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Graceling by Kristin Cashore @ SGSS

Deadly Grace

Katsa has been able to kill a man with her bare hands since she was eight – she’s a Graceling, one of the rare people in her land born with an extreme skill.  As niece of the king, she should be able to live a life of privilege, but Graced as she is with killing, she is forced to work as the king’s thug.

When she first meets Prince Po, Graced with combat skills, Katsa has no hint of how her life is about to change.

She never expects to become Po’s friend.

She never expects to learn a new truth about her own Grace – or about a terrible secret that lies hidden far away.

So, I first read this book because I had read somewhere online that the story was quite similiar to the Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins.  I loved the books by Suzanne, and based on the high turnover of the books from the library, the boys liked them as well.  So I bought the book on my Kindle in order to pre-read it before I put it on the “to get” list.

Now, despite the female lead and some sentimental parts (which were also in Mockingjay so I wasn’t too concerned) I felt that the story wouldn’t scare away any boys who picked it up.  In fact, there was so much action that I hardly noticed the “mushy” parts at all!  “Perfect,” I thought to myself.  “The boys will get caught up in this action!”

So we ordered it… without my looking to see what the cover looked like… and in my experience with books, covers do make a difference.

Now, let me start with a comparison of the cover of Mockingjay (strong, confused, love-stricken girl lead)

Now, I’m not an expert on graphic design by any means.  However, this cover is wonderful in that it is so… simple and not just marketed for female readers.  The soft blue colour isn’t going to scare off the boys.  There isn’t some girl on the front cover with windswept locks.  There aren’t flowers all over the place.  Basically, this a book that a boy can read in public and not feel embarrassed about reading the book that looks like a YA romance. Nice job gods of book covers!

And here are two of the cover designs for Graceling (strong, confused, love-stricken girl lead)

The cover on the left is the UK cover.  The cover on the right is the US cover.  I love them both, and we have the US cover.  But I’m a girl, they appeal to my “Ooh, pretty!” genes.  To me, these covers seem to be marketed for just the female market.  They don’t seem to cater to the boys in the way that the US covers of the Hunger Games trilogy did.  The first thing one of the boys said, before even knowing what the story was about, was, “Ma’am, this is so girlie.”  He didn’t have a clue what the story was about.  After filling him in on the plot line, and letting him know that the story wasn’t terribly girlie, he did take it out…

So that is my gripe about the covers.

The story itself was well written.  Katsa is a believable character who we see develop from this girl who is controlled by her uncle, and her fear of her actions, into her own person.  She learns to handle her Grace in an acceptable way and uses it to defend instead of destroy.  She also develops emotionally.  She begins to allow people to become close to her outside of Raffin, including the Graced fighter Po.  Katsa also learns that the only one who can control what Katsa does is Katsa.  Katsa learns to control her anger at her uncle which allows her to finally escape the psychological prison that he has kept her in for years.

I asked one of the boys what he thought of it when he brought it back.  He said that he liked it, but the thing with Katsa being so affected by Po’s eyes was “weird Ma’am.  I don’t get it.”  Fair enough. I thought that it was a little strange too how she seems to be so caught up in Po’s eyes.  Very Bella and Edward.  But if that’s the only criticism that he had, then I’m happy enough.

If you want to know more about Kristin Cashore or her books, check out her blog HERE.

Other Important But Important Info

Reading Time: 1.5-3 hours (this was hard to judge as I was reading this in-between bus transfers and coffee breaks)

Re-Readability: 5/5

Rating: 4/5 (the eye thing just reminded me too much of Twilight)

Price: Chapters- $11.99/ Amazon – $9.99 USD/ Kindle – $8.59 USD

Side Note for Libraries: If there is a book trailer of a book that I’m posting about, I always include it…. however, the trailer for Graceling by HMH Childrens (the publisher) is just terrible!  I would not use it to promote this book.

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Filed under New Fiction @ SGSS, YA Book Reviews

Words in the Dust by Trent Reedy

Cow.  Wall.  Moon.  Love.

These are the words Zulaikha knows how to write, tracing their swirls in the dust of the Afghan mountains.  When she writes, she isn’t the girl with a cleft lip, a girl the mean boys call “Donkeyface”; she’s her mother’s daughter, worthy of her name, which means “a brilliant beauty”.

Army.  Poetry.  Wedding.  Surgery.

Then American soldiers roll into Zulaikha’s village, bringing new threats and opportunities – even the chance of an operation to fix her face.  A woman named Meena offers to teach her to read, adding to her precious store of words.  And her sister Zeynab gets engaged at last, fulfilling the fairy tale both girls have dreamed of.

Loss.  Hope.  Ending.  Beginning.

But wishing for change can be dangerous, and change itself more frightening still.  As her world shifts around her, Zulaikha must find the right way to use all her words to claim a future as yet unwritten.

 

This book was inspired by a real girl that Trent Reedy met in Afghanistan.  I came across this while browsing the Diversity in YA Fiction blog.  The story follows Zulaikha, a girl who is teased and bullied by her community for her cleft lip.  She has never learned to read, except for a few words that her mother had taught her before her death at the hands of the Taliban.  When American soldiers come to her small town and commission her father to help build schools, Zulaikha begins to hope for a brighter future.

I found this story to be so amazing in how it chronicles the shift that occurs within a conservative family after the Taliban is gone. And more importantly, it shows that not all of the conservative traditions are “forced” upon the young women.  As Zulaikha grows more, and sees the fate of Zeynab (who is a third wife to a much older husband), she begins to see the potential for school (which she felt was of no use to a wife).  We also see Zulaikha’s brothers, father (and eventually herself) begin to throw away the Taliban view of women.  Absolutely wonderful!  I am very excited to have added such a rich book to our collection.

Exerpt

“Bah. Let him play.” Baba backhanded our concerns out of his way with the same movement he used to shoo flies from his rice.  He reached into his pocket again and pulled out a shiny caramel, unwrapping it for Habib. “Here, bacha.  You eat this.  I’ll give Khalid his when he gets home.”

“But Sadiq, Khalid is just -”

“I said let him play!” Baba shouted.  He slapped thw all, then paced to the front window in the silence.  When he turned around, he spoke very quietly.  “I’ll not be contradicted in my own house.” He glared at Malehkah. “Khalid is a growing boy.  He is getting too old to listen to women.”

My mouth hung open at Baba’s words.  I watched Malehkah take in a breath to speak, then press her lips together to let it out through her nose.  She couldn’t argue with Baba, but her anger was clear, and Malehkah had ways of forcing me to regret her anger.

Other Important But Boring Info

Reading Time: 1 hour

Re-Readability : 3.5/5

Rating : 4.5/5

Price:  Chapters- $15.95/ Amazon – $12.23 USD

Note: Not available in e-book format

Check out this student review of Words In The Dust on Kiss The Book, a book blog created by school librarians that feature reviews by library professionals and students!  Lots of great books, and great reviews.

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As a side note…

I should probably mention what happened to the review of The Geographer’s Library that I had earlier said was coming.

I lied.

It’s not going to happen.  I am giving up on reading this book and have moved on to nicer, more interesting pastures.  It just isn’t my style of book.  I found the characters lacking authenticity (and this comes from someone who regularly reads YA fiction), and while the story line itself was interesting, the writing of it caused quite a bit of nodding off.

Maybe it was all that “complexity” and “grandeur” that so many people rave about after reading this “wonderfully written thriller!”

So, lesson of the story… stay out of books that try to be Dan Brown and Ken Follett all at once.

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Bloody Mystery

Registration has begun for the Bloody Words 2011 being hosted in Victoria BC in June.  Now, I don’t know much about this event, but I thought it deserved a mention here on the blog as two of the guest speakers have been guest speakers here at St. George’s.

The Bloody Words 2011 is Canada’s annual gathering of mystery authors and readers.  The event hosts two guests of honour, one Canadian and one International.  This year’s Canadian guest of honour is Micheal Slade, author of Red Snow, a gory novel about pre-Olympics Whistler.  This book received chillingly (pun definitely intended) awesome reviews from The Globe and Mail,  Vancouver Sun, Calgary Herald, and the National Post… just to name the few Canadian papers that loved it. I have yet to read this book.

Laurie R. King, author of The God of the Hive and numerous other titles is the International guest speaker who hails from California. Again, like Micheal Slade, I have yet to read any books by this author (as I’ve been focusing on YA Fiction… I know, no excuse) but I will be checking my Kindle as soon as it is charged to download The God of the Hive if it is available.

William Deverell is a local guest speaker.  I have read some of his books and highly recommend them.. my favourite so far being April Fool.

So, if you are a lover of who-dun-its and plot twists… or should I say devotee… make sure you check out the Bloody Words 2011 website for more info and registration.

 

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The Element by Ken Robinson, Ph.D.

In keeping with the theme of self-help that I seem to be entrenched in, I wanted to highlight a new addition to our library.

I just want to say that I was completely taken back by how much I enjoyed this book and how easy it was to read.  Usually self-help type books take me months (or in the case of Osho a few years) to read. This happens for one of two reasons:

  1. I get incredibly bored by what I’m reading because it’s all common sense and I’ve already read/seen this exact same message (literally just paraphrasing of some unknown guru that only self-help authors are aware of) in several other books.
  2. I have a hard time believing that if I stay away from unlucky number groupings and wear my “cardinal” colours that my life will improve with little effort from me personally.

The Element didn’t put me to sleep or make me think that the author needed to see a psychiatrist.  Ken Robinson portrayed his concept of creativity, self-discovery and education by using well known people as examples of what can happen when people throw off expectations and just do what they want to do with their lives (hopefully that was somewhat coherent).  To me, this book seems less like a self-help book and more like a motivational “go get ’em tiger!” book.  Ken doesn’t claim to have any secret formulas to improve our lives.  Instead, he makes us accountable for our own success. Throughout the book, Ken gives us the tools to recognize and understand aspects of our lives that can lead to our Element; the point at which natural talent meets personal passion.  From there, it is up to us to decide how to proceed.

Of course, following the guidelines that I outlined in the previous post, I did some research on Ken and his sources.  What I found is that Ken is an internationally recognized leader in creativity development and human resources.  For a decade he was a professor at the University of Warwick in the Education department and has received numerous honorary degrees from universities in the UK and the US.  In 2005 he was knighted for his work in the arts.  He has attended the TED talks twice to talk about creativity and education, and how the current education system needs a revolution.

TED Talk from 2006

TED Talk from 2010

For more information on Ken Robinson click here

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Filed under Non-Fiction Reviews