The Monday Agenda 12/9/2013

MondayAgendaNot a lofty, ambitious to-be-read list consisting of 100+ book titles. Just a simple plan for the upcoming week — what I’m reading now, what I plan to read next, and what I’m hoping to squeeze in among the nooks and crannies.

How did I do with last week’s agenda?

Racing Savannah17279560Hoot (Juvenile, #1)

Racing Savannah by Miranda Kenneally: Done! Light and romantic, this YA novel totally suited my mood at the beginning of the week. My review is here.

Dangerous Women, edited by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois: This anthology is HUGE (784 pages), and I just don’t have the patience to read it all the way through, especially since I am notoriously bad at reading short stories in general. I wrote up my thoughts (here) on the first five stories that I’ve read. From here on out, I’ll be jumping in and reading stories in between other things — I just can’t read more than one or two stories in a row, no matter how good they are, without wanting to rip my hair out.

Hoot by Carl Hiaasen: Done! My son and I had such a great time with this book — and loved the movie too. My thoughts on both are here.

Fresh Catch:

Fairest In All the LandI adore the world of Fables by Bill Willingham, so I had to get my hands on Fairest in All the Land! Here’s the synopsis (per Goodreads):

In the spirit of FABLES: 1001 NIGHTS OF SNOWFALL and FABLES: WEREWOLVES OF THE HEARTLAND comes the first ever original graphic novel from the pages of #1 New York Times bestselling writer Bill Willingham’s FAIREST.

FAIREST has explored the secret histories of the most stunning beauties in Fabletown: Cinderella, Snow White, Briar Rose, Rapunzel, and the list goes on and on. In FAIREST IN ALL THE LAND, the best names in comics take their turns fleshing out the pasts of the loveliest Fables in existence. For all those wanting to dive into FAIREST or FABLES, this original graphic novel is a fantastic entry point, as well as a great new chapter for those that have been following Bill Willingham’s fairy tale epic for years.

Awesome, right? And seriously, if you haven’t tried Fables… what are you waiting for? It’s brilliant. Period.

Also this week, I got a bunch of new ARCs, and they all look terrific!

Don't Call Me Baby

Fan ArtAfter the End (After the End, #1)See Jane Run

What’s on my reading agenda for the coming week?

RoomiesGathering StormThe Firebird (Slains, #2)

Roomies by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando: This young adult novel about getting ready for a fresh start in college seems really promising.

Gathering Storm by Maggie Craig: I was thrilled to receive a copy of this novel from the author. Historical fiction set in Scotland during the 1740s? Yes, please!

The Firebird by Susanna Kearsley: If you want to see me beat my head into a wall, ask me about my habit of buying new releases the second they come out and then not finding time to read them! I’ve had The Firebird since its release in June, and I love this author… so I’m putting my foot down. This book WILL be read this coming week!

And finally:

Dinosaur SummerMy son and I have just started Dinosaur Summer by Greg Bear, which was recommended to me by a friend who’s a true aficionado of science fiction and thought it might appeal to the kiddo. It’s actually an adult science fiction book, but so far seems more or less accessible so long as I pause to explain unfamiliar terms and concepts. It’s pretty cool so far… we shall see whether it works for the kiddo after we get a bit further in.

So many book, so little time…

That’s my agenda. What’s yours? Add your comments to share your bookish agenda for the week.

boy1

The Monday Agenda 12/2/2013

MondayAgendaNot a lofty, ambitious to-be-read list consisting of 100+ book titles. Just a simple plan for the upcoming week — what I’m reading now, what I plan to read next, and what I’m hoping to squeeze in among the nooks and crannies.

Did everyone survive Black Friday? I avoid shopping frenzies like the plague… except I did venture out on Small Business Saturday to shop at my local (and wonderful) used book store. Always a great pick-me-up… any excuse to browse and play with books works for me.

How did I do with last week’s agenda?

The Lover's DictionaryRose Under FireRacing Savannah

The Lover’s Dictionary by David Levithan. Done! My review is here.

Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein: Done! My review is here.

Racing Savannah by Miranda Kenneally: Just started. A romantic, contemporary YA novel feels perfect right about now.

Hoot by Carl Hiaasen: One chapter to go! The long weekend, with all the holiday festivities, really threw off our reading schedule. We should be done with Hoot today — a mother/son review will likely follow in the next few days.

Fresh Catch:

It’s a George R. R. Martin kind of week!

17279560According to Amazon, my copy of Dangerous Women, edited by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois, has shipped! I’m expecting delivery on Tuesday. Why am I so excited about this book? Read on…

The Wit & Wisdom of Tyrion Lannister

My lovely daughter gave me a copy of The Wit & Wisdom of Tyrion Lannister as a Hanukkah gift — perfect!

Last but not least:

photo(27)I had a bookstore voucher burning a hole in my pocket… expiration date just a few days from now… so I used it. Wisely, wouldn’t you say? Me + used book stores = throwing moderation to the wind! The new Jane Eyre I picked up is especially cute, with a rubbery purple cover. Adorbs.

What’s on my reading agenda for the coming week?

17279560

I absolutely can’t wait to get my hands on my copy of Dangerous Women, which should be here on Tuesday. Why? First and foremost, this anthology includes a brand-new novella by Diana Gabaldon, author of the Outlander series. “Virgins” is a Jamie Fraser story (!) that takes place chronologically before the events in Outlander. Be still my heart! In addition to “Virgins”, I’m most looking forward to “The Princess and the Queen” by George R. R. Martin, a novella set in Westeros a couple of hundred years prior to A Song of Ice and Fire, and “Bombshells” by Jim Butcher, a story set in the Dresden Files world which focuses on Dresden’s protégé Molly. I think eventually I’ll read many of the other stories in this collection, but for now these three are my priority. (Jumping up and down now. Can it be Tuesday already? Please?)

Since I’m usually terrible about reading short stories, once I read these three, I’ll probably put the anthology aside for a bit and just pick it back up here and there for random reading.

Meanwhile, for the rest of this coming week? For once, I really have no idea what I’ll read next, once I put down Dangerous Women. The suspense is killing me!

So many book, so little time…

That’s my agenda. What’s yours? Add your comments to share your bookish agenda for the week.

boy1

Book Review: Rose Under Fire

Book Review: Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein

17907041In 2012, no new release impressed me more (or made me cry harder) than Elizabeth Wein’s Code Name Verity. The author’s newest book, Rose Under Fire, is also set during World War II, and presents the horrors of war through the eyes of a fresh new heroine, Rose Justice.

When we first meet Rose, she is 18 years old, a feisty pilot from Pennsylvania who has volunteered to serve with the ATA (Air Transport Auxiliary), a civilian division supporting the Royal Air Force in England by ferrying aircraft back and forth between bases, airfields, and repair centers. The ATA was never intended to see action — but as we see in Rose Under Fire, things don’t always work out the way they’re supposed to.

While shielded from combat, the ATA pilots face the danger of flying damaged or faulty equipment — and even deadlier, there’s also the danger of incoming German V-1 rockets, known as flying bombs or “doodlebugs”. When Rose pursues and knocks down a doodlebug, she starts a chain of events that leads to her capture by German pilots — resulting in unimaginable horrors as she eventually finds herself a prisoner in the notorious Ravensbrück concentration camp.

The author doesn’t shy away from presenting the appalling, inhuman suffering of the Ravensbrück prisoners. Worst off of all are the “Rabbits”, Polish prisoners who have been used as human guinea pigs in cruel, pointless medical experiments which killed many and left the rest horribly crippled. Rose is adopted within the camp by a close-knit group of prisoners, among them several Rabbits, and they all swear to tell the world, one way or another, what truly transpired hidden away behind the camp walls.

Rose is an admirable and loveable main character. She’s not naive, but she does come from a nurturing family in the safe and cozy world of the US — so that while her camp mates recount the years of wartime terror they’ve already lived through, Rose can only recall her birthday parties and swimming at the lake on warm summer days. It’s Rose’s good memories and her gift with words that help them all to survive, as Rose creates poems and stories that the other prisoners avidly soak up, her fantasy worlds providing distraction from the unending suffering in the camp as well as a glimpse of what happiness might once have been.

Within Rose’s camp family, bonds are strong and fierce, and Rose and the others display courage and devotion beyond what we might imagine. Those who survive only do so because of the others’ loyalty and sacrifice. Meanwhile, in the midst of starvation, endless roll calls in freezing weather, rampant disease, and the threat of sudden execution or disfiguring punishment, all the prisoners can do is get through each moment, determined above all to never let the names of the lost be forgotten.

Rose Under Fire is powerful, disturbing, sad, and lovely. The writing is unflinching, and yet also contains the beauty of Rose’s poetry, which she creates first in her head in the camp, and later records in the journals she uses to tell her story when she can’t face the idea of actually talking about her experiences with outsiders. Her lengthy poem “The Subtle Briar” speaks to the prisoners’ clinging to life, even in the face of terror and death:

When you cut down the hybrid rose,
its blackened stump below the graft
spreads furtive fingers in the dirt.
It claws at life, weaving a raft
of suckering roots to pierce the earth…

Rose Under Fire is a companion piece to Code Name Verity. Chronologically, it takes place after the events of Code Name Verity and includes a few characters from the earlier book — but I wouldn’t consider it a true sequel, as Rose Under Fire stands perfectly well on its own. Both books are remarkable achievements, taking young heroic women and placing them at the center of war, and endowing them with courage and grace even in the worst of times and circumstances. If you’ve read neither book, start with Code Name Verity, simply because certain outcomes in this book are referenced in Rose Under Fire. Again, both books certainly stand on their own, but I’d recommend reading them in the order written if only to avoid spoilers for the end of Code Name Verity.

Rose Under Fire lacks the intricate plot twists and reversals that make Code Name Verity so breathtaking. Because the book is told from Rose’s point of view, her survival is never truly in doubt. However, her horrifying ordeal and the complex stories of her fellow prisoners make Rose Under Fire a harrowing and emotional reading experience, and I found myself unable to put the book down until I reached the sad but inspiring end.

Author Elizabeth Wein, with these two books, has taken a chapter of history that may not be as immediately familiar to younger readers today and has brought it to life in vibrant, tangible detail. These books deserve all the praise they’ve received, and I have no hesitation about recommending them, for adult and young adult readers alike.

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The details:

Title: Rose Under Fire
Author: Elizabeth Wein
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Publication date: 2013
Genre: Young adult
Source: Purchased