Monday, September 17, 2012

Mandy's Book of the Week (9/17)

How about a classic YA novel today?

I read this book as a part of the "classics" lesson in my most recent class.  My first impression wasn't great; I mean, just look at that cover?  But I was a bit intrigued by the synopsis, so I cracked it open and got to reading.

Change a few details and this could be any book about bullying written today.

Every year at the Catholic school where this novel is set, they host a chocolate sale.  It is a way to show school spirit and help raise some very needed funds for the school each year.

Operating under the radar, even though everyone from teachers to students know they exist, is a group called the Vigils.  The Vigils go around basically bullying and harassing kids into pulling pranks or doing their dirty work.  One of the first "assignments" they give during this particular school year is for a kid to go into a room and loosen all the screws to every desk, chair, table, and the chalkboard.  That way when the students go to sit down, they'll all collapse.

Jerry is a freshman who lives with his dad (his mother died the previous spring) and he's doing everything he can to make the football team.  Beyond that, he just wants to be left alone.  Of course the leader of the Vigils, Archie, singles Jerry out for an extra special assignment targeting the chocolate sale.  Basically, he's supposed to not sell the chocolates.  So when the time comes and the teachers are handing out boxes, Jerry should refuse them.  This leads to unexpected repercussions and the Vigils tell him after two weeks to accept the chocolates and sell them as usual.  But Jerry continues to refuse them in direct violation to the order from the Vigils.  This is where the heavy handed bullying starts.

I enjoyed this book a lot, but I see it having huge potential as a book for dudes.  It was a page turner for sure.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Mandy's Book of the Week (9/10)

I'm finally back to posting these!  Between getting library cards issued to every Cotter student and doing lots of book talks, I've been out of the office most Monday mornings and these postings got put on hold.

This week, I present you with a book that is unique at the present time.  This book is a standalone novel, meaning it is not a part of a series.  The entire story opens and closes within the confines of this book.

Maggie Stiefvater has taken the legend of the water horses, a Celtic mythical creature (called the capaill uisce in this book), and made it her own.  I'm not a "horse girl,"  and I was worried that I wouldn't like this book, but MAN!, this book is good.

The capaill uisce live in the ocean and start coming to land on the island of Thisby every autumn.  This is dangerous as the horses are carnivorous (read: they'll eat you, your sheep, your cat, whatever) and super strong.  In fact, one of the main character's parents were killed by the horses several years before.

This is a flip perspective book, so you go back and forth between Puck (real name Kate, the middle child orphaned by the capaill uisce) and Sean, a 19 year old who works at the island's stable.

Thisby is generally an island filled with the poor and there is no exception for Puck and her two brothers.  She and her younger brother take odd jobs when they can, but their main breadwinner is her older brother, Gabe.  Gabe is responsible for keeping them afloat, so when he decides he just can't take island life anymore and decides to move to the mainland, Puck has to take drastic measures to make sure the rest of the family can afford to live.

For Sean, his risk comes for the horse he loves.  He's been training his capaill uisce, Corr, for years and has grown to love him dearly.  In fact, while the water horses generally cannot be trusted, Sean and Corr have developed a small sense of trust with each other.

Every November, the Scorpio Races are held.  This is the island's primary means of support as people come from all over the world to watch people chance their lives by racing the capaill uisce on the beach.  Lives are lost every year; the horses are drawn to the sea and have a type of magic living in them that causes their riders to go willingly into the sea with them.  And that is the more bloodless type of death, the horses maim and kill on the beach as well.

Puck decides to enter the race as a means to save her house and provide for herself and her brother, since the winner gets a sizable amount of money.  However, Puck is going to race her mare instead of a water horse and she's the first woman ever to enter the race, leaving her vulnerable to attack by men who think she shouldn't be a part of it.

Sean has asked to purchase Corr from his ruthless boss, the owner of the stable where he works, to no avail.  Sean has won the Scorpio Races on Corr for the last 2 years and has been saving his money.  He hopes that this will be the year he can somehow find the right price to make Corr his.

This book was such a joy to read.  It was full of suspense and Maggie Stiefvater writes in such a way that you never know what is going to happen.  The Scorpio Races was also a Printz Honor book, meaning that it expands from being simply a book and became literature.

Come and enjoy it!