Friday, June 27, 2014

CINDER, by Marissa Meyer

Meyer, Marissa. (2013). Second ed. Cinder: Book One of the Lunar Chronicles. Square Fish.

Summary:
Cinder is a mechanic cyborg, a second-class citizen in New Beijing.  A deadly plague is killing people all over the world, but not the Lunars, the formerly human-but-now-psychically-gifted race that lives on the moon.  Cinder’s job leads the prince to her in an effort solve a mystery with his robot, one that involves secret information that could change the future of their world.  The prince and Cinder begin to care for each other, but the Queen of the Lunars wishes to marry him.  Otherwise, she might just go to war with earth. With enough similarities to the fairy tale to make readers smile, this story is a tale all its own.

Analysis:
SUPER clever premise.  I love, love, love having a “Cinderella’ who is A) a cyborg and B) a mechanic.  I mean, wow, where was THIS Cinderella when I was a kid?  It’s a lot of fun to see all the ties to the original fairy tale, done in such a unique way.  The replacement for the pumpkin is great, as is the “new” version of the glass slipper that gets left behind.  The only complaint I have, which isn’t really a complaint, is that I figured out the Big Reveal/Big Twist that shows up at the very end…when I was 1/3 of the way through.  So it was a bit more predictable than a pure five star review would merit, BUT it’s a YA book that is also appropriate for upper middle grade, so it might be that the intended audience wouldn’t be able to guess so soon.  I’m actually going to have my 10 year old read it, because she wants to read Twilight and the Hunger Games now that she’s chewed through Percy Jackson and Harry Potter, and Cinder is far better than Twilight or the Hunger Games for her age, I think, with minimal romance, no bad language and hardly any violence.  There is a plague, but even that isn’t very gory.  

I see why these books are checked out all the time at the middle school and high school library.  It’s an easy read-I read it in one sitting—and I gave it 4 stars on Goodreads.  I almost gave it 5 stars, but I really reserve the five stars for books that truly WOW me on multiple levels.  It’s hard to get five stars from me, but this one is like a 4.5 out of 5.  A solid, fun read that I would recommend to students and friends in a heartbeat.

Reviews:
  • "Debut author Meyer ingeniously incorporates key elements of the fairy tale into this first series entry." --Horn Book Magazine 
  • "First in the Lunar Chronicles series, this futuristic twist on Cinderella retains just enough of the original that readers will enjoy spotting the subtle similarities. But debut author Meyer’s brilliance is in sending the story into an entirely new, utterly thrilling dimension. –Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
  • “There’s a lot of moving parts in this fresh spin on “Cinderella,” the first in a four-book series.” –Booklist
  • “Fairy tales are becoming all the rage, with the TV shows Once Upon a Time and Grimm spinning them through a modern filter. The 26-year-old Meyer's debut novel Cinder, though, combines a classic folk tale with hints ofThe Terminator and Star Wars in the first book of The Lunar Chronicles young-adult series due out Jan. 3.” -USAToday.com
If you like Cinder, you might also enjoy The Selection, by Kiera Cass, or The Scorpio Races, by Maggie Stiefvater (links to my review of that book).  And actually, dare I say, you might enjoy my book, Fairy Keeper, when it comes out in 2015. :) 

Sunday, June 22, 2014

GRASSHOPPER JUNGLE, by Andrew Smith

Smith, Andrew. (2014). Grasshopper Jungle.
Grasshopper Jungle

Summary (*there is a big spoiler here, if you have no idea what this book is about...):

Grasshopper Jungle is about a 15 year old boy named Austin, his awesome gay best friend (who Austin loves) and his girlfriend Shann, (who Austin also loves.)  It’s a story about growing up and being sexually confused.  But it’s also a science fiction horror story about giant bugs destroying most of humanity.  It’s an interesting combination that I didn’t see coming.  I got the ebook, based on a positive “get it now” kind of review at the TLA convention, but I couldn’t remember WHY they said it was so good, and I didn't read any jacket flap due to the ebook situation.  And it reads, very much, like Catcher in the Rye.  Until the science fiction moment happens.  And the horror. 

Analysis:

Grasshopper Jungle is getting all kinds of attention from librarians and book reviewers.  I expect it will win many awards.  I just finished it and while I didn’t love it personally, I can see why the writing style is so arresting to people, and why there is a buzz about it.  

Speaking of buzzing, I will warn you that if you have a phobia of insects, this might not be the book for you.  Don’t do as I did—read a blurb or something first.  I thought this was a contemporary realistic book, even though on page 2, it mentions human-sized insects.  I thought the narrator was unreliable or perhaps exaggerating.  No.

“Grasshopper Jungle is a rollicking tale that is simultaneously creepy and hilarious. It’s propulsive plot would be delightful enough on its own, but Smith’s ability to blend teenage drama into a bug invasion is a literary joy to behold… Smith may have intended this novel for young adults, but his technique reminds me of Kurt Vonnegut’s in “Slaughterhouse Five,” in the best sense.” New York Times Book Review

And I bet it'll be one of the most challenged books this year, too.  It's like Andrew Smith decided to include everything possible except call Jesus Christ a liar in order to get banned.  Of course, I'm sure that wasn't his motivation, but the end result will be the same.

Homosexual attraction?  Check. Boys kissing?  Check.  Guy thinking about sex all the time?  Check.  Thinking about a threesome all the time? Check.  Thinking about having sex with the girlfriend, friend’s mom, random town woman?  Check.  Sexual intercourse? Check.  Teens smoking? Check. Having weird science fiction human-sized insects burst out of human bodies mid-way through the book, tearing people's heads off?  Check.  End of humanity as we know it?  Check.  More cusswords than you can shake a stick at?  Check.  

It's Catcher in the Rye meets Aliens.

To be clear, none of those things listed above are the reason I didn't love the book.  I liked it.  I just wanted a different ending.  It's just a personal preference, as are all book reviews in the end.  

The writing style is unique and interesting, but if you don’t like science fiction or horror, or if you have a issues with curse words or words related to sex and sexual attraction, then this won’t be the book for you. 

By the way, apparently, Sony Pictures has acquired it. 

It's funny, profane, wildly bizarre and yet, when you get down to it, it's still a rawly honest portrayal of a 15 year old boy in a small town in extraordinary circumstances.  

Monday, June 9, 2014

Running List of Book Reviews

Here's a listing of all the book reviews I've done on this blog.  I'll try to keep this list updated, so there's a one-stop place for you to shop for my book reviews! (Please note that there are other posts on my blog that are not related to book reviews and, obviously, they are not included here.) You can also search via tags/labels to see all of one kind of genre or category.

October 2014 (We moved to Germany this summer and I started a new website* (books marked with * are in the Book Review blog at www.amybearce.com in the Tween and Teen section, so sorry for the big lapse!)
Noggin, by John Corey Whaley*
Hook's Revenge, by Heidi Schulz*
Deadly Pink, by Vivian Vande Velde

June 2014
Grasshopper Jungle, by Andrew Smith

May 2014
Sure Signs of Crazy, by Karen Harrington
One Came Home, by Amy Timberlake
The Demon Notebook, by Erika McGann
April 2014
November 2013
In Our Mother’s House, by Patricia Polacco
Does My Head Look Big in This? By Randa Abdel-Fatt
The Pirate of Kindergarten, by George Ella Lyon
Tea with Milk, by Allen Say
Peach Heaven, by Yangsook Choi
October 2013
Crossing Bok Chitto, by Tim Tingle
Code Talker, by Joseph Bruchac
Jingle Dancer, by Cynthia Leitich Smith
September 2013
The Firefly Letters, by Margarita Engle
The First Part Last, by Angela Johnson
I Have a Dream, by Martin Luther King Jr and Ill by Kadir Nelson
The Frank Show, by David Mackintosh
A Time of Miracles, by Anne-Laure Bondoux 
August 2013
Koala Lou, by Mem Fox
July 2013
The Scorpio Races, by Maggie Stiefvater
Feathers, by Jacqueline Woodson
The Game of Silence, by Louis Erdrich
Nory Ryan’s Song, by Patricia…
The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, by Jacqueline Kelly
What to do About Alice?  By Barbara Kerley
Balloons Over Broadway, by Melissa Sweet
JUNE
Jazz, by Walter Dean Myers
Swamp Angel, by Anne Isaacs
Gluskabe and the Four Winds, by Joseph Bruchac
Millions of Cats, by Wanda G
The Invention of Hugo Cabret, by Brian Selznick
May 2013
Wonder, by R.J. Palacio
February 2013
Code Name Verity, by Elizabeth Wein
Unravel Me, by Tahereh Mafi
January 2013
My Life Next Door, by Huntley Fizpatrick
Born Wicked, by Jessica Spotswood
2012
Fallen, the series by Lauren Kate
Twisted, by Laurie Halse Anderson
Powerless, by  Matthew Cody
Anna and the French Kiss, by Stephanie Perkins
2011
Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card
Feed, by M.T. Anderson
Chains, by Laurie Halse Anderson
The Penderwicks, by Jeanne Birdsall
2010
Leviathan “Steampunk Surprise” by Scott Westerfield
Recent YA and MG I've Read: (3 short reviews in one post)
     Six Rules of Maybe, by Deb Caletti
     What I saw and How I Lied, by Judy Blundell
      The Farwalker’s Quest, by Joni Sensel
Older:

Everworld, Gateway to the Gods, by K.A. Applegate