Posts by challengingthebookworm

Gemina

Gemina.jpgTitle: Gemina
Series: The Illuminae Files #2
Authors: Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
Narrators: Carla Corvo, MacLeod Andrews, and Steve West, with a full cast
ISBN: 9781101916667 (audiobook), 9780553499155 (hardcover)
CDs/Discs: 11 sound discs (12 hr., 30 min.)
Pages: 659 pages
Publisher/Date: Listening Library, Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, c2016 by LaRoux Industries Pty Ltd. and Neverafter Pty Ltd.

Mayday, mayday, mayday, this is Acting Captain Syra Boll of the WUC science vessel Hypatia calling Jump Station Heimdall, please respond.
Please respond. Heimdall over. […]
On the off chance we are not receiving your transmissions, or you are unable to reply, Hypatia is still en route to the Heimdall waypoint with Alexander survivors and refugees from the original Kerenza assault aboard. We’re hoping like hell it’s not just a smoking pile of debris when we get there. Estimate our arrival in fifteen days.
If you guys can roll out any kind of cavalry, now’s the goddam time.
Hypatia out.

Little does the crew and passengers of the Hypatia know that Jump Station Heimdall is having their own problems at the moment, and could use some cavalry assistance of their own. The same people who blew up the illegal mining colony of Kerenza and is pursuing the Hypatia is intent on cleaning up this botched effort, through any means necessary. And those means just might include making sure no one from Hypatia or Heimdall can report back on the mass murder that has taken place. A celebratory event turns into a hostage situation, with the captain’s daughter Hanna pairing up with the Nik, the reluctant member of the crime family secretly transporting illegal materials on-board the ship. But those materials may prove more trouble than the hostage takers.

With an almost entirely new cast of characters, the audiobook for this second in the series is almost as good as the first. Although some time has passed since I listened to the story, I remember there were two snags in the production of the early discs where the sound quality didn’t quite stay consistent. However, they were easily forgettable by the time you got to the final scenes. A notoriously impartial and unapologetic Surveillance Footage Analyst from the first book makes a welcome reappearance. Towards the end, overlapping narratives portrayed side by side in double-page spreads in the book are read consecutively, so as to maintain the intended connections.

This second outing in the saga gets slightly more fantastical than the purely scientific first book, especially involving the climatic solution to a problem that seems unsolvable. The death scenes are also more graphically rendered, partially as a result of the cargo being stowed on ship. That’s really all I can say about either event without giving too much away. While I enjoyed the continued use of transcripts, typed analysis, and other written communications to convey the story, the commentary provided during some of the more intense scenes stretched credibility. When trying to deter a hacker, would Nik’s cousin Ella, a skilled hacker in her own right, really take the time to type exclamations like “I TOLD YOU I TOLD YOU I TOLD YOU NOT TO DISTRACT MEEEEEE AAAAAAAHDB#OWALEKVNLAKENLQWENVLQKENV”KQENV”LQENV”LAV ” while trying to save her cousin’s life? In my experience, it might have been more of a vocalization as opposed to an actual typed response, especially when your fingers are otherwise occupied. Ella’s disability is touched upon in a matter-of-fact manner, but never belabored.

Having read the first book, readers will be not be surprised by the blooming romance between two of the characters, but like the first one it is relatively tame and PG compared to the violence and death of the numerous assaults on the characters. In that respect their attention is appropriately focused on staying alive rather than developing a relationship, although there are some tender moments between the two. Nik and Ella’s back and forth rapport also brings some lighter moments to the gripping suspense of when they are going to die.  There is some drug use that might not be appropriate for younger readers, but all of the frequently used swear words have been censored out of both the written and audio versions. Overall, an excellent addition to the sci-fi series, and I’m eagerly anticipating the third and final book in the trilogy.

Wolf in the Snow

Each month for a previous job, I wrote a maximum 150 word review of a new book that came into the library during the month. I’ve expanded that idea to the blog in a feature I’m calling To the Point Tuesdays. If you want to play along, just post a link in the comments and I’ll add them to the post.

Wolf in the Snow.jpgTitle: Wolf in the Snow
Author/Illustrator: Matthew Cordell
ISBN: 9781250076366
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: A Feiwel and Friends Book, an Imprint of Macmillan, c2017.

Containing only sound effects like the howl of wolves and the crunch of snow, a girl walking home from school becomes lost. Finding an equally lost wolf cub, the two help each other reunite with their families. The technique used to create the wolves renders them beautifully sleek creatures, with feathered fur and a penetrating, solid gaze. In contrast, the humans are depicted less realistically, with large round eyes and dots of color on pale cheeks the only thing visible behind an over-sized, nondescript red coat. Comparisons to another little red hooded girl are inevitable. A fine book, although nothing groundbreaking. Save for a wintry day read or a fractured fairy tale story time.

The Pants Project

Pants Project.jpg

Title: The Pants Project
Author: Cat Clarke
ISBN: 9781492638094
Pages: 267 pages
Publisher/Date: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, an imprint of Sourcebooks, Inc. c2017.

Bankridge Middle School had a strict uniform policy, unlike nearly every other school I could have attended. […]
Sexist. Dumb. Unfair. Even the moms agreed with me. […]
“Girls must wear a black, pleated, knee-length skirt.”
I bet I read those words a hundred times during summer vacation. I stared at the computer screen, willing them to morph into something sensible.
The problem wasn’t the last word in that sentence. Skirt wasn’t really the issue, not for me. The issue was the first word. Girls.
Here’s the thing:
I may seem like a girl, but on the inside, I’m a boy. (6-7)

A point of clarification seems necessary, because the only time that Liv is identified with the “he” pronoun is on the book jacket summary, since throughout the book most people are uninformed of Liv’s transgender status and it’s told in a first person perspective. I’m going to try to honor what is obviously the author’s choice to have Liv use “he” pronouns.

Olivia “Liv” Spark is starting middle school with best friend Maisie, but Liv already feels out of place. The dress code requires girls to wear a skirt and boys to wear pants, but while Liv might have been born a girl and looks like a girl, Liv definitely feels like a boy. Nobody knows though, and it’s hard enough to be the new girl in school, much less the outcast that the class bullies Jade and Chelsea are routinely ridiculing about everything, including the too short haircut, lesbian parents, and attempts at making the skirt more bearable. Liv knows that this rule needs to change, and isn’t afraid to start that fight, even if it costs friendships.

This impressed me as a very well written novel. It allowed for some thought-provoking reflection and relayed Liv’s plight with sensitivity but without becoming didactic and was age appropriate in it’s portrayal of a transgender person. Refreshingly unromantic in nature, Liv makes friends with both guys and girls by the end of the book and his struggle to find himself runs parallel with efforts to change the dress code. He’s a nuanced character, with one action at his previous school hanging over his head, making him fearful that he’s been pegged for life with labels (that have nothing to do with his gender) that don’t match how he sees himself. The bullies actions are accurately portrayed both for their spite and pettiness, and the adults are clueless about the behavior, with Liv being reluctant to reveal the specifics because he knows their ability to stop the bullying is limited. The solution to this problem is idealistic at best, but nevertheless resolves the issue.

Liv shows several different ways of activism, including petitions and protests that could serve as a primer for young activists, but his efforts are not always successful. The principal’s initial refusal to hear Liv out seems intended only to drag out the plot, but his exasperation at Liv’s insistence is realistic to an overtaxed and ambitious adult who doesn’t see the priority in Liv’s problem. Liv’s overworked mothers are much more sympathetic to Liv’s feelings, but they are also willing to step back and let Liv work out his own problems and follow his lead. Engaged parents who listen to their children? What a novel idea that isn’t showcased often enough in books! Liv’s confusion about how he feels about them also provides a side of the family that most books don’t show, where children love their family but also want to protect them and themselves from scrutiny.

Highly recommended for collections and children and families seeking this sort of representation.

Give & Take

Give and Take.jpgTitle: Give & Take
Author/Illustrator: Lucie Felix
ISBN: 978063690113
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: Candlewick Studio, an imprint of Candlewick Press, c2015. (First published in France)

To play with this book, press out the shape on the right-hand side. You will find a new place for it on the next page. Keep going all the way to the end to find the red ball again.

This little gem of a board book would be best suited for home use or story time use, as I fear the punch outs would quickly get lost in circulation. Ingeniously designed using sturdy card stock, the instructions at the beginning give the whole point away. Punch out pieces of brightly colored shapes accompany the brief narration suggesting action to the children. “Break” a red square into two triangles that are used to “Build” the roofs for houses on the accompanying page. The last page encourages readers to read the book backwards in order to reset for future perusal. Although I do wonder how well it would hold up to repeated reads, they seem to solidly snap in after a few uses. All but one of the punch outs are symmetrical, with the odd one requiring children to flip it over in order to get it to fit on the accompanying page. Shapes are colored differently on each side, and a limited palette of color (red, yellow, green, black, white, and blue) with solid backgrounds is easy on the eyes and allows for automatic recognition of where the piece should go. An introduction to problem solving, lift the flap books, and puzzles that is appropriate for little hands and growing minds. Please buy this for fans of Herve Tullet who wanted more or who have younger siblings.

I do believe this is the first Board Book to be reviewed on this blog. First time for everything!

Knit Together

Each month for a previous job, I wrote a maximum 150 word review of a new book that came into the library during the month. I’ve expanded that idea to the blog in a feature I’m calling To the Point Tuesdays. If you want to play along, just post a link in the comments and I’ll add them to the post.
Knit Together.jpgTitle: Knit Together
Author/Illustrator: Angela Dominguez
ISBN: 9780803740990
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: Dial Books for Young Readers, published b the Penguin Group, c2015.

The unnamed narrator likes to draw and admires her (single?) mother’s fiber arts creations. After trying her own hand at knitting and failing, they collaborate on a creation they can both use. It’s disappointing that she doesn’t ultimately learn how to knit, but it’s also refreshing in a way that a picture book allows the main character to quit trying at something they are unsuccessful. It doesn’t always work that try try again will eventually yield results. It’s a sweet story well-themed for Mother’s Day sharing with bright illustrations.

Homesick for Another World

Each month for a previous job, I wrote a maximum 150 word review of a new book that came into the library during the month. I’ve expanded that idea to the blog in a feature I’m calling To the Point Tuesdays. If you want to play along, just post a link in the comments and I’ll add them to the post.
Homesick for Another World.jpgTitle: Homesick for Another World
Author: Ottessa Moshfegh
ISBN: 9780399562884
Pages: 294 pages
Publisher/Date: Penguin Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC, c2017.

A collection of short stories that all emphasize the desperate, the desolate, the depraved, and the depressed nature of people as they question and search for connections in their restricted social spheres. A older man attempts to seduce a much younger neighbor during her separation. Another guy tries to seduce his neighbor’s wife into having an affair. A third guy suspects his dead wife of cheating on him during their last vacation together. A struggling actor runs away from home in search of his big break. Two musicians get locked in a practice room. It’s difficult to describe these characters sufficiently in a short blog post. All of them though seem to be seeking validation from others of their worth and existence. Honestly it was a depressing read, and not one I expected or want to repeat.

A Greyhound A Groundhog

Each month for a previous job, I wrote a maximum 150 word review of a new book that came into the library during the month. I’ve expanded that idea to the blog in a feature I’m calling To the Point Tuesdays. If you want to play along, just post a link in the comments and I’ll add them to the post.

Greyhound A Groundhog.jpgTitle: A Greyhound A Groundhog
Author: Emily Jenkins
Illustrator: Chris Appelhans
ISBN: 9780553498066
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: Schwartz & Wade Books, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, c2017.

A hound.
A round hound.
A greyhound.
A hog.
A round hog.
A groundhog. (unpaged)

Wordplay is the name of the game in this simply told tongue twister of a story featuring the titular characters romping through a field together and ultimately startling butterflies into the air. Appelhans’ watercolor and pencil illustrations feature minimalist backgrounds that contribute to the charm, with the round beady eyes staring at you from the pages and capturing your attention as the brindled hog and Merle dog enjoy the simple things in life. Made for sharing on a clear spring day, it’s begging to be followed by finding your own dog (or hog) for romping recreation, and a satisfied collapse in a heap, just like the characters.

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