Friday, November 1, 2013

November 2013

Our November pick is....

In the tradition of Out of My Mind, Wonder, and Mockingbird, this is an intensely moving middle grade novel about being an outsider, coping with loss, and discovering the true meaning of family.  Willow Chance is a twelve-year-old genius, obsessed with nature and diagnosing medical conditions, who finds it comforting to count by 7s. It has never been easy for her to connect with anyone other than her adoptive parents, but that hasn’t kept her from leading a quietly happy life . . . until now. Suddenly Willow’s world is tragically changed when her parents both die in a car crash, leaving her alone in a baffling world. The triumph of this book is that it is not a tragedy. This extraordinarily odd, but extraordinarily endearing, girl manages to push through her grief. Her journey to find a fascinatingly diverse and fully believable surrogate family is a joy and a revelation to read.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

October 2013

Our October Pick is....

Each day brings hotter temperatures and heat bubbles that threaten to destroy the earth. Amid this global heating crisis, Piper lives under the oppressive rule of her mother, who suffocates her even more than the weather does. Everything changes on her eighteenth birthday, when her mother is called away on a mysterious errand and Piper seizes her first opportunity for freedom.

Piper discovers a universe she never knew existed—a sphere of gods and monsters—and realizes that her world is not the only one in crisis. While gods battle for control of the Underworld, Piper’s life spirals out of control as she struggles to find the answer to the secret that has been kept from her since birth.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

September 2013

Our September pick is....

It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line. Some riders live. Others die. At age nineteen, Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. He is a young man of few words, and if he has any fears, he keeps them buried deep, where no one else can see them. Puck Connolly is different. She never meant to ride in the Scorpio Races. But fate hasn’t given her much of a chance. So she enters the competition — the first girl ever to do so. She is in no way prepared for what is going to happen.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

August 2013

Our August pick is......

Liam MacGregor is cursed. Haunted by the wails of fantastical Bean Sidhes and labeled a demon by the villagers of Dòchas, Liam has accepted that things will never get better for him—until a wealthy heiress named Annabel Leighton arrives on the island and Liam’s fate is changed forever.

With Anna, Liam finally finds the happiness he has always been denied; but, the violent, mythical Otherworlders, who inhabit the island and the sea around it, have other plans. They make awager on the couple’s love, testing its strength through a series of cruel obstacles. But the tragedies draw Liam and Anna even closer. Frustrated, the creatures put the couple through one last trial—and this time it’s not only their love that’s in danger of being destroyed.

Monday, June 3, 2013

June/July 2013

Our June/July pick is.....

Shadow and Bone (The Grisha, #1)

The Shadow Fold, a swathe of impenetrable darkness, crawling with monsters that feast on human flesh, is slowly destroying the once-great nation of Ravka.  Alina, a pale, lonely orphan, discovers a unique power that thrusts her into the lavish world of the kingdom’s magical elite—the Grisha. Could she be the key to unravelling the dark fabric of the Shadow Fold and setting Ravka free?  The Darkling, a creature of seductive charm and terrifying power, leader of the Grisha. If Alina is to fulfill her destiny, she must discover how to unlock her gift and face up to her dangerous attraction to him.  But what of Mal, Alina’s childhood best friend? As Alina contemplates her dazzling new future, why can’t she ever quite forget him?

Saturday, June 1, 2013

May Selection Follow-Up

We had a small group this month since we met right after the Memorial Day holiday, so I decided to gather a few sentences from everyone as a summary of what they thought.

Birthmarked is one of my all-time favorite series.  I love the character development and teh world where water is a valiable commodity and used to create a sort of underclass.  I was immediately drawn in my the whole worl of teh midwives and some of the heartbreakingthings that they had to do.  Gaia is niave, but her bravery shines through!

Overall-interesting world but a flat and boring main character. The 'bad' guys didn't seem that evil but there is a lot of potential for the next two books.

I read through Birthmarked very quickly.  It was fast paced and kept my interest.  I was a little frustrated with Gaia's parents for keeping her in the dark (for no apparent reason).  As a mother, this was a hard read.  I couldn't imagine having to choose one of my twins.  I wished the author had added more decoding into the story line.  I really enjoyed that part of the book!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

May 2013

Our April pick is......

In the future, in a world baked dry by the harsh sun, there are those who live inside the walled Enclave and those, like sixteen-year-old Gaia Stone, who live outside. Following in her mother's footsteps Gaia has become a midwife, delivering babies in the world outside the wall and handing a quota over to be "advanced" into the privileged society of the Enclave. Gaia has always believed this is her duty, until the night her mother and father are arrested by the very people they so loyally serve. Now Gaia is forced to question everything she has been taught, but her choice is simple: enter the world of the Enclave to rescue her parents, or die trying.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

April Selection Follow-Up

The List

The List inspired a lot of discussion about body image, high school cliques, and how we see ourselves vs. how others see us.

Which one do you feel most sorry for? Admiring of? Dislike?

The character that seemed to touch everyone the most was Bridget, who seemed trapped in her simultaneous desire to be admired and get help for her disordered eating.

Danielle was a favorite of everyone because of her ability to bounce back from the name calling and break-up and the way that she ultimately decided to be ok with who she was. 

Jennifer was universally disliked, but when the question of empathy was posed, everyone agreed that she was also an object of pity.

What role did the teachers/adults have in the book?

The role of adults was the basis of a larger discussion about whether something like this could keep happening under the eye of adults at home and at school.  The teachers/principal in the book existed behind the wall of silence that was put up by the girls and while the principal may have thought she was making progress, as a reader we knew that there was no way anyone was going to give out any information. 

The parents of the girls ranged from smothering to completely out of touch.  Even the parents that seemed to be involved in the lives of their kids didn't really know what was happening.  Everyone agreed that there was a certain amount of realism in the way the teens in the book gave the impression of being ok even when everything was falling apart.

Which girl did you identify with the most?

A few identified with Danielle and the place she found on the swim team, but many people also saw a little bit of themselves in each girl on the list

When we discussed The Fault In Our Stars, a point was made that Hazel Grace could have been a boy and the story would have had the same structure and impact.  However, The List seems to be a book that really works within the world of the high school girl experience.  Reading this book made many people realize how much the worries about looks stay with you, even as an adult with a career. 

Additional Discussion Points
Why girls are always the victim of these types of lists
The difference between the way boys and girls value looks and reputation

Monday, April 1, 2013

April 2013

Our April pick is.....

The List

An intense look at the rules of high school attraction -- and the price that's paid for them.

It happens every year. A list is posted, and one girl from each grade is chosen as the prettiest, and another is chosen as the ugliest. Nobody knows who makes the list. It almost doesn't matter. The damage is done the minute it goes up.

This is the story of eight girls, freshman to senior, "pretty" and "ugly." And it's also the story of how we see ourselves, and how other people see us, and the tangled connection of the two.

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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

March Selection Follow-Up

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

There was a lot of great discussion about this book, which seems to have really captured everyone's attention.  I will write about the things we discussed that don't give spoilers, so if you haven't read the book, you should be safe.  (There may be some very minor spoilers.)

1. Why is this YA?
More than one member asked this question because, presumably, Julie and Maggie are past their teen years when most of the action takes place.  Perhaps it is the spirit of the book or the fact that it begins when they are teens.  It could also just be a marketing decision.

2. Did you see von Linden as being totally evil or was he a conflicted character?
Many people thought that his attempts to engage Julie in conversation were an attempt to humanize himself and perhaps make her feel more comfortable.  His actions at the end of the book certainly make it seem as though he felt conflicted.  Kathryn compared this situation to the episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation when Picard is taken prisoner by the Cardassians.  It just so happens that I have a clip to show you, so if you've read the book, you can see the parallels.


3. Maddie does not see herself as a heroic, although her actions are similar to another pilot who she does see as a hero.  Is Maddie a hero, too?
I think we all said yes, of course, but Mary made a good point when she said that "a real hero is humble".  Maddie doesn't see what she does as heroic because, to her, she was just too afraid to jump.  Staying in the plane was the only other choice.  Does that make her any less of a hero?  I think many people would say no. 

4. Maddie had to make a very difficult decision.  Did she do the right thing?
I think the answer to this was a unanimous YES.

When we began our meeting, I asked everyone if they found the beginning of the book to be "draggy".  Despite the fact that the slow build-up of the book is a criticism I see often for CNV, no one in the group had an issue with it.  I asked them if they had issues with the rather dense discussions about airplanes and military protocol. To paraphrase Mary, we are used to reading technical documents that we might not understand.  It's part of our job.   I don't disagree with that statement!

Some other discussion points:
The subtlety of the mentions of torture in this book.
The origins of the phrase "Kiss me, Hardy".
The class difference between Julie and Maddie.

Friday, March 1, 2013

March 2013

Our pick for March is....

Oct. 11th, 1943--A British spy plane crashes in Nazi-occupied France. Its pilot and passenger are best friends. One of the girls has a chance at survival. The other has lost the game before it's barely begun.
When "Verity" is arrested by the Gestapo, she's sure she doesn't stand a chance. As a secret agent captured in enemy territory, she's living a spy's worst nightmare. Her Nazi interrogators give her a simple choice: reveal her mission or face a grisly execution.  As she intricately weaves her confession, Verity uncovers her past, how she became friends with the pilot Maddie, and why she left Maddie in the wrecked fuselage of their plane. On each new scrap of paper, Verity battles for her life, confronting her views on courage, failure and her desperate hope to make it home. But will trading her secrets be enough to save her from the enemy?

Thursday, February 28, 2013

February Selection Follow-Up

Book club selection of The Fault In Our Stars by John Green 

We had an excellent turn-out this month and a new member!  Nothing brings people in like John Green, right?  Here are some of the things we talked about

Well, it was sad.  More than one person talked about sitting at the kitchen table and crying as they read.  A few of us also talked about how we related to Gus and Hazel's parents, as well.  One of everyone's favorite scene's was the kiss in the Anne Frank House, which had a lot of symbolism, yes, but was also just a great scene.  What better place to have a kiss? John was asked about this scene in a recent Twitter chat:

Q: The way you handled Anne Frank's house was really well done. But why did you choose to have that scene there? 

A: I wanted to reclaim that space and make it alive and full of love, as it once was.

There was a lot of discussion about Augustus verses Gus and the significance of which name he was called.  As it happens, this was addressed in the twitter chat last night.

Q: Why was hazel calling Augustus "Gus" so significant? 

A: Augustus is a name for emperors; Gus is a name for children. So the journey from Augustus to Gus is the journey from strength to weakness, which I would argue is the real hero's journey.

We weren't the only ones who wondered about whether it was hard to write from the perspective of a teen girl.  It seems that John had a lot of input from his wife and other female friends.  It's also interesting that one or two people didn't really view Hazel's gender as being significant.  

I don't think there were any complaints or comments on this front.   

This is the first book that everyone enjoyed!  I think we all recognized that enjoyment perhaps sounds strange with such sad subject matter, but considering how sad it was, everyone seemed to recognize that the humor paired with the honest story telling made it something special. 

As it happens, The Atlantic sponsored a Q&A Twitter chat with John Green about TFioS and it addressed some of the things we talked about.  If you'd like to read all of the questions and answers, go here.

Book Talk
Kathryn recommended Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs.  She claims to have made a Venn diagram related to the book.  (We want to see that diagram, Kathryn!)

Venom by Fiona Paul is being passed around the group and is getting a good response.  The sequel, Belladonna, will be released in July.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

February 2013

Our selection for February is....

Book club selection of The Fault In Our Stars by John Green

Diagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer at 13, Hazel was prepared to die until, at 14, a medical miracle shrunk the tumours in her lungs... for now.  Two years post-miracle, sixteen-year-old Hazel is post-everything else, too; post-high school, post-friends and post-normalcy. And even though she could live for a long time (whatever that means), Hazel lives tethered to an oxygen tank, the tumours tenuously kept at bay with a constant chemical assault.  Enter Augustus Waters. A match made at cancer kid support group, Augustus is gorgeous, in remission, and shockingly to her, interested in Hazel. Being with Augustus is both an unexpected destination and a long-needed journey, pushing Hazel to re-examine how sickness and health, life and death, will define her and the legacy that everyone leaves behind.

Don't forget to check the extra credit section for some additional reading!

December Book Selection Follow-Up

Book Club selection The Diviners by Libba Bray published by Little Brown

I think we all agreed that this book was spooky, if not downright scary in some parts!  The house that was "alive", the mysterious singing and whistling and, of course, Naughty John, were a few of the things that really gave people chills.  

Many people in the group were annoyed by Evie.  They felt that she made some really selfish and irresponsible choices, including what she did at the very end.  One member even asked if perhaps her parents sent her away because they just wanted a break from her.  We all agreed that she did show some growth by the end of the book.  The other characters (Memphis, Theta, et al) were everyone's favorites and in many cases, they were more interesting than Evie. 

This was much longer than the books we normally read and a few members mentioned that there was some repetition that could have been taken out to move the story along.  The switching of story lines (from Evie, to Memphis, to Theta) was enjoyed and gave a well rounded view of what was happening.

With the exception of one member, The Diviners got a thumbs up, overall.  The general consensus was that the myriad of unanswered questions was a set-up for book two, which some found frustrating.  There was some discussion about the pros and cons of cliffhangers vs. a more resolved ending.