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review 2017-08-18 16:56
Automatons, clocks, and a train station
The Invention of Hugo Cabret - Brian Selznick

I'm guessing that if you haven't read The Invention of Hugo Cabret then you've at least seen the film Hugo starring Asa Butterfield and Chloë Grace Moretz. The movie adaptation is actually very faithful to the book. If you're unfamiliar, it's about a boy that is living in a train station in Paris and trying to put together a clockwork man. In order to do so, he has to stoop to thievery, sneaking, and subterfuge. But it's not simply the storyline that sets Selznick apart from the pack. It's his use of illustrations and words that make reading his books so enjoyable. There are full-page spreads with no text whatsoever that are absolutely breathtaking. Generally, his illustrations are done in pencil and without color. They're gorgeous and I love them.Themes explored include but are not limited to: loss and redemption, solace in the written word, trust of children over adults, and orphaned children. Out of the three I'm reviewing today this one was my least favorite but that might have been because I already knew the story from seeing the film...or that he was still experimenting with his style with this earlier work. However, I'd still rate it a 9/10. 

 

 

Source: Goodreads

 

Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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review 2017-08-14 16:36
One Trick Pony - Nathan HaleĀ 
One Trick Pony - Nathan Hale

I enjoyed this enormously: I liked the juxtaposition of multiple different cultures and societies. The premise was intriguing, the kids are resourceful, the parents believable, the robots were funny. Good set up and good payoff. I would thing this would be insanely popular since it's like to appeal to fans of fantasy and science fiction, to horse people and 

Western people, everyone really, except aliens.

 

My only problem with the book is a technical detail: I had tremendous trouble reading the speech sometimes. Yes, I'm old and the eyes go and dim lighting isn't sufficient anymore et cetera, et cetera, but none of that troubles me when reading anything else. I'm not confident I know what the difficulty was: whether the book pages were too small (for me), or the font size too small (for me), or the contrast not sharp enough (for me). I can't say with any certainty. But it made for an uncomfortable experience. I'm a motivated reader, so I stuck with it, but I can imagine that not everyone would. YMMV

 

Library copy

 

 

 

 

 

 

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review 2017-08-12 22:39
Book Review of The Amulet: Journey to Sirok (The Elias Chronicles Book 1) by E.G. Kardos
The Amulet: Journey to Sirok (The Elias Chronicles) (Volume 1) - E. G. Kardos

WHEN TWIN SWORDS COLLIDE, an incredible power is unleashed and a new world opens. Defeating the three-headed dragon is the only way for Elias to seize his treasure. THE AMULET- Journey to Sirok is a magical adventure as Elias searches to find a sorcerer named Zoltan to reveal clues to his search.

 

Review 3*

 

This is the first book in an intriguing fantasy series. I enjoyed it but with reservations.

 

Elias is an interesting character. I really liked him. He is a young boy living in a remote village in Hungary. He is the son of a farmer, but he has no interest in being a farmer like his father or two brothers. He is an artist and loves to draw and paint the beautiful scenery and animals living in the forest surrounding the farm. When his Nattymama (Grandmother) tells him the tale of Zoltan, a sorcerer, who lives in Budapest and who can help Elias find his fortune, Elias sets off on a journey to meet him, but faces many obstacles and dangers along the way.

 

This is quintessentially a coming of age tale. When I first started reading this book I struggled with the author's writing style and it took me a while to get into it. Elias is only fifteen (nearly sixteen), so I was surprised at how harshly his father treated him. Just because a child doesn't want to follow in the parent's footsteps, a parent should encourage their child to follow their own path, not throw them out of the house. Unfortunately, it is more common than one would think. Having said that, Elias is a pretty level-headed boy and is able to keep his wits about him even when things look really dire at times. There is also a little folklore woven into the tale, with mention of monsters like the Sarkany, a three-headed serpent dragon that becomes a representation of a person's worst nature.

 

Elias meets several characters (including monsters) along his journey, but I found the majority of them to be one-dimensional and forgettable for the most part. Even the Sarkany didn't seem particularly scary or threatening. This made me feel sad. Nattymama was the only other character that felt lifelike besides Elias. However, I am not in the age range this book is aimed at, so younger readers may not have the same opinion as myself.

 

I reached the end of the story with mixed emotions. I was happy at the way it concluded, but also a little disappointed that the story left me feeling rather ambivalent to it. I don't like saying this but I don't think I will be continuing with the series. Although the character of Elias was interesting, there was not enough character development or excitement generated for me to want to read the next book in the series.

 

E.G. Kardos has written an interesting middle grade/young adult fantasy. The author's writing style felt a little stilted in my opinion, and I struggled to get to grips with it in the beginning. It is not particularly fast paced, however, it kept me turning the pages. The story flowed wonderfully from scene to scene, and is written in such a descriptive way I could picture the tale easily in my minds eye.

 

I highly recommend this book to children aged 10 upwards and to adults who love reading YA/Middle Grade Fantasy. - Lynn Worton

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review 2017-08-12 19:39
It Ain't So Awful Falafel
It Ain't So Awful, Falafel - Firoozeh Dumas

 

To all the kids who don't belong, for whatever reason.

This one's for you.

- Dedication

 

My dad says that the dogs and cats in America are luckier than most people in the world.

- page 34

 

My dad always says that kindness is our religion and if we treat everybody the way we would like to be treated, the world would be a better place.

- page 40

 

... only bookworms get excited over other bookworms

- page 69

 

"Who would ever have thought that a person could be so powerful, then so completely powerless, all in the same lifetime?"

- page 219 (referring to the downfall of the shah)

 

... even though we belong to three different religions. We are alike in so many more ways than we are different.

- page 299

 

It was only when I stopped pretending to be someone else that I found my real friends.

- page 360

 

 

This was a good read. Zomorod (who changes her name to Cindy) is from Iran. Her father is an engineer who works with American companies building oil refineries in Iran, so they moved back and forth a couple of times.  Now she is starting junior high (which nowadays is called middle school) and doesn't know anyone. She wants to fit in, but she focuses on how different she is from all the other kids. The first friend she makes (in the summer before school) decides she doesn't want to be friends when school starts. Poor "Cindy" is lost and worried and tired of having to explain to everyone where Iran is and how to pronounce her last name.

 

Cindy finds friends and seems to be settling in and basically happy. Then Iran has a revolution, the shah is kicked out of the country, and Ayatollah Khomeini takes over. On November 4, 1979, Iranian students, angry that President Carter allowed the shah to come to the United States, take a group of Americans hostage. This changes Cindy's family's life and her father loses his job.

 

I was in junior high during the Iran Hostage Crisis. I remember feeling vaguely angry at the hostage takers and worried about the hostages. My mom wasn't huge on watching the news with us or anything, but I knew what was happening (at least generally).  

 

It was interesting reading this story told from the point of view of an Iranian girl in America at the time. It was so hard for Cindy's family, and many Americans were so hostile towards Iranians, even though those living in America weren't responsible for the situation and didn't necessarily approve of it. Cindy and her parents were so appalled that a religious leader could be responsible for such behavior. But that didn't save them from hate and discrimination.

 

This is a nominee for the Florida Sunshine State award grades 3-5. I really liked the book and will highly recommend it to our students when school starts. 

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2017-08-07 15:16
{ARC} Book Review: The List by Patricia Forde
The List - Patricia Forde

I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

 

So alright, I don’t have to wax poetic what the story is all about.  If you’re familiar with the story of Noah’s Ark then you have the basic premise of The List.  Set some time in the future, Earth finally succumbed to Global Warming. The glaciers melted causing a massive flood that killed a lot of people. Fortunately, a radical environmentalist named John Noa had already anticipated the catastrophe and built an Ark. To cut the story short, John Noa and the rest of the survivors made a new world where technology was forbidden and speech regulated.  Yes, you’ve read that right. Due to John Noa’s resentment and perverse obsession to protect Ark from another bout of Global Warming, he mandated that speech must be regulated. Because ya know, speech=freedom…freedom to manipulate…freedom to express…freedom to spread lies…etc. So a Wordsmith was appointed to release a List of words that every Ark citizen must use to communicate. Speaking/using words not included in the list would mean punishment.

 

In Ark, our heroine, Letta, was born. Despite being an orphan, her life is still pretty much easier compared to the other Ark dwellers.  She was made apprentice to the Wordsmith, Benjamin, which means that she can speak words outside of the list without getting punished.  Everything was working fine in Letta’s world when suddenly it turned upside down and found herself being hailed as the new Wordsmith.

 

Well, this was a good read although I’m still partial to the Giver. The premise alone is already intriguing from the get go. And I was highly interested as to how the author would handle such ambitious idea. Though there are still areas for improvement, I think that Patricia Forde did a good job in presenting a world where language is constrained.  I especially enjoyed the dialogue where the conversationalists are speaking List. Grammar Nazis, beware!

 

I also liked the environmental message that the author was sending particularly that the target audience of this book is our youngsters.  It never hurts to educate our young ones regarding environmental protection as early as possible. Cheers for that, Forde!

I was, however, quite turned off with the way the author is hinting a romance between Letta and Marlo because it’s not necessary. And I don’t even feel any chemistry between the two. And one more thing, that ending feels like a cop out.

 

All in all, if you enjoy middle-grade dystopia and still crazy about The Giver’s, then, The List is the perfect book for you.

 

Source: waywardkitsune.com/2017/08/arc-book-review-list-patricia-forde
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