PASSIONATE ABOUT SCHOOL LIBRARIES

Tag: Language

Book Review: A Dragonbird in the Fern

A Dragonbird In The Fern – Laura Rueckert – Flux – Published 3 August 2021

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Synopsis

When an assassin kills Princess Jiara’s older sister Scilla, her vengeful ghost is doomed to walk their city of glittering canals, tormenting loved ones until the murderer is brought to justice. While the entire kingdom mourns, Scilla’s betrothed arrives and requests that seventeen-year-old Jiara take her sister’s place as his bride to confirm the alliance between their countries.

Marrying the young king intended for her sister and traveling to his distant home is distressing enough, but with dyslexia and years of scholarly struggles, Jiara abandoned any hope of learning other languages long ago. She’s terrified of life in a foreign land where she’ll be unable to communicate.

Then Jiara discovers evidence that her sister’s assassin comes from the king’s own country. If she marries the king, Jiara can hunt the murderer and release her family from Scilla’s ghost, whose thirst for blood mounts every day. To save her family, Jiara must find her sister’s killer . . . before he murders her too.

My thoughts

I really enjoyed this fantasy novel that features political scheming, vengeful ghosts and emphasises the importance of how we communicate. It’s a unique fantasy novel and I liked how refreshing it was. No epic fantasy battles, but plenty of tantalising romance, politics, betrayal, and a touch of magic.

Princess Jiara’s life is utterly changed when her older sister is murdered. Jiara knows they have just months to find her sister’s killer before her sister, left to wander the earth, becomes increasingly violent. In the midst of this her sister’s intended arrives. Raffar, King of Farnskag, makes a proposition – he will marry Jiara instead and seal their countries’ alliance. The Queen and Jiara agree and Jiara is thrust into a new world. She travels with Raffar to Farnskag, but she must rely on a translator as neither she nor her new husband speak the other’s language.

As Jiara travels to Farnskag we learn a little more about her, her relationship with her sister and what she had planned for her future. When her friend and one of her translators has to leave the party, we learn Jiara is a caring person. We also learn how much she struggles with reading and learning. While they never use the word, Jiara has the signs of being dyslexic. It weighs heavily on her mind, especially when she arrives in Farnskag and begins learning their language. Unable to communicate with her new husband, Jiara relies on her translator for everything.

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Book Review: Love in English

Love In English – Maria E. Andreu – Balzer+Bray – Published 2 February 2021

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Synopsis

Sixteen-year-old Ana has just moved to New Jersey from Argentina for her Junior year of high school. She’s a poet and a lover of language—except that now, she can barely understand what’s going on around her, let alone find the words to express how she feels in the language she’s expected to speak.

All Ana wants to do is go home—until she meets Harrison, the very cute, very American boy in her math class. And then there’s her new friend Neo, the Greek boy she’s partnered up with in ESL class, who she bonds with over the 80s teen movies they are assigned to watch for class (but later keep watching together for fun), and Altagracia, her artistic and Instagram-fabulous friend, who thankfully is fluent in Spanish and able to help her settle into American high school.

But is it possible that she’s becoming too American—as her father accuses—and what does it mean when her feelings for Harrison and Neo start to change? Ana will spend her year learning that the rules of English may be confounding, but there are no rules when it comes to love.

My thoughts

Love in English is a YA contemporary novel about fitting in and finding the words to speak in your own voice to reflect your heart. This book is written by an author who can relate to how hard it is to move to a new country and learn a new language, and how complicated it is to balance trying to fit in with the ‘American’ culture, but also retaining what is special and true about your own culture, self and family. 

When Ana moves from Argentina to New Jersey, she doesn’t expect it to be so hard or so isolating. Her father, having lived in the US for a few years, demands that she and her mother speak only English – a language of which she only knows a little. High school seems in some ways so different and yet so similar to the things she saw in movies. She is a poet and loves learning the strange idiosyncrasies of the English language, but she longs to be able to truly communicate. 

Set against powerful themes of immigration, belonging and challenging the ‘American Dream’, In Love in English Ana has to stand up to her father, to embrace what she is and where she came from, as well as where she is now. This book is about finding out who you truly are, even if that is not as clear or defined as you thought it once was.

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Book Review: The Infographic Guide to Grammar

The Infographic Guide to Grammar: A Visual Reference for Everything You Need to Know – Jara Kern, Carissa Lytle – Adams Media – Published 4 August 2020

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Synopsis

This illustrated guide to English grammar gives you everything you need for a better understanding of how to write and punctuate correctly. From proper comma usage to the correct form of there, their, or they’re—understanding grammar has never been easier.

Is it who or whom? Affect or effect? And what is a prepositional phrase? With The Infographic Guide to Grammar, you’ll learn the answers to all of these questions, and so much more. Filled with colorful, easy-to-understand entries, this book includes topics like:

–Basic sentence structure
–The parts of speech
–Common mistakes and how to avoid them

My thoughts

Is it wrong of me to say I really want to cut this book up and hang all the pages up around my library like beautiful posters? Well, right or wrong that’s exactly what I wanted to do. I really think this book should come in a pull-apart, poster version so everyone can see, use and be helped by the colourful infographics that cover everything from punctuation to commonly confused words.

Five chapters break the content down into sections: parts of speech, sentence structure, punctuation, writing style and common mistakes. Each sub-section, nouns for example, are given a two page spread infographic that provides a basic explanation, uses, fun facts, more details, and handy to know tips. All this, presented as beautiful, highly colourful infographics.

The graphic design work in this book is fabulous. The information given is simple. Clear examples are provided. The layout of each infographic is pleasing to the eye and did I mention colour? So much colour, different texts, and fun graphics. There isn’t a lot of text on each page and the font is big and bold.

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Book Review: Have You Eaten Grandma?

Have You Eaten Grandma? Or, the Life-Saving Importance of Correct Punctuation, Grammar and Good English – Gyles Brandreth – Atria Books – Published 13 August 2019 (first pub 2018)

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Synopsis

Our language is changing, literary levels are declining, and our grasp of grammar is at a crisis point. From commas to colons, apostrophes to adverbs, there are countless ways we can make mistakes when writing or speaking. But do not despair! Great Britain’s most popular grammar guru has created the ultimate modern manual for English speakers on both sides of the Atlantic.

In this brilliantly funny and accessible guide to proper punctuation and so much more, Gyles Brandreth explores the linguistic horrors of our times, tells us what we’ve been doing wrong and shows us how, in the future, we can get it right every time. Covering everything from dangling participles to transitive verbs, from age-old conundrums like “lay” vs. “lie,” to the confounding influences of social media on our everyday language, Have You Eaten Grandma? is an endlessly useful and entertaining resource for all.

My thoughts

In the same vein as Eats, Shoots, and Leaves, Have You Eaten Grandma? plays on the importance of grammar and punctuation, even in today’s social media and technology-driven world, with a comprehensive and humorous layout of all the rules, memory devices, and tips and tricks you’ll need to master the power of the English language.

Chapter one, ‘Basic Punctuation or Have You Eaten Grandma?’, begins the foray into punctuation, followed by ‘Dashes, Hyphens, Slashes and more’, and ‘Apostrophes, Possession and Omission’. Brandreth also covers spelling in this book, with common (and sometimes less than helpful) rules, guides to prefixes and silent letters. There are also chapters on British English versus American English, abbreviations with a fresh inclusion of many that are commonly used today and on social media (some with a very humorous twist), slang, and rules for good communication. There are also fun sections that keen wordsmiths will enjoy, such as the A to Z of useful Scrabble words, and new words.

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Book Review: Access Restricted

Access Restricted – Gregory Scott Katsoulis – Word$ #2 – Harlequin Teen – Published 28 August 2018

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Synopsis

At the end of All Rights Reserved, Speth and her friends freed the city of Vermaine from Silas Rog and his oppressive litigation. But now, with the Wi-Fi untethered, the citizens of her city are looking to Speth to lead them. Just as Speth never intended to lead a rebellion of Silents, she has no idea how to begin putting Vermaine back to rights. All she wants to do is break out of the dome and track down her parents, who were sold into indentured servitude years before. Leaving the care of the city in the hands of her friend and mentor, Kel, Speth and a few friends embark on a journey to explore the rest of their world and spread the cause of freedom.

My thoughts

Access Restricted is the sequel to the amazing and scarily possible All Rights Reserved. With just as much action and intrigue, Access Restricted once again delves into a world where every form of communication is owned and fees charged accordingly, where history and knowledge have become propriety information only accessible to those with wealth and standing, where one girl unwittingly became the leader in an uprising, and where that girl must once again risk everything for a chance of a better future.

There has been much debate in my high-schoolers book club, who all adored All Rights Reserved, if a sequel was needed. The first book could, arguably, be concluded and left as it was. Others suggested they were happy with the ending, and that any more could possibly ruin the awesomeness of the first book. Others still, myself included, desperately wanted more -more of Speth, more of her accidental rebellion and uprising, and more explanation of the world in which she lives and the consequences for her actions. Would everything she had already done and sacrificed really change things? Had it really made a difference?

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Book Review: All Rights Reserved

All Rights Reserved – Gregory Scott Katsoulis – Word$ #1 – Harlequin Teen – Published 29 August 2017

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Synopsis

Speth Jime is anxious to deliver her Last Day speech and celebrate her transition into adulthood. The moment she turns fifteen, Speth must pay for every word she speaks (“Sorry” is a flat ten dollars and a legal admission of guilt), for every nod ($0.99/sec), for every scream ($0.99/sec) and even every gesture of affection. She’s been raised to know the consequences of falling into debt, and can’t begin to imagine the pain of having her eyes shocked for speaking words that she’s unable to afford.

But when Speth’s friend Beecher commits suicide rather than work off his family’s crippling debt, she can’t express her shock and dismay without breaking her Last Day contract and sending her family into Collection. Backed into a corner, Speth finds a loophole: rather than read her speech rather than say anything at all she closes her mouth and vows never to speak again. Speth’s unexpected defiance of tradition sparks a media frenzy, inspiring others to follow in her footsteps, and threatens to destroy her, her family and the entire city around them.

My thoughts

All Rights Reserved is a clever and timely dystopian novel that introduces a world where speech and communication is controlled and monitored for capital gain. It is scary in its portrayal of a future world that is all too possible. With characters who quickly garner the reader’s support, All Rights Reserved is a highly thought-provoking novel.

Speth knows that at the exact moment of her fifteenth birthday every word she says, every gesture, every move of affection will be monitored, recorded, and she will be charged accordingly. But when her friend suicides just moments before her Last Day speech, Speth is horrified and knows no other option than to remain silent. She unwittingly creates a silent revolutionary protest. But it is hard to lead a revolution when you have no plan and can’t communicate. With her family falling apart around her Speth knows she must never stop fighting if she is to save herself and her family, or if she is to hopefully affect some change in her society.

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Book Review: Learning to Swear in America

Learning to Swear in America

Learning To Swear In America – Katie Kennedy – Bloomsbury USA Children’s – Published 5 July 2016

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Synopsis

An asteroid is hurtling toward Earth. A big, bad one. Yuri, a physicist prodigy from Russia, has been called to NASA as they calculate a plan to avoid disaster. He knows how to stop the asteroid: his research in antimatter will probably win him a Nobel prize–if there’s ever another Nobel prize awarded. But Yuri’s 17, and having a hard time making older, stodgy physicists listen to him. Then he meets Dovie, who lives like a normal teenager, oblivious to the impending doom. Being with her, on the adventures she plans when he’s not at NASA, Yuri catches a glimpse of what it means to save the world and save a life worth living.

My thoughts

Learning to Swear In America is a humorous story of friendship, loneliness, missed childhoods and individuality. An asteroid hurtling towards Earth at 71km a second has a way of making you reevaluate your life. And Katie Kennedy has a way of writing that sucked me into this story. I was laughing numerous times throughout this book – even her author note and acknowledgements at the end of the book were enjoyable to read. Humour is so important in this touching story.

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