Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Journey of the Marked - By Rebecca P. McCray

Many authors try to get their book published.  Not all make it.  Rebecca P. McCray’s debut novel, The Journey of the Marked, will.  The good writing, the setting, and intriguing story line make McCray’s book worth the read. I found this as a critic for LitPick, a site for new authors and teen readers.  After I read the summary, I downloaded it and finished in a day.  It’s new so you have to buy the eBook from Amazon for $3.99.  I prefer hard copy books, but this was easy enough to read and let’s face it, a quarter of book sales are digital.

Readers don’t like changing points of view and McCray rotates narrators each chapter between the five marked and their parents.   This lets the reader understand the characters in depth and get inside their head.   As I was reading I’d find I was longing to hear what was happening to them.  I feel like I know these characters and would want to know them in real life.

McCray writes formally and sometimes makes me laugh.

“They were probably traveling clothes common to Humans, though she lacked sufficient knowledge of the species to be certain.”  Chapter 1

It takes a couple chapters to get used to, but it’s entertaining.  It reinforces how different their world is from ours today.  

McCray’s setting makes this book, like how the setting in Harry Potter and The Hobbit makes the story come alive.  She creates her own planet (Zolei) with twenty different species.  She tells the story of the five marked, their parents, and what happens to them.  Eros, a human, is the leader and a strong fighter; Kenrya, a tenacious Arlian; Tip the Liput, an expert mechanic and tinker; Prizene the first female Krystic ever to be marked; and Azetan, a warrior who can breathe under water.  

Throughout their journey to a safe haven, they meet people who help them and people who want to kill them.  They make friends, help creatures, and save lives.  I liked how McCray had placed old men in the forest, whose purpose was to help the marked reach their destination.  She shows us there are people who will help those in need, regardless of the risk.  It also shows how even after you finish the most exciting endeavor, there is always another adventure. 

I wonder what will happen to Eros and the group; will they still be hunted?  Will they ever be safe?

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Strand Book Store (Broadway and 12th)

Have you been to the Strand book store in New York? If not, you’re missing out.  The Stand’s four floors hold over 18 miles of books:  new, used, out of print, and rare.  It also carries bags, journals, t-shirts, and ninja pens.  The basement has non-fiction and half-price books and the top floor has a collection of rare books, where my mom spent an hour and a half.  She bought Lang’s Crimson Book of Fairy Tales for thirty-five dollars, and drooled over a first edition of Winnie the Pooh going for three-hundred.  I spent way-too-much time in the two aisles of Young Adult, going title by title, reading book jackets.  The Strand is different from Barnes & Nobles because it allows people to sell books back to them and prices books below Amazon.  Most are about a dollar below list price.  I bought nine books, two used that cost five bucks each.  Next time you are in New York city, check out the Strand.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Divergent - By Veronica Roth

On March 21 Divergent will be released in theaters.  I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait.

Tris gets the biggest change of her life when she transfers from the selfless Abnegation to the Dauntless faction, who live by the rule YOLO.   A short, fierce blonde, she is the first to jump off a building that leads to the entrance of the Dauntless cave.  Four is her instructor for the initiation. He maintains the tough guy attitude, even going so far as to nick her ear with a knife to teach her a lesson because she is so stubborn.  

What do they have in common? Both are Divergent and if anyone finds out, they are as good as dead.  

When my friends told me I had to read this book, I didn’t because it reminded me of the book Matched, which I disliked.  So I was wary when I first started.  Veronica Roth did a good job and I liked a few things in particular.  

Roth’s characters are normal people who are put in abnormal situations.  Any girl who has had to make tough choices that anger her family can relate to Tris, just like any guy who has ever been afraid of losing someone they loved can relate to Four.  And anyone who has ever feared being discovered, whatever the reason, can relate to the characters in this book.

Roth’s scenery is vivid.  On page 147 she writes, “For a few seconds I see only a dark blanket over the land in front of me, just faint differences between building and sky and street and ground.”  Let that sink in for a moment.  Roth describes the land at night from the top of a ferris wheel and I can see it:  the buildings, the trees, the trains, like the folds of a blanket.

Roth set up her world separating humans based on their traits.  The book shows the readers what would happen if every person were stripped to a single attribute, and whether or not the damage can be fixed.

See you in the theaters next week.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Lord of the Flies - By William Golding

Shout out to all the freshman across the nation who are reading The Lord of the Flies and are wondering why 

William Golding wrote this book to tell the story of boys stranded on an island and to say that without government or rules, humans would become savages.  The question is, do you think that’s what would happen? In the beginning, the characters are annoying.  They remind me of my brother who bursts into my room and shoots a Nerf gun at my head.  They are a bunch of twelve year olds stuck on a strip of land in the Pacific Ocean, what else would you expect?   Golding gives them a chance to be alone without adults telling them what to do, no bedtime, no bath, and writes about what happens.  I’ve read four books for English class and this ranks second behind Diary of a Part Time Indian because that was funny while Flies had me wanting to throw the book across the room.  Golding shows us how humans can act and the horrible things we can do to each other.  I was disappointed because maybe there is some of that in all of us.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

The Fault in Our Stars - By John Green

When I started reading this book, I forgot to eat.   

SPOILER ALERT.  OK not really, but you know this from the jacket cover.  Sick girl meets sick boy, they fall in love. Hazel is Cinderella who has to lug around an oxygen cart because her lungs don’t work like lungs.  She is a sixteen year old taking college classes and is addicted to television shows like America’s Next Top Model (ANTM).  She always argues with her mom about her life.  Hazel would spend her free time trying to set the record for the most episodes watched in a row of ANTM, while her mom tries to force her to ‘get a life.’  Which she does.

Augustus Waters is Prince Charming with one leg and a tendency to speak formally.  His parents place “encouragements” (positive sayings sewn onto pillows, painted on walls, engraved in wood) around the house.  Augustus has a habit of putting cigarettes into his mouth without lighting them.  His point is to put the killer in his mouth, but not give it the power to kill. Augustus is like Hazel because he also has cancer, but has been NEC (no evidence of cancer) for a long time.            

 On page 221, I had accidentally squished an ant, and looking at that page, I found an example of how Green makes serious stuff funny.  Augustus described his pain “… as a one-legged fat man wearing a stiletto heel standing on the middle of his chest.”  And it’s this kind of humor in the face of death, the sarcasm and wit, that made me finish this book in a day.

Green says dying is not a side effect of cancer but that “cancer is a side affect of dying.”  The book ends with a letter on how the choices people make in life affect them in profound ways.  If John Green were to ask me if I think I made a good choice by reading his book, I would reply:

I do John Green.
I do.

Wings - By Aprilynne Pike

Welcome to the carefree life of Laurel. Well it was carefree, until one morning she discovers a flower bloomed in the middle of her back.  Laurel learns she is part of a species of highly evolved plants. She is a faerie.  The gate to the faerie world is located on the land Laurel will inherit.  Unfortunately, the faeries are not the only species looking to control this gate.  Trolls will stop at nothing to get to the hidden gate.

Laurel meets David, a friendly guy who looks like a jock, but is a biology geek at heart; she also meets Tamani, the faerie who dyed his eyes and the roots of his hair green by eating river moss.  Laurel herself is not as interesting. She is the stereotype of a pretty fifteen-year-old, loathes everything about school except for the people and parties, gets frustrated when she can’t get something right, and doesn’t get the best grades.  She manages the challenges with grace and courage, while also protecting her parents.

I had difficulty putting the book down and I read it for five hours until I finished it.  Aprilynne Pike did a marvelous job developing her plot line.  Pike took the legends about faeries and changed them, creating her own species.  She wrote a modern faerie tale, complete with magical powers and mystical potions.  I recommend the rest of the series, but Wings was my favorite.