Sunday, January 27, 2013

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins



Genre: Contemporary Romance
Year Published: 2010
Number of Pages: 390 pages
Date Read: 1/27/2013
Series: The Hunger Games #3
Publisher: Scholastic Press




“My Name is Katniss Everdeen.  Why Am I Not Dead?  I Should be Dead.”

After reading Suzanne Collins’ previous books “The Hunger Games” and “Catching Fire,” I wanted to check out the final book in the “Hunger Games” series called “Mocking jay” and man, was it just as intense and horrifying as the previous two books!

After Katniss Everdeen survived the last Hunger Games in “Catching Fire,” she discovers that the Capitol had destroyed her home District 12 as a way to teach Katniss that she cannot defy the Capitol.  Katniss and her family then escape to the legendary hidden district, District 13 to seek refuge, only to find out that District 13 is planning a revolt against the Capitol!  Now Katniss realizes that she was apart of a major plan to overthrow the Capitol, even though she never knew about it in the first place and now the future of Panem rests on her shoulders as she has to decide on whether or not she should become the Mocking jay that will defy the Capitol!

Wow!  I was absolutely blown away by how this final installment in the “Hunger Games” was much DARKER, MORE GRUESOME and MORE EMOTIONAL than the previous books!  Suzanne Collins has definitely done a great job at building up tension throughout this book as I was seriously on the edge of my seat trying to see if Katniss would be able to fulfill her destiny as the Mocking jay!  I loved the way that Suzanne Collins gives us a good insight inside Katniss’ mind about how she has doubts about being the Mocking jay and how it will affect her relationship with her family and friends.  I also loved seeing the developing relationships she has with both Gale and Peeta and it was interesting seeing how she was willing to put her life on the line to protect her friends and families from the Capitol’s evil influence.  I also loved the way that Suzanne Collins wrote Katniss as a strong heroine who is not only good at fighting, but is extremely intelligent as she tries to think through her problems before acting on them and I think that is a good characteristic that helps Katniss survive through the revolution against the Capitol.  I also loved Peeta’s character and I was actually worried for Peeta throughout this book after the Capitol kidnapped him in the last book and did horrible things to his mind.

The reason why I gave this book a four star rating is because of the constant love triangle between Gale, Katniss and Peeta.  I usually do not do well with love triangles because of the fact that the character in the middle has to spend the majority of the book deciding whether or not he or she wants to spend the rest of their life with whoever they choose.  I felt that this aspect of the story sort of took away from the constant action and suspense of the last two books and sometimes, it was hard getting through this book without gritting my teeth in impatience with Katniss choosing who she wants to be with.  Another problem that some readers might have with this book is that it has more bloody and sad scenes than the last two books as there are many characters that are killed off in the most gruesome ways in this book.  Since this final book deals with war and its consequences, it might be a bit difficult to get through this book without being sadden by the turn of events in this book.  Anyone who is planning on reading this book better be prepared for a DARK RIDE ahead of them!

Overall, even though “Mocking jay” was not the best of the “Hunger Games” series, it is still a great read for “Hunger Games” fans and the ending will definitely blow you away once you pick up this book!
 


Saturday, January 26, 2013

☀Daily Book Chat #1:☀ What do you think makes a good book?


 Hello everyone! I'm doing something new for my blog and it's something call my ☀Daily Book Chat☀ where I ask questions about your favorite books and what you love about reading!  Today's question is "What do you think makes a good book?"  Do you think that having good character development or interesting characters makes a book enjoyable to read?

Personally, what makes a good book for me is having good character development and intriguing characters.  I always loved romance novels being written by Lisa Kleypas and many others because the characters in her stories always felt so real to me and I also loved the balance of the character development and the action scenes presented in the novels!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Pink and Say by Patricia Polacco




Genre: Racism / Civil War / Friendship

Year Published: 1994

Year Read: 2013

Publisher:  Philomel




Many of the books I had read by Patricia Polacco were extremely emotional and sad like “The Junkyard Wonders” and “Thank You, Mr. Falkner,” but none of them had hit me so close to my heart than her book “Pink and Say.”  “Pink and Say” is a story about the friendship between two boys of different races whose ending will make you want to cry for many years to come.

Sheldon Russell Curtis was a young soldier who was injured during the Civil War and was left for dead until a young African-American boy named Pinkus comes to his aid and brings him home with him.  Pinkus lived with his mother, Moe Moe Bay who was kind and treated Sheldon like her own son.  Unfortunately, Sheldon and Pinkus knew that they were putting Moe Moe Bay in jeopardy since they escaped from the Civil War and the marauding Confederate troops were chasing after them.  Now they must find a way to get away from Moe Moe Bay before it is too late!

Reading most of Patricia Polacco’s books, I have noticed that all of her books always have an underlying theme of accepting other people, no matter how different they are while tying these stories to her real life experiences, which I always believed made her stories even more memorable to read.  Now, after reading this book “Pink and Say,” I have to say that Patricia Polacco has truly defined the importance of accepting other people’s differences even under hardships such as war.  I loved the way that Patricia Polacco had portrayed the relationship between Pinkus, a young African-American soldier and Sheldon, a young Caucasian soldier, as they treated each other like good friends, despite being of different races.  It was fantastic and emotional seeing what the Civil War had done to Pinkus and Sheldon and my heart was actually breaking when they were scared of getting anyone hurt in this war, but they know that they have to fight this war to put an end to slavery.  I have always read books about the Civil War, but never had I read a book that actually showed me how the Civil War had affected the people fighting in it in a more up close and personal way.  Patricia Polacco had done a brilliant job at showing the horrors and painful emotions that the characters suffered through this war, while stating that war itself is terrible, but you must fight for what you believe is right.  Patricia Polacco’s illustrations are as usual, gorgeous to look at as the images of Sheldon and Pinkus communicating with each other was a truly beautiful scene to look at.  I also loved the way that the characters look as realistic as it really brings so much reality to this story.

Parents should know that this picture book has some images of characters getting shot and blood leaking out of their wounds.  This might disturb younger children who want to read about the Civil War, so parents might want to read this book to see if it is appropriate before reading it to their child.  Also, the ending was extremely sad as it involves the death of one of the characters (which I will not reveal because I do not want to spoil this book for anyone) and parents might want to read over these scenes before they read it to their children.

Overall, “Pink and Say” is easily Patricia Polacco’s saddest yet most emotional book to ever be written and anyone who wants to read about the Civil War through a personal account should definitely check this book out!  I would recommend this book to children ages seven and up since the scenes of characters getting shot might disturb younger children.




Rotten Richie and the Ultimate Dare by Patricia Polacco



Genre: Sibling Rivalry / Family / Humor / School / Sports

Year Published: 2006

Year Read:  2013

Publisher:  Philomel




I have been reading Patricia Polacco’s works for many years now and after reading one of her works “My Rotten Redheaded Older Brother,” I just had to read more about Patricia Polacco’s brother Richie!  So, I just recently picked up “Rotten Richie and the Ultimate Dare” and I have to say that I was really impressed with this book!

Trisha knows how hard it is to deal with her annoying older brother Richie, especially when he starts making fun of Trisha’s ballet class!  So to teach him a lesson, Trisha dares Richie to perform in the ballet recital with her.  But Richie will only do it on one condition: Trisha has to play the big hockey game with him!

Wow! I was totally amazed by this book!  Patricia Polacco, as always, has done a brilliant job at telling the readers her life story as a child, with her “Richie” books being the funniest among her collection!  I loved the way that Patricia Polacco showed the sibling rivalry between her and her older brother Richie as it was interesting to see and it slightly reminded me of how I get along with my siblings!  I also loved the plot of this story about Trisha wanting to show Richie that ballet is not as easy as it look with Richie doing the same about letting Trisha play hockey with him.  I like how the two siblings learn to have a better understanding of each other as they both try out the different activities that the other sibling usually plays at and it was interesting seeing how their experiences with doing different activities made them grow as characters.  Patricia Polacco’s illustrations are as usual gorgeous to look at as the characters look extremely realistic and I loved the outfits that Richie and Trisha are both wearing as Trisha wears a lovely pink ballet costume and Richie wears a large red hockey suit with “Beavers 13” printed on it.

Overall, “Rotten Richie and the Ultimate Dare” is a brilliant follow up to “My Rotten Redheaded Older Brother” and anyone who is a huge fan of books about sibling rivalry will definitely enjoy this book!  I would recommend this book to children ages five and up since the name calling that Trisha and Richie engage in such as Richie calling Trisha “twerp” might be a bit inappropriate for younger children.



 

Saga Volume 1 by Brian K. Vaughan




Genre: Sci -Fi Fantasy
Year Published: 2012
Year Read: 2013
Series: Saga #1
Publisher: Image Comics




Introduction:

After reading so many of Brian K. Vaughan’s works, with “Y: The Last Man” and his “Runaways” series being among the works I had read, I have been enjoying everything that Brian K. Vaughan has done over the years!  But, imagine my surprise when I discovered that Brian K. Vaughan had recently created a new comic book series called “Saga!”  After hearing so many good things about this comic, I just had to pick this up for myself and see what was so good about this comic and man, was I blown away by the whole concept of this story!

What is this story about?

Alana, a young woman who has fairy wings and is from the planet Landfall, and her husband, Marko, a young man who has goat horns and is from a moon planet called Wreath, were both soldiers that served in the army.  However, when Alana and Marko ended up falling in love with each other despite the fact that their planets are at war with each other, they ended up having a baby together and they tried to escape from the war in order to raise their newborn baby.  However, the two lovers will soon discover that they are being hunted because they abandoned their stations and they must reach a planet where they could live in peace before it is too late!

What I loved about this story:

Brian K. Vaughan’s writing: I am always amazed at how Brian K. Vaughan writes the stories in his comics as the characters are always well-developed and the stories are always creative to read through.  Well, Brian K. Vaughan has definitely done a brilliant job in this story as the characters are interesting and the story is extremely inventive!  I loved the way that Brian K. Vaughan made the story extremely creative by setting the story in a different dimension where aliens rule the planets and futuristic technology runs society.  This story also reminds me strongly of Joss Whedon’s popular TV series, “Firefly” as both stories involves characters living in a futuristic world and I really enjoyed seeing the strange characters that pop up in this comic, especially the images of Alana having green fairy wings and Marko having large goat horns in his head.  I also loved the way that Brian K. Vaughan developed the characters as Alana is shown to be a strong heroine who is willing to do everything to protect her child and Marko is shown to be a caring and strong-willed hero who also tries to protect his family from any harm that comes across them.  That kind of character development made these characters likable and relatable to me because I always felt for them whenever they are trying to escape a war so that they could raise their baby together in peace.  I also loved the futuristic setting of this story as it made the story truly amazing to read through and I enjoyed seeing how the characters deal with war in a futuristic setting.

Fiona Staples’ artwork:  Fiona Staples’ artwork is a bit scratchy, but it is extremely beautiful to look at as the characters look realistic and I loved the way that Fiona Staples paints the fire and explosion scenes as the fire lighting glows on each page, giving the artwork a dramatic feel.  I also loved the appearances of the aliens that inhabit this world, especially the image of Prince Robot IV who has a human body with a television set for a head (kind of reminds me of the robot character in “Fooly Cooly” who also has a human body with a television set for a head)!

What made me feel uncomfortable about this story:

Since this story deals with war, there are many violent scenes shown throughout this story.  Some of the most violent scenes in this comic had characters getting their heads cut off and their stomachs cut open and that might be too graphic for readers who are not used to gory violence.  Also, this comic has strong language that includes using the “f” word and the “s” word, so if you are uncomfortable with such language, then it might be best to skim over these words.  This comic surprisingly has strong nudity and it might be best to skim over these scenes if they are uncomfortable to read through.

Final Thoughts:

Overall, “Saga” is seriously one of the best recent comics I had read for the past few years since “American Vampire” and I only have a few things to say about this series: GIVE ME MORE, GIVE ME MORE, GIVE ME MORE!



REASON FOR BEING BANNED: For having "anti-family" themes, nudity and sexually explicit scenes.

 

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Chicken Sunday by Patricia Polacco



Genre:Easter / Friendship / Jewish / African-American

Year Published: 1992


Year Read: 2011

Publisher: Puffin


What I love so much about Patricia Polacco's works is that her books are mostly based on her real life as a child.  Well, her book “Chicken Sunday” is such a book and it shows the multicultural friendship that Patricia has with two African-American boys, Stewart and Winston and the story details the three friends' determination to prove their innocence when a group of rough boys threw eggs at Mr. Kodinski's shop!  “Chicken Sunday” is truly one heartwarming book that you should definitely check out!

Amazing! This book is beyond amazing!  Patricia Polacco has certainly out done herself in writing this book about the importance of true friendship.  What I really loved about Patricia Polacco's writing is how she shows the multicultural relationship between Patricia and Stewart and Winston as Patricia is Jewish-American while Stewart and Winston are African-American and these three friends are clearly inseparable as they treat each other like they are brothers and sister, a type of relationship you would never find in many children's books.  I also loved the relationship that Patricia had with Miss Eula as she truly treats Miss Eula like a grandmother, especially after hearing that her babushka (her grandmother) has died some years back and it was truly wonderful seeing the relationship between Miss Eula and Patricia blossom into love.  I also loved the fact that when Patricia, Stewart and Winston all got into trouble, they stood by each other no matter how harsh the situation was and that truly showed me how strong their friendship was.  Patricia Polacco's illustrations are truly magnificent in this book as all the characters are drawn in a realistic and effective way that has actually made me speechless every time I looked at the images.  I loved the way that Patricia Polacco drew the characters' facial expressions as they ranged from sad to surprised expressions that made the book truly amazing to read.  My favorite image in this book was of the image of Mr. Kodinski looking at some eggs that Patricia and her friends had brought to him and you can see the intense yet surprised expression on his face and that truly made my heart melt with sympathy for him as I can imagine everything he has gone through when he moved away from his homeland.  I also loved how Patricia Polacco gave Mr. Kodinski an old fashioned yet sophisticated look about him as he wears a large black hat, a white shirt, black suspenders and has a shaggy white beard that truly details his personality.

Overall, “Chicken Sunday” is a wonderful experience for children who love reading about multicultural friendships and learning about the true meaning of having a family.  I would recommend this book to children ages five and up since the length of this book might be a bit too much for smaller children.




Knuffle Bunny Free by Mo Willems




Genre: Toys / Traveling / Growing Up


Year Published: 2010


Year Read: 2011


Series: Knuffle Bunny #3

Publisher:  Balzer + Bray
 


After reading both “Knuffle Bunny” and “Knuffle Bunny Too,” I was definitely looking to reading the most recent book out of Mo Willems’ popular “Knuffle Bunny” series, “Knuffle Bunny Free” and trust me, this is truly the most heartwarming book out of the entire “Knuffle Bunny” series that will have children treasuring it for many years!

Oh my goodness! As long as I have been reading Mo Willems’ “Knuffle Bunny” series, they have been filled with good humor that made children love this series so much!  Now, I have read finally read the conclusion to the great “Knuffle Bunny” series and it is here that you realize the full emotional impact that this book packs as we realize that this is the final book for the entire series and I will definitely miss seeing more of the “Knuffle Bunny” series.  I loved the way that Mo Willems centered this story around Trixie’s relationship with her Knuffle Bunny and how she has to come to the ultimate decision about growing up or not with or without her Knuffle Bunny and it was that aspect of the story that truly stood out for me since we were never shown how Trixie would mature with or without her Knuffle Bunny.  I also loved seeing Trixie’s grandparents and it was interesting to note that her grandparents are from Holland, which Mo Willems gladly provided some sightseeing and information about Holland!  I really loved the various Dutch words that describe Trixie’s grandparents such as “Oma” means “grandma” in Dutch and “Opa” means “grandpa” in Dutch and that would really help out with me trying to learn Dutch. Mo Willems’ illustrations are as usual, creative as the backgrounds of each image are full of photos taken of Holland, which was really interesting seeing the scenery of Holland from a closer inspection and I loved the experience of sightseeing Holland at my own home.  Also, the way that Mo Willems drew his drawings of the characters on the photos as it made the images feel more lifelike and I also loved the images of Trixie and her parents as they seem to age a bit by the third book (especially Trixie’s father who has a beard now) and that really brought out the true essence of showing characters maturing in children’s books!

Overall, “Knuffle Bunny Free” is a truly memorable conclusion to the fantastic “Knuffle Bunny” series that many fans will definitely look forward to reading!! I would recommend this book to children ages four and up since there is nothing inappropriate in this book.




Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren





Genre: Children / Manners / Adventure / Humor



Year Published: 1950


Year Read: 1998


Series: Pippi Longstocking #1

Publisher:  Puffin


To be honest, I have heard of “Pippi Longstocking” when I was little, but I only saw the movies of the little red haired heroine, but then again I might have read this book when I was younger.  It is just that I do not remember many children’s books that I have read when I was small.  “Pippi Longstocking” is a popular children’s book by Astrid Lindgren and it details the wild adventures of an unusual girl named Pippi Longstocking.  “Pippi Longstocking” is clearly one of the best children’s books ever written that children will enjoy over and over again!

Pippi Longstocking is a little girl who lives in an old house called Villa Villekulla and she lives with her pet monkey named Mr. Nilsson and her horse that she rides everywhere to town with.  Her next door neighbors are two kids named Tommy and Annika and when they first met Pippi, they realized that Pippi is no ordinary girl as she climbs inside trees and is so strong that she can easily lift her horse!  Join in the wild adventures of everyone’s favorite pigtailed girl, Pippi Longstocking!

Wow!  I was just simply blown away by this book!  I was reading this book for The Children's Book Club International Book Club and I must tell you that I really loved this book!  Astrid Lindgren has certainly done a brilliant job at portraying Pippi Longstocking as she is shown as a strong and confident heroine!  What made Pippi Longstocking such an endearing character was the fact that she truly was an extraordinary girl and I loved the fact that Pippi is extremely strong and I also enjoyed the odd activities that Pippi does such as dancing with the robbers and climbing inside trees.  I also loved Pippi’s mischievous yet charming personality as she may seem as a bother to the adults, but I just loved seeing her misunderstand everything that goes on in life on land since she has lived at the seas for most of her life and I loved the fact that she continues doing what she loves best despite what everyone else thinks of her.  I also loved Pippi’s relationship with Tommy and Annika as it is clear that the two kids loved Pippi’s unusual nature and accept her bizarre approaches to life and because of that, Tommy and Annika are possibly the best friends that Pippi ever had!

Probably the only thing that most parents might be worried about in this book is Pippi’s mischievous behavior. Pippi does lie to her friends about her adventures around the world and she does do mischievous activities that get on adults’ nerves and therefore, smaller children might be enticed to copy her behavior.  However, while I agree that some of Pippi’s antics are suggestive, I always thought that because Pippi’s parents were absent, Pippi never had anyone tell her what was right or what was wrong and I think that she does these activities because she does not know that what she is doing is wrong or right and it was this nature of Pippi about the fact that she is so young and does not know the world very well that I found extremely pleasing to read about.

Overall, “Pippi Longstocking” is certainly an instant for children all over the world that love reading about wild and crazy kids!  I would recommend this book to children ages six and up due to the length of this book and due to Pippi’s suggestive behavior.




Saturday, January 12, 2013

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman



Genre: Fantasy
Year Published: 2008
Number of Pages: 312 pages
Date Read: 1/12/2013
Publisher: HarperCollins



“There was a hand in the darkness, and it held a knife.”

That is pretty much the opening sentence to Neil Gaiman’s classic story, “The Graveyard Book,” so you definitely know what kind of book you are getting yourself into!  After reading so many of Neil Gaiman’s fantastic books (“Coraline,” the “Sandman” series and “American Gods”), I just had to check out one of his most beloved young adult books, “The Graveyard Book” which also had the honor of winning the Newbery Medal Award!  Filled with heartwarming scenes and your average creepy themes, “The Graveyard Book” is certain to be a hit with fans of Neil Gaiman’s works!

The book starts off with the murder of an innocent family, which was caused by a man named Jack (they call him “the man Jack” throughout the book).  When the man Jack thought that he killed the whole family, it turns out that the youngest child, who was a baby boy, managed to escape from Jack and ran to the graveyard.  Since Jack could not find the child, he decided to give off the chase.  When the citizens of the graveyard found out that the young boy’s family was killed, a ghost couple named Mr. and Mrs. Owens, decided to raise the boy themselves and they called him Nobody Owens. After that, the young boy Nobody Owens begin having many adventures in the graveyard including meeting the frightening Sleer and meeting a human girl named Scarlett, while also trying to figure out who murdered his family.

Wow!  I was totally blown away by the plot and the imagery in this book!  As always, Neil Gaiman had crafted a brilliant story that not only revolves around the mystery of the murder of Nobody Owens’ real family, but also provided a heartwarming story about a young boy trying to discover who he really is and what he really wants out of life.  I loved the way that Neil Gaiman made Nobody Owens into a sympathetic character who only wanted to see what life was like outside of the graveyard since he spent his whole life living in a graveyard and I often felt sorry for Nobody as his curiosity about the real world would not let him rest.  It was also interesting in the way that Neil Gaiman mixed in the supernatural elements (such as Nobody Owens being able to fade so no one can see him and his ability to talk to the dead) into the story as it made the story extremely creative and creepy to read through!  I really enjoyed the murder mystery aspect of the story as I was literally sitting on the edge of my seat trying to figure out if the man Jack will ever find Nobody Owens and how Nobody Owens would handle the man Jack if he ever comes across him! Dave McKean’s illustrations are simply gorgeous and creepy at the same time as the characters look a bit abstract, as their bodies are far too lean, but it fit the surreal atmosphere of the story!  I also loved the way that Dave McKean shadowed the characters’ facial expressions as it made the characters look extremely dramatic and mysterious in every page they appear in.  I also loved the creepy images of the graveyard as they really give off a mysterious and frightening feel to the story (the book is called “The Graveyard Book” after all!)

Even though this book is aimed at a young audience, there are some genuinely creepy moments in this book which includes what Nobody Owens did to two bullies at school and some readers might be a bit frightened at the creepy atmosphere of this book.  Also, since there are many scenes of dead people talking to Nobody Owens, some readers would be frightened by the scenes of dead people walking around.

Overall, “The Graveyard Book” is a truly fantastic book for fans of Neil Gaiman’s works and books with ghost, monsters and friendly strange children!

* 2008 Cybils Awards for Middle Grade Fantasy and Science Fiction
* 2009 ALA Teens' Top Ten
* 2009 An ALA Notable Children's Book for Middle Readers 
* 2009 Audie Award for Audiobook of the Year
* 2009 British Fantasy Award Nominee for Best Novel
* 2009 Hugo Award for Best Novel
* 2009 Indies Choice Book Award for Best Indie Young Adult Buzz Book (Fiction)
* 2009 Locus Award for Best Young Adult Novel
* 2009 Michigan Library Association Thumbs Up! Award Nominee
* 2009 Mythopoeic Fantasy Award Nominee for Children's Literature
* 2009 Newbery Medal
* 2009 World Fantasy Award Nominee for Best Novel
* 2010 Carnegie Medal in Literature