Saturday, March 24, 2012
by Sara Gruen
Jacob Jankowski is "20 or 23" when he joins the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show after his parents are killed in an automobile accident. Having almost graduated from Cornell University (his parents were killed the week of his exams) with a degree in veterinary, Jacob is recruited as the circus's veterinarian. While part of the circus, Jacob becomes friends with a quirky group of people, falls in love with a beautiful circus performer, and learns how cruel some people can be--to both animals and people alike.
I loved that the narrator was an older Jacob. His wit and sarcasm was infectious. There were lots of twists and turns to this story, none that I saw coming. Such a good book!
In Across the Universe, Amy woke up from a cryogenic sleep on the spaceship Godspeed...only she was fifty years early. She and her parents were supposed to be unfrozen when they reached the new planet they'd spent hundreds of years traveling toward. However, someone thawed her early, intending to let her drown in her container. Luckily for her, she's found and rescued by Elder, the teen who has been raised to be the next leader of the three thousand or so residents who work to keep the little world on Godspeed going. Amy and Elder finally solve the mystery of the mysterious person who unthawed her and uncover many other secrets along the way, but their troubles are far from over. In A Million Suns, Elder is finally in charge. He's taken everyone off Phyus, the drug that kept them complacent and obedient to whatever their leader tells them. He wants to let everyone think for themselves, but he soon realizes that free will isn't all it's cracked up to be. Some people stop working and others rebel outright. Meanwhile, the ship is having mechanical problems, and then Elder and Amy discover the biggest secret yet--and it's something that will affect the rest of their lives and the fate of everyone on board Godspeed.
In some ways I was disappointed with this sequel, but I still enjoyed it overall. I didn't like the scavenger-hunt thing Amy had to go through to find out the big secret, as it just didn't make sense. Why wouldn't Orion have just told Amy outright what was going on? Okay, maybe he was worried about the info falling into the wrong hands. But why not leave her a note where only she could find it? After all, if she could solve the clues, someone else could too, and he was taking a big risk in gambling that she'd figure everything out. That aside, I did get into the book and have trouble putting it down. There's lots of action and multiple problems that Elder has to deal with, which sets the pace as the chaos builds and builds and finally erupts. There's a huge twist that totally shocked me, as well as a cliffhanger at the end that has me anxious for the next book, Shades of Earth, to come out next year. This is a great series for reluctant sci-fi readers. It's got some fun outer-space aspects, but it's not very technical and the focus is on the story rather than the setting.
On October 31, 1984, Indira Gandhi is gunned down by two Sikhs. This sparks riots in Delhi for three days, and Sikh families are killed in retaliation for the Prime Minister’s death. It's pretty bad timing for sixteen-year-old Maya and her Sikh father, Amar, who have just arrived in Delhi from their home in Canada to spread the ashes of Maya's mother, who was Hindu. When Maya and her father are separated, she has to try to find him in this strange, very dangerous world. Along the way, she witnesses unbelievable horror but also finds love in an unexpected place.
First of all, I have to comment on the format of Karma. It's written in verse, and I wish it hadn't been. I know I say this in every review of a novel in verse, but I just don't see why it's written this way. When I read parts aloud to myself, it sounded just like a regular book. The language isn't particularly poetic. There's nothing unusual done with the structure. The format just distracted me. Also, the story is supposed to be a diary, so to me it seemed like there were two gimmicks going on. Maybe I'm just not sophisticated enough to "get" novels in verse. That said, I still enjoyed this book. Maya is a likable character who many readers will relate to. She's always struggled to reconcile the two parts of her heritage, Sikh and Hindu, and before her mother's death her parents were always pulling her in two different directions. Then she gets to India and is thrown into all this chaos and terror, and it just overwhelms her...and all of this happens while she's still trying to deal with her mother's death. She's definitely not perfect and she makes some mistakes, which actually made me like her more. The romance part is a little too much for me; Maya and Sandeep are both young and just met but they fall in love immediately, which is annoying and unrealistic. I wish their relationship grew more slowly and was less intense. However, I enjoyed the rest of the story. It's got enough action to make it move along quickly, and a lot of heart as well.
In this memoir, Michael J. Fox shares the personal philosophy that got him through some of the toughest years of his life. In 1991, he was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. As his condition got worse, the beloved actor found himself having more and more difficulty performing roles that used to come easy to him as well as doing daily tasks that most of us do without thinking twice, like brushing teeth and tying shoes. In the late 1990s, Fox went public with his disease and began to campaign for Parkinson's research funding. While many applauded his efforts, he was also attacked for his advocacy of stem cell research. In addition to giving readers a glimpse what it's like to have Parkinson's, this memoir has a lot to share about staying positive in the midst of adversity.
I've always liked and admired Michael J. Fox as an actor, and after reading this I am just as impressed with him as a real person. I was amazed by how down-to-earth he seems in "Always Looking Up." He's good at clearly stating his views without showing disrespect for those who oppose him. He could easily be bitter about those who attack him, but instead he stays calm and doesn't resort to the tactics some of his opposition does. He's also very humble and realizes that as a celebrity with tons of money he has an easier time than the average Parkinson's patient. He not only has a personal investment in stem cell research, but he's also done lots of research on the topic so he knows the science to back up his personal experience. The chronology of his story is a little hard to follow, as he jumps around a lot. Still, it's interesting to hear about where is path in life has taken him, and his story definitely put things in perspective for me and made me appreciate my health, which I often take for granted. Super-inspiring!
After being diagnosed with a gluten intolerance, I of course put every book on being gluten free on hold! (A librarian loves to research!)
The G-Free Diet is a short and quick read. It's very much written as a survival guide to living gluten free as the author shares her tips and how she has lived with a gluten free diet for several years. Her tips were practical and down to earth and I found the book to be a nice introduction to what I can eat and what I can't. I especially liked the tips on dining out and list of restaurants that have a gluten free menu, as that's been the trickiest aspect of a new diet. I don't know that I really learned anything new from the book that I hadn't already read elsewhere, but she had some good advice and it made me feel a bit more confident about my new food requirements.
There are two sides to every story. That's the premise for each of the short stories in this collection-paired up with male and female authors to tell each side of the story. Some stories are about the first meeting, some are about the relationship, and some are about getting to know each other again. Each pair tells the story from both sides-what was each person really thinking?
Friday, March 23, 2012
In the futuristic world in which "Feed" takes place, people connect to the Internet (they don't call it that, but that's what it seems to be, for all intents and purposes) via digital chips implanted in their brains. Almost any information imaginable is accessible with a simple thought, and consumerism has reached new levels due to the ability to make purchases just by thinking and the constant bombardment of peoples' minds with advertisements. Things have always been good for Titus and his friends, but that all changes with what was supposed to be a low-key trip to the moon during Spring Break. There they run across a crazy hacker who makes all of their feeds malfunction, giving them a glimpse of life without the feed. And, on the same night, Titus meets Violet, a beautiful girl who has a big problem that makes Titus realize that the feed--along with many other parts of the society he knows and loves--has some big drawbacks.
It took me a while to get into this book due to all the slang words Anderson made up. It makes sense that in the future people will talk differently than we do, but having so much futuristic jargon this story still bugged me because I had to focus more on figuring out what words meant instead of the story itself. Still, I did really get sucked in after a few chapters. I didn't particularly care for most of the characters because I thought they were selfish and didn't seem to grow or change their attitudes as much as they should have. However, I did like Violet. She's caught between her poor upbringing and her new rich friends in a world where the digital divide is bigger than ever. In the story, about 30% of Americans don't have feeds. Violet's family had almost no chance of getting out of poverty because her parents couldn't compete for good jobs when the majority of people had instant access to information that they did not have. This definitely got me thinking about our society and how the gap between the rich and the poor is growing, and how technology affects this. The story also made me think about the effect of technology on Americans in general: decreased attention spans; the constant need to be engaged with a digital device; isolation due to lack of human contact; and more. And, of course, consumerism is a big issue here. The ability of the feed to categorize individuals' desires and do such effective targeted marketing is pretty creepy, and it creates a nation of people who almost blindly consume whatever the feed puts in their minds. Another scenario that serves as a warning about the rapid pace at which new technology is developing and how adoringly it is embraced. In sum, I didn't care for the actual plot of "Feed" very much, but because the setting held my interest and gave me lots of food for thought, I thought it was definitely worth reading.
Thursday, March 22, 2012
Translated by Carol Brown Janeway
Read by Campbell Scott
The Reader is short but complex. This novel, set in post-WWII Germany, deals with the complex relationship between Michael and Hannah. Michael is fifteen, and Hannah is in her late thirties when the novel begins. Generational differences, Hannah's Nazi involvement, and Hannah's secret complicate their relationship.
This is one of those novels where I am afraid to say too much. This is a thought-provoking novel that deals with a lot of complicated topics. Obviously, inappropriate sexual relationships is one topic this book explores. This book also deals with German's first post-war generation coming to terms with the crimes of their parents. It also deals with Hannah's secret, which is also a complex societal problem.
I listened to the audio version of this book. Campbell Scott is a great narrator with a smooth voice that is easy to listen to. However, I think I would have appreciated this book more in print. This is one of those books that you really need to think through as you are reading, and I just don't feel that audio allows you to do this as well.
Overall, this book is witty and insightful. It's a great read for grades 7-10, but has many elements that even adults would enjoy. It's definitely one of those books that makes you re-think stereotypes.
by Ally Condie
When Cassia turns 17, she attends a banquet to learn who the Society has matched her with for marriage and for life. Anticipating a stranger, Cassia breathes a sigh of relief when she is matched with her best friend Xander. But just as quickly as she sighed with relief at the banquet, she gasps in shock when her match card at home shows her a different face...that of Ky.
This tiny error makes Cassia not only question whether she is meant to be with Xander, but also the Society.
After falling in love with "The Hunger Games", I thought I'd give another YA book a try. I knew this one was pretty popular, and now I know why. Loved it!
Monday, March 19, 2012
It's the 1920s, Frankie Pratt has just graduated high school, and she now owns a scrapbook that she is putting to good use and telling her story. From school, to graduating and trying to find a job, romance, and a trip to Paris, this novel is fun and charming and unique. The style is that of a scrapbook-with vintage photos, ads, and memorabilla on every page. Over the course the years, we see Frankie grow up and while the text is minimal, the story is told in such a way that it feels like we get a full story. This is a quick read and it's lots of fun-highly recommended!!
Two teens who should have died from a strange outbreak of a flesh eating disease. Instead Odd and Polly survived-Odd without his leg and Polly with scars on her face. Both have left their old lives behind and are struggling to figure out where they fit in. So a road trip and fishing are in their future of course-maybe they can find some answers along the way.
This is a documentary novel about the life of Lewis Michaux, a man who found his calling when he opened a bookstore in Harlem. Lewis found the need for a bookstore that featured works by African Americans and his bookstore soon became a place of gathering and refuge. His story is told through the point of view of Lewis and those around him.
Take graffiti artists, mistaken identity and one wild night at the end of school, mix it with a touch of Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist and you've got Graffiti Moon.
Lucy wants to find Shadow-a graffiti artist she's always admired. She only knows him by his artwork, but she's sure that he's the perfect boy for her. Instead of being out looking for Shadow, Lucy is stuck with Ed, the boy she had a disastrous date with a few years earlier. Ed couldn't be further from the idea of Shadow Lucy has in her mind, but our ideas don't always match reality and Lucy and Ed are in for one crazy night!
If you work with tween readers who love fairy tales, Gale Carson Levine and Shannon Hale, make sure you are stocking Diane Zahler's books in your library. Her fairy tale retellings are the perfect books to get into the hands of tween readers looking for exciting fantasy. I'm always impressed with Ms. Zahler's descriptive worlds and attention to details. Her cast of characters are always memorable and enjoyable and Princess of the Wild Swans is no exception.
Ms. Zahler has a skill at packing a lot of detail and plot into a short book and keeping the story moving. She's also a master of showing and not telling her readers. Meriel starts out as a bit of a stuck up princess who honestly is a bit rude and yet has a wonderful transformation and she learns to trust others and accepts the help of those around her. This never is a heavy handed message, but is instead woven nicely into the storyline as Meriel needs to rely on the townspeople around her to help free her brothers. Instead of looking at them as "common folk" she has to accept that they have something to offer her. There's also a nice story about one of Meriel's brothers falling for a girl in town, Riona, who is a half witch and all that they face because they are not of the same position.
There is a nice mix of magic, friendship, family and loyalty to make this a wonderful fairy tale. I wanted to be part of the town because the cast of characters was just so fun. I would love a visit to the apothecary's shop and getting to know Riona and her brother Liam and learning more about their garden. This book was like taking a trip to wonderful world that felt new and familiar at the same time. I would love to visit it again!
If you're a fan of fairy tales, Princess of the Wild Swans is a book to add to your reading pile. I can't wait to hand this one over to my avid tween readers!
Suzanne Selfors handles all this in a masterful way. The book never gets too sad or sappy, but Boom learns that his family is important (even if they can be a bit annoying at times) and the merbaby helps Myrtle and Mr. Broom with their loss and fear of leaving the house. And as I mentioned, there is lots of humor to the book. The Brooms live on a small island that is filled with a cast of zany characters. From the Viking descendants, to the mean bullying Mumps, to the pet store owner who knows fish have feelings, this book has a lot to leave readers laughing. (And yes, I did love the mention that because Myrtle knows so many facts, she has a future as a reference librarian!)
This is a fun fantasy with lots of heart and I would give it to readers who enjoy a touch of fantastical in their books.
The editor behind Flight is back with a new anthology of comics for tween readers. This time, authors take the idea of a mysterious box and translate that into their own story. Some of the stories are good, some fell a bit flat and were too short. That's always the problem of short story collections though. The artwork is great and I love that it's full color.
Marcie's mom has made her up and move and leave all her friends, and her cute boyfriend, behind. Her father left her mother for a younger man, her mother is depressed and Marcie is feeling lonely. So when she meets JD and he shows an interest in her, Marcie allows her crush to take over. But she can't break up with Linus who's back home-he's too sweet and she can't do it over the phone. But what if Linus is gay like her dad because he never wants to go as far as JD? And why does being a teenager have to be so confusing?
A compelling novel in verse that doesn't shy away from tough topics and relationships.
The New York Times bestseller by Suzanne Collins is now a major motion picture -- and this is your guide to all of the movie's excitement, both in front of the camera and behind it. Go behind the scenes of the making of The Hunger Games with exclusive images and interviews. From the screenwriting process to the casting decisions to the elaborate sets and costumes to the actors' performances and directors' vision, this is the definitive companion to the breathtaking film.
More prep for the movie. Still mad that basically the same photo stills and etc. are being used again & again, not much more offered here, than what we see in the trailers, website and etc. Even Effie’s outfit she’s in to promote the nail polish line is the same one we’ve been seeing. At least I don't have to wait too long to see it all!
Here is the ultimate guide to the twenty-four Tributes participating in Panem's 74th annual Hunger Games. Follow the Tributes' journey from the Reaping to the Games, with a look at all the highlights along the way--the Tribute Parade, the stations of the Training Center, the interviews, and more. Get exclusive information about the Tributes' strengths and weaknesses, their weapons of choice, and their experience in the Capitol before entering the arena.
Prep for the movie. It’s amusing -- it’s told from the Capital point of view.
Cape Refuge, a Georgia island, has always been a safe place for the broken and downtrodden. Many people come to Hanover House to start a new life, including many convicted felons. Thelma and Wayne Owens have dedicated their lives to the Hanover House ministry and helping those who are broken and downtrodden. When they are found murdered, the whole community is shocked, especially their daughters Morgan and Blair. Morgan's husband is soon arrested when the police discover that he is the owner of the murder weapon, though there are serious doubts about his guilt, especially since Hanover House is currently housing other potential suspects. Blair, who is also the town librarian, and Police Chief Cade work to solve the murders and make Cape Refuge safe again.
I now understand Terri Blackstock's popularity. This novel is definitely a page-turner. I do have a few quibbles about her portrayal of public records all being easily accessible in electronic databases, but other than that, it was a good novel. Christian mystery is definitely a good choice for people who don't like the coarse language of regular mystery novels. However, Blackstock's characters weren't all squeaky clean like you see in some Christian fiction novels, either. I liked her engaging writing style and will probably read more of her novels in the future.
As a big fan of the Walking Dead, I was really excited about this book. It disappointed me, though. I expected to learn more about the Governor before the undead began to walk, but there's not much of that. Although he experiences some horrifying things in the world of the undead, it seems unlikely to me that a normal person could become such a monster from this alone; I thought there'd be something from his past that would come up. There's a big twist at the end that I liked, although it too didn't really make sense. I hear that this is supposed to be the first book in a trilogy about the Governor, and I hope the rest of the series provides some more of the background and explanation that I'm looking for.
Sunday, March 18, 2012
Madeleine, Theo, Lulu, and Garrison thought they'd gotten over their phobias after a summer at the School of Fear. When they got home, however, they all learned that their fears were more ingrained than they realized. Sure, they made progress, but Madeleine still has to coat herself in bug spray to keep insects away; Theo is compelled to check on his family members dozens of times a day because he's afraid someone will die; Lulu can hardly ride in an elevator due to her crippling claustrophobia; and although Garrison may act like a surfer, he's still deathly afraid of getting in the water. Mrs. Wellington has been spying--oops, I mean, checking up on them, so she knows they've regressed, and she insists they return to School of Fear for a second summer. The kids are looking forward to seeing each other, but the addition of an annoying new student who's afraid to be alone threatens their fun. Then they get the bad news that due to Mrs. Wellington's unconventional teaching methods, the school might be shut down. Maddie, Theo, Lulu, and Garrison can't let that happen...but stopping it will require facing their fears like never before.
This is a fun, cute follow up to School of Fear, although I think I liked the first one a little more. The plot is a little more far-fetched with this one, but I still really liked it. The characters are as charming and goofy as ever (though I'm sure they'd be pretty irritating in real life), and the way they interact with each other cracks me up. I enjoyed learning more about one of the mysterious characters from the first book and getting to know Mrs. Wellington's background a bit. The story ends with a bit of a cliffhanger, so I'm looking forward to reading the conclusion of the trilogy.
Evie finally has the normal life she’s always longed for. But she’s shocked to discover that being ordinary can be . . . kind of boring. Just when Evie starts to long for her days at the International Paranormal Containment Agency, she’s given a chance to work for them again. Desperate for a break from all the normalcy, she agrees. But as one disastrous mission leads to another, Evie starts to wonder if she made the right choice. And when Evie’s faerie ex-boyfriend Reth appears with devastating revelations about her past, she discovers that there’s a battle brewing between the faerie courts that could throw the whole supernatural world into chaos. The prize in question? Evie herself. So much for normal.
A bleeping fantastical sequel!
In the long-awaited conclusion to the bestselling saga of Abbey and Caspian, readers finally learn the truth about Kristen's untimely death, the dark destiny that links Abbey to Caspian and ties them both to the town of Sleepy Hollow, and the hard choices that Abbey must make if she is to accept Caspian's love and their unexpected fate. Beautifully spun, emotionally gripping, and irresistibly romantic, The Hidden will leave readers breathless.
Got answers in a one page rant from villain. Not all, but most. Other than making me obsessed with Sleepy Hollow, don’t know if I’m compelled to recommend this series.
After a summer spent reclaiming her sanity and trying to forget the boy she fell in love with--the boy who must not exist, cannot exist, because she knows that he is dead--Abbey returns to Sleepy Hollow, ready to leave the ghosts of her past behind. She throws herself into her schoolwork, her perfume-making, and her friendship with Ben, her cute and funny lab partner, who just might be her ticket to getting over Caspian once and for all. But Abbey can never get over Caspian, and Caspian has no choice but to return to her side, for Caspian is a Shade, and Abbey is his destiny. They are tied not only to each other, but also to the town of Sleepy Hollow, and to the famous legend that binds their fates--a legend whose dark truths they are only beginning to guess....
Still didn’t get answers.