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?

Black Swan Green by David Mitchell

Anytime I can listen to an audiobook read by a gentleman with a British accent, I take full advantage of it! And Kirby Heyborne is quite the narrator. This adult novel was a 2007 Alex Award winner and it's easy to see why.
Jason Taylor is 13, lives in the sleepy English town Black Swan Green, and is bullied. No other word for it. He stammers, his parents are getting divorced, his sister is going away to college, and he somehow moves from the middle-of-the-road social group to rock bottom. In one year, Jason Taylor grows up and this novel tracks his progress. The author makes you really care for Jason Taylor and root for his success. He's a smart kid who sees subtle humor in many situations. But he also does what is right, even if his "mates" don't agree. And, if you listen to this novel like I did, you'll find yourself using words like "classic" and "epic" and "bugger!"

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Bleachers by John Grisham

The PHS Book Club will be discussing this 2008 Abe Lincoln List novel on Thursday. I just finished re-reading it and I still like it. But, oh, how it makes me think about high school! I used to date a big football star, so this book hits home in a lot of ways.
Neely Crenshaw was an all-American quarterback for Coach Rake. Now Coach Rake is dying, and Neely and tons of other players come back to the town of Messina for the wake. Messina lives and breathes football, thanks to Coach Rake, who won hundreds of football games and helped raise tons of boys. But some hated him and some loved him.

Mainspring by Jay Lake

This adult fantasy novel strongly reminded me of some young adult fantasies I have been reading--The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick, The Hungry City Chronicles by Phillip Reeve, and Kenneth Oppel's Airborn series. It's the combination of clockwork, automatons, and airships that made me feel this novel wasn't anything new. It was an okay read, but I didn't feel like anything new came out of it.

Hethor is a clockworker's apprentice who is unfairly pushed out of his position after a visit from the angel Gabriel. The earth's clock is winding down and Hethor can sense its slowness. And so begins the quest. Hethor visits the strange southern hemisphere, meets many strange creatures (think Patterson's Maximum Ride) and finds love with a monkey-ish woman.

I won't be purchasing this for my high school library. Some scenes were thrown into the book as an afterthought and didn't fit the storyline at all. The plot moved along slowly and I think the young adult novels that I mentioned earlier are much better reads.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Kommandant's Girl by Pam Jenoff

This book was published by Mira Books, an imprint of Harlequin. So that tells you a lot about the book! It's a pretty good historical romance, but not one that I'll be recommending to many people.

Emma is a Jewish girl newly married to Jacob, a resistance fighter, during the Holocaust. They live in Krakow, Poland, and when Jacob goes underground, Emma disappears into the ghetto. She is bravely rescued from the ghetto under cover of darkness and goes to live with Jacob's aunt. With new papers, she is now a visiting Gentile, and soon attracts the attention of Kommandant Richwalder, a Nazi. She becomes his personal assistant and much more than that. She is attracted to him, despite his being a German Nazi. And as she becomes more and more involved with the resistance, she uses her connection with him to gain more information about the death camps and ghettos. But does she make a good choice? What will happen with her relationship with the German? What if Jacob finds out?

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Innocent Traitor: a novel of Lady Jane Grey by Alison Weir

I love these books. Really, if it has Henry VIII or any of his daughters in it, I'm a fan. This is the first historical novel I've read that was solely based on the life of Lady Jane Grey, and I feel like I learned a lot about her. Jane's great-grandfather was Henry VII, and that's where her claim to the throne came from. But, because Mary and Elizabeth were both bastards, many thought that she was the proper heir to the throne. And, remember that Protestantism was just getting started. Mary was a staunch Catholic and Elizabeth and Jane were Protestants, so that stirs things up.

Basically, this novel is a tragedy. The poor girl was beheaded when she was 16, but went to the chopping block with a first-class education and radical views for such a young girl. She was quite the independent, educated young girl for her time. Unfortunately, she was used by most of the men in her life, and given the throne when she didn't really want it.

Austenland by Shannon Hale

I knew there were going to be British accents in this one, so I had to wait for the audiobook! The narrator didn't disappoint.

Shannon Hale, on the other hand, did. She needs to stick with young adult books. I've read all her YA titles and they are simply magical. Unbelievable. She is a truly talented writer. But Austenland was just so-so for me. There were glimpses of Shannon Hale quaintness and quirkiness, but not enough for me.

Jane is in love with the idea of Mr. Darcy, is "old" and hasn't been married. When her aunt dies, she is left with a 3 week vacation to Pembroke Park, otherwise known as Austenland. Jane dons a corset, studies up on Regency behavior, and away she goes. Love is in the air between Jane and the gardener. And then between Jane and the stunning Mr. Nobley. But with all the actors running around, is any of the love real? Has Jane been true to herself? Will she find love in Austenland or discover that she's done with the Austenland fantasy forever?

Fortune's Fool by Mercedes Lackey

This was similar to other Mercedes Lackey books that I've read. It's a fast, easy read, especially if you like romance and fantasy with a little bit of smut. Throw in the daughter of the sea king and the 7th son of a king and you've got all sorts of myths and legends mixed together.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Fenzig's Fortune by Jean Rabe

The cover can tell you a lot about a book. See how this looks interesting, yet cheesy all at the same time? Well, it is! I read about half of this fantasy and didn't feel it was worth my effort to continue. It was okay, but I have a lot of other better books to read. It's about a gnome on a quest. The little person can't decide if he's good or bad. It felt really familiar!

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Bad Monkeys by Matt Ruff

See the book cover for this one? It gets brownie points before you even start to read it! It's skinny and cute, but that face on the cover! Freaky! And whoa, this is one psychological thriller. It was awesome!

Jane Charlotte is being interviewed in a psych ward. Kinda. She killed a bunch of people. But she wasn't acting alone. She was a member of the Bad Monkeys, a secret organization that "takes out" bad people before they get worse. You know that serial killer that disappeared and the police never found? The Bad Monkeys killed him. You know that child rapist who never raped again? The Bad Monkey killed him.

So Jane's interview is the entire book. But, boy, do you get sucked into her story. I read this one in about two hours on a school night and stayed up until 12:30 am. I couldn't go to sleep without finishing it! Do you want to hear me rave some more about this one? I could!

The Alchemist's Apprentice by Dave Duncan

Okay, I'll admit it. I didn't finish reading this one. It was an okay book, and I could have finished it, but I had so many other good ones just waiting for me! So I read 80 pages.

But, if you like historical fiction, this one is for you. If you like swashbuckling young bucks, this one is for you. If you're into Nostradamus stuff, this one is for you. It's a combination fantasy/historical fiction.

Black Hats: a novel of Wyatt Earp and Al Capone by Patrick Culhane

How can an author go wrong with having Wyatt Earp face Al Capone? I mean, really? This book lives up to its name. Constant action.

It's 1920. The young punk Al Capone is trying to muscle his boss's way into the liquor business in NYC. But Doc Holliday's son runs his own speakeasy and has his own liquor supply. He doesn't want to deal with Capone's people. There's the conflict! Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson show up to save the day. Even though they are senior citizens, they still can handle a weapon and beat up young punks. The action is cool, and I found myself falling in love with Wyatt Earp. He is just sooooo cool. And smart. And sarcastically funny. And the typical western hero. Read this one!

Life on the Refrigerator Door by Alice Kuipers

This was a cute little adult novel. I'm sure it will hit the bestsellers list soon--it's sappy and I can see book groups adopting it. It's what mothers hope will happen when they die. You know, the daughter starts to "realize that her mother is awesome" and that the kid shouldn't have caused her such grief. Maybe I sound sarcastic, but I think the book was a little over the top and sappy. Will it be a hit? yep.

One gripe--it's 2007. Do people really leave notes on the refrigerator door anymore? What about phone texts? emails? Really, I think phone texts would have been more appropriate. But then older people would have complained that they didn't understand the shortened words. Maybe the two could have used T9 and spelled everything correctly? :)