Thursday, July 22, 2010

Review: Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast by Robin McKinley

This much-loved retelling of the classic French tale Beauty and the Beast elicits the familiar magical charm, but is more believable and complex than the traditional story. In this version, Beauty is not as beautiful as her older sisters, who are both lovely and kind. Here, in fact, Beauty has no confidence in her appearance but takes pride in her own intelligence, her love of learning and books, and her talent in riding. She is the most competent of the three sisters, which proves essential when they are forced to retire to the country because of their father's financial ruin.

The plot follows that of the renowned legend: Beauty selflessly agrees to inhabit the Beast's castle to spare her father's life. Beauty's gradual acceptance of the Beast and the couple's deepening trust and affection are amplified in novel form. Robin McKinley's writing has the flavor of another century, and Beauty heightens the authenticity as a reliable and competent narrator. -

I have read many retellings of Beauty and the Beast. This is one of the better versions. The love story stems from a deep friendship and doesn't seem hurried to me. I love that Beauty is a realist instead of a romantic. She is also self-conscious, which is a little refreshing to find in a heroine. I also found myself fond of this Beast more than others I've encountered in the past.

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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Review: Unwind by Neal Shusterman

Set in the future, the second civil war is fought over abortion. To end the war, a compromise is reached that ends the practice of abortion but creates an alternative called "unwinding." Between the ages of 13 and 17, parents or guardians can choose to have their children unwound, which involves having every part of their bodies harvested to be "donated" to another person so, technically, they don't really die. The complex and compelling plot follows three teens whose stories intertwine when they escape while on their way to the harvest camps. Fifteen-year-old Connor's parents can no longer control him. Lev, a tithe, was raised by religious parents for the sole purpose of being unwound. Risa, a ward of the state, is a victim of shrinking budgets since she is not a talented enough musician to be kept alive -

Where do I begin? I just finished this book minutes ago, and my stomach is tied in knots. I started this book yesterday, and that should give you some indication of how enthralled I was.

Like many other reviewers, I found this book horrifying and yet I could not stop myself from turning the page. I fell in love with Connor and Risa and wanted to put my arm around Lev. I wanted to punch Roland in the gut, but I ended up pitying him in the end.

I hope the idea of retroactive abortion isn't catching.

I gave this book 5 stars because the writing is impeccable, the characters believable, and lots of other technical stuff that doesn't matter. I also gave it 5 stars because it dares to dip into the downright uncomfortable and remind us all that life is important, and who are we decide who doesn't deserve to live it.

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Saturday, July 17, 2010

Review: Goose Girl by Shannon Hale

Anidori-Kiladra Talianna Isilee, Crown Princess of Kildenree, is born with the ability to speak to animals, a gift that is nurtured by her aunt. When the king dies, the queen announces that Ani's younger brother, not the crown princess, will succeed her on the throne. Unbeknownst to anyone, the queen has promised Ani in marriage to the prince of neighboring Bayern. The devastated teen is sent with a retinue over the mountains to Bayem and is betrayed by Selia, her lady-in-waiting, and most of her guards during the journey. Ani escapes, takes the name "Isi," disguises her distinctive blonde hair, and becomes a tender of geese to survive until she can reveal her true identity and reclaim her crown from the imposter, Selia. -

What I loved most about this book was Ani. Seems obvious, but really it's hard to have the main character be your favorite part of a story. She is given seemingly insurmountable trials, and yet she faces them head on, and not for love of a boy. She does it for love of her country and for love of herself. She discovers that she is worth something and therefore is worth fighting for. That is a lesson I think a lot of us need to learn.

The book itself seemed a little long and sometimes tedious, but when trying to imagine which parts I'd cut out, I couldn't think of any. I was pleasantly surprised when the twist came and I shouted, "I knew it!" That's always a good reaction.

I'm very much looking forward to reading the other Books of Bayern.

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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Review: Sea Change by Aimee Friedmann

Sixteen-year-old Miranda Merchant is great at science. . .and not so great with boys. After major drama with her boyfriend and (now ex) best friend, she's happy to spend the summer on small, mysterious Selkie Island, helping her mother sort out her late grandmother's estate.

There, Miranda finds new friends and an island with a mysterious, mystical history, presenting her with facts her logical, scientific mind can't make sense of. She also meets Leo, who challenges everything she thought she knew about boys, friendship. . .and reality.

Is Leo hiding something? Or is he something that she never could have imagined?-

I really wanted to love this book, but I found myself just liking it. The thing that "ruined" it for me is probably the fact that the love affair between Leo and Miranda took place in the space of six days (give or take a day). Also, warnings about Selki Island included monsters, and I would have preferred to see more of them.

Other than that, I found myself very drawn into the story. I appreciated the love triangle including T.J. and found myself unsure of which guy to root for. The characters were fun and believable and the writing fluid and entertaining.

The end was a disappointment because I felt like the book ended right in the middle of the story. I'm hoping for a sequel. Also, I expected Leo to come find Miranda, but he never did.

Bottom line: Is this book worth reading? I think so.

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Monday, July 12, 2010

Review: Bright Blue Miracle by Becca Wilhite

Leigh's life changes when she becomes part of a blended family she didn't need and gets a sister she didn't want. Now, to make things worse, she has to share not only her bedroom, but her best friend, Jeremy.

I read this book in a day or two. Fast read; good paced book. I love the narrative because Leigh's mind works so much like a normal sarcastic teenager. I laughed many times thinking, "That's what I would say." The characters are, for the most part, believable. I sometimes had a hard time following the timeline. One paragraph Leigh is looking for a summer job and the next paragraph she is talking about taking chemistry notes in class.

I will admit I cried a few times. This was a touching, uplifting novel that I've already shared with friends. Highly recommended.

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