Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Maus by Art Spiegelman

I actually read Maus in two parts, My Father Bleeds History and And Here My Troubles Began both graphic novels by Art Spiegelman. I haven't read many graphic novels but it's a form I have really enjoyed, so when a friend lent me these books I was definitely intrigued. Although two separate books, this is another one of those year-late reviews so I'll be doing a short overall review of both.

Maus is the story of Vladek Spiegelman (the author's father) and his wife in Hitler's Europe. The form may be illustrated, but this is not a lighthearted read. It is an emotional, powerful story of grief, pain, and survival. Mostly, it is a story about love, but not an easy love. But a deep one. The book combines both Vladek's story and Art's, as the aftermath of the Holocaust still impacts his father decades later. It painfully shows how the scars are always left behind after such a horror.

I don't have much to add about Maus. This is a classic book, or at least it should be, and I'm not sure how I didn't discover it sooner but I am very grateful that my friend passed it onto me. It may have pictures, but it is not an easy read. However, it is most definitely a worthwhile one.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Salvage by Alexandra Duncan

 Sci-Fi isn't a genre I automatically gravitate towards, but I'm always willing to make an exception, especially for a YA book that catches my attention, which is exactly what I did for Salvage by Alexandra Duncan. Salvage is the story of a teenage girl, Ava, who lives on a male-dominated space ship and ends up fleeing to earth, where she learns that not everything she was told was true.

There are a lot of things that are great about Salvage. Ava is easy to relate to and a very strong narrator. Her voice felt real and authentic, and even when the world around her was unfamiliar, she helped make it an easy transition for me as a reader. Part of that is Duncan's fantastic world-building, as I thought the setting was unique and there was an unusual twist with the male-dominated ship. Salvage was definitely a book with strong female characters! Both Ava and that component reminded me a bit of Birthmarked by Caragh M. O'Brien, which I loved, and I think fans of that series would also likely enjoy this one.

I really appreciated that Salvage is a full story in one book, and as far as I know there are no sequels in the work. Although it's pretty long (about 500 pages) that's still rare in Sci-Fi YA and it was great to a get a full, detailed story in one novel. No cliffhanger endings! As much as I loved the book and would easily pick up a sequel, I kinda hope it remains complete on its own. There is a bit of a love triangle. It's not something I generally enjoy, but it was a bit unusual here and not quite as annoying as it can sometimes be.

Although the world Duncan created was really neat, the way the trains and ship worked, the best part of the book that kept me hooked was definitely the characters. Ava's character progression felt so real and that is what made me love Salvage, sci-fi or not.

Release Date: April 1st, 2014 Pages: 520  Format: Egalley
Source: Edelweiss  Publisher: Greenwillow  Buy It: Book Depository

Monday, April 21, 2014

Ribbit by Rodrigo Folgueira (illustrated by Poly Bernatene)

Ribbit by Rodrigo Folgueira (illustrated by Poly Bernatene) is pretty much the perfect picture book. I can say nothing wrong about it! It's the adorable and heart-warming story of a pig who pretends to be a frog because he just wants to belong, but all the frogs don't understand why he goes RIBBIT. The illustrations are gorgeous and match the story perfectly, including the placement and size of the text within the book. The animals all have perfect facial expressions, especially the confused frogs.

Everything about Ribbit is charming and perfect, there's a great message to share with young children hidden behind an easy to follow, simple but not unoriginal story. The illustrations match perfectly, and I would be very happy giving this book to any new parent or young child. I am neither, but I am definitely tempted to hold onto my copy for many years in the future, because when it comes to picture books, this is exactly what I want in one and I have absolutely no complaints.

Release Date: March 26th 2013 Pages: 32  Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher  Publisher:  Knopf Books for Young Readers Buy It: Book Depository

Saturday, April 19, 2014

If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch

I'm late reviewing it, but If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch was actually one of my favourite releases I read from 2013, and easily one of my favourite YA from last year. It's a debut novel, but it doesn't read like one. It's the kind of book that feels experienced and confident with an authentic voice and words exactly where they should be.

If You Find Me is the story of sisters, abandoned by their mother in a trailer in the middle of the woods after surviving there together for years, one day strangers arrive and take the girls, putting them into the unfamiliar, "normal" world. The young sister, Jenessa, hasn't spoken in over a year and her older sister, 15-year-old Carey is keeping that secret, as well as many of her, close. She knows that if anyone learns them, this new life will disappear for good.

There's something very poetic about If You Find Me, and the relationship between sisters (and step-sisters) is believable and real. Sometimes I was a little unsure what Carey did know and what she didn't. She says she doesn't know what the word "gross" means, but on the next page makes a joke where she refers to somebody as a "boob" which seems even less likely to have been slang she knew from the woods. However, those moments aside Carey's experiences and feelings seemed real, painful and raw. Murdoch explores complicated issues like child neglect in a thoughtful and sincere way and I would definitely pick up whatever she writes next, as well as recommend If You Find Me to those interested in a powerful contemporary YA novel.

Release Date: March 26th 2013 Pages: 256  Format: Egalley
Source: Netgalley  Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin  Buy It: Book Depository