Monthly Archives: May 2012

YRCA 2012 Review: The Cardturner

How do I adequately sum up how awesome The Cardturner by Louis Sachar is? How about: I totally want to learn how to play bridge now.

I guess I could start by explaining that I listened to this story as an audiobook. I’ve been on a real audiobook binge lately and a co-worker had told me that this book was a good one to listen to. So, the story is read by the author which is a little strange at first. He doesn’t exactly have the normal audiobook voice but it didn’t take long to get use to it and when he talks about bridge, you can tell that he really knows what he is talking about.

Anyway, what is this book about. This book is about Alton … and the card game bridge. Alton is just starting the summer before his last year of high school. He has some vague plans to get a job and he still trying to get over his ex-girlfriend who is now dating his best friend (who is a total dick and not just because he kind of stole Alton’s girlfriend but I won’t go into the other reason to avoid spoilers). Alton’s parents (who are kind of tools) are attempting to suck up to his rich uncle (possibly a great uncle but I can’t remember the exact relationship) Lester Trapp so that he will leave them his fortune when he dies. Which apparently could be any day now. Alton finds himself driving this uncle that he’s only met once before to his bridge club to play cards four times a week. Trapp has diabetes so bad that he has recently gone blind and he needs someone to tell him his cards and play them for him. And so starts this fascinating tale of bridge and relationships.

How could a story about a card game that is stereotypically played by old people be fascinating? Well, it helps that I love card games. Both sides of my family are really into them and we tend to play them whenever we get together. On my dad’s side, the most common ones we play are crib and golf. My grandpa was so good at crib that he almost always won and would count your hand for you before you could count it yourself. On my mom’s side, it’s Portuguese sets and pinochle. It’s pinochle that’s the key here because as I listened to the bridge explanations I came to realize that the two games have a lot in common. They both have bidding, tricks, and trump cards. Once I figured out that bridge is just a way more complicated version of pinochle, those sections became easier to take in and understand. Of course, there was no way that I was going to remember it all. I mean, I still have to make up a cheat sheet for what the all the points are for layouts when we play pinochle so super complicated bridge would be impossible. But still, I want to try it out.

Back to the story. I liked the most of the characters. I liked the little romance between Alton and the girl who is a family friend of Trapp’s (her name escapes me right now). I liked Alton’s little sister and Trapp and all his bridge buddies. I routed for them in each of the tournaments. And at end, the story took a surprising turn and I liked it.

So will The Cardturner win the Intermediate Division? As much as this is my favourite in this division so far, I’m thinking some kids and teens would not find this book quite as fascinating as I do. So, I’m thinking probably not.

What I’m reading now: The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: the Mysterious Howling by Maryrose Wood, City of Lost Souls by Cassandra Clare (I love everything she writes but this book is really dragging which I will go into more later if I ever finish it), A History of Britain: at the Edge of the World? 3000 B.C.-A.D.1603 by Simon Schama (audiobook).

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

YRCA 2013 Review: The Replacement

Okay, next up is The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff.

So this book is about Mackie. Mackie was switched as a baby by fae-like creatures. Think changelings of folklore. And he is the changeling, not the human. And he is not so slowly dying from exposure to iron. Also, he knows there is something wrong in his town. Periodically, children are going missing or dying and no one in the town makes a big deal of it. But when Tate’s baby sister is the latest child to “die,” she gets angry and starts demanding answers. Mackie is torn between helping Tate and not drawing attention to himself.

I liked this book. I liked how Mackie knows that he is different and that his family knows that he is different. At first, it seemed odd that his family accepted and protected him so easily when they apparently knew that he was a changeling from the beginning but it made sense as more backstory was revealed. Mackie has a suspicion of what he is but only in a very general way and, because no one in town talks about what is happening to the children, he doesn’t have any way of finding out. I should point out that the word changeling is only used once in the book. And this is where the book gets a little vague. I feel like the author left the mythology unclear on purpose. There are hints of more than one source, although they all seem to be celtic-ish. The most obvious reference is to the fae/ fair folk but there’s also others, like the one head creature being called the Morrigan who, I believe, in Irish mythology is a goddess of battle. I’m sure there’s others that I just don’t have the background knowledge to understand.

My favourite part? This book is a standalone. At least, the author has no plans for a sequel at the moment, although she hasn’t ruled it out completely. Don’t get me wrong. I like series sometimes but it was starting to be annoying that it was pretty much a given that every teen book you read would be part of a trilogy at a minimum. So it’s refreshing that the story is complete and not all set up for the next book.

Will this book win the Senior Division? Maybe, maybe not. So far,  I wouldn’t be upset if it did. We shall see.

What I’m reading now: City of Lost Souls by Cassandra Clare, The Cardturner (audiobook) by Louis Sachar, Assassins in Love by Kris DeLake.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

YRCA 2013 Review: Matched

Okay, up first in the Senior Division: Matched by Allie Condie. This book was good. Not amazing but good. I approached this book with mixed feelings. One part of me thought the plot sounded interesting but, because the whole dystopia thing has gotten so trendy, part of me was afraid that it would be mediocre or, even worse, terrible. I have the same problem with paranormal romances. It used to be that you could pick up any book in that sub-genre and it would be good because it part of a small, tight group. And then it became popular. Everyone started dabbling in it and results varied and it became more difficult to find new authors that were good and the authors that were around before started putting out books way more often and the quality some of their books varied as well. Anyway, I kind of feel like this has started happening with dystopian teen lit. So, I was pleasantly surprised byMatched.

This book reminded me of The Giver. A lot. It’s about a society that long ago decided that the best way to optimize life is to take away everyone’s choices in every aspect of their lives and then totally indoctrinate them and keep them in the dark about the outside world. Different from The Giver is the disturbing rule that everyone has to carry a pill box with a blue, a green, and a red pill. The blue pill is to keep them alive if they ever get stranded somewhere without food or water. The green pill is a sedative that they are allowed to use up to once a day. Which says something about the society. Why is it common that so many of its people need to take sedatives on a regular basis? And then there’s the red pill. No one actually knows what the red pill does because they are only allowed to take it when they are told to. Yes, we do find out what the red pill does late in the book.

So the story starts with the main character, Cassia, going to her matching banquet where she learns that her optimal (potential) husband is her best friend, Xander. This is unusual because apparently most people are matched with someone in another city. I say potential because there are several parts of the story where Cassia is talking about the matching process and there is an implication that a matched pair doesn’t actually have to get married but she doesn’t say what happens if they choose not to. From the banquet, Cassia gets to bring home a box with a computer chip with information about her match. On this chip is info on Xander but then at the end a picture flashes on the screen of Ky. She’s known Ky since she was little but they aren’t particularly close because he was the kid who didn’t really stand out despite the fact that his background is different than everyone else. So this confuses but intrigues her and you can pretty much figure out where it goes from there. The plot isn’t really super original but I like how it played out with the two gradually getting to know each other. I like that she knew Ky before the banquet so it made sense that they had some connection right away and it felt more natural. It was interesting how normal the characters seem. They aren’t perfect and they aren’t all exactly the same. There is a disturbing dichotomy in that have individual personalities and seem to think for themselves but then Cassia will think or say something that proves how indoctrinated they are into not really questioning anything. I also liked how the world was slowly expanded as the book went on. The reader got to discover the world and speculate about certain aspects. And not everything was explained, leaving some mystery and leaving me wanting more.

This book is the first in a series (aren’t they all?) so of course things don’t resolve nicely at the end but I was happy with how it ended and I’m looking forward to the next book, Crossed. It should deal with the fringes of the society where everything is not so perfect. I won’t say more than that because it would spoil the plot.

So will Matched win the Senior Division? As this is the only book in this division that I’ve read so far, I’m going to reserve judgement.

Next: The Strange Case of Origami Yoda or Heist Society or possibly The Red Pyramid. We shall see.

What I’m reading now: Nobody’s Baby But Mine by Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Fair Game by Patricia Briggs, The Cardturner (audiobook) by Louis Sacher, and Snuff (audiobook) by Terry Pratchett.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

YRCA Ends and Begins

So, the winners of the 2012 YRCA were announced about a week ago and the nominees for 2013 came out a few weeks before that. I totally predicted all the winners except the Senior Division. For Junior, I figured it would be either Scat or 11 Birthdays but, judging by the votes that I saw coming in, I was leaning towards the latter so I called that one. For Intermediate, well… there wasn’t really much question about that one. Not there weren’t other really awesome books in that category, but The Maze Runner was really good and incredibly popular. It wasn’t Hunger Games popular, like last year, but none of the other books had as big a wait list. For Senior, I was less sure. I was really hoping that Lockdown would win because it was so awesome it hurts. I can see why Shiver won; it’s a romance (a lot of the voters are girls, especially for the older divisions) and it’s a paranormal romance with werewolves. Although the teen paranormal romance mania is slowly fading away, it still pops it’s head up every once and awhile. For a look at the complete list of nominees from the closing YRCA season, go here: http://www.pnla.org/yrca/2012nominees.html.

We start promoting the next year’s YRCA nominees to the schools and in the branch in the fall but I’m trying to read as many of them before then so that I can know the books before I talk about them. Before the list had come out I had already read four of the titles: The Lost Hero, Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer, The Red Pyramid, and Smile. This was less than last year but two of them are Junior titles which is two more than I read in that category than last year. Since the list came out I have read three more: The Strange Case of Origami Yoda, Heist Society, and Matched. My goal is going to be to blog about all the titles that I read. Notice that I didn’t say all the YRCA titles. In ideal world, I would read them all but I’m sticking with my book philosophy: life is too short to read books that you’re not enjoying. So I’m going to be optimistic and try them all. It may be a problem of finding the time too. I have a ton of next books in series that I’m waiting for that will probably all come at the same time so we shall see. Here’s hoping.

So I’ll start the more specific blogs next time. I’m way too tired right now.

What I’m reading right now: Pirate Penguin vs. Ninja Chicken: Troublems with Frenemies by Ray Friesen, The Throne of Fire audiobook by Rick Riordan, Howl’s Moving Castle audiobook by Dianna Wynne Jones and The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized