Monday, November 30, 2009

Zeitoun by Dave Eggers

I absolutely love it when a book isn't what I expected. I knew Zeitoun was about a family in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and, um, I wasn't too interested in reading it. But, whoa, did I get sucked into Abdulrahman Zeitoun's life. He is a respected contractor who has lived in New Orleans for years. He stays in the city during the evacuation so that he can check on his properties and help people out. And, so he does. For days, he uses his canoe to paddle around the neighborhoods, feeding dogs and rescuing people stranded in their homes. But eventually everyone starts to leave the city. Looters are everywhere and people are getting desparate, even the officers. Zeitoun is arrested for something. Um, really, something. He isn't really told what he's arrested for and he doesn't even get to call his wife or a lawyer. He's kept in a makeshift prison/kennel in the Greyhound station and taken to a maximum security prison north of town. He's denied medical treatment, denied his phone call, and accused of being Taliban and a terrorist. Ha! I'm embarrassed by how this good man was treated by Americans responsible for upholding our laws. Eggers doesn't preach as he writes this book and never even mentions George Bush, but the reader is allowed to draw his or her own conclusions. To me--corruption. New Orleans=corruption.

Handle with Care by Jodi Picoult, Narrated by a Full Cast

I must admit that I'm getting sick of Picoult's books, and this one really did almost make me sick. I just couldn't understand the reason why the mother in the book was filing the lawsuit. Her daughter was born with brittle bone disease and the mother sues her obstetrician with a wrongful birth lawsuit. Um, her daughter is alive and kicking. Yes, the daughter Willows has lots of broken bones, but she's brilliant and vibrant and a great kid. So I couldn't see how the mother could assume Willow wouldn't know about the lawsuit. I'm sure glad money isn't worth that much to me. I could never do what the mother does in this book. I was grimacing when I was listening to the audiobook. I can't even vary my sentence structure as I try to review this book because I was so disgusted by the character who lost just everything in her book to get money. Ugh. I think this might have successfully kicked Jodi Picoult books out of my reading lists.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Peter & Max: a Fables novel by Bill Willingham

I've never read the Fables graphic novels, but I'm going to have to hunt them down now! This adult fantasy novel is a twisted fairy tale but is a stand-alone novel in the graphic novel series world.

Everyone has heard of Peter Piper, but Willingham can really tell his tale. Peter and his brother Max are the sons of a traveling piper, but the invasion of the Empire leads them to run away to the Black Forest. Terrible things happen there. Max is selfish and downright evil, while Peter is everything bright and good. Each chapter switches from modern-day Peter and Max to childhood Peter and Max, and the two tales come together in quite the climax. The beautiful dark illustrations by Steve Leialoha help tell the tale and make me want to read the rest of their graphic novels. Anyone who can make Peter Piper marry Bo Peep and have them both be trained assassins is an awesome author in my eyes!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

If you haven't read Hunger Games yet, read it! And make sure you have this copy checked out, too, because you'll want to read it immediately!

And now I'm sad. Because I have to wait for the third book in the trilogy. :(

(Spoilers if you haven't read the first book...)

Katniss and Peeta were the first co-winners of the Hunger Games and the Capitol is threatened by their popularity. You wouldn't know it by the newscasts, but some districts are starting to revolt. The Capitol wants to use the next Hunger Games to squash the rebellion so, um, guess what? Something very, very surprising and dramatic happens. I'm not telling. You have to read this book. I really like Katniss because of her awesomeness. Yes, she is that cool. :D

Sometimes We're Always Real Same-Same by Mattox Roesch

I do enjoy reading books with different settings, so I was glad to see that this adult novel started in inner-city Los Angeles and ended up in Unalakleet, Alaska. Just that journey makes a good story! Cesar is a white boy with a Hispanic name, running with Latino gangs in L.A. His older brother is doing the same, and ends up in prison for life for multiple offenses and murder. Cesar's Alaskan native mom doesn't want the same for her other boy and moves them up to Alaska.

Cesar isn't exactly someone you like, once you find out his past history. But his cousin Go-boy is very likable, even though you know his mental health is iffy. The two cousins form a friendship and lean on each to survive. Cesar's narrative is jumpy--traveling back and forth in time, and I'm not sure my high school readers would put up with the unevenness. I had to keep reading to figure out what happened though. The story held my attention though, even when the writing style did not.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Identical by Ellen Hopkins, Read by Laura Flanagan

We're pretty excited here at PCHS that Ellen Hopkins is coming to visit in the Spring. So I'm frantically reading the rest of her books that I haven't read! I listened to the audio version of this verse novel, so I know I missed out on the visual representation of the words on the page, but I don't think I missed much of the action. And this novel had lots of it.

Kaeleigh and Raeanne are identical twins who lead a picture-perfect life to the public. Mom is running for Congress and Dad is a judge. But Daddy really likes his daughter. Really likes her. As in visiting her room at night. Raeanne is the tough girl who rebels by dating trouble-making boys, while Kaeligh is the good girl daddy likes. Both girls are looking for love and having a difficult time surviving. Kaeleigh starts cutting to control the pain and Raeanne uses drugs to feel better. Of course, everything comes crashing down. One of the girls has to break. And she does. There is quite the twist at the end--I won't give it away but let me know if you recognized the clues!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Everything Matters! by Ron Currie, Jr.

2010 Alex Award Winner!

I'm not a big fan of apocalyptic novels (see Life as We Knew It), so this adult novel was a bit of struggle with me. Especially when the narrator started out in the womb. Let's see if I can remember all the books I've read lately with that concept....Conception....and I know there are one or two more out there that I can't remember right now. What this book did have going for it was its different construction. The main narrator is Junior Thibodeau, who is born knowing the world will be destroyed in thirty-six years. He also "knows" things about people and is truly gifted intellectually. But he also hears voices in his head. His mother occasionally narrates, as does his brother, who ends up being a star professional baseball player after recovering from cocaine addiction as a child. Yes, I said child. Add is a strong, silent father and a girlfriend who loves Junior in spite of his strangeness and you have an interesting character study.

I wasn't a big fan of the constant "you" in Junior's narration, but I understand what the author was trying to do. I just didn't like it. The book teaches a good lesson about how everything matters in your life, no matter how insignificant, but lessons don't go over well in my reading.

Monday, November 2, 2009

White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi

Sometimes when I'm reading a book, it's so out there that it makes me feel stupid. I think, "I bet a city woman on a subway would understand this thing." Or at least fake it. I can see this book being the subject of coffee table chatter at cocktail hour or at a ivy league campus book club, but not anywhere close to Paris, Illinois. Why? Because it's darn confusing. There are three narrators--Minerva, a yougn lady who suffers from pica (eating stuff like clay and chalk), Ore, a girlfriend Minerva meets in college, and the house. Yep, that's right, one of the narrators is a house. And it's a creepy house. All the women in Minerva's family have been crazy to some extent, so Minerva was bound to suffer from something. She gets away from the house during college, but still is sick and doesn't recover from the pica that institutionalized her during high school. Add in Minerva's twin brother who thinks Ore is beautiful, but Ore is in love with Minerva.

Okay, so the plot isn't that bad. But the switching of narration drove me nuts. There is no indication when it happens, other than things don't make sense. I kept thinking, "What is going on?" and "Why am I reading this?" I kept hoping the book would read easier, but it never happened for me. I strongly disliked this book, except for the cover. It looks reader-friendly, but the mystery of the book was destroyed with the way the mystery was told. I didn't find the house mysterious, just annoying.