Estelle: Threatened by Eliot Schrefer

Threatened by Eliot ScreferThreatened by Eliot Schrefer [ website | tweet ]
Publication Date: February 25, 2014
Publisher: Scholastic
Pages: 288
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: Africa, orphan, adventure, companionship, chimpanzees, tragedy
Format read: ARC from Publisher via NetGalley! (Thanks!)

Summary: Luc is intrigued by the Professor when he first bumps into him at work. Despite a “misunderstanding”, he takes Luc under his wing as he hopes to study chimps in their natural habitat — the jungle.

At the end of 2014, I fell unexpectedly in love with Eliot Schrefer’s Endangered about a young girl on the run with a bonobo when a violent attack occurs in the Congo. Endangered challenged me; I was instantly out of my comfort zone, knowing next to nothing about the Congo, not even knowing how to pronounce bonobos, much less know what they look like. I didn’t think it was possible to connect so emotionally to a book about a girl, an animal, and a war. But I did. The story was about motherhood, bravery, and connection that went beyond human or animal.

So I shouldn’t have been surprised when Threatened turned out to be a totally different book. I mean, it couldn’t BE the same book so this is really a positive thing because once again Schrefer placed me into an unknown environment with absolutely no idea how it would all end.

One difference? Urgency. A attack is a pretty huge driving force in any book and without it, Threatened read a little slower. Main character Luc is an orphan, living with a guy I could only picture as Fagin from Oliver!. This “gentleman” is not a saint who cares for lost boys but instead takes whatever money they have, keeps track of their “debt”, and allows them to live in the barest of conditions. Miraculously, Luc makes his exit with the help of a visiting professor. Even though Luc tries to steal for him, “Prof” pays off his debt and takes him on as his assistant as he studies chimps in the jungle.

For the first time in a long time, Luc has someone who is investing in him. Teaching, talking, observing. Luc feels possibility in his kinship with Prof, and starts to look beyond the life he thought he knew before. (How his family died, the legend of the “mock man” a.k.a. the chimps.) When it seems like he couldn’t be tested any more, something happens that changes the course of the story and his past threatens to hurt him once again.

Slowly but surely his companions become two chimps: Mango and Drummer. Their relationships are tentative and, sometimes, frustrating but their time in the jungle, learning to survive, brings them closer together and once again, the line between human and animal are blurred as this connection between them is fused.

As Luc assimilates to life in the jungle, I wondered if this would be his life for good. I wondered if he would have the opportunity to befriend other humans. Can the chimps who so obviously care for him make up for the family he lost? Schrefer convinces me, time and time again, that if we are patient, kind, and compassionate that any of these relationships are a possibility. I am amazed how much he can convey between Luc and the chimps because, as you may have guessed, no dialogue is spoken. Just movements, action, and Luc’s thoughts.

If you are looking to try something completely new and connect to this genre in a whole new way, I can’t recommend Schrefer’s books enough. He is a writer who opens me up to brand new ideas and forces me to really listen to the world beyond the city I live in and the world I think I know.

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Estelle’s Shelve It >> 2/3/2013

weekly feature focusing on the books we bought, borrowed, and received from publishers

I’m pretty sure I did a Shelve It last year on Super Bowl Sunday (which fell on my birthday…) Oh my absolute favorite day in the world. Things are so tremendously different this year: new city, new place to live, an iPhone, my husband’s team is not actually playing tonight, and the half time show that will actually BE sexy. (I do hope Beyonce sings “Bootilicious”… it’s an old favorite.)

Anyway, one thing that remains constant around here are THE BOOKS. Hope you enjoy hearing about these! SORRY! It’s really long but I make a lot of hand gestures and my cat sort of says hi?

Borrowed:

Uses for Boys by Erica Lorraine Scheidt from Lena at Addicted to Novels! THANKS!
Wild Awake by Hilary T. Smith from Jamie at The Perpetual Page Turner. THANKS!

Gifted from Mandee at Vegan YA Nerds:

No Such Thing as Love by Ali Cronin
What’s Up with Jody Barton by Hayley Long
Under Southern Skies by Anne McCullagh Rennie

From NetGalley:

Someday, Someday Maybe by Lauren Graham
The Best of Us by Sarah Pekkanen
The Wanderer by Robin Carr
The Reece Malcolm List by Amy Spadling
Revenge of the Girl with the Great Personality by Elizabeth Eulberg

Bought:

If We Kiss by Rachel Vail
Once Was Lost by Sara Zarr
The Deadly Sister by Eliot Schrefer
Young House Love by Sherry + John Petersik
Love is a Canoe by Ben Schrank

On the blog:

A Literary Birthday — From What I Remember
Attention, Attention: Welcome, Caller, This is Chloe
A review of Star Crossed by Jennifer Echols
A review of Scarlet by Marisa Meyer
A review of Hooked by Liz Fichera
A review of Austensibly Ordinary by Alyssa Goodnight

Have a great week!! And thanks for stopping by!

The Big Kids’ Table: Holiday Shopping Guide Edition

Friends, I can’t believe I am writing my 12th Big Kids’ Table post right now. When I started up this idea in January, I wanted to open up my reading world to new books, even though I had found a new and lovely home in the young adult genre. For me, it’s always best for me to switch up the books that I’m reading. That way my feelings for one don’t have much of a chance of meshing into the other. Here’s where some of my “big kid reads” have come in (and the occasional dystopian too).

For December, I decided not to focus on NEW adult fiction/non-fiction releases but maybe some of the books I think deserve another mention and might be suitable for your holiday shopping needs. I have read every single book on this list and I totally stand by them.

Enjoy! And definitely let me know in the comments if you have any suggestions for me or our readers! See you in 2013!Rather Be Reading Blog Shopping Guide - The Grown Up Books

titles you shouldn’t be afraid to give mom

My mom has always been a fan of romance novels and I keep thinking of books I may want to gift her… but I’m a little uncomfy giving her ones with super sexytimes. Is that mean? I mean, my mom, for example, loves The Vampire Diaries. She also watches Parenthood where sexytimes do exist. But you know, for my heart and my sanity… here are two titles I would not think twice about giving her. (In fact, I bought her Baby Proof for Mother’s Day this year and hoped she wouldn’t think I was “telling her something.” [I wasn’t. Sometimes a book is just a book.] P.S. She loved it.)

A Fool’s Gold Christmas by Susan Mallery [ my review ] dancing, cats, two Scrooges.

Baby Proof by Emily Giffin [ goodreads ] marriage, children, happiness.

my fave grown up books of 2012

Gosh, this was a toughie. Elena from Novel Sounds surprised me with a fabulous copy of Attachments a few months ago, and I finally finished it this week. Wow. It’s the kind of book you want to buy for 10 of your friends. I love the writing style, the male POV, the inserted emails, the throwback to 1999. It’s perfect. It made me feel warm inside. (Also this book is perfect for your mom and your best friend.)

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell [ goodreads | novel sounds review ] an office setting, love at first email, mystery!

Saving Ruth has a few heavy elements — eating disorders, sibling rivalry — but the author’s voice is really refreshing and the age group is great… a kid home on her first break from college. This was a pick on Big Kids’ Table in the beginning, and I’m so glad I got a copy at the the library. While I hate dislike the term “new adult”, this kind of falls into the category and could engage a wide range of age groups.

Saving Ruth by Zoe Fishman [ my review ] a girl home from college dealing with some heavy issues, befriending a sweet kid, a dash of romance

to be gifted with a cold shower (or 2)

Let’s go back to my sexytimes comments before as in not safe for work or while operating heavy machinery or maybe even gifting to your mother. These two titles made my toes curl, but they had nice stories too. (I liked Victoria Dahl’s approach to the romance novel a bit more than Susan Mallery’s… but both will sure satisfy your desire for a solid romance novel.)

Summer Nights by Susan Mallery [ my review ] a cowboy and a librarian meet in a bar (really, sort of)

Close Enough to Touch by Victoria Dahl [ goodreads ] a cowboy and a makeup artist meet in a beautiful place

…okay seriously, I may have a thing for cowboys.

haunting + captivating

Despite slow starts with each of these picks, I got to a point where I could not put either down. So different but so well written, and so addicting.

City of Women by David Gillham [ my review ] Set during World War 2, a woman separated from her lover may be hiding his wife and children. (Warning: sexual themes.)

The Empty Glass by J.I. Baker [ my review ] A man is determined to figure out what really happened to Marilyn Monroe… and someone really doesn’t want him to find out.

bonus: YA picks for the wary grownup

You know the type I’m talking about… the kind of person who loves to read but looks down at your love for young adult literature? Just because it’s written for younger people does not mean that it is not LITERATURE. Because it really is. This list was probably the most difficult for me to make, because when I finalized it, I kept coming up with more. What do you think?

Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson [ magan’s review] beautiful writing, a story about family

Endangered by Eliot Schrefer [ my review] lush setting, solid writing, mothers/daughters, bonds

The Survival Kit by Donna Freitas [ magan’s review] grief, a story about family and moving forward

The Pursuit of Happiness by Tara Altebrando [ my review ] dealing with change in a family, well-developed characters

I’ll Be There by Holly Goldberg Sloane [ my review ] the feel of a vintage YA, family, fate, etc.

For some more ideas, check out Jamie’s post on picks for a picky reader over at The Perpetual Page Turner!

And one more shout out to Anna Reads’ sister (even if she stole Anna’s Harry Potter books), who shared some grown up choices for the holidays as well.

Happy reading and shopping! (Two of my favorite things in the world!)

Estelle: Endangered by Eliot Schrefer

Endangered by Eliot SchreferEndangered by Eliot Schrefer  [ website | tweet ]
Publication Date: October 1, 2012
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Pages: 272
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: Africa, Congo, mother/daughter relationships, revolution, survival
Format read: ARC from NetGalley. (Thanks!)

Summary:  It’s summer break and Sophie has returned to the Congo, where her mother lives, running a sanctuary for bonobos. Sophie keeps her distance from the bonobos mostly, but when she saves the weak Otto, she feels instantly bonded to him. Her summer turns into a journey of survival when a violent attack occurs and threatens the sanctuary and her life.

A powerful departure from a world of love triangles, high school drama, and gossip, Endangered is an addictive and emotional read about a girl named Sophie, who is visiting her mother in the Congo during her summer break. Her mother has dedicated her life to the bonobo – a chimp-like animal who is actually the human’s closest relative (we share 98.7% of the same DNA). Ironically, her mother’s dedication to keeping the bonobos safe in an enclosure she maintains has severed her own connection with Sophie.

Rightfully, Sophie doesn’t want much to do with the bonobos but when she sees one in danger, she pays to take him, and they are instantly bond. She’s not supposed to pay for the bonobos – ones taken from the Congo have been ripped from their environment because more than likely their mother has been killed – and the promise of money only inspires unscrupulous people to repeat this practice. But Otto isn’t well, and Sophie can’t bear the thought of letting him live that way.

The bond between Sophie and Otto is evident from the very beginning. At times, he feels like her child and her sibling, and as I got deeper into the story, I sometimes forgot that he was a wild animal at all. When an attack breaks out and the bonobo sanctuary is threatened, Sophie and Otto support and help each other. Schrefer has created such an environment that Endangered almost feels dystopian in ways. It’s a world that we don’t often hear about, and the book takes an intense turn when Sophie must rely on nature for survival and trust in Otto.

Lush and breathtaking, but dangerous and ominous, this novel becomes its own living and breathing entity, so much so that I had to close and reopen just to catch my breath.

Expertly, Schrefer weaves together Sophie’s own memories of her parents with the political unrest in the Congo. The parallels drawn between these animals and Sophie’s own relationship with her mother are subtly and effectively done. (“Being someone’s child was always tough, always in its own way.”) In fact, I never once thought I would have such a strong reaction to this book. But it was so incredibly relatable: the will we have to survive, the complex relationships we have with our parents, and how we might have more in common with the animal kingdom than we think.

This book is a triumph in so many ways. The first 100 pages are jam-packed with so much detail and content, I felt like I had read 200 and in a good way. I never felt overwhelmed, just thrust into this world and its characters. It’s beautiful, quotable writing and challenging too — most of the time Sophie is an observer and hanging out with bonobos so there is very little dialogue. But I never missed it. There is so much said with action and movement and small behaviors that Schrefer created his own language. In general, the author does a tremendous job of burying the cultural divide Sophie feels in the beginning (she grew up in the Congo but moved back to the U.S. with her dad) as the story moves deeper and deeper into the Congo; it makes you extremely aware of how distinctly different life can be.

As a whole, Endangered has the feel of those naturalistic but intense novels from my childhood (Lord of the Flies, Bridge to Terabithia, Julie & the Wolves) because it can be enjoyed by both sexes equally and forces great discussions, while beaming with this timeless quality. Sure, Endangered might not be the typical contemporary young adult novel that everyone flocks to, but it is certainly one that is worth stepping out of your comfort zone and experiencing; it’s the perfect balance of environment and emotion, family and connection — familiar themes in literature that are made refreshing and new.

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