Sunday, April 30, 2006

Soldier's Heart ****

Paulsen, Gary. Soldier's Heart: The Story of the Enlistment and Due Service of the Boy Charley Goddard in the First Minnesotta Volunteers: A Novel of the Civil War. 1998.

This book should be popular for anyone looking for a short book. While the intended audience is middle school, a high school student interested in the subject matter would also enjoy it.

Charley joins up in the Civil War despite the fact that he is only 15. He is trained and shipped out to War. He sees many battles and amazingly manages to stay alive. The novel focuses on particular battles such as Bull Run and Gettysburg and explains them pretty well. After reading the novel, the reader should have a better understanding of the Civil War and what it was like to be in battle.

I recommend this book to anyone that enjoys historical fiction, particularly war stories. While many historical novels about war detail life at home, this one tells what life was like for the soldier fighting the war. While there is a good bit of death, the deaths are dealt with without any gory detail so readers will not feel uncomfortable reading it.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

At First Sight ****

Sparks, Nicholas. At First Sight. New York: Warner, 2005.

This is an adult book appropriate for YAs.

Jeremy lives in NYC and makes his living writing a column for Scientific American and various other freelance jobs. He meets Lexie while researching one of his articles. He falls in love with her at first sight. Crazily, he proposes to her within weeks. He gives up his life in NY and moves to rural North Carolina to be with her. They buy a house and plans for their life together. She is also pregnant, but they had fallen in love before that. Their relationship is somewhat rocky before they walk down the aisle, fraught with misunderstandings and silly arguments. You wonder if they will ever make it down the aisle.

In typical Sparks fashion, the book will lead you to inevitable tears. For anyone unfamiliar with Sparks, his books are basically emotional romance novels. Sparks isn't for everyone. Only those that like romance and emotional books should bother with this one.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

The Perfect Shot ****1/2

Alphin, Elaine Marie. The Perfect Shot. Minneapolis: CarolRhoda, 2005.

This is a great book for lovers of mystery and suspense.

The previous year, Brian's girlfriend, Amanda, her brother, and mother are all shot to death in their garage. At the time, Brian is in the cul-de-sac playing basketball but didn't see anything. Now, a year later, her father is on trial for their murder, but Brian isn't convinced he did it as he recalls something that did happen that day that might prove his innocence.

Meanwhile, Brian is in the middle of a basketball season. His friend Julius is arrested and roughed up by the cops after getting lost in a white neighborhood. All of the basketball players are also paired up with people in history class to learn about certain events in history and give a presentation on whether or not we have learned from history. Brian has to work with dorky Todd who ends up being a good partner. They have to research a trial of a man wrongfully convicted of murder and report on whether or not we have learned from faulty police investigation and prosectution.

It is somewhat hard to believe that all of these events happen to be be occurring at the same time-- the trial, the assignment, and Julius' wrongful arrest. Still, without all of these coincidences, there wouldn't be a novel! I recommend this novel to anyone that enjoys suspense and mystery stories. This is a long book so a casual reader would probably not want to read it. Also, while there is basketball theme, this isn't a basketball novel, so fans of sports fiction may not like it. There isn't much court action going on here.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Double Helix ****1/2

Werlin, Nancy. Double Helix. New York: Dial, 2004.

This book received a starred review in SLJ. I have to agree that this was quite a good book. I have to say, however, that I was expecting something different. Because of the title and cover, I expected a medical/scientific type thriller. While it was, I wasn't expecting as much characterization. The book goes into the characters' emotions and motivations. The story was less about genetics and more about the characters.

Eli lives with his father in Cambridge. He is about the graduate HS but is putting off college for a year, despite being salutatorian. He has a strained relationship with his father. His mother is in a nursing home with Huntington's Disease and is dying. He has been dating Viv for a year, yet she has never met his father and has no idea his mother is dying. Eli gets a job working at a lab with the mysterious Dr. Wyatt, who has a connection with his family, but he doesn't know what that is. Eli's father begs him to not work there, but refuses to tell him why he doesn't want him around this Dr. Wyatt.

Things come to a head all at once. Eli breaks up with Viv and his relationship with his father becomes even more strained. Eli starts to put pieces together after his mother dies which leads to him trying to figure out what the mystery is at the lab that it is clear his father and Dr. Wyatt are both trying to hide.

Highly recommended to fans of suspense and science/medical themed fiction.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Heroes ****

Cormier, Robert. Heroes. New York: Laurel Leaf, 1998.

I enjoyed this book when I first read it, so I decided to read it again to refresh my memory of the plot and characters. This book alternates between the present and the past. In the present, Francis is a veteran, just returning from WWII. He had stepped on a grenade and blown much of his face off; therefore, he must wear a scarf and this leaves him unrecognizable. His goal is to get revenge on Larry LaSalle, who raped the girl he loved before also shipping off to War. In the past, we see Francis meeting and falling in love with Nicole. The neighborhood Rec center opens with Larry as the head, teaching the guiding the youth of the community. And, then, Larry raping Nicole one night while home on leave from the Army.

You have to feel sorry for Francis. His parents are dead. He never got the girl he was in love with, and he didn't reall y have much in the way of self esteem and friends. He comes home to see Nicole and she and her family has disappeared. He doesn't have a face. It's all very sad. The novel is gripping and you really get inside Francis' head. This novel is also short, so it might be a good choice for a reluctant reader although it should be noted that this novel is less plot-driven and more character-driven, so it might turn some reluctant readers off. Overall, a good choice for all readers.