Monday, September 14, 2009

The Giver, Gathering Blue, Messenger

This is one of the most debated book series that I have encountered in my time teaching. However, it also one of the most moving. Never has a book caused more questions, deep thinking, and introspection on the part of the readers as The Giver. This happens every time I read any book in the series; the big life-altering, brain-filling questions take over, accompanied by a great story.

The series begins with The Giver, published in 1993 and winner of the Newbery medal the same year, is set in a future society that, at first, seems perfect. They embrace the idea of Sameness-a plan that has eliminated pain and sadness from the lives of their citizens. However, the citizens have also given up most emotional meaning in the trade. The story beings by following the main character Jonah as he turns twelve and learns about his future career. Jonah inherits the position of "receiver of memories". This is important in case anyone needs help making a decision based on the time before Sameness. While receiving the memories from The Giver, Jonah begins to see the scary truth behind his community, and must decide what to do with this new knowledge.

The next book, Gathering Blue, takes place in a society completely different from the world in The Giver. After her mother's death leaves her an orphan, Kira does not know what her future holds. The Council steps in, and gives her room and board in exchange for repair of the cloak that is worn at the Ruin Song Gathering by the singer. This cloak shows the history of the culture, and Kira realizes that it also holds the future. The title references her need to create blue dye, and create a future that is better for herself and those of her world.

Messenger looks into the future for Matty, a character that has appeared in a supporting role in both The Giver and Gathering Blue. Matty is a messenger for the village he lives in, a village that takes in the outcasts from the surrounding communities and uses them as a way to create a whole community where no one feels unwanted or turned away. Something is changing, and the once welcoming place decides to close its doors to newcomers. Frightened by what this means for him, and his job as messenger, Matty must make one last trip to seek Kira (from The Giver).

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Hunger Games

Katniss lives in our the (hopefully) far away future. She lives a tough life in District 12 where she spends most of her time trying to provide for her mother and sister after her father died. She does this by hunting in an area that is forbidden, and she is darn good at it.

Every year, her life takes an even deeper dip on reaping day. This is the day when the government makes each district pay for the uprising against the government years before by selecting two of its children-1 boy, and 1 girl-to participate in The Hunger Games. At District 12's reaping, Prim, Katniss's sister, is called to participate. Katniss quickly volunteers to stand next to Peeta, the baker's son, and participate in her sister's place.

The Game is televised nationwide, and the only way to win is to win over your audience. This isn't Katniss's area of expertise, and she leans on the help of her fashion designer and coach, as well as Peeta to prepare. Unfortunately, when it is revealed that the only way to win is survive-it is kill or be killed, literally- Katniss realizes the only one she should truly depend on is herself.

I think that there are a lot of reasons that I love this book. Again, the kick-butt female character who needs no one, especially not a boy. I also like that it moves quickly, and seems like it could get even the most reluctant reader involved. It has a girl as a main character, but Peeta has quite a large role as well. There is romance, but there is fast-action that focuses on hunting, fighting, and survival. It is not a book for boys, girls, or just young-adults. It has something for everyone.

Read the Time Magazine article at the link below about The Hunger Games and Catching Fire, the sequel.,9171,1919156,00.html


Bought for me by my husband, this book quickly became one of my all-time favorites. Always the center of great reviews, this features a fantasy world with strong characters, but none are stronger then Katsa. She is the female lead, who quite frankly, kicks butt. But she hates herself. She is Graced, which means she has a special talent-one that she was born with. This is marked by her eyes being two different colors. For some people, being Graced means they have the ability to predict the weather, or cook a fantastic meal. Unfortunately for Katsa, she is Graced with the ability to kill. Because of this, she is used by her uncle, and kin,g as an assassin. Katsa trudges through her life miserably, until she meets a prince from another kingdom who helps her find another way to live.

I truly can not explain how much I loved this book, with characters that are fully developed and with easy to relate to problems, a plot that sucks you in right away, and a good balance of story and action. I hope that it is open to a sequel that will feature characters that I have grown fond of.

Chasing Lincoln's Killer

Nonfiction is not my thing, usually. When I read a book, I usually am choosing to escape the world that I live in and find a more magical place- which is why I am such a fan of fantasy and sci fi. If more nonfiction were fast-paced and exciting like this story, I would probably enjoy it more!

This book is based on the best-selling adult novel Manhunter, also by James Swanson. Chasing Lincoln's Killer is the story of how John Wilkes Booth organized and carried out the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, and tried to organize the simultaneous murders of other high-ranking members of the government, such as the vice president. It also chronicles the twelve days that Booth dodged the manhunt by hiding in houses of unwitting supporters, barns, and the woods. It also tells of his purpose- to seek revenge on the Union Yanks, and hopefully inspire those that still believes in the Confederacy to rise up and fight again.

I enjoyed the story that was told by this book, and the minor stories that were woven within. I thought it was an interesting way to approach one of the most important events in American history, and liked the way it is told following Booth. A definite nonfiction selection for my book shelf.