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Archive for October, 2010

Hunger by Jackie Morse Kessler

Publisher (Publication Date): Graphia (10/18/10)

Pages: 180

Where to Purchase: Amazon, B&N, , Book Depository, Chapters, IndieBound.

Earlier this month, I discovered entirely by chance a little website called NetGalley. On this site, publishers give out e-books to reviewers for free in exchange for reviews of said e-books. I asked my friend and resident book blogging mentor Kim (of Twisted Fates’ Café) if she’d ever heard of NetGalley and whether it was legit. She laughed and said she’d been using it for a while and had just forgotten to tell me. In order to atone for her serious transgression, Kim was charged with giving me a recommendation on what book to request first. Her answer was Hunger by Jackie Morse Kessler.

Hunger is the story of Lisabeth Lewis, a seventeen year old anorexic. On top of that, Lisa is also Famine, one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. The story follows Lisa as she combats her own eating disorder while trying to face both the gluttony and the starvation of the world. The e-book version I received was 177 pages, so it was quite a change of pace from the 400 page bricks I have been reading. (Sidenote: One day I want to have a library in my house. And in this library, I want the arched doorframe to be made entirely of books, arch included.)

The book is very enlightening when it comes to eating disorders. I have never had anorexia or bulimia, but to date this book is the most vivid explanation I have ever gotten on the subject. And I had 10th grade Health class. It spared no expense when detailing exactly what it is to be anorexic. You have to deal with the inner demon (named the Thin Voice) just as much as Lisabeth does as it regales her with caloric value of every food she thinks of and how much she will have to exercise to work it off. It follows as her parents remain clueless, one friend enables her disease, and another friend and her boyfriend worry for her safety. My only warning on this subject is that when I say it is very detailed, I mean it. When I say you get to experience what it is to be bulimic, I mean that vividly and accurately. You know what that means. So to the queasy, be wary.

The other half of the story focuses on Lisa’s appointing as Famine by Death. Death is easily my favorite character. What person that grew up in the 90’s isn’t going to be charmed by a Kurt Cobain look-a-like that says things like “Thou art famine, yo”? And he even sings one of Nirvana’s songs. But enough about Death, let’s talk about Famine. I have never in my life read any fiction about the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Even my biblical knowledge on the subject doesn’t go much farther than ‘they’re bad.’ I couldn’t even think of all four of their names! (Death, Famine, War, and who?… Pestilence.) The Horsemen plotline was a nice change of pace from the Lisabeth plotline. As Lisa, you deal with the self-centered issues of a main character, as you would expect, but as Famine, you deal with the worldly issues and what you can do to change them. It puts into perspective how bad the world can be, how great the world can be, and how little ten pounds affects the world around you.

All in all, Hunger was a great Saturday read. It is however a difficult read. The main characters struggles are very real and not to be taken lightly. The action kept it exciting and the character development kept you involved. The humor was well-placed and oft times laugh out loud funny. If you’re wondering, yes I did laugh out loud to “Thou art Famine, yo,” because of how ridiculous it is. If you have a free day, I recommend picking this book up. Do expect to finish it that day though, because as previously mentioned it is only 177 pages. That was the main shortcoming of this book, I feel like there could have been more. Its sequel Rage will be coming out in April so perhaps more of the story has been written. I’ll let you know. A portion of the proceeds brought in by Hunger will be donated to the National Eating Disorders Association which provides support to those suffering from eating disorders as well as their families. You can call NEDA toll free at 1-800-931-2237.*

In keeping with the story, I am giving Hunger by Jackie Morse Kessler three scales out of five. I am not giving it a four (which was my initial reaction) because it isn’t a book that I can recommend for everyone (I don’t recommend it if you’re squeamish for example). The other main reason I didn’t give it a four was length. I felt the story could have been fleshed out more and at parts it seemed the storyline was rushed.

The sequel Rage releases April 4, 2011.

For the comments, did you know all four of the Horsemen before I told you?

*NEDA information from the Author’s Note at the end of Hunger.

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Full disclosure: the author of this book is a close personal friend of mine and has been for two years. I am not however reviewing the book as his friend, I am reviewing it as a book blogger.

Bran Hambric: The Specter Key, released 10/10/10, is a great addition to the Bran Hambric series. It is exponentially better thanThe Farfield Curse, which was a very good book. Part of this can be credited to the second installment being able to build off of the first. There was much less world-building and much more story, as can be expected. In The Farfield Curse, the author had to create the world before being able to tell his story, but in The Specter Key he could just let the world be a given from the previous story and go straight for the plot. Which he does very effectively.

The book immediately sucks you in by starting with a point of view that isn’t the main character’s. You being expecting to hear the wit and charm of Bran Hambric, and are instead met with the malice of Elspeth. It is these shifts, twists, and changes that keep you interested throughout the rest of the novel.

The characters from the first installment are still great, but the best thing about The Specter Key is the new characters that come with it. There are three new characters that stand out in my mind: Thomas, Gary, and Nim. I won’t tell you who they are or their importance of course, but now you know who I mean. Thomas is one of those characters that I expect to never fully understand. He has a complexity to him that is rare in stories lately. Gary has a very Macon Ravenwood (a la Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl) feel to him that immediately makes me love him. Nim has a very small part in the story and says very little, but she is such a lovable character that I had to include her on my favorites list.

The plot line for The Specter Key had everything a reader would want in a story such as this. It had plenty of action, more suspense, and a healthy dose of relationship drama. The magic battles (and other battles as well) are written so that you can always tell what is actually happening. Often, the real choreography of a true battle is lost in the clutter, but that is not so here. The suspense of not knowing what will happen, who is good who is bad, how it will end, or who will survive keeps you glued to the pages. You’ll find yourself playing the ‘one more chapter’ game for hours. The biggest factor that will keep you reading however, is the relationship drama. The father-son and girl-boy relationships will make you want to skip ahead to the end just to see how it all turns out (though that is not condoned).

Obviously, I would suggest reading The Farfield Curse before The Specter Key, so I am hereby recommending them both to you. In keeping with the story, I am giving Bran Hambric: The Specter Key 4 nimble dandelions out of 5.


Sidenote: Check the acknowledgments page. You might see someone you know. (Hint: My name is Zane.)

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Ellen Hopkins’ Crank

I am writing this review assuming that you have read the book. I believe in order to fully review Crank, I may have to give some spoilers. If you have not read the book, you have been warned.

Banned Books Week ends in two days (October 3rd). In celebration of the freedom I enjoy to read whatever it is that I want to read, I picked up Crank by Ellen Hopkins. I had heard a lot about the book, but most of it I ignored because I don’t believe anything someone says condescendingly. I had heard complaints about the drug use (it’s literally named after a drug, guys) and sex. So for my review, I will tell why those complaints are unfounded, wrong, and even ridiculous.

First off, drugs. People have complained that they didn’t want their children reading this book because of its main character’s repetitive drug use. My question in response is, would you rather your kid know what drugs do or find out themselves? That’s what books are for. They are a fictional means of finding things out for yourself. I am not a parent, but I imagine that I would much rather my child read about what drugs do to you than let drugs do it to them. Ignorance is not a desirable state. Ignorance leads to curiosity. And curiosity is far more dangerous than a book.

Second, sex. This is the most understandable complaint pertaining to this book. It’s the most understandable not because it is right but because I can see why the parents want to avoid it. Letting their child read Crank would mean explaining to them what sex is. Fun fact to know and tell: if your child wants to read this book, I can almost guarantee they are ready for the sex talk. It takes a mature mind to want to read Crank because it isn’t a desirable story. This is not something you want to lose yourself in. It is a book to read for understanding, not enjoyment. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the book, but I got more understanding out of it than enjoyment. And just to be clear, the sex in Crank is a pretty clear example of what drugs do to you. The character has unprotected sex and gets pregnant. Her mistakes had consequences. She even keeps the baby, deciding against abortion. So let’s review that: this book tells the reader to be careful with sex, shows the consequences of sex, and the main character doesn’t have an abortion. Do you see anything in there that would make you think reading this would lead to bad as it pertains to sex? It gives a pretty realistic view on the subject in my opinion.

Crank does not glorify drug use. It does not glorify sex. It does not promote unhealthy activities. It does not condone lying, stealing, dealing, using, or whoring. It is a real look at what can really happen. The only reason anyone would think this needs to be banned would be that they are out of touch with reality or wish they were.

In keeping with the story, I am giving Crank by Ellen Hopkins 4 Marlboros out of 5.

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