Monday, March 25, 2013

Book Review: Tender Morsels

Title: Tender Morsels
Author: Margo Lanagan
Teen Reviewer: Shannon Finney
Rating: 3/5 Stars 

Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan is a fantasy novel about a woman who, after suffering throughout her teenage years as a victim of unspeakable abuse, finds peace and comes to understand the meaning of true happiness. As Liga Longfield begins to blossom into adulthood, her widower father’s mistreatments turn her life into a nightmare. Also becoming a victim of the towns boys’ violence, the tremendous pain Liga feels summons a magical force that transforms her village into a protected realm of her dreams. It is there that she raises her two daughters, Branza and Urdda, in perfect tranquility, without any of the unpleasant emotions that she felt in her old life. It is not until Liga discovers that her heaven is penetrable by strange bears and other fragments of the true world that her paradise is threatened, and her and the two girls’ lives are forced to evolve into something more real, and more fulfilling. 

Tender Morsels is a beautifully embellished, sometimes intense read full of magic, love, and emotion. Fans of fantasy novels will find themselves engulfed in the mystical setting and fairy-tale story   line led by empowered and independent women. The gruesome and fairly disturbing way that the novel begins might be too much for some readers, but the enchantment of Liga and her daughters’ journey through heaven and reality is too delightful to miss.

Lanagan’s technique of story-telling interweaves characters that seem to be unconnected at first, but by the end of the novel come together and are part of the same plot-line. Although this is an  interesting way to complicate a story and to involve the reader, I found the many characters hard to keep track of at times, especially when the point of view shifts in mid chapter, frequently even from third to   first-person. It takes a bit, after each shift, to figure out who the speaker is, and can only be determined     by the circumstances and other characters described. By the middle of the novel, I found this to be   tedious. However, this was not enough to take away from my overall enjoyment of the story. 

Tender Morsels is a beautifully detailed novel that any teen fantasy fan would thoroughly enjoy.     The great contrast of pain and dreamlike comfort that the three extraordinary women live through is fascinating and had me very much involved in the story. This novel makes a statement about life and what is   is truly important to humans that everyone can connect with. I’d recommend Tender Morsels to anyone who enjoys magical, deeply intimate stories about inspiring women.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Book Review: Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass

Title: Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass: The Story Behind an American Friendship
Author: Russell Freedman
Teen Reviewer: Tim Wood
Rating: 4.5/5

Abraham Lincoln & Frederick Douglass: The Story Behind an American Friendship, by Russell Freedman, is a great book about not only the lives of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, but also the events that surrounded their relationship, mainly the Civil War. The book starts off with Douglass being about to meet President Lincoln in the middle of the Civil War, then shifts to Douglass' story of being a freed slave. The book then proceeds to go into detail about Lincoln's early life, including his upbringing, law practice, and political career. After explaining the backgrounds of Lincoln and Douglass, Freedman moves into how they met and how their friendship grew in the midst of the Civil War. This book explains not only a lot about Civil War history, but it also explains how these two men shaped the course of the nation in the midst of one of its greatest struggles.

Being an avid reader of history, especially Civil War history, I enjoyed this book very much. One thing I thought the book did exceptionally well was to provide details and quotations throughout the book. Another thing I liked was that the book provided the background necessary to understand the relationship between Douglass and Lincoln. For instance, The book states in a few places that the two men had a very similar upbringing in that they were both self-taught and read many of the same books. Without this information, it becomes difficult to understand their conversations later in their lives. One thing that the author could have done was to provide citations on the pages directly because of the amount of quotes he used. As I was reading I started asking myself if every single quote in the book is legitimate. But in the same respect the author did provide a selected bibliography and notes about the quotations at the end of the book. All in all, the book served its purpose by showing the relationship of Lincoln and Douglass and how it shaped themselves and the nation, and I learned quite a bit about Civil War history myself.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Review: Faces From the Past, take two

Title: Faces From the Past 
Author: James M. Deem
Teen Review: Irina Kustovskaya
Rating 4.4/5 Stars
Read as ebook
Faces from the Past by James M. Deem is a book about forgotten people who now serve as windows into life centuries ago. It is a nonfiction work, focusing on archaeology, which includes a lot of history. If you are one who is into history (especially archaeology) then you will have a great time with this book.  It is a quick read and there are plenty of pictures to keep you interested.  

James Deem writes an impressive examination of ten people/burial sites of the past- a summary of their life, how they ended up in North America, how they died, and how they were found. They include immigrants, sailors, soldiers, ordinary people, etc., so there is plenty of variety.  The story discusses what made them become forgotten as well- before they were found, that is. What is also really fascinating is that there are special laboratories that actually take the skulls of the found people and “bring them back to life” by reconstructing the faces using clay! Archaeologists and historians get a look inside their lives using this technique, and it was pretty intriguing to read about this process and how it is done. That’s also what the pictures are- a lot of them are pictures of the facial reconstruction process. 

This was a very pleasant read- Deem definitely did a lot of research and information to back up everything that he discusses in the story. There is also a respectful tone for every individual and burial ground, making the book a lot more professional. For a read intended for 11-15 year olds, it actually had more of an adult tone, rather than something directed at preteens. Deem uses sharp, precise context and makes his points very well. It was not the longest story, so I really liked how Deem fit a plethora of information inside a small space. It was not one of those informational reads that you can read when you’re having trouble sleeping- it keeps your interest. The pictures, illustrations and diagrams add to the comprehensiveness of the book. It is very focused and well-spoken, and it is a much welcomed variety into a reading world dominated by teen dramas.

I would rate this book 4.4 out of 5 stars. Overall, it is an enjoyable read to anyone who is into history and archaeology, and it is fairly easy to comprehend. Faces from the Past uses a concise language and a respectful tone, adding to the overall feel very nicely. The only reason I did not give it all 5 stars was because archaeology is not my field- I am a history buff, but not in that area, so I guess it did not “reach” me as well as it could have. Overall, I would recommend it highly, especially to those who are interested in the subject! (And remember, there are pictures!)