Answer Me, Answer ME as “An excellent portrayal of a young woman’s search for her true identity, a compelling story with just the right elements of mystery and romance.” Sounded like a potentially good, young adult book to me. I was sadly disappointed.

I listened to the audiobook, but I don’t think that made a difference to my experience of the story. I can’t imagine even the best narrator in the world making me anything but sorry I wasted my time. The only difference is that I didn’t notice that the second “me” in the title is written “ME” until looking it up to write this review.

A young woman, Bryn Kinney, is on her own after her grandmother’s death. Now at only 18 years old, she is wondering if her grandmother, the woman who raised her, was really in fact her biological grandmother at all and if she has any other family out there somewhere. She has never known who her parents were, so she sets off an a quest to search for answers about her past.

Read the rest of the review at Loopy Ker’s Life

DragonDreamsJen’s #CBR4 Review #87 The Rise of Nine by Pittacus Lore

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We bought this book for our family as soon as it was released this fall, but thanks to a terrible round of Rock/Paper/Scissors, I had to wait until my daughters were done reading it before I could add it to my list.

The Rise of Nine is the third book in the now expanded I am Number Four series.  Perhaps in the void left with the end of the Harry Potter and Twilight Series (both books and movies) the temptation to expand the story and thus the profits was too great to stick to the original trilogy format.

Luckily for readers, the author and alien hiding among us Pittacus Lore tells great stories.  The Rise of Nine is no exception.  The story is gripping, thrilling and rushes the reader towards the ending only to leave them wanting more.

To read my comments about the one flaw that bothered me, check out my BookHoardingDragon blog.

DragonDreamsJen’s #CBR4 Review #86 Ballad by Maggie Stiefvater

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I knew that I was going to like Ballad.  I hoped I was going to like Ballad.  I was worried about being disappointed by Ballad because it was the second book in a series by Maggie Stiefvater.  Linger, her second book after the brilliant Shiver, left such deep scars of disappointment that it took a book like Insurgent to make me trust that second books could be wonderful.

The first few chapters felt jumpy and a bit disjointed, especially when a third narrative was woven into the story.  I almost put the book away on the bookcase, but then I remembered that I’d felt the same way about Lament at the beginning and I kept reading.

I am so glad that I did!

Ballad is the story of James, the dependable friend and sidekick of Lament’s heroine who stands by her side and helps out, loving her completely even when she falls in love with the Faerie who has been sent to kill her.  By the end of Lament, James comes to understand that Dee will never feel the same way about him that he does about her.

Ballad opens with a strange, unsent text message  as Dee’s narrative, then jumps into the story from James’ point of view.  He is studying at the Thornking-Ash School of Music on a special scholarship, but soon discovers that he is surrounded by more faeries than ever before, especially one who seems almost human.  Will he lose his heart… or lose his life?

Once you get past the slow pace of the first few chapters, the story develops into something so captivating and satisfying that you are loathe to put the book down for mundane things such as eating and sleeping.  The book and its amazing characters race towards one of the most satisfying conclusions I’ve enjoyed in a book in recent memory.

KUDOS to author Maggie Stiefvater for this brilliant and enjoyable tale.  I adored how this second book made the series stronger instead of weaker.  The ending was unexpected, touching and terrific!

Paperback format, 388 pages, Copyright 2009, Scholastic Canada Edition (2012)

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