Sunday, December 23, 2007

Bento Box in the Heartland: My Japanese Girlhood in Whitebread America: a food memoir by Linda Furiya

I must admit that I liked this adult memoir more than I thought I would. I won't be giving away copies of it for Christmas or anything, but I read in a few days. Linda Furiya is Japanese American and grew up in a small town in Indiana. This food memoir (tons of yummy Japanese recipes are included) describes her experiences growing up and how she had to adjust to being Asian in a small Midwestern town. Food is very important to her family, and so food is discussed in detail. But so is her mother's depression, internment during WWII, driving hours to find fresh fish, and the troubles she has pretending to be white as a child.

I liked this so much better than Hapa Girl. Maybe I shouldn't compare the two, but I do in my mind. In Hapa Girl, the author is 1/2 Chinese and 1/2 white and complains about the struggle she had growing up in America. I believe that Bento Box covers the same type of struggle so much better. Less whining. And I actually grew to care for the author of Bento Box.

Airborn by Kenneth Oppel

I'm so glad I decided to listen to the Full Cast Audio production of this young adult novel. In fact, I didn't realize until after I had listened to it that it won a 2007 Audie Award. I believe it. I was riveted during this novel, even though I have read the book (and its sequel) before. Riveted while driving through whirling snow on a Chicago interstate is a little dangerous, but I survived.

Matt Cruse was born on an airship and has worked on one since the age of 12. He's only a cabin boy, but knows everything about the ship and has dreams of flying his own one day. Once he meets Ms. Kate de Vries (spelling?) he obtains a new interest. She is pretty, rich, demanding, intelligent, and strong minded. She insists that her grandfather discovered a new mammal high above an island in the Pacificus, and wants Matt to help her prove it. And, boy, do they ever. They find cloud cats, are ransacked by pirates and end up shipwrecked in the middle of nowhere. This adventure story is so exciting and I wish I could get more students to read it. It's a Printz honor book, too, so even the stuffy literary librarians agree that this book has quality! :)

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Museum Vaults: excerpts from the journal of an expert

Read my "real" review of this title in a future issue of VOYA.

This is the 2nd volume in a series co-"produced (?) by the Louvre. I wasn't too impressed. If you're into art history or anything French, then read this. If not, they don't.

The art is cool though, even if the plot is thin. The artist refers and incorporates many famous art pieces from the museum and includes a section in the back letting the reader know what is what.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Vampire Kisses by Ellen Schreiber (Vol. 1)

I know this young adult fantasy is popular with the girls at my school who will read absolutely everything vampire-related. But, oh my, this book was a horrible read. The dialogue was stilted and corny. The interaction between Raven and the jocks at her school is sooooo unbelievable. I didn't get to know any of the characters. I don't even like any of the characters. The Gothic and mysterious Alexander seems like a cutie, but I didn't get to know him by reading this book. All in all, I think this is a poorly written novel that was shoved onto the printing press without much thought. I'm really surprised it came out in hardcover first--it seems like a straight to paperback book. I am so happy I don't have to read the rest of the series, but I will buy them for my library. Kids like them. I just hope they understand that they are fluff and that there are much better vampire books out there (like Westerfeld's Peeps series).

Monday, December 17, 2007

Sold by Patricia McCormick

I finally got around to reading this quick young adult novel. Finally! I knew it would be a good one. McCormick's Cut is a stunning book about a girl who cuts herself. In Sold, McCormick tackles the world tragedy of child sex slaves. Now, don't get all freaked out about it being about sex. It's not. But it deals with the subject appropriately and accurately. In fact, the author traveled to India and Nepal to find out more about the situation. It's despicable. Children are sold by adults, sometimes even their parents, into horrible situations. In this novel, Lakshmi's step-father is an idiot--a gambler and a drunk, and her mother is thankful to have him. He sells Lakshmi to an "Auntie" and Lakshmi believes that she is going into the city to work as a maid. But she doesn't. Instead, she is forced to lose her virginity. At age 13. Of course, this goes against everything she has been taught. She is honorable and engaged to a young boy from her village. She wants to send money home from the city so that her family can have a tin roof. A tin roof! Thankfully, Americans intervene and she is rescued from her scary life and career at the ripe old age of 14. We know she still has hope, but we're not sure what life she will have. Her reputation is ruined and she has left her homeland. But she's out of Mumtaz's house. And that's a start.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

I read this adult novel years ago and re-read it this weekend. Our faculty book club is discussing it tomorrow so I needed to refresh my memories of it! And I'm glad I did.

Reasons why I like this book:
1. It's written from the perspective of a teenage boy who has autism.
2. It's a mystery and a family drama all rolled together.
3. The reader has to read between the lines to figure out what's going on.
4. Gotta love the math.
5. It makes me thankful to have the life I lead.

I do have one complaint about this novel though. I had forgotten about how the ending disappointed me the first time. Everything wraps up just fine from the narrator's perspective, although I guess everything is fine from his point of view. And that's the troubling thing. As long as Christopher's schedule isn't too disruptive, his life is okay. Even if parents are switching on him, pets are dying, and things are yellow.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

I had to read this young adult novel since it won the National Book Award for YA Lit. I must admit that it isn't checked out much at my high school library, but I'm going to do my best to book talk this awesome, wonderful book!

Junior lives on a Spokane Indian reservation and has a way of always getting picked on. He's smart, skinny, and was born with fluid in the brain. Well, kind of. But a whole host of problems begin when he decides to go to the "white" school outside the rez. Hence the "part-time Indian" phrase in the title. The Indians hate him because he's turned white. The white kids hate him because he's different. And Junior has to live with it, along with the regular problems on the rez like alcoholism, physical abuse, and the overcoming sense of hopelessness. I really, really like Junior. I laughed out loud and had that feel-good feeling when I finished the book. This one is definitely on my Top 2007 title list.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Raider's Night by Robert Lipsyte

I picked up this little book yesterday when I felt that I needed to relax a bit at school. It's been on my to-read list since before it was published. I'm a big fan of the author's The Contender and his newest title Yellow Flag. Lipsyte pushes the edge in this one, making it for older high school students.

Matt Rydek is co-captain of the Nearmont Raiders football team, one of the studs of the school, and treated well. Cops, teachers, students, and especially girls, love him. But Matt has to deal with his dad trying to re-live his own high school football career through him, and pressuring him to make it to Division I and professional football. Matt's always been one of the good guys, even if he is constantly popping Vicodin for the pain (from games and his dad) and injecting who knows what into his body to get ripped. Matt is torn when a new student is violated by a co-captain on the last night of football camp. And I mean violated. The new kid (who was a promising tight end) was damaged mentally and physically and eventually tries to get retaliation in the locker room with a gun. Coaches find out and do nothing. Matt's dad doesn't want anything to hurt his sons' future. But Matt has to figure out what to do because keeping all these secrets are killing him.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

I don't usually blog about movies, but I had to today. Last night I went to see The Golden Compass in Mattoon and thought is was so-so. First of all, the casting director did a terrific job. Lyra is wonderful and has a huge future in front of her. Nicole Kidman is an evil Mrs. Coulter, and the cowboy is great. I really wanted to see more Lord Asriel.

Since I just re-read the book for book club a few weeks ago, I knew what was going to happen. However, I think the movie would be slow at the beginning for people who haven't read the book. I hated the constant gold glitter every time Lyra read the golden compass. But I think that's the only thing I hated. The scenery was beautiful and the daemons were wonderful. The bear story was a little short compared to the book and, of course, the movie left a lot of important details out. But, overall, I think the movie did the book justice. The ending stunk in the movie though. I mean, everything is all peachy clean and wrapped up, and that isn't the way it ends in the book.

But, overall, go see the movie. And read the book. I believe Pullman wrote one of the best fantasy trilogies in young adult literature. Notice how I said fantasy and not theological study? The book is fiction. Churches should stop telling people what to do (like what the Magisterium does in the book) and take field trips to see the movie so that they can discuss it intelligently. Education is the key here, not ignorance.

On the Wings of Heroes by Richard Peck

I love this author. Peck is funny and writes hysterical historical fiction for young people (like his Newbery-Honor-winning A Long Way From Chicago and the Newbery-Medal-winning A Year Down Yonder). But what I like best about him is that he grew up in Decatur, Illinois and writes about his childhood. I've met Mr. Peck at conferences and he KNOWS my high school English teacher. He knows the road where my parents live. Scary, but true. If you ever have the chance to hear Mr. Peck speak, he is worth the drive and conference fee.

On the Wings of Heroes tackles World War II from a young boy's perspective on the home front. Davy Bowman lives in central Illinois and his older brother is an Army Air Force pilot. This book follows Davy as he matures. At the beginning of the short novel, Davy is a gung-ho Cub Scout, effortlessly collecting metal, paper, and anything else for the war effort. But as the war continues and his older brother is missing in action, Davy realizes that everything about the war isn't fun and exciting. His dad is battered by Chicago mafia tough guys because he won't have anything to do with counterfeit gas rations. Davy's grandparents move into the front room and are larger than life. Davy's mom gets a job at the blood bank. All types of changes are taking place as Davy grows up. Of course, the best part of the book for me is the mention of all my hometown places like Blue Mound, Wyckles Corner, Maroa, Mt. Zion, and Pana. What made me angry though is that the narrator of this audiobook didn't find out how to pronounce the proper nouns. Both Wyckles Corner and Pana were mispronounced.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Among Other Things, I've Taken Up Smoking by Aoibheann Sweeney

From the cover of this adult novel, I was expecting an artsy-fartsy literary thing. I was pleasantly surprised. I liked it. Is it one of the best books I've read all year? No, mainly because I can't think of a single student to recommend it to. But, the author definitely wins the coolest first name award.

Miranda grows up on an isolated island in Maine caring for her intellectual father who is translated Ovid. She cooks, cleans, and takes care of her absent-minded father. She doesn't lead much of a life on the isolated island. Her only real friend is Mr. Blackwell, a friend of her father's, who mysteriously "breaks up" with her dad for some unknown reason. Miranda finally gets a chance to leave the island to work at the Institute in NYC that her father founded. She is overwhelmed by the city and the people she meets. She is trying to find herself, but has a difficult time breaking away from her father and his past that keeps haunting her. Quite the coming-of-age love story.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Awhile ago I tried to read this book and I just couldn't get into it. So I figured I would try the audio version. Unfortunately, I still couldn't get into it. This is an eleven disk audiobook, and I finished disk one. Then I looked at the other interesting audiobooks in my passenger seat, and figured that I could listen to something else that is more interesting.

I know the book is narrated by death. I know the book won all sorts of awards. I know the author is cute (saw him at ALA last June) and I know I loved Fighting Ruben Wolfe and Getting the Girl by the same author. But I just couldn't get into this one. Absolutely nothing happened during the first disk. Toward the end, it finally got to the little girl who became the book thief, but the boring narration was too much for me to handle. I just couldn't finish it. Well, mainly I just didn't want to.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

What Happened to Cass McBride? by Gail Giles

This has been on my "to read" list since it was published back in 2005. I'm not exactly sure why I haven't read if before now. I love the author and even subscribe to her blog in my RSS Reader. To me, she is similar to Terry Trueman because they both write cute little books at a lower reading level that aren't cute at all. This book is definitely for high school readers.

Cass McBride is asked out on a date by a dork and, in response, she writes a note to her best friend and leaves it in a desk. The dork finds it, and ends up hanging from a tree the next day. Story over? Nope. Someone wants revenge. Cass disappears and is tortured. Does she survive? Who did it? Why?

While you're reading this one, make sure you have read Shattering Glass by the same author. I liked it much better than Dead Girls Don't Write Letters. Don't forget to check out the author's blog at, too.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The Shotgun Rule by Charlie Huston

I was awake until 12:30 am last night. On a school night. I regret it now, but I just couldn't stop reading this adult crime fiction novel until I was satisfied. Here's the thing: I dislike novels where humanity disappoints me. I just can't imagine people living in a world like the one portrayed in this novel. Everything is so dark, gritty, evil, and depressing.

Four teenage boys in northern California (seemed like downtown LA or something to me) live a rough life. And they make it worse. They steal, have fun with with every drug and alcohol combination available, and get into trouble. The gang situation in this town is disgusting...yet I had to keep reading. Don't read this if you can't stand gore, cuss words, and pointless violence. I was grimacing toward the end. Yuck.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Driving with Dead People by Monica Holloway

Whoa. I love it when I'm reading a book and I don't want to stop. And then, when I'm finished, I want to tell everyone about it. Holloway's memoir is like that. Her story is funny and well-written and clever. I was giggling at the beginning. But the dark undercurrent is always present. She wets the bed. Her sisters and brother act funny. Her mom is in permanent denial and finally leaves her husband and wants to leave her children. Or at least pretend that they are normal.

Monica finds comfort in her childhood best friend's family, which owns a funeral home. But that doesn't completely save her from her own dysfunctional family. As Monica grows up, she knows that something is wrong. But it isn't until her older sister has a mental breakdown that she begins to wonder if their father abused all of the children. Did he? Can she remember it happening? Whoa.

The Mistress's Daughter by A.M. Homes

This audio CD was rather entertaining. I've never read any of the author's novels, and this memoir didn't make me rush out and read them. However, I think this book would be great bibliotherapy for anyone who has been adopted or put someone up for adoption. It is almost the "how-to-not" make things work. Homes seems genuinely pleased that she didn't grow up with her birth mother, and I don't blame her. But, the amount of therapy that Homes needs after meeting and putting up with her birth parents is horrific. It's no wonder she became obsessed with finding out who she is. Both biologically and adoptively (Is that a word?). I'm sure this adult memoir is fascinating to many adults, but I won't be purchasing it for my high school library. I think it moves a little too slowly for most high school students. However, I give the narrator top marks for a quality production. Wow.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Love Falls by Esther Freud

This adult novel started with such promise, but I was a little disappointed by the end, probably because I don't like the main character. She's a wuss.

Lara is seventeen and is invited by her mostly absentee father to Italy for the summer. She accepts because she wants to get to know her dad better. But she doesn't really like what she sees. Her dad isn't the marrying kind, but he's really good at sleeping with married women. And he doesn't seem to think that his daughter should care.

Lara is thrown into the world of rich kids. She falls in love with Kip (what a name) but it doesn't seem to be real love. In fact, hopefully he isn't her half-brother, since the rumor going around is that her father had an affair with his mother. And what about Roland, the creepy married guy who hits on Lara and everyone else constantly? He's handsome, but ewwwww......

Avalon High by Meg Cabot

I really needed this fluffy novel. Ellie (Elaine) had to go to Avalon High School this year because her two medieval professor parents are on sabbatical. She falls in love with Will, even though he has a girlfriend. Will's best friend Lance is having an affair with Jennifer, Will's girlfriend. Does this plot sound familiar? What if I told you that Will's first name is Arthur? That's right. This novel is a twist on Arthurian legend and really works. How does Ellie fit in? In the legend, she commits suicide because Lancelot doesn't love her. But Ellie can't stand Lance. So the story isn't going the way it's supposed to. And Mr. Morton, Ellie's English teacher, knows it. And don't forget about Marco, Will's evil step-brother.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Hero by Perry Moore

I'm so glad I finally got around to reading this cute novel! It's winning all sorts of awards and making it to the top of a lot of 2007 young adult book lists, and I totally understand why.

First, it's unlike anything I've ever read before. It's about a teenage boy who is the son of a disgraced superhero. Thom's dad allowed a tragedy to happen and was kicked out of the superhero League and Thom isn't allowed to talk about it. But Thom has recently found out that he has superpowers, too. Thom can heal. It might lead to a seizure, but Thom can heal broken bones and make sick people well. And, he can also knock out electrical power in a one mile radius, but he's working on controlling that part of his power. So, Thom is invited to try out for the League and he must keep it a secret from his dad. Make this his #2 secret. Because his first one is that Thom is gay and has always known it, but hasn't told his father. Kids at school know. And kids on the opposing team's basketball team know about it, but Thom doesn't have the guts to tell his dad.

So this is one heck of an action novel and has combinations of Superman and Spiderman and all the teenager angst and romance and embarrassment and everything that can be thrown into a good young adult novel. The author was the executive producer of the Chronicles of Narnia films, so he's multi-talented. I can't wait to read Perry Moore's next book!

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: a Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver with Steven L. Hopp and Camille Kingsolver

I went into this adult book with a definite bias. I'm the daughter of a staunch Republican corn and soybean farmer who listens to talk radio. I grew up ten miles from ADM and Staley's processing plants in Decatur, Illinois. And, horror of horrors, I vote Republican since I know my Libertarian vote only takes away from the Republicans.

So this isn't exactly the book for me. I struggled with it. Kingsolver is a great writer; we all know her novels are pretty good. But in this book she and her family promise to try to live off the land. They are concerned with the oil crisis and corn syrup and gas prices and food additives and everything else that I don't concern myself with. (Yes, that's a preposition I'm ending my sentence with) (again)

If you want to know where food comes from like all the other city folk out there or if you like shopping at farmer's markets and driving a hybrid, this book is for you. If you're like me, it isn't! :)

P.S. I don't like how she blamed the Arizona drought on global warming. Last I heard, it's because people aren't supposed to live in a desert. The land can't support the booming population and the desert is just getting dryer.

P.P.S. I can't wait to read the comments on this post!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen

What a beautiful little book! And it's hard to describe. The town of Bascom, North Carolina, believes in magic although they don't really call it magic. Claire Waverly has inherited gifts from her grandmother, along with the Victorian house. She is a caterer, and her food can make people change. Herbs, vegetables, and flowers from her garden can influence the people who eat it. Even better, there is a magic apple tree in the backyard that is magic, too. But it isn't just the Waverlys. Other families live up to their names, too. The Clarks always marry older women. Evanelle is an old lady who always gives people things before they need them. This quiet magic makes the novel wonderful to read. The magic is subtle and weaves a little bit of fantasy into a great family tale. This adult novel has drama, romance, mystery, and a little bit of everything else thrown in. It's adorable and I fell in love with little Bay Waverly and Evanelle.

One for Sorrow by Christopher Barzak

This adult debut novel could have been published as a young adult title. But as I read it, I kept feeling like I had read it before and it's nagging at me to realize what books this reminds me off. I'm not sure. But it really feels like I've read something just like this before.

Adam is a 15 year old messed-up kid already. Then a kid in his class is murdered and his mother is involved in a hit-and-run and is paralyzed. This drives him over the edge. He sees the dead kid's ghost and meets other ghosts. He runs away. Twice. He meets a girl and they fall in love but he doesn't know what to do with love. He wanders around and hits bottom. Hard. Of course, he's redeemed at the end, but you wonder if he's going to make it.

The writing is Ya-ish, but I still want to know what this book reminds me off. Maybe I have just read so many books about dead kid's ghosts and mentally ill teens that they are all running together in my mind?

Friday, November 16, 2007

Mary Modern by Camille DeAngelis

DeAngelis created a first novel that made me think. Now, it wasn't the best adult novel I've read, but it was fairly interesting. Basically, Lucy can't have a child and wants one. Since she is a genetic researcher, she clones DNA from her grandmother's apron and creates a child. But the child comes out of the incubator as a 22 year old woman with her memories intact. Instead of living in the 1920s, she's in modern America and has to adjust. This book is a combination of sc-fi, romance, family drama, and religious/social inspection. I don't usually include quotes, but I'm going to for this one.

"When Lucy was a teenager, the fact that she could count the people who would die for her on a single finger used to send her into weeklong fits of depression. Then there were none, and she could not afford to linger on it. Now Gray winds his arm tight around her waist, mumbling in his sleep, and she drifts off thinking maybe one is enough" p. 27-28

That quote makes up for the one sentence paragraph on page 52 that is eight lines long! I almost stopped reading right there! The book has a slow beginning but gets exciting in the middle, so keep reading!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Ministry of Special Cases by Nathan Englander

I couldn't finish disk one of this adult audiobook either. Maybe I'm getting picky because I want to be entertained more. But I just couldn't get into this one. After listening to it for 30 minutes or so, I still can' explain to you what exactly it was about. Something about the Jews and a separate cemetery and Eva Peron. I just couldn't get into it. I read some reviews on LibraryThing and one reviewer claimed the novel started slowly. And it did. It's just not my thing. I'm sure other readers will love it, but, I gave it a chance and chose to listen to Avalon High by Meg Cabot instead. :)

Pants on Fire by Meg Cabot

I couldn't finish listening to the first disk of this audio young adult novel. And this is way. The reader was irritating. Seriously. I was wincing in the car. And the writing--argh! I'm not sure what Meg Cabot was thinking when she created such an annoying main character. Katie Ellison is one of the most annoying teenagers in YA lit. And I only heard a little bit of the first CD. She is cheating on her boyfriend and then a third boy comes along who is so h-oooooooooo-t. And she's running for her town's Quahog Princess because she just wants the money. And she has her boyfriend that she is simply keeping around because he is a star football player. She is very shallow and easy to hate. So I disliked her. And turned it off!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The God of Animals by Aryn Kyle

I'm so glad I listened to the audio version of this adult novel. Lily Rabe, the reader, was wonderful, and I swear I've listened to her read something else.

Alice Winston is a young girl who has grown up alone on her family's horse ranch. Her mother is depressed and never leaves her bedroom, but the family doesn't talk about it. Her father works in the barn and they never discuss why Alice's older sister ran off and got married the year before. But then things change. Alice falls in love with someone she isn't supposed to. Alice's father falls in love, too, and it isn't with his wife. And then Alice's sister and her husband come back to the ranch to live. This dysfunctional family weaves an intriguing tale and I must admit that I had tears in my eyes at the end.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Lottery by Patricia Wood

This adult novel definitely reminded me of Forrest Gump. Why? Because it's about a mentally challenged young man who knows more about life than most of us.

"My name is Perry L. Crandall and I am not retarded." Perry goes on to talk about his IQ on the first page, just like Forrest Gump. But, unlike Forrest Gump, Perry's family is horrible except for his Gram. When Gram dies, Perry's family deserts him and takes his money. But then Perry wins the lottery. And his family wants power of attorney over him. And his family wants to invest his winnings for him. And they want his money.

But Perry discovers that he is quite the businessman. He invests in his bosses' shipping business and things take off. He learns not to take every collect call. He learns to write checks for $500 because that is how many zeroes fit in the box. And he also falls in love. Perry loves Cherry, the tattooed, pierced gas station attendant who is in love with Perry's best friend Keith.
This is a coming-of-age story, even though Perry is 31 when his Gram dies. But Perry grows up, even though his IQ is only 76. He learns to live on his own and be financially secure. And he learns to love.

Friday, November 9, 2007

The Beautiful Miscellaneous by Dominic Smith

This book needs a new cover. It's a pretty cover, but it really needs something not so dorky looking so it would attract more teen readers!

Nathan Nelson is raised to be a genius but doesn't quite fill the shoes. His dad is a famous physicist and his mother is a gourmet cook and woman of the world (from her living room, at least). Nathan is a good child and does everything his dad wants--science camps, trig tables, and spelling tests. But in junior high, Nathan purposely misses the winning question of a science bowl. And says no more.

But then, in high school, Nathan is in a horrible car accident and injured. He now has synesthesia and sees colors and smells scents when he words. The result? An awesome memory. Nathan can recite TV dialogue perfectly and memorize phone books. His parents put him in The Institute where he can learn to "utilize" his new-found talent. While there, he finds love, finds friendship, and grows up.

This is quite the coming-of-age story. Nathan deals with his father's death in a difficult way, and the reader really grows to like Nathan. He's a good kid, even if his thoughts are a little messed up.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Queen of Babble in the Big City by Meg Cabot

I HATE when books end the way this one did. Really, Luke popped the marriage question in the last paragraph and I have to wait until next summer to figure out what she decides to do! Does Lizzie take Luke back even though he bought her a replacement sewing machine for Christmas instead of an engagement ring? What does she do about Luke's best friend who she kissed on New Year's Eve when she thought she was through with Luke? Chaz, her best friend's ex-boyfriend, is the man who remembers that she loves Diet Coke and says he has always liked her. So what will Lizzie do? Marry her prince? (He really is a prince, even if he isn't recognized by the government of France) or decide to be on her own for awhile?

This is an entertaining chick lit title that I listened to because I needed a break from all the angsty and depressing titles I've been reading. Sometimes I just need a laugh. :)

Monday, November 5, 2007

Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones

If you haven't read Great Expectations, don't bother reading this adult novel or you'll be lost.

Matilda lives on some island off Australia in the early 1990s. She's black, poor, and doesn't know it. But the only white man in her village (who is married to a kind of crazy black woman) becomes their temporary teacher during a civil war and begins reading the classic Dickens novel to the schoolchildren. They begin learning storytelling skills and all about Dickensian England. The kids are captivated by Pip even though their own world is falling apart around them.

I completely agree with the reviewer in Publishers Weekly who stated, "but the extreme violence toward the end of the novel doesn’t quite work." I'm glad it wasn't just me. It was like portions of A Long Way Gone just popped into a literary novel. It didn't work. To me, this novel is too literary for high school students and I won't be purchasing it for my high school. I don't even think I could recommend it to teachers, unless they have read Great Expectations.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Slam by Nick Hornby

Hornby really knows how to get into the mind of a 15-year-old boy. The author is best known for his adult "guy lit" books like About a Boy and High Fidelity, and this is his first venture into young adult literature. The main character has a Hornby stream-of-consciousness voice, but the books is a little preachy for me.
Sam lives in England with his single mom, who had him when she was still a teenager. He skates, but don't think that he is an ice skater--he's a skateboarder. The book becomes a one about teenage pregnancy, but Hornby handles it from the guy's point-of-view. He didn't intend to follow in his mother's footsteps, and Sam doesn't want to follow in his father's footsteps, too. So he chooses not to.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Lord Loss: The Demonata by Darren Shan

Well, I had to read this one before I put it on the shelf for the students! The whole demon on the cover scared me a bit. But, it's typical Darren Shan, who is best known for his Cirque du Freak series. The book is a little gory, a little fantasy, and not very scary.

Grubbs Grady is horrible to his family, but he actually misses them after they are torn apart by demons one night. He has to live with his Uncle Dervish, who is rich and lives in a Gothic mansion. (of course). Grubbs befriends Bill-E Spleen and they believe that Uncle Dervish is a werewolf and set off to prove it. Eventually there is a "killer" chess tournament with Uncle Dervish, Grubbs, Lord Loss, and some familiars. This is book one in the series, but I don't think I'll be purchasing the rest. Interlibrary loan might have to satisfy readers of this poorly written horror tale.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Queen of Babble by Meg Cabot

Here's another fluff CD that I just had to listen to! And I have the sequel in my car, so I'll be writing about it soon, too.

Meg Cabot is best known for her young adult novels in The Princess Diaries and The Mediator series. Her adult fiction is pretty good, too.

Lizzie Nichols just almost graduated from college (she forgot to do her thesis) with a degree in History of Fashion. She fell in love the night her dorm caught one fire, when a handsome British boy rescued her from the showers. Three months later, she's on a plane to London, hoping to rejoin her perfect boyfriend. But, he's not perfect. He wears a hideous red leather jacket with epaulets. He wants to "borrow" $500 from her. He lives with his parents and she has to sleep in a loft bed above the washer and dryer. So she leaves. Her best friend is staying in France for a few weeks, working at a chateau that specializes in weddings. Lizzie fits right in and falls in love. Again. This time with a French/American man who secretly dreams of being a doctor. Will the relationship work out? Will her big mouth get her into more trouble? Will she ever learn to keep her mouth shut?

Hapa Girl by May-Lee Chai

This adult memoir is a little bitter and I'm not all that thrilled that I read it. Chai is 1/2 Chinese and 1/2 Caucasian. She had an ideal childhood in California until she moved to South Dakota and encountered racism. She was teased, her dogs were shot, and the locals made their lives miserable. Yep, they did. And she used grades and her smarts to last her throughout high school. But, I thought she was awfully whiny.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Tantalizing Tidbits for Teens 2 : More Quick Booktalks for the Busy High School Library Media Specialist by Ruth Cox-Clark

That's right. Librarians have their own professional books. In fact, we pretty much have our own publisher, Linworth Books. I reviewed this professional resource for VOYA and gave it a pretty positive review. Is it for high school kids? Nope. But it's great for librarians who don't have time to read. Of course, I'm old school. I actually think that librarians should ONLY book talk books they have read--what a concept! But, I know some people don't want to make the time to read. Obviously, I think that being a librarian means that you have to read. A lot. Often. Quickly. and Love it. I'm glad I do!

The Septembers of Shiraz by Dalia Sofer

This is one of the best books about the Persian Gulf region I've read in a long time! And, lately, it seems like the publishing houses keep publishing books about Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran, so I've read a lot of them. Why did I like this one? It's quietly good. It's not a WOW book, but, after finishing it, I thought, "Hmmmm, that's pretty good."
The adult novel follows the path of Isaac Amin and his family. Isaac is a wealthy gem dealer who is arrested suddenly and put into prison. He is suspected of being a spy, but really the new government just wants his money, his houses, and his gems. So Isaac is tortured for several months until he finally gives them all the money in his bank accounts. In the meantime, we learn that his young daughter is trying to do her part and stealing files from her girlfriend's basement. Isaac's only son is going to college and drawing closer to his Jewish faith by falling in love with a Hassidic Jewish girl. Through it all, the family grows stronger. Isaac arranges for his family to be smuggled out of Iran and the novel quietly ends.

Monday, October 22, 2007

In Secret Service by Mitch Silver

Any audiobook about James Bond is something I want to listen to, and this adult novel had an interesting twist. Amy Greenberg, a professor in America, is sent to Ireland to pick up a package that her dead grandfather left her in his will. She finds out that it is an unpublished manuscript written by James Bonds' creator, Ian Fleming. Amy knows that the manuscript is valuable, but she doesn't believe HOW valuable until people start dying around her. Someone is after her. Well, several people are after her. And she doesn't know who. Who doesn't want the manuscript published? the Irish? the Royal Family? Americans? and how is she going to escape the men who are after her?

Envious Moon by Thomas Christopher Greene

Don't be deceived by the cover of this adult suspense novel. It's not a sexy book--not at all. Anthony is a Portuguese fisherman who lives in Galilee, Rhode Island. He's not a criminal, yet he tries to steal an envelope of money from a rich dead lady's house, and inadvertently kills a man in a struggle. While the struggle ensues, he sees a lovely young woman, Hannah, and falls in love. While hiding from the cops who keep asking questions, Anthony meets Hannah and they fall in love and spend some glorious weeks together. But then things start happening. And we start finding out some strange things about Anthony. And we learn that Anthony isn't the most reliable narrator.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Resurrection Blues by Mike Tanner

This young adult novel was just what the cover promised--a gritty, realistic look at a Canadian teenager in a band. Flynn is a guitar player, and a darn good one. He drops out of school to tour with the Sawyers, a local band that is trying to make it big. He's the youngest in the band and has to face a lot of problems while on tour. The other guys in the band are typical bad band members--selfish, drug and alcohol addicted, and lacking in morals. Flynn gets caught up in the whirlwind and ends up losing his high school girlfriend AND a woman he wanted. Flynn isn't sure he wants to grow up, and idolizes his Uncle Ray who drops in occasionally and teaches Flynn some basic guitar moves. But Uncle Ray isn't what Flynn thought. And neither is his girlfriend. And neither are the other band members. This is quite the coming of age story.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

How to Talk to a Widower by Jonathan Tropper

Sometimes librarians need to read fluff, too. And this is fulfilled my need for mindless, funny entertainment. It's definitely not something I'll buy for the high school, but this audiobook was a good change of pace for me.

Doug Parker is a widower and still grieving for his wife of three years. He's 29 and suddenly single again and doing a poor job of living. He has an affair, he "almost" tries to commit suicide and he ignores the problems the rest of his family is having. His twin sister is getting divorced AND is pregnant. His younger sister is marrying his ex-best friend. His father just had a stroke and his mother is popping pills to deal with it. Yet, the author makes this novel funny and the narrator does an excellent job telling the story. Doug Parker grows up, finally, at age 29.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Genghis: Birth of an Empire by Conn Iggulden

Oh, this one is good! I love reading awesome historical fiction. With this adult novel, I feel like I know why and how Genghis Khan became the great leader of the Mongols. This novel tracks his comfortable childhood and how he was trained with his brothers to be fearsome and powerful. But then his father is murdered and his father's best friend takes over the Wolves clan and leaves Genghis' family to starve and freeze.
But they survive. Temujin (who later calls himself Genghis) starts small and slowly gathers warriors to him. He is a powerful leader, ruthless and loyal. And smart.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang

This book won the2006 Printz Award from the American Library Association, which means it's the best book in young adult literature from that year. Hmmmmm. I agree that it's good, but I'm not sure that it's the best. It's different, yes. And maybe they wanted a graphic novel to win the award. But I'm not sure I agree that it's the BEST thing that came out of 2006 young adult literature.

Basically it's about a young Chinese American boy who isn't quite sure about his identity. Should he act like he's Chinese? or ignore his heritage? Should he date white girls? and put up with the bullying in his mostly white school? Interspersed with this tale is the tale of the monkey king, which I had never heard of before reading this book. But the two tales combine well and make for a great tale. Is it the best of the year? Maybe. Maybe not.

Past Perfect by Susan Isaacs

I listened to this audiobook and was pleasantly entertained. This is your typical spy girl light adventure.

Katie used to have a desk job at the CIA and was fired for no reason. Fifteen years later, she still wonders why she lost her job. But now she successfully is a writer for the Spy Guys television series and gets wrapped up in a CIA mystery. Her old colleague at the CIA calls her and then disappears mysteriously. So Katie gets sucked into the web of finding her old CIA coworker Lisa. The the intrigue begins. Throw in some ex-East German Secret Police members, a few murders, and mysterious deaths, and you have yourself a mystery!

The Lost Diary of Don Juan: An Account of the True Arts of Passion and the Perilous Adventure of Love by Douglas Carlton Adams

I totally agree with the Library Journal review on this one! Too many words and nothing really more than a poorly written smut book. And there wasn't even very much smut!

I definitely won't be buying this adult romance for the high school library.

We all know who Don Juan is, and this historical novel recreates his possible life. Why did he romance women? And how did he become that way? This attempts to tell his story. I stopped after page 75.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Can I Keep My Jersey? 11 Teams, 5 Countries, and 4 Years in My Life as a Basketball Vagabond by Paul Shirley

I admit it. I didn't finish this autobiography. I got about 50 pages in and had to stop. Now, trust me, I like basketball, and I found some parts of this book interesting. The whole concept of trying out for NBA teams was new to me. You always hear about the superstars who have everyone begging for them, but you don't hear about the great players who are considered "great" in the NBA. So that part was fascinating. But I found Shirley's writing to be rather bitter. He was a great writer, but I just didn't get sucked into the book. And for me to read a memoir, I have to be drawn in.

The Song of Kahunsha by Anosh Irani

Oh, boy, this was rough to read. I knew things were bad for orphans in India. But this was tough. Chamdi is an orphan in Bombay. When he finds out that his orphanage is closing, he runs away. And, oh, the life on the streets is horrible. Within three days, a friend dies a brutal death, he is planning on stealing from a church, he starves, and he falls in love with another homeless girl. He sees people with no arms and no legs who are forced to serve as spies for the local thug. He almost has his tongue cut off. He gives up on ever finding his father who left him at the orphanage. Yet he doesn't stop dreaming of a better life.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Skin by Ted Dekker

This adult suspense novel was great at first. I was scared by page 100. I had to stop reading it at night so I could get to sleep. It was freaking me out. But then I kept reading. And I guessed the culprit. Which always stinks. I want to be surprised at the end of suspense novels. I really do. And it reminded me of Bad Monkeys at the end. But Bad Monkeys is soooo much better.

A cop, a brother and sister, and two visitors are thrown together in a small desert town. A tornado and a serial killer come together to kill tons of people. The FBI and cops can't catch him. The five strangers have to take care of him while doing what he says. What does the killer have against all of them? Why does the killer want revenge? And what are the mysterious implants in their brains?

My Side of the Story by Will Davis

This adult novel is Holden Caulfield-ish, just like the quote on the cover from Kirkus Reviews. But I won't be buying it for our high school. I really, really liked the cover art on this original paperback though. But, like a modern day Holden, the narrator cusses. A lot. And he's gay. So I don't think PHS is quite ready to have this book on its shelves.

The narrator, Jazz, is 16 and has a holy-roller sister. His parents just found out that he's gay because his sister told them that Jazz frequents the gay bar in town. His parents make him see a shrink. His best friend, Al (short for Alice) keeps getting him into trouble. To top it all off, Jazz runs into one of his teachers at the gay bar. Ewwww.

The narrator's voice was refreshing at first but got annoying about halfway through the novel. I was getting anything new out of the book. Thus the low rating.

Born on a Blue Day: A Memoir by Daniel Tammet

Wow. Daniel Tammet is one heck of a man. That's really all you can say about him. I look at the kids at our school with Asperger's and autism and differently after listening to this audiobook.
Daniel had a horrible childhood and no one understood his disease. He had no friends. He was misunderstood by everyone even though he is extremely gifted. Daniel is a savant. He memorized the number pi to 20,000+ digits to raise money for charity. He can learn a complicated language like Icelandic in a week. But Daniel is different. He can live independently with his partner. He can work full-time, although it's his own business that allows him to work from home. He can stay in a hotel by himself and fly on a airplane on his own without it being too traumatic. Even though he is an autistic savant, he has found a way to thrive in our society. This is his story.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

The Savior by Eugene Drucker

The author of this one is impressive. He's a violinist who has won eight Grammys, and he's the son of an award-winning violinist who fled Germany before the Holocaust.

This adult novel is the story of Gottfried Keller, a German violinist who isn't in the army because of a weak heart. Instead, he performs solos at soldier hospitals because he is told to. He constantly thinks about his former girlfriend who ran away to Palestine when Germany was becoming uncomfortable for Jewish musicians. In fact, Keller almost became a Jew by forging papers so that he could become a member of a prestigious Jewish orchestra. But he didn't. Another example of his weak heart. Instead he is spirited away to perform at a death for four days. He lives at the camp, breathes the soot in the air of dead Jews and Gypsies, and tries to perform well for the thirty prisoners in the experiment.

The novel read quickly. But it isn't heart-warming or inspiring. Typical Holocaust historical fiction. Horrible. Embarrassing. Makes you think. Sad.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Perfect (Pretty Little Liars #3) by Sara Shepard

The mysterious "A" is back and cell phone stalking four girls. But it's getting worse. She isn't threatening anymore--she's getting revenge. Spencer's plagiarism is outed to her family. Hanna's new friendship is ruined and Emily's lesbianism is outed to her family and the entire student body at a swim meet. "A" is keeping the girls on their toes and threatening to ruin everything.

The story continues in Book #4, Unbelievable, due out in March 2008. So, of course, this novel doesn't tell you much. But the four girls turn into three, so there is one less suspect. And the remaining girls think they know who "A" is, but do they really?