Monday, April 16, 2018

"S.T.A.G.S."

"S.T.A.G.S."

Written by M.A. Bennett

Review written by Diana Iozzia

S.T.A.G.S.


"S.T.A.G.S." follows our main character, Greer, as she is invited to a weekend away with her new classmates. They all go to a mysterious, historical boarding school with lots of secrets. It's interesting to watch as Greer learn all about the school and her fellow classmates.

Greer and the other two invited students, Shafeen and Chanel are very nervous and uncomfortable. The main events of this weekend include a stag hunt, a pheasant shoot, and a fishing tournament. All too soon, it appears that Greer, Shafeen, and Chanel are the hunted, rather than the hunters. I like the premise of a cult-like boarding school. Not bad.

We have a great amount of foreshadowing, interesting detail, and an unpredictable plot. This reminds me of the films "You're Next", "House on Haunted Hill", and "The Invitation". As for books, this reminds me of "Dead Poets Society", "The Fall of the House of Usher", and "Black Chalk".

I enjoyed this book, but sometimes the language was a little off-putting. Not to say that it was vulgar language: my issue mainly involved Greer's perspective. She's sometimes annoying with her constant film references. I understand she likes movies, but on nearly every page, something happens that reminds her of a movie. She also announces a pretty big plot point that spoils the entire book, within the first two chapters. I would have preferred not to know. I didn't think that knowing in advance had made the book feel more suspenseful and gripping.

It's easy to picture this story, and I liked that it felt vivid in my mind. Also, it doesn't hurt that my favorite place in England is Cumbria and the Lake District, so it was great to have that be its location.

It's funny, upon reading this, I found many fellow reviewers who didn't like this book. I can understand why, this was more of a guilty pleasure read than some gritty, terrifying horror novel. I did thoroughly enjoy it, and I'd like to give it a 4 out of 5 stars. I do think I'll pass it on. I would recommend this, but don't go into the book thinking it will be the next best "Get Out". Although the deer similarities are intriguing...

Issue and Trend Interview Blog


Issue and Trend Interview Blog
A Conversation with *** ******


Issues and trends in children's literature are recent discussion topics that I have learned about through this class. Many librarians, parents, and teachers have differing opinions on literature. *** ****** is a librarian at my local library, who I was able to speak to for an interview. We sat down for coffee and had this conversation:

Image result for old bridge public libraryQuestion 1: ***, what do you describe to be children's literature?
Answer: I consider books for newborns until about 18 years old to be children's literature. You have to consider that teenagers are still children, so we consider 18 to be the limit.

Question 2: ***, do you find the political climate to be an influence on children's books?
Answer: Diana, we live in New Jersey, one of the most diverse states for political opinion. I would definitely say I agree.

Question 3: ***, can you elaborate further?
Image result for nuts in spaceAnswer: Okay. Our political climate seems to be focusing more on accepting others than ever. We have to be kinder, more understanding. Our books are reflecting this.

Question 4: Can you describe any recent books that don't perpetuate these new changes?
Answer:  I read a book the other day, "Nuts in Space". I didn't like the language. "Stupid, hate". No, thank you.
Image result for 13 reasons why book
Question 5: As a librarian, do you find issues with other books?
Answer: Sometimes, the summer reading books can be a little dated. I had a parent complain about the teen book "Thirteen Reasons Why", because of suicide themes. I think that a reader should enjoy any book they like, but sometimes, books can be a bit much.

Question 6: Would you dissuade a child from picking this story?
Answer: Maybe I would try to reason with their parent, see if the parent understands the story elements.

Question 7: How do you feel about "banned books"? Should we still ban books?
Answer: As a reader, no. As a librarian, I don't know. I don't like banning books, but sometimes, our library has restrictions on certain ages.

Question 8: On a happier note, how do you feel about audiobooks?
Answer: I love audio books! They give the best opportunity for readers without perfect eyesight or if they just prefer listening! I'm surprised they made such a comeback. So many people come in to listen to Harry Potter.
Image result for harry potter book
Question 9: A big concern in my college classes is resources. Do you feel that the library provides enough resources to students who need them?
Answer: We need more computers. So many students come in trying to use the computers for homework, and we have bozos who are reading their e-mails (*** apologized for using "bozos").

Question 10: As a librarian, do you have any advice for a student becoming a teacher?
Answer: Understand that not every kid succeeds with technology. An old fashioned book goes a long way.

I thanked *** for allowing me to interview her. I further researched the books she mentioned, including "Nuts in Space" and "13 Reasons Why". "13 Reasons Why" is a popular book chosen by schools for summer reading. It follows the character, Clay Jensen, as he listens to audio tapes recorded by his fellow classmate and crush, Hannah Baker. Hannah has committed suicide and often describes each character on the tapes for their responsibility in her decision. The book is widely described positively for its accurate depictions of rape, suicide, abuse, and sexual harassment. However, it is also panned for those exact reasons. Due to the severity of "13 Reasons Why", it has been banned in many classrooms and schools across the United States. Teachers are not using this reading material anymore.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

"Given to the Sea"


“Given to the Sea”
Written by Mindy McGinnis
Review written by Diana Iozzia / Bookworm Banter

            I received “Given to the Sea” to be a part of the “Given to the Earth” blog tour. After finishing “Given to the Sea”, I am eager to continue on and read its sequel. Naturally, I am writing the book review first, so my opinions don’t become muddled with any plot reveals or character development in the second book.

            “Given to the Sea” is a great first book. It’s very ambitious in its world building, which shows great potential. We have interesting settings, like caves on a beach, the beach itself, the castles our main characters live in, forests, and battlegrounds. I would have liked a map to keep all of this a little more organized in my mind, but if I ever reread the book, I would just draw one on an index card.

            Our main characters are interesting. We follow the perspectives of Khosa, Vincent, Dara, and Witt. We listen through Khosa’s and Vincent’s voices. We follow Dara as she engages with other characters through third person narrative, as well as Witt’s third person perspective. I wasn’t really sure why we read through Vincent and Khosa’s eyes but not Witt’s or Dara’s. I would have appreciated one type of perspective, rather than both first and third person. I always seem to prefer third person. I also don’t really like present tense in writing style, I prefer past.

            Khosa was born of the lineage, in which women are born to breed and then sacrifice themselves to the sea of the kingdom, Stille. The Given are looked at as cursed sacrifices. They are looked after during their lives and protected, out of fear the sea will rise up and flood the kingdom if the sacrifice is not given.

            Vincent is in line to inherit the throne, to be kingdom of Stille. However, he finds himself too involved with his friends and possible romances to be concerned with kingdom duties. He likes to try to mediate between different peoples, but he’s not very good at trusting the correct people.

            Dara and her brother, Donil, are natives, similar to Native Americans. They are called Indiri people. The Indiri have powers to remember the memories and lives of their people who lived before them. Dara and Donil are the last of the Indiri. Donil is a perverted and slightly misogynistic man who tries to use his magical powers of seduction?? (I don’t particularly understand that). Dara is a fantastic antagonist, but Donil could be so much better. He just walks around and flirts, and sometimes fights. I dunno, I don’t really think he’s necessary.

            Witt is the leader of a rebellious group of soldiers who want to conquer Stille. He’s ambitious, cunning, and pretty ruthless. He’s sincerely a good protagonist.

            Let’s move on. What did I think of the book? As I mentioned, the world building is attempted. It can be a bit confusing to remember all of these characters, but I think I managed to get along just fine. I think the main concept of “girl sacrificing her life for her kingdom” is an overused trope in science fiction / fantasy young adult fiction. Is it really necessary to still have characters only have one dimensional problems? She needs to be saved. Or save herself. But do we really need another series where young girls have to run away and save themselves from a whole population of people who want to kill them? This is too present in this genre. I understand that self-sacrifice can be very brave and powerful, but self-sacrifice when it’s forced, it does not feel brave, it poorly reflects the society they live in. I completely understand dystopia. Usually, I am a big fan of the dystopian genre. However, I would absolutely love some new types of dystopian plots that do not revolve around systemic self-sacrifice.

            We are treated to some really interesting parts of this world that I enjoyed. I like in fantasy when we have creatures that the author created for the book. For example, I often enjoy reading The Chronicles of Narnia series, Harry Potter, and more, for the creatures. In “Given to the Sea”, we learn of panther-like cats, called Tangatas. They live in the forests in which Dara and Donil hunt. The tangatas are ferocious and pretty terrifying. However, I don’t forgive books that kill off animals, and the meat was not consumed for food purposes. There are oderbirds mentioned in the woods. We don’t see any incorporated into the plot, just a small mention, but I love the added animals. Other than tangatas, we learn of different types of flora and fauna that are used for medicinal purposes and for food.

            My biggest issue with this book cannot be overlooked. My main problem is the treatment of the Indiri people. As I mentioned earlier, Donil and Dara are Indiri, which is this book’s form of native. Unfortunately, lots of negative stereotypes and tropes are used when these characters are involved. I really enjoyed that Dara has the ability to have the memories of her ancestors and share them, but it is very mystical and a little wacky. In addition, we have the attraction of absolutely everyone to Donil and Dara. It makes me feel a little uncomfortable how irresistible these characters are to other people, considering they are the lower regarded people. I think back to “Pocahontas” or “Schindler’s List”. Why is it that inferior people are so sexy and attractive to other people? Is it the power dynamic? Let’s stop including this trope into books. We even have some of that with “The 100”. It’s eradicated early on, but it still exists. Natives shouldn’t be so irresistibly attractive and pointed out for that. It’s inherent that there’s some type of power balance tipping and makes me dislike the use of this trope in the plot.  In addition, we also have a moment where a character seems to prey on Dara, which is another trope we do not need in young adult fiction!!! Why does every child or teen have to be preyed on?

            To continue, nearly every time we hear Dara’s name, she’s referred to as the Indiri girl. Or her Indiri hair. Her Indiri skin. We get it. She’s a native. It’s constant. By proxy, you wouldn’t have the example, “Dara walked over to the fire and stoked it. The Native American then placed the meat onto the fire.” We can’t just use “she” as a pronoun? Doesn’t that sound slightly strange to you? Well, this happens too often throughout the book. It’s as if the author thought we’d forget Dara’s heritage and has to constantly remind us, “YES, DARA IS THE NATIVE”.  Here are some examples:
“Dissa’s gaze lingers on the Indiri’s skin”. “Unpeeling the Indiri’s fingers from her weapon”. “The Indiri leads his horse on”. “You seem tired, Indiri”.
           
            In conclusion, I think the resolution of this story was great. I predicted it would end a little the way it did, and I’m pleased. I enjoyed the final climax, and I’m intrigued where the story could go from here.

            I certainly recommend this book, but I would err on the side of caution. There can be a lot of moments with uncomfortable sexual treatment of characters, tangata cats die, people die, and I’m not a fan of Dara and Donil’s heritage treatment. I think this is a certainly enjoyable premise. I loved the language. The book felt so vivid I pictured the entire thing as I read along. We received realistic descriptions of characters. The book felt very fantastical, but also like it was a realistic kingdom.

I received a complementary copy for reviewing purposes consistent with Penguin Random House and a blogger book tour.

Monday, April 2, 2018

"Charlotte's Web"

"Charlotte's Web"
See the source imageBook written by E.B. White
Blog post written by Diana Iozzia


             "Charlotte's Web"


"Charlotte's Web" is a wonderful book for children from the age 8 to above. As this is my favorite children's book, I would like to share this blog post, describing it. Students under 8 may not understand the more serious themes, but they may enjoy the fun adventures had by the characters. I enjoyed "Charlotte's Web" as a child, because the main character, Fern, saves little runt Wilbur from being slaughtered. She protects him and nurtures him as he grows. As he regains his full strength, it is observed that Wilbur could be slaughtered to be used as meat. Charlotte, a spider, begins spinning webs that spell great words, like "fantastic", "terrific", and "some pig". This magnificent phenomenon allows Wilbur to stay alive, as he is entered into country fairs and has visitors come to the farm to see him and the web (GradeSaver, 2018).

Other than the interesting story, young readers are taught serious themes involving slaughterhouses, death, life, wealth, and greed in ways that they can understand. The young readers understand that death is tragic, but it is a part of life. I would recommend this to the students as a summer reading assignment or a long term book assignment, but only if I was teaching students in third grade or above. This can be a tough book for a child to read by his or herself. I would recommend that the parents help their children in reading this and answer any questions their children have. I would share this blog with my students, as I have not included spoilers, in hopes they would read and decide, "Wow, that book sounds interesting!"

This book was, and is still is, my favorite children's book. I think it's brilliant n the characters, the writing, the plot, and the themes. I even was a vegetarian for about six years as a child after reading this. I would hope that this book would coincide with core curriculum standards, and I will be able to implement this in my future classroom.




GradeSaver. (2018). Charlotte's Web. Retrieved from http://www.gradesaver.com/charlottes-web/study-guide/summary

Sunday, April 1, 2018

"The Lies They Tell"


“The Lies They Tell”
Written by Gillian French
Review written by Diana Iozzia of Bookworm Banter

The Lies They Tell            “The Lies They Tell” follows our main protagonist, Pearl Haskins, as she discovers the mystery of why the house of one of the richest families in town has burned to the ground. Nearly all of the Garrison family perished, except their eighteen-year-old son, Tristan.

            Pearl is stuck in a love triangle, or square, I guess, as she tries to help her father and his alcoholism. Pearl works as a waitress at a country club during the summer, still planning her way out of the town to college in the fall. Pearl befriends a group of rich kids from the club, soon starting to fall for Bridges and Tristan, while still sort of pining for her co-worker, Reese.

            This book reminds me of 90210 meets “In Cold Blood” by Truman Capote. Who killed the Garrisons? Was it their surviving son? Was it Pearl’s father, who was there working as the caretaker that night? Could it have been someone else entirely?

            I enjoyed some of this book, but not much. I think I would have enjoyed this more if I was younger. As a twenty-two-year-old, sometimes it can be difficult for me to get into the mindset of a teen to read young adult fiction. Most of the characters, barring Bridges, were a little too unrealistic for me. I really enjoyed the dialogue, it is very realistic and representative of teens. Often in young adult fiction, we’re “treated” to talk of Facebook and Snapchat and Instagram and Kim Kardashian, so it was nice to have a break from “teens”.

            There’s a bit of uncomfortable sexual harassment in this book, but the characters did call out the harassment which I appreciated. As for the alcoholic father premise, this pops up in too many teen fiction novels. I’m tired of the teens having to be responsible and fix their parents. The names are very glamorous and of course make sense for the novel. Bridges, Tristan, Hadley, Quinn. They all sound a bit like the author researched wealthy teen names.

            There were scenes that I enjoyed. I enjoyed the boat sailing scenes, because it offered a new location / setting that’s not often incorporated into teen fiction. I felt a little “Talented Mr. Ripley” in some parts, which I liked. The climax and the reveal behind the murders was good, but I don’t think it was a shocking enough plot twist that made the book feel worthwhile. The book is slowly paced, and I don’t mind a slow paced book if it eventually builds to a fantastic reveal, with great little tidbits in the middle. I recommend it for teens, but if you’re above the age of 20, perhaps this book may be a little too young for you.

I received an advanced review copy for my honest reviewing purposes.