Sunday, June 29, 2008

Superpowers by David J. Schwartz

I totally agree with Publishers Weekly on this adult novel, and I'm not quite sure what the Booklist reviewer was thinking. This book just doesn't work, although the concept is interesting. Five college students suddenly become superpowers--flight, mind reading, invisibility, strength, and speed. Wow--sounds good, right? But I never got close to any of the 5 main characters, mainly because the author kept throwing in tons of secondary characters who weren't necessary. I couldn't keep track of the names. And I wasn't sure why some of them were in there. I initially wanted to see how the superpowers worked with 9/11, but the terrorism didn't really enter the book at all. It seemed like the Trade Center stuff was thrown in at the end of the novel and not really fleshed out. The ending was wrapped up nicely (and badly), leaving me feeling disappointed and sad. I really wanted to like this book. It has a great cover and great one sentence summary, but I can't recommend it to anyone.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Attack of the Theater People by Marc Acito

I’ll admit that this adult novel isn’t for everyone, and probably not too many of my high school readers would enjoy it. But I giggled my way through the crude humor and gay drama escapades. Edward Zanni is expelled from Julliard because he’s “too jazz hands” and he has to make survive New York City on a series of small jobs that get better and better. He’s hired as a substitute theater usher (because he’s gay) and he works as a party motivator. He gets kids to boogie at their bar mitzvahs and keeps middle-aged women comfortable on the dance floor during corporate shindigs. He even is asked to schmooze and give info to the handsome Chad. But then Edward is served a subpoena from the Security Exchange Commission. And he is evicted. And his father marries his domestic because she’s pregnant with twins. And his mom changes her name to Joy Drinkwater and follows a mystic who travels in a wheelbarrow. And Edward falls in love with a confused straight man. And, wow, it just keeps coming.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Free as a Bird by Ken McCoy

I was pleasantly surprised by this adult novel that I finished poolside today. Somehow the author takes all sorts of dramatic events and creates a tale that isn't too over the top. I completely agree with the review in Booklist.

Lola Lawless has years of unfortunate incidents surrounding her. She and her younger sister are beaten by their stepfather until the sister kills him. The mother takes the blame and is hanged (all this takes place in the 40s and 50s in England). But the stepfather's brother has it in for the family. And so do the local politician who is hiding some bad stuff. The girls are locked up in mental institutions and have battles with social services. The fun never stops! Until a small-time reporter and a good cop start digging for the truth. Lola eventually ends up okay. Of course. But not after a lot of murders and intrigue.

Murder at the Opera by Margaret Truman, Read by Phil Gigante

Years ago I read all of the books in the Capital Crimes series, and I've let it slack lately. So, when I saw that the Casey Public Library had this one in, I had to check it out.

I forgot how formulaic some mystery series are. But, hey, I guess that's why they are popular. I was kinda bored to tears, but I liked the subjects--mystery and opera. I learned a little bit about Tosca, which I'd love to see someday. Basically Mac Smith and his wife get involved in the murder of a young Asian-Canadian opera star and help solve it. Add in an overweight cop who has a crush on his petite partner and an ex-detective who knows too much about the arts and you've got a novel. To sum it up, this is a typical mystery and didn't surprise me. I don't think I'll be listening or reading any more of Truman's works unless I hear of something by her that's new and different.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Souvenir by Therese Fowler

Well, teenage girls, this here tear-jerker is just for you! Fowler's first novel is quite the sob story. It's mostly about Meg, who jilted her high school boyfriend to marry the rich boy in town so her parents didn't lose the farm. Now Meg is an adult, unhappily married, with a fifteen-year-old daughter. And her high school boyfriend is a famour rock star about to marry a beautiful surfer girl.

But, ohhhhh, Meg is sick. And with her sickness, she has to make some important decisions about her daughter, her husband, and Carson, the ex-boyfriend. And Savannah, Meg's daughter, learns some valuable lessons of her own (internet boys are bad! very bad!). Read this if you're a fan of Lurlene McDaniel or Danielle Steel.

The Film Club: A Memoir by David Gilmour

I loved this memoir! Gilmour's son is failing school. So what does he do? He allows the boy to drop out. But, he has to promise to not use drugs and to watch whatever movie his father wants him to. And thus begins the club. The father and son watch tons of movies, mostly classics, and the education of Jesse begins. By the end of the years of movies, Jesse knows everything about movie history and great actors. But he's also learned a lot about dating, love, and life.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Book of Getting Even by Benjamin Taylor

I knew this little adult novel would be a quick read--just perfect for a Tuesday afternoon And now I'm not too sure what I think of it. I finished it, at least. But I think it's a little too adult for my student readers, and I don't mean that in a bad way. I just think that this book has a lot of dialogue and nuances that adults can catch, but maybe not so much teenagers.

Gabriel grows up the son of a rabbi in New Orleans. He goes to Swarthmore up north at the age of 16 in the 1970s and meets a girl and a boy who become his best friends. Gabriel is gay and has a relationship with Danny, but Marghie is in love with him, too. The twins embrace Gabriel and the three grow up together. As the years pass in the different parts of the novel, each character develops. But I think this is a brainy book. I had to read some parts slowly to catch all the movie and politic references, and in parts I had no idea what I was reading. I have a feeling that this is the type of book I would like if I wore all black, went to the opera often, and went to cocktail parties. :)

Unmentionables by Beth Ann Fennelly

Poetry makes me feel stupid. And I'm an English major who used to teach high school students poetry. But, out of this book of poetry, I connected with about 5 poems. The others I didn't care for. But, maybe that's just how poetry works. But I can't read an entire book of poetry and say that I liked it. At least I never have before. And I can't after reading this one either. I liked a few of these poems, although most of them tend to be about a mom looking back on her life and discussing her children.

The Host by Stephanie Meyer

I'm ready to make some enemies with this blog post, so bring on the negative comments! :)

Stephenie Meyer needs an editor who isn't afraid to say, "Hey! This is 200 pages too long--cut the crap!"

I'm sorry. I just really don't enjoy reading Meyer's books. However, I'm thankful that she gets kids reading. This year I had almost every starter on the basketball team reading the Twilight series and I thought it was wonderful. But, whoa, her books bore me. I'm not a fan of soap operas. Ahhh, the drama! Will she or won't she? Which man will she choose?

The host is Meyer's first adult book, although it could have been published as young adult. She's the queen of "clean" lit, and I admire her for that. At least there's a lot of kissing in this book, but it's still squeaky clean, and I'm not sure how that happens when there are thirty adults living underground together. But Melanie's body is invaded by the Wanderer. The Wanderer is an alien who survives by sucking into the brain of a host. But Melanie is strong and rebels, so there are two women inside the brain of one body. The Wanderer, or Wanda, gives into Melanie and they go find a group of rebel humans in the desert. Of course, the man drama is that Ian loves Wanda and Jared loves Melanie, but they are both in the same body. What to do?

I knew I had to read this. But that doesn't mean I have to like it.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

Rare is the book that makes me laugh and cry. This adult novel succeeded. I laughed at the swimming pool today while I read the tale of the demon zebra. And I cried at the end. (I won't give it away). But, oh, the emotions this one brought out in me! Of course, the picture on the cover didn't help. It looks like my Kacey, who is about 9 years old now and living with my ex-husband. When I visit, she leans up against me. I swear she's the smartest dog ever. And maybe she is a lot like Enzo in this novel? :)

The story is told through Enzo, the dog of Denny. Denny is a race car driver and finds a lovely woman named Eve. The daughter Zoe arrives and things go downhill. Eve is sick and Denny isn't sure how to handle things. Eve's parents step in and a custody battle ensues. But Enzo never gives up. He's one hilarious dog. And very, very faithful.

Captivity by Debbie Lee Wesselmann

I enjoyed this adult novel about chimps more than I thought I would. It did surprise me. But all those starred reviews mean something! It isn't so much a novel of chimps, so I wish the cover didn't look so chimp-y. It's really a novel about Dana, who was raised with a chimp as a sister as a psychology experiment. When the chimp was removed from the household, it tore Dana's family apart. Now Dana is almost 40 and working as the head of a chimp sanctuary. But someone let the chimps lose and one ran around outside the facility until it was hit by a car. Dana's job is at risk and she has to save herself. At the same time, her drifter loser brother is back in town, crashing at Dana's house and emotionally draining her.

I'm not sure what student I would recommend this book to, and that's the problem. There isn't a huge demand for chimp stories. Or books about an adult who had a traumatic childhood. But, for adults, this is a decent read.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Mad Kestrel by Misty Massey

Ahoy, Mateys! I can't help it--I love a good pirate tale, especially one with a kick-butt female in it. And Kestral is a great character. She's the quartermaster of a pirate ship, second only to her captain, who has been holding back on her for years. He's taken prisoner on shore, and it's up to Kestrel to lead the charge to get the capt. back. Of course, there's mutiny and a handsome stranger to keep her occupied along the way. Kestrel has been hiding her magical powers since her childhood, but she needs them on this journey. If you like adventure or fantasy, this is the read for you!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Magyk by Angie Sage, Narrated by Allan Corduner

I really needed to read this fantasy book since my high schoolers are enjoying the series. It's published for the younger grades, but my students (especially boys) enjoyed it, so I thought it might be for the Harry Potter crowd. So I listened to the audiobook to see how enjoyable it was.

I liked it. What a great compilation of fantasy tidbits. The 7th son of a 7th son. The Extraordinary Wizard who is a witchy lady with purple python boots (but she turns out nice in the end). The friendship between the Heap kids and the foundling girl their family raises. It's a pleasant tale and it makes ya happy! I can't wait to listen to the next one! :)

There's No Place Like Here by Cecelia Ahern, Performed by Aoife McMahon and Aidan McArdle

My close friends know that I have a thing with accents. Especially Irish brogues. So as soon as I saw this new adult audiobook at my public library, I had to get it. Take a look at the readers' names! Irish--Yay! I was in heaven.

Unfortunately the book wasn't as good as the readers. I've listened to Ahern's If You Could See Me Now and PS, I Love You, Love, Rosie and enjoyed them. But as soon as I understood the plot of this one, I was disappointed. I really don't want to read (or listen to) another book about dead people. Maybe this is because of the popularity of The Lovely Bones and all the spin-offs lately? I'm not sure. But I hate the plot.

Sandy Shortt has OCD and hates when things go missing. This leads her to a high school psychologist (whom she falls in love with and he acts on it later--yuck) and her occupation as a missing persons investigator. But she ends up jogging and finds herself HERE. Where there are tons of missing people. She recognizes them. But HERE they are married, with children, and aged. Things are strange. And Sandy is kind of breaking the rules of HERE when her own items go missing. All in all, listen to this one for the accents, not the plot!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Life Sucks by Jessica Abel, Gabe Soria and Warren Pleece

I definitely have to buy this adult graphic novel for my school. I can list off the students who will read it, and, in fact, I bet this one gets stolen within a year! :) It's an entertaining read.

Dave is a poor vampire who works at a convenience store. He has the hots for a Goth chick, but so does another vampire who is blond, buff, and handsome. The two vamps both try to Rosa, who has no idea that the men chasing her are not typical men. Add in some funny parts, a little bit of gore, and a lot of heart, and you have a great read !

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Song Yet Sung by James McBride

I love reading good historical fiction. I haven't read McBride's previous work that received such acclaim, but I'll be looking for it now. This is a book about slavery and so much more. In one small acreage of Maryland in a short amount of time, so much happen. One woman with head damage dreams about the future (gangs, TVs, and MLK, Jr. ) . One young slave dreams of running, but has a close relationship to his white owner's son and doesn't. A white boy is kidnapped by a wild black man living in the woods. A black boy is brought to town injured and not speaking English. Wow. So much happens. But the action is plot-driven. It's character-driven. The reader really gets to know the white slave owner who isn't really sure what to think about slavery. And the beautiful black young woman who dreams of the future. And the other characters are drawn equally well.

This book would be great on an American History reading list, but I'm not too sure if PHS kids would stick with it. The mature readers would. It's worth it. And I was very surprised by the book's ending, which is always a good thing with me!

Jet Set by Carrie Karasyov and Jill Kargman - BOOK REVIEW by KELLY N.

Jet Set by Carrie Karasyov and Jill Kargman was one of the best chick lits that take place at a boarding school that I have ever read. Lucy Peterson is a normal teenage girl with brains and amazing tennis talent. When she gets to know some of the royals, she finds that they are just teenagers who were lucky enough to have rich/famous/royal parents. She even falls in love with Prince Oliver, second cousin of William and Harry.

Lucy goes to Van Pelt as an American, army brat, scholarship student in order to secure her future. When she gets there, the Diamonds, the ruling “It” group, decided to give Lucy a hard time. She befriends Sofia, and finds out that Sofia is an undercover reporter. In fits of anger, Lucy helps Sofia get pictures and scoops to sell to the press, but not without a guilty conscience. When Sofia is determined to go too far, Lucy refuses to help, and sabotages Sofia’s evidence. By the end of the book, Lucy has made more friends, including the Diamonds, who will stand by her side; she also has a chance to romance with Van Pelt’s most sought after guy: Oliver.

I think that Jet Set was very well written, and gives a positive outlook on boarding schools and rich kids. On a scale of 1-10, I would give this book a 10!

Friday, June 6, 2008

The Flowers by Dagoberto Gilb

It's nice to read adult novels about Hispanic kids. But this book didn't wow me. Instead I kept reading it to see what was going to happen, but not too much did. The kid grew up. Sonny Bravo is a smart kid who follows his slutty mother around. She marries a white man who owns apartment buildings and he ends up being the errand boy--painting, taking out the trash, etc. In the process he meets everyone in the apartment building and they all teach him a lesson of some sort. One teaches him about lust. An old Russian man teaches him quiet lessons about being a man. Another young girl teaches him about love and letting go. through it all, Sonny grows up and learns a lot. He helps a young girl escape to Mexico and survives some racial violence. All in all, this book interested me, and I'm glad I read it. But I'm afraid I won't remember too much about it in a month or too.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Submarine by Joe Dunthorne

Yay! I love summer when I can read a book a day!

This adult novel was interesting. Take out a few of the "adult" moments and it would have made a great young adult novel. It reminded me of King Dork, Finding Lubchenko, and Bottled Up. The young boy is 14 and has quite the mind on him. He's a smart alack and is convinced the world revolves around him. He monitors his parents' sex life and then tries to get them back together when he feels their marriage is in trouble. He dates Jordana, and has one of the strangest relationships ever with her.

And somehow that's it. Most of the book is told through Oliver Tate's dairy (not a log) and his own version of events. Oliver sees things in a strange way. As I was reading it, I tried to place a finger on this kid--attention deficit? genius? or just selfish brat who needs to grow up? It's hard to decide whether I liked the book simply because it's hard to like Oliver. But I'm glad I read it.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Change of Heart by Jodi Picoult

Jodi Picoult is pretty good at publishing books that people like. But I'm really getting tired of ready the same kind of crap. This is turning into a Lurlene McDaniel situation, and those of you who are librarians know what I'm talking about. All of Picoult's books have the same multiple narrators. All of them have a plot line that I guess at the beginning, but the climax still builds like the reader doesn't know what is going to happen. And lately all of them have a good share of religion and mysticism in them. This one goes along with all her others. To me, you can't beat her book Plain Truth. That's still my favorite.

June had her daughter and 2nd husband shot in her home by a handyman, Shay Bourne. Shay received the death penalty. But June was pregnant at the time of the shooting and now her little girl Claire needs a heart. Shay wants to give his to her. And, that's the plot line. Add in a few lawyers, police officers, a priest, a rabbi, and a cute doctor for interesting dialogue.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

The Secret Rites of Social Butterflies by Lizabeth Zindel

Well, this one wins the cheesy award! I kept rolling my eyes at the dialogue between the rich girls and the parents and the teachers. Cheesy, cheesy, cheesy! I expected more from Paul Zindel's daughter. But, I guess if this is published for 5th graders, than it might be okay. But, with the main characters being high school seniors, I imagine that the target audience is high school and junior high students. I think PHS students would be bored with this book.

Maggie moves to NYC her senior year and her grandpa pays for her to attend an elite prep school. She's adopted into a secret society of 3 rich girls and learns their secrets. The girls eavesdrop and find out secrets about their friends, teachers, and parents. The secrets are written onto a wall in a Central Park townhouse and are usually used in minor cases of blackmail. Maggie is fascinated to be part of the rich crew, but finds out that the girls are shallow and mean. Duh. I mean, really, I've never read this kind of plot in a young adult chick lit book before!

I think you can tell I wasn't very entertained. The conversation about "social networking sites" was hilarious. And Maggie's mother acting all concerned about talking about their problems. It was very after-school special-ish. Ugh. Not my type of book!