Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Scowler by Daniel Kraus. Read by Kirby Heyborne

I was already listening to this freakishly scary audiobook when it won the Odyssey Award for best audiobook for children/teens! I *raved* about Daniel Kraus's Rotters when it won the 2012 Odyssey Award and it was no surprise to me that reader Heyborne and Kraus won another award.  There's something about a creepy tale being told well that just sends shivers down your spine.

I read Scowler in ARC form and reviewed it on Goodreads like this: "I  finished this days ago and I keep putting off blogging about it. Why? I prefer to not dredge up the ugliness of this book. And I mean ugly as in psychotherapy might be needed if I read it again.....  Nineteen-year-old Ry and his family are trying to recover from the nightmare that is his father. Marvin Burke is in prison for beating, abusing, and doing unspeakable things to his family members. Now the terror is back.  I don't want to give away any plot details (which had me reading this book late into the night), but let's just say that this book is gripping, scarier than hell, and perfect for teens/adults who want to be freaked out."

Well, I did listen to the book again, against my better judgment.  I assigned Scowler for my library school students to read in a class I'm teaching for Illinois State about library materials selection for young adults.  Why? Because it's literary, gross, and a book that some librarians won't pick up unless forced to. And so I'm forcing.  I also recommended that they listen to the book, even before it won the Odyssey.  This week we're going to listen to the clip that was played at the ALA Youth Media Awards ceremony (see and skip to around the 46 minute mark). Listening in the car, I was SCARED of Marvin Burke.  His voice is scary. He says scary things. I don't want to hear his voice. At all.  And same goes for Scowler.  Those ticks and bug noises are just plain old horrific.

Ry Burke is 19 and lives on what's left of a farm with his mom and sister.  And, I feel like I can't say anything more without giving away some major plot surprises.  Let's just say that the book is literary psychological horror. It will give you shivers and make you re-read sections (at least I had to!) and make you talk about it. Just give it a listen.  You'll see why this book won.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Seventeenth Summer by Maureen Daly. Reprint of 1942 edition.

Oh, I'm so glad I didn't have to read books like this when I was growing up.  This is probably my third re-read of one of the first YA superstars in publishing, and it just gets better with time.  So sexist, annoying, and full of cliches.  Angie's love story with basketball stud Jack is just perfect.  Although I'm not sure if their legs ever touch like on the cover?

"Anyone with a date as dull as I was would naturally want to dance with someone else (49)."

"In the loveliness of the next moment I think I grew up.  I remember that behind him was the thin, yellow arc of moon, turned over on its back, and I remember feeling my hands slowly relax on the rough lapels of his coat.  Sitting on the cool grass in my new sprigged dimity with the little blue and white bachelor's buttons pinned in my hair, Jack kissed me and his lips were as smooth and baby-soft as a new raspberry (69)."

A raspberry, people.

Hilarious how there were so many references to how clean Jack is, but, boy, his manners need work.  Poor Angie almost had to break up with him because of how he clicked his ice cream spoon against his teeth.  Twice.  And he couldn't serve himself with double salad servers.  Oh, the shame!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith. Reviewed from Advanced Reading Copy.

To be published 2/11/14.

Oh, this one is going to get some buzz this year! I have a feeling there will be some discussion around the 2015 Printz table, too.  Why? Because this book is different.  Much different from Winger, which I loved and gave 5/5 stars to on Goodreads.

This book is shocking and in-your-face in a way that makes you stay up late to finish it. Austin Szerba is a typical teenage boy, if typical teenage boys are always horny and confused over how he can love two people equally.  But this isn't just a teenage angst/love triangle/rebellious story because there really are giant grasshoppers intent on destroying the world.  I know, I know, it sounds crazy stupid, but it works.  Full of short sentences and crazy back-stories and chapter headings that are simply brilliant--this will hold up to a second and third read by someone looking for literariness. 

Now I'm going to go build a shelter in my backyard....

A Week in Winter by Maeve Binchy. Read by Rosalyn Landor

I've never blogged about reading this author before for some reason, but I *love* listening to the audiobooks.  Binchy writes sweet little women's novels that are usually set in Ireland, so the narrator's voice is pleasing.  This novel is like the others I have read--independent tales about characters come together in the end.  On Goodreads, I've marked that I've read/listened to Minding Frankie, Heart and Soul, and Whitethorn Woods, and I believe I've read or listened to most of her other books.

This novel focuses on Stoneybridge and a woman's desire to turn an old house by the sea into a small hotel.  Various people come to stay and work there and their stories are interesting enough.  Not too much excitement, but the accent and pleasant character building keeps be listening to Binchy's new books. 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Outcasts by Kathleen Kent

I read this title via my Kindle in the advance readers form, so I was thrilled when I finally saw the cover. It fits!

The Outcasts alternates between two tales that, of course, come together in the end.  Lucinda Carter is a whore in Texas in the 1800's and escapes to become a respectable schoolteacher in Louisiana.  However, she still isn't respectable and has a bad habit of choosing bad men to love.

Nate Cannon is the moral opposite of Lucinda. He's a Texas police officer who is learning the ropes of his new job--following his elders and trying to police the Old West. It doesn't always work very well and he has to make a lot of decisions along the way.

I love old westerns and shows like Longmire, so this book hit the spot for me.  Exciting, a bit naughty, adventurous, and a quick, good adult read!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Cold Storage, Alaska by John Straley

I took an Alaskan cruise in 2013, so I enjoy reading about it.  And this quirky little book makes me want to live in one of the little villages we visited.  I mean, really, everyone knows everyone and everyone has to trade boyfriends and spouses because there aren't many people. 

I would loosely call this a mystery.  It's really more of a situational comedy about two brothers in a small Alaskan village.  The people are strange, the weather is cold, and a lot of people get drunk.

Did I love it? No.  Did I enjoy it? Meh.  It was okay.  But I won't be hunting down other books by this author.

In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters

In the spirit of Ransom Riggs, some strange photographs are included in this YA novel. And it works.

Mary Shelley Black is shipped off to San Diego to live with her aunt--her father has been arrested for being anti-war and everyone around here is dying of the influenza. Add in a some spooky photography, and Mary Shelley isn't sure what to believe.

This book has a bit too much paranormal for me, but I appreciated the historical photographs of what is was like in 1918. I love historical fiction, so I'm glad when any historical fiction book gets some press.  This book is one of the2014 Morris Award finalists, but I don't think it will win.