Monday, December 29, 2008

Over and Under by Todd Tucker

2009 Alex Award Winner!

It's always a pleasure to read a darn good book, and this one made my Christmas vacation. It's a quiet read about growing up in southern Indiana and things hit awfully close to home here in Illinois. It's 1979 and Andy and Tom are best friends, running around with their new guns and shooting everything that moves. But the local casket company in Borden goes on strike. Andy's dad is management and Tom's dad is in the union. The two sides of the town clash and the plant manager ends up dead in a factory explosion.

I really thought about Stand By Me and Goonies and all sorts of other great movies involving country boys and friendship. This is one heck of a coming-of-age story.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Bone Magician by F.E. Higgins

I wasn't a huge fan of The Big Black Book of Secrets, so this "paraquel" didn't shock and awe me either. I think it's more for grade school kids, so my mind doesn't quite wrap around it and I was a little bored throughout. Pin Carpue works for an undertaker as a body watcher. One late night he sees two people raise a corpse and hence begins the story of the Bone Magician. What's the secret? And did Pin's father really kill his uncle?

Beka Cooper Book 1: Terrier by Tamora Pierce, Read by Susan Denaker

I have to admit that I almost stopped listening to this audiobook, but I'm so glad I didn't! Pierce creates a world in Tortall that is amazing. The keepers of the peace in town are called "dogs" and are basically cops. Guns don't exist though, so they carry knives and clubs. Beka Cooper had a rough life on the streets (think Dickensian poor folk) but was lucky to find shelter with her family at the lord's manor. But, instead of choosing the life of a servant, Beka becomes a "puppy" and is apprenticed to two "dogs" who don't usually train newbies. Beka soon gets the nickname Terrier. Why? She grabs onto her prey and never lets go. She's amazing--going after criminals through taverns and slop piles and seeing clues that no one else sees. But Beka is special because she has a little bit of magic in her. The magic helps her tremendously, even when her own sisters turn against her. Beka is one strong female character--a plus for fantasy readers like me.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Enders Hotel: A Memoir by Brandon R. Schrand

I stayed up late last night reading The Enders Hotel in one night and absolutely loved it. In fact, it's the best nonfiction book I've read all year. It's a tiny little book that packs a wallop. The author tells stories of growing up in a hotel, but it's quite the coming-of-age story. His hotel is full of drifters, ex-cons, and people down on their luck, while his grandparents are amazing people. His family has alcohol problems and AA and bad drunks play an important part in the memoir. I loved the scene where he smoked tea (instead of weed) and his own dealings with anger management. It's just a darn good book in my opinion.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards, Performed by Ilyana Kadushin

I listened to the unabridged audio version of this adult novel and I did finish it, although I thought about not finishing it a lot. It just wasn't my kind of book. It's a sappy read that I bet a lot of adult women book club members are reading.

Dr. Henry is a doctor who ends up delivering his own twins in the sixties. The boy is perfect, but the girl has Down's Syndrome. So he sends the girl with the nurse to a group home so his wife doesn't have to deal with the imperfection. Of course, this secret haunts him his entire life. Something is always missing, and the girl with Downs brings happiness to all those around her. The nurse doesn't have the nerve to leave the child at the home and raises the girl on her own. So it's a sappy read.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Gardens of Water by Alan Drew

Think The Kite-Runner meets Titanic. :D This is a great example of a sappy, dramatic love story. It's a well-written, lovely tale of a Kurdish Muslim girl and an American boy outside of Istanbul. The two start a secret relationship that escalates after a devastating earthquake. The families are tied together--his mother saved her brother during the quake--but the two shouldn't be together. Society is against them. It's quite the love story!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Heretic's Daughter by Kathleen Kent

I feel like I just read a novelization of The Crucible. I know I've read lots of books about the Salem witch trials, but I don't feel like I read anything new here. I kept thinking, "Hey, where's Tituba?" and then she showed up in a prison scene with a one-line appearance. I'm not saying I didn't like this book--it's a beautiful read, very well-written, and interesting. But I was a little disappointed, too. I wanted to be wowed and I wasn't. The adult novel is mainly written from the point-of-view of Sarah, daughter of Martha Carrier, in the time period before and during the Salem witch trials. There was so much history involved that I knew what was going to happen. And the prison scenes were dreadful and I could practically smell the stink. But what new about the trials came from the writing of this book? Am I being too picky? But, hey, don't you love the cover?

Zoe's Tale: An Old Man's War Novel by John Scalzi

Zoe is the type of young, snarky little teenager that I like to read about. Her family is a little strange. Her real parents are dead. But her adopted parents are the founding fathers of a new colony, and the settlers arrive on their planet in a fury of activity. But the Colonial Union has set them up for attack and as a pawn in a intergalactic war. So Zoe has to step in and try to save the day. Of course, it helps that she has an entire species of alien at her beck and call. But, that's what happens when your daddy gives alien life consciousness! :) Read this fantastic science fiction tale if you want to read fast, read late into the night, and get in trouble for reading during class! (No, wait, don't do that....)

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer, Read by Emily Bauer

I haven't read much apocalyptic young adult fiction lately, so this one stood out. Miranda and her friends are pretty excited about a meteor that is planned to hit the moon one night. The whole town is outside watching and waiting for the spectacle, just like a comet or falling stars. But things go terribly wrong. The meteor is bigger than what the scientists thought. The moon look like it's blowing up. And it's bigger. All of a sudden cell phones don't work. And thus begins (possibly) the end of the world. The moon pull changes the tides and cities on the coast throughout the world are hit with destroying tidal waves. Earthquakes hit and volcanoes erupt in areas where it's never happened before. Miranda and her family have to buckle down. Miranda's mother is smart and stockpiles food, supplies, and other things while the rest of the community is still in shock. They chop wood and collect water. And, throughout it all, Miranda is just a teenage girl who fights with her mother and gets mad at her brothers. And falls in love. But who will survive? Will her family? Her friends?

Band Fags! by Frank Anthony Polito

I interlibrary loaned this adult coming-of-age story from Urbana and have to admit I giggled a little bit. It's the early 1980s and what Jack Paterno goes through, I remember. He plays Atari, rolls his jeans in junior high, and wore parachute pants to school. But Jack is a little different. Maybe. He's not sure. He's active in band, and good at it, and therefore he gets called the book title. But is he gay? He has a girlfriend all through junior high. And a lot of high school. He has dates to school dances and everything. But he and his best friend Brad grow apart when Brad announces his homosexuality. Jack isn't sure he wants to be labeled "that." Or does he?