Saturday, June 23, 2012

"Story Time" by Edward Bloor

"All I know is this," Kate told her brusquely. "I'm not going to Lincoln with you on Monday morning, I'm going to Whittaker. And I'm not going home with my mother and fatehr tonight, I'm going home with just my mother. So I guess I don't believe in wishes coming true, either. If I really want good things to happen, and bad things to stop happening, it'll take more than wishing. I have to act. And I have to act now."

Kate and her uncle, George, are regular kids. Kate is in eighth grade, Uncle George is in sixth. Kate is ready to go to Lincoln middle school and play Peter Pan in the play, and George is ready to learn things and invent things as well.
And then Uncle George passes the entrance exam to the Whittaker Magnet School.

Before they know it, both Kate and George are absorbed into the Whittaker Magnet School district 'octopus' and are attending the school with the highest scores on standardized tests. Although George is excited to be in a place where his genius is appreciated, Kate is not too happy to be in with the 'mushroom children' and personal assistant to Heidi Whittaker, the girl who dresses like a 'Swiss Milkmaid'.
But when eerie things begin in the school, neither of them know what to expect. With the help of a woman who only speaks in nursery rhymes, Kate's mother June, the staff of the White House, and a whole cast of other characters (Whether willingly or not), the two children will uncover a mystery that stretches back to the founding of the school, and nothing will be the same again.

Kate stared at the supine figure of Walter Barnes. She felt a pang of sympathy for the old librarian. but that pang was quickly replaed by another feeling, a feeling that something big had just happened. She didn't know what it was, exactly, but she did know this: It was something that the Whittaker-Austins, with all their money and all their power, could not control. It was a first chink in their armor. Perhaps it was a door to a door to a door that would lead her out of there.

I rather enjoyed this book.
As a homeschooler, it fills me with a sort of righteousness when I read about the failings of the public school system, and this book is a criticism of said system of schools. With a school that only focuses on standardized tests (much like many schools nowadays actually do), it emphasizes the positive aspects of imagination, art, fantasy, and whimsy.
This book is also written somewhat like A Series of Unfortunate Events or Pepperment in the Parlor, so if you liked any of those books, I believe you'd like this one. Sort of in that J fiction and yet... aimed for older people type of writing. It's interesting.

I have to say, however, that I did not particularly like Kate until near the end of the book where she goes through a character change. Uncle George was cool, however, and I liked some of the other characters as well.
Also, although I think the ending was okay, it wasn't spectacular or anything to be overly impressed with. I'd recommend this book, but I'd also say not to expect anything mind blowing from it.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

"Lessons From a Dead Girl" by Jo Knowles

I squeeze my hand shut and hold our secret in it. Any time I start to wonder why on earth Leah Greene wants to be my best friend, I tell myself not to think about it.

Leah Greene is dead.
Laine doesn't know what to think, or how to feel. Should she be sad, for losing her F.F., friend forever? Should she feel relieved, because she wished Leah would die? Should she feel freed, from her past, from the doll closet, from Leah herself?

Laine hated Leah. Hated her for everything she made Laine do, for all the times in the doll closet. She didn't understand Leah, didn't understand why she did the things she did or said the things she said. And yet, Laine wonders how different the two really are, and who Leah really were.

As Laine tries to understand Leah and the tragedy of her death, she tries to also understand the lessons that Leah taught her, find their meaning, and find out if she can forgive the unforgivable.

"It will come off," I say, scrubbing harder. But even when my hand is almost raw, I still see some of the red marker.
I go back to my room and hug George again.
"We won't be friends forever," I whisper into his fur. "We won't."
But he keeps smiling, like he knows better.

First of all, I do not recommend this book to anyone under the age of fifteen. A lot of the themes are quite mature, and I don't think that I could handle this if I were any younger than I am now.

Moving on, however, I have to say that this was a very interesting book. It had different story themes than I've ever read before, and I really liked the complicated relationship between Leah and Laine. I actually thought that all of the relationships in this book were interesting, complicated, and well developed, except for possibly the ones with Web and Jess (which were well developed, but not as interesting.)
I liked how all the characters had their own motives and personalities, and how all of them acted like real human beings.

I have to say that the writing style was also quite amazing, and it really absorbed me. I liked how it was written in sort of a hopeless way, and at the end you're sort of handed a bittersweet and hopeful ending.  It's also nice because you don't have to wait too long to get to the ending- I read this book in probably about 45 minutes.

Overall, it was an excellent book for older readers.

"I'm not afraid of you," I lie. "I just think I should get back."
And I don't want to play your games.
"I think you're afraid."
"Why do you always do this?" I ask.  I don't know why I bother. I should just step off the gazebo and disappear.
"Do what?" she asks innocently.
"Act this way. Like you're playing some game. Like you're out to get me." I pause as the familiar fear courses through me. My heart pounds so hard in my chest it hurts. But instead of running away, I take a deep breath. "Why do you hate me so much, Leah?"
"Me?"

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

"Incarceron" by Catherine Fisher

Walls have ears.
Doors have eyes.
Trees have voices.
Beasts tell lies.
Beware the rain.
Beweare the snow.
Beware the man
You think you know.
~Songs of Sapphique

Incarceron is a prison. Built to contain the undesirables of a world, it's huge. Vast enough to contain cities, mountains, oceans, valleys. Built to be a paradise, Incarceron has become a hell, and there is no escaping. Trapped until they die, most of the inmates have given up on leaving.
But not Finn.

In the Outside, time seems to have been stopped at the 17th century. Artificially preserved, Claudia's world is run by computers and protocal. She's doomed to an arranged marriage and tangled with an assassination plot she doesn't support but doesn't discourage either.

When the lives of Finn and Claudia collide, there's no telling what will happen.
Incarceron is everywhere.
Incarceron is everything.

They stared at the dark slit, waiting. She half expected a crowd of Prisoners to burst through.
But nothing happened, so she stepped forward, and opened the gate.
And looked Inside.

This book was rather rare for a couple of reasons. First of all, it's a YA book that I actually enjoyed. Second of all, there were several plot twists I didn't predict, and third of all, I only hated one of the characters.

The setting of this book is very interesting. It's a peculiar mix of Gregor the Underlander, 2001: A Space Oddyssey, Labyrinth, Alice in Wonderland, The Supernaturalist, Doctor Who, and a whole lot of imagination. It was fascinating if only for the setting, and I enjoyed it immensely. Incarceron was spooky, and reminded me a bit of HAL, which captured my interest immediately. If nothing, read for Incarceron!

The characters were interesting as well. It was difficult, but I decided that my three favorite characters were Keiro (Finn's oathbrother), Jared (Claudia's tutor), and The Warden (Claudia's father.). The single character that I truly did not like at all was Attia, who I found to be jealous, petty, stuck up, "holier than thou", and just annoying. But the others were pretty cool, I must say.

Also, the plot twists. I'm usually pretty good at predicting the way that books will go. In fact, some of the earlier twists I predicted immediately, but about three fourths of the book the author threw a twist at me that literally left me sitting and going "Wow. I did not see that coming. Wow. Wow. O.o". The plot is interesting, not very predictable, and has plenty of things going on that it moves quite quickly.

Overall, this was a really good book, and I'm definitely going to read the second one. :)