Seriously? I Read That?

Posts Tagged ‘a to z

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.


shadowedsummerIn a small Louisiana town where nothing exciting has happened since the disappearance of Elijah years before they were even born, fourteen year old Ivy and her best friend Collette, bored with their lives in a boring town, dabble with magic and spirits. It’s all play until Ivy sees the real ghost of the missing boy, Elijah. Shadowed Summer by Saundra Mitchell is a story of a girl haunted by much more than a ghost as she struggles to solve a mystery, navigate a stormy friendship and a first crush, and deal with her own coming-of-age.

While the young girl haunted by a ghost plot has been done before in many incarnations, Shadowed Summer is worth the read. Early on, it becomes apparent that it’s as much a story of a family, a town, secrets, and tragedies both small and large as it is a ghost story. That’s not to say the ghost story is superfluous or feels tacked on to ride the paranormal trend wave. Elijah and his haunting of Ivy is the catalyst that forces Ivy to reevaluate her friends, her family, and all that she has been told.

The setting, post-Katrina Louisiana, in a town named Ondine, where Ivy says people are “bred with God and superstition in [their] blood” is what really won me over. I don’t think this would have worked as well had it been set in suburban New England or amidst urban sprawl. This is an atmospheric novel. It’s very Southern-feeling, mossy and humid.

The characters are likable enough, though at times they seem a little younger than they actually are. Overall, Shadowed Summer read like a middle-grade novel, and I think it would be entirely appropriate for the older members of that audience.


Rating: 4 witch boards out of 5.

jumpedTold in three alternating perspectives, Jumped by Rita Williams-Garcia tells the story of one school day in the life of three very different girls at an inner city high school: Dominique, the tough basketball player determined to teach another classmate a lesson; Trina, the pretty and artistic girl unaware of what she’s in for once the final bell rings; and Leticia, the observer of it all from start to finish who must decide to take action and warn Trina, or just let it happen.

This novel shines. The prose is honest, and at times has almost a Slam poetry feel to it. But the real centerpiece of the novel is the characters. Jumped is almost a character study in a way. Each of the three girls are much more than they seem. The writing never stoops to stereotypes or caricatures.

For me, Leticia is the one who brings everything together. Her observations reign the other girl’s perspectives in and put small details in focus. At one point, Leticia sums up the crux of the novel, the reason Trina is getting jumped, a fact of life that Trina is not aware of, and Dominique follows without verbalizing:

“When you’re an outsider, you should know your situation. Know who you are when you step out. Know what you can and can’t do.”

However, Leticia’s observations are not meant to influence readers into judgments of the characters. Readers are really left to decide for themselves what to think of the characters and their actions.

Jumped is a gritty, compelling novel from start to finish. I’d consider this award-worthy.

Rating: 4.5 sketch books out of 5.

Jumped by Rita Williams-Garcia
Published: March 1st 2009 by Amistad
Binding: Hardcover, 176 pages
ISBN: 0060760915
Reading Level: Young Adult

Do you find it ironic that I stopped believing in angels as soon as you died and became one?

Every once in a while a good sentimental book is something I crave. It’s not very often, and it’s usually only in short, small doses. I rarely have high expectations for these sorts of books, and try not to judge them as more than they are – brief escapes. So when I read J.Kaye’s review of Kissed by an Angel by Elizabeth Chandler, which is a collection of 3 books which were once published separately, it seemed to fit the bill perfectly. I was pleasantly surprised to find more than just sappy sentimentalism and cliche teenage death tropes. There’s a bit of mystery and intrigue here, and just enough action and suspense to elevate this book beyond my initial meager expectations. Even the angel themes, which are usually quite hard for me to stomach, are well-done and not too overwrought.
In short, this is a nice way to spend an afternoon. Nothing too deep, but not too shallow either.

Rating: 3.5 glowing angel figurines out of 5.

Kissed by an Angel by Elizabeth Chandler
Published: December 16th 2008 by Simon Pulse
Binding: Paperback, 704 pages
ISBN: 1416978836
Reading Level: Young Adult

In the Woods by Tana French
Well written and suspenseful. The ending left me a little empty, though. I am still debating whether I will read the second book in the series.
Rating: 3.5 find sheds out of 5.
F author for A-Z Challenge

Let it Snow by John Green, Maureen Johnson and Lauren Myracle
Surprisingly, John Green’s story wasn’t my favorite. It was good, as everything John Green writes, is good. Maureen Johnson’s was my favorite. I suppose at that moment I was just in the mood for something a little more romantic. All in all, the stories are well written and populated with interesting and original characters.
Rating: 4 teacup pigs out of 5.

Shoot the Moon by Billie Letts
I read this for a book club I am in. When I say this is not something I would ever read on my own, that’s a bit of an understatement. I don’t regret reading it. It was a very quick read. The characters were interesting enough and the plot had about intrigue to keep me turning pages. The end, however, ruined the entire book for me. I probably wouldn’t read anything more by Letts. It’s just not my kind of book.
Rating: 2.5 domino players out of 5

A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Read (Psych #1) by William Rabkin
I’m going through Psych withdrawl, and after reading about this book on 50 Book Challenge, I decided to pick it up. It was a nice way to spend an afternoon. The mystery was interesting, and the characterization of Shawn and Gus was pretty spot-on. I did have a little problem with Jules and Lassiter’s characters, though.They seemed a little off. There were some moments of complete absurdity where even suspending disbelief didn’t work. Overall, it wasn’t bad. It was overwhelmingly mediocre, though. Based on my sheer love for Psych, I’ll probably read more from this series.
Rating: 3 impound lots out of 5.

The Grand Ole Opry: Making of an American Icon by Colin Escott
I confess, I have a deep and abiding love for country music. Not the “country” you hear on the radio. REAL country music. Hank Williams. Johnny Cash. The Louvin Brothers. I’ll also admit I have issues with the Grand Ole Opry. All this combined with my adoration of Escott’s writing, buying and reading this book was a given.
I found the history fascinating. There was so much I didn’t know. The anecdotes and assorted photos and ephemera made this a really comprehensive work on the history of the Opry. Recommended not only for real country music fans, but for music fans in general, as so much modern music has roots in country music.
Rating: 5 dobro players out of 5.
(781.642.) 700-The Arts for the Dewey Decimal Challenge

Stori Telling by Tori Spelling
I assumed this wold be just guilty pleasure reading, but was pleased when it turned into something a little deeper than that. I’ve always been ambivalent about Tori Spelling, but after reading this, I think I’ve drifted over to the fan side.
Rating: 4 tabloid headlines out of 5.

Not just ponytails and pom-poms; steroids and bulimia, too.

There is much more to cheerleading than the perky smiles, short skirts, and pom-poms. Cheer! by Kate Torgovnick delves deep into the inner-workings of three cheer squads from three very different colleges and follows them from try-outs to championships, while exposing the dangers, the controversies, and the drama that surounds and at times plagues squads around the world.

Cheer! is a fun and interesting book about a subculture I know very little about. I found myself actually caring about the cheerleaders presented in the book, which surprised me slightly. I didn’t expect to feel for these men and women in the way that I did. I certainly didn’t expect to root for them.

Torgovnick portrays the cheerleaders honestly–highlighting faults and strengths—making them very real to the reader, especially readers who may only know cheerleaders through the many stereotypes.

Recommended, even for those that don’t care for this type of non-fiction, as it’s very readable and fast paced with enough detail and dramatic moments to hold interest.

Rating: 4 basket tosses out of 5.

T author for A to Z Challenge

Cheer! by Kate Torgovnick
Published: March 11th 2008 by Touchstone
Binding: Hardcover, 384 pages
ISBN: 1416535969

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