Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Orphans of Race Point by Patry Francis

This was a bit too dramatic to me--I felt like I was reading a soap opera and I didn't know that was I had signed on for when I checked this book from my library.

The story spans generations--we first meet Hallie, a doctor's only daughter, as she becomes involved in the life of Gus, a friend who loses his parents when his dad kills his mom.  Over the years, their relationship evolves, and (no spoilers here), things REALLY happen.  Lots of sweet side characters in this and it would make a great Lifetime movie!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Fever by Megan Aboott

Modern Crucible tale here.  Deenie Nash is a normal high school girl--boys, gossip, and mean girls are on her mind a lot.  But when her best friend has a seizure in school and foams at the mouth, all hell breaks loose.  Lise doesn't get out of the hospital, and when another close friend has similar symptoms, the entire town freaks out.  Is it the HPV vaccine that the girls just received? Is it the nasty dead lake outside of town that no one is supposed to swim in?

Deenie's brother Eli and her teacher father are dealing with their own problems, too.  Through it all, the reader is guessing the cause of the hysteria.  Let's just say that I had my suspicions, but I was still surprised!

The Weight of Blood by Laura McHugh

Sometimes there are books that show the bad side of people.  This is one of those. Next time I drive through the boondocks of Missouri, I will be very, very careful!

Deep in the Ozark Mountains, Lucy is worried about the her kinda friend Cheri. Cheri is mentally disabled, and Lucy cared more about her than most.  She gave her old toys, helped her at school, and talked to her when other kids didn't.  After being missing for a year, Cheri's body is found--dismembered.  The police are basically nonexistent in this area--everyone is crooked, taking bribes, and protecting family and friends.  Lucy investigates on her own, but finds out that her family isn't exactly what it seems.  Her own mother died years ago after Lucy's birth, and it turns out that her mother's disappearance is connected to Cheri's. Secrets are everywhere.  And people can be ugly.

Above the Dreamless Dead: World War I in Poetry and Comics, edited by Chris Duffy

High school teachers, use this book! I would have loved to use this when I taught history and English.  I went through a stage in my 20s when I read a lot of the World War I poets--Sassoon and Brooke mostly.  But, whoa, this version rocks. So easy to incorporate into the classroom.

In the introduction, Duffy notes that many Americans don't know much about World War I, and I agree.  Trench warfare was horrible and deadly--shell shock was common, and soldiers thought their commanders were idiots for fighting for months to gain 10 feet of ground.

More than ten authors are highlighted here, from all class levels.  Soldier songs are used, too, and some are downright hilarious.  I love how so many artists are used and it's fascinating to study how the artist chose to represent the words. So many styles of drawing, but they are all appropriate. 

Sad, heartbreaking, and a must-read. War sucks. My favorites were "The Coward" by Rudyard Kipling adapted by Stephen R.  Bissette and "The Next War" by Osbert Sitwell adapted by Simon Gane.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Kill My Mother: a Graphic Novel by Jules Feiffer

So you guys know that I don't read too many graphic novels.  When I do, they are award winners or something that a friend recommends strongly. My community college library purchased this adult graphic novel based on a review somewhere, but it hasn't been checked out yet. It's been on display, too. 

The problem? I don't see the teen appeal other than the title. The homage to noir threw me off.  I've read a few pulp detective novels, but I was just confused on this one.  Feiffer is a great artist--he's won all sorts of awards, but I really couldn't tell the characters apart and so I was lost.  The word bubbles are everywhere and my scatterbrain had a hard time following the action.  And there was plenty of action! Totally unbelievable to me, though, especially the war scenes. These characters aren't nice and don't care.  And that meant that I didn't care either.  There are some adult scenes with penises and boobs.  I loved the crossdressing twist, but didn't think that Elsie's character rang true. This was just not my thing.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone by Adele Griffin

Love, love, love!

Addison Stone is a young artist who makes it big--she's the talk of New York City, dating the high society darlings, and her artwork sells for thousands. But, underneath it all, she's suffering from mental illness. The first page begins with a copy of her obituary.  Was she murdered? Did she commit suicide? Was her fall from the bridge an accident?

Told in snippets of interviews, the book seems oh so real.  The book is a piece of art--photographs of a striking Addison with her friends, copies of emails, and her paintings and drawings.  This book is getting some Printz attention, I'm sure, for voice and design.  It's unique and I loved it.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Crossover by Kwame Alexander

Aww, man, this one got me all emotional. Basketball book written in verse? Awesome! Quick read told from the point of view of Josh--a basketball star.  His identical twin brother is good, too, and when Jordan starts dating the new girl in school, Josh loses his best friend to a girl.  Things don't go well.  Josh and Jordan's father was a basketball phenom in Europe, too, but his guidance has only helped the boys.  It was a pleasure to read a novel with two caring parents--that doesn't happen much in YA lit.

My favorite?

Basketball Rule #4

If you miss
enough of life's
free throws
you will pay
in the end.

Monday, September 15, 2014

This One Summer by Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki

This graphic novel is a coming of age story about Rose and her annual summer trip to a cottage.  She's not having a good time--her parents won't stop fighting, and her dad even leaves to "work in the city" for awhile.  While on vacation, Rose's best friend is a younger girl named Windy, and the two of them rent horror movies and spy on the older kids around the area.  There's drama there, too, with cool slacker boys and dramatic teen girls--Rose is the watcher and misunderstands quite a bit.  Windy, having grown up with a hippie mom, tries to set Rose straight with some anti-slut discussion, but Rose doesn't get it.

I enjoyed this little read, but there wasn't any earth shattering moments for me.  The art is beautiful--love the purple and occasional full page spreads.  But, hey, it's middle school, and not much happens to middle schoolers in a summer.

Fair warning--there are plenty of cuss words here, and talk about boobs and sex and questioning. Nothing I wouldn't let my junior high kid read though, although there are parts I'd want to discuss with her.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

Reviewed from ARC received from the publisher.

I can't say that I'm a huge Woodson fan.  I loved the audiobook production of Peace, Locomotion, but wasn't thrilled with Hush. I thought Each Kindness was beautiful, but too heavy handed for children, although I'm sure some students need to have books like that read to them to stop bullying!

But, whoa, this one will win some awards.  You know it's coming up at the Newbery table discussion this year, so it will be interesting to see if it wins.  Woodson's memoir is told in verse and she was a sweet, wonderful way with words. After reading this, you'll understand how she grew to know that words are her gift. Lots of passages to highlight in this one and refer back to!

I don't work with children or tweens so I have a question--is this kind of book popular with them? Will this fulfill the requirement of a teacher who requires a biography or autobiography to be read? If so, then the novel in verse will be a hit. But I just can't picture my daughter enjoying the beautiful rhythm and carefully chosen adjectives. It seems to be more for adults and young adults, which makes me wonder if the Printz committee is taking a look? Guess we'll find out in January at the awards ceremony!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo

This is book #3 in the Grisha trilogy (see Shadow and Bone and Siege and Storm) and it's been on my to-read list for ages! So glad I made time to read it.

Alina and Mal are still trying to save their world.  Alina is a powerful Sun Summoner and now treated like a saint, but the two are searching for a firebird to make her powerful enough to defeat the Darkling.  They have a great group of faithful and funny friends to help them on their journey, and the witty dialogue is a good addition to the book.  The constant action makes this a swift and easy read, and the ending was satisfying to me.  Can't wait to see what she writes next!

Dragonfly in Amber

Well, this wasn't as good as the first book, but I know I'll keep reading the series.  I can't help but picture the actors from the Starz series as I read now! There were a little too much politicking in this for me, so I'm hoping that calms down a bit in book #3.