Saturday, 20 June 2009

Extras by Scott Westerfeld

It's a few years after rebel Tally Youngblood took down the uglies/pretties/specials regime. Without those strict roles and rules, the world is in a complete cultural renaissance. "Tech-heads" flaunt their latest gadgets, "kickers" spread gossip and trends, and "surge monkeys" are hooked on extreme plastic surgery. And it's all monitored on a bazillion different cameras. The world is like a gigantic game of American Idol. Whoever is getting the most buzz gets the most votes. Popularity rules.

As if being fifteen doesn't suck enough, Aya Fuse's rank of 451,369 is so low, she's a total nobody. An extra. But Aya doesn't care; she just wants to lie low with her drone, Moggle. And maybe kick a good story for herself.

Then Aya meets a clique of girls who pull crazy tricks, yet are deeply secretive of it. Aya wants desperately to kick their story, to show everyone how intensely cool the Sly Girls are. But doing so would propel her out of extra-land and into the world of fame, celebrity...and extreme danger. A world she's not prepared for.

I really enjoyed the Uglies trilogy so I thought I'd read the fourth book in the series (fourth book in a trilogy???). In fact, it placed 8th on the Teens' Top Ten list last year so a lot of people read and enjoyed it.

It took me almost two months to read this book. That pretty much sums it up. It was okay and if I had read it right after I read the first three books I suppose I might have enjoyed it more. However, it wasn't nearly as good as the other three and with so many other incredible books out there to read I would recommend you give this one a pass (unless, of course, you loved the Uglies series).

The story actually has an interesting premise. In one of the cities that grew out of the newfound freedom after the liberation of people following the Uglies trilogy, the people live in a world where the economy is based on fame. I liked the idea and it was the highlight of the book I guess. However, the interesting setting of the book doesn't make up for the relatively annoying main character and generally uninteresting storyline.

I give this one 3/5 stars (because I'm being generous and because other readers will probably enjoy it more than me).

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

What is Stephenie Meyer Reading?

Early in the year we noted that Stephenie Meyer was encouraging readers to get The Hunger Games. She was absolutely right about that pick. Hunger Games is an awesome read.

In her blog post on March 24th, she talked about her relief at finally getting the third book of the Mortal Instruments trilogy. Woohoo! I'm so glad to hear that. I've just started that trilogy with the first book City of Bones which I just picked up from Amazon. It will be available after the holiday. Farah in 5D has dibs first. Who wants it after her?

Meyer is also talking about a book called Percy Jackson and the Olympians in a post she made just last week. Hmmm. I'm thinking it should be in the Amazon August order.

Ahhhh, so many books, so little time.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

McCaughrean Books Available

I stopped at Icklebooks in Kiarong today and I'm happy to announce that they recently received a shipment of two Peter Pan in Scarlet hardcover books. The cost to own one of the most beautiful books ever printed is $23.90. I think I still have a couple of autographed book plates so if you buy one of those copies please let me know and we'll be sure to add an autograph to it.

The staff must have been shocked when the four copies that had been sitting on the shelf for a year suddenly all got snapped up in one week (after we read it in class and everyone was crazy about owning a copy).
If you are trying to figure out where Icklebooks is, you can always check the map on their website.
Also, when I was having a look around the reading room today, I noticed that we have another McCaughrean book called The Kite Rider. If you sign it out and read it, please let us know if it is good. Thanks.

Furthermore, I know we have a copy of McCaughrean's The White Darkness as well. I lent it to one of the girls in 5B before the last holiday (Asiyah?). Did it get read? Was it any good? This is another book that might interest the McCaughrean fans out there.

Monday, 8 June 2009

Shakespeare and His Dramatic Acts (Dead Famous) by Andrew Donkin

Amazon Product Description:
You've probably heard of William Shakespeare... He is dead famous for: - writing a few plays - having a bit of a way with words - creating characters like romantic Romeo and murderous Macbeth. But have you heard that William: - did a seven-year vanishing act - nearly had his head chopped off by the Queen - nicked an entire theatre? Yes, even though he's dead, William's still full of surprises. Now you can get the inside story with William's secret diary, find out the news of the day in the Shakespearean Sun and prepare to be amazed as the curtain is raised on Shakespeare's most dramatic acts. Dead Funny - Dead Gripping - Dead Famous

Well, I'm on a bit of a Shakespeare roll right now. We've been studying Much Ado About Nothing in lit class and I just went to a university lecture on Romeo and Juliet so I'm interested in anything that will give me some insight and any useful resources that I can pass to my students.

If you haven't read a Dead Famous book, you should. They are a lot of fun. This was my first in the series and I think I will probably pick up a few more. If the others are like this, I can say they are filled with interesting facts and funny cartoons. It takes history and makes it an enjoyable read. It is a quick 176 pages and you will enjoy most of it if you are interested in Will and the time in which he lived. I highly recommend it for anybody who is studying the plays.

BTW, I felt this book had the potential to get 4 or even 5 stars, but it got away from what it was doing well and created filler to make up quite a few pages. For example, I don't think the book needs a lot of the play summaries (especially the history plays) and it shouldn't have wasted so many pages on the authorship question. That said, the good stuff is great and well worth reading. With a little more effort, Donkin could have made this fabulous! Anyway, you are still going to enjoy it- especially if you are one of my lit students.

I'm going to give this book 3.5/5 stars.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Vampires vs. Werewolves in New York City

I thought that title might get your attention...

The next book I'm going to read is City of Bones by Cassandra Clare. Once again, it is from the Teen Top Ten List (it was #6) and it sounds very interesting. Here is the Amazon blurb.

Also, Publisher's Weekly has this to say about the story:

Clare's debut novel, first in the Mortal Instruments series, is a sprawling urban fantasy packed with just about every type of creature known to the genre, and still spacious enough to hold more. Fifteen-year-old Clary Fray witnesses a killing in an "all-ages club"; when she confronts the attackers, she learns that they are spectral Shadowhunters, charged with killing demonic creatures called Night Children. Clary returns home to find her apartment vandalized and her mother missing, apparently kidnapped by creatures in the service of someone named Valentine. An attack by a slithering beast sends Clary to the infirmary at the Institute, hidden home of the Shadowhunters. There she befriends the hunter Jace, who tells her of Valentine's intention to find the Mortal Cup, one of three Mortal Instruments the Angel gave to the first Shadowhunters (the others are a mirror and sword). Great secrets abound both in Clary's past and in her own head-secrets that are gradually revealed to her about her mother, her mother's eccentric friend Luke, her relationship with Jace and, eventually, about Valentine himself. Clare's atmospheric setting is spot-on, informed equally by neo-gothic horror films and the modern fantasy leanings of Neil Gaiman. Werewolves, vampires, angels and fairies all fit in this ambitious milieu. At the core, though, this is a compelling story about family secrets and coming-of-age identity crises. Fans of the smart/chic horror typified by Buffy the Vampire Slayer will instantly fall for this new series. Ages 14-up. (Apr.)

Shakespeare by Bill Bryson

Amazon Product Description:

William Shakespeare, the most celebrated poet in the English language, left behind nearly a million words of text, but his biography has long been a thicket of wild supposition arranged around scant facts. With a steady hand and his trademark wit, Bill Bryson sorts through this colorful muddle to reveal the man himself.

Bryson documents the efforts of earlier scholars, from today's most respected academics to eccentrics like Delia Bacon, an American who developed a firm but unsubstantiated conviction that her namesake, Francis Bacon, was the true author of Shakespeare's plays. Emulating the style of his famous travelogues, Bryson records episodes in his research, including a visit to a bunkerlike room in Washington, D.C., where the world's largest collection of First Folios is housed.

Bryson celebrates Shakespeare as a writer of unimaginable talent and enormous inventiveness, a coiner of phrases ("vanish into thin air," "foregone conclusion," "one fell swoop") that even today have common currency. His Shakespeare is like no one else's—the beneficiary of Bryson's genial nature, his engaging skepticism, and a gift for storytelling unrivaled in our time.

As you probably know, I love Shakespeare and I've also been reading a few Bill Bryson books. I guess that makes a book about Shakespeare by Bryson a complete no-brainer. In fact, I have ten books sitting on my desk just begging to be read and, you guessed it, this was my first choice.

There is just something about Bryson's style that is very relaxing and enjoyable to read. You just sit back and take it easy with one of his books and before you know it several hours have passed by and you've polished off the entire book.

Anyway, I really enjoyed this book. Bryson gives us a pretty good introduction to the study of Shakespeare. Actually, he spends a lot of time talking about what we don't know about Shakespeare, but that's okay. The various mysteries of Shakespeare's life are quite interesting in themselves.

My favourite part was Bryson's discussion of the common words that were introduced to the language by Shakespeare and I would have gladly read more about that topic as Bryson seems to have a very strong knowledge of the English language (which he explores in his other books). I also liked the final chapter which attempts to put to rest the authorship question. I, like Bryson, get a bit annoyed by people who suggest that Shakespeare did not write his plays. It's just nice to hear it in the common sense manner in which Bryson writes.

This book will appeal to Shakespeare students or enthusiasts and would be a good starting point for somebody planning to take a course in his work. It has also made me want to watch Shakespeare in Love again as Bryson mentions a lot of the people who lived at the time and many of them came to life as characters in the movie.

I believe that I saw a copy at Best Eastern at The Mall, so any of my lit students who are interested could check there if they like.

Also, I would like to tell you that I found several copies of Rome and Juliet (you of the best films ever made) at a movie shop in Kiulap - the one that is tucked away in the courtyard near Hua Ho. It's $6, but it is so worth it!

I'm giving the book 3.5/5 stars. I just felt like I wanted more. Bryson clipped this one to around 200 pages and I really wanted to hear him tell a few more stories and explore his ideas and opinions on more topics. For example, in one paragraph he asked the reader to imagine how it felt to be one of the people in the crowd watching Shakespeare live and even seeing him acting in the play. I would have enjoyed it if he explored that sort of imaginative idea a bit more.