Saturday, September 10, 2011

America's Boy by Wade Rouse

Product Details

I went to college with Wade and while I didn't know him well, I remembered him having a sharp wit which could be cutting.  My mental picture of him is a somewhat heavy kid with glasses who wore an oversized knit sweater...a lot.  When Wade's book came out, I told myself I would read it someday.  It caused a bit of a stir because he was publicly announcing he was gay.  No one who really cared about Wade minded that he was gay but a number of people were upset that he wasn't able to be honest about it. 
I thought Wade's book was wonderful.  He paints a picture of growing up different in a small, rural community, finding comfort of sorts by stuffing himself with food.  At one point he talks about how it was more acceptable to be fat than to be gay.  His portrayal of family members is poignant and sometimes downright hilarious.  His honest picture of what it was like when he gave up food and embraced exercise, finally admitted his sexual orientation and his first forays into dating as a gay man and his ultimate discovery of Gary, the love of his life are told with self-depricating humor and frankness.
Ultimately, Wade's family accepted him in ways he didn't realize until he came to terms with his own feelings about himself.  We all have family issues but Wade's book showed his family realistically but lovingly.  That's not easy to achieve.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Shadowrise (Shadowmarch: 3)

by Tad Williams
(2010 | 564 p)

Things have gone from bad to worse in Southmarch castle. The usurper Tollys are still on the throne and the army of Qar camped outside the front gate are getting restless. To add insult to injury, the insane Autarch of Xis has taken an unhealthy interest in Southmarch and its royal family. Barrick Eddon remains lost behind the Shadowline while his twin sister Briony searches for allies in a far away foreign court. Their father, King Olin, is still a prisoner and unable to help. All the while, the gods are starting to wake up.

 For the sake of full disclosure let me admit right now that I have a literary crush on Tad Williams. Dropping into one of his stories is better than mulled wine on a frosted evening. Scrumptious. Shadowrise was no exception. I do, however, feel the need to point out one burr in my happy Tad Williams epic fantasy saddle. I am weary of homosexuals in epic fantasy forever being either evil/corrupt or overtly lascivious. This is common in epic fantasy and in this case Williams is no exception. Either leave the sexual orientation piece completely out of the story or allow some healthy, mature homosexual relationships to exist as well. I want to be able to love my fantasy escapism without feeling like I'm betraying my morals. And end rant.

With that out of the way I do still recommend this series. Tad Williams is truly a master of story weaving and world building. Two of my very favorite things.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

August Stats

It is sad but true, we lost again. St. Charles beat us up badly in both books and pages read. University City beat us in pages. Three of them read War and Peace! I know, right?

Feel free to threated and or coerce your fellow staff into participating. We only have four more months!

August 2011 Winners

Total books read: 106
Total pages: 31,526
Total staff contributing in August: 13

Most books read:
Jenny 34
Heather 16
Sarah 13

Most pages read:
Jenny 7555
Cathy K. 4864
Heather 4638

Participation points:
Jenny 35
Heather 22
Sarah 14

Random Winner:
Kim F.

"Darth Paper Strikes Back" by Tom Angleberger

159 pages

In "The Strange Case of Origami Yoda," we are introduced to goofy sixth-grader Dwight and his origami Yoda finger puppet, which dispenses stunningly awesome advice and wisdom. Some of Dwight's classmates, led by Tommy, put together a case file of Origami Yoda evidence to determine whether he is really tapped into the Force or not. It's up to readers to make the call after reading the file. Now, in "Darth Paper Strikes Back," the kids have moved on to seventh grade but Origami Yoda is helping as many kids as ever. All is not well, however: Darth Paper has been brought to life by mean, grumpy Harvey, and he's dead set on bringing McQuarrie Middle School to the Dark Side. That means taking out Origami Yoda. Darth Paper's scheming leads to Dwight getting suspended from school and possibly kicked out forever! That would mean no more Origami Yoda, and chaos would reign. Tommy and the others have to convince the school board not to expel Dwight. Here we have the collection of stories they gather to prove that Origami Yoda is a crucial part of their school.

I love "The Strange Case of Origami Yoda" so much that I didn't think there was any way the sequel could be as fantastic, but I was totally wrong! If you ask me, "Darth Paper Strikes Back" is just as charming and hilarious as the first book. I love the seventh graders and the way they believe in Origami Yoda and talk to him just like any other classmate. They totally made me nostalgic for my younger years. And, of course, Origami Yoda himself is as funny and wise as ever. The ending seems predictable at first and then there's a nice unexpected twist at the end. Overall, I just love the way this book made me laugh and gave me the warm fuzzies. I want more Origami Yoda!

After the Golden Age by Carrie Vaughn

pp304 by Carrie Vaughn
What can I say about this one?  It was a quick read..would be good for an airplane ride.  There was a light mystery, a lighter love story and a bit of family redemption thrown in for good measure.  Celia is the daughter of superhumans, who've spent their adult lives fighting crime as vigilante heroes.  But Celia has no powers.  After a stupid stunt in her teens, she is estranged from her parents for years until "the trial of the century" begins and Celia discovers the reason for her parents' amazing powers and eventually does her part to "save her city."  The book is listed under the FANTASY section but it would probably fit MYSTERY better or SCI-FI, maybe. 
Kim F

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

"Attack of the Fluffy Babies" by Andrea Beaty

176 pages

When 11-year-old twins Joules and Kevin arrive at Camp Whatsitooya for the first time, they expect typical summer camp activities: crafts, hiking, canoeing, swimming, etc. Before long, though, they realize that something sinister lurks in the woods of the camp. Turns out, it is a group of sugar-addicted, murderous, seven-foot-tall rabbits from another galaxy who had to leave their planet when their sun burned up. They're on a mission to take over the world, and only Joules and Kevin stand in their way.

I loved this cute, silly book! There are plenty of groaners in here, but I laughed out loud a bunch of times. I especially enjoyed the mini comic books scattered throughout the text. Good stuff!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

"Lies (Gone #3)" by Michael Grant

447 pages

In the first two books of the Gone series, the coastal city of Perdido Beach, California, is suddenly enclosed in an impenetrable dome and everyone over the age of 14 disappears--and the kids continue to disappear at the exact moment they turn 15. What ensues is basically "Lord of the Flies" with some "X-Men" mixed in. Kids start turning against each other and some develop bizarre powers. In "Hunger, the second book, reluctant leader Sam Temple thinks he and his allies have defeated the gaiaphage (the evil supernatural creature with the power to corrupt minds) as well as inhumanly vicious Drake, but now in "Lies" it seems that the Darkness is stirring again. Brittney, who was killed and buried, has apparently risen from the dead. Kids keep claiming to have seen Drake lurking around. Meanwhile, Sam's twisted brother, Caine, and his cronies are hiding outside of town, running out of food, and getting desperate. To top it all off, a "Prophetess" has appeared and claims that all the kids who die or "take the poof" when they turn 15 will be reunited with their parents. As usual, everyone looks to Sam to keep things together, but this time it might be more than he can handle.

I'm getting more and more into this series despite my feeling that some bizarre things are thrown in just for shock value. However, it is certainly interesting. I like that although Sam is the leader, he needs his friends' help in order to make things work. The religious angle that came out in this one interests me, as I can't tell where it's going. As out-there as this series is, I am looking forward to finding out what happens.

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Taoism

by Brandon Toropov and Chad Hansen
(2002 | 272 p)

This guide to Taoism was actually a step above what a complete idiot might need. The authors were both well versed in philosophical speak and, purposefully or not, peppered the book with it. I'm not complaining, though. I thought it was quite a bit of fun.

This book tries to cover the big picture of Taoism, including history, literature, how it impacts worldviews and politics, and even its influence on pop culture. It took me a little longer to read because I kept getting inspired to stop reading and look things up. Many of the websites they mention are now defunct, but the ideas are timeless.

I gave this book 3 stars (out of 5). I would have liked to have given this book 4 or even 5 stars. Unfortunately, the mod-ness that made it so cutting edge in 2002 only made it look a tad out-of-date by 2011. A prime example being the many (many) references to various GeoCities websites. But I guess the "Complete Idiot's Guides" are not lauded for their timelessness. Maybe they'll release an updated Toaism edition one of these days?