Tag Archives: Suspense

A Lesson in Narrative Voice

I have survived another holiday season. I apologize for my self-imposed blogging silence. I have tons of posts to write and have not settled down to write them.  Until now.

I finished a book, way back in December, called, The Name of This Book is Secret by Pseudonymous Bosch (I have to look up how to spell Pseudonymous every single time I write it).  The book is quite enjoyable (a great first book to the series). It follows two  precocious children, Cass and Max-Ernest. The book (I will refer to it as “the book” because it has a long title) is about kids solving a mystery and saving the day but it is also about the existence and even intrusion of narrative voice.

In general, the narrator in a book can blend so perfectly into the storytelling that you have to remind yourself someone or something is telling the story and it is NOT the author.  Sometimes the narrator is a character, well the narrator is always a character, but sometimes it is a character in which the action is happening directly to.  And sometimes the narrator is just there, hovering and watching the characters from above.  Understanding the importance of the narrator was key in my literature education. The Name of This Books is Secret is a wonderful example of narrative voice and specifically unreliable/ridiculous narration. The narrator is simply hilarious (even when s/he does not mean to be).

Cassandra (also known as Cass), the survivalist enthusiast, and Max-Ernest, the non-stop talker, join forces to discover the secret hidden in a box called The Symphony of Smells, or at least they try to discover the secret. The box leads them to discover the evil workings and diabolical plans of Ms. Mauvais and Dr. L. The book is filled with adventure, intrigue, and a great sense of humor. Read it and be prepared to get hooked.

Age Group: 8/9 and up
Genre: Middle Grade Books / Fantasy / Mystery
Themes: Magic, Friendship, Discovery, Secrets
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, imprint of Hachette Book Group

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Measuring Up to Other Dystopian Worlds: Divergent Review

Review by Nōn Wels: Check out his writing/political/philosophy blog, A Thousand Screaming Rabbits.

In reading Veronica Roth’s Divergent, two other book series came to mind. One, Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies series. And the other, the massively popular Hunger Games trilogy from Suzanne Collins. While I don’t think Divergent packs the same amount of punch like that of Uglies or Hunger Games, I do believe it has just enough exciting elements for an enjoyable read.

Akin to the different houses at Rowling’s “Hogwarts,” Roth’s world is separated into factions. Five factions, in this case. Each of which dedicate their lives to a particular culture and ideal. Candor values honesty. Abnegation values selflessness. Dauntless values bravery. Amity values peacefulness. Erudite values intelligence.

And like all the other kids turning 16, Beatrice (or “Tris,” as she calls herself) has to decide which faction is for her. She does, but the result is something she wasn’t at all prepared for.  What follows is an enjoyable and often exciting dystopian tale that has the right idea about how we live. Ms. Roth, it seems, understands that things are not always so black and white; that the narrow-minded can, in fact, be quite dangerous; that it’s important to recognize individuality as it pertains to the cultures or “factions” we live within; and that each culture holds inherent value we as individuals need to recognize—for ourselves and our factions.

Unfortunately, even with the above mentioned, I was mildly disappointed in the story’s originality. It just seemed, as I was reading, that I had read it before—in Uglies and Hunger Games, for instance. I wanted something more. Something that I didn’t see coming. Something that was going to surprise me.

All in all, it was fairly enjoyable. And, being the dystopian junkie that I am, I will continue reading the series. But with some trepidation.

Age Group: 12 and up
Genre: Young Adult / Science Fiction
Themes: Science Fiction, dystopian, identity, discrimination
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books, imprint of HarperCollins Children’s Books

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Giveaways are Crazy – Andrew Smith

Thank you to all that participated in the last Giveaway Schmiveaway!  Now it is time for the new one!!!

This Giveaway is a doozy:  Win a signed Andrew Smith book!!

This contest allows for three winners who will be picked randomly.  Enter into the contest by being a subscriber and get an additional entry by posting a comment (or comments) from now until December 10th!!!  The more comments the more entries!

Check out Non’s review of Ghost Medicine and soon there will be a review of Stick.  If you haven’t read anything by Andrew Smith then you are seriously missing out on some amazing storytelling.  Now is the time give him a try.

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Hunger Games Trailer

I kind of love the trailer.  All right, I don’t kind of, I really do.  I am not skeptical about this movie.  I am very hopeful and I can’t wait to see it.  If I am disappointed when I actually get to see it then c’est la vie.  For now I am going to be super excited :

See the Hunger Games Trailer

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The Knife of Never Letting Go

Review by Nōn Wels: Check out his writing/political/philosophy blog, A Thousand Screaming Rabbits.

It’s not often I find myself so enamored, so transfixed by two books back to back. First, The Marbury Lens, which utterly floored me (read the review).  Second, after reading The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness, I came to realize just how much I adore dystopian fiction. I like the idea of looking into a future that came about as a result of certain social, economical, religious, political and/or governmental action.

With that said, I couldn’t have prepared myself for the first sentence: “The first thing you find out when your dog learns to talk is that dogs don’t got nothing much to say.”

In Prentisstown, everyone can hear what you’re thinking. The thoughts are aptly called “noise.” There are also no women in the town, which, in addition to the noise, is a result of some unknown virus. When the story opens, the protagonist, the twelve-year-old Todd Hewitt, discovers a place where the noise doesn’t exist – a sort of patch in the air in which all is silent, and the noise is nonexistent. Unfortunately for Todd, the peace doesn’t last.

With the oppressive elders from Prentisstown, including the maniacal religious leader Aaron, at their heels, Todd, along with Viola, the young girl (yes, girl; and the first female he’s ever met) and his dog Manchee, flee for safety and survival. Over the next few hundred pages, Patrick Ness sets up a story that is both fast-paced and cognizant and indicative of its dystopian intentions: themes of privacy, gender politics and religious fundamentalism run throughout.

In addition to its fascinating story, the author writes in such a language that speaks to a post-apocalyptic, post-brick and mortar education colloquialism that is both rough and endearing.

I truly enjoyed this story, and I would recommend it to just about anyone. I am looking forward to reading the second book in the series.

**The Ask and The Answer: Book Two and Monsters of Men: Book Three are already available at your local independent bookstore!!

Age Group: 14 and up (Contains some bad language and sex is mentioned – 14 is really just a guess so you be the judge)
Genre: Young Adult / Science Fiction
Themes: Science Fiction, dystopian,
Publisher: Candlewick

CommonSenseMedia.org – This tells you in detail what is in the book that “might” be questionable.  Kind of interesting tool.  But if you are really worried about stuff then just read the book!

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Is a Utopian Prison Possible?

Incarceron by Catherine Fisher

Catherine Fisher explores the idea of a utopian prison in her book, Incarceron.  Utopian prison!?  What!  Is that possible?

Basically, in a nut shell, the novel contains two constructed utopias, the Outside and Incarceron.  The Outside is ruled by Protocol, which was decreed by King Endor “as a world free from the anxiety of change.”  The rulers have chosen an Era from the past and require that all who live within the realm follow the strict protocol of that particular era.  Imagine an amusement park where all of the employees are forbidden to break character (See “Super Fun Time” South Park episode which makes fun of these parks).  The people living in the Outside must adhere to the rules of  a Victorian-like Era, however, there are instances when highly advanced technology (or even just washing machines) are referenced but such technology is forbidden.  The big caveat to the law/Protocol forbidding the use of advanced technology is that the government can spy on you using highly sophisticated listening and visual devices.  Basically, technology is used, but only when it is to enforce control over the people.

Incarceron has been created to hold prisoners.  At the start of each chapter there are brief illuminations on why and how the world is the way it is.  At the beginning of Chapter 6 the Court Archives describe Incarceron as a Utopian experiment:

“All criminals , undesirables, political extremists, degenerates, lunatics would be transported [to Incarceron].  The Gate would be sealed and the Experiment commence.  It was vital that nothing should disturb the delicate balance of Incarceron’s programming, which would provide everything needed—education, balanced diet, exercise, spiritual welfare, and purposeful work—to create a paradise.”

Early on in the novel, like in the first twenty pages, the reader realizes that Incarceron is much closer to a dystopia* rather than a utopia.  In fact, both worlds, the Outside and Incarceron, appear to be struggling under government control.  This sets up the worlds Fisher creates but not the characters.  Claudia, daughter of the warden, finds herself rebelling against the Protocol within the Kingdom, while seventeen-year-old Finn attempts to break free from the clutches of the prison, which by the way is alive (Please imagine Gene Wilder playing Dr. Frankenstein and crying “It’s alive!”).  Incarceron is so sophisticated that it is actually alive and considers all of the prisoners it’s children.  The book focuses on Claudia and Finn as they attempt to upset the “utopian” balance of their worlds and in the end must help each other to break free.

The creation of these worlds highlights the improbability of ever having a utopian society.  While the world of Incarceron is much more dramatic in emphasizing the troubles with government control and the ridiculous idea of utopian societies, the Outside kingdom’s idea of Protocol, of essentially banning progress and change from ever occurring, creates just as much of a dystopia as Incarceron.  Can a government find a policy to make everyone happy, to create a utopia without restricting the rights of others?  An excellent short story that further explores the idea of utopias is “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” by Ursula K. Le Guin.  If you haven’t read it, then you should!  Along with Incarceron.  Fisher does an amazing job at creating the worlds in this book.  I found myself fighting against my body’s need for sleep, especially towards the end!  I wanted more than anything to find out what happens at the end and I was not disappointed.

Expect the sequel, Sapphique, in December 2010!

*Dystopia: –noun– a society characterized by human misery, as squalor, oppression, disease, and overcrowding. Dictionary .com

Age Group: 13 and up
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Themes: Fantasy, Utopia, Friendship, Adventure, Prison
Publisher: Dial Books, imprint of Penguin

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Can’t Wait For Mockingjay

I am getting very excited about Suzanne Collins final Katniss installment, Mockingjay!

Scheduled to be released on August 24th.

Check out the Bookstore People Review of Catching Fire

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