Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Fallout by Ellen Hopkins

Fallout by Ellen Hopkins
This is the third book in a series about the tragic consequences of methamphetamine use based on the experiences of the author's own daughter. The first two, Crank and Glass chronicle Katrina's drug use, rehab attempts, and failed relationships. Fallout tells the story from three (of five) of her children as they each try to find their way without a mother. One boy and two girls (one didn't even know she had a sister) make their way to their grandmother's house for Christmas and along the way we learn about their attempts at relationships, living in foster homes, flirting with alchol, and generally wondering how much of their problems can be attributed to their mother's drug use or are simply dealing with life like everyone else.

Reading at least one of the first two books will help the reader understand Katrina a little and see that her children were nothing more than a byproduct. They have to live knowing that their mother had no interest in them and there is the true tragedy of this devastating drug. It does not just affect the health of the user but everyone who comes in contact with her.

My rating for this novel in verse: ****

NaNoWriMo 2011

After one failed attempt at novel writing, I am trying it again alongside some of our best and brightest students. I finally came up with an idea for a YA novel that involves dolphins. I've checked out some books from the library and am furiously studying the latest information about dolphin/human interactions and dolphin behavior.

As they say, you should write what you know and so I am basing my story on a very brief encounter I had with a dolphin when I was about 10 years old. Four of us kids were splashing and making all kinds of racket in the water when two fins came up out of the water and went back down. Our first  thought was sharks so we hightailed it back to shore screaming. Someone calmed us down and asked us if each creature had one or two fins which came out of the water. When we realized that they each had one (the dolphin's tail is flat) we learned that we had missed an opportunity to visit with dolphins. It turned out that a scientist that was studying communication with dolphins had his lab around the corner from our bay and our visitors may have been attracted from there by our noise.

Visit the NaNoWriMo website at if you are a student interested in writing a novel in November or if you are an adult. Join the fun!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

I Have a Kindle

Despite all my protestations that I didn't like or want any type of ebook, my dear husband bought me a Kindle. I love knowing how well he listens to me. He wishes now that he had known about the Kindle Fire but that's OK. He bought me the model with 3G which means that anywhere I am I can click onto Amazon and with a single click, own and start reading a book. Crazy dangerous is what I call it. Fortunately I have stacks of books all over my room which I am determined to read some day.

The first book I purchased was A Trick of the Light because I couldn't wait for a copy to be available at the library and I really couldn't afford the price of a new book. It's taking me a while to "bond" with my new toy. One of the things I'm not at all crazy about is not having a beautiful color cover to enjoy. Another nerdy problem is not having page numbers. Instead I have a progress bar at the bottom which shows a percentage of completed pages.  Somehow 75% is not as satisfying as 750 pages. It might seem silly but I miss having two pages to read. Somehow moving my eyes up and down and my head left and right feels better than just up and down.

Along with the Kindle I got a cover with a cute little built in light, necessary since the Kindle isn't backlit. I used it once for fun and it works nicely.

I'm on my second book now and I seem to be more oblivious to the new format. I still have all those piles of books to read, however, and I don't plan on completely giving up on paper books any time soon.


Oops! After I updated everything I never came back. Here's what's been happening.
A Storm of Swords by George R. R. Martin

This continues to be a very violent series. Each chapter brings us to a different character so we see what is happening in different locations pretty much at the same time. My sympathies lie mainly with the Stark family. Arya is trying to get back to her mother, Jon is trying to stay alive north of the Wall, Sansa is trying to hook up with a nice person who will take care of her, Rob is trying to fill his father's shoes and get his kingdom back, Bran is trying to get back home, too, on the back of a one word giant, and Catelyn is trying to find what's left of her family and get them back together. I decided I needed a long break after reading the 1,000+ pages of this book to allow my soul to relax and repair. Oof!  My rating for this book: ***1/2

A Trick of the Light by Louise Penny
Three Pines #7
This is the latest installation of the excellent mystery series that takes place in a tiny town in the Quebec province. What makes this series so amazing is the character development. Over the series the reader has come to feel like they really know the inhabitants and we feel horror and fear when it seems like one of them could be the murderer. The investigator, Chief Inspector Gamache, is the best listener, allowing information to join clues and impressions to help him form an accurate picture of what happened. And if, along the way, the reader learns a little about the art world, all's the better.
My rating for this book: ****

Under the Mesquite
by Guadalupe Garcia Mccall
I requested this ARC hoping that it would be a good addition for the school library since it featured an immigrant Mexican family, like so many here. Lupita is the oldest child of a family that spends its working and attending school in Texas and visiting family in Mexico. Things go along just fine until her mother develops cancer. Even after treatment it returns and for a while Lupita was the head of the family while her father was with her mother at the treatment center. At times the family was without food of any kind and the children would go to their friends' houses and hope for the best. One of the problems I had with this book was how everything conveniently and predictably got solved. For instance, an ice cream truck broke down in front of their house which helped feed them that day. Yeah, right! This book was presented as a novel in verse but it felt to me that was a convenient way to stretch the book out from a novella to a respectful number of pages. My rating for this book: **

Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick
Oh, my goodness, was this a fantastic book!!!! I was totally captivated by the story which started in two parts, 50 years apart, one illustrated and one in text. Both characters were deaf and left their homes searching for something in New York. The illustrated pages zoom in and out and give you the feeling you are watching a movie. One of the settings is the fantastic Natural History Museum in New York City. Please treat yourself to this book. My rating for this book: *****

Rise the Euphrates
by Carol Edgarian
I bought this book at the San Francisco Library book sale. It gave me an introduction into the history and culture of the Armenian society. They are the original Christians living in the shadow of Mt. Ararat in Turkey, and who have been persecuted throughout history by Islamic Turks. Casard was a young girl when the Turks massacred her family in a genocide known as the Indignities. She suffered guilt all her life because she let go of her mother's hand when the women and children of her town were forced to jump into the Euphrates
River. She managed to survive, grew up in an orphanage, made her way to America where she married a Russian Armenian and had one daughter named Araxie. Araxie disgraced her family by marrying an orad, an outsider, and had three children. One of these, was a girl named Seta who is the narrator of the story. Casard's grief and guilt was felt down through the generations and had different effects on everyone. The story dragged for a while when Casard died, she was such a dynamic personality, but I persevered and finished the story. It was like The Joy Luck Club but with and Armenian family instead of a Chinese family. My rating for this book: ***1/2

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Return, part 3

This is the rest of the books that I have read so far this year:

Luminous by Greg Egan **1/2
LIE by Caroline Bock ****
The Maze Runner by James Dashner ***
The Scorch Trials by James Dashner ***
The Hunchback Assignments by Arthur Slade ****
The Dark Deeps by Arthur Slade ****
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling ***** (duh!)
Death of the Mantis by Michael Stanley ***
The Throne of Fire by Rick Riordan ***
Game of Thrones by G.R.R. Martin ****
Clash of Kings by G.R.R. Martin ****
Room by Emma Donaghue ***1/2
The Orchid Thief: A True Story of Beauty and Obsession by Susan Orlean ***
Dead Reckoning by Charlaine Harris ***1/2
The Country of Pointed Firs by Sarah Orne Jewett ***
Beasts (Mystic Phyles) by Stephanie Brockway ****1/2
This Dark Endeavor by Kenneth Oppel ***1/2
Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving edited by Judi Kingry and Lauren Devine ****

Return, part 2

This is a list of second quarter titles dominated by three series: the Alex Rider series by Anthony Horowitz (lots of teenage fun), Three Pines mysteries by Louise Penny (marvelous characters), and the Temeraire dragon series by Naomi Novik (fabulous fantasy/alternate history).

The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party by Alexander McCall Smith ****
Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitz ***1/2
Point Blank by Anthony Horowitz ***1/2
Still Life by Louise Penny ***1/2
A Fatal Grace by Louise Penny ***1/2
Skeleton Key by Anthony Horowitz ***
Eagle Strike by Anthony Horowitz ***1/2
Cruelest Month by Louise Penny ****
Scorpia by Anthony Horowitz ****
Ark Angel by Anthony Horowitz ***1/2
Snakehead by Anthony Horowitz ***1/2
A Rule Against Murder by Louise Penny ****
Dissolution by C.J. Sansom  ***1/2
Bound by Donna Jo Napoli ****
Riot by Walter Dean Myers - DNF
The Brutal Telling by Louise Penny *****
The Day of the Oprichnik by Vladimir Boronik **
Crocodile Tears by Anthony Horowitz ***
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford *****
Bury Your Dead by Louise Penny ****1/2
Killed at the Whim of a Hat by Collin Cotterill ****
Raven's Gate by Anthony Horowitz ***
His Majesty's Dragon by Naomi Novik ****
Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson ****
Throne of Jade by Naomi Novik ****
Scorpia Rising by Anthony Horowitz ***1/2
Black Powder War by Naomi Novik ***
Empire of Ivory by Naomi Novik ****
9-11: Artists Respond, various contributors ****
Medicus: A Novel of the Roman Empire by Ruth Downie ****
Victory of Eagles by Naomi Novik ****
Tongues of Serpents by Naomi Novik ***1/2

The Return to the Buzz

It has been over 6 months since I lasted posted here but I will try to get caught up. The following is a list of books I have read during the first quarter of this year with my rating.
First Among Sequels by Jasper Fforde ****
Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde ****
Dracula by Bram Stoker ****
Half Brother by Kenneth Oppel ***1/2
Trash by Andy Mulligan ****1/2
Cleopatra by Stacy Schiff  *****
1st to Die by James Patterson ***
Grave Sight by Charlaine Harris ***
Charles and Emma by Deborah Heiligman ***1/2
The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan ***1/2
Dark Life by Kat Falls ***
Fueling the Teen Machine by Ellen Shanley and Colleen Thompson **1/2
Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin ****
Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather ****1/2
Pig Island by Mo Hayder **
The Serpent's Tale by Ariana Franklin ****
Grave Goods by Ariana Franklin ****
Crusader by Edward Bloor ***
Breathers by S.G. Browne ***
A Murderous Procession by Ariana Franklin ****
Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan **
Scarlet Traces by Ian Edginton ****
The Ring of Solomon by Jonathon Stroud ****
Gentlemen of the Road by Michael Chabon ***
A Red Herring without Mustard by Alan Bradley ***1/2
Haunted: Tales of the Grotesque by Joyce Carol Oates ****
Hold Me Closer, Necromancer by Lish McBride **1/2
Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson ****
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne ***
A Samurai Never Fears Death by Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler ***1/2
Bruiser by Neal Shusterman ****1/2
Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld ***1/2
Spinning Out by David Stahler Jr. ***1/2
They Called Themselves the K.K.K. by Susan Campbell Bartoletti ****1/2
Stones for my Father by Trilby Kent ***1/2
One of our Thursdays is Missing by Jasper Fforde ****
City of Shadows by Ariana Franklin *****