Seriously? I Read That?

Archive for the ‘5 stars’ Category

forestofhandsteethImagine living in a world surrounded by death. Isolated and behind a fence, the only thing separating you from the deep, vast forest where the Unconsecrated- the flesh easting zombie hordes–roam. This is the world of Carrie Ryan’s The Forest of Hands and Teeth. The world Mary has been born into. The only world she knows, but dreams is not the only world there is. After her mother’s death and return, Mary realizes that her life is not her own. Who she is and everything she knows has been tightly controlled by the Sisterhood, the ruling religious order in her village. When Mary catches a glimpse of proof that there is life beyond the Forest of Hands and Teeth, Mary is determined to find the answers she desperately needs. She must follow her own path, a path that leads deep into the forest.

The Forest of Hands and Teeth is a breathtaking novel of death and life, love and dreams. At once filled with treacherous secrets and life-giving truths. There’s violence and raw emotions, but there’s also heartbreaking, tender moments. This is so much more than a run of the mill zombie apocalypse novel. The Forest of Hands and Teeth is the after. It’s what happens long after people stop fighting the walking dead and resign themselves to just surviving. This is a story of a people who cannot remember how the world was before. There is no struggle to maintain life as it was.To these people, there is no other life. The past, a life without the Unconsecrated, is just stories. Stories that Mary desperately wants to be real.

Mary is an incredibly strong heroine, but she is still believable. She is not strong to the point of being invincible. Her relationships are realistic, as are her emotions and reactions.

Aside from Mary, the most penetrating aspect of the novel for me is the role of religion, both positive and negative, in a society that has no reason to hope, surrounded by death, despair and decay. A society that knows what the afterlife looks like. On one hand, the Sisterhood gives a semblance of order, a reason for the chaos. Sister Tabitha, the head of the Sisterhood, tells Mary that the Unconsecrated are God’s punishments, penance for cheating death and God’s will. On the other hand, the oppressive religious influence further isolates the villagers, and in essence only creates more chaos, more despair, and sets them up for more tragedy. If the Unconsecrated are reminders of human sins of commission, then the horrific events that transpire later are reminders of the Sisterhood’s sins of omission. The secrets they kept came back to bite them, literally!

I can’t say I’m unhappy with the recent influx of zombie themed novels in YA literature. I find them a nice contrast to the glamourous portrayal of death in so many vampire novels. The Forest of Hands and Teeth shows the other side of death- the decay, the dirt, the violence, the sorrow. There is no beauty in this world. No beauty in hovering between true life and true death. The beauty is in surviving. The beauty is in loving. If vampire novels give you something to die for, then The Forest of Hands and Teeth gives you something to live for.

This is young adult literature at its best. Mature, intelligent, and appealing. The Forest of Hands and Teeth is a look at a world where dreams are sometimes all you have and love can’t always win over death.

Rating: 5 unnaturally red vests out of 5.


hungergamesI was starting to feel like the only one in YA-lit land that hadn’t read The Hunger Games. That feeling soon turned into “well, it’s probably overhyped anyway…”

Sour grapes, and all that.

Let me just say, wow! This lived up to the hype. I didn’t want it to end. I was completely captivated by the dystopian world Suzanne Collins created.

Katniss is a great character, strong and likable. There’s compelling amounts of drama and a nice dash of romance. Sometimes in books like this, romance can seem forced, included only to appeal to teenage girls. Not so in this case. Katniss and Peeta’s love story adds another dimension to their fight to survive the Hunger Games, the brutal reality show competition used as a means of control by the tyrannous government of Panem, formerly North America.

The Hunger Games
is just wonderful. I can’t wait for the sequel.

Rating: 5 mockingjays out of 5.

Tales from Outer Suburbia

“Eventually we decided there was only one solution: go and see for ourselves. We shook hands over a mighty twenty-dollar-bet, a staggering amount to gamble even on a sure thing, and planned an official scientific expedition to the mysterious outer suburbs.”

Welcome to outer suburbia, where strange animals roam, backyards house hand painted missile silos, and the absurd is a way of life.

Tales from Outer Suburbia by Shaun Tan, of  The Arrival fame, is a collection of 15 illustrated short stories. The stories are stark but poignant. Some are even quite humorous. More than a few of the tales ruminate on home and what home really means. Some delve into seemingly political realms, but not in a heavy-handed lecturing way. Some read like myths. All are almost magical.

The drawings range from simple sketches to more elaborate pieces incorporating a wide variety of media.

I highly recommend this quirky, delightful book. It’s beautiful for all ages.

Rating: 5 homemade pets out of 5.

Tales from Outer Suburbia by Shaun Tan
Published: February 1st 2009 by Arthur A. Levine Book
Binding: Hardcover, 96 pages
ISBN: 0771084021
Reading Level: Young Adult

knifeI went into The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness relatively blind. I had only read one brief review and seen the title mentioned on various blogs and other places online. Nothing in depth. I really had no idea what I was getting into, and for that I am infinitely grateful.

At first glance, The Knife of Never Letting Go appears to be just another coming of age tale. Todd Hewitt, the last boy in Prentisstown, is on the verge of manhood. Sounds pretty simple right? Not at all. Throw in the fact the Prentisstown is a town without women. Getting a little more complex, right? Now add to that the fact that everyone in Prentisstown can hear each other’s thoughts. Not simple at all.

After stumbling upon something in the swamp, he never expected to find–a girl, Todd’s life rapidly changes. Soon, he, his dog Manchee, and Viola, the girl he found in the swamp, must flee Prentisstown. Armed with only a knife and a vague directive on an old map, Todd must confront the truth about Prentisstown and the truth about what it really means to be a man.

Besides being a thrilling, emotional read, The Knife of Never Letting Go is a well-done mediation on complicity and moral ambiguity. This is not a black and white novel. Right are wrong are not clear cut. Life, for Todd, is grey and all are guilty in one way or another. What you think you know is not always true, and the truth itself can be false.

Todd’s world is masterfully created, and the concept of Noise, the term used for the never-ending auditory phenomenon on men’s thoughts, is an inventive device. The fact that Todd’s thoughts cannot be hidden adds an element of suspense and danger as Todd, Manchee, and Viola flee Prentisstown. As long as there is Noise, Todd can be found. Noise, to Todd, is something he has always lived with. He does not know a world without Noise. However, this does not keep him from seeing the consequences of living in a world where all thoughts are made public. In a way, the men of Prentisstown use their Noise as an excuse. Sort of a spin on the cliched “The devil made me do it”.
In his own dialect, Todd describes the intrusive, frustrating nature of Noise and how Noise changes everything:

“Too much informayshun can drive a man mad. Too much informayshun becomes just Noise.”

By the end, I’ll admit I was a bit emotionally exhausted. And the ending… the ending came as a punch to the stomach.

I’ll be anxiously awaiting the release of the second book in the Chaos Walking Series, The Ask and the Answer, which is set to be released this fall.

Rating: 5 germs out of 5.
The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
Published: September 9th 2008 by Candlewick
Binding: Hardcover, 496 pages
ISBN: 0763639311
Reading Level: Young Adult

spectacularnow1I’ve learned that feeling unease and discomfort while reading a book is rarely a bad sign. The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp proves my theory: the uncomfortable books are the ones that stick with me. The characters that give me a creeping feeling of “something’s wrong here” are the ones that haunt me long after I put the book down.

Sutter Keeley, teenaged alcoholic, is one of those characters. When we first meet Sutter, he’s content spending time with his girlfriend Cassidy and getting (and staying drunk) every day. But then Cassidy dumps him. He’s a little lost (figuratively and literally) when he meets Aimee. Aimee is the type of girl that wears t-shirts with pictures of horses proudly displayed on the front, and Sutter sees her as someone he can change, someone he can save. Aimee becomes Sutter’s “project” as he drags her into his world.

You might not like or approve of what you find once you see what’s inside Sutter, but you will remember him. As he tries to save everyone but himself, as his life spirals away from him, you might have the urge to just look away and put the book down. But you must keep reading.

The Spectacular Now is such an honest book. And in this honesty, many contrasts present themselves. There is beauty here, but there is also ugly things. There is humor but there is also depressing, heartbreaking scenes.

“But just remember this— weird’s good. Embrace the weird, dude. Enjoy it because it’s never going away.”

Sutter’s philosophy on life pretty much sums up this book. It may be weird. It may be uncomfortable. It might not end the way you desperately hope it will. But all you can do is embrace it.

The Spectacular Now is a 2008 National Book Award Finalist for Young People’s Literature

Rating: 5 hip flasks out of 5.

The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp
Published: November 11th 2008 by Knopf Books for Young Readers
Binding: Hardcover, 304 pages
ISBN: 0375851798
Reading Level: Young Adult

Am I happy or sad that you’re not dead?

Sweethearts is one of those novels that my words will always be inferior in describing. It’s one of those novels that is experienced, not just read. It’s a novel that makes you question yourself and what you believe about yourself, and the world, and your own personal history. It’s what I like to call a “What If” novel. What if this happened to me? What would I do? What if there is no right or wrong way to react?

What would you do if someone from your past, someone you thought was dead (and might as well have been) suddenly reappears and brings along with him secrets and pain of a former life you thought you’d successfully buried long ago? For Jenna, the sudden reappearance of Cameron, her best childhood friend, brings confusing memories as she struggles to reconcile who she is now at 17, with the Jennifer she was in 5th grade.

I loved it. Loved it in a way I’ve loved only three other books: Raise High the Roof-beam Carpenters , Looking For Alaska, and Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist. Novels that made me cry, hold my breath, and hope they would never end.

Sweethearts is the type of book that makes me wish it was around when I was a teen. It’s a book I would have loved / needed at that age. Like Looking for Alaska and Nick and Norah, Sweethearts is a book that makes me wish I had the ability to go back in time and experience them again for the first time as a teen.

Rating: 5 closet food binges out of 5.

Body part book for the What’s in a name? Challenge
A to Z Challenge: Z author

Sweethearts by Sara Zarr
Little, Brown Young Readers
(February 1, 2008)
ISBN-13: 9780316014557
Pages: 224
Reading Level: Young Adult

Where else you can find me:

Books That Go Bump in the Night- Halloween and scary books for kids and teens. My other blog.