Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Paper Towns by John Green

If you know me at all, you know I love John Green. Yes, I know he’s married. But I was addicted to Brotherhood 2.0 last year and have Hank’s songs downloaded on my ipod. I watched John Green eat a blender-ed Happy Meal. But I don’t think the Yeti (his lovely wife) will mind another idolizing book blog entry from a librarian. I mean, really, at least the review is good!

I was lucky enough to get John Green to autograph my advanced reading copy of Paper Towns (due out in October 2008). Now my lucky five-year-old daughter has all three of his books personally autographed to her. She’ll learn a lot from reading this one!

Quentin is a nerdy senior. He and his best friends spend most of their time playing videogames and doing homework. But now his friends are talking about senior prom. And, all of a sudden, Quentin’s lovely neighbor Margo Roth Spiegelman (the full name works best for her) is at his window. Oh, what a spree they have! It involves revenge, backstabbing, spray paint, Vaseline, Veet, tulips, a bottle of water, Mountain Dew, and three catfish. You know you HAVE to read this book now, don’t you? Isn’t your curiosity peaked?

Margo is a lot like the character Alaska in Looking for Alaska. And Quentin is like the boy who loves Alaska. Quentin LOVES her and will do anything for her. So, when Margo disappears, Quentin starts his own investigation. He knows that he is the closest person to her. But then he discovers that Margo is a lot of different people and maybe he doesn’t know the real Margo.

But, to me, the way John Green tells the story makes it made of awesome. I giggled, chuckled, and laughed. The part about the Beast sword cracked me up (read it) and the way he tells the story of the black kid wearing a Heritage, Not Hate t-shirt killed me. John Green tells the kinds of jokes I like to hear. He’s just my kind of nerd.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Disenchanted Princess by Julie Linker

My daughter made me read this. Really, she forced me because it's about a chicken who becomes a princess.

No, it's not. West is a L.A. socialite who is forced to move to Possum Grape, Arkansas, when her dad is imprisoned for embezzlement. This is the typical chick lit book (heehee). She's horrified about living on a farm and riding in a minivan, but later realizes that family and good friends are worth having. There's a little bit of romance and a lot of fashion design, since West wants to be a designer. Not much substance to this one though.

Black-Eyed Susan by Megan Barker

I love vacation. I needed this book. Pally, who runs the fishing resort my family goes to every year, has an awesome library of paperback novels. Tom Clancy, Sandra Brown, Harlequin books, Westerns--she has it all. This one caught my eye and begged to be read.

Susan is the privileged daughter of a General in a world of Dukes and Lords. She's the wild one-a horseman and a ratter with her little terrier. But when her father dies, she loses everything and must rely on the godfather she has never met. Along the way she is ravaged--ooooooooo. Now she must find a husband, but who will it be? And what will become of her attacker?

Dead to Me by Anton Strout

Simon Canderous left his life of crime behind to work for New York City's Department of Extraordinary Affairs. Simon works in the Other department and his specialty is psychometry--he can read objects. In between battling zombies and tackling ghosts, Simon saves Irene, a forgetful ghost who hasn't moved on for some reason. The Sectarian Defense League (government speak for cultists) ransacked Irene's apartment and stole her wooden fish. Huh? Read this snarky urban fantasy to see how Simon saves the day.

Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen

Josey Curini is 27, lives at home and is still bossed around by her mother. For three years, she's been in love with her mailman. And she has no friends. Until Della Lee shows up in her closet. Now, instead of depending on packages of Ho-Hos and romance novels, Josey is told to start living. Della Lee introduces her to Chloe and the three begin to change their lives. Chloe and her books are recovering from a cheating boyfriend while Josey figures out how to date. Allen tells the tale of friendship and love in a sweet, Mitford-type of way! With just a tad bit of whimsy....

The Learners: the Book After the Cheese Monkeys by Chip Kidd

Happy moves to New Haven fresh out of college to begin his career in advertising. It's 1961 and Happy is using pen, pencil and brushes to create ads. It really didn't interest me, so I stopped on page 52. I was hoping for a Mad Men-ish read, but it wasn't.

Falling into Mahholes: the Memoir of a Bad/Good Girl

Unfortunately this adult memoir is a little TOO adult for high school students. I found it hilarious and it hit a little too close to home in some parts. Merrill is a forty-something woman who tells her story, even though it's embarrassing. She's anorexic and then bulimic. She drinks too much and has no idea how to act around men, even though she's thin, smart, and beautiful. Hence the title!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Easy Company Soldier: The Legendary Battles of a Sergeant from World War II's "Band of Brothers" by Sgt. Don Malarkey with Bob Welch

This is one of the best war memoirs I've ever read. Why? Because I read it in two sittings and because it reads like fiction. Bravo to Malarkey and Welch for telling a great story. I'm definitely adding this book to my school collection.

We've all seen Band of Brothers and Saving Private Ryan. Malarkey tells his story--from a childhood in Oregon to barely making it into the service to receiving an Bronze star. Malarkey was one of the paratroopers in Operation Overlord and saw horrific battles. But his tale isn't too gritty. It's a testament to the friendships forged in war and the differing personalities that are forced to cooperate. Some of his officers just plain stink. But others are worth following. And this book is really worth reading.

Laughing Without an Accent by Firoozeh Dumas

Dumas continues her childhood tales from Funny in Farsi. I thought the reading was entertaining in an soft and easy kind of way. She has a way of making you smile as she writes about the quirks of Americans and Iranians. The stories are disjointed and jump around, so don't read this if you're expecting a continuous memoir.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Shadow Year by Jeffrey Ford

Well, this adult mystery got me thinking, which is a good thing. But I'm not sure if it's a great book or not! And I hate that. The boy has an older brother who can beat up anyone and a younger sister who is just a little strange. She pretends to be someone else and "knows" things. When a peeping tom is seen around the neighborhood, the siblings decide to solve the crime. Using a model of their town, the three create clay figures of their neighbors, the cars, and the houses. But then a classmate goes missing. And someone else dies. And the peeping tom is still around. A lot happens during the Shadow Year, so if you lie subtle suspense and mysteries, this one is for you!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Twenty Chickens for a Saddle: the Story of an African Childhood by Robyn Scott

I wasn't too impressed with this adult memoir about growing up in Botswana. Scott's family always was a little strange--her dad practiced homeopathic medicine, her mother homeschooled the children, and her grandpa was kinda crazy. At the age of 7, her parents moved back to Botswana, and the children lived there for the rest of their childhood. The father flew around as a private doctor in the bush and their mother taught them. Scott encounters rascism, Apartheid, HIV and AIDS and all sorts of things in Africa. All in all, nothing really stood out about this memoir, but it's an easy read.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The God of War by Marisa Silver

Silver tells a sad story very well. Ares (the god of war for those who forget) is a youg boy with a difficult life. His brother is retarded because Ares dropped him on his head in a parking lot and their mother is fruity. She walks around in her underwear and doesn't want a man living with them. Ares develops quite a crush on his librarian who also agrees to help tutor Malcolm. But Malcolm doesn't really get better. And Ares gets involved with the librarian's foster son who is nothing but trouble. There is a struggle between the foster son, Malcolm, and Ares, and, the next thing you know, everything has changed. The family moves to San Diego so Malcolm can get better care and Ares focuses on his studies and moves away. This is a quiet adult novel about autism and its effects on families in the 1970s.

The Blue Star by Tony Earley

Another novel that made me laugh and cry! Am I emotional this summer or what? I really wasn't expecting to like this adult novel simply because of the cover, but I was pleasantly surprised. Jim (the same Jim in Earley's Jim the Boy) is now a senior in high school. He broke up with Norma, the girl his mom wanted him to marry. And now he's fallen in love with Chrissie, who is 1/2 Cherokee, poor as dirt, and has beautiful, shining black hair. But Chrissie is the fiance of Bucky who is currently serving in the Navy. What should Jim do? This is one heck of a romance. Add in the comical uncles and a backstory of a romance of one of the uncles for some parallelism and you have a great tale. Think of a combination of Mayberry, Little House on the Prairie, and Richard Peck novels. Except make it the early 1940s!

Black Ships by Jo Graham

This adult novel is a retelling of the Aeneid from the point of view of Gull, a Trojan girl who is fathered by a rapist and whose mother is sold into slavery. At a young age Gull is injured by a chariot and apprenticed to Pythia, the oracle of the Lady of the Dead. Gull then beings her journey as a counselor to princes and the oracle to her people. She travels with princes on black ships to find a new home for their people, since Troy was ruined. I thought this was a good read, but not a great one.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Cheer! Three Teams on a Quest for College Cheerleading's Ultimate Prize by Kate Torgovnick

Wow! What a great read! Okay, I admit I did my share of crowd yelling and spirit fingers back in high school. But I think this is a great read for anyone wondering what those girls are thinking during the cheer championships on TV. The author (who skipped school during all the pep rallies in high school) follows three very different college squads. One coed squad is used to winning championships and they have the financial support to prove it. One black coed squad has no financial support, but wows other teams at camp. Finally, one all-girl squad is trying to win the love that coed squads receive. Through all these stories, Torgovnick uses great sports writing to suck us into the lives of these cheerleaders. I read half the book and looked up to see that it was 2 am. That's the sign of good storytelling!

A Ticket to Ride by Paula McLain

I felt like I'd read this adult novel before, but maybe I just read too much? It's 1973 in Moline, Illinois (yay! love the setting!) and Paula is bored. She just moved from California to live with her Uncle Raymond and she has no idea where her mother and father are. Then cousin Fawn moves in because she was involved in a sex scandal with a teacher. whoooooo. Fawn makes Paula her project--haircut, makeup, new clothes. Then the two teenagers start hitting the town at night. They smoke, drink, meet boys, and eventually end up in Chicago drunk with no ride home. Bad things happen to Paula, and even worse things happen to their friend Claudia. Through it all, Paula knows that Fawn is cruel but Paula doesn't have the guts to stop the friendship. Paula likes being manipulated. This is quite the family drama.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

T4 by Ann Clare LeZotte

This little novel in verse took me about fifteen minutes to read--whew! It was rough! :) But it's a great book for middle schoolers or junior high kids to read as an introduction to the Holocaust. The author (who is completely deaf) gives us the main character Paula, who is deaf and living in Germany. Hitler imposes T4 and orders that all mentally ill and disabled people be killed. Of course, Hitler said it nicer than that. But millions died because Hitler wanted nice little Aryan German boys with blond hair and blue eyes. Paula has to go into hiding because of her deafness, but makes it through the war unscathed. She learns German sign language and befriends a gypsy boy who helps her through the time away from her family. The novel's poetry is nothing special, but the subject matter is. It will sit well on a Holocaust reading list.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The Summer of Naked Swim Parties by Jessica Anya Blau

I was expecting an adult chick lit book from the cover. And, you know it's good judging by the title! Jamie is a mature 14-year-old being raised by two hippie parents. THEY are the ones holding the naked swim parties! Jamie is the responsible one. But she's growing. The local hot surfer dude likes her. And her mother wants to talk to her about her body a lot. And her mom's friend hits on her. And Jamie doesn't know how to deal with it all. This is a wonderful coming-of-age tale in 1970s California. Read it if you like family drama and teenage romance tales.

Cross my Heart and Hope to Spy by Ally Carter

Sometimes a high school librarian just needs to read enjoyable fluff! And I knew I could pick up this sequel to I'd Tell You I Love You But Then I'd Have to Kill You. Cammie is back at the Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women which is really a school for spies. She's dealing with the loss of her boyfriend Josh from the first book--it really sucks when your mom has to erase his memory to save his life. And now Cammie's mom brings in some boys from another secret school. Just what the girls need to stir things up. Zach is cute and Cammie doesn't know what he's up to. But she knows he's up to something.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Promise of the Wolves by Dorothy Hearst

This is one adult novel that could have been published for a junior high audience. I really can't believe it isn't being sold as YA. Kaala is a mixed breed wolf who barely survives childhood because of her heritage. Her mother is banished and Kaala is forced to be strong to proof her worth. The wolf leader distrusts her because of the prophecy that says that a wolf with a moon on its chest would make or break the wolves. Kaala saves the life of a human girl (uh-oh) and messes up everything. Wolves aren't supposed to befriend humans, right? But sometimes rules are meant to be broken.

If you're going to read an animal fantasy, read Fire Bringer about deer. I think it's better. But this is entertaining and easy to read.

Company of Liars by Karen Maitland

What an enjoyable read! I picked up this adult advanced reading copy at ALA this week and read it on the plane ride home. Because of Mrs. Bugg and English 12 College Prep, I love the Canterbury Tales, so I love to read anything about them. This novel is a loose reinterpretation of the pilgrimage. The plague is spreading throughout England, and the travelers all have their secrets that Chaucer never told. I couldn't exactly identify all the characters (I couldn't remember them and didn't have wi-fi access in the air), but still enjoyed the storytelling.