Friday, January 30, 2009

Seven Paths to Death (2008)

Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler have written another in their series of mysteries that take place in medieval Japan. Seikei is the adopted son of Judge Ooka, a representative of the shogun and together they travel around Japan and solve crimes, ala Sherlock Holmes. In Seven Paths to Death they follow a trail of murders and kidnappings that have something to do with elaborate tattoos on the victims' backs.
Ninjas and samurais, peasants and land owners. We meet many types of people who lived in Japan at this time. As well as an action packed mystery, we get a taste of life at this time.
I recommend this book to fans of mysteries as well as historical fiction. Readers of Japanese samurai manga would also enjoy this book.
My rating for this book: ++++

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Streams of Babel (2008)

One of the fears that arose after 9/11 was how vulnerable we are to terrorist attacks and how one of the easiest targets is our water supplies. Carol Plum-Ucci has brought us a scary and exciting book which addresses this threat. Cora's mother dies of a sudden brain aneurysm but she figures it was due to the drugs she abused. However, when the mother of one of her neighbors also dies of an aneurysm, suspicions are aroused.
On the other side of the world , a 16-year old boy in Pakistan reads messages posted in chat rooms between suspected terrorists and passes them on to American intelligence. His reports make them aware of a threat code-named Red Vinegar.
How do these people come together and are they able to head off catastrophe? Streams of Babel is an exciting book which gives us a peek into the world of computer spying and bioterrorism. I highly recommend this book to science fiction and action lovers.
My rating for this book: ++++

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Savage (2008)

People find different ways to deal with the untimely death of a loved one. This book by David Almond (illustrated by Dave McKean) shows how a boy named Blue deals with the death of his father. A school counselor advises him to write about his loss and he ends up writing a story of a boy who lives like a savage in the woods near his house. The book alternates between the Blue's voice and the story he is writing. His spelling is atrocious but the words make sense if they are pronounced out loud. Mr. Almond comes from England so "football" means soccer and there are other words that are British.

"She laughed and said, 'Will you, now? What kind of job?'
I didn't have a clue, of course.
'One that'll get me loads of dosh,' I said."

This is a very touching and surprising book. I highly recommend it for a quick and satisfying read to practically everyone.

My rating for this book: ++++

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Spanking Shakespeare (2008)

Senior year in high school can be incredibly stressful for some students but few are as nerve-wracking as Shakespeare Shapiro's in this book by Jake Wizner. Shakespeare is very bright, creative, and sensitive. And he suffers embarassment at every turn. My favorite part of the book relates his first experience with marijuana. He forgot that he was going out to dinner with his family and aunt. He made a terrible mistake of asking his younger brother for help getting through the meal without getting in trouble. Oh, sure! The rest of the book has excerpts from his senior memoir which gives us insight into this tortured boy's endless succession of embarassing events.
While I loved Shakespeare's sense of humor and his fantastic creativity, I was a bit uncomfortable with the frequency of episodes of self gratification that peppers this story. In the end, he becomes concerned about a girl in his class who refuses to share information about her life. She finally shares that her mother had recently died and she is struggling to help her father and brother keep together in a very desperate situation. Rather than pity her, he tries to offer his help and tries to persuade her to accept help from others. Wisely, he knows that she should be taking care of herself and not shouldering her father's responsibility.
I would cautiously recommend this book to someone who likes to read about gutsy, creative people. I think a student might be embarassed to know I read this book so I will not admit to anyone that I read this. So, don't ask me about it!
My rating for this book: +++

Friday, January 9, 2009

What They Found: Love on 145th Street (2009)

Walter Dean Myers has writen many fantastic books such as Monster and Fallen Angels. A more recent addition to his list of hits is this collection of short stories about young people from Harlem. A teenager with a baby sees herself in a new light when an artist paints her picture. A young man learns a valuable lesson on his way to buying a gun. Another young woman gets a chance to be spotted by a college scout by playing in a men's game. A young man wants to buy his son a birthday present and holds up a lady in an alteration shop. What all of these stories have in common is Harlem. What we learn from the stories is how desperate life is and how life does go on.

I recommend this book to everyone. Hope and love are hard to find but the people in these stories are given small gifts that could lead to better lives. They show that we all may be so lucky and need to pay attention to what's happening around us every day.

My rating for this book: +++++

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Caliber (2009)

The artwork of Garrie Gastonny and the story by Sam Sarkar go together to make this retelling of the Arthur and Merlin tale an amazing book. Set in the old west, Excalibur the sword becomes Caliber the six-shooter (don't you just love the pun?) and Merlin the magician is a shaman named Jean Michel. Arthur is Arthur and accidentally discovers that he is the only one able to use Caliber. He goes on to fight evil always standing up for the law, never giving in to feelings of revenge.

The artwork is positively stunning. The glossy heavyweight pages help make the detail stand out vividly. The only warning I have for readers is the graphic violence. However, the story and the era it is placed in were violent so it is to be expected.

I recommend this to all graphic novel fans and to readers looking for an interesting twist on an old story.

My rating for this book: +++++

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Paper Towns (2008)

John Green has already been recognized for Looking for Alaska which won the Printz Award for Young Adult books. Paper Towns is about a high school senior, Quentin, and the girl who lives next door, Margot. She wakes him up in the middle of the night and draws him in to helping her wreak havoc on her ex-boyfriend and other classmates. The next day, she vanishes. The police officer that interviews Quentin mentions that she previously left clues when she ran away but they were unable to find any this time. Quentin is intrigued, however, when someone pulls down the shade in her bedroom (across from his bedroom) and there is a poster of Bob Dylan taped on the outside. This message takes him on a quest to try and discover where she is hiding, if she is indeed still alive.
I recommend this book to mystery lovers, both boys and girls. The road trip that Quentin and his friends take is a bold, desperate attempt at finding Margot and binds them together.
My rating for this book: ++++