Thursday, January 8, 2015

The Book of Ivy, Amy Engel

Wow. Ok, so I found out about this book by reading a little blip...I can't remember where I found it, but since it's published by Entangled Teen (the publishing company who published by friend Renee Collin's first novel) maybe it was an email they had sent out. But it was titled "How I almost didn't read The Book of Ivy" because it is another teen girl narrated dystopian future book. But it said it had such a sweet love story in it, and it intrigued me just enough. So I got it from my library in about a week or so and devoured it in a few days.

Ivy lives in the not too far distant future. In a world largely destroyed by nuclear bombs and EMPs which have rendered most modern technology things useless. There are no cars or transportation, phones, etc. They have solar panels that manage to help heat water and power electric stoves for cooking. She also happens to be a Westfall. Their "nation" or more like city of around 10,000 people was founded by her grandfather for whom the city is named after. Her grandfather wanted a democracy. However, when a smaller, persuasive group shows up, headed by a Lattimer, more war breaks out and Lattimer comes out ahead, creating a position called "President" which acts more like a monarchy as power can only be passed down generationally through blood line. One way to keep the peace strategically was the instigation of arranged marriages. Throughout the few generations of this population, they city has remained separate and distinct with the "winning" side and its supporters living on one side of the town and the "losing" side and its supporters on the other. These marriages are not randomly chosen. When a child reaches 16, their names are put into the marriage selection pool. They participate in personality tests and other things to help create the best possible match (think Matched without all their life long data trackers). The reason they marry so young is because life expectancy has dropped and because of residual radiation levels, the younger children are conceived, the better chance of a normal healthy child being born is. They have 2 years to become matched in a marriage. If they don't get matched, they may choose to remain single or marry someone else who was not matched. But it goes even further. ALL the girls on the "losing" side must first submit to being matched to a boy from the "winning" side. This ceremony happens in the spring in May. In November, ALL the girls of the "winning" side are married off to the boys of the "losing" side.

This year, the President's son, Bishop, is getting matched to be married. He was supposed to be married 2 years ago, but for some reason told his father he wanted to wait. This year, the first year the Westfall line has had girls in the same age bracket as the President's sons. This year, Ivy will cement the bond between Founder and President by being part of an arranged marriage to Bishop Lattimer. She is 16. Her mother died when she was young. Her father has known this day would come and has been coaching his girls (Ivy has an older sister, Callie) their whole lives about how to restore democracy to their town. It involves assassination. And Bishop's wife must be the one to first kill him. So Ivy has a mission. To kill her husband. (This is not a spoiler, it's on the back cover).

This book has so many interesting things about it (Yay for no direct love triangle!). It explores family loyalty, thinking for yourself, how to recognize incongruences with what you've been taught vs. what is real. Ivy and her sister were home schooled because their father didn't trust the President's curriculum. I see that today. I don't fully trust our government with educational curriculum, however, my choice is not to opt out of it, but to continue to teach my personal beliefs about things to my children so that hopefully they will be able to see through traps, pit falls, and logical fallacies when they see them. Of course, I hope they agree with me on many things, because I am very passionate about what I believe and feel I have good logic behind it not motivated by fear or hatred. HOWEVER, this book has also made me think hard about asking myself "How am I teaching my children to think for themselves? To have a conscious to make decisions that would help humanity and not hurt them?" Hatred and bigotry are largely taught-usually by example-generationally from parent to child. The only way you break that is to CHOOSE not to follow what you were taught. And it takes a VERY strong person to take something that they were taught by someone they love, who loves them, and say "You know, I don't think that's the best view to take." And as a parent, I know I need to not take anything like that in the future as disrespect, because it's not. If my children grow up to be able to listen to opposing views in a respectful manner and articulate in an educated way why they disagree, even if it's with me, I think that would be a good thing. Even if it's a hard thing.

This book also shows how blinding people's causes can be. Some people are willing to have innocent casualties because the end result is better. I understand that there are times when innocent casualties are unavoidable. Take WWII for example. Before bombing Japan, we sent bombers over there to drop pamphlets stating which cities we were targeting and encouraged civilian evacuation (I learned this reading "Unbroken") however, Japanese government confiscated this and many people were either not allowed or not able to evacuate and unfortunately, many innocent lives were lost at our country's hand for the greater good. Ending the war was a good thing. And I'm sure the powers that were at the time felt they had exhausted every other potentially possibility before dropping that bomb-even though I don't think we fully understood what that bomb would do. Now that we know, the ENTIRE WORLD I think (aside from maybe N. Korea) is pretty darn hesitant to drop another. Which is good. As a humanity, we learned. We decided that it's not worth it to use that particular tactic. But if an innocent casualty can be prevented, people should NOT be blinded by their singular quest. It makes you no different from the people who conquered you to begin with.

It also addresses manipulation and what it does to your mind. Once you realize you've been manipulated once, you start to wonder if EVERYONE is manipulating you and you wonder if you would know what it feels like to NOT be manipulated. How you second guess your judgement about just about everything.The conflict of interest you have within yourself that makes you guarded and almost paralyzes your ability to connect with other people. I think this is a useful aspect of the book in a little less emotionally charged way than Hunger Games or other books in which the character feels manipulated by people or situations. I think that many teens will face a manipulative person in their life-and even in their relationships-so it would be good for this to be a reference in the back of their mind.

It also talks about abuse in relationships and what causes it (is it the arranged marriage? or does it have more to do with the people in the relationship than how the relationship came about?), the sharing of daily work, respecting women (even in a society that doesn't value them even the way we are valued now),

Anyhow, I loved it. It was fun, it was easy, it made me think, it made my heart race, melt, and completely break. Luckily there was *just* enough information for me about the sequel (coming Nov. 2015 in case you want to be smarter than me and wait until it's out to read this one. for me not feel despair for Ivy. It did have a lot of elements from other similar books (Matched and The Selection most notably), but not so much that it was annoying.

Here's an official blip:

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The Blood of Olympus, Rick Riordan

Ok, so I totally thought I already wrote the post for this one, but I hadn't! And I've read a couple books since finishing this it's not as fresh as I'd prefer for writing.

I did REALLY enjoy this one! Only a few questions left, more so for the characters than the reader, but that's still not completely fair!

I really respect the way things played out with Nico, for sure, with this same gender attraction. VERY age appropriate for the target audience. No glorifying of that type of lifestyle, but a healthy hope for someone who feels similarly and chooses to live the lifestyle (I do know some people who have an inclination to same gender attraction but because of deeply held religious beliefs or some other reason choose NOT to live a lifestyle in accordance with their feelings, and that decision should be as respected as someone's choice to live otherwise). I admire an author who can help a generation build sympathy for a group of people who have been shunned, made fun of, or otherwise ostracized, without saying it's right or wrong, without heroizing it or demonizing it. I think it was a great feat. Especially with how as other people found out, they didn't love him less, they loved him MORE because they knew of some of the pain he was going through. Nico learned that sometimes, it IS better to open up instead of keeping everything inside. Also, I find it slightly ironic how his godly father, Hades, seems to be the BEST godly parent out of them all. How maybe his circumstance of being eternally slighted has given him the ability to understand demigods better than anyone else and dare I say more capable of loving his demigod children? I guess it's also a lesson not to judge too soon, either. How just because someone doesn't fit "the mold" doesn't mean we shouldn't stretch "the mold" to look more like him/her.

I also like how just like in other books, there are many different ways to interpret things and you have to look at problems from multiple angels.

There were happy endings for *most* of the characters. Riordan is quoted saying " There will be no cliffhangers, meaning no one will be left in imminent danger with no clear way out. But that does not mean you will know every single thing that happens to all the characters for the rest of their lives. I don’t do epilogues. I hate epilogues. It’s like nailing the coffin shut on the story, allowing for no further growth and leaving no room for the readers’ imaginations.”" you can read more here:

However, ALL characters grow in many, many different ways. And all are admirable. While there are no epilogues, there IS a "glimpse into the possible future" as a scene is told in a reminiscent fashion, as the character imagines what it would be like to tell their children/grandchildren about what happened. That was definitely a fun twist of perspective!

And his next book is coming out in the fall, Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, Book One: The Sword of Summer

He says he doesn't know if there will be any other Percy Jackson books, but WHY oh WHY would this new character share a LAST NAME with Annabeth?? Is there a connection? Is he just TOYING with is fans as if we wouldn't notice this oh so tiny detail?? 

Monday, January 5, 2015

The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Neil Gaiman

This was the January book for book club. I'm still not sure of my opinion! It was fairly short, a quick and easy read, but so full of fantasy. Nothing fully explained, but very well written with descriptions and good vs evil.

A few interesting things is that I wonder if a part of the book was to bring attention to child abuse and how a lot of times children are not believed, but the adults are believed and sometimes the adults can be the bad guy? Another idea is that even though there is great evil, some get referred to as "fleas". And if we view our temptations as fleas-things so small that want to live off of us but that we have power to get rid of, we could be better off.

Anyhow, most of the book is told by memories, of a young boy. He starts the story middle aged, back in his home town for a funeral service, finding himself driving past where his childhood home once stood and then continuing on down to the house at the end of the lane where he made friends with a girl named Lettie Hempstock. You never figure out exactly what Lettie, her mom, Ginny, and her grandmother are. At first you think they are witches of some sort, but then you find out they aren't. But they are older than time itself and have incredible knowledge of the way things work. A port of the book, where knowledge completely flows and it's as easy as taking a breath made me think of what it must be like once we get to Heaven and in the presence of God have all things made known to us. How it will just be natural to know how the world came into being, how God created everything and we won't be overwhelmed. It will just be there, in our minds, fully comprehendable.

Anyway, when I finished, I was left somewhat bewildered....wondering what I was supposed to get out of it....I'll have to see if my friend who suggested it has any thoughts to further my opinion.