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Review: Coraline by Neil Gaiman

in a sentence or so: Coraline discovers a very mysterious room that leads to a very mysterious place that so closely resembles her home that she is almost fooled into staying there forever. almost...

Coraline loves to explore. she is quite good at exploring too. she loves to explore in the flat where she lives with her mom and dad, chat with her neighbors (the former actresses) and she's unsure about the man upstairs who claims to have a mouse circus in the making. busy parents and long days leave Coraline feeling bored, and that is when she discovers a door that leads to her other mother - who isn't quite what she seems...

i was inspired to read this book due to the movie that just came out, and due to the recognition that Gaiman has been getting for The Graveyard Book. i wasn't sure what to expect or what the story would be like. for those of you who are like me - i'll tell you. expect creepy, crawly, creative, spooky, thoughtful, and courage. the story is honestly scary at times - mostly because Gaiman crafts such a vivid mental image of the other world and things that happen are downright freakish.

something i adore about fantasy/fiction for young adolescents/upper elementary is the simple acceptance of the unknown. little time is spent rationalizing what happens, much time is spent with the "what to do now". Coraline's perception of the events balanced the outrageous with thoughtful problem-solving. she is determined and sweet, making her someone that the reader roots for immediately.

this book was a fun, scary, and spooky adventure. there is some serious depth to what happens to Coraline and the people she meets. Coraline's character, combined with the powerful imagery, made this book such a good and worthwhile read for me.

fave quote: "'She wants something to love, I think' said the cat. 'Something that isn't her. She might want something to eat as well. It's hard to tell with creatures like that.'" (78)

fix er up: there are a couple nit-picks that i wish were different, but they are a bit spoilerish so i won't post them. mostly how the story wraps up...there were some things i considered to be loose ends that i wish had been tied up.

title: Coraline
author: Neil Gaiman
genre: Drama, Horror, Fiction

Review: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

in a sentence or so: thoughtful. devastating. hopeful. emotional. exhausting. overwhelming. poetic. lasting.

Liesel Meminger is growing up in Germany in 1940. her dad was taken away, and while going to meet her new foster family, her brother dies. just starts coughing, and then dies. while attending his quasi-funeral with her mom, she discovers a book the gravedigger left behind. thus begins her life as a book thief, and thus begins our journey with Liesel Meminger - with Death as our narrator.

yes, you read that correctly, this book is narrated by Death. and he (i'm making the assumption death is male, sorry) is a pretty good narrator actually. we get the 3rd person omniscient narration which is perfect for these characters (knowing what they think and why) and helps to weave a captivating story. we start with Liesel moving to Molching, Germany to live with her foster family, continue with her as she grows up as a Hitler Youth, watch her learn to love her new family, makes friends, steals books, and become wise to the ways of the world. and let's be honest, learning how the world works in 1940's Germany is no easy feat...lots of contradiction and confusion there.

i don't want to reveal the plot, so i won't. what i will reveal is that this book is exhausting. the characters are painted so vividly and genuine that i felt like i really knew them and was super invested in learning what happened to them. Death has this thing with colors too, which helps to create beautiful images in the mind of the reader. and since there are no "feel-good" books about Germany in the 1940s, i'm sure you can gather what the backdrop of the book is about. but it is so much more than World War II in this novel...and yet it all fits so well within that framework. seriously, the word use and imagery in this book alone blew my mind - simply amazing - and then it has a fantastic plot and totally memorable characters to boot.

at over 500 pages, this was no quick read. in fact as i said before, it's downright exhausting. i was emotionally spent when i finished, but felt better for having read it. the emotions and characters and plot and development and all of it just grab your heart and squeeze until you don't think there's anything left there to squeeze...and then gently hands it back to you. while i know this is fiction, i will remember the characters of this book and will be inspired by who they represent - because the reality is that somewhere out there, Liesel Meminger did exist in some way, shape, or form...and THAT is why this book is emotionally exhausting.

fave quotes: "Somewhere in all the snow, she could see her broken heart, in two pieces. Each half was glowing, and beating under all that white. She realized her mother had come back for her only when she felt the boniness of a hand on her shoulder. She was being dragged away. A warm scream filled her throat." (24)

"***A DEFINITION NOT FOUND IN THE DICTIONARY*** Not leaving: an act of trust and love, often deciphered by children." (37)

fix er up: the cover. did not like that at all - even after i found out what it meant, i thought there were a million other images that would have worked better. yep - that's my criticism...the cover.

Title: The Book Thief
Author: Markus Zusak
Genre: Coming of Age, Historical Fiction, Printz Honor Winner

Review: Graceling by Kristin Cashore

in a sentence or so: Katsa is Graced with killing. meaning, she's virtually indestructible and capable of just about anything. while she's on a secret mission she discovers a man who is Graced with fighting and, through some unforeseen and very unfortunate circumstances, will be her companion to stop a wicked king of unthinkable acts.

everyone born with a Grace (noted by two different colored eyes) are sent to their king. the king then decides what to do with them - keep them for his service, or send them to live in their villages and freak people out for the rest of their lives. and king Randa just could not pass up having an advantage like his niece Katsa in his court. with the ability to inflict immense pain to those who defy Randa, she proved an amazing asset. obviously, she hated being used like a wild animal in this way and started doing things her way. when Katsa is rescuing a kidnapped noble, she discovers the reasoning behind the actions and gets to know the people she meets along the way which permanently alter the way she sees the world, her Grace, and her purpose in life.

okay, so i had heard tons of buzz about this book on the ya lit circuit - both by bloggers and by the recognition it received from official channels. and i can confirm that it was all worth it. the characters are complex and thoughtful, while the plot is constantly twisting and creative. the landscapes are so vivid and there is a sense of plausibility to the whole story, which i personally find very refreshing in fantasy books. it's kinda like a 'coming-of-age' in a way, because of Katsa's realization about who she is, what she does, and why she does it. i don't want to geek out too much, because the mystery behind what happens is part of what makes this such a great book.

i am blown away that this was the first book by Cashore. she wrote with confidence and respect for her readers. and i LOVED that the opening segment of the book was in the midst of action, not a long drawn out explanation of what Grace's are, who Katsa is, etc... you find out along the way - which keeps the pacing exciting and fun. also, there is a map in the front. i LOVE maps in books.

at times heavy, at times funny, at times romantic, always exciting and adventurous and clever, Graceling was quite a journey and one that is well worth the read!

fave quotes: "She practiced every day. She learned her own speed and her own explosive force. She learned the angle, position, and intensity of a killing blow versus a maiming blow. She learned how to disarm a man and how to break his leg, and how to twist his arm so severely that he would stop struggling and beg for release. She learned to fight with a sword and with knives and daggers. She was so fast and focused, so creative, she could find a way to beat a man senseless with both arms tied to her sides. Such was her Grace." (11)
"Who were they, to take her fight away from her and turn it into some sort of understanding between themselves? He should've taken more care of her face? She would knock his nose from his face. She would thump them both, and she would apologize to neither." (90)

fix er up: coming in just shy of 500 pages, the book is a bit of a beast. but trust me, it's well worth it! it seemed intimidating at first, and then utterly un-put-downable after page 1.

title: Graceling
author: Kristin Cashore
genre: Fantasy, Adventure, Lisa's Faves