Friday, November 26, 2010

The Things a Brother Knows

This new book by Dana Reinhardt was really good.  I got into really quickly and I really wanted to know what was going to happen as I kept reading.  There was a sense of mystery in the book that kept me reading.

This book tells the story of Levi, who's a high school student, and his family.  Levi's brother announces to the family that instead of college he'll be enlisting to fight in the war and be a marine.  The family was shocked and none of them wanted him to go.  But he did.  The book is about what happens when after over three years, Boaz, the brother, finally comes home.

Boaz is clearly not ok and not the same.  Levi struggles to understand what's going on, and the family doesn't really know how to deal with having Bo back home.  Each family member "handles" it differently.  But when Bo tries to leave home again - Levi is determined to follow him and see what is up with his brother.

My students have really been interested in war books this semester.  The guys in my freshmen class have liked Sunrise Over Fallujah and Purple Heart this semester.  The war in Iraq is something that the students know a lot about and many of them know people, family, or friends who are serving.  I haven't read either of those two books, but the students have told me all about them.  What I like is that we have some good books like those that deal with what it's like over there and now we have some books like this one, that deal with what happens when these soldiers come home.  It's important for the kids to read about.  Another good thing about this book is that it doesn't pick a side.  It's not a pro or con book - it's just about the two brothers.

I liked the supporting characters in this book, too.  Zim and Pearl, Levi's two friends from school are great, and fun characters.  The family members all made sense to me as well.  I liked going on this journey with Levi and Boaz.  Good book.  I am going to see if my guys who have read the other two will like this one too.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Monsters of Men

It took me a while to remember where this series left off, but once I got into the third book of Patrick Ness' Chaos Walking series, I was hooked.

Book 3 of the series, Monsters of Men, picks up right where the second one left off and is, in my opinion, the most action-packed book of the three.  This book focuses on all the characters readers have gotten to know and involves the native species (the Spackle), the current settlers, and the new settlers arriving soon from space.  Tensions run high in this book.  Of course Todd and Viola are important characters, and I enjoyed reading about what happened to each of them.

I don't want to say too much about the story, just because this is the final book in a series.  What I will say is that I thought the series was good.  I really liked all three books, and I felt each book was different.  All three together, though, really have an important message for us.  Even though these fights and adventures take place on a planet far away, they have lots to say to all of us about life with each other, about war, and about the power others have over us.

Here's a passage that I felt spoke to the stories and also the world we live in:

     I can feel how red my face is getting and I begin to shake from both fever and pure hot anger.  "That's only one way it could have worked out.  There are a whole bunch of other things that could have happened, all of which end up with me and Lee blown to bits."
     "Then you would have been a martyr for the cause," Mistress Coyle says, "and we would have fought in your name."  She looks at me hard.  "You'd been surprised at how powerful a martyr can be."
     "Those are words a terrorist would use--" (210)

One of the big ideas that hit me with this book was just the idea that people will do whatever it takes to win.  Also, that in times of war, you might make decisions that are difficult.  People get harmed in war.  This book has lots to say.

I liked the ending.  It wasn't exactly what I expected, but it worked.  Overall, this is a great sci-fi series full of action.