Saturday, May 14, 2011

"Lucky" by Alice Sebold

272 pages

In this memoir, the bestselling author of "The Lovely Bones" and "The Almost Moon" describes the vicious rape and beating she suffered at the hands of a stranger and how it affected her life. After the assault, which happened when she was an eighteen-year-old freshman at Syracuse University, she went on to testify against her rapist. In the years that followed, she struggled to recover from the attack and adjust to the reactions of her family and friends.

Sebold is brutally honest about the details of the rape and how it devastated her and those around her, and watching her overcome the psychological effects is incredibly inspiring. However, I was just bored throughout a lot of "Lucky." Yes, I know that this makes me sounds like a horrible, unsympathetic person, but there it is. I felt like a lot of things were rehashed over and over. I found myself skimming over a lot of it. I think I would have liked it better as a shorter book or even a longish essay. Or maybe I just wasn't in the right mindset to read it right now.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

We Were Here by Matt de la Pena

I liked this story.  I'm not so sure it will appeal to the average teen or the average anybody, for that matter.  I found it a very moving story of a young boy, Miguel, who winds up in a group home for something he did which isn't revealed (well, not revealed by the character) until the end of the book.  Over the course of the book Miguel discovers a lot about himself as he builds relationships with a couple of other young men who go awol from the group home and attempt to make their way to Mexico.
Kim F

"The Maze Runner" by James Dashner

379 pages

Picture this: you wake up one day not knowing where you are and you can't remember anything about yourself except your first name. You're in a bizarre enclosed structure with a jail, a graveyard, a slaughterhouse, living quarters, and gardens. It's called the Glade, and there are no adults around, only adolescent boys. And here's the kicker: there's no way out. Outside the Glade is the Maze, and every day some of the kids -- the Runners -- venture into the labyrinth, trying to map the pattern of walls in an attempt to find an exit from this hellish place. And, oh yeah, those walls shift every night. So far, no one has figured it out. On top of all this, the vicious Grievers--part animal, part mechanical killing machines--roam the Maze at night, killing or maiming anyone unfortunate enough to get in their path.

Thomas is the newest arrival to the Glade. As soon as he arrives, weird things start happening, and the others grow suspicious of him. Though the Maze seems somehow familiar to Thomas, he's can't put it all together. He senses that his missing memories are the key to figuring out how to escape the Maze before time runs out.

This story sucked me in right away. The author does a really good job of creating the feeling of fear and frustration that Thomas feels as he's thrust into this weird situation. Everything is so bizarre that I didn't want to stop reading because I was so curious about what was going on. The quick pace kept me on my toes the whole time. As much as I got into the story, I was sort of disappointed with the ending. To avoid giving too much away, I'll just say that I feel like some things don't really make sense and are a little too convenient. Of course, this is the first of a series (the second book is already out and the third is supposed to come out on October 12), so everything might make more sense later. One thing is certain: this series is going to make me think about a lot of things (particularly the value of the individual versus the good of society) and I always like that.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Killer Angels

by Michael Shaara
p 355

To participate in the Big Read this year, I chose The Killer Angels, by Michael Shaara. This Civil War story is centered around the 3 day battle of Gettysburg and wonderfully recreates not only the strategic planning and execution, but also a personal reflection of war by soldiers from both sides. The author does a credible job of recreating the sentiments and horrors of this brutal war as seen through some of the major players for the South, Robert E Lee and the North, General Meade and those that served directly under them.
Gettysburg was the deadliest battle of the civil war with over 50,000 casualties. The summer heat and destruction of artillery left the rolling hills of Pennsylvania scorched and filled with the stench of death. Shaara's narrative is a history lesson that reads like fiction. Even if you are not a Civil War enthisiast this book will keep you captivated from the first page.
Giving it a Rock and Chalk - good reading and informative, but at times a little hard to follow all the action.

May Challenge!

Thank you to Jeannine B.  for suggesting the challenge for May. You will receive an extra participation point for reading a nonfiction title. Oooooh!

Red Glove (Curse Workers Book 2)

Holly Black
336 pages

In Red Glove we return to the life of Cassel Sharpe not long after White Cat ended. Cassel thought everything was finally sorted out then his Mom trying to be helpful used her talents to make Lila love him. The problem is he really loves Lila and doesn't want to take advantage of Lila in this state. Instead he goes off to Atlantic City for the Summer with his Mom. He is relieved when school starts again and he can get back to "normal" life. Of course for Cassel there is no normal. His brother Philip has been killed and FBI agents are questioning him. Can Cassel figure out who killed his brother before they can?

I really enjoyed this sequel by Holly Black. I really like Cassel's character and how he interacts with his friends. The mystery is a great backstory to the intricacies of his life.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Bi-curious. Volume 1, Serenity by Natalie Weber

For a straight girl, Serenity is surrounded by lesbians. Her older sister, college roommate etc… While her boyfriend Rock would love for her to be more “curious”, Serenity is certain she ain’t like that. Uh huh. When she meets Sadie, the lesbian version of every player you’ve ever known, her fantasies get the best of her and they begin an affair.  As we all know, first comes lust then comes lots and lots of complications.

Urban lit with a lesbian twist is a new trend I’ll be the first to admit I’m still adjusting to it. There is plenty of urban drama here and the requisite, “Oh girl, what DO you think you’re doing?”  This is a quick read with a lot of sex. Despite the lesbian slant-it felt very straight with male sexual terminology(with no men present) and strictly defined roles for the women characters. The story is predictable and a few pages in it will be clear what is going to happen.  However, Natalie Weber is the sister-in-law of Carl Weber so expect demand. 2011, 288 pages.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

"Patient Zero" by Jonathan Maberry

421 pages

Joe Ledger is a Baltimore detective who has just been secretly recruited by the government to lead a new task force created to deal with the problems that Homeland Security can't handle. This rapid response group is called the Department of Military Sciences or the DMS for short. His first mission is to help stop a group of terrorists from releasing a dreadful bio-weapon that can turn ordinary people into zombies. The infection spreads like wildfire, so the fate of the world hangs in the balance...

This story is a little too dense for me, and I felt like some of the info was redundant and/or too detailed and could have been left out. That said, I enjoyed it. I've read lots of zombie books, but not many with the perspective of government officials who are trying to contain the disease. I also like that this book gives us readers the perspective of the bad guys, so we get hints of the some of things that are going to happen without getting the whole picture. The plot is more complicated than it seems at first, which kept me on my toes.


by Steve Martin
(2000 | 130 p)

"She moved from Vermont hoping to begin her life, and now she is stranded in the vast openness of L.A. She keeps working to make connections, but the pile of near misses is starting to overwhelm her. What Mirabelle needs is some omniscient voice to illuminate and spotlight her, and to inform everyone that this one has value, this one over here, the one sitting in the bar by herself, and then to find her counterpart and bring him to her."

Shopgirl offers a glimpse into the mismanaged lives of Mirabelle, Jeremy, and Ray Porter.

Mirabelle, a self-proclaimed artist, is depressed, medicated, and lonely. She's 28 and works the glove counter at Neiman Marcus. On very rare occasions she draws; her artwork is stunning and bleak. She worries. Mirabelle moved out to L.A. to find her self.

Jeremy is 26 and stencils logos onto amplifiers for a living. He sees this as art. Jeremy has no ambitions and absolutely no clue. Today is all that matters to Jeremy. He meets Mirabelle at the laundromat and they have a short and awkward courtship.

Ray Porter is a recently divorce millionaire and is nearly twice as old as Mirabelle. He's a genius and socially sophisticated, he's also terribly self-absorbed. He is intently looking although he's not certain what he's looking for. Ray Porter is kind and vulgar. He takes more than a passing interest in Mirabelle.

This novella is subtle. Steve Martin uses his trademark dry humor to make the isolation and incompetence of these characters not only palatable, but enjoyable. Ray Porter's coarse language and near adolescent sexuality makes an oddly appropriate paring to Mirabelle's insularity. Jeremy's eventual metamorphosis sets the tone for a book that is, ultimately, about growing up. Captivating.

The Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever

by Julia Quinn, 373 pages

Miranda has known she's been in love with Turner (he hates his given name, Nigel) since the day she met him, back when she was nine and he nineteen. Years have passed, as has his disastrous marriage to a heartless cheat, but Miranda can't seem to get him out of her heart, despite the sad change a hard life has wrought in him. Can she bring back the Turner she first knew and, this time, keep him for her own?

This is an earlier companion title to Quinn's What Happens in London, but I don't think it holds together quite as well. The main characters read somewhat inconsistently and not as clearly defined individual personalities. And while there is a lot of snappy dialogue, it doesn't necessarily feel like it belongs to the individual speakers nor does it always come off as appropriate to the situation. This one perhaps tries a little too hard to be melodramatic and witty at the same time, making it a little manic instead of pleasantly complex (What Happens in London just lumps all the melodrama at the beginning and end, so the middle holds together better and makes up for it--not a perfect solution, but an improvement, nonetheless). I think the story outline itself is fine, but for whatever reason its execution just doesn't work for me.

Maybe Quinn is working the bugs out and honing her characters and style as she goes along? If so, I'm looking forward to reading the latest in the series just to see if its main character, Sebastian, is as complex and colorful as he promises to be from the glimpses we get in WHiL.

13th Boy: Volume 4

by SangEun Lee, 180 pages

A brush with true danger gives Hee-So a chance to remember more about her childhood relationship with Whie-Young, learning a little something about herself in the process. Likewise, Sae-Bom takes her first steps toward trying to grow up as Won-Jun re-examines his past and present emotions and determines to move forward, too.

Uh-oh, our little love quadrangle, once so neatly uniform in its direction (and one-sided for everyone), is getting a little messier. Goody! Where will all this emotional progress lead? And what of poor cactus-boy? Isn't it really a love pentagon? :P

XxxHolic: Volume 12

by CLAMP 185 pages

Watanuki is having a harder and harder time differentiating dream from reality and is starting to fear that the latter may not even exist...or at least that he may not exist within it. But he has the love and support of his friends and has learned to value himself for the sake of those he loves. He contemplates all they do for him and decides he wants to return the favor. What wish can he grant one whose life is given to granting the wishes of others?

Even the reader's not sure when Watanuki is asleep and when he's awake...or if there's a difference. But as he realizes what he does and doesn't know, what he does and doesn't experience, the reader is surprised to discover she, too, has missed many obvious clues. Clever, clever, CLAMP.