Friday, November 25, 2011

Guest Blogger Katie Shattered by a New Favorite

Wow! I’m a little bit speechless right now. I knew Shatter Me was going to be good but I had no idea I would love it as much as I did. I can already tell that this is going to be one of my top books of 2011.

Juliette has been locked up for 264 days. She has been in isolation for that whole time. When Adam is thrown into her cell one day she’s not sure if she should be happy that she has company or terrified of what she might do to him. You see, Juliette can kill with a single touch. And now someone else knows about her gift and they want to make a deal with her. Will Juliette choose to become a monster and use her gift for power or will she fight back for a chance at freedom and the boy she has always loved?

Shatter Me is a new kind of dystopian novel. Sure the world is the same as a lot of others; bleak and hopeless, but that is where the similarities end. Tahereh Mafi really made dystopian her own. I don’t feel like I can compare it to another book because it was just so unique from the characters to Juelitte’s crazy ability. The first thing that came to mind when reading about Juliette’s ability though was X-Men. I loved it!

I also want to mention the romance in this book. I normally wouldn’t dedicate a whole paragraph to the romance but I have to. Adam and Juliette were so good together. Adam was so sweet and caring but also strong and protective. It was so hot! Juliette was not weak by any means but it was so refreshing to read about a guy who is not afraid to show how he feels and stand up for the girl he cares about.

My absolute favorite thing about Shatter Me was the writing. I really wanted to pull some favorite quotes but I would end up sharing the whole book. I honestly cannot pick a favorite passage because they are all so beautifully written. I actually found myself tearing up many times at the way Tahereh Mafi described how Juliette was feeling. I have never felt more connected to a character.

Overall, Shatter Me is a new favorite of mine that I recommend to everyone. I could gush about this book for days! Go check it out!

Friday, November 11, 2011

"The Oracle of Stamboul" - More than a fairy tale for readers of every age

And now, a blog from Kyle Mares, Bookseller Extraordinaire:

As a bookseller, I recently had a long conversation in the children’s department with a retired teacher who was interested in writing historical fiction for readers of every age. She asked for my favorite examples of such novels, and beyond a few rudimentary classics I couldn’t name any published within the last five or so years. Everything seems to be dystopian futures or time travel, with little effort spent examining the authentic past.

If Michael David Lukas noted the dearth of such novels, he surely would have felt assured that his debut novel, The Oracle of Stamboul, would fill that lack. It certainly reads unlike anything you’ve read lately: blending historical facts with a kind of magical, heightened realism, Lukas recreates the lands of the Ottoman Empire of the late 19th century and focuses eventually on Stamboul (known today as Istanbul). A young girl chafing under her stepmother’s oppression and craving both freedom and further knowledge follows her father to Stamboul, where circumstances and vague prophecy mark her as the titular oracle whose knowledge and foresight will change the very course of history. Soon she has a larger choice to make: fulfill her destiny and serve the sultan or avoid her destiny and find that elusive freedom.

Being sensitive to descriptions of place, I was always entertained and often astonished at the depth of detail Lukas weaves into his narrative. Entire pages had to be read and immediately reread to fully absorb the richness manifested in the text, and Lukas is to be commended for finding so many varied ways of describing the kind of intricate d├ęcor and architecture found in the homes, businesses, and palaces of Stamboul. Melding historical fiction with a keen sense of visual aesthetics is how Lukas conjures up this very different time and place, and the beauty of his prose makes the reader an enthusiastic traveler back to 1885. Just as fascinating is the ongoing question of the prophecy regarding 8-year-old Eleonora Cohen. Is Eleonora an exceptionally bright young girl or a prophesized shaper of destiny? And what exactly does it mean to be the oracle?

Calling The Oracle of Stamboul a kind of fairy tale seems too simple, as its complexity and lushness combine with the magical elements in a way that moves beyond most fairy tales. I think it’s more appropriate to say that this novel has many facets that blend together as an evocative historical epic that imagines a fantastical possibility of magic in the destiny of the Ottoman Empire. Genre-busting as it sounds, The Oracle of Stamboul is highly recommended to any reader who loves the pleasure of well-written prose and the adventure of a faraway, long-ago world captured as lovingly as possible.