Friday, July 9, 2010

Review: Wolves, Boys, & Other Things That Might Kill Me

Title:  Wolves, Boys, & Other Things That Might Kill Me
Author:  Kristen Chandler

     From GoodReads, "When KJ Carson is assigned to write a column for her school newspaper about the wolves in nearby Yellowstone National Park, she’s more interested in impressing Virgil Whitman, the new kid in school and the photographer assigned as her partner, than in investigative journalism. But before long, KJ has a face-to-face encounter with a wolf that changes her and the way she thinks about wolves. With her new found passion for protecting these controversial animals, KJ inadvertently ignites the fuse of the anti-wolf sentiment in the community. First Virgil is injured during a town parade, and then her father’s store is set on fire in retribution. To stop the escalating violence, KJ follows Virgil to the cattle ranch of the most outspoken anti-wolf activists in town, against her father’s will. What she discovers there threatens everything and everyone she cares about.  In KJ’s fierce and funny attempt to make peace between the wolves and the people that despise them, she must first face her own long-held fears. It’s terrifying, but then, finding yourself always is."

     Due to the success of Stephanie Meyer's Twilight series, there have been lots of books springing up about vampires and werewolves.  I assumed this was another one of them and I was completely and utterly incorrect and I am willing to admit it because I found this book to be AMAZINGLY unique.  So much so that I cannot believe that this is author, Kristen Chandler's first novel.  
     The book takes place in Yellowstone National Park and discusses, in depth, the quirkiness of both the human and animals that share the natural habitat.  I like animals, but have never really been one to want to know more about them and reading this book made me truly appreciate wolves.  
     If you are looking for a book that you can quickly read and just have a good time reading it, this is not the book for you.  This is a novel that you really have to sink your teeth into (pun intended).  I found myself having to look up more than a few words to understand the deeper meaning of the book and it really made me think and read with more of an analytical mind.  I am really glad that Chandler wrote in this way and I'm sure that deeper thinking teens will appreciate the fact that she doesn't talk down to her readers as well.
     I absolutely loved the main character in this book because of so many reasons.  First of all, KJ Carson, lives with her father who is a guide in Yellowstone.  Her father is supportive and loving in his own unique way.  I love the fact that even though these two characters experienced a loss (KJ's mother died when she was very young) they don't let that fact hold them back in any way, shape, or form.  Secondly, I liked that KJ had flaws, but was willing to stand up for what she believed in even though there were times in doing so that she caused pain to herself and the people she loved.  Lastly, I loved watching the dynamics between KJ and all of the other characters in the book.  Every character had such a deeper quality to them that it was fun to see what KJ was thinking.
     In addition to the wonderfully developed characters, an amazing plot, and superb writing, the book managed to be suspenseful and unpredictable.  I would recommend this book to anyone, teen and adult reader, who is looking for a thought-provoking, powerful read.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Review: Little Blog on the Prairie

Title:  Little Blog on the Prairie
Author:  Cathleen Davitt Bell

     From GoodReads, "Little House on the Prairie? Great book. Horrible idea for a family vacation.

Gen’s family is more comfortable spending time apart than together. Then Gen’s mom signs them up for Camp Frontier—a vacation that promises the “thrill” of living like 1890s pioneers. Forced to give up all of her modern possessions, Gen nevertheless manages to email her friends back home about life at “Little Hell on the Prairie,” as she’s renamed the camp. It turns out frontier life isn’t without its good points—like the cute boy who lives in the next clearing. And when her friends turn her emails into a blog, Gen is happily surprised by the fanbase that springs up. But just when it seems Gen and family might pull through the summer, disaster strikes as a TV crew descends on the camp, intent on discovering the girl behind the nationwide blogging sensation—and perhaps ruining the best vacation Gen has ever had."

     To be honest, I was really excited to read this book because of two things... the cover (which is so authentically appealing) and the title (which reminded me of some of  favorite books as a child, The Little House on the Prairie novels).  This book did not disappoint!  I absolutely loved it and so will upper elementary, middle school, and even high school girls.  (Heck, even moms will like it... I speak from experience.)  The premise of the book, a family transplanted back in time to experience life in the good old days as a family vacation, is a unique one, and I think that kids will identify with Gen because they will feel her pain when all of her technologic gadgets are stripped away from her.      Readers of the Little House on the Prairie series will immediately notice that Gen has her own Nellie Olson nemesis to deal with, just like Half Pint did in the Little House series.
     There was a lot to like about this book... I loved Gen the main character and thought that her voice specifically was relevant for young girls.  She had a quality about her that made her likable in a best-friend, kind-of way.  I loved how the author, Cathleen Davitt Bell, described Gen's frontier experiences.  The milking the cow scene was especially enjoyable.  I also loved how you got the best of both worlds in the story.  You went back in time, the 1890s to be exact and experienced some of the things that happened through Gen's eyes and you got a modern day story including an aspect of reality television.  The frustration that the family experiences at both the situations at the frontier camp and Gen's shenanigans throughout the whole process will have you laughing and identifying.  All in all... a great read!

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