Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Page

Amy, from Kansas, ends up in Oz. Yes – that Oz. Oh, and Dorothy is still there; it seems Kansas didn’t live up to the magic of Oz, so Dorothy came back. But Dorothy hasn’t been good for Oz, at all. The Order of the Wicked wants Amy to kill Dorothy, so things will go back to normal.   Wow – what a spin.  There are 15 original Oz stories by L. Frank Baum. Some of the characters in Dorothy Must Die are in those original stories. It’s not necessary to know them but it makes for fun Easter egg moments if you recognize the names.  I’ve had a couple of students read this and the biggest complaint is they have to wait for a sequel. I agree it is definitely a cliff hanger ending. The next one comes out later this year, The Wicked Will Rise, and there are two novellas to tide you over until then.  No Place like Oz and The Witch Must Burn (click on the titles to go to Amazon links)

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Noggin by John Corey Whaley

Noggin is this year’s Fault in Our Stars for me, a touching, poignant cancer story with a twist. You have to suspend belief to believe that Travis’ head could be successfully transplanted onto someone else’s body but that gimmick is an amazing way to look at how we deal with grief and growing up. Travis has such funny descriptions of other people. I’d have liked him as a friend.

A couple of my favorite quotes: 

“And I definitely wasn’t going to go flashing my scar around like some cryogenic gigolo.” (p. 174)

          “Hey Travis? I don’t think it really matters if you know how to exist.”
          “What do you mean?”
          “I don’t think any of us do.”
          “Then what are we doing?”
          “I don’t know. We’re just meandering." (p. 312)

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Killer Instinct by Jennifer Barnes

The Naturals, five teenagers who are profilers living in a house paid for by the FBI, are targeted again in the second installment of this mystery series. Some suspension of belief is required to buy into the idea that the FBI would be willing to listen to 17-year-olds, but I happily did that again and floated along trying to figure out who the killer was. I actually did suspect the right one, not something I do often. So, either I’m getting better, or it was obvious. Let’s go with I’m getting better! I’ll keep reading these. I want to know more about our lead characters, Cassie, Dean, Lia, Sloane, and Michael.

There were references to the first book, The Naturals, (click to read my review) that would make more sense if you’d already read it but, I feel like this could stand alone; if the reader wasn’t interested in the love triangle that is carried over from the first installment – it has much more support in the first book so it might seem a bit slim on details for a new reader. 

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer

Jam’s attendance at The Wooden Barn School for “fragile” people is a last resort for her parents. They want their daughter back. Grief and depression have taken over her life. In Special Topics English class she receives a red leather journal that transports her to a world where she can be happy. She also meets and becomes friends with the four other class members, who each have their own “happy places” in the red journals. Along the way the back stories of each student are revealed, what brought them to The Wooden Barn, and rendered them so fragile.
As a former English teacher, I must say I had an emotional reaction to the characters engagement with the literature they were reading. (It took me to my own “happy place.”) Journal writing is a great way to work out the mess in our heads. Jam says “Everyone is paying close attention…. We’re talking about the novel right? But maybe we’re not. We’re talking about ourselves. And I guess that’s what can start to happen when you talk about a good book.” (loc 563)  Jam and her new friends grow and learn to deal with life as the semester goes on in a gratifying way. I thought I had the tragedies all figured out about halfway through, but I’m glad to say I really didn’t. I know better than to trust an unreliable narrator, but was swept along anyway.