Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Thief of Always

     The Thief of Always is written by Clive Barker.  It is another one of my favorite books.  February is a hard time for Harvey Swick.  He hates the snow, cold, dark, and endless drag of school.  Luckily Rictus saves Harvey from despair by whisking him off to Mr. Hood's Holiday House. 
     The Holiday House is incredible.  Every morning at breakfast a warm breeze blows in welcoming spring.  By afternoon, summer arrives, allowing basking in the treehouse reading comic books.  Dinnertime brings Halloween and a room full of all the clothes and masks you can imagine, from any time period in history.  Once the snow flies in, you find a present under the tree that is the exact replica of what you were thinking of earlier in the day.  It is the perfect world, until you try to leave. 
    Harvey is an amazing boy.  Through his goodness and intelligence, he faces the battle of his life and the lives of all the other children who have lived and died in this house. 
     The author's illustrations are as amazing as the story.  I often wish to escape to a place of magic and celebration; Harvey taught me it can be a curse to be given what I wish for today.

Saturday, October 16, 2010


      Everlost by Neil Shusterman is an awesome book!  It is one of my favorite books, and Neil Shusterman is one of my favorite authors.  I have enjoyed every one of his books. 
     I read Everlost last year, but I reread it this weekend so I could read the sequel.  I was hooked from chapter one.  I forgot how much I loved this book until I started reading it again.  The language and descriptions are fabulous and I immediately got lost in this world.
     Everlost is the in-between world of being alive and being in heaven.  For some reason, kids are the only ones that get lost on their way to the light.  When they awake nine months later, they find a coin in their pockets and a blurry world where the living continues around them.  The only places where the children are safe are the places where a death has occurred.  Standing too long in any other place causes the kids to slowly sink to the center of the Earth.  Nick, Allie, and Lief begin their journey through this strange world, trying to understand the new rules of survival.
      The book has a very original plot and multi-dimensional characters that remind me of real poeople.  You can enjoy the book on those merits, but subtly woven over the top of the story are philisophical questions about life and death.  What does it mean to be alive?  Can we make up for our past sins?  Is it better to hold on tight to the ones we love or is better to let them go?  This book made me question my own version of life.
     My favorite part was the fortune cookies.  Fortune cookies all cross over to Everlost and all the fortunes come true.  It was an interesting way to add foreshadowing to the book.
      I love this book on many levels and definitely recommend this book to anyone over twelve.        

Thursday, October 14, 2010

City of Bones

     One of my students suggested I read City of Bones by Cassandra Clare.  It seemed like a perfect book for me because it is the story of God's angels (Shadow Hunters) fighting the fallen angels (demons) to protect humans.  Fifteen-year-old Clary finds herself in the middle of the battle after her mother is killed by a demon.  Clary moves in with the shadow hunters for protection and discovers she is not an ordinary girl. 
     Although there were sections of the book that I enjoyed, like the midnight scene with Jace on Clary's birthday, I was bored through most of the book.  I usually enjoy this genre, but found this book to be trite and superficial.  By throwing in demons, vampires, werewolves, angels, and shadow hunters, it became chaotic, rather than exciting.  It almost seemed like Cassandra Clare was trying to appeal to readers of Twilight, which made it lose credibility on its own merits for me. 
     City of Bones reminded me of a soap opera.  One part was straight from Star Wars when Darth Vadar reveals that he is Luke's father.  Jace and Clary have a touching relationship until they discover they are related.  I hated the plot twists because they seemed forced and unnatural for the characters.
     Rarely did I forget I was reading a book and escape into the book.  That was frustrating for me because escape is one of the things I love best about reading novels.
     Oprah chose it for her bookclub and Stephanie Meyer put a quote on the front of the book saying how much she loved this world, but I was disappointed by the hype and the book.  If you love fantasy books, you may enjoy this book, but I think there are far better choices to read in the genre.


     Deathwatch is an amazing book by Rob White!  I recommend it for 8th grade reluctant readers, especially boys.  The book grabs you from chapter one when it ends with a dead body.  Each chapter becomes more and more intense after that.      
     Ben is a college student on summer break.  He needs money for school, so he agrees to take Madec hunting for Bighorn sheep.  Madec is a bit crazy and shoots at anything that moves - and moving includes breathing - as the sleeping Gila Monster discovers.  He accidentally shoots a prospector and tries to hide it from Ben.
     Madec tries to convince Ben that they don't need to tell the authorities.  When Ben disagrees, Madec tries to bribe Ben with promises of money and a future job with the oil company.  When Ben still refuses, Madec shoots the prospector with Ben's gun to frame Ben for murder.  Amazingly, Ben still refuses to give in to Madec's demands, so Madec resorts to threats.  At gunpoint Madec forces Ben to give up his clothes (except for his shorts) and all of his supplies.  If Ben can survive the walk out of the desert without clothes, food, or water, Ben can turn Madec in.  However, Madec will be watching his every move and hunting him down so he can't survive the walk out.
     Ben is an amazing character.  If I was Ben, I wouldn't have survived the first shooting, and yet Ben continues to fight death in every chapter.  Ben is also very resourceful.  My kids were in awe at the way he dug woodpecker nests out of the Saguara cactus to use for shoes.  When those were gone, he wove sandals out of Yucca leaves.  It inspired us to take a test on desert survival.  Most of us wouldn't survive.
     By seeing through Ben's eyes, I gained a new appreciation for survivors.  I was always impressed with survival stories, but I did not truly appreciate the human spirit and the indomitable will to live.  I do not think I have the same determination. 
     Rob White has a talent for descriptive language.  When he describes Ben's tongue and body as it dehydrates, my kids moaned in agony with Ben.  The descriptions of thirst are so vivid, my students were constantly asking to get drinks.  If I wasn't so thirsty myself, I would have told them they weren't really thirsty, it was just the book. 
     This book is action packed.  The only part my students found boring was a few pages of description on how the desert was originally formed.
     The best part of this book was the fact the kids absolutely loved it.  One chapter ended on a cliffhanger and the kids begged me to keep reading.  I told them it was the end of the chapter and one boy yelled, "Just read four more pages."  Laughing, I said, "The bells going to ring in 2 minutes."  The kids groaned and one yelled, "Ms. Cooke, how could you do that to him?  Now he will be stuck there for four days!"  They were still grumbling as they left.  That's my definition of a good book!