Thursday, March 27, 2014

Counting by 7s

"My edges are gone. I'm sea glass. If you look hard, you can see right through me."

When a car accident takes the lives of her parents, child genius Willow Chance is set adrift. She finds no joy in the things that usually interest her: germs and diseases, gardening, counting by 7s. On top of living life in a haze, she has no relatives and no one to take her in. Somehow she gets mixed up with a crew of misfits: loser social worker Dell, at risk teens Mai and Quang-Ha, taxi driver Jairo, and nail technician Pattie. All of these people are damaged in some way, but through their relationships, they heal and move forward.

After reading an entire zombie series, I really needed Counting by 7s. While I complained that Holly Goldbery Sloan's I'll Be There was too saccharine, I found this novel to hit just the right balance. Yes, there were many unrealistic elements like characters winning the lottery and unexpected riches, but if you think of the story as a fairy tale for middle grade readers, you can swallow the inconsistencies. These are characters that the reader wants to succeed, and they do. This is the book that I will hand my students after they have read something sad and need a hopeful novel.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Fire & Ash

There's nothing like finishing a series you have loved. I always feel adrift and need to read a palate-cleansing book, something like a professional development textbook, to prepare me to enter a world different from the world I've been enjoying. I feel really fortunate to have discovered Jonathan Maberry's Benny Imura series after they all have been published, so I could plow through them. I loved watch this group of teenagers mature, be challenged, and save the world.

When reading a series, I have to wonder if the entire thing was plotted out in advance. Did Maberry always plan to have Benny mature from a lazy, whiny goofball to a genuine samurai? I tend to like the villains in novels, but with this series, I loved them all and all the shades of morality that they represent.

I don't want to give any spoilers because these four long books are an investment and it would be a shame to spoil that for others. I will say that I am so excited to learn that there is an entire series based on Joe Ledger, one of my favorite characters from these books. So, I guess I don't have to cleanse my palate quite yet!

Friday, March 7, 2014

Flesh & Bone

It's safe to say that I'm addicted to Jonathan Maberry's Benny Imura series. I'm recommending it to my friends and squeezing in reading time whenever I can. I finished Flesh & Bone during our school's DEAR time today, and I immediately started the final book in the series. I'm already sad that this series will come to an end!

In the third novel in the series, the characters are mourning the loss of a loved one and the fact that everything seems to be falling apart. After surviving the horrors of Gameland, we want them to be able to relax and make some progress in their journey. Unfortunately, that isn't meant to be when you live in a place called Rot and Ruin. They come across a religious cult called the Reapers, who are hell bent on turning everyone into zombies.

Despair is the overwhelming feeling of Flesh & Bone. At several occasions, the characters remark that they never have time for laughter or conversations, they are just trying to survive. The book feels that way, but is paving the way for the finale. I still have hope that although beloved characters keep dying and strange new villains appear, the end will be satisfying.

One of my favorite things about the book is that we finally get to see the famous Zombie Cards that the kids collect and trade. To the right, you'll see the major villain for the final book, Saint John of the Knife. I'm eagerly anticipating how our heroes will face off against him.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Dust & Decay

I just learned that February is Women in Horror Month, which lines up perfectly for me, since I spent much of the month reading horror novels. My treat to myself on our week-long field trip to the coffee zone was to read Stephen King's Doctor Sleep (I usually only read young adult and middle grades books during the academic year), which stars a gifted and powerful little girl. Following that, I got into Jonathan Maberry's Rot & Ruin series, with its enigmatic Lilah the Lost Girl and likable Nix Riley. I finished the month with the second novel in the series, Dust & Decay.

It is rare for me to enjoy the second book in a series more than the Dust & Decay takes everything I enjoyed about its predecessor and ramps it up a notch. The action and fights are more frequent and intense, we already know the characters and some of the bounty hunters only mentioned before are now central characters, and the zombies are more frightening. To use a pun, this series is infectious. My dog's foot got tangled in my hair as I slept and my dream became about zombies. I spend a lot of time thinking about zombie escape plans. And I'm as curious as the characters in the books to find out why the zombies are suddenly acting differently.

There are some plot points that I strongly dislike, but I am now a devoted fan of Jonathan Maberry and have faith that he is taking his readers somewhere exceptional.