Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Columbine by Dave Cullen

Talk about your difficult read. Columbine is like the Challenger crash and 9/11 to me--a defining moment in my life. I was in college studying to become a teacher back in 1999.

Cullen takes a different topic and makes it interesting in a non-graphic way. He switches back-and-forth on the narratives which might scare some readers off, but it kept me wanting to find out more. I wanted to read about the kid who rolled out the upstairs window and the girl who became a Christian martyr. I didn't want to hear so much about the media and officers messing things up though, but I know that needs to be written about. Nothing of this scale had happened before. Now schools have crisis plans, ID badges and security systems, but chaos would still ensue if something of this magnitude occurred somewhere else. It's scary to think about. The analysis of Eric and Dylan worried me. Eric seemed to be pretty much a goner psychologically, but Dylan could have been helped. As a teacher, am I doing what I can to help these kinds of kids? The ones who seem normal at school but are hurting inside?

I can see teachers reading this book, but I'm not too sure how popular it will be with teenagers. They don't remember Columbine, and the heft of the title will discourage teen readers. I was expecting pictures, but the author stuck with the simplistic approach and didn't include any. I love how his name isn't even on the cover of the book--great design! I hope to add this book to Mr. Lynch's Criminology reading list--it needs some readers at PCHS.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Stitches by David Small

2010 Alex Award Winner!

Well, this adult graphic novel memoir is going to go far. It's something that sticks with you. David Small is known for winning the Caldecott for So, You Want to be President? but this adult memoir proves that he has quite the story to tell. Talk about your dysfunctional family! His mother is abusive because her mother was. His father is distant and thinks that constant x-raying of his small son will cure his son of sinus problems. Um, no.

The black-and-white illustrations are stark and telling, with only a few of the kind that make me want to turn the pages quickly. I'm a word-person so I'm not too into the graphic novels that tell too much of a story in pictures. I don't like sappy.

However. David Small turns out okay. I love the cover with grandma saying durnit, and still ended up with a good feeling after finishing this sad story. A delayed airflight even meant that my boyfriend read it. And that's almost a miracle! :)

It's good. Read it. Everyone will be talking about it after it's published in September.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Rooftops of Tehran by Mahbod Seraji

I thoroughly enjoy a good read about teen characters in another culture--this one is Iran in the 1970s. Pasha spends a lot of time on the rooftop and his world revolves around his neighborhood. He's in love with a girl who is engaged to someone else and the government won't stop interfering with everyone he knows. The Shah's secret police is after so many people he loves, and Pasha has to learn when to keep his radical (at least in Iran) ideas in check. I wasn't too thrilled with the ending, but think the first 3/4 of the book is well worth a read if you enjoyed Kite-Runner or Finding Nouf.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Lime Tree Can't Bear Orange by Amanda Smyth

What a satisfying read! This seems like an Oprah book to me--wonder if she's heard of it yet?

Celia grew up in Tobago with an aunt because her father ran off to England after her mother died during childbirth. Always an outsider, Celia then has to deal with a handsy step-uncle who eventually rapes her. But Celia isn't one to give in. She runs away toward her aunt, but gets sidetracked by a sickness that leads her to working as a nanny for a rich family. Celia lives up to the witchwoman's words and hurts one man who loves her and can't have the man she loves. This is so like an Oprah book! It's a romance with a woman who has been wronged, but she can't make the right decisions because of her abuse as a young girl. She isn't quite sure how to be in a positive relationship with a man, and eventually understands that her parents didn't quite have the right idea either.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

The Longshot by Katie Kitamura

I can't believe I read a book about mixed martial arts fighting and actually liked it, but I did! Anyone who knows me knows that I can't stand to watch this kind of violence on TV or in person, but for some reason I can read about it just fine. Analyze that! :)

Cal is a fighter who is a little bit past his prime mentally. He was winning everything until Rivera came along, a new fighter who rocked his world and destroyed him in the ring. Now Cal is back in peak physical condition and all set to fight Rivera again in Tijuana. The book traces Cal and his trainer Riley for the few days before the fight. Talk about the suspense. I won't tell you who wins the fight, but let's just say that you really get into Cal and Riley's head before the big day. I always wondered what made these guys step into the ring or cage or whatever it is. Personally, I like to think I've evolved past fighting. I might resort to fighting if someone is hurting someone I love. Maybe. But I'd go right for the eyeballs and end it quick. ;) I'm darn proud to say I've never been in a fight and I plan to keep my record clean. lol.

But I'm rambling. Kitamura shows us what a fighter goes through in the days and hours before a fight. It's mind-blowing and scary. But fascinating.

Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson

Well, I sure wish this adult fantasy novel had a different cover. Is this cheesy or what? The concept is good though--a world where people have "breaths" and if you collect breaths, you can see brighter colors in the world and have more powers. Slaves don't have any breath and look gray and drab. Fighters are bright and so are those close to the gods and goddesses, many of whom are re-born and forced to collect breaths on a regular basis. Vivenna and Siri are both princesses and when one is forced to marry a god-king, the other is sent in her place, forcing a dramatic rescue attempt. I can't wait to see what some PHS readers think about this one.

Figures in Silk by Vanora Bennett

This is exactly the kind of adult novel I was reading when I was in high school. I was a huge fan of Victoria Holt, Philippa Gregory, and all the various other historical romance writers out there who can really write an epic.

Isabel is forced to marry by her father for political reasons but ends up with a smart and worthy mother-in-law. Isabel learns the silk trade from her and even apprentices herself to her mother-in-law to learn the ropes and succeed on her own. It's the late 1400s and silk is queen in the world. Another interesting twist is that Isabel's older sister is having an affair with King Edward IV, which makes it easier for Isabel to succeed in a man's world.