Monday, October 22, 2012

Ella Minnow Pea

Ella Minnow Pea: A Novel in Letters by Mark Dunn
Publication Date: September 17, 2002
Publisher: September 17, 2002
Pages: 208
Keywords: letters, books, dystopia
Format read: paperback via PaperBackSwap
Get It: Book Depository
Ella Minnow Pea is a girl living happily on the fictional island of Nollop off the coast of South Carolina. Nollop was named after Nevin Nollop, author of the immortal phrase containing all the letters of the alphabet, "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog." Now Ella finds herself acting to save her friends, family, and fellow citizens from the encroaching totalitarianism of the island's Council, which has banned the use of certain letters of the alphabet as they fall from a memorial statue of Nevin Nollop. As the letters progressively drop from the statue, they also disappear from the novel.
One of my friends that I work with in the Publications office here at school told me about this novel, and I knew I had to read it. I received it a few weeks ago via PaperBackSwap and finished it over my fall break. I was very excited to read it for several reasons:
1. The sentence and author that the story revolves around? I'm learning about him and using his principles in my typography class this semester.
2. I love language. I love that this entire fictitious island revolved around letter-writing and the reverence of words and the ways they are used.
3. I was also extremely curious to see which letters would go first, and which ones the author was bold enough to eliminate fairly early on in the novel.

I was so pleased with the result. The first few letters did a wonderful job with setting the scene, introducing the characters that would play a big role, and letting the readers know a little bit about the world in which they live without being very obviously that. There were quite a few letters before a letter actually fell off the statue, so it wasn't too much to jump into. And there was a good amount of spacing between when each letter fell off. I also liked how the characters worked to try to solve the problem on their own.

Another interesting point about the book — the author didn't pretend that the US didn't exist, and I liked that. He acknowledged the fact that it was weird this society didn't really use modern technology, and the contiguous states didn't really understand that. There were brief insertions about how the States were trying to understand what was happening on Nollop, but at the same time, they couldn't figure out why it was so devastating to the society. There was also an outsider that attempted to help at some point, and he seemed extremely fascinating. I wish I could have seen him more, but as it's an epistolary novel, it's kind of hard to truly develop the characters.

That's really the only thing I wanted to change about this. I loved the letters, but this could have been such an interesting story had it been expanded as an actual novel with letters interspersed in the text. That would have given Dunn more room for developed characters and plot lines, and a much more in depth text of the events that occurred when the letters began falling off the statue.

Nonetheless, this was such a quaint little book that I dearly loved.

Read When: You're ready for a really uniquely written novel, and not just plots and characters, but how the novel is written. It's a delight.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Silent Land

The Silent Land by Graham Joyce
Publication Date: November 18, 2010
Publisher: Doubleday
Pages: 262
Keywords: afterlife, winter, mystery
Format Read: ARC from publisher in exchange for an honest review (thank you!)

In the French Alps around Chamonix, Jake and Zoe are on an early morning ski run when a flash avalanche charges down the mountain and buries them alive. Miraculously, they dig their way out — only to discover the world they knew has been overtaken by an eerie and absolute silence. Their hotel is devoid of another living soul. Cell phones and land lines are cut off. The sudden evacuation has left Jake and Zoe to face a terrifying situation alone, with another catastrophic avalanche looming high above the hotel, threatening to bury them again. And as they explore their new reality, the couple begins to witness unsettling events neither one can ignore — and they are forced to confront a frightening truth about the silent land they now inhabit. 

I loved this. Every moment of it. It was very odd, but still extremely captivating. When Jake and Zoe unbury themselves from the snow, everything is silent. Their hotel and its town is abandoned, and they attempt to make contact with anyone that may still be near. But strange things happen early on that give them hints that the world may be changed. Candles don't burn down, they don't seem to taste or remember from their past. They don't feel cold or warm, and everything is unnaturally still. All the time.  And they couldn't figure out what kind of world they were in. But the best part? Neither could I.

Every moment I wanted to find out what was going to happen. But it wasn't an exciting sort of suspenseful. It was the eerie spooky kind, like the kind before something jumps out at you in a haunted house. It was so quiet and so still that I was holding my breath because I was scared of the answer. And some bits broke my heart.

Now, the story did have a few flaws. It wasn't extremely well-written, and there were parts that I thought could have been explained a little better. For instance, the first half drove me mad with all its descriptors. I mean, there are only so many ways you can say "silent" and "snow." Then, you're done. As far as the unexplained things go, I know that the point of it was to keep both the characters and the readers confused and not sure why things happened and things appeared (it's really REALLY hard to describe this cohesively without messing it up for people), but at the same time, once I finished it, I was still confused about a few things that took place about midway through. I was really upset with the situation with Sadie, Jake's dog. The dog appeared about midway through the novel, and then disappeared again, only to reappear later. I'm not sure what happened there, but I didn't get the connection, even after I finished.

This was just a fascinating story, and I loved the outcomes it posed of the new world they ended up in. Jake and Zoe had such a dynamic relationship. It wasn't perfect nor too rocky, but the right amount of love with some fear mixed in. I just loved the way they interacted with one another.
It's also a great read for the season, since winter is approaching soon. I love reading books that match the actual season. It makes them seem more festive and appropriate. :)

Thursday, October 18, 2012

In My Mailbox: UPDATE

So here's the deal: It's hard to do posts like this when I'm at school because most books I get go to my house. And then I don't see them until Thanksgiving or Christmas when I haul an ungodly amount of books back to school to start the semester. HOWEVER:
I have been exploring this week, and on Sunday, I drove to Newburgh, IN. (I'm in Evansville going to school, for those of you that don't know) Newburgh is this cute little historic town on the Ohio river (nothing too new, I'm from Louisville, so no biggie) but there's this adorable little used book store called The Book Nook. So I decided I was going to go explore a bit on my own. So I got stuff there. On the way back, I stopped at Barnes & Noble with a gift card I got from my baby brother (who is in COLLEGE this year! eeeshk!), where I acquired J.K. Rowling's new book. I am VERY excited to read it. Then, yesterday, a used book sale happened at school. Resulting in this. NINETEEN BOOKS. I am a very happy, albeit very poor, girl. Let me recap:

In the mail for review/from PaperBackSwap:
1. Girl Reading by Kate Ward
2. Grace Grows by Shelle Summers
3. Pitch Perfect: The Quest for Collegiate A Cappella Glory by Mickey Rapkin

From Barnes & Noble:
4. The Weed that Strings the Hangman's Bag by Alan Bradley
5. The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling
6. The Sherlockian by Graham Moore

From the Book Nook:
7. Plunder of the Sun by David Dodge
8. Of Bees and Mist by Erick Setiawan
9. Princess Vic by James Brough
10. Persuasion by Jane Austen

From the book sale:
11. The Yellow Room by Mary Roberts Rinehart
12. Still Alice by Lisa Genova
13. Girl With Curious Hair by David Foster Wallace
14. A Million Little Pieces by James Frey
15. Blue Shoe by Anne Lamott
16. Coiled in the Heart by Scott Elliott
17. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See
18. Obedience by Will Lavender
19. The Impressionist by Hari Kunzru

That's SO MANY books! Did I mention a few months ago I also got The Age of Miracles in the mail? I am so lucky! Anyway, trying to keep up on reading all of these on top of my literature classes. Slowly plowing my way through Uncle Tom's Cabin.

Notes from the Blender

Notes from the Blender by Trish Cook and Brendan Halpin
Publication Date: May 24, 2011
Publisher: Egmont USA
Pages: 240
Keywords: divorce, growing up, family
Format Read: ARC from publisher (thank you!)

Summary: Declan loves death metal--particularly from Finland. And video games--violent ones. And internet porn--any kind, really. He goes to school with Neilly Foster and spends most of his classroom time wondering what it might be like to know her, to talk to her, maybe even to graze against her sweater in the hallway. Neilly is an accomplished gymnast, naturally beautiful, and a constant presence at all the best parties (to which Declan is never invited). She's the queen of cool, the princess of poker face, and her rule is uncontested-- or it was until today, when she's dumped by her boyfriend, betrayed by her former BFF Lulu, and then informed she's getting a new brother--of the freaky fellow classmate variety. Declan's dad is marrying Neilly's mom. Soon. Which means they'll be moving in together.

I'll start off by saying that I think the summary is a little misleading. The story does not revolve around Declan's struggle with liking Neilly. It actually is a really interesting story, and it makes me sad that the summary seems to focus on only that. 

The book follows their journey to becoming good friends and discovering a little bit more about themselves along the way. I liked Declan, but I thought it was weird how much he talked about sex. I mean, obviously guys do. But we could just assume that, and I was a little tired of reading it every chapter. By the same stroke, Neilly was a stereotypical girl, and I got annoyed at her constant "What should I do?" and "OMG I HATE HER."

But aside from that, it was a pretty cute story. I really enjoyed the development between Neilly and her personal faith. She ended up attending this cute little unitarian church that Declan's aunt (I think?) was either a member of or preached at. It was the best part of the book, as that was where the characters were truest to themselves and they actually learned things. I liked that. 

Not a whole lot to say about the rest of it. Not a bad read if you've got nothing else to do. The title also earned an extra point by itself. I like the title.  

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Water Wars

The Water Wars by Cameron Stracher
Publication Date: January 1, 2011
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Pages: 240
Keywords: dystopia, rebellion, war
Format Read: Hardcover from publisher (thank you!)

Vera and her brother, Will, live in the shadow of the Great Panic, in a country that has collapsed from environmental catastrophe. Water is hoarded by governments, rivers are dammed, and clouds are sucked from the sky. But then Vera befriends Kai, who seems to have limitless access to fresh water. When Kai suddenly disappears, Vera and Will set off on a dangerous journey in search of him — pursued by pirates, a paramilitary group, and greedy corporations.

I was excited to read this. I heard it was reminiscent of the Hunger Games. Exciting, right? 

This was such a promising idea, I was so sad at its execution. It just wasn't... anything. There wasn't enough explanation at all of what was going on, or who was at war with whom, or why there was no water, or why people were being kept in clumps and why schools were so particular on what they taught. I wanted to know everything. And there was so much room to do that! This book was not very long at all. It could have been so good. 

I was also mad at why Vera was so attracted to Kai. At first, he is the boy who knows where to get fresh water. Then, all of the sudden, they kiss. THERE WAS NO MIDDLE GROUND. Now, I know lots of YA books have girls who fall in love at first sight. BUT THIS WAS NOT THERE. There was no explanation whatsoever that Vera was even remotely attracted to Kai. 

Overall, I was just confused. All the time. There were government corporations that did some stuff, and the kids fought, and some people died, and then some water was some places. But really, I am still confused on the plot and whether or not things actually happened. I don't think they did. I was just sad because this seemed like such a wonderful and interesting premise, but it just did not grab me. 

On a star rating, because I know some people like that: 2.5/5. Meh.

Blog Tour! Blind Spot by Laura Ellen

This post is brought to you by Laura Ellen's blog tour for her book "Blind Spot." 
You guys check out the trailer below!

She's also holding a contest over at her website, and the info is below! I'm super excited to read this, so you should be too!
What’s Your ‘Blind Spot’? Contest:
In Blind Spot, Roz has a visual impairment
that makes her feel insecure. As a result, she becomes so obsessed with proving she is 'normal' that she loses sight of everything else-- including
clues to a murder.
What's your blind spot? Was it getting on the cheer squad? Is it losing weight? Have you ever wanted something so bad that, like Roz, you lost or almost lost something or someone important to you?

Share it and you could win a signed hardcover of Blind Spot and the chance to have your 'blind spot' story posted on October 26th during Laura Ellen’s blog tour. Some of your favorite authors will be sharing their stories too!
To enter go to Laura Ellen’s website and fill out the contest form any time between October 2nd and midnight EST October 16, 2012