Tuesday, February 28, 2012

My Ramblings on Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu

By: Anne Ursu
Release Date: September 27, 2011
Author Website


Once upon a time, Hazel and Jack were best friends. They had been best friends since they were six, spending hot Minneapolis summers and cold Minneapolis winters together, dreaming of Hogwarts and Oz, superheroes and baseball. Now that they were eleven, it was weird for a boy and a girl to be best friends. But they couldn't help it - Hazel and Jack fit, in that way you only read about in books. And they didn't fit anywhere else. 

And then, one day, it was over. Jack just stopped talking to Hazel. And while her mom tried to tell her that this sometimes happens to boys and girls at this age, Hazel had read enough stories to know that it's never that simple. And it turns out, she was right. Jack's heart had been frozen, and he was taken into the woods by a woman dressed in white to live in a palace made of ice. Now, it's up to Hazel to venture into the woods after him. Hazel finds, however, that these woods are nothing like what she's read about, and the Jack that Hazel went in to save isn't the same Jack that will emerge. Or even the same Hazel. (from Goodreads.com)

My Ramblings:

This book was a bit of a mixed bag for me. I loved the concept. The Snow Queen is one of my favorite Hans Christian Anderson stories and I love seeing new takes on it. This one, aimed at the middle grade set was a great addition to the pack. We find our heroine, Hazel, struggling with her changing relationship with best friend Jack. They were inseparable, and now, he won’t even speak to her. Is it a simple case of growing up or something much more? When Jack suddenly disappears, Hazel sets out to find him, because even if he doesn’t want to be found, a friend doesn’t give up on you, even if you’ve given up on yourself.

From there it’s a classic adventure into the woods along the lines of Narnia. Nothing quite makes sense to Hazel, from the wolves that seem to be following her, to the constant ticking of the clock in the clearing, but she soldiers on. What I really appreciated was that the author acknowledges when she’s pulling from other stories, because these are the stories that Hazel loves too. The clock is reminiscent of the lamp post in Narnia, and it’s that kind of connection that draws Hazel further into that world. The world itself was well fleshed out and you got just enough magic to keep you interested, while still being invested in the relationship at the heart of the story. 

The one thing that held me back from REALLY loving this book was that I felt like I didn’t know enough about some of the characters. I liked Hazel and Jack, but I didn’t feel like I really knew a lot about them. There are mentions of familial problems, but nothing concrete. We see Jack and Hazel in these dangerous situations, and they pull through, but I didn’t get a sense of what it is about them that allowed them to pull through. I wanted more. Which in the grand scheme of problems is probably not a bad one to have. I was invested enough to care, to want more information about these characters, I wasn’t ready for the story to just be over!

Overall I really enjoyed the book- it would be a great one for kids who enjoy fantasy and magic!

Friday, February 17, 2012

The Right Book at The Right Time

I promise I will be posting reviews soon. I've read 15 books so far this year, but between student teaching and now studying for my certification exams, the thought of writing serious reviews is exhausting! But next week, I promise, there will be reviews!

Today though, I wanted to post on something else. I was recently at my parents and could not possibly read one more CST flash card, so I walked over to the book shelf and saw Twilight sitting there. I had let my Dad borrow it before his trip to the Olympic Peninsula, I'd last read it about 2 and a half years ago. To be honest I'd been afraid to reread it. 3 years ago (almost exactly) I picked up the series and devoured it. All four book in 5 days. Then I read it again. I scoured the internet for everything I could find about Twilight, watched the movie a million times and eventually found a home at Twilight Moms. I re-read the books right after I joined so that I'd be ready for the discussions on the forums, which were surprisingly in depth and dealt with issues like relationships, depression, classic themes and archetypes. I was afraid to re-read after that. What if the books lost their magic? What if I hated them? So I just let them sit. Until a few days ago...

I was right to be worried. The magic was gone. I read the book and enjoyed it, but there wasn't that all encompassing need to finish, to investigate, to discuss. It was just a story. I already know how it ends. I know every inch of the books. I can argue why they are great and why they are horrible. I can tell you why they provide positive messages and why they showcase really bad ones. I spent years dissecting them and now there's not as much excitement in them for me. It was kind of sad really. Still, it was fun to revisit the story and the characters. To read it slowly and enjoy it. I didn't hate it, but it wasn't the same. 

Which lead me to an interesting revelation. I found this book at the exact moment I needed it. Looking back there are very moments that I can think of where there is a distinct before and after. 

* Before I had my accident horseback riding and after. I was heading in one direction and suddenly that was lost to me. The joy I had in riding was gone and it was replaced by anxiety and fear. 

* Before I moved to Tampa for school and after. I was miserable at my first school and then, with one visit to Tampa I found a place that was a great fit. It lead to playing soccer again, dancing and my husband. 

* Before I saw my Paint horse in that field and after. I knew he was going to be mine before I knew anything about him. Buying him changed everything again. 

There are a few mores, but not many. The big one though, the one that can't be traced back to any other decision is Twilight. Before I picked up the book and After. 

Before: I working as a legal secretary, which was... okay. It certainly wasn't my dream job, but it paid me a check every week and it was flexible enough that I had time for other stuff. I was pregnant, which was... okay. I had already had 4 miscarriages in a little over a year, so needless to say I was miserable and terrified pretty much 24/7. I was not a pleasant person to be around and I knew it, but there wasn't a good way to get out of it. As someone who is paranoid anyways, this was pretty much a 9 month exercise is just getting through each day. At this point I was 5 months in and I had recently spent the night in the hospital with a pulled muscle (which I thought was appendicitis) and was told to take it easy. Which meant no more soccer and no more riding my horse (yes, I was still doing both). Suddenly my schedule was a lot more open and I had a lot more time to think. And then...

...Twilight. I stopped at Barnes and Nobles and saw the display on the end display so I grabbed it. Like I already said, I devoured it. And my life changed. Literally. 

After: It's been 3 years. In that time I had my kiddo, joined TwilightMoms, became a moderator on the Book Club group, migrated to Eve's Fan Garden, started this blog, quit my job, went back to school to become a School Librarian (HUGE thanks to the amazing TM LauraLee for pointing me in the right direction), traveled all over the US to go to conferences with my friends, and I'm now 3 tests, one student teaching position and 3 months away from graduating. It's a 180. I found my niche. 

The point is that it's amazing what a book can do. Especially if you find that book at the exact right moment. If I had read the book three years earlier when it first came out I might have liked it, but it might not have had the same impact. Same goes if I was just discovering it now, who knows how I would have taken it. But in March 2009, I needed it. I needed the escape. I needed to remember that reading should be fun, and that there didn't need to be some larger message, sometimes it was enough to just find a friend among the pages. What I really needed was the friends I found online. Not that I didn't have friends in real life, but here I found friends who loved to read the same books I did, they all fell in love with the same story and they wanted to talk about. Beyond that, they wanted everyone to be happy and to find their something. Everyone has their something and I've never met more supportive women then the ladies at TM's. Like I said, without Laura Lee I might never have considered becoming a Librarian, but when she mentioned it everything kind of fell into place. Without the girls at EFG I might not have found my voice and my confidence to actually go do it. not only that, but to start contacting authors and writing reviews and talking about all these great books we were reading. It was a complete 180. 

I've read a lot of great books since then. A lot. Brilliantly written, heartbreaking, hope filled and hysterical books that keep me coming back. Better books then Twilight. No book though, has changed my world like Twilight did. And even though it's lost a little of it's luster for me, I can't be anything but thankful that I found this book just when I needed it. It was 100% the right book and the right time for me! It's also a good inspiration for being a librarian. I want to help these kids find their book. The book that they will fall in love with and want to embrace and discuss and learn from. If I can do that, well, I'd call it a win. 

So how about you? Do you have that one book that changed everything for you?