Saturday, April 30, 2011

Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice

Can this book receive anymore awards? ;) But, whoa, it was worth it. Yes, I, Sarah Hill, actually sat down and read (not listened to) a nonfiction book. Yay!

This is the story of Claudette Colvin, the teenage girl who refused to move from her seat on a Montgomery bus nine months before Rosa Parks became famous for doing so. Claudette's story is fascinating--she wasn't chosen as the spokesperson for the civil rights movement. Why? Because she got pregnant three months after the bus incident and, therefore, wasn't respectable enough. I'm really not sure why her story is so fascinating--maybe because she got pregnant? She was a strong proponent of civil rights growing up--she refused to straighten her hair and she took pride in the darkness of her skin. Phillip Hoose is such a darn good writer--her story was a great one, and he made it even better.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Martin the Warrior by Brian Jacques

I started reading this book and decided that the audiobook would be better because of the strange accents. I absolutely detest reading dialogue with accents because it slows me down. So the audiobook was better in that regard, but evidently I'm not a Brian Jacques fan. I know he's popular and a genius with animal fantasies, but I wasn't entertained. The full cast production was entertaining, but I'm just not sure why I couldn't wait for the book to end. There have been animal fantasies that I have loved--Fire Bringer by David Clement-Davies is the first one that comes to mind. I did love the evil character Badrang--he made me smile....

Jake Ransom and the Skull King's Shadow by James Rollins

Now I have another book to recommend when students want another Harry Potter or Alex Rider-like book. Yay! I thoroughly enjoyed this adventure of Jake Ransom and his sister into another world. After the death of their explorer parents, Jake is determined to become an archeologist like them. After three years, when the siblings receive an invitation to London to attend a show at the London Museum of their parents' finds, Jake jumps at the chance. His sister Kady isn't too sure. When the two enter some type of portal and find themselves in a jungle with dinosaurs, their parents' teachings help them survive. Thrown into a world with Mayans, Egyptians, Romans, ancient Americans, and other cultures, the two siblings must defend themselves and then try to find a way back to the modern world. The story continues in Jake Ransom and the Howling Sphinx.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Evolution, Me & Other Freaks of Nature

This fiction author handles a tough controversy very well. Mena has grown up in a religious community. She has a personal relationship with God, even if her preacher has targeted her because she dared to apologize to a gay boy who tried to commit suicide. She's ostracized from her church friends and even her parents don't want to deal with her. When her Biology teacher opens her eyes to evolution, Mia struggles with how to fit the scientific principles into her own religion. But she manages. And she even manages to find a family to befriend, and a cute boy to like. This is still a chick lit book, but the handling of the evolution/creationism/intelligent design theory rocks. A must read for faithful believers in church and science.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

I know, I know, I should have read this 2007 Alex Award winner years ago. I had every intention to--even bought the book way back when for my library. But someone stole that copy and I didn't replace it until this school year. I had to buy a book at the airport this week, and I knew another copy of this made-into-movie book would be popular. And I should read it, right?

I can see why it's popular. It's a great love story told from the point-of-view of an old man. Love stories from the guy's POV always work for me! Jacob is 90 (or 93) and trying to get to the circus from his nursing home. But his mind is wandering back to his own circus years, when he met his wife, found a job, and developed his love for animals. His tale is very entertaining, set against the Great Depression backdrop, and has some strange circus tales thrown in. Who doesn't love some strange tales of odd people?

So, what am I doing in the next week or two? Seeing this movie!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Rainwater by Sandra Brown

This idiot librarian left her Kindle in the airplane seat pocket on her flight to Spring Break, but at least her friend had some books to read! In this adult romance/drama, Ella works hard managing a boarding house, and doesn’t have time for change. She’s raising her son, who flaps his arms, cries out when disturbed and likes to play the same repetitive games. A modern reader knows the boy has autism, but that disease hadn’t really been named yet. Everyone recommends an institution, but Ella refuses to put away her only son. When a mysterious boarder arrives and is dying, Ella doesn’t want to get involved, but she does when race relations threaten to tear her little town apart.

Where She Went by Gayle Forman

At the end of If I Stay, Mia squeezes her boyfriend’s hand and decides that she wants to come out of a coma. But now it’s 3 years later, and, whoa, things have changed. Mia is fresh out of Juilliard with honors and already a touring cellist. ? is a huge rock star--complete with shaking hands and a pill bottle. He’s a mess, all because Mia left of Juilliard years ago and never came back. Or called back. But it made for some great lyrics, even if he’s terrified now of mobs in public spaces. On a fluke, ? is in New York City for an interview and wanders into Mia’s performance. A trip backstage and they are staying up all night to talk about what has happened in the past three years. Talk about an emotional roller coaster. He still loves her, that’s clear. But she may be trying for closure. Or maybe not.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

I'm not sure why I tell people I dislike nonfiction. I put off reading it all the time. I act like it's a chore. But then I listen to an audiobook like this and my opinion completely flips. I LOVE audiobooks like this one--exciting, dangerous, and just good storytelling. It's nonfiction that reads like fiction, and how awesome is that?

Krakauer investigated the life of Chris McCandless (or Alexander Supertramp) as we went into the wild. Chris was a vagabond, always looking for adventure, and gave away all his money to wander through the wilderness. He tramped through the southwest up to South Dakota. His story is gut-wrenching because I felt so sorry for his friends and family who never knew where he was. He was a smart kid, but kinda messed up. I mean, really, eating just edible plants in Alaska? Determined to live alone? Even Native Americans years ago had the support of family in the wilderness, right? So when Alex dies in an abandoned bus 30 miles from a highway, his story made national headlines. The book became a movie in 2007. Krakauer compares his own story to McCandless, and it's just a good story, even if the ending is sad.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

You Don't Know Me by David Klass

I read this book a looooong time ago when I was the librarian at Fairfield Community High School. I remembered that I liked it and that it was popular, but I had re-read so I could discuss it at ALA during the PPYA discussions this summer.

John is one confused kid and his stream-of-consciousness narration is just as hectic as his thought process. He can't deal with his mom's boyfriend's beatings. John is physically and emotionally abused--his mom doesn't know, and John doesn't know what to do. He's showing all the signs of abuse at school, but when a teacher tries to reach out, John backs away. So, while this is a tale of John trying to understand girls like any fourteen-year-old, it's also about abuse. And, wow, it can be difficult to read at times.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins

Sophie can't help but get into trouble. She's a witch, a dark one, even, and she hasn't been taught how to control her powers. Her father is the warlock and he's ignored her her whole life. So when she finally performs a love spell that goes horribly wrong at her high school, she's sent to Hecate Hall, a reform school for teens with powers. She's lumped in with witches, shapeshifters, and fairies and she even gets the shunned vampire to room with. Nothing is quite as it seems at Hex Hall. Sophie is told she's powerful, but she hasn't been educated at all. She's drawn to her roommate, even though the vampire has been accused of killing classmates. But surely Jenna is innocent, right?

I was pleasantly surprised by the readability of this "witch novel." I think I'll even read the sequel Demonglass. And you can like it on Facebook.

Monday, April 11, 2011

If I Stay by Gayle Forman, Read by Kirsten Potter

So, without realizing it, I listened to Disk 4 (the last one) of the audiobook first. So when "the moment" happened and the music signaled the end, I was thoroughly confused. But happy. Disk 4 is good. :) And so I started at the beginning to fill in the holes.

Mia is seventeen and living a pretty good life. She's an accomplished cellist and applying to Julliard. She has a cute boyfriend who treats her well and sings in a rising punk band. Her parents are pretty cool. But then there is a crash. And everything changes for Mia. Most of the book is told through flashbacks as Mia lies in a hospital bed. And it's a great story--can't wait to read the sequel, Where She Went. :) This trailer rocks....

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin by Josh Berk

Great cover and title, but it seems like it's for younger folks, right? But at least it's a quick and joyful mystery read. Will Halpin is deaf and trying to make it at a "real" school instead of his old deaf school. On his first field trip, a classmate falls to his death in a cave, and Will decides to solve the case with the help of his new best friend.

The sense of humor seems a bit off at times, but the snarkiness made me laugh. And I just couldn't understand why the main character was in high school. It seemed like a junior high book to me.

Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins

Best known for The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins also writes books for children. And even though I know the age range for young adult lit is 12 to 18, I think this book is pushing to reach age 12. Why? For one, the main character is eleven. And only very rarely do teenagers want to read a book about someone younger than them (Harry Potter was different because they grew up with him).

The plot is similar enough--Gregor falls through a hole into another land (think Alice in Wonderland), but Gregor falls through a grate in a New York City laundry room. His world is city-like, too. Rats, bats, and all sorts of nasty creatures make this quite the boy book. Gregor must find a way to get back to NYC, keep his sister alive, and hopefully find his missing father, too. It's an easy read, but too young for my high school.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Brutal by Michael Harmon

This book is brutal. Tough issues, tough kids, tough town, and it's small-town America. Poe Holly is shipped to her father's because her mom is heading to South America to save lives. Poe's never seen her dad, and let's just say that she is a little bitter. She's the typical teenage angst girl--wears black, strange hairstyles, tests the rules, and very outspoken. Sure, her mom has money and Poe has a great voice, but Poe isn't happy. She's crying out for attention from her mother.

Poe's next-door neighbor, Velveeta, isn't just bullied. He's beaten up. Badly. A lot. And no one seems to care about it--he's asking for it, right? Besides, it's the jocks beating him up and they're above criticism. But Poe always has an eye out for the underdog. She's determined to see that the abusers are brought to justice. And, wow, it's brutal.

On a side note, I was irritated to see that the copy I interlibrary loaned from Villa Grove Schools was an Advance Reader's Copy. Um, aren't those not supposed to be circulated? Why in the world does our Lincoln Trail Library System allow items like this to be cataloged? Isn't this an ethical violation?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Sea of Trolls by Nancy Farmer, Narrated by Gerard Doyle

The first in a trilogy, I know I read this book years ago, but I didn't remember much besides Jack and tale of Beowulf. I reviewed the sequels for VOYA, too.

Jack is apprenticed to a bard, but is kidnapped by berserkers before he learns too much....or so he thinks. He must do his best to save his sister Lucy, but the two of them are thrust into a land of fantasy and adventure.

I'm not sure why, but this audiobook just didn't do much for me. I was bored, but that might have been because the book is written for younger readers. Doyle's voice was exciting and didn't hurt the story at all, so I can't blame it on the narrator. But my attention was wandering back to the road while I was driving.

Boys, Girls and Other Hazardous Materials by Rosalind Wiseman

The author of Queen Bees & Wannabes: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends and Other Realities of Adolescence does a pretty good job showing what life is like for freshmen girls. Charlie isn't proud of her friends' behavior a year ago and so she deliberately moves to a new highs school to start anew. But she's still in the same town, and things come back to haunt her. She has to decide what kind of person she wants to be--kind? backstabbing? forgiving? witchy?

While not quite a book about bullying, the tale of friendship and betrayal brings many of the same bullying behaviors to light. Friends bully each other--that's a fact. Upperclassmen haze underclassmen--especially in sports. This book lightheartedly brings all this to light.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Lifted by Wendy Tolliver

Sometimes books are a joy to read, and this is one of those. Why? Probably because the reading level is kinda low, but also because it is really well written. I wasn't stopping my read to laugh about characterization or plot pacing or anything else. I read it for the plot, and there's nothing wrong with a plot-driven novel. Especially when it isn't trying to be anything else.

In my old age, I'd call this a problem novel because Poppy has a problem with shoplifting. She isn't sure why she does it, but she's good at it. It comes easy to her, especially when she learns the basics from her two new friends at her new Baptist school. But it's a novel about friendship, too. Making friends at a new school is rough, and Poppy makes some interesting choices with friends and boys.

I would have loved this book in 6th or 7th grade, and I think it'll be popular here at PCHS, too.

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Wise Man's Fear by Patrick Rothfuss

Oh, Mr. Rothfuss, you know you've made it in the author world when your name is in big font on the cover! I wanted to read this sequel to The Name of the Wind so badly that I actually BOUGHT the book. And you readers know that I don't buy books. This one will be donated to PCHS, too, because I know some fantasy readers who are itching to read it.

Kvothe is back and still telling his adventures to the Chronicler. His adventures are getting wilder and the reader starts to understand why Kvothe is such a hero. He rescues women from danger, escapes a Fey seductress, learns to efficiently kill wrongdoers, and stays loyal to his friends.

I do have one complaint, though, and I know some other readers voiced this opinion in their book reviews, too. The section about the Fae chick just went on for too long.

However, Rothfuss is still one of the best fantasy authors around and I'm anxiously awaiting book number three!

We Were Here by Matt de la Pena

Sometimes I have to finish reading books because I'm supposed to, and this was one of those cases. I know de la Pena is popular with teenage boys--I know that. But I just couldn't get into this one. It seemed too long and my attention kept wandering so I had to skim to get through it and to move onto another book.

Miguel is in trouble and ordered to live at a group home. We're not exactly sure what he did, but we know it's bad because he won't talk about it to anybody. Eventually he runs away from the home with two other boys and they embark on an adventure. But Miguel realizes that it's not exciting--they are just homeless kids who are running out of money. The book is sad, and the characters do a lot of contemplating. I found the discussion of the books Miguel read to be a bit preachy, and just felt that the story could have been tightened up by about 75 pages. I usually recommend de la Pena to reluctant readers, but I'm not sure if they will want to get through this one....

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Misfits by James Howe

I read this book back in 2001 when it was first published, but I didn't blog back then. And, so, I had to re-read! For a little book about name-calling in junior high, it has turned into quite the sensation--leading to No Name-Calling Week. Bobby is just a seventh grader, but his band of friends join forces to run for student council officers and bring attention to the hurt that name-calling does to kids.