Tag Archives: recommendations

Birthmarked #3: Promised, by Caragh O’Brien

Promised (Birthmarked, #3)Promised by Caragh M. O’Brien
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After waiting for a year for this to come out, I eagerly reread “Prized” and dove right into “Promised.” I liked it, but I hyped it too much in my mind. The first two books in the trilogy were SO GOOD. The sequel was better than the first…Yet, the third installment did not live up to my expectations.

Certainly, there were surprises and twists–and O’Brien is amazing with her irony…but, I just feel…emotionally let down.

I can’t say there wasn’t a satisfying resolution–because there was. I can’t say that thinks were tied up too neatly, because they weren’t. Characters die that you are close to…perhaps, I am sad for the characters? Perhaps, I wanted something as unique as “Prized”? I don’t know exactly.

There are many issues that hit home and hit hard: artificial insemination, adoption, genetics, abortion, class differences, motherhood and feminist ideology…And the group of rebels is seeks justice and reformation, not just an overthrow. There is a lot of awesomeness: great themes, excellent characterizations, emotional development and great story arc.

It is missing something that the previous two books had, which I think is its freshness in the world of YA dystopias. Either way, it is a great read!

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Maurice Sendak: 3 Picturebooks

Bumble-ArdyBumble-Ardy by Maurice Sendak

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Layers of awesomeness that push the genre of picturebooks. Children will enjoy the rhymes and the distinctive Sendak illustrations. Adults will enjoy the innuendo. A great final send-off by the single greatest picturebook author/illustrator who ever lived.

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In the Night KitchenIn the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A recent re-reading to my storytime group: this book is amazing. It demonstrates childhood imagination, adult colonization on children’s imagination and still harkens to historical picturebook art history.

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Where the Wild Things AreWhere the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I also read this to my storytime group today. Seriously, this must be the single greatest picturebook of all time. The layers of meaning, of implication, of suggestion are just so dense, so deep and yet so simple that this book appeals to EVERYONE. The three year olds love it (especially gnashing teeth and EAT YOU UP!), the parents love it, the children’s lit scholars love it (the perfectly balanced word to illustration ratio expanding as Max travels to the Wild Things, three full page spreads that bleed off the page and then the same opposing ratio to the final page “it was still hot” with only words gives me shivers). It has been analyzed to death, but it cannot be loved to death.

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Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar ChildrenMiss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was an awesome book. Unexpected, a little bit creepy, but impossible to put down. The photographs inspired a fantastic story that stays with me weeks later. I can’t recommend it highly enough. Definitely one of the best books I have read in recent memory.

After the strange death of Jacob’s grandfather, Jacob visits a small British island where his grandfather sought refuge as a child after his parents were killed in the Holocaust. Here Jacob searches for clues to his grandfather’s past that he hopes will help him recover from his grief.

This novel offers the unexpected constantly; it is peculiar, and mysterious, slightly creepy and yet heart-warming. You should probably read it.

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Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick

WonderstruckWonderstruck by Brian Selznick
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

From the man who brought us the Caldecott-Medal-winning novel Hugo Cabret (incidentially which translated wonderfully to the big screen), this graphic novel about deaf culture crosses two generations; one story told first in pictures and one told in words. The two characters become intertwined into a beautifully crafted story of illustrations and words that emphasizes family, acceptance and how one grows and changes over a lifetime.

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Prized by Caragh M. O’Brien

Prized (Birthmarked, #2)Prized by Caragh M. O’Brien

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Gaia continues to the Dead Forest to discover that there is civilization outside of the Enclave. Here she discovers information about her family, especially her grandmother and her role in this community. But every community has its problems and Slyum is no exception.

I really enjoyed Birthmarked, but, I loved Prized. It is a rare occurrence that a sequel is better than its initial in a trilogy, but Prized exceeds the standards O’Brien set in her first novel in this trilogy.

This book is exceptionally well-written, with exceptional character development. Gaia’s character evolves further in this novel, suggesting that Birthmarked was only a small glimpse into Gaia’s personality and strength. This dystopia sets up a promising conclusion to the trilogy that will combine the first and the second.

I really cannot say enough about how excellent this book is. So many dystopias miss an aspect–perhaps pushing the society, or a love triangle, but falling flat in some other aspect. While there was a “love square”, O’Brien handled the romantic intrigue with great care so that it did not feel forced or as if Gaia’s decisions and personality relied on the inclusion of a a boyfriend in order to complete her as a person.

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Crossed (Matched, #2)Crossed by Ally Condie

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Crossed picks up where Matched leaves off…There is alternating first person perspective between Cassie and Ky which allows for a deeper characterization of both characters. While I like the ambiguity surrounding the Enemy vs. Society with the added tension of the Rising, I hope that Condie has enough stamina to continue revelations into the third book. I enjoyed the back story and addition of new characters; I also enjoyed the suggestion that the Society is doing something even more secretive and deceptive than originally expected. Is the Enemy a fabrication of the Society? Is the Rising? These questions are interesting enough for me to continue into the third book when it is released. However, while there is more action in Crossed than in Matched, I found myself annoyed with all-too-YA-common-themes. I am truly sick of love triangles. I don’t care what they represent, I have had enough with them. I was also distracted by numerous typos in my print copy. Overall, I liked it, but think it could have used another couple months of revisions and editing.

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See my review of the first in the series, Matched, here.

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Nancy Lamb’s The Writer’s Guide to Crafting Stories for Children

Writer's Guide to Crafting Stories for Children (Write for Kids Library)Writer’s Guide to Crafting Stories for Children by Nancy Lamb
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Nancy Lamb’s The Writer’s Guide to Crafting Stories for Children provided me with some great insights and tips. She suggests writing in a journal–unrelated to your current project–to keep track of ideas and memories that might be useful for recreating authenticity later. I really like this idea and have taken to carrying a journal with me just to write down things as they come to me or to note something that has happened. Writing a full “dear diary” entry never works for me, but always having that paper and nice pen with me definitely helps.

Lamb also suggests (among other ideas) creating a charted horizontal diagram to visualize the structure, plots and characters in the story. As a notorious color-coder (you should see my Google Calendar), this idea is amazing to me. Color-coding characters, plots, and subplots and tracking them by chapter would not only be helpful in seeing inconsistencies and structural gaps, it would be such a project to create that the immersion would help editing, too!

Throughout the book, Lamb offers various rules and suggestions. I took away several rules that seemed most appropriate or brilliant to me. Lamb’s endings rule states “you must always play out your ending onstage” (86)—with which I completely agree. I know as a reader I feel cheated when in the last pages the story is advanced ten years and everything is tied up in a neat little bow (cough-Jenna Fox-cough). This is something that I am going to actively attempt to do in my own writing—whenever it is that I actually get to an ending.

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