Saturday, April 21, 2012

"My Awesome/Awful Popularity Plan" by Seth Rudetsky

224 pages

Justin has two goals for sophomore year: to date Chuck, the hottest boy in school, and to become part of the in crowd. Unfortunately, there are a few obstacles in his way. First of all, Chuck isn't gay; he's dating Becky, one of the most popular girls in school. The outlook isn't that great for Justin's popularity, either. He has the wrong look (short and plump with a "Jew-fro") and the wrong interests (Broadway, violin, choir). His friends aren't exactly helping his social status, either: Spencer is into Eastern religions, and Mary Ann's hippie mom won't let her shave her armpits. Then, with a stroke of genius, Justin comes up with a plan to get his man and cool new friends...but of course things don't go exactly as he expected.

The basic content of this story is pretty standard young adult stuff, but (obviously) the protagonist's sexual orientation gives it a different perspective. It's great that we're seeing more LGBT teen lit these days, but there still isn't a ton. Anyway, Justin just completely cracked me up. I didn't care that the plot is predictable because I was having too much fun getting to know the characters. Sure, Justin is self-centered and kind of selfish, but who hasn't been like that at some point during adolescence? I still really liked and related to him. The ending is a bit too fairy-tale-like, and I think it glosses over the homophobia that would probably be there (especially at the end). However, it's a fun, entertaining story, and I enjoyed every page. 

"21: The Story of Roberto Clemente" by Wilfred Santiago

200 pages

This graphic novel begins with Clemente's childhood in rural Puerto Rico and follows him through his rise in Major League baseball. It depicts his awe-inspiring career as a right fielder for the Pittsburgh Pirates, the prejudice he faced, and his humanitarian mission. 

It took me a while to get into this story because it doesn't introduce new characters very well; it just jumps in and it's hard to keep up. However, I did get really interested about a third of the way in. The illustrations are fun and creative, and the book does a great job of covering all aspects of this incredible man's life. 

Friday, April 20, 2012

"The Malted Falcon (A Chet Gecko Mystery)" by Bruce Hale

128 pages

Wisecracking fourth-grade detective Chet Gecko and his trusty partner, Natalie Attired, have to restore the peace at Emerson Hickey Elementary yet again. This time, the stakes are high: a winning ticket for the Malted Falcon--the most yummy, scrumptious, gut-busting dessert ever--has gone missing, and it's up to Chet and Natalie to find it.

This is the first Chet Gecko book I've read, and I loved it! I picked this one up because it's the children's companion to my Library's Big Read selection, The Maltese Falcon, this year. I think it was the perfect choice, not only because it's (loosely) based on Dashiell Hammett's classic. The characters are likable, the pictures are fun, and it just cracked me up. It's really silly--don't read this book if you don't like puns!--but it worked for me. 

"Everyone Loves a Good Train Wreck: Why We Can't Look Away" by Eric Wilson

224 pages

The title of this book pretty much sums it up: Why are we so fascinated by evil, death, scandal, and other dark parts of life? What does this say about human nature? To answer these questions, Wilson consults biologists, sociologists, and psychologists, and also relates stories and examples from his own experience. He shares several different theories.  The traditional idea is that we all have a good side and a bad side; horror movies and gossip allow us to indulge our bad sides in (relatively) harmless ways. Wilson, however, concludes that there is value in the darkness itself, because without it goodness has no meaning. 

I just couldn't get into this book. The subject is really interesting, but it jumps around too much for me. It seems like Wilson is just randomly listing thoughts, with info from other sources thrown around to emphasize his points. There are a few good ideas, but a lot of it is repetitive. It wasn't a total waste of time, but I don't think I'll be recommending it to anyone. 


Wither (The Chemical Garden Trilogy #1)
by Lauren DeStefano
358 pages

In a not too distant future, males are dying at 25 and females at 20, due to a genetic mishap caused by previous generations.  To carry on the human race, females are being abducted right and left to become brides to wealthy males.

This is what happens to 16 year old Rhine, the protagonist.  Kidnapped and taken away from her twin brother Rowan, Rhine is taken from New York to Florida to become the wife of Linden, a wealthy 21 year old male.

Rhine becomes a bride along with two other girls: 18 year old Jenna and 13 year old Cicily.  While Rhine's goal is to become first bride, it is so that she can gain Linden's trust and escape.  During her time in Linden's mansion, Rhine becomes close with her fellow brides, and even closer to a male servant, Gabriel.  She also learns to fear her new father-in-law, Vaughn, who will stop at nothing to find a cure for the virus that is slowly killing his son.

I read this book based on a recommendation, and I actually liked it.  I'm intrigued to see what will happen in the next book.

The Lincoln Lawyer

The Lincoln Lawyer
by Michael Connelly
404 pages

Michael "Mickey" Haller is a California defense attorney for what some would call "the lowest of the low".  He operates out of his Lincoln Town Car (hence the nickname) that is driven by a fomer client working off his legal fees. Mickey's biggest fear is that he won't recognize an innocent man when he sees one. In his most recent client, wealthy real estate agent Louis Roulet, Mickey sees not only a "franchise case" (a case that will generate a lot of income and also, in the future, more high profile clients), but also quite possibly an innocent man.

As the case progresses, however, the similarities in Roulet's case and one that Mickey had tried to defend two years before (that landed his client in jail for life) force Mickey to question whether he's trying to protect the wrong client.

I read this book because I really liked the movie, and I was glad to see that the movie stuck very close to the book.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Amulet of Samarkand

by Jonathan Stroud
Read by Simon Jones
462 pages

This story takes place in an alternate form of modern London where magicians rule.  Nathaniel is a capable, ambitious apprentice who has been apprenticed to an inferior master named Arthur Underwood.  During the previous year, Simon Lovelace, a powerful magician, had been visiting Nathaniel's master.  During this visit, he demeaned Nathaniel, and Nathaniel has been plotting revenge against Lovelace ever since.  Nathaniel summons the sarcastic and antagonistic djinni Bartimaeus to help him steal the Amulet of Samarkand from Lovelace.  Bartimaeus is able to carry out this charge, but the theft has many unintended consequences.

This was great on audio.  Simon Jones really embodies Bartimaeus.  Jones is able to give the djinni just the right amount of sarcasm and haughtiness to make him come alive.  I wasn't a big fan of the end, but it was an enjoyable read overall.