Flashback: September 2010

I’m flashing back to reviews from years past. Here is what I was reviewing in September 2010.

The Kneebone Boy by Ellen Potter. 2010. Feiwel and Friends, an imprint of Macmillan. My review: “How best to describe the humor? It is dark, delicious, biting, sarcastic, arch, and smart. The story itself is smart — almost deceptively so — and with the many layers, I can easily see this appealing to middle school kids , who are about the age of Otto and Lucia. Oh, the language — “All in all they were in that gorgeous state of mind in which they felt free and unafraid and sharply aware of how large and exciting the world was. In other words, it hadn’t gotten dark outside yet.” Here is a bit on Max “knowing better” about the definition of the word “restive,” showing also how the unknown narrator adds asides to the reader: “”Restive doesn’t mean tired,” Max said finally. “It means nervous.” It does actually. I looked it up later. However, I wouldn’t advise using that word because it will only annoy people, and they will think you are a giant-size prat.””

Firelight by Sophie Jordan. HarperCollins. 2010. My review: “The book begins with Jacinda wanting to fly as a draki [i.e., dragon] on her terms, not her pride; in other words, wanting to experience sexuality on her own terms. Repercussions include the pride wanting to control her further, by forcing her into a “bonding” relationship with another draki to pass along her genetics and to produce more fire dragons. They literally want to control who she has sex with. Meanwhile, the hunters are seeking to destroy that which they don’t understand and they fear — the draki / female sexuality. Will falling for Jacinda is, on the surface, a star-crossed lovers romance. He is the hunter, she is the hunted. That doesn’t mean she is a victim; far from it. The drakis are so powerful that she is the stronger of the two. The hunters need weapons to take on the draki. Since the metaphor is sexuality, this is also about Will realizing that Jacinda / female sexuality is not something to be feared, not something to destroy.”

The Aristobrats by Jennifer Solow. Sourcebooks. 2010. My review: “A perfect middle school read: fun and breezy with depth. The fun comes from the friendship and antics of “Aristobrats” Parker, Ikea, Plum and Kiki. In The Aristobrats, the two girls we learn the most about Parker and Ikea. Parker is likable, but also oddly arrogant — I can see why others would call her an “Aristobrat.” She assumes that Tribb will be her E[igth] G[rade] B[oyfriend] even when they haven’t really spoken for weeks. She prepares her first day of school outfit with a ton of care, and having gone to schools that require uniforms, yes, it’s not that simple! Anyway, Parker thinks, “Altogether, the look said confident but not stuck up, pretty but not self-obsessed, excited but not super-anxious about it.” She immediately realizes, “although wouldn’t staring at myself in the mirror for twenty minutes technically be considered stuck up or merely a commitment to excellence?” When a new girl starts school, Parker generously tells her that if she Friends her on Facebook, she’ll accept it. Parker considers asking Allegra (an overachiever and so not popular) to sit at the Good Table at lunch, Parker decides that “maybe Allegra doesn’t want to sit here. [It] can be a really intimidating place for most people.” But here’s the thing — Parker and friends are never mean or nasty. They don’t pick on kids or ridicule them. Parker and the Aristobrats have many rules about what is in and what isn’t acceptable. Friendship rings? In. Macrame bracelets? Out. One of the subtle points about the book is how the girls outside begin to ignore these rules because a new girl in school is slowly rising up the popularity ladder. Parker notices the other girls wearing headbands like the new girl, realizes that Kiki’s latest haircut isn’t being copied by others, sees some girls wearing macrame bracelets, and doesn’t realize that the Aristobrats’s influence isn’t what it used to be. Parker’s expectations about Tribb are also not quite realistic or realized.”

7 Souls by Barnabas Miller and Jordan Orlando. Random House. 2010. My review: “Mary Shayne’s seventeenth birthday begins with her lying naked in a strange bed with the worst hangover she’s ever had. Turns out, that strange bed is in the display window of Crate & Barrel in Greenwich Village. Looking back, that just may be the highpoint of her day, since it’s the day Mary Shayne is killed. Once she dies, she comes back, again and again, reliving parts of her last day as seen through the eyes of other people. If Mary begins thinking, “who would want to kill me,” she ends up thinking, “who wouldn’t” as she discovers she’s not as well-loved as she thought. The Good: Love, love, love. I was so deliciously creeped out by this book.”

Ascendant by Diana Peterfreund. Harper Teen, an imprint of HarperCollins. 2010. My review: “[Unicorn hunter] Astrid cares for unicorns yet is helping those who see them as an ingredient in medicine. She connects with unicorns on a deep level yet also has to battle them. Astrid’s new position serves to isolate her even further than before — at least in Rome, there was her cousin Phil and the other hunters! Being the only unicorn hunter amongst several unicorns allows Astrid to work on her ability to connect with unicorns and to realize that “unicorn magic” can mean more than destruction. Life isn’t as simple as killing unicorns; unicorns may be capable of monstrous acts, but are they monsters? Abraham Maslow said, “if you only have a hammer, you tend to see everything as a nail.” Have the hunters been treating their gifts as a hammer?”

From Cover to Cover (revised edition): Evaluating and Reviewing Children’s Books by Kathleen T. Horning. HarperCollins. 2010. My review: “If you are reading and reviewing children’s books — or reading reviews of children’s books — Horning’s book is a valuable, must-own reference book. It breaks down terms and terminology, pointing out what to look at and what to evaluate, using many examples of books and reviews. I’ve seen the posts or tweets asking “what is so and so in a book called”? The answer is here. Horning also addresses the purposes of a review, particularly those found in review journals. So people who wonder “why does a review have x y or z but not a,” the answer is here. As a blogger, I found Horning’s book invaluable. Most bloggers aren’t professionally trained; we don’t go to a class or school. This type of guidebook, with structure, suggestions, examples, is a great tool to add to one’s professional reference collection. Plus, it’s that great combination of “easy read” and “tremendous depth.” This is not a scary university classroom book, all dense and footnoted with small type. It’s cleanly and simply written — well, the way a review should be. It includes a ton of information, to the point where if you were highlighting or post-it noting the book, it would be covered with yellow and tabs of paper.”

The Twin’s Daughter by Lauren Baratz-Longsted. Bloomsbury. 2010. My review: “Oh. My. Goodness. What is not to love? Identical twins separated at birth! Jealousy! Murder! Mistaken identity! Love! Romance! Secrets that have secrets! Weddings! Funerals! Unexpected deaths! Even a secret tunnel!”

Reckless by Cornelia Funke. Little Brown. 2010. My review: “Gingerbread houses and children-eating witches? Real in the Mirrorworld. Jacob has spent years escaping into the mirror, away from his mother who mourns a lost husband and a brother with his own needs. In Mirrorworld, Jacob’s freedom has allowed him to be fearless. With no one to care for but himself, he becomes a treasure hunter, seeking out the magical and cursed objects of stories: glass slippers, spinning wheels, talking mirrors. “There was always something to hunt for in this world. And most of the time it helped him forget that he had never been able to find the one thing he really wanted.””

The Eternal Ones: What if love refused to die? by Kirsten Miller. 2010. Razorbill, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers Group. My review:The first part of The Eternal Ones reads like something out of V.C. Andrews: mean grandmother, weak mother, extreme religion, possible mental illness, and did I mention the snake-handlers? Haven isn’t locked in an attic, but her grandmother does threaten to lock her up because of her visions. Haven briefly gets a “happy ever after” in the middle of the book after she connects with Iain/Evan. The final third is Haven trying to figure out the truth about herself, Iain, Constance, Ethan, and other reincarnated people (present and past) with additional complications from the Ouroboros Society. The society is dedicated to the study of reincarnation, but there is something more, something hidden, something dark about it.”

The Improper Life of Bezellia Grove by Susan Gregg Gilmore. Crown, a division of Random House. 2010. My review:As the title promises, the life of one Bezellia Louis Grove, starting with her birth announcement in 1951. Bezellia recounts her youth and teenage years as the daughter of one of the most prominent families in Nashville. Even though the Groves are slowly losing their social prestige, they still have the name, the house, the ancestry and the servants that marks them as part of a privileged class. Raised more by the family’s African American servants than her own parents, Bezellia tries to figure out what she wants out of life. Is life just about getting the right man? Is her mother right that “there were only three things of value to look for in a man. One, he wears cashmere. Two, he drives a convertible. And three, he glides across the dance floor.””

Hunger by Jackie Morse Kessler. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children’s Book Group. October 2010. My review: “Into Lisa’s complex relationship with food, with hunger, with others, comes the Four Horsemen: Death (who looks like a certain dead rock star), War (a woman who relishes the mayhem she brings), Pestilence (who looks like he has every disease out there because he does) and Famine. Lisa is now Famine and can cause hunger wherever she goes, making others feel the way she does. The first time she travels on Famine’s horse and causes a riot she is in awe of her power, and the resulting chaos, and scared that War is so delighted. Pestilence offers a hint to Lisa that all is not what it seems and that the power of the Horsemen is not all destruction.”


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