Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

"Three ordinary women are about to take one extraordinary step.
Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger. Skeeter would normally find solace with her beloved maid Constantine, the woman who raised her, but Constantine has disappeared and no one will tell Skeeter where she has gone.
Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child. Something has shifted inside her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way. She is devoted to the little girl she looks after, though she knows both their hearts may be broken.
Minny, Aibileen's best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. She can cook like nobody's business, but she can't mind her tongue, so she's lost yet another job. Minny finally finds a position working for someone too new to town to know her reputation. But her new boss has secrets of her own.
Seemingly as different from one another as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk. And why? Because they are suffocating within the lines that define their town and their times. And sometimes lines are made to be crossed."

Yep, one of the most well-known books of the year. It didn't disappoint, though; I really liked it and it never got boring and it occasionally stomped on my heart a little. All necessary qualities. All of the characters were real and complex and likable where intended. I was kinda surprised to find that the chapters written from the voice of Aibileen and Minny actually mimicked their dialect, which made it more interesting to read and visualize. Soo, yeah. It's a tiny bit thick, but it's totally worth reading. You don't even have to be interested in historical fiction; I personally pretty much stay away from that genre, but I really enjoyed this one. Two thumbs up. Try to get it at Kettleson or MEHS, but I know from experience it's really hard to get your hands on. If you can't find it anywhere else, check in with Mr. Hedrick at SHS. He might be able to help.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Origin by Jessica Khoury

"Pia has always known her destiny. She is meant to start a new race, a line of descendants who will bring an end to death. She has been bred for no other purpose, genetically engineered by a team of scientists in a secret compound hidden deep in the Amazon rainforest. Now those scientists have begun to challenge her, with the goal of training her to carry on their dangerous work. 
For as long as she can remember, Pia’s greatest desire has been to fulfill their expectations. But on the night she turns seventeen, she finds a hole in the seemingly impenetrable fence that surrounds her sterile home. Free in the jungle for the first time in her life, Pia meets Eio, a boy from a nearby village. Unable to resist, she continues sneaking out to see him. As they fall in love, they begin to piece together the truth about Pia’s origin – a truth with deadly consequences that will change their lives forever."

I was really not expecting how good this turned out to be. I was kind of braced for a tepid, was I wrong. It was intense, and basically built in intensity throughout the course of the book. The writing was pretty spot-on, and had some very dramatic--and/or slightly graphic or emotional--scenes that may not be for the faint of heart. The whole setting of the compound and the rainforest was really visually thought-provoking, if you could say it like that. I liked that since the whole book took place in one area, you got a really in-depth and multi-layered vision of the setting. As for the characters, those were very well-developed too. Pia starts out with a somewhat self-important ideal, but it never comes across as too much; it's just the fact that she's been told so by the scientists. She slowly shows that she has a much bigger personality than the one that's been bred into her. There was good character development of most of the important characters throughout the book also. Finally, can I mention that I started this book almost at noon today and finished it roughly 6 hours later? It started easily, but the level of drama and heart-stopping intensity was kind of exponential. The plot was complicated, enough to keep me curious. I liked it a lot, though it definitely had some disturbing elements like mentioned above. Just added to the intensity. Because of them, though, I'd peg this at a book for anyone mid-high school and up. It's at Kettleson (or will be once I turn it in). Go, I tell you. Go forth!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Little Woods by McCormick Templeman

"Unexplained disappearances. Suspicious deaths. There's something wrong with the woods behind St. Bede's Academy.

When Cally Wood starts at St. Bede's halfway through her junior year, she's suddenly thrust into a world of privilege and prestige, and in no time flat, she learns to navigate the complex social world of the upper echelon. But amid the illicit romances and weekend-long parties, Cally discovers that a brilliant but troubled girl named Iris disappeared from St. Bede's just a few months ago. Most people assume she ran away, but the police still haven't found her. And Iris wouldn't be the first girl to go missing from the school. Ten years ago, Cally's sister was visiting a friend from camp at St. Bede's when both girls vanished from their beds.

As Cally tries to unravel the mystery surrounding Iris--one she can't help but link to her own sister's disappearance--she discovers that beneath the surface of this elite school and its perfect students lies a web of secrets where rumors are indistinguishable from truths and it seems everyone has something to hide."

This was pretty good. I liked the characters overall, some more than others. I think it may have been written for a slightly different personality type than me; Cally tends to lean toward the more skater-type, rebellious personality. I was able to get along with it okay, though. I think the part that I liked most about the book was the mystery element. I didn't like the romance in it much. Cally has a problem of making some really idiotic decisions when it comes to boyfriends, which at times in the book just made me want to yell at her. Seriously, she's not good at decision-making or reading people. But anyway, the "creepy" element was good enough to keep me reading, and most of the characters I grew to like. It kept me fairly hooked, so there's that. I think it the "prestige" angle was played up to good effect, mostly. It made the book more interesting for me, but I don't know how other people like it. In conclusion, I'd say it's a book for certain audiences. If it looks good to you, go for it. If you're unsure, proceed with caution. It's at Kettleson.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

"Prince Aleksander, would-be heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, is on the run. His own people have turned on him. His title is worthless. All he has is a battletorn war machine and a loyal crew of men.

Deryn Sharp is a commoner, disguised as a boy in the British Air Service. She's a brilliant airman. But her secret is in constant danger of being discovered.

With World War I brewing, Alek and Deryn's paths cross in the most unexpected way…taking them on a fantastical, around-the-world adventure that will change both their lives forever."

After being hounded by my friend to read this for ages, I've finally gotten around to it. It went really fast; I finished it in a couple days. I think this is partly due to the formatting, which is quite generous when it comes to spacing, and also due to the split narrative. I would most times get hooked on either Deryn's or Alek's story (more often Deryn's) and so I would keep reading through the chapters of the other character in order to reach the first story again. This happened several times, and I think is somewhat to blame for my quick finish. I liked it, it felt kind of like Airborn by Kenneth Oppel but somehow divided up into more individual factors (i.e. pitting the "beasts" against the "machines" instead of integrating them like Airborn did). The summary doesn't say much about it, but the setting is slightly steampunk and there's these fabricated creatures that are called "Darwinists." Another thing I liked was that some elements of the story were very familiar, having studied WWI last year. It made understanding and comprehension easier. So, final summary: I wasn't blown out of my seat with the incredibility of it, but I quite liked it. A good and fast fantasy/history book, and one that definitely sets up a sequel. Actually, it seems vaguely like the author wrote one really long book and cut it at what seemed to be an okay part. Don't start reading it if you're not prepared to undertake the sequels, as I'll soon do. There are copies at Kettleson, SHS, and MEHS.