A Million Suns by Beth Revis

Title: A Million Suns
Author: Beth Revis
Length: 386 pages
ISBN: 9781595143983
Published in: 2012
Genre: science fiction, YA fiction (dystopic, post-apocalypse life)
Rating: 5/5
Challenges/Resolutions: Copyright 2012

Summary (from book jacket):

It’s been three months since Amy was unplugged. The life she always knew is over. Everywhere she looks, she sees the walls of the spaceship Godspeed.

But there may be hope: Elder has assumed leadership of the ship. He’s finally free to act on his vision–no more Phydus, no more lies.

But when Elder learns shocking news about the ship, he and Amy race to discover the truth behind life on Godspeed. They must work together to unlock a mystery that was set in motion hundreds of years earlier. Their success–or failure–will determine the fate of the 2,298 passengers aboard Godspeed. But with each step, the journey becomes more perilous, the ship more chaotic, and the love between them more impossible to fight.

My Thoughts: I love these books! This is the second book in a trilogy (I cannot wait for the final book to come out in January!) and it has kept me hooked on the story. In Across the Universe, Amy, a girl from our world, awakes from being cryogenically frozen for a few hundred years to find a spaceship full of people who are mindless drones. The young, soon-to-be leader of these people, Elder, discovers the people are being drugged to work passively for the furtherance of the ship, to get to Centauri-Earth, and cuts off those drugs (Phydus). But then the people start thinking.

That’s where this installment comes in. With the people of Godspeed thinking, they start to challenge their leadership. In most cases, I think I read from the people’s point of view. They’re rebelling against an oppressive government. But in this case, I’m reading from Elder’s (and Amy’s) point of view. I would like to think that I would admire a leader who let his people think for themselves if I was one of those people. But I would probably be a bit apprehensive to trust him, seeing as how past leaders took advantage of their power. I do like the fact that, in the end, Elder didn’t make everyone’s choice for them. Making a life altering decision, about a third of the ship’s population chose to do one thing and, the rest, chose another. It’ll be interesting to see how both groups fair in the last book!

For awhile there, I was beginning to think that some of the past generations already landed on Centauri-Earth and the current gens didn’t know anything about that. I wonder what aspects of inhospitable environment will arise on Centauri-Earth? Will it be something as simple as lions, tigers, and bears, but, having no experience with them, the scientists overestimate “inhospitable”? I can’t wait to find out!!! 😀

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by JK Rowling

“Size is no guarantee of power.”

TitleHarry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Author: JK Rowling
Genre: YA fantasy
ISBN: 9780439358071
Length: 870 pages
Published: 2003
Source: personal collection
Rating: 5/5
Resolutions/Challenges: Harry Potter Read-a-Long, hosted by Shannon and Giraffe Days.

Reason for Reading: The Harry Potter Read-a-Long is my excuse to reread the entire Harry Potter series–two reasons right there 🙂

Summary (from Goodreads):

As his fifth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry approaches, 15-year-old Harry Potter is in full-blown adolescence, complete with regular outbursts of rage, a nearly debilitating crush, and the blooming of a powerful sense of rebellion. It’s been yet another infuriating and boring summer with the despicable Dursleys, this time with minimal contact from our hero’s non-Muggle friends from school. Harry is feeling especially edgy at the lack of news from the magic world, wondering when the freshly revived evil Lord Voldemort will strike. Returning to Hogwarts will be a relief… or will it?

My Thoughts: As usual, I find that I am still in love with the Harry Potter series. But I have come to a sad realization that may influence how often I reread the books in the future.

I have recognized a feeling I experience with every continuing book of the series. And that is because it is a characteristic that I think grows in presence in each consecutive book. That characteristic, my friends, is arrogance. I’m finding certain characters to seem more and more arrogant as I reread these books (for the third time). I’m sure it’s pretty obvious that one of those arrogant characters is Harry. Even Hermione states that when she says Harry likes to “play the hero” and Snape is good at seeing Harry’s resemblance to James (but I think memories of James don’t seem as bad as Harry). I’m also getting the arrogant vibe from Dumbledore though.

“You will give the order to remove Dolores Umbridge from Hogwarts. You will tell your Aurors to stop searching for my Care of Magical Creatures teacher…I shall need to return to my school. If you need more help from me, you are, of course, more than welcome to contact me at Hogwarts. Letters addressed to the headmaster will find me.”
(p818-819, Dumbledore to Fudge)

What a great example of Dumbledore arrogance! And then, at times, Sirius also gave me that vibe, too. While Sirius plays a major role in Goblet of Fire and Order of the Phoenix, he really doesn’t actually have much focus as far as the story goes.

Despite the arrogance I feel from certain (and very important) characters, I still love the books. In the overall scheme of things, I don’t remember the arrogance over other, more exciting and interesting parts of the story. I mean, Umbridge carried off by centaurs is definitely a highlight to this particular book 😀

I just feel like I have to mention again that I’m still pretty upset that the films paid no attention to the fact that the prophecy could’ve been about Neville, not only Harry. I like the story line of the films and I understand that it’s not exactly essential to the rest of the big-picture story, but I still feel like it’s important.

Discussion Questions from Shannon at Giraffe Days (host of the HP Reading Marathon):

1. Where do you stand on The Order of the Phoenix: exciting story or series filler, or something in-between?

2. How did you feel about Dumbledore’s role in this installment?

3. How did you think the film version compared to the book?

1. I think I’d say this is more of an exciting story than a series filler. This is where we hear the prophecy that–half-heard by Voldemort–was the beginning of Harry’s story. If not for the prophecy, Voldemort would not have attempted to kill Harry, be foiled, and, well, we know the rest of the story. I suppose that the story could have continued without us actually knowing Voldemort’s motives–his “return from the dead” and further attempts to kill Harry are considered revenge in either case. But it gives a bit of irony to the story, with Voldemort not knowing that he or Harry must die at the hand of the other.

And of course, I really enjoyed Dolores Umbridge. By enjoying her, I mean I like to read the book knowing what’s in store for the old hag.

2. I always feel like Dumbledore is not very helpful in this book. But I don’t think that is exactly true. He just sort of keeps to himself and stays in the background–after all, he is why the Ministry is trying to intervene at Hogwarts, so he should give them nothing to of which suspect him. But I think the film dramatizes Harry’s consternation concerning Dumbledore’s aloofness towards him. Harry doesn’t try to talk and meet with Dumbledore nearly as often as the film lets on. Anyways, I think that Dumbledore was simply busier with the Order than in the past. And, after all, Harry is growing up and has to learn to do some things on his own.

3. I enjoy the book more than the film, as usual with this series. (But I do like the movies because of convenience, I suppose.) But I think many things are left out of this particular movie, most of which aren’t really important to the story, but which irk me nevertheless. Firstly, and what I think is most important, the fact that Neville could be in Harry’s place had Voldemort heard the entire prophecy is completely ignored. Then there is the whole prefect thing, which I think the movie underplays. I mean,  Hermione isn’t even really presented as a prefect in the film, but Ron is. And I would have loved to actually see Hagrid’s trip to the giants as a “flasback” sort of sequence–that would’ve been awesome, but a huge deal of work for the CGI people.

BBW 2011 Read: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by JK Rowling

~~Banned Books Week (BBW) 2011 takes place September 24th-October 1st~~

TitleHarry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Author: JK Rowling
Genre: YA fantasy
ISBN: 9780439139601
Length: 734 pages
Published: 2000
Source: personal collection
Rating: 5/5
Resolutions/Challenges: Harry Potter Reading Marathon 2011 hosted by Shannon at Giraffe Days
Here is Shannon’s post about Goblet of Fire.
Here are two more reviews: Lucybird’s Book Blog and Sky Ink.

Reason for Reading: I love Harry Potter 🙂

Summary (from back of book):

Harry Potter is midway through both his training as a wizard and his coming of age. Harry wants to get away from the pernicious Dursleys and go to the International Quidditch Cup with Hermione, Ron, and the Weasleys. He wants to dream about Cho Change, his crush (and maybe do more than dream). He wants to find out about the mysterious event that’s supposed to take place at Hogwarts this year, an event involving two other rival schools of magic, and a competitions that hasn’t happened for hundreds of years. He wants to be a normal, fourteen-year-old wizard. But unfortunately for Harry Potter, he’s not normal–even by wizarding standards.

And in his case, different can be deadly.

My Thoughts: I have begun to notice something with rereads. It is pretty impossible for me to write about my thoughts about it 😦 I have no problem in the Harry Potter instance with comparing it to the movie I’ve seen countless times since the last read. But to really think about the book on its own, is kind of hard. I don’t really know where to start when thinking about the book. All I have is a collection of random thoughts about the story. So here are some random thoughts.

  • This film is sooo different from the book it isn’t even funny. The timeline is all wrong and there is so much that is cut out. Yes, I still like the film and will continue watching it rather than trying to read the book that often. But, this is one when you honestly can’t take the movie’s word on.
  • I love that Ron and Hermione have their little altercation about what their relationship is. I actually am beginning to think that the movies display their growing relationship more than the books do with describing them. But I still get that vibe from the writing.
  • The first time I read this book was the first time while reading the series that I wished the focus strayed from Harry. Yeah, yeah, everyone loves Harry. And the books are all “Harry Potter and the…” But I wanted to see some more of someone else, especially Ron. Because I love Ron–he’s pretty goofy sometimes. But  I was getting sick of only Harry. Pretty sure that was due to the fact that Rowling had written that Ron was feeling overshadowed, again, but to a larger extent in this novel. She did a great job with that one!
  • There are a lot of politics in this book that I forgot about. I mean, the film GREATLY overlooks all of the crap with the Ministry that is going on. Especially with Bagman. And even Fudge being an idiot at the end is so underplayed in the film. Oh, and Hermione’s issue with the house elves and slavery. Have to admit that I honestly forgot about that!
  • In this book, Harry becomes more of an equal with Dumbledore. The ending alone shows the transition of Harry from the boy who looked up to Dumbledore for guidance and help to the young man who sought comradery and working side-by-side with Dumbledore.
  • The ending of this book is so much darker than the rest of the the book. Yeah, there is a lot of ominous foreshadowing throughout the story. But the ending is such good preparation for what’s to come. I feel the movie ending makes it seem like there’s not that much left in the story of Harry vs. Voldemort–like there could be only one more book. But the ending of the book is better at foretelling  just how much of a struggle there is left and how much more Harry must mature to finally end the Harry vs. Voldemort struggle.
  • I love that on page 417 (of my edition) Dumbledore finds the Room of Requirement as he is desperately searching for a bathroom 🙂
Memorable Quotes/Passages:
If you want to know what a man’s like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.
~~Sirius, p525
…we should exercise caution with our curiousity.
~~Dumbledore, p598
Here are Shannon’s questions for discussion about Goblet of Fire for those of us doing the Harry Potter Read-A-Long:

Discussion Questions:

1. What did you think of the movie adaptation of this book,and how well the changes they made worked?

2. What was your favourite scene in this book?

3. What are your thoughts and opinions on the heftier political aspects of this book?

1) While there were SOOO many changes the movie made to the book, I think they did a great job deciding what needed to be kept in and what could go. I mean, I watch the movie over and over (pretty much whenever it’s on TV) so obviously I don’t loathe it or anything. Let’s be honest, Hermione’s SPEW cause really isn’t imperative to the story. Both Order of the Phoenix and Half-Blood Prince were published before Goblet of Fire (the movie) was released. So it was easier, I think, for the movie-people to know what would be important for the story–SPEW never really comes up again, therefore, there was no real need for including it in the movie. Although I am a little sad that Dobby didn’t get his glory in this book. I mean, he did help Harry with that gillyweed bit. But we’ll never know that. Oddly enough, it made me a little sad to be reminded that Neville didn’t come up with the gillyweed–I really loved that in the movie he got some glory. Can’t have it both ways, I suppose!
2) I have to admit that my favorite scene is probably when Hermione calls Ron out about not asking her to the ball–she doesn’t like being treated like dirt until he needs someone. I love this scene in the movie, too. It’s funny because I actually have a couple of friends who are in the Hermione-Ron stage–they have been for years! 🙂 My girlfriend is often only paid any attention, in a more-than-a-friend manner, when my brother-in-law doesn’t have another girl in mind 😦 And I honestly think they will end up together–even if it takes 7 years (already been 5). Perhaps that similarity alone is a reason I like this scene so much.
Oh, and I really do love the ending where Dumbledore is pretty much telling Fudge he’s a frickin’ idiot 🙂 Put him in his place!!
3) I like that there are more politics in this book. I think all of the issues presented towards the end, about Fudge quieting something up because he wants to look good, really show the true colors of some politicians in reality. Plus, it just goes to show the younger adults in the book–Harry, Ron, and Hermione especially–that just because adults are adults doesn’t mean they are right or do the right thing. There will always be people out there who take that path that is easy over the path that is right. I think Dumbledore was very right in pointing that out in his amazing speech at the Leaving Feast. And I did enjoy that house elves and giants were added to this book, at least as far as magical creatures that aren’t wizards/witches go. Yeah, house elves were introduced in Chamber of Secrets. But the species wasn’t really talked about as a species, just Dobby and he is something special in his group.

BBW 2011 Read: Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

~~Banned Books Week (BBW) 2011 takes place September 24th-October 1st~~

Author: Laurie Halse Anderson
Genre: YA fiction
ISBN: 9780374371524
Length: 198 pages
Published: 1999
Source: public library
Rating: 4.5/5
Resolutions/Challenges: none

Reason for Reading: Every BBW, I think of this book. Not because I’ve already read it and loved it. But because I know it is a frequently challenged book which many of my reader friends have read and enjoyed. So I felt it’s finally time to read it.

Summary (from book jacket):

The ninth graders are hearded into the auditorium. We fall into clans: Jocks, Country Clubbers, Idiot Savants, Cheerleaders, Human Waste, Eurotrash, Future Fascists of America, Big Hair Chiz, the Marthas, Suffering Artists, Goths, Shredders. I am clanless. I wasted the last weeks of August watching bad cartoons. I didn’t go to the mall, the lake, or the pool, or answer the phone. I have entered high school with the wrong hair, the wrong clothes, the wrong attitude. And I don’t have anyone to sit with.

From her first moment at Merryweather High, Melinda Sordino knows she’s an outcast. She busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops–a major infraction in high-school society–so her old friends won’t talk to her, and people she doesn’t know glare at her. She retreats into her head, where the lies and hypocrisies of high school stand in stark relief to her own silence, making her all the more mute. But it’s not so comfortable in her head, either–there’s something banging around in there that she doesn’t want to think about. Try as she might to avoid it, it won’t go away, until there is a painful confrontation. Once that happens, she can’t be silent–she must speak the truth.

My Thoughts:

I really liked this book. This is probably one of the most different “coming-of-age” stories. Not that Melinda finished growing up by the end of the story. But she definitely grew up because of her unfortunate circumstances. Melinda started off her freshman year of high school as a girl who had no friends and belonged nowhere. By the end of that year, she had learned to stand up for herself (in relation to a bad experience she had) and was much stronger. Oddly enough, she didn’t really end the year with any friends or a sense of belonging, as one might think. But she knew where she didn’t belong, and that was hiding in the janitor’s closet while at school.

I am assuming that the reason adults might challenge this book is the issue of rape that’s presented in this story. But, I don’t think that rape is an issue to ignore. It is regrettably something that actually happens. And I have to admit that I have read fiction that concerns rape, amongst other things, in a way that is much more lewd–Push by Sapphire, for example. I read Push earlier this year (on audiobook) and the language Sapphire used was so very crude and real. Anderson hardly even refers to rape directly in the book–rape actually came up probably 2-3 times in Speak. I actually think that reading and discussing both Push and Speak would be a really interesting idea. Syracuse and Harlem are both in New York, but that’s pretty much where the similarities between the two books ends.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (re-read)

“‘You think the dead we loved ever truly leave us?'”

TitleHarry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Author: JK Rowling
Genre: children/YA fiction (fantasy)
ISBN: 078073007998
Length: 435 pages
Published: 1999
Source: personal collection
Rating: re-read
Resolutions/Challenges: Harry Potter Read-a-Long

Reason for Reading: Not only is this my favorite book/movie of the Harry Potter series, but I am also participating in a HP read-a-long, reading a HP book a month until the end of the year (2011). Also, I hadn’t read this book since 2007 when the last HP book was released.

Summary (from Goodreads):

For twelve long years, the dread fortress of Azkaban held an infamous prisoner named Sirius Black. Convicted of killing thirteen people with a single curse, he was said to be the heir apparent to the Dark Lord, Voldemort.

Now he has escaped, leaving only two clues as to where he might be headed: Harry Potter’s defeat of You-Know-Who was Black’s downfall as well; and the Azkaban guards heard Black muttering in his sleep, “He’s at Hogwarts . . . he’s at Hogwarts.”

Harry Potter isn’t safe, not even within the walls of his magical school, surrounded by his friends. Because on top of it all, there may well be a traitor in their midst.

My Thoughts: This has always been my favorite of the Harry Potter series. And I think it always will be. I have known since the series was being originally released that one reason I liked this book so much was that it doesn’t directly involve Voldemort. In a long series, I like a little variation. It’s nice not to know that Harry would fight Voledmort, win, and then another book would come out (since we knew there’d be seven books, that sort of gave away some endings in the middle books)–that this story is completely different from the regular flow of the other books in the series.

But I think I also realized another reason why I liked this one so much. Harry meets Lupin and Sirius, two of his father’s best friends. I think that this book holds the happiest moment for Harry in the series–finding out about Sirius and the (original) idea that he could leave the Dursleys and live as an actual wizard and be happy. I think it beats winning at Quidditch and destroying horcruxes in levels of happiness.

Oh, but I really do have to say something about what Snape says about James. Snape repeatedly mentions to Harry that he, too, is arrogant, just like James, “strutting around the castle” and whatnot. And then Harry blows up and gets upset that Snape would besmirch James’ name/memory. But I think this arrogance strikes true, to be honest. I love Harry, don’t get me wrong. But I think he can be arrogant. (I remember my initial reading of the series. I think I got to Goblet of Fire and starting thinking, “Gosh, I wish the books would focus more on Ron and/or Hermione for once” despite it being Harry Potter and the… series.) Especially the fact that Harry doesn’t know anything about how his father acted, it makes him seem a little arrogant to believe James wasn’t arrogant. Make sense? Oh, and I think Harry realizes this later in Order of the Phoenix, when he and Snape are working on Occlumency. When Harry accidentally sees some of James in Snape’s memories, he realizes some of what James was like from the view outside of his gang (forgive me if this is something that is emphasized more in the movie than the book, but I forget sometimes which has what). ANYWAYS, Harry can be arrogant and cavalier. But there obviously wouldn’t be a story without him.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by JK Rowling (reread)

TitleHarry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
Author: JK Rowling
Genre: children’s/YA fiction (fantasy)
ISBN: 07807306991
Length: 309 pages
Published: 1997
Source: personal collection
Resolutions/Challenges: the Harry Potter Reading Marathon 2011 hosted by Shannon at Giraffe Days

Reason for Reading: I’ve been really wanting to reread some of the Harry Potter books for the last few months. I don’t know what caused this sudden interest in wanting to read them again, perhaps it’s the second part of the seventh movie coming out soon on a subconscious level. Nevertheless, Shannon began this read-a-long at just the right time–it gave me the perfect excuse to read them 🙂

Summary (from Goodreads):

Harry Potter has never been the star of a Quidditch team, scoring points while riding a broom far above the ground. He knows no spells, has never helped to hatch a dragon, and has never worn a cloak of invisibility.

All he knows is a miserable life with the Dursleys, his horrible aunt and uncle, and their abominable son, Dudley—a great big swollen spoiled bully. Harry’s room is a tiny closet at the foot of the stairs, and he hasn’t had a birthday party in eleven years.

But all that is about to change when a mysterious letter arrives by owl messenger: a letter with an invitation to an incredible place that Harry—and anyone who reads about him—will find unforgettable. For it’s there that he finds not only friends, aerial sports, and magic in everything from classes to meals, but a great destiny that’s been waiting for him… if Harry can survive the encounter.

My Thoughts: First of all, I cannot believe that THIS BOOK WAS PUBLISHED 14 YEARS AGO!! I didn’t read it the first time until sometime in 2001, but anyways…

Secondly, I found that this time around, I was a little bored with the book. I’ve seen the movie hundreds of times (I tend to watch it whenever it’s on TV because I don’t own the DVDs *gasp!*), so the little differences between the book and movie seemed miniscule and I was a little bored. And since Harry is so new to the wizarding world, the plot to this book is rather simple: Something of great importance is hidden at Hogwarts and a bad guy is trying to get it. There’s not a whole lot of details and things that come in later (much longer) books. So the simpleness and redundancy of having seen the story portrayed so many times made me a bit bored. I wouldn’t say I liked it less–I was glad to read something that I already knew after having finished four books last week :O

Here are the Discussion Questions from Shannon’s review post of HP & the Sorcerer’s Stone:


I’m working on the assumption that most of you are re-reading these books, rather than coming at them for the first time, and that you’ve read the entire series. If this is the first time you’ve read the book, please let us hear your answers for this reading alone.

1. How many times have you read this particular book? Did you like it more or less on this read?

2. Did anything surprise you on this re-read, something you never noticed before perhaps or a detail that struck you as more important, knowing what’s coming later?

3. What is your favourite scene in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone?

And my answers:

1) I know I have read this book twice already for sure, but I might have read it thrice. So it’s at least my third time, maybe fourth, reading it. As I stated above, I didn’t really like it less even though I was a little bored.

2) This time around I noticed that Erised, as in the Mirror of Erised, is Desire backwards. I admit, I’d never noticed this before 😦 And I feel a little stupid for never having put that together. But, to be fair, the last time I read it was in 2007 and before that it was 2001. So it’s been awhile.
Also, I never realized that the movie skipped the fact that Harry went home with the Dursleys for a whole month (August) after his trip to Diagon Alley with Hagrid on his birthday. In the movie, Harry’s birthday is July 31st and he’s in the hut on the rock. Then Hagrid takes him to Diagon Alley and he goes straight to the Hogwarts Express. As I never thought anything odd about this (for lack of caring, I guess), I never noticed he went to Privet Drive for all of August.

3) As far as the book goes, my favorite passage is when Harry first goes to Diagon Alley. Those descriptions of things entirely unknown to us in the Muggle world are just so amazing!
As for the movie, I love watching Quidditch. While I realize that’s up to your creative imagination, I definitely like how the movie portrayed it. It’s much cooler than what I originally imagined 🙂

Across the Universe by Beth Revis

TitleAcross the Universe
Author: Beth Revis
Genre: young adult fiction (dystopian)
ISBN: 9781595143976
398 pages
: Jan. 11, 2011
Source: public library
Rating: 5/5
Resolutions: Published in 2011 Resolution; Years of Books Goal

Reason for Reading: Natalie at Coffee and a Book Chick gave this book an AMAZING review last fall and then she raved about it again in a vlog post about some debut authors she’s been reading. So I decided I just had to read it 🙂 Plus, you know I’m always up for a dystopian novel 😀

Summary (Product Description):

Amy and her parents believe they will wake on a new planet, Centauri-Earth, three hundred years in the future. But fifty years before Godspeed’s scheduled landing, cryo chamber 42 is mysteriously unplugged, and Amy is violently woken from her frozen slumber.

Someone tried to murder her.

Now, Amy is caught inside a tiny world where nothing makes sense. Godspeed‘s 2,312 passengers have forfeited all control to Eldest, a tyrannical and frightening leader. And Elder, Eldest’s rebellious teenage heir, is both fascinated with Amy and eager to discover whether he has what it takes to lead.

Amy desperately wants to trust Elder. But should she put her faith in a boy who has never seen life outside the ship’s cold metal walls? All Amy knows is that she and Elder must race to unlock Godspeed‘s hidden secrets before whoever woke her tries to kill again.

My Thoughts: This book is amazing! I know, I tend to think this of every dystopian novel I read. I think I like dystopian novels because they are so different. Authors who can create whole new worlds–and do it well–deserve a lot of credit. And Revis did such a great job with this book–and it’s her debut!

One of the things that I loved about this story is that it all (well, except for the first couple chapters on “Sol-Earth”) takes place on a spaceship. But it’s not like Star Wars or Star Trek (granted, I’ve never seen Star Trek). I have never read a book set on a spaceship before, but I think Revis did a great job not making the story really science-fiction-y. The population on Godspeed appeared to be slightly primitive in respects and very advanced in others–they put a lot of research into science, namely because of a big problem with the ship, but in other areas the general population is kept in the dark (and only concerns itself with agriculture).

I think what I loved most about this story, was the “murder mystery” bit, as Revis calls it 🙂 Just when I thought I had figured out what Eldest was hiding from Elder, it turned out to be the complete opposite! That’s not to say that I like to be proven wrong, but that the mystery wasn’t too easy to figure out or too obvious. I never would’ve expected what the real problem was.

Thoughts on the Cover: I think the cover is beautiful. But one of the best things about it, is that it’s reversible. Now, for me that didn’t really matter because it’s a library book so I couldn’t reverse it 😦 But I had already seen images online of the reverse, so it was alright.  And I think the cover, if kept on the blueprint of Godspeed side, might look a little “busy”.


I am so excited that in about a year–sometime in late winter/early spring of 2012–the second book in the Across the Universe trilogy will be published: A Million Suns 🙂

Finished Book #1 for 2011 Already!!

TitleNaughts and Crosses
Author: Malorie Blackman
Genre: “young adult” fiction (racial issues); technically “dystopic” I hear
ISBN: 9781416900160
Length: 387 pages
Year Published: 2001
Source: borrowed from library
Rating: 3/5
Reason for Reading: Eva at A Striped Armchair wrote a very thought-provoking post about this book, so I was very interested in it 🙂


Sephy is a Cross — a member of the dark-skinned ruling class. Callum is a Nought — a “colourless” member of the underclass who were once slaves to the Crosses. The two have been friends since early childhood, but that’s as far as it can go. In their world, Noughts and Crosses simply don’t mix. Against a background of prejudice and distrust, intensely highlighted by violent terrorist activity, a romance builds between Sephy and Callum — a romance that is to lead both of them into terrible danger. Can they possibly find a way to be together?

My Thoughts: I think Eva really hit the nail on the head with her thoughts on this book. She said, “While I have a lot of admiration for what the author was doing, I didn’t love the book” (on her post, again here’s a link) and I think that describes my feelings pretty spot-on. I always find the issue of race and segregation vs. integration to be something interesting. But this book about it just really boggled my mind. I wrote in my journal after having basically just started this book that I couldn’t really visualize whites inferior to blacks. I think this might have something to do with the fact that I’m a history teacher and, having taken so many history courses, the image of blacks inferior to whites in the past has just been so engrained in my brain that I can’t visualize it easily 😕 (PS- By the end of the book, I could picture it, but I had to work strongly to visualize it that way.) But that made me start thinking that maybe it’s not the engrained past–maybe I subconsciously can’t see myself as inferior to blacks? I know that sounds really bad, but it’s possible. Let’s be honest, where I grew up was very…white. So this could just be because of my lack of interracial interactions. But it’s a plausible thought, even if it’s bad.

At one point during the book, there were about 2-3 years that were skipped. I didn’t really like this, but I understand why Blackman wrote it that way. If nothing of import was really going on between Sephy and Callum during those years, they were really important to the plot. But I think it would’ve been nicer to see into Callum’s past a little more. The book essentially skips the part of his life when he does a complete 180 and changes into the man his brother/father is/was, someone he never wanted to be. I wish I could’ve known how he got there.

Some of the book really reminded me of true historical events. Like the four naughts going to a previously all-Cross school reminded me of the Little Rock Nine. (PS- That’s why I’m going to next read a memoir of one of the Little Rock Nine students.) But then I got to thinking: How did integration go in the UK (which is where the book is set)? I admit that my education on racial discrimination and the Civil Rights Movement really is focused on the American ordeal. So now I want to learn about how it happened in the UK 🙂

There were some very very thought-provoking quotes from this read, one of which I think warrant a little explanation why I found them so interesting:

“Without knowing a single thing about me, she hated my guts. I was a Cross and that was all she wanted or needed to know.”
~p312 Sephy, about Leila, a Liberation Militia member (naught)

I think this is very insightful. And very true. Why do people tend to have these thoughts? I think everyone is guilty of this–maybe not hating, per se, but just not trusting 100%? I know I’m guilty of it. I get a little nervous when I’m in a neighborhood that isn’t considered the safest, but I have no reason to. I don’t know the people who live there, they could be just as trustworthy as I believe I am. But yet, the feelings of insecurity are there 😕

” ‘I’m not sure I share your faith in a society ruled by naughts,’ Jack tells me [Callum] thoughtfully. ‘People are people. We’ll always find a way to mess up, doesn’t matter who’s in charge.’ ”
~p380 Jack, Callum’s prison guard


“It seemed to me we’d practiced segregation for centuries now and that hadn’t worked either. What would satisfy all the naughts and Crosses…? Separate countries? Separate planets? How far away was far enough? What was it about the differences in others that scared some people so much?”
~p28 Callum


“My eyes widened at that. I’d never really thought about it before, but she was right. I’d never seen any pink Band Aids.”
~p61 Sephy

I have thought about this before. I think I asked my mom why they didn’t have brown Band Aids when I was probably 13. I don’t recall an answer, because she probably didn’t give me one 🙂

“But I wanted to learn. A yawning hole deep inside me was begging to be filled up with words and thoughts and ideas and facts and fictions.”
~p66 Callum, about going to an integrated school

I like this one more or less because I’m a teacher, so it just fits me very well 😀

So, while I loved what Blackman was doing in this book, I didn’t exactly like the story all that much. It was thought provoking, but that was about it.

My Thoughts on the Cover: Pretty minimalist. I like that I have the “Naughts”, not “Noughts” version. I like the red, rather than the other covers I’ve seen with just the black and white, but I can’t put my finger on why. Maybe because red symbolizes war and turmoil, and there is that in the book.

Charlie & the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

Title: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
: Roald Dahl 
: fiction, kid’s lit
: 9780375815263
: 155
Published: 1964
public library
: 5/5
Reason for Reading: Roald Dahl Day; Years of Books Goal (1964)

Book Description (book jacket):

August Gloop eats himself sick.
Veruca Salt is a spoiled rotten brat.
Violet Beauregarde chews gum day and night.
Mike Teavee is a television fiend.

Charlie Bucket, Our Hero, is brave and true and very, very hungry.

What do these five have in common? Why, they’re the luckiest children in the entire world: they’ve each won the chance to enter Willy Wonka’s famous, mysterious chocolate factory.

What happens when the big doors swing open to reveal Mr. Wonka’s secrets? What happens when they come upon the tiny factory workers who sing in rhyme? What happens when, one by one, the children disobey Mr. Wonka’s orders? In Roald Dahl’s most popular story for children, the nasty are punished and the good are deliciously, sumptuously rewarded.

My Thoughts: I cannot believe it has taken me THIS long to read this wonderful story. I’ve read plenty of other of Dahl’s works, but this one, never. I think maybe I have put it off because it’s supposed to be his most popular book and I didn’t want to go in order of popularity? Maybe? Or I just never thought about it. I guess since there are movies to go along with this book–one, a musical (I love musicals 🙂 )–maybe I just relied on them. And, I have to admit, the movies are pretty good as far as sticking to the book goes. I don’t believe I’ve seen the recent Charlie and the Chocolate Factory film, only Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (the musical). But I know that that film does follow the book better than the musicals. For instance, Veruca and the squirrels vs. Veruca and the geese that lay the golden eggs–only one is in the book and the movies contain one each of these options.

I have to say, I was thoroughly disappointed to not have the Oompa Loompa songs as they were in the musical when every bad child goes away. Dahl’s original poems were by no means bad, but I just love those songs 😕 And, I guess I thought it would be more like my favorite Alice in Wonderland film (Natalie Gregory stars as Alice) where the original poems in the story by Carroll became songs.

But I think I should definitely read Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator as none of the movies contain parts of the sequel, as far as I know.

My Thoughts on the Cover: BORING!! Not very appealing to kids. But it seems like this particular cover, as it is a hardback, would be more of a book a parent loved as a child and wanted to have for their kids. I can understand that. I think I would like to have a Roald Dahl boxed set (if such a thing exists) for my future kids, and I would therefore buy a nice set. HOWEVER, Quentin Blake’s illustrations were still in this book, despite the hard cover, so all is well 😀

James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl

Title: James and the Giant Peach
: Roald Dahl
: fiction, kid’s lit
: 9780142410363
: 146
Published: 1961
public library
: 5/5
Reason for Reading: Roald Dahl Day; Years of Books Goal (1961)

Book Description (back of book):

When James accidentally drops some magic crystals by the old peach tree, strange things start to happen. The peach at the top of the tree begins to grow, and before long it’s as big as a house. Then James discovers a secret entranceway into the fruit, and when he crawls inside, he meets a bunch of oversized friends–Grasshopper, Centipede, Ladybug, and more. After years of feeling like an outsider in his aunts’ house, James has finally found a place where he belongs. With a snip of the stem, the peach starts rolling away, and the adventure begins!

My Thoughts: I think this was a great little read. It surprises me sometimes to read books in a few hours as a grown-up that would have taken a few days as a younger child. This is one of Dahl’s books that I previously had not read. Or had it read to me. It amazes me, however, how Dahl so often includes people who are bad (like James’ aunts in this book) being punished. But he never seems to make it seem too gruesome for the children who are inevitably the readers (most of the time, anyways). I always liked the little bit of nonsensical elements Dahl includes, such as the giant peach being hoisted into the air by 502 seagulls or giant insects.

My Thoughts on the Cover: It is pretty self-explanatory of the novel. But what I like most is Quentin Blake’s illustrations–they belong with any Dahl book, in my opinion 🙂