Friday, August 31, 2012

Code Name Verity | Book Review

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book tore me up. Let me begin by saying this is a book for everyone. There is something here for girls, guys, old, young, whatever. It has two female protagonists, but it is not by any means a girl book. The story is largely a British spy's written confession to her Gestapo captors. But it becomes so much more as she weaves the tale of her friendship with a young female pilot named Maddie. The twists and turns, the heartbreak, the terror, the beauty--it is all here in Wein's masterful WW2 story set in Occupied France 1943.

This isn't a story to swallow in one gulp. I recommend taking your time so as not to miss any of the great details.

Writing technique: ★★★★1/2 Wein is a goddess. This story is hard and heavy with the weight of war and torture on every page. But somehow she makes these two girls hilarious. And they each have very distinctive voices. Everything she writes sounds so authentic and plausible. She incorporates French, German, poetry, and music into the story seamlessly. She made me laugh, cry, gasp. And when a writer can do that, she owns me.

Character development: ★★★★ Queenie and Maddie have a great adventure in this story. They both grow and change. They have hard choices to make. Daring actions to take. Neither are fearless as they make very clear, but they overcome their fears and take on new ones. Then they overcome those fears. It's so brave. And so inspiring. Ah I want to crawl inside this book and live in it forever. Even though it can be painful and terrifying and sad.

Plot/Story development: ★★★★1/2 Oh the plot devices this novelist employs are amazing. I can't tell you what they are without ruining it, but dang! I loved all the ways she surprised me. But it's a war story without the gimmickry. People make horrible mistakes. People get hurt. People die. People change. But the story is masterful.  Let me say--you must focus on this--if you listen to the audiobook like I did, don't try to multitask. There are too many great things to miss.

Message/Theme: ★★★★ Oh the theme of this story is friendship. When you find someone who loves you and understands you and supports you and laughs with you and cries with you -- when you find that person because the world is tearing itself apart -- they can carry you through the worst of circumstances -- even being a POW in Nazi-occupied France. There's more, but this in itself moved me beyond belief.

Audiobook Performance: ★★★★★ Morven Christie reading Queenie in all her accents and French and German and singing was pure magic. I adored every word she spoke. Ugh I wish every audiobook could be as beautifully narrated. And Lucy Gaskell as Maddie was hilarious and lighthearted and amazing. They both pulled my heart along on this ride. I think this one of the most wonderful audio performances in existence. Please listen to this.

Overall: ★★★★★ I HIGHLY recommend this book.

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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Chopsticks | Book Review

Chopsticks by Jessica Anthony

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Wow, this book is such a great idea. I love love love it. A story told through pictures and art and still shots and who knows what else... it blew my mind. It's hard to rate this like other books because it's not told in a conventional way. It is entirely new and fresh and innovative.

Writing technique: ★★★★1/2 Jessica Anthony (writer) and Rodrigo Corral (artist) make a stunning pair. Their style wowed me. The images selected to move the story along were beautiful, heart-wrenching, simple, and so much more. And the captions chosen were deliberate, brief, but telling. I greatly enjoyed this style of story-telling. A great break from the norm.

Character development: ★★ While it was easy to see how the story developed in this medium, it was a bit harder to see the characters grow and change. I didn't quite understand what Glory's breakdown was about. The book blurb suggests that it has to do with her mother. I could see that a little bit. But it was hard to know what exactly what was going on in Glory's head, especially toward the end. I could see more with Frank. The best display of their emotions was in their art. Both of them created things that revealed how they felt about somethings but not necessarily why they felt that way.

Plot/Story development: ★★★1/2 While the story isn't overly complicated, it was well communicated.

Message/Theme: ★ I didn't get much about what this story was trying to say. It was a cute love story. And a very fresh way to tell it. But it didn't inspire me to think about something and learn something new.

Overall: ★★★1/2 The medium of storytelling was groundbreaking and intriguing, although it lacked depth and purpose. I highly recommend it. I read it basically in one sitting. And it'll be an interesting change from the normal stories you read, I assure you.

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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

This is Not a Test | Book Review

This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Most zombie books are about survivors who want to live. This one isn't. Abused by her father, abandoned by her sister, Sloane Price wakes up one morning determined to end her life and discovers the zombie apocalypse has begun. This should be a simple solution. Let the dead kill you. But Sloane finds herself saved by survivors from her school and unwilling to risk their safety for her own suicide. As Sloane tries to find a way to die, the others do everything they can to survive.

Writing technique: ★★★★1/2 Summers is an incredible writer. She writes this tale of survival so poignantly, I felt everything. I felt Sloane's terror towards her dad. I felt her fear of the dead. I felt her hopelessness. I felt her despair over Lily. It was a very devastating, beautiful book. A zombie book but so so much more than that.

Character development: ★★★★★ This is a zombie book, but it's not really about zombies as it is about the people surviving them. Sloane is broken and needs a reason to live. Grace and Trace are twins who recently lost their parents and desperate need someone to blame. Cary their sort-of leader is who they blame. Harrison is the freshman who cries. And Rhys is the one person who keeps pushing Sloane to keep going.

Plot/Story development: ★★★★ Since most of this story takes place in the high school building the survivors camp out in, much of the plot evolves as the people learn more about each other. The antagonists of this book are internal and external.

Message/Theme: ★★★★★ Summers explores concepts of abuse, domestic violence, suicide, depression, survival, murder, ethical dilemmas (ie: do the ends justify the means? sacrifice one to save another?), family, and hope in this novel. It doesn't offer definitive answers as much as lay the questions on the table. I will say the ending is a kind of poetic justice, and I appreciated it even if it was sad and painful.

Overall: ★★★★1/2 I devoured this book in one day. Couldn't put it down. It was amazing. It was devastating. It was raw. It was a zombie book and so much more. I highly recommend this.

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Friday, August 17, 2012

Paper Towns | Book Review

Paper Towns by John Green

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Writing technique: ★★★★ This is my third John Green book (I read An Abundance of Katherines and Will Grayson, Will Grayson before), and I love him. I love how you uses words. I love how he writes teens. I love this overly-philosophical way of looking at life. I love that he makes me want to read Walt Whitman and listen to Woody Guthrie and google random crap like "paper towns" and go on a road trip and write in black moleskin notebooks and plan and complete all-night adventures and use three names. He's a great storyteller. And I'll read anything with his name on it.

Character development: ★★★ Quentin thinks he knows Margo. He doesn't. He learns that he doesn't. But in learning, he has to do things and be someone he's never done or been before. His adventure is lighthearted, fun, youthful, quirky. Q becomes more introspective and curious and adventurous. He becomes less afraid. Margo is spunky and wild in a way everyone wishes they were, but also kind of damaged and sad. I thought this would be a lot more about her development. But really, it's how Q's perception of her changes and he realizes he never really knew her at all.

Plot/Story development: ★★★★ This story wasn't what I thought it was. Multiply that line by four. That's how many times I thought - ooooooh this is what this story is about. It's a good story, but I can't really tell you what it's about without spoiling it for you. But I liked it. Simply put, it goes: crazy night of adventure, clues clues clues clues, roadtrip. Basically. It's not overly complicated, but it did surprise me.

Message/Theme: ★★★★ Can you ever really know someone? Can you ever really know yourself? Is anyone real? Or are we all just paper people - fakers, pretending to live and be happy when really we're all empty inside...?

Audiobook Narration: ★★★★ I began this audiobook and thought I don't think I want to listen to this. I don't know if I like this narrator. I think I want to read it with my eyes. But I persisted, and I'm glad I did. Dan John Miller did an amazing job. I particularly LOVE how he reads RADAR. Sounds like a totally different guy. He made Q's thought come alive (even if he didn't pace and phrase things the way I initially though he should).

Overall: ★★★★ Great summer read. Great teen read. Solid John Green novel.

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