Thursday, October 28, 2010

Lockdown by Walter Dean Myers, Read by JD Jackson

I wasn't too thrilled to see that a Walter Dean Myers novel made it as a National Book Award finalist, but I ordered the audiobook to listen to anyway. I must admit that I'm impressed to see that Myers wrote a good one--a tale of a African American teenager in juvie. I always thought that Myers was pumping out book after book of African American fiction without much thought (like Grisham or Patterson of the mystery realm), but this book reads like one of his earlier works.

Reese is 14, tough, and in prison for a fairly minor offense. But he's having to make choices in prison--does he get into a fight to protect the weak, younger kid? Does he risk his good behavior for helping someone else? At his work program at a local retirement home, does he talk back to the angry white man who trash talks "black people" who are always stealing and killing each other? Myers does a good job taking us through Reese's mind and the decisions he makes to get him where he needs to go. Will prison (named Progress) reform him or hurt him?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Manifest by Artist Arthur

I'm impressed by this author. First off, it's nice to see an African American girl on the cover. She's quarter-Cherokee, so her light skin makes sense. This is the first Kimani Tru book I've read, and I'll have to read more. It's a good paranormal mystery that just happens to have black characters, which isn't something I see much in the books I read. Sure, African American teen fiction is out there, but it's usually by smaller publishers who aren't mainstream.

Krystal starts to have magical powers at the age of 15. She sees and hears ghosts and she doesn't want to have the power. When she meets two other schoolmates who have the same birthmark as she, she is surprised to find out that they have powers, too. The three teens try to figure out what the purpose of their powers is, and end up solving a sex crime in their small town. There is a sequel, Mystify, which comes out in 2011.

Rhymes with Witches by Lauren Myracle

I KNOW I read this book years ago, but I didn't blog about it, which means I don't remember it! So I re-read it this week since it's up for PPYA. I love the title, but that's about all I like about the book. I'm glad the author tackled the problem about how teen girls want popularity, but I hated the cats. Really? Feral cats in a school? Seriously? The cat scenes didn't even seem to fit into the rest of the story. The main character dumped her friends so quickly for the Bitches, the group of four girls who are the most popular girls in school. The Bitches really are witches, using the power of the goddess (through their humanities teacher) to suck popularity from other people to increase their own popularity. Interesting concept, but it fell flat. I think girls pick up this book because of the title, and think it's alright. But I didn't like any of the characters, and the conversation is so stilted, it's impossible to get to know them. I've tried really hard to like this author, but haven't been impressed.

One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia, Read by Sisi Aisha Johnson

As soon as the book was picked as a National Book Award finalist in the Young People category, I placed on hold on the audiobook. It's for younger students (the main character is eleven), but the setting and conflicts are mature. Delphine and her two younger sisters are placed on a plane from NYC to Oakland. Their mother left them years ago, yet their grandfather believes that they should spend a summer month with their mom. The sisters aren't sure what to think. Their mother isn't very welcoming, and Delphine has to mother her own sisters. Oakland is in the middle of the Black Panther conflict, and the sisters have to go to a Black Panther summer school to get out of their mother's house. Eventually, their mother softens toward them after they recite one of her poems at a Black Panther rally, so things turn out alright. Not perfect, but better. Not all kids have a good relationship with their mother, and it was nice to read a book where the mother isn't the best parent for the kids, yet the author shows that it's okay.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Whole World Over by Julia Glass, Read by Denis O'Hare

The pretty cover delivered a pretty story which is just what I needed to listen to. Greenie is in a marriage that isn't making her happy, and when the governor of New Mexico tastes her cooking and invites her to be his chef, she accepts. She takes their four-year-old son to Santa Fe and finds happiness in her new job, her new friends, and an old friend who loves her. But her Walter, her husband, isn't a happy psychotherapist. Sept. 11 changes everything for the couple and their love and marriage is tested. I liked how the author treats Greenie and Walter's emotions--honestly and true. I felt like I knew both of them, and I wanted to keep listening to find out what happened to them professionally and personally.

Monday, October 18, 2010

A Sweet Disorder by Jacqueline Kolosov

I really should be reading titles up for ppya, but I had to take a break from zombies and mysteries and ready some historical fiction. I grew up reading Phillipa Gregory and Victoria Holt, so I'm a sucker for books with pretty dresses on the cover.

Miranda's life changes dramatically when her father dies in service to the queen in Ireland. Her father had been borrowing from the crown and so the family is left penniless. This means that the man she was supposed to marry doesn't want her anymore and the woman Miranda's brother was supposed to marry doesn't want him anymore. Even Miranda's mother rushes into a remarriage to help take care of the family. Miranda is sent to court to find a new husband, but the intrigue of an outcast mother doesn't help her. Some girls are out to snub her and Miranda isn't even sure she has Queen Elizabeth's approval. Miranda relies on her sewing skills to find favor with new friends and benefactors, and hopes the queen will not push her into a marriage with a man she doesn't love.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Ghostopolis by Doug TenNapel

Garth Hale has an incurable disease, but he's just as shocked as anyone when a horse skeleton steals him away to Ghostopolis, the land of the dead. The dead kingdoms are ruled by the evil Vaugner, and Garth (with the help of his Grandpa) has to save the dead world. The illustrations are clean and simple and the writing is junior high/middle school snarky. Some of my usual graphic novel readers won't like this, but some underclassmen will. It was "cute" and a fun read.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Killing Mr. Griffin by Lois Duncan, Performed by Ed Sala

I read this book years and years ago when I was a kid. This came out when I was THREE years old! But it's still popular with kids and teens. Why? Because it's about some students who kidnap a teacher (to shake him up), but the teacher accidentally dies. Mr. Griffin is a tough English teacher who never gives As because the students don't do perfect work. Even though the book is 30+ years old, the story still works. The kids are scared, stupid, and make horrible decisions. Even the ending doesn't wrap up nicely, which keeps kids thinking.

One thing I didn't like was Ed Sala's narration. I was bored silly at the beginning of the audiobook and had to really concentrate because his voice didn't vary much.