Monday, June 22, 2009

PW's starred reviews and HP Giveaway reminder

Last week I announced the Harry Potter Prize Pack Giveaway. To enter, leave a comment about your favorite Harry Potter memory between now and midnight on Sunday, July 5th. The winner will be randomly selected on Monday, July 6th.

Below are this week's Publisher's Weekly starred reviews, one of which is Catching Fire, the second highly anticipated book after The Hunger Games. A couple of weeks ago, I was whining about not getting an ARC so I could read it in advance of the issue date in September. But, I did get to read it after all (a friend of a friend...)!!! And it is everything all of the bloggers and reviews are raving about. I couldn't put it down and now my son is reading it:-)

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead. Random/Lamb, $15.99 (208p) ISBN 978-0-385-73742-5

Twelve-year-old Miranda, a latchkey kid whose single mother is a law school dropout, narrates this complex novel, a work of science fiction grounded in the nitty-gritty of Manhattan life in the late 1970s. Miranda’s story is set in motion by the appearance of cryptic notes that suggest that someone is watching her and that they know things about her life that have not yet happened. She’s especially freaked out by one that reads: “I’m coming to save your friend’s life, and my own.” Over the course of her sixth-grade year, Miranda details three distinct plot threads: her mother’s upcoming appearance on The $20,000 Pyramid; the sudden rupture of Miranda’s lifelong friendship with neighbor Sal; and the unsettling appearance of a deranged homeless person dubbed “the laughing man.” Eventually and improbably, these strands converge to form a thought-provoking whole. Stead (First Light) accomplishes this by making every detail count, including Miranda’s name, her hobby of knot tying and her favorite book, Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time. It’s easy to imagine readers studying Miranda’s story as many times as she’s read L’Engle’s, and spending hours pondering the provocative questions it raises. Ages 9–14. (July)

The Orange Houses by Paul Griffin. Dial, $16.99 (160p) ISBN 978-0-8037-3346-6

This hard-hitting and lyrical novel opens with the apparent hanging of Jimmi Sixes, a disturbed 18-year-old veteran and street poet/junkie, back in the Bronx after his discharge from the army; the story then retraces the preceding month’s events. Stubborn 15-year-old Tamika (aka Mik), who lives in the projects called the Orange Houses, is hearing-impaired but often prefers to turn off her hearing aids and text message rather than speak. Jimmi introduces her to Fatima, an illegal refugee who has just arrived from Africa (“Her pinky and ring finger were gone. If she held up the hand, say to block a machete blade, the angle of the slash through her palm would match that of the slash crossing her cheek”), and a friendship blossoms. Fatima and Jimmi try to protect Mik from a box-cutter-wielding girl and her posse, but Jimmi ends up caught by a vigilante group. Griffin’s (Ten Mile River) prose is gorgeous and resonant, and he packs the slim novel with defeats, triumphs, rare moments of beauty and a cast of credible, skillfully drawn characters. A moving story of friendship and hope under harsh conditions. Ages 14–up. (June)

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins. Scholastic Press, $17.99 (400p) ISBN 978-0-439-02349-8

Fresh from their improbable victory in the annual Hunger Games, Katniss and Peeta get to enjoy the spoils only briefly before they must partake in a Capitol-sponsored victory tour. But trouble is brewing—President Snow tells Katniss directly he won’t stand for being outsmarted, and she overhears rumbles of uprisings in Panem’s districts. Before long it’s time for the next round of games, and because it’s the 75th anniversary of the competition, something out of the ordinary is in order. If this second installment spends too much time recapping events from book one, it doesn’t disappoint when it segues into the pulse-pounding action readers have come to expect. Characters from the previous volume reappear to good effect: Katniss’s stylist, Cinna, proves he’s about more than fashion; Haymitch becomes more dimensional. But the star remains Katniss, whose bravery, honesty and wry cynicism carry the narrative. (About her staff of beauticians she quips: “They never get up before noon unless there’s some sort of national emergency, like my leg hair.”) Collins has also created an exquisitely tense romantic triangle for her heroine. Forget Edward and Jacob: by book’s end (and it’s a cliffhanger), readers will be picking sides—Peeta or Gale? Ages 12–up. (Sept.)

Congratulations to these authors!

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