and what we wish they were

Monthly Archives: February 2013

goodreads. com  (Cover photo retrieved from goodreads.com)

(Review by John Mc)

Cole Matthews is a punk, through and through. For years, people have tried to help by sending him to detention centers, drug counseling, anger therapy sessions, and residential treatment centers. Most of Cole’s anger stems from his dad getting drunk and then beating him while his mother does nothing to stand up for him. Cole finally reaches his boiling point after a kid rats him out for breaking into a hardware store. After school one day, Cole catches up with the kid, Peter Driscal, and beats him up by smashing Peter’s head into the sidewalk repeatedly.

Garvey, Cole’s youth probation officer, suggests applying for Circle Justice. Circle Justice is a healing form of justice practiced by native cultures for thousands of years. After much debate, Cole is sentenced to a year on a remote Southeast Alaskan island. Cole must prove himself by releasing his anger and finding his inner peace. At first, things do not go out very well for Cole. He burns the shelter that was built for him, tries to escape by swimming to another island, and is mauled by a white Spirit Bear. After being mauled by the Spirit Bear, Cole is sent back to Minneapolis to heal from his wounds.

After about seven months, the Circle Justice agrees to send Cole back to the island. He must build his own shelter, find food, cut firewood, and figure out how to live by himself. Cole soaks in an ice cold pond, carves a totem pole, and rolls ancestors rocks down a hill to release his anger. Meanwhile, Peter is still struggling with his injuries and tries to commit suicide twice. Cole convinces Garvey to talk to Peter’s family about Peter coming to stay on the island. Eventually, Peter comes to the island where the story of redemption and friendship truly begins.

VIOLENCE
There is some, but it is not very graphic.

LANGUAGE
None

SEXUAL CONTENT
None

SUPERNATURAL ELEMENTS
Seeing a Spirit Bear is a little mythical, but they really do exist.

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION

What are some ways that you can find your inner peace and deal with circumstance that do not always seem fair?
Would Circle Justice work for troubled teens these days? Why or why not?

Who in your life has been most helpful when you are feeling down or not appreciated?

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From Goodreads.com

(cover photo from goodreads.com)

I am about 100 pages into this nearly 600 page book, and I’ve had enough.   To be sure, I’ve read plenty of books that started slow and got better.  I am not usually a book quitter. But the problem with Beautiful Creatures is not that is started slow.  It’s that is started predictable.  The story (at least the first part) is told from the point of view of Ethan Carter Wate, a teenage boy from a small town in South Carolina who is tired and bored with all his shallow friends, superficial teachers, and the town’s busybody citizens (which is all of them).  Poor Ethan’s only solace is in reading (of course) Vonegut and Salinger.  Fortunately, for Ethan life begins to gets considerably  more interesting when a dark and mysterious new girl, Lena, moves to town to live with her reclusive uncle (the town crazy).  Of course all the other kids hate her instantly because people from small, southern towns can’t possibly tolerate anyone different.   Only cool, Kurt Vonegut-reading types could ever do that.  Ethan on the other hand, is drawn to her not just because he is a secret intellectual, free-thinker, but because Lena has been haunting his dreams for months.   And if I’m right Ethan and Lena will fall madly into forbidden love and have to fight against both human and supernatural forces to be together.

Maybe if there weren’t a zillion  other paranormal teen romances on the market, I might have found Beautiful Creatures more intriguing.  Maybe.  And maybe if I weren’t from a small southern town, I wouldn’t be so tired of the stereotype. Maybe.  But aside from all that, I frankly did not care for the supernatural elements.   For example Ethan’s beloved housekeeper is practiced in spells and potions and, I suspect, other dark arts.  I can handle a few do-gooding vampires and werewolves.  And I like my fair share of witches and wizards stories – but only when there is a clear distinction between good and evil.  When that line becomes too blurred, you can count me out. It is up to every parent to decided where that line is and how blurry is too blurry but when it comes to what my teen and tween read, I think we will pass on steamy teen romance laced with black magic and sorcery.

If you would like to read a review from someone who has actually read the whole novel here is a link to GoodReads.  Be sure to scroll down to get reader reviews.

I’m also including the movie review from Catholic New Services. I like their reviews because they usually take into account, not only parental concerns, but artistic merit as well.


The False Prince by Jennifer Nielsen

The False Prince, the first book in the Ascension Trilogy, is the story of Sage, a fourteen year old orphan who suddenly finds himself caught up in a clandestine plot of such magnitude, that to fail, will certainly cost him his life.  Sage, along with three other boys,  has been purchased from an orphanage by Bevin Conner, a nobleman of Carthya.  Unfortunately for the boys, Conner is no wealthy benefactor.  In fact, for his diabolical  plan, he needs only one boy – the one who can pass himself off as the long-lost (and presumed dead) Prince Jaron – the only surviving member of the Carthyan  royal family.

Sage has perfected life as a loner and a survivor.  Now he is being forced into “prince lessons” with two rival boys.  On Conner’s luxurious estate, Sage and his rivals undergo reading, sword fighting, horseback riding, and manners lessons.  In the end, only one boy will be chosen to be presented at court as Prince Jaron.  To succeed and be chosen as the False Prince will mean a life  Sage has never wanted and possibly one as Conner’s puppet.  To fail will certainly mean death.

The False Prince is an exciting novel with twists and turns I did not see coming.  I chose it because, unlike all the paranormal romance novels lining bookstore and library shelves, I thought this book might appeal to boys.  I was not wrong.  I’m thrilled to have a book I can recommend to the guys in my English class.

VIOLENCE

Yes, some mild.  But nothing too disturbing.  I think kids from upper elementary age through high school would enjoy this book.

LANGUAGE

None

SEXUAL CONTENT

None.

SUPERNATURAL ELEMENTS

None

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION

~ What is true freedom?

~ Sage prefers life as an orphan – a life that is sometimes very very difficult.  Why do you think this is?

~ Which of Sage’s rival do you like best the most?  The honest but brutally ambitious Roden or the submissive and sneaky Tobias?

~ Does life as a royal sound like fun, or do you think the cost (high expectations, scheming noblemen, enemy nations, etc.) is too high a price to pay for that level of fame, wealth and power?