Wednesday, May 30, 2012


I have an unwritten policy (as most of my policies are) that I don't review sequels if I have previously reviewed another book in the same series.  Today, I'm ignoring that policy.  I just finished Insurgent, and I want to write about it.

I tip my hat to Veronica Roth for keeping the momentum going and following up her debut novel Divergent  with a *can't put it down* sequel.  I did not read it in one sitting.  It is, after all, 544 pages and I have to sleep, work and take care of those two adorable and demanding kids of mine.  Until my clone is spawned, I have other things to do besides read and write.  Bummer!

Here's what I liked:

  • The factions are still important to the story and plot, but Roth did a great job of building up the role of the Factionless and the Divergent.
  • Roth blurred the line between bad and good.  I like that.  Her characters, even though they belong to strictly-defined factions, aren't one dimensional.  Some of her *good* characters do bad things, and some of her *bad characters* do good things.  
  • Veronica Roth painted a landscape with words.  When I read her descriptions, I can see the setting.  She gives readers enough to visual a faction's headquarters or an Erudite laboratory.  
  • I like to be surprised, and there's no better surprise than death.  Roth doesn't have a problem killing off her characters, large and small.  For an added twist, she doesn't mind bringing a character back from the dead either.  That's just the right amount of soap opera drama for YA fiction.
  • Tris isn't beautiful.  It's a YA novel, and the lead character isn't a knock-out.  Enough said. 
So, if there are things I liked, there are bound to be a couple of things I struggled with.  They weren't game changers, but I have two small issues.

Here are my issues:
  • I grappled with faction identity.  There are five factions, the Factionless, and the Divergent, and it was hard keeping track of who belonged where.  It was especially hard to follow who was Divergent, and while I understand the reason behind revealing the characters who chose different factions other than the one they were born to, it made things a bit confusing.  Add to that the alliances and faction traitors, and things got messy for me.
  • I love Tris!  I love Tobias!  I didn't love their relationship in this book.  Too much lying and none of the unconditional trust from Divergent.  I appreciate that conflict needed to be created to maintain the YA love angst, but I hope Roth returns to the original Tris and Tobias in book #3.
If you haven't read Insurgent, read Divergent first ~ then read the sequel.

Blog you later!

Ali B.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Wherever You Are: My Love Will Find You

You are my angel, my darling, my star.  .  . and my love will find you, 
wherever you are.

Reading with your child shows them how much you care.  It is such a simple act ~ snuggly and safe and comforting.  Wherever You Are:  My Love Will Find You is a beautiful story about the power of parental love.  The book tells the story of a parent's ever-present love for her child.  Each page, each illustration, each line sends the message that the child is never alone, love is always there.

The text is simple and appealing, especially for the preschool crowd.  It rhymes and little kids like that.  The illustrations are my favorite part of the book.  They are, in a word, charming.  The parent is never in the pictures.  That's kinda the point.  The child is pictured, small and busy, with a different wild animal in every scene.  And the scenes are vast ~ the sea, a lake, a rolling prairie.  But the child is not fearful.  Love is there.

My bookshelves are full of wonderful stories about children who have tested the limits of parental patience only to learn that their parents still love them.  I love these books.  I read them to my children and quote them quite often.  With Wherever You Are: My Love Will Find You, Nancy Tillman has added a different version of parental love to my shelves.  Her book is about love's ability to stretch and grow and find us know matter where we go.  We don't outgrow our parent's love.  Hallelujah!

Blog you later!

Ali B.

Thursday, May 17, 2012


The future.  New Beijing.  Cyborgs.  A plague.  Lunar life.  Interested?  You should be.  Cinder is a futuristic Cinderella story complete with an evil stepmother, a handsome prince, and a magical ball, but there are differences too.  An android has replaced the singing mice.  A plague-fighting doctor has replaced the fairy godmother.  And Cinder doesn't lose a glass slipper, but she does lose her cyborg foot.

I'd had Cinder in my "to be read" pile for months.  My pile grows like evergreen - fast and beautiful.  I was especially intrigued by Cinder - the character.  I wanted to read about this teenage cyborg mechanic.  She wasn't a helpless beauty.  In fact, she's described as rather plain with unkempt hair and a wardrobe of grease-stained cargo pants.  She sounded like my kind of girl.  It turns out she is.

Cinder  reads like the first book in a series - you know there's more to come.  There are some unanswered questions and a few spots where I wanted more backstory, but not so many that Cinder becomes confusing or dull.  On the contrary, I was hooked from the very first chapter.  It's a new take on a classic fairy tale, so there are some obvious conclusions to be drawn, but there were also lots of surprises, twists, and original characters to delight YA readers.

Marissa Meyer has done a fantastic job of leaving her mark on the classic Cinderella story!

Blog you later!

Ali B.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Grandpa Green

This book is delightful.  Touching.  Beautiful.  Grandpa Green is a story of memories, family, and the topiary garden that one great-grandfather creates to share his life history.

Grandpa Green's great grandson takes us on a tour of the topiary garden.  From chickenpox to wedding cakes, farmyards to battlegrounds, our little tour guide moves us through the highs and lows of his great grandfather's life.

I read this book to my little girl, and she was charmed by the creative, visual history of the garden.  Her class recently worked on a family storybook project as part of the school wide theme - Traditions.  Each kindergartner had to choose a story from their family history (recent or less so) to share with the class.  They dictated their stories to a parent, brought the story to school, and then illustrated their work.  My daughter loved this project, and reading Grandpa Green helped her understand the importance of storytelling and family history.

I recommend Lane Smith's lovely picture book to parents and grandparents who want to talk to their young ones about family legacy, memory, and love.

Blog you later!

Ali B.