Monday, December 19, 2005

Godless **** 1/2

Hautman, Pete. Godless. New York: Simon Pulse, 2004.

This was a great book. My library doesn't have this book (yet!) but I read it because it was recommended to me by a public library children's/YA librarian. I am glad I read it!

Jason is rather charismatic. He could sell snow to Eskimos. His mother is a hypochondriac and his father is very religious, to the point of obsession. His father is always trying to get him to be religious, including making him go to the teen night at their church. He isn't interested in religion, but he goes to be a pain and ask questions the youth pastor can't answer.

Jason, along with his friend Shin, come up with a new religion, one that reveres the town's water tower. Shin takes it quite seriously, while Jason is just doing it because he thinks it is funny. Joining them in their church is the son of a local preacher, the town bully, and a girl from the church youth group, on whom Jason has a major crush. Their goal is to climb the water tower, which they do; they end up prying open a door and actually swimming in it, which they consider their "Baptism". Shin starts to take things too seriously along with a few other members.

This entire book really is all about religion. Jason is really quite anti-religion, so if you are a person that is really religious, his approach may offend you, so I would read something else. Jason is really not an athiest, he is really just in search of what he believes in. He isn't into Christianity, but that is all he has been exposed to, and he doesn't know anything else. This is really about finding who he is, and a part of that includes finding out what he believes in. This is more of a character study than anything, so anyone that is more interested in plot and action might be disappointed; not that this is boring, but the focus here is on the characters and who they are, and how they change.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Looking for Alaska *****

Green, John. Looing for Alaska. New York: Dutton, 2005.

*Winner of the Prinz Award, Announced January 23, 2006*

What a fanastic novel. This is a rare instance where I agree that a book that got a starred review in School Library Journal really does deserve that star!

In this book, Miles opts to go to a boarding school in Alabama during his high school years. His roomate, who is nicknamed the Colonel introduces him to the school and his circle of friends, which include Alaska, Lara, and Takumi. They spend their time sneaking off to smoke, drink, and pull pranks on the school and headmaster. We learn rather quickly that Alaska is somewhat troubled. We also realize that something big is coming.

The book's chapters are arranged by days, such as "40 days before" and so on up until "the incident". We don't get to that until 3/4 of the way through the novel, so we spend a lot of time trying to figure out what exactly happens on Day 0. I can tell you that I didn't see it coming! Then after that, the rest of the novel is told as "3 days after" and so on. This format kept me interested and made me aniticipate the climax of the novel even more.

I highly recommend this novel to most readers. It is a rather "deep" read so readers that prefer fluff will not enjoy this one. Not that there is anything wrong with fluff, but if that is what you are looking for, this isn't it. Highly recommended.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Uglies ****

Westerfeld, Scott. Uglies. New York: Simon Pulse, 2005.

I guess this would be considered speculative fiction. Although this isn't a genre that I enjoy, I have to say that I did enjoy this novel.

This novel takes place in the future. Things have changed. When teens turn 16, they go from being Uglies to Pretties. They go through massive plastic surgery to become what society thinks is pretty. Everyone looks forward to being pretty. That is especially true for Tally who is friendless now that her best friend Peris is now a pretty and living in Pretty Town. She meets Shay, who has run away and doesn't want to be pretty. Shay knows of a place where people run away where people want to say Ugly-- The Smoke. She gives Tally directions to find them if she decides to run away.

Tally ends up being taken by the Special Circustances unit, and she is blackmailed. They won't make her pretty unless she tells then where The Smoke is. She doesn't know, so they give her a necklace with a locket on it. They tell her that once she gets there, she should push the button in the locket. Things are complicated because she doesn't want to betray her friend. She also ends up falling in love with Dave, but Shay is in love with Dave-- he is the reason she ran away to begin with.

I won't go into any more details. There is a lot more going on, but I don't want to give any more away. This is also the first book in a trilogy, so readers will be interested to continue on and read the next two books. Highly recommended for anyone wondering what the future could be like. This is a great mix of speculation and adventure/action.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

The Sledding Hill *****

Crutcher, Chris. The Sledding Hill. New York: Greenwillow, 2005.

I want to give Chris a high-five. This entire book is about thumbing his nose at the critics and book banners. There is so much stuff in here that people will find offensive that I imagine it will be banned left and right, even in places where his works were never banned before. Hopefully kids will still go out and buy it because it is so good. I believe he wrote this book in response to all of the school districts that have banned his works. Maybe a book like this will open a dialogue about the freedom to read, and the freedom of sharing ideas. I certainly hope so.

Poor Eddie Profitt finds his father dead and then a few weeks later he finds his best friend dead. This is all within the first few chapters of the book. The dead friend, Billy, narrates the book before he died, and then continues to do so as a spirit. As a spirit, he can be anywhere and know everything that is going on. (the book banners will hate that a spirit is narrating the book!)

Eddie starts high school and is no longer speaking. His holy roller mother wants him to find Jesus, but he has no desire to find him. She starts inviting the Preacher over, Tarter, and they are trying to convince him to be Baptized. Tarter is also a teacher at the school where he has been making students miserable for years. Eddie is in a Modern Lit class with the school librarian, and they all have to read a Chris Crutcher novel, Warren Peece. Well, the religious fundamental people start to try to ban the book. They also control the school board, so the Chris Crutcher books don't stand a chance. Eddie plays a pivotal role in the whole ordeal, but I won't go into any further detail on that. You will have to read about it to see what happens.

I enjoyed this book so much. Whoever heard of an author becoming a character in their own book? It's awesome! I have to say that anyone that is unfamiliar with Crutcher's work will not fully understand where this book is coming from. Crutcher is frequently banned because he writes about real things, real problems, and it is all very true to life. But, people don't like reality sometimes, and they think that reading about something will make a teen go out and do the things they read about. Anyone who has read Crutcher knows that he writes with some curses (where they are appropriate, not gratuitously), and he writes about the way things really are. So anyone that has read his previous novels will understand this book. Certainly others will enjoy this book, too, but fans of Crutcher will get a little added enjoyment from it.


Monday, October 10, 2005

24 Girls in 7 Days ***

Bradley, Alex. 24 Girls in 7 Days. New York: Alloy, 2005.

Despite the questionable title, I bought this book. Now that I have read it, I am left scratching my head. Who is this book meant for? Let me explain the plot so you can understand what I mean.

First, the main character's name is Jack Grammar. Someone with a last name like that just has to be a total dork. The book opens up with Jack being egged on to ask out a girl to the prom-- the girl he has liked forever. She turns him down. His best friends Percy and Natalie cook up a scheme where they put a personal ad on the online school newspaper for him, looking for a prom date, without his knowledge. This leave Jack with 24 dates in 7 days, the 7 days leading up to prom. He hates the idea once he finds out about it, and he gets really angry. Adding to the confusion are the email from FancyPants, who seems to be his real soul-mate, but she isn't interested in being his prom date or even meeting with him. Of course, he has some real bad dates and stuff, and in the end he has to pick a date.

So this leaves me wondering--who wants to read this book? It is about a guy-- but what guy wants to read about a total tool who can't get a prom date? While it is pretty funny, yes, there aren't that many guys that want to read about the subject matter. So, this leaves me with the girls. I know girls will read books with main characters that are guys, so this book does have an audience. I would recommend it to anyone that enjoys funny books, or books about proms.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Prom ****

Anderson, Laurie Halse. Prom. New York: Viking, 2005.

I enjoyed this book quite a bit. A few weeks before the prom, the senior prom committee discovers that the prom advisor has gone off and stolen the prom money. Left with no money, it seems as if they aren't going to have a prom at all. Ashley couldn't care less since she has no interest in the prom and wasn't planning on going anyway. But, it is important to her best friend and some of her other friends. She jumps in to help her friends try to save prom.

Meanwhile, she has a lot of family drama going on. Her mother is VERY pregnant, and her father is always working on a home-improvement project that takes forever. Ashley wants to marry her boyfriend, who we see as a total loser, but she thinks is fabulous. She has no plans to go to college, and doesn't really know what she wants to do with her life. She is somewhat aimless in life and not sure where she wants to go in life.

The prom helps her focus and do something important for once. Obviously, the prom does happen (duh-- we know the book has to have some sort of happy ending.) The part of her journey through those weeks is what is interesting. The story isn't about the prom-- it is about Ashley growing up and finding direction in her life. Highly recommended to girls crazy about prom!

Monday, October 03, 2005

Invisible ****

Hautman, Pete. Invisible. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2005.

Doug is weird. He lives next door to his best friend is Andy, who lives next door. They grew up together and they talk to each other every night from their bedroom windows. Andy has become popular-- in the plays and the football quarterback, but Doug hasn't. He gets beat up and people think he is weird.

Doug has a lot of repetitive thoughts. He gets stuck on an idea and can't get off of them. He is also obsessed with railroads and trains. He is building a whole town out of matchsticks in the basement, with the tips rubbed off. He spends hours working on it. As the novel progresses, we start to understand that Andy isn't just a little strange; he is mentally ill. Because the novel is told in the first person point of view, we don't realize how ill until the novel almost comes to its conclusion.

I recommend this novel to anyone interested in reading a book about mentally ill people, particularly when the novel is told from the perspective of the mentally ill person. This novel reminds me a bit of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nite-Time, in that the affected person tells the story, so we aren't sure what is going on in their head and what is really going on. Highly recommended for anyone interested in the subject matter as well as anyone interested in stories that are a bit of a mystery, until all of the details are given at the end of the novel.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Shrimp ****

Cohn, Rachel. Shrimp. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2005.

This is the sequel to Gingerbread. It isn't necessary to read Gingerbread to read this one, although it would make it more enjoyable. Reading the first book will help the reader understand the whole journey Cyd has been on.

The previous summer, Cyd went to NYC to meet her biological father and her half-brother and -sister. Now she is back, and looking to hook up with her ex-boyfriend Shrimp. She can't find him, but she befriends a girl from her school, Helen. She also ends up befriending Autumn, who hooked up with Shrimp while Cyd was away. She has never really had friends before, but she ends up liking it. When Shrimp comes back, he only wants to be friends with Cyd, at least for now. Meanwhile, Cyd's parents get on her about filling out college applications, but she has no interest in going to college.

Fans of Gingerbread will enjoy seeing how Cyd grows after Gingerbread ends. I recommend readers read Gingerbread and Shrimp if they are interested in reading about smart, quirky characters.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

This Must Be Love **

Sutherland, Tui T. This Must Be Love. New York: Harper Collins, 2004.

I can tell you one thing that was NOT love-- my feelings for this book. Yuck. It took me 2 weeks to read it. I could only read 20-25 pages at a time. This novel is based upon A Midsummer Night's Dream by Shakespeare. The main female characters are Helena and Hermia. The story pretty much follows the plot of Midsummer, only in modern times. To add something interesting to the story, the play within the play is the school production of Romeo & Juliet. It is an all male cast, just like in Shakespeare's time. Hermia and Helena are involved with the production as is their male love interests.

This book is told in various ways. It is told in emails, notes to each other, and diary entries. While I usually enjoy books like this, particularly books where the reader gets multiple persepectives, I didn't enjoy this one. The characters were really quite annoying. Hermia would sign her notes to Helena with things like "cartwheels, pinwheels, waterwheels, Hermia". Huh? There wans't anything in the entire note about wheels, water, or anything. It was just annoying.

I would recommend this to anyone that likes Shakespeare, since they might enjoy the parallels between this books and the play upon which it is based. Anyone who likes sappy boosk with overly dramatic characters might also enjoy this one. But, most readers won't like it at all.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Who's Your Daddy? ****

Sandoval, Lynda. Who's Your Daddy? New York: Simon Pulse, 2004.

This was pure chick lit, but it was fun and entertaining. Lila and her friends Caressa and Meryl are part of the "Who's Your Daddy" club because all of their fathers have shaped who they are. Lila's father is the chief of police. Caressa's is a famous blues musician. Meryl's father is the school's disciplinarian and football coach. Because of their fathers, it scares off most guys they are interested in.

The three friends want boyfriends. They have a "Dumb Supper" which is a ritualistic meal that tells you who will be your true love. Things go awry. Lila gets into a little trouble, and her father makes her join the student Police Squad, which Lila calls the Junior Narcs. Caressa decides she is meant to be with a young musician, and writes him a letter saying her father wants to produce his next album. Meryl falls in love with a new student from Bosnia who is not interested in dating her because she isn't American enough-- Meryl's family doesn't have a TV and they don't watch movies.

The year progresses with many funny situations. Most chapters are told from the perspective of Lila, although some chapters alternate between Caressa and Meryl as well. There are no major issues here, just good fun reading about these three girls and their experiences throughout the year. The ending is really predictable, but readers won't care because the writing is so funny that they will be entertained regardless.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Cruise Control ****

Trueman, Terry. Cruise Control. New York: Harper, 2004.

This is a companion novel to Trueman's Stuck in Neutral. In Stuck..., Shawn is a regular boy, stuck inside his body that won't cooperate with him. He is intelligent and is able to think, but he is unable to communicate in any way. He has frequent seizures. He becomes convinced his father is trying to kill him.

In this novel, we get the perspective of Paul, Shawn's older brother. Shawn is a straight-A student, but he has problems with anger. He beats people up at the drop of a hat. He also hates his father, a Pulitzer-prize winning poet that abandoned him, his mother, sister, and Shawn, leaving them all to deal with Shawn without him. Shawn can't resolve his anger with his father so he takes his anger out on others. Shawn's dream is to get a basketball scholarship, but he feels that even if he gets one, he won't be able to leave his family. Shawn stuggles through growing up and what to do with his future, while also strggling with his love/hate he feels for his father and the pure hate he has for his father.

It isn't necessary to read Stuck in Neutral to read this book as it stands all on its own. Reading both, however, would be a better experience, to see what Shawn and Paul are thinking and feeling. Both books are short and easy to read. Most readers will enjoy this book.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Jude *****

Morgenroth, Kate. Jude. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2004.

While this books is supposed to be a young adult novel, it reads more like an adult book with a teenage character. Not that it matters as this book is fantastic. It had me on the edge of my seat, so to speak, from beginning to end.

Jude grows up with his father, who is an abusive drug dealer. He has always moved from place to place, but has been living in a Hartford slum for the last 2 years. His father is killed in their home while Jude looks on. He has to promise to never tell who it was, or they will kill him too. The detectives find some paperwork that indicates that Jude was kidnapped by his father when he was just three months old. He had always thought he was abandoned by his mother. It also turns out that his mother is DA for West Hartford.

Jude has a hard time fitting in with his mother and her boyfriend Harry. He also has problems at his new private school. He is asked to help some kids find drugs. While he doesn't sell drugs himself, he connects the kids with some people in his old neighborhood. Detectives, who are still trying to get him for his father's murder, see him with these known drug dealers.

Harry convinces Jude it would be a good idea to get caught selling drugs. His mother is running for mayor and looking tough on crime and drugs would help her case. Harry and Jude set up an elaborate scheme wherein Jude gets caught by his mother and then gets arrested selling drugs. Jude does this to help his mother, from whom he desperately desires acceptance. He is promised by Harry that once she is elected, they will get him out of juvenile detention. This do horribly awry and Jude ends up in the state penitentiary and Harry refuses to help him. Turns out Harry was just trying to get rid of him.

The story progresses from there, with Jude falling apart in prison and then finally building himself up. His goal is still to be accepted by his mother. For that, he needs Harry to tell his mother the truth, which is harder said than done.

Anyone that reads this book will be sucked into the story. Jude is a good person, who lived a hard life. He is flawed because he makes some silly mistakes and is too trusting of some people he shouldn't trust. But, all the same, Jude really is a good person in there, and wants to make something of himself. He is truly the underdog, and we root for him the entire time. All he really wants his entire life is love and acceptance, and it has eluded him for much of his life. Highly recommended for anyone that enjoys stories about crime and anyone that enjoys suspenseful books. This one is a litttle longer than most YA titles, but most readers won't even notice because they will be sucked in right away and have to get to the end to see how it ends.

Monday, August 29, 2005

When Dad Killed Mom **** 1/2

Lester, Julius. When Dad Killed Mom. New York: Harcourt, 2001.

I am glad I chose to re-reas this book. I remember enjoying it then and I enjoyed it again. This novels begins with Jeremy and his sister Jenna finding out that there father has killed their mother by shooting her outside a coffee shop. Jenna and Jeremy take sides and stop wanting to be around each other. Jenna takes her fathers side because she has always been a Daddy' girl while Jeremy was always with their mother. Jeremy remains in their mother's painting studio with their Grandfather watching over him. Jenna goes to stay with Karen, her mother's best friend and, interestingly, her father's ex wife.

Jenna and Jeremy start getting pulled in all directions. Their mother's parents live in San Franciso and want them to come and live with them, but they don't want to. They give up on that but then their other Grandfather gets deeply into their father's defense. The lawyer tries to get Jenna and Jeremy to testify that their parents fought all the time and that their mother was abusive to their father. While living in their mother's painters studio, Jeremy comes across his mother's diary. As he reads it, a lot of information comes out that changes things for everyone.

Each chapter alternates between Jeremy and Jenna which works really well for this book. Instead of a one-sided story, we get to see two sides and then see how they come together in the end. Highly recommended for all readers!

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Rainbow Boys **** 1/2

Sanchez, Alex. Rainbow Boys. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2001.

This is my 100th post! Wow. That's a lot of books. Just think- in between reading all the fiction books at work, I also read adult novels just or me that never even get reviewed on here!

I can't believe it took me this long to get to this book. I had heard good things about it from some gay students at school but just never got around to reading it. Each chapter alternates between the three main characters.

Jason is on the basketball team and has been dating his girlfriend for years, but he has feelings for boys and doens't know what to make of them. His father is a violent alcoholic that screams and shouts and insults him and his mother, including calling him a "faggot" when he doesn't act as he wants him to act. He starts hanging out with Kyle because he needs help in Math, but it goes deeper than that. Kyle is gay but isn't out to his parents. When his parents find out, they freak out, particulary his father. Kyle has had a crush on Jason for years and is ecstatic when Jason turns up at a gay/lesbian support group. Nelson is Kyle's best friend but is in love with him. He is a little self centered. He is out to his parents and the student body. After Kyle rejects him, he has an encounter with an older man that doesn't end how he wants it to end. There is alot of homophobia. Nelson is frequently called "faggot" and encounters violence all the time. Kyle is attacked as well. Once people start to figure out Jason is gay, he also experiences discrimination.

I really enjoyed this book. It is a very strong story because it is told from the persepctive of three different gay teens, so we get multiple experiences about the same topic all in one story. I highly recommend this book to anyone, but particulary to gay or lesbian teens or anyone interested in learning more about it.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Skud ****

Foon, Dennis. Skud. Toronto: Douglas & McIntyre, 2003.

What a great book. The cover artwork is very interesting and will draw readers in immediately. The story inside won't disappoint either!

Tommy is an honor student, and a model citizen; deep inside, however, he has a hard time controlling his anger. His current problem is Sheila, his girlfriend, who has dumped him. He is angry at her, but moreso at Andy, who he thinks she is now seeing. Tommy invites Andy to a fight after school. Andy is in the drama club and a bit of a dork. He wants to be an actor and spends a lot of time going to auditions. His mother is somewhat disapproving of him overall, and his father is dead. Brad is a hockey player that is stuck on steroids. He uses the steroids to bulk up. He is Tommy's best friend and his back-up in the fight. During the fight Shane inexplicably comes to Andy's rescue and ends the fight. Shane is huge, and was a part of a big gang that is very violent. Andy has no idea why he would want to help him. They strike up an unlikely friendship. Each boy has inner demons he is fighting and they all come to a head at the climax of the book.

This is a great book for male readers. First of all, it is told from the perspective of 4 different people, so it keeps things interesting. It is a great book, reading about 4 people that all have problems and how their lives all seem to intersect at the same time. Recommended highly for male readers.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Gifts ****

LeGuin, Ursula K. Gifts. New York: Harcourt, 2004.

Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows that fantasy is not my cup of tea. I have to say, however, that I enjoyed this book more than I could have ever expected. Orrec and Gry live in the Uplands with their families. Each family there has a special Gift. Families try not to marry out of their line so that their gifts aren't lost. Gry's family gift is the call animals. Gry refuses to use her gift as her mother uses it-- to call animals to her so that hunters can slaughter them. Orrec's family can undo things. They can undo things as simple as undoing a knot, or they can undo a life-- from killing trees to animals to people. Orrec's gift doesn't seem to come on when it should, until he starts undoing things he doesn't mean to undo. He is told that his Gift is "wild", meaning he can't control what he undoes. He takes to wearing a blindfold so he doesn't undo anything by accident.

There is warring and feuding families in the novel, particularly between Orrec's land and the land next to their land, owned by Ogge. Ogge steals some of their cows but then tries to betroth his Granddaughter to Orrec. Ogge invites Orrec's family to their home for a period of time, to betroth them, but things go awry, leaving more discontent between the lands and families. Gry and Orrec don't know what to make of their gifts, and neither want to use them, although without using their gifts they are essentially useless to their respective families.

The novel comes to a satisfying conclusion, although not one that will surprise the reader. Recommended for anyone that enjoys fantasy novels.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Girl, 15, Charming but Insane ***

Limb, Sue. Girl, 15, Charming but Insane.

This book was "just ok". I didn't have any problems with it; it was just a cute, fun, story.

Jess feels ugly and fat. She has a friend, Flora, that is pretty and gets all the guys. Flora starts to date Mackenzie. By some stroke of luck, Ben, Mackenzie's friend, starts asking Jess out, which thrills her to no end because she has been secretly in love with him forever. She also has a platonic friend, Fred, that will do anything for her. The book ends up involving a few potential love triangles, and really focuses a lot of Jess and all of the strange things that keep happening to her.

This book doesn't have any major social issues or anything going on, it is just plain fun, following Jess around and all of the situations she finds herself involved in. Anyone looking for a fun story, will enjoy this one. Anyone that likes a book with more substance should steer clear of this one. There are some loose ends at the end, particularly with regard to her father and why her parents split, which leaves things open for a sequel.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Big Mouth and Ugly Girl **** 1/2

Oates, Joyce Carol. Big Mouth & Ugly Girl.

This book alternates between the perspective of Matt, a popular student that is involved in the school newspaper, student council, and the drama club and Ursula, an unpopular and socially awkward basketball player.

Ursula thinks she is ugly, and calls herself Ugly Girl. She thinks no one really likes her and that everyone is calling her names. Her father is never home and her mother pays attention to her younger sister, and seemingly ignores Ursula.

At lunch, Matt and his friends were discussing whether or not his play would be selected to the Spring Drama club presentation. He jokes that if he doesn't get selected, "what am I going to do-- blow up the school?" At that time Ursula and one of her friends is walking by and hears them, and knows they are joking. Two other girls, however, contact the Principal and the cops come to take Matt out of his study hall class. He is interrogated to the point where he almost confesses just to stop the questioning. He is suspended from school pending further investigation.

Ursula comes to his aid by telling the Principal what really happened, backed up by her friend Eveann. Matt is then released and allowed to come back to school. No one wants to be friends with Matt anymore, and he is pretty much ignored, even by Ursula who saved him.

Eventually, Ursula and Matt strike up an unlikely friendship, which shocks everyone in the school. Everyone is even more shocked when they find out who were the two anonymous accusers on that fateful day.

I highly recommend this book to any high school student as it shows what can happen to a student with a big mouth that doesn't always think before speaking. It is also an interesting book, well written, and it is fast paced, to keep the readers attention.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Monster **** 1/2

Myers, Walter Dean. Monster.

National Book Award Finalist
Michael L. Prints Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature
Coretta Scott King Award

This book has won awards, but I don't think you should read it for that reason. No, you should read it because it is good.

It tells the story of Steven Harmon, an African American teen from Harlem, on trial for assisting in a robbery that turns into a murder. He is accused of being the look out, of going into the drug store first, to ensure there isn't anyone in the store, and then give the signall that it is ok to go in. Steve claims he wasn't even in the drug store that day. The book alternates between Steve's diary and a transcript of the trial. Steve, an aspiring filmmaker, tells the story of the trial is screenplay form, with close-ups, etc. This makes the book intersting as it isn't plain writing, it is a journal and a play all in one.

The size of this book has always put students off this book right from the beginning, but readers shouldn't worry about the length of the book. It is, indeed, 300 pages, but there is a lot of blank space, and the writing is very large, particularly in the diarty sections. I read this book in less than 2 hours. I recommend this book to anyone that doesn't like to read as it is fast paced and interesting, so it will hold anyone's attention.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Fallen Angels **** 1/2

Myers, Walter Dean. Fallen Angels.

This was one of the best books that I read, back in Library School. I loved it then and love it now that I have to read it again.

Fallen Angels details the life of a soldier in the Vietnam War, and others in his platoon. Perry is a black soldier that enlisted because he didn't know what else to do with this life. While he is in Vietnam, he worries about his younger brother and his alcoholic mother, back in Harlem. He befriends PeeWee, another black soldier from Chicago. Together, they try to survive the war while getting into many scary situations.

We know, of course, that there are going to be a lot of deaths. There is a lot of talk about wounds, and descriptive sections on how the various soldiers died. It is gory, but not gross. The story itself isn't just a war story. It is about Perry, PeeWee, and the rest of the people they come into . There are descrptive passages that really explain the various "battles" and ambushes they are involved in.

This book provides a snapshot into what it was like for many army troops during the Vietnam War. It is a great book for anyone to read that is interested in history, wars, and the Vietnam War in particular. There are many fiction novels about the war, but this one is aimed specifically at a high school audience, and it is particularly well written. I recommend it highly, especially to male readers.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Maus *****

Spiegelman, Art. Maus Vols I and II.

Despite the fact that these books (one book in 2 volumes) won the Pulitzer Prize, I would have never read these books if not forced to do so for the class I am taking. Am I glad I had to read them! These are graphic novels about the Holocaust. The books alternates between the present and the past. In the present, Artie starts visiting his father regularly, to learn about his experiences in the Holocaust. Vladic, his father, is a rigid man, and rather obsessive compulsive about not throwing anything away. He is also cheap. He is married to a woman and they don't get along; he got remarried after his wife, Anja, killer herself a few decades ago.

In the past, we see Vladic as a young man, just as the Holocaust is beginning. He meets Anja and marries her. His business is taken away and then there is a bit of time where he and the family try to escape being sent to the concentration camps. Volume 2 is about his experience in Auschwitz, where he isn't killed, but is used for skilled labor. He and Anja both manage to survive and the books shows them being liberated and, eventually, coming to the US.

I recommend this book to everyone. Anyone that likes graphic novels will like it. Anyone that likes war stories will like it. Anyone interested in history will like it. Anyone with any feelings at all will love it. This is a glimpse into the lives of one Holocaust survivor that is very interesting and informative.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time ****

Haddon, Mark. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.

This is an adult book appropriate for YAs.

This story is told from the perspective of a boy that is autistic. Chris lives alone with his father. One day he goes to a neighbor's house and finds her dog dead in the backyard, with a pitchfork through the body. Just as he picks up Wellington, the owner comes out and freaks out, assuming he has killed the dog. The police are called but nothing happens with it.

Chris, who is austic but also very gifted in mathematics, sets out to solve the murder mystery by talking to the neighbors. This is difficult for his since he doesn't like strangers, and he has limited social skills. Eventually, through his detecting, he discovers that his mother is alive, even though his father had told him she was dead. Years before she left them to go away wtih the huband of the woman that owned Wellington. Chris sets off on a trip to find his mother in London.

The story here is interesting and witty, seeing the story from the perspective of a teen with autism. It is not only entertaining but also shows what goes on in the mind of an autistic person. I recommend this to anyone that enjoys off-beat stories or is interested in autism.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Whale Talk ****1/2

Crutcher, Chris. Whale Talk.

I have always liked everything Chris Crutcher has written, and this is no exception. T.J. was a swimmer when he was younger, but he has spent his entire high school career avoiding getting involved in sports and extra-curricular activities, despite his natural ability. His favorite teacher, Mr. Simet asks him to join the newly formed swim team, he agrees. He then helps Mr. Simet recruit swimmers for the team. Have I mentioned here that the school doesn't have a pool?

TJ is mixed-- white, black, and Japanese. He manages to bring together a very different group of people that can't swim and sets the goal that they will all get letter jackets, which is highly prized at the school. The school bully, Mike Barbour, would be annoyed if anyone on the swim team got a jacket, so this fuels TJ's goal. Along the way, these unlikely teammates become friends and swimmers, against all odds.

There is another side-story in which a local racist (a friend of Mike Barbour) is abusing his girlfriend, who happens to have a bi-racial child that he also mistreats because of her race. TJ's parents allow her to stay at their home to stay away from him, but she has a hard time staying away from him, and the damage her daughter sustains gets worse every time he tells her she is dirty because she is part black.

Overall, this is a great book. The characters are all likable, except for the ones that you aren't supposed to like like Mike Barbour. The reader gets to like each of the guys on the team. You can see part of the ending coming from a mile away, but it is still enjoyable getting there. There is also a surprise at the end that readers won't see coming until they get there. Highly recommended!

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Iceman **** 1/2

Lynchm Chris. Iceman.

I read this book years ago when I first started at my job. I was glad I got to re-read it. It reminded me of what I liked about it so much and why I booktalk it all the time.

Eric is a hockey player from a dysfunctional family. His father is somewhat uncommunicative and all he cares about it hockey. His mother left the nunnery to marry his father, but she is miserable and isn't very communicative either. His brother Duane was into sports and the family star until he just gave it all up for his guitar his freshman year. After he gave up sports, his parents stopped talking to him and they treat him with open disdain. Duane is also a real smart ass. Eric has grown up angry and with no social skills whatsoever.

Eric has no friends, only classmates and teammates, none of whom are his friends. His only real friend is Mary, his pet lizard. He loves watching Mary eat live prey. His only human acquaintance is McLaughlin, the local mortitian. He likes to hang out a the cemetery and talk to MacLaughlin, and lay in the coffins somtimes. On the ice, he is cold and heartless. He is good, but he plays angry all the time, preferring to bang people up and get into fights than to play with real skill. He isn't a team player. The audiences at away games call him "animal".

Things come to a head when he comes across a player somewhat like himself that takes a bite out of his nose. He discovers he doesn't even like hockey? Will he keep playing? Will he ever make any friends? Will he ever LIKE when people touch him? You'll have to read it to find out.

Monday, May 02, 2005

The Truth About Forever **** 1/2

Dessen, Sarah. The Truth About Forever. New York: Viking, 2004.

Macy is a ball of nerves. Ever since her father died a few years ago, she strives to be perfect. She thinks that if she is perfect, it will make things easier on her mother. In the meantime, her mother works all the time and doesn't seem to have any time for Macy at all, although she doesn't realize how little she knows her daughter.

As the summer begins, Macy is upset because her boyfriend is going away to Brain Camp for 6 weeks. Macy is taking over his library help desk job, which he takes very seriously. The three girls she works with hate her and make it obvious they don't want her around. Meanwhile, she meets up with caterers at one of her mother's events and gets a job working events with them in the evening. Her mother doesn't like it at all, and wants her to spend all of her spare time studying for the SATs. Her boyfriend breaks up with her essentially because she doesn't take her help desk job as seriously as he thinks she should. He decides they should take a break and reevaluate after he gets back from Brain Camp. Macy ends up falling for one of the boys that she works with, Wes, which leads her to confusion because she can't decide if she wants the safe and perfect guy, or the other new guy that doesn't seem perfect right away.

I love this book, but it will have a limited audience due to its length. It is almost 400 pages long. It is also very deep. There isn't any fluff here-- the book is very serious and deep. This doesn't mean that it isn't enjoyable, though. It is very well-written and enjoyable. I recommend it for anyone looking for a deep book that makes you think.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Bro ****

Peck, Robert Newton. Bro. New York: Harper Collins, 2004.

This is a historical fiction novel. Tugwell has been mute ever since he witnessed his Grandfather commit gruesome acts six years ago. Then a few years after that, Tug's older brother Broda goes to prison for being an alcohol trafficker. Now Tug and his parents are going back to Florida to visit his Grandfather, who is scared of. While his dysfunctional parents have an arguement in the car, they don't realize that a train is coming and that they are on the train tracks until it is too late. His parents are killed but Tug survives.

He is taken to his Grandfather's ranch where his Great Aunt Lulu will be staying and watching over him. Needless to say, this scares him since he has never met Lulu and he is scared of his Grandfather. Lulu is wonderful to him but he has to overcome his distrust of Grandpap. Meanwhile, while in prison, Bro finds out about Tug's situation and plans to break out of prison to help his brother out.

I throughly enjoyed the story and recommend it for any reluctant readers. The book is short, so it will appeal to people that "don't like to read", particulary male readers. The characters are all interesting and sympathetic, except the parents that die within the first 10 pages. Tug grows up and lot and learns so much just in a few weeks time. We see real growth in him and learn a little about sacrifice and life along the way.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Shooter ***

Myers, Walter Dean. Shooter. New York: Harper Collins, 2004.

This novel reminds me a lot of Myers' Monster in format. The book takes the form of a report from the Harrison County School Safety Committee, which includes psychiatrists, psychologists, FBI agents, etc. The committee's purpose is to determine the status of safety in the county's schools after a school shooting the previous year. The novel takes the form of transcripts of interviews with Cameron, then some newspaper clippings and other documents, and finally culminating in diary entries from Leonard.

Leonard is the student that shoots and kills 2 students and wounding more before turning the gun on himself. The people interviewed after the incident are his girlfriend Carla, who has some issues herself but wasn't involved in the shooting. Most of the interviews are with Cameron, Leonard's best friend who was with him during the shooting.

This novel, like Monster, is interesting because the reader has to fill in a lot of information themselves. All there is in most parts is dialogue, with no narrative in between to explain what the characters look like, what they are doing, etc. There is a lot left to the imagination, which some readers will enjoy and others will find annoying, depending on their reading preferences. I would recommend this to anyone that is interested in books that revolve around crime or anyone that enjoys books that get deeply into the psychology of its characters.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Year of Secret Assignments **** 1/2

Moriarty, Jaclyn. The Year of Secret Assignments. New York: Scholastic, 2004.

This was a great book. It is about three friends, Lydia, Emily, and Cassie, who attend a nice school. They are hooked up with three students at a neighboring school in a required pen pal project. This doesn't go over well because the girls think that all the Brookfield High kids are bad and criminals, etc. The boys aren't overjoyed to be writing to girls from Ashbury, who they think are snobby and rich. It turns out they all hit it off in their letters and all decide they want to meet up after awhile. The only roadbump is that Cassie's pen pal, who was initially rude to her but finally warmed up, keeps standing her up, and then he is purposely cruel to her. Then the other 2 girls discover through their pen pals, that there isn't even a Matthew Dunlop that goes to Brookfield. This makes the two girls and their pen pals join together to find out who is teasing and hurting their friend.

Toward the end, there is a lot of vandalism in each school, believed to be in retaliation between the schools because of their rivalries. Lydia, Cassie, and Em are accused of being the perpetrators of the vandalism at Brookfield, even though they claim they are innocent. We aren't really sure as readers if they are innocent because they are pranksters, and it is believable that they would do such a thing. They have to prove they are innocent before they get expelled.

The entire novel is told in the form of letters to each other, journal entries, notes, and various other forms of communication. I thought it would hard keeping up with who was who, since the point of view changes often. There were a few times when I had to think to myself "Is Cassie the one with the dead father or the one who is high strung?" but I figured it out quickly enough since the writing style of all 6 characters is quite distinctive. My favorite is Em who uses big words, but uses them all wrong. It is amusing, but will be lost on readers that dont' know what the words mean in the first place.

This is supposed to be a companion novel to Feeling Sorry for Celia, which I recall enjoying a few years ago. I went on Amazon to see the reviews, and the characters are all different. I think the only similarity that makes it a "companion novel" is that the novel also centers around the same pen pal project, only with different characters.

I highly recommend this witty novel.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants *****

Brashares, Ann. Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. 2001.
The Second Summer of the Sisterhood. 2003.
Girls in Pants: The Third Summer of the Sisterhood. 2005.

The book I just read is Girls in Pants, but I thought I would review the whole series, since this is the third in a very popular series. The series is so popular that there will be a movie coming out this summer based upon the first novel.

The first book is based upon the unlikely premise that all four of these girls were born in the same month. Their mothers were friends in lamaze class and they became friends early on playing together. Then, the unlikely part is that they have all stayed close all throughout school, even though they are all very different from each other and have different interests. You have to suspent disbelief as far as that goes and just go with it, since the story itself is really great.

The book starts with the girls facing their first summer apart ever. They are going to be in different places-- Greece to see family, soccer camp, stuck at home with noone else, etc. They have a pair of jeans that miraculously fits them all, and they agree to send them to each other all summer without washing them so that they can have a connection. Again, you have to suspect disbelief that 4 girls that are all different body types would fit into the same pair of pants. The novel is great because we follow four separate stories really, but they all come together in a few letters and with the pants.

The second and third novel continue the story. This most recent, Girls in Pants, details their last summer before leaving for college. They are all somewhat scattered and busy, but they stay friends through it all. I recommend this entire series. They are really quite good. I hope there will be at least one more summer for the sisterhood, after their first year of college. It would be interesting to see what happens to them all after they are separted and have new lives apart from each other.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Margaux with an X ***

Koertge, Ron. Margaux with an X. Cambridge, Candlewick. 2004.

I didn't like this book because I had a hard time figuring out what it was about. The writing itself was good, and quite advanced, but I am not sure where Koertge was going with it.

Margaux is really attractive. Her and her friends engage in a lot of attention-seeking behaviours. Most people hate her because she is so pretty and men like her just for her looks. She hates her home life because it is really toxic, so she looks for ways to get out of the house and away from her parents. She meets an unattractive guy from school, Danny. He works with the Humane Society, looking after the dogs. In his spare time he goes to homes to check on the dogs that were adopted out. He lives with an Aunt that is ill.

The novel centers around their friendship, but there isn't really much to it. There was so much more that we still don't know about these people. There wasn't that much action or dialogue. I am still a little puzzled. I guess I wish I learned more about these characters, since the book was about them. I left the book not knowing anything more about the characters than when I started.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Bound ****

Napoli, Donna Jo. Bound. New York: Antheneum, 2004.

The fairy tale Cinderella has been told all over the world. Most countries and cultures have a version of the tale of their own that is hundreds or thousands of years old. The Chinese version is similar to the Cinderella story we know. She lives with her step mother and step sister, who treat her like a slave. When the Springtime comes, there is a festival and the step mother wants to marry off her own daughter while not worrying about her step daughter. Like the story we know, she goes anyway, and loses a shoe. The prince goes around trying to find the girl whose foot fits the shoe. In this novel, the story is expanded to include more detail and inside thoughts. Xing Xing is "Cinderella". In the end, she gets her happy ending by marrying the Prince, and leaving her pathetic step mother and step sister in the dust.

I have taken a class that examined fairy tales and its versions, so I enjoy books like this one. I believe others would enjoy reading the story not just for the plot, but to see the parallels betweem this story and the traditional Cinderella story we all know.

As an aside, anyone interested in also reading a picture book version of the Chinese Cinderella version should read Yeh-Shen by Ai-Ling Louie. It should be available at all public libraries.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

One of Those Hideous Books Where the Mother Dies ****

Sones, Sonya. One of Those Hideous Books Where the Mother Dies. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2004.

After Ruby's mother dies, she has to leave Boston to move to LA to be with her father, whom she has never met. Her father left her mother before she was even born, but she has always known who he was-- Whip Logan, a famous Hollywood actor. She has no interest in living with him, but her younger Aunt can't take her in, so she is stuck moving in with her father. Her father immediately tries to be nice to her, but she isn't interested in it, and is rude to him as best as she can. Also complicating matters is the fact that she has to leave her boyfriend Ray, while there is another girl who is after him.

The book is mainly told in poetry. People who aren't fans of poetry shouldn't be deterred from reading novels written in poems. Once the reader gets used to the format, one forgets that it isn't written in regular book form. Also, in betweem the poems, there are occassional emails to and from her boyfriend and best friend. The emails themselves are a little annoying, since they use annoying nicknames for each other that change in each email. It is a little too cutesy for me.

There was some predictible moments in the book, but knowing a lot of what was going to happen didn't detract from the great writing. I recommend this book to most readers, even the ones who don't like poetry. I have also enjoyed Sones' other novels in poetry such as What My Mother Doesn't Know.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

The Au Pairs ****

De la Cruz, Melissa. The Au Pairs. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2004.

This is yet another novel that revolves around the lives of the rich and spoiled. The action takes place in the Hamptons. Three older teens take jobs as an au pair for the summer. Eliza once owned a house in the Hamptons until her father was arrested. They escaped NYC and moved to Buffalo. She takes the job as au pair with her father's defense attorney because it pays $10,000 and she can be around her friends again. She has to keep up the facade that she is away at boarding school and that she is really living with an uncle. She has a hard time adjusting from being the It girl to being the hired help.

Mara is a regular girl from Massachusettes that had never been anywhere. She has never been around rich people, but she needs the money for college. She leaves behind her boyfriend Jim who is a bit of a control freak and doesn't like her abandoning him. She is basically a fish out of water and has no idea how to behave around these people. In the meantime, her boss' older son is cute and seems to like her, but she is always thinking about Jim.

Jacqui is from Brazil. She met Luka, an American, and fell in love with him over the 2 weeks time he was in Brazil. After he left, he never called like he said he would. Since he said he summers in a place called "The Hamptons", she looked for a job like this so she can hunt him down and be with him. She is a real party girl and she is extremely attractive. She is always skipping out on work and can't even remember the kids' names.

All three girls have different experiences which really all amount to one big soap opera-like novel. It was quite enjoyable. Girls who have enjoyed Gossip Girl or any other similar novels will enjoy this one, too. There is a lot of fashion talk and name-dropping amidst all the drama and intrigue. There is also an opening at the end that leads me to believe there is a sequel in the making. This may turn into another popular series. Even without a follow-up, this one stands alone and comes to a satisfying conclusion.

*Update: A sequel is to be published in the next few months! Stay tuned!*

Update 8/3/05: The Au Pairs, Volume 2: Skinny-Dipping. I just finished the sequel. Any fans of the first book in the series will definitely enjoy this follow-up. The same characters are back! Jacqui and Mara are back as AuPairs and Eliza has taken a job at a hot new club as a hostess. A new male au pair is on the scene, Pierre, but he flakes and is never around, evne tough he is getting paid. There is a l0t of drinking and partying here, and a lot of romantic tribulations, but everything turns out well in the end.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

The V Club ****

Brian, Kate. The V Club. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2004.

This was a great book. In it, a local woman dies, leaving a sizable bit of money to the local high school for a scholarship. This scholarship would pay for 4 years of college. The winner not only needs good grades, but also community service and to be a virgin.

This scholarship is much needed by some of the students, four of whom are friends. Eva, who is shy, appears to be a shoe-in as she is a good student and has never even been on a date. Her friend Debbie wants to be a fashion designer, but her parents disapprove; she needs the scholarship to go to FIT. Kai also needs the scholarship. Mandy, who has money, also decides to throw her hat into the ring and forms a Virginity Club. As the novel progresses, we get to know each girl and her family. They each have things going on in their lives and the stresses start to pull their friendships apart, especially as they start to fight over the same guy, and over who should get the scholarship.

At first glance this book seems a bit shallow and frivolous. As I read it, however, I realized that each character was drawn really well and I got to understand each of them and what they were going through on the inside. We know that things are going to end on a happy note for all of the characters, because that is the type of book that it is. The happy ending doesn't feel forced or like the author just wanted to make a happy ending for the sake of it. I recommend this book for anyone who is applying to college, or anyone that wants to read a book about true friendship.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

The First Part Last *****

Johnson, Angela. The First Part Last. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2003.

Bobby is a typical teenager but everything changes for him when he finds out his girlfriend Nia is pregnant. Each chapter alternates between the present and the past. In the past, Bobby is finding out Nia is pregnant, telling their parents, and deciding what to do with this baby. In the present, Bobby is raising the child on his own, with no help, aside from his mother allowing him to live in her apartment. He exeperiences times when he wishes his life could go back to normal, and wishes he could get a full night's sleep.

This book is the recepient of the Coretta Scott King award and also the Michael Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature, both through the American Library Association. The author, Angela Johnson, is one of the best African American YA writers today. She won the Coretta Scott King award twice before this most recent win. This is a great book not just because it won some awards; it is great because it is realistic and well-written. The thoughts, feelings, and actions of Bobby are realistic and readers will identify with his even if they have not gone through this situation themselves. There is a twist at the end, too, that the reader will never suspect.