Thursday, August 4, 2011

Book Bites: Keeping Reviews Short and Sweet

I can read fast, especially given extra chunks of free reading time.  However, I do not blog fast. I am still learning how to write up reviews and posts well and within a personal timeline; completing my master's degree in a year did not help matters.  This summer when my homework reading load was down but my work hours were up, I found that I could get back into my more normal pattern of reading at least one to three or more books a week (depending on the book's length and level of interest).  But I could not seem to make my blogging keep up with my reading.  

I thought of the one-minute book talk assignment I had done earlier this year in my children's resources class: could I do the same thing in a blog post and cover a few books all at once? Around the same time that this idea occurred to me, I noticed that the fabulous blogger and librarian GreenBeanTeenQueen had begun doing something similar, calling them 'Flash Reviews.'  So I was inspired by these two ideas to come up with my own new occasional blog feature: Book Bites.  Here's the first edition, a general hodgepodge of titles I read over the past few months.

Rapunzel's RevengeCalamity JackRapunzel's Revenge and Calamity Jack 
by Shannon and Dean Hale, illustrated by Nathan Hale 5/5 STARS

What happens when you combine a feisty heroine with super-powered hair and attitude, a well-meaning trickster, a classically cruel villain, and a magically enhanced Wild West? A rollicking and absolutely delightful adventure, that's what! I love fairytale reboots and this pair of companion graphic novels are now two of my all time favorites.  Shannon and Dean Hale create a fantastical world full of magic and adventure, brought to life by Nathan Hale's bright, active, and elegant illustrations.  Rapunzel and Jack are wonderful characters and I was thrilled to follow them on their personal quests for justice.

Suite Scarlett  Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson
  4/5 STARS

Scarlett Martin's life sounds like quirky but popular movie: she grew up in the Hopewell Hotel in the center of NYC with her parents and three siblings, Spencer, Lola, and Marlene.  But so far, the summer of her fifteenth birthday is looking to be far from cinematic: the hotel is falling apart--and so are the Martins.  Between her siblings' problems, a bizarre new guest, and a gorgeous young actor, Scarlett's summer suddenly turns into a wild adventure full of enough drama, subterfuge, and romance to fill several Broadway plays. And like Scarlett, I was thrilled go along for the ride! A classic Maureen Johnson adventure: quirky and madcap with well-drawn characters and delightfully witty writing.     

My Invented Life My Invented Life by Lauren Bjorkman   
3.5/5 STARS

Sisters Eva and Roz have always been in competition but they have also always been incredibly close.  But out of nowhere, Eva cuts Roz out of her life and Roz cannot figure out why. So Roz, for whom all the world is truly a stage, is determined to discover the secrets her sister is keeping from her with a dramatic plot worthy of the Bard himself.  Bjorkman's debut novel takes its inspiration from Shakespeare's 'As You Like It,' one of my favorite plays, and it takes the vitality of that story and applies it to the twenty-first century's diverse world of love.  I'm always looking for novels that present a more flexible and fluid picture of sexuality and this one does so wonderfully.
How To Say Goodbye In Robot How to Say Goodbye in Robot by Natalie Standiford
 4.5/5 STARS

Bea AKA Robot Girl meets Jonah AKA Ghost Boy through the public school system's obsession with alphabetic order.  Despite Jonah's resistance, the two form a unique and deep friendship based on a shared affinity for late-night radio shows and an overwhelming sense of alienation.  As they alternatively heal and push each other away, Bea and Jonah develop a relationship that isn't quite a romance but is definitely full of love.  This story of the deep connection between two people searching for meaning in a confusing world is as lovely and quirky as its excellently drawn characters.  A beautiful book about the complex world of an intense, true friendship.       

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