Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson

The Rithmatist
Brandon Sanderson is known for his collaboration with Robert Jordan on the epic Wheel of Time fantasy series. Here he has created a new world and a new system of magic that should appeal to that other epic series, Harry Potter.

Joel is a young man who was not able to complete the all important ceremony that would let him know if he was a rithmatist or not. A rithmatist is able to use chalk to draw figures on the ground to defend or attack other rithmatists. At the beginning of each chapter is one of these shapes with an explanation of the theory behind it.  Joel is not a rithmatist but that doesn't stop him from knowing as much about the art as he can.  He sneaks into classes and reads everything he can get his hands on.  After he becomes friends with Melody, who is a rithmatist, he persuades her to let him into the restricted section of the library for even more in-depth books.  They have both been assigned to Professor Fitch for the summer - Melody needs to practice her drawing and Joel needs to assist on a special project tracking down graduates and determining if they are dead, living, or missing.

What is determined is that there have been disturbing disappearances of rithmatics and the two students become instrumental in learning what is going on.

This system of magic lacks the glamour and excitement that readers of Harry Potter are more familiar with. It may take time to appreciate this method of casting charms. We will have to see with the next installment of the series.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Love in the Time of Global Warming by Francesca Lia Block

Love in the Time of Global Warming
Francesca Lia Block is known for her edgy stories loaded with amazingly different characters and settings. And this book doesn't fail to challenge the reader.

It is a relatively short book full of genetically modified giants, magic butterflies, a transgender teen, an evil scientist, and characters straight out of the Odyssey. It starts with the bright young Pen (Penelope) left alone after a huge flood takes away her family and most everything else in the world. She survives due to the foresight of her father who stocked the basement with water and food. 

Pen is attacked by some marauders but is helped by one of them who lets her escape in his fully stocked van. He tells her to look for her mother in Las Vegas. On her way she meets/rescues more young people who join her on her odyssey (pun intended).

I recommend this book to fans of magical surrealism, action, and the story of the Odyssey.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Saints and Boxers by Gene Luen Yang

As you can probably tell from the covers, these two books are companions. They take place at the same time and place and even overlap briefly. However, they are about very different people. They take place around 1900 in China at the time of the Boxer Rebellion, a very violent and tumultuous time.

If one should be read first, I think it should be Saints. It is about Four-Girl, the fourth and only surviving daughter of a family in a small, poor village. Girls have traditionally held little value in Chinese families and it is not a surprise that she is attracted to the words of a priest who offers her a more worthwhile existence. Four-Girl has visions of Joan of Arc which give her courage to strike out on her own and leave her family.

Boxers is about Little Bao, the third son of a family in another poor village. A stranger named Red Lantern comes to their village and trains the young men in kung fu. Many of them leave to defend China against the foreigners and Bao follows. A huge fan of Chinese opera, he and his friends transform into gods and dead emperors when they go into battle. They go all the way to Peking (now called Bejing) before meeting their violent deaths.

I highly recommend these books to fans of graphic novels and historical fiction.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa

The Housekeeper and the Professor
This story takes place in Japan and is told from the viewpoint of a woman who is a young single mother who works as a housekeeper. She is assigned to work in the little two room cottage inhabited by a math professor who had been in a car accident. He was only able to remember events that occurred before the accident and the previous 80 minutes. Every day she had to introduce herself to him because he did not know he had already met her. He kept notes to himself pinned to his jacket including one to remind himself he could only remember the last 80 minutes. 

Eventually she brought her 10-year old son to the professor's house after school and the professor called him Root because the flat top of his head reminded him of the square root sign. Root and the professor found they both loved the same baseball team even though the professor only remembered the players from before the accident.

What was fun was how the professor shared his love of mathematics with the housekeeper and her son. He taught them about prime numbers and i, the square root of -1. This story was enjoyable for the shared joy of math as well as the challenge of working with a person who has had a brain injury.

The Nazi Hunters: How a Team of Spies and Survivors Captured the World's Most Notorious Nazi by Neal Bascomb

The Nazi Hunters
Adolf Eichmann was the man responsible for building the death camps and organizing the transportation of Jews and others to their death during World War II. After the war he changed his name, escaped Europe with his family, and hid in Argentina. A group of men who were survivors of the camps tracked him to a poor area outside of Buenos Aries and smuggled him out of the country to publicly stand trial in Israel. He was eventually found guilty and hung.

There were many things about this story that reminded me of the recent search for Osama bin Laden. One major difference was that Eichmann was given a trial before he was executed. It took them 15 years to find where Eichmann was hiding but this was before the Internet, email, and spy satellites. They were able to capture and extradite him without night-vision goggles and fancy helicopters. 

The story is enhanced by many pictures of the people involved and various paraphernalia like the hypodermic used to sedate Eichmann. Readers who enjoy spy thrillers would enjoy this non-fiction book.

The Golden Day by Ursula Dubosarsky

The Golden Day
The Australian author, Ursula Dubosarsky, has given us this little jewel of a book, one of those that begs to be read slowly and savored. It takes place in a school for girls during the 1970s and in some ways reminded me of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. A free-spirited teacher takes her class to a park to contemplate death. A man had been hung in Melbourne that morning and she wants the girls (who don't even know where Melbourne is) to think about things. 
It did seem a particularly wicked thing to do, the little girls agreed, on such a warm and lovely day when everything in it was so alive. Better to hang a person at night when it was already sad and dark.
They meet the handsome poet/gardener (teacher's boyfriend?) there who takes them to a cave to see some examples of indigenous art. The girls are a combination of innocent, immature, and rather silly and are completely clueless what to do when their teacher vanishes. Should they tell someone? Return to school? Tell about the gardener? It's hard to tell if they are more scared about what happened to the teacher or what might happen to themselves. I had an image of a huddled group of whimpering puppies.

Treat yourself to this delicious morsel of a book if you enjoy light mystery.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Hub Challenge completed

I finally received my goodie for finishing this challenge. It's silly that such a little thing means a lot but it doesn't really take a lot to make me happy.

My friend is the library clerk at a middle school and I designed a book mark to give to her students who had read 1,000,000 words and multiples thereof. It made me feel good to create something for them and even better to hear that some of them kept them and are still using them.

In any case, I read 25 books from a list of 80 (see my previous post). Some of them were wonderful, most of them were OK. It certainly gave me the incentive to read books I would probably not have read. Some of them I intend to purchase for our library so that more people have the chance to read them.

If anyone asks (and even if they don't), I recommend that my reading friends continue to challenge themselves; to read outside their comfort level and maybe discover a new format or genre that they have not previously enjoyed. In any case, read more nonfiction. Narrative nonfiction is really becoming a wonderful source of stories so get more of that. You might end up learning something along the way.

Monday, April 29, 2013

The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson

The Orphan Master's Son
This extraordinary book gives the reader a glimpse into life in a very isolated country - North Korea. We follow the life of Pak Jun Do as he supervises orphans, learns how to fight in dark and cramped tunnels, works on a boat that kidnaps Japanese people off their beaches, and is subsequently taught English. He is then put on a fishing boat to monitor and transcribe radio transmissions. An unfortunate event on that boat caused him to be put into a mine prison where he kills and takes the identity of Commander Ga, the minister of prison mines and husband to the national actress, Sun Moon. To fit in with the fishermen who had tattoos of their wives on their chests, he put a tattoo of the actress on his chest, not imagining that he would ever meet her.

All through the book we see examples of life in a totalitarian country. Every home has a loud speaker wired in that broadcasts propaganda at any time of the day and night. Children grow up with only the stories they hear from this source. Everyone is in constant fear of being reported for the slightest infraction. Old people without family to take care of them, are killed by having their blood drained. And the prisons! The prisons!

This book won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Deservedly so.

My rating for this book: 

Angels in America, Parts I & II by Tony Kushner (1993)

Angels in America
 Part I and Part II of this play take place in 1985, just as people were learning about AIDS and how it was transmitted. It was a very terrifying time for homosexuals since they not only were the ones most commonly afflicted, but it gave others additional reasons to fear and hate them. So many gay people have enough problems with being gay without the added stress of a fatal disease threatening them. Our cast of characters are composed of four homosexuals and members of their friends and family. We see how this illness affects them as well.

This play won the Pulitzer prize in 1993 and if you are interested, HBO produced it for their network and should be available to watch.

My rating for these plays: 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger

Etiquette & Espionage
I have enjoyed the adult series by this author called The Parasol Protectorate which features vampires and werewolves in Victorian England. This book takes this already fun format and ramps up the steampunk aspect of it a few dozen notches!

Sophorina is the youngest in a family of girls and when a mysterious Mrs. Barnaclegoose shows up one day offering to take her to a finishing school, her mother is happy, if a bit perplexed, to let her go. Sophorina is such a tomboy, it's hard to imagine anyone could attempt to teach her manners. She packs up a few things and is off. They don't get very far when they are attacked by flywaymen in airdinghies. They are after a prototype and thinks it is in their carriage. They get away thanks to Sophorina's quick thinking and bravado.

The story continues and we learn about Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality which is suspended in the air by multiple inflated balloons. We meet the young people who surely will factor in future stories and learn about this wonderful steampunk setting.

I highly recommend this to lovers of action, steampunk, or just something completely different. 

My recommendation for this book:   

Monday, April 15, 2013

HUB Challenge

The HUB Reading Challenge
This year, for the first time, I participated in The Hub Reading Challenge. The Hub is the blog for YALSA (Young Adults Library Services Association) and the challenge was to read at least 25 books from a list of 85 award winners. It started in the beginning of February and runs until June but I managed to finish early. Some of the books I read were in the NHS Library but most of them I had to borrow from the County library. A few I went ahead and bought for our library. The following is the list of books I read. The titles in bold are available from the NHS Library. The ones with an asterisk (*) I will probably purchase for our library soon.

My favorite book was The Round House and my favorite new discovery was Tamora Pierce. I enjoyed Squire so much that I intend to read the entire series during the summer! It was fun to be challenged to listen to audio books and read graphic novels. I was lucky to find The Diviners at the County Library on a Playaway, an MP3-sized gizmo with just that book on it. I listened to it in the car and at the gym. It was a long book but very fun to listen to.

1. The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater (2012) 
2. Juvenile in Justice by Richard Ross (2012)  
3. The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen (2011) 
4. After the Snow by S.D. Crockett (2012) 
5. * My Friend Dahmer by Derf Backderf (2012) 
6. Sparks: The Epic, Completely True Blue, (Almost) Holy Quest of Debbie by S.J. Adams (2011) 
7. * Ultimate Comics, Spider-Man, Vol. 1 by Brian Michael Bendis and others (2012) 
8. Wonder Show by Hannah Barnaby (2012) 
9. * Heist Society by Ally Carter (2012) 
10. Boy 21 by Matthew Quick (2012) 
11. The Diviners by Libba Bray, read by January LaVoy (2012) (I listened to the audio version but the print version is in our library)
12. Prom & Prejudice by Elizabeth Eulberg (2011) 
13. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Cabin Fever by Jeff Kinney, read by Ramon de Ocampo (2011) 
14. Seraphina by Rachel Hartman (2012) 
15. The Night She Disappeared by April Henry (2012) 
16. Putting Makeup on the Fat Boy by Bil Wright (2011) 
17. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz (2012) 
18. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews (2012) 
19. Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan (2012) 
20. The Pregnancy Project by Gaby Rodriguez (2012) 
21. The Round House by Louise Erdrich (2012) 
22. Friends with Boys by Faith Erin Hicks (2012) 
23. Daredevil, Vol. 1 by Mark Waid et al, (2012) 
24. Squire by Tamora Pierce (2001) 
25. * I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga (2012) 

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Pregnancy Project by Gaby Rodriguez

The Pregnancy Project
Gaby's mother was a teen when she had her first child. Gaby was the eighth and last of her children and watched as her mother struggled to support and provide for them without the help of a father. As she watched her sisters and brothers become teen parents, she resolved to not let a pregnancy come between her and her goals. She could not help but watch how friends, family, and society as a whole regard and treat teen parents and she came up with an idea for her senior project.

She shared her plan with only her mother, one sister, her boyfriend, best friend, principal, and assistant superintendent. She was an honors student and would record how everyone saw and treated her when she revealed to them she was pregnant. That's right. She faked a pregnancy. Her co-conspirators would relate to her all they heard and for a few months she experienced how a pregnant teen was treated. Her goal was to show people how their attitudes and comments tore down a teen's self-esteem and how it was impossible to recover from this. 

I highly recommend this book to students to show how they can make a difference and maybe help someone who needs a shoulder to lean on.

My rating for this book:

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz

Aristotle and Dante Discover
the Secrets of the Universe
Aristotle (Ari) and Dante meet at a public pool one summer and find they share so much. They are both third generation Mexican-American with college educated parents. They are also learning about their sexuality like so many young people their age. Neither of these journeys is easy but they both have so much to learn.

What is undeniable is the value of one close friend and these two show how important it is to be there when things go wrong. This is where friendship really counts. 

I highly recommend this book as an example of fine character development. We come to really like these two young men and hope that they will be happy.

My rating for this book:

Monday, March 25, 2013

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore: A Novel by Robin Sloan

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore
This was definitely a cool book! It takes the reader from a little bookstore in San Francisco to the Google campus in Palo Alto to a subterranean library in New York City to a knitting museum and a conservatory of artifacts. 

Clay Jannon had a job designing a web site for a bagel company but unfortunately it folded and now he has to look for a job. One day as he was walking around San Francisco he sees a sign offering a job in the window of a really small bookstore. He walks in and finds that what the bookstore lacks in floor space makes up for it in wall space. Shelves full of books go up for three stories and are accessed by ladders on wheels. However, he has to agree to some very strange rules before he can have the job. He agrees to the conditions and gets the shift that runs from 10 pm to 6 am. Not surprisingly, there are not so many customers that come into the store, just a few who exchange one book for another. Clay records these visits in a log that is the newest in a set that dates back for decades. Curiosity overcomes Clay who feels that there is much more to this store than meets the eye.

I highly recommend this book to readers who love mysteries, adventure, and, of course, books!

My rating for this book:

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andres

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
Greg is not very attractive. He is trying to get through high school with a minimum of attention by trying to touch base with kids in all of the various typical high school cliques. Earl is also an outsider. His father is not in the picture, his mother is an alcoholic who is addicted to the Internet, and his brothers have violent tendencies. So it is logical that they should share a hobby of creating movies.

They watch classic films and try to emulate the style of the directors. One day Greg's mother asks him to visit a girl he knew in middle school who had just been diagnosed with leukemia. Rachel's mother hopes that Greg might be able to lift her spirits.

This book may be one of the most realistic depictions of high school boys. The obscenities and potty humor are non-stop. But the reader admires Greg for his attempts at cheering up Rachel and sticking with her. Even Earl becomes invested in making life more bearable. Unfortunately, Greg's schoolwork follows a downward spiral along with Rachel's health and at some point he needs to pick himself up and face his own life.

I recommend this book to readers who have a creative hobby like film making. 

My rating for this book:

An Infidel in Paradise by S.J. Laidlaw

An Infidel in Paradise
Talking about  grouchy people, Emma has all the reasons in the world to be grouchy. Her mother is a Canadian diplomat and they frequently move but when Emma's father takes up with a Phillipino woman in Manila, her mother takes her older brother, younger sister, and her to a new posting in Islamabad, Pakistan. So not only did she have to leave her friends and move to a much more restrictive culture, but now she has to make new friends and try to get along without a father.

Luckily, the students at her international school are used to kids coming and going and instantly welcome her. Included in these is a drop-dead gorgeous, wealthy Pakistani boy named Mustapha who is in an marriage arrangement with a beautiful girl named Aisha. She has to learn to navigate the treacherous waters of her new home. In addition to new restrictions on her freedom, she has moved to an area of the world with dangerous riots and bombings. As a North American, she is very vulnerable and conspicuous. 

Stupidly and selfishly, Emma leaves her little sister alone one night to attend a party at Mustapha's house. When rioting breaks out Emma risks her life to get back home to her sister. She learns a valuable lesson in family and following rules.

This book is interesting because of the family life as well as the location of the story. Definitely different. 

My rating for this book:

Putting Makeup on the Fat Boy by Bil Wright

Putting Makeup on the Fat Boy
Sometimes I get really tired reading about self-absorbed, grouchy people, which is why this book is such a breath of fresh air!

As long as he can remember Carlos has wanted to be a makeup artist. He  studies magazines like Vogue and practices on his sister and his friends. He persuades one of his friends who works at Macy's to find out what he needs to do to apply for a job at one of the makeup counters. He enlists the help of Gleason Kraft (a secret crush) who is in a photography class to put together his portfolio. The results are so successful that Gleason is invited to show his photos in a gallery and Carlos gets a job at the FeatureFace cosmetics counter. All is good, right? Sorry. That would make for a boring story.

Carlos's sister has an abusive boyfriend and Carlos has incurred the wrath of the counter's supervisor so all is not perfect in his world. And will he ever be able to share his feelings with Gleason? His optimism and confidence make him an unstoppable force and a likable character. We sincerely root for him to help his family and succeed at his dream. 

My rating for this book:

The Night She Disappeared by April Henry

The Night She Disappeared
How can a mystery with no mystery still be suspenseful? This book is about a girl who is kidnapped and how her coworkers ignore the police who believe she is dead and work on finding her. 

Gabie works in a pizza parlor with Kayla and Drew. She is the less attractive of the two girls but has the attraction of a serial murderer. They trade nights when the kidnapper intends to snatch Gabie but he goes ahead and takes Kayla. The story is told from different points of view, including the kidnapper's, so the reader is aware that Kayla is still alive and Gabie is still in danger. Will Gabie and Drew manage to save Kayla? 

Thrillers like this are rare in the Young Adult section of the bookstore and abundant in the Adult section. It is a great introduction to a fun type of book.

My rating for this book:

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

This is an amazing book with different varieties of dragons and humans, and half-breeds. Seraphina is secretly half-human and half-dragon. She inherited a fantastic talent for music and is the assistant to the court composer. She becomes involved in preventing a war between dragons and humans and has to do it without exposing herself.

The fun of reading a fantasy like this one is the world building. The author creates an entire world with dress, food, rituals, etc. The  trick is to introduce these new things to the reader without the reader feeling like he is getting a civics lesson. I, unfortunately, read this in a place where I was constantly interrupted. It deserves to be read without distractions so the reader is totally immersed in the place and can enjoy the new and unusual surroundings. Give yourself a quiet place with a bowl of snacks, turn off the phone and other disruptions and you will be rewarded!

My rating for this book:

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Prom & Prejudice by Elizabeth Eulberg

Prom & Prejudice
As one can guess, this is a retelling of Austen's story about a young woman trying to navigate a world full of wealthy pampered people. Lizzie Bennet is one of two scholarship students at the prestigious boarding school, Longbourn Academy, not far from Pemberly where the equally privileged boys attend. Everyone at Longbourn is focused on one thing - prom. What they will wear and who they will go with. Lizzie, however, needs to focus on her talent at the piano, the reason she can attend.

But of course, there is Will Darcy, the serious and seriously handsome boy who rubs Lizzie the wrong way from the beginning. Will she be able to set aside her prejudice against the trust fund kids?

This story follows Pride and Prejudice very closely so there are no surprises. It's a fun and fast read so, go ahead and indulge yourself.

My rating for this book: 

The Diviners by Libba Bray, read by January LaVoy

The Diviners by Libba Bray
It is the 1920s, a vibrant, exciting time in New York City and Evie O'Neill has been sent here to stay with her uncle, owner of the Museum of American Folklore, Superstition and the Occult, nicknamed the Museum of Creepy Crawlies. Evie has a friend named Mabel whose parents are activists and meets another young woman named Theta who is a dancer in the Ziegfield Follies. Evie discovers she has an ability to see things about the owner when she holds an item and this comes handy (and dangerous) when she becomes involved in the investigation of a series of gruesome murders. Naughty John is following a ritual in order to call forth an evil entity when Solomon's Comet appears.

Evie is not the only diviner, however, and we also meet Memphis, a young black man, and his brother, Isaiah. Memphis was a healer and he is trying to protect his brother who has a talent with numbers. Another interesting character is Jericho, Uncle Will's assistant in the museum, who has a mysterious past.

I listened to this book on a Playaway, a handy little gadget that holds just one book. One AAA battery and ear buds and you're ready to go. The reader of the story had a wonderful range of accents for the different characters and really added to the enjoyment of the book. I highly recommend this book to readers of historical fiction and horror. 

My rating for this book: 

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Boy 21 by Matthew Quick

Boy 21
Finley is, in many ways, a kind of Harry Potter. He lives in rather miserable conditions (his father works nights taking money in a tollbooth, his grandfather needs help because he has no legs and is still mourning the loss of his wife with the help of the bottle) in a miserable little town and all he can do is dream of leaving it and finding a better life. The difference with Harry is he does have a family who loves him and a girl friend that shares his love of basketball. He and Erin even train together during the summer to prepare for the season. Shortly before their senior year, Coach approaches Finley with a big request. A new boy is coming to the school from Los Angeles where he was a basketball star. Russ, who calls himself Boy 21, lost both of his parents and has suffered a break with reality. He believes that his parents are in outer space and will come soon to pick him up. Finley can understand this, since he pretty much stopped speaking after his own mother died (under mysterious circumstances). The bad news is that Russ plays the same position as Finley and even has the same number: 21.

Russ seems to be happy enough following Finley and Erin around, watching them train and practice, and seems to be comfortable with Finley's silence, even welcoming it. Coach has made sure the two boys have the same schedule when school starts so that they are always together and Finley is hurt that Coach makes him help a boy that ultimately will probably take his place on the court. But Russ doesn't show his abilities and seems to be holding back to let Finley keep his place. But something happens that shakes Finley so that he can't perform and he gratefully and gracefully lets Russ strut his stuff.

This was an interesting story. Even though I frequently suspend belief in many stories, I had a small problem believing that a senior basketball player was caught reading a covered copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone telling everyone it was a book by Ralph Ellison called Invisible Man. That one little scene felt a little forced to me but I had to smile.

Will Finley get his ticket out of town to Hogwart's? 

My rating for this book:      

The Heist Society by Ally Carter

The Heist Society
This book is a pleasant little surprise. It is full of jet setting teens with either uber-rich families or art thieving families. What a breath of fresh air!

Katarina Bishop has learned running cons from her family and cons her way into a prestigious boarding school to escape that life. However, she gets kicked out (set up by her 'friend') and she returns to her life to save her father from the mobster, Arturo Taccone. Some pieces of art were stolen from his fortress of a house and he is convinced that Kat's father is the only one who could have done it. If she doesn't return the pieces to their owner, terrible things will happen to her father. Kat does what she has to do.

Which is to call together a group of people which includes her rich buddy, Hale, and others to figure out who did steal them, where are they being stored, and how can they get them back. Question 1 is still a mystery, question 2 is the Henley, an art museum in Paris, and question 3 has to be done in 14 days...or else.

This charming adventure is carried out and Kat even learns that Taccone isn't the rightful owner - the pieces were stolen from their owners by the Nazis and never returned. So this begs the question, should she return them to Taccone?

I highly recommend this intelligent action-filled story.

My rating for this book:


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Ultimate Comics Spider-Man, Vol. 1 by Brian Michael Bendis

Ultimate Comics Spider-Man, Vol. 1
I have not read any super hero comic books in a looooooooong time so I am happy that I got the incentive to read this one for the Hub Challenge. I may never have learned that the original Spider-Man died!! (Sob!) In this volume we meet a young black man named Miles who accidentally picks up the same spider that bit Peter Parker and he gets bit, too. As he slowly learns that he has super powers, he shares with his Asian friend, Gunke, who gives him an old Spider-Man Halloween costume to wear. Miles follows in Peter's footsteps and uses his powers to help people in trouble and attracts the attention of Spider-Girl and Nick Fury.

Miles is a very likable new hero. He is bright and has a father who is dedicated to keeping Miles out of trouble. He enters Miles in a lottery to obtain a spot in a prestigious boarding school. Miles wins a spot and shares a room there with his friend.

I really enjoyed this graphic novel and will try and keep in touch with the series.

My rating for this book: 

Sparks: The Epic Completely True Blue, (Almost) Holy Quest of Debbie by S.J. Adams

Debbie Woodlawn has kept a secret since sixth grade. She has a crush on her best friend, Lisa, and has to share this with her before Lisa makes out with a boy. She gets assistance from two kids, members of a self-formed Church of Blue. One of the things they do in this church is create a list of quests, such as seeing a person completely nude. Finding Lisa is a perfect quest.

The three of them dash around town trying to catch up with Debbie's backpack, get something to eat, find out where Lisa is going on her date, and all on $5.00. Overseeing this endeavor is the blue-painted Buddha on the dashboard.

It must be so hard to harbor a secret like this for so long. It does not help that Debbie lives in the Bible Belt and to be near her friend, joins a group called Active Christian Teens. Even a New Age mother doesn't see anything bothering her daughter. But Debbie must tell Lisa and find out if she has any chance at developing a relationship with her.

I recommend this book as a fun romp with the added bonus of a coming-of-sexuality story.
My rating for this book: 

Saturday, February 23, 2013

My Friend Dahmer by Derf Backderf

My Friend Dahmer
This graphic novel is absolutely creepy, amazing, disturbing, scary, and is about a normal everyday high school in Ohio during the 1970s. It was the spawning ground of one of the most notorious serial killers of modern history, Jeffrey Dahmer, and Derf Backderf had the (luck? misfortune? unbelievable opportunity?) to know him.

The warning signs were all there (like collecting roadkill) and the kids all knew that there was something definitely not right with this loner. His only interaction with his classmates were when they used him in their pranks. For instance, they maneuvered him into yearbook pictures for all the different activities of the school, always lurking in the back row.

His parents had their problems and ignored him in their own selfish despair. He turned to drinking to try and forget his loneliness and growing need to mutilate living things. According to this story, not one single adult ever tried to help him.

I highly recommend this graphic novel.

My recommendation for this book:   

After the Snow by S.D. Crockett

After the Snow
This books takes place in England sometime after the buildup of CO2 has changed the chemical makeup of the oceans so much that the circulating currents have stopped or slowed and England has been in the grip of winter long enough to seriously affect society. Willo is a young man who lives with his family in the hills trapping hares and trading the pelts for other necessities. However, one day he returns home to find that his family had been taken away.

He loads up a sled with items he will need and snowshoes off in pursuit. Along his way he meets a variety of people surviving, successfully or not, in different ways. Naturally, there are many bad people and Willo relies on an inner dog voice to help him maneuver through the dangers he encounters. (Oddly the dog voice seems to be more literate than his own voice - could it be his father's voice?)

Willo eventually learns that his father was not the man he thought he was. But Willo has learned enough about himself and his strength to take his own path. The door is definitely open for a sequel but, yay!, this is a stand alone book.

My rating for this book:   

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen

The Running Dream
Jessica loves to run. She is a strong competitor and a valued team member of her school's track team. However, returning from a meet, her bus is hit by an uninsured truck and one girl is killed and Jessica's leg must be amputated. She is faced with months of physical therapy learning to walk again and using a prosthetic leg. She also has to catch up with all the school work she missed. But Jessica is one of a rare breed, able to meet the challenge.

She is taken aback when faced with an ugly prosthetic leg until her friend shows her video of a runner with a state-of-the-art running leg that could return her to running competitively. 

Jessica is luckier than most since she is surrounded by people who love and support her: the family, her friend, her team, her school, her community, and her dog. But the most surprising inspiration comes from a quiet girl in a wheelchair who is a victim of cerebral palsy. Rosa comes to Jessica's aid in her algebra class and Jessica returns the favor in a surprising and inspiring way. 

I strongly recommend this book to runners and other sports lovers to see how their talents can be used to help others less fortunate.  

My rating for this book:

Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Brides of Rollrock Island by Margo Lanagan

The Brides of Rollrock Island

  • "Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned, Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned" - William Congreve
Misskaella lived on a small island featuring a simple village inhabited by fishermen. All of the people were sturdy in form and had curly red hair. Misskaella was the youngest girl in her family and was cruelly teased by all her sisters and the other children of the village. But as it happens she had a special affinity with the seals that inhabited the water and beaches and she could even turn the female seals into human shape. Slim, long-limbed, with sleek black hair, and beautiful, these women became the obsession of all of the men. Misskaella found that, even if she had no chance of marrying, she could make a living by accepting money to create these women. The women of the village found the men no longer desired them so they packed up any children they had and went to the mainland. 

This fascinating story is told by different participants in each chapter so, almost like an anthropological study, we watch how this insular community is transformed by her ability to fulfill the men's fantasies and provide them with these beautiful women. They are unable to have female babies and since all the original women left, Misskaella found herself the last real woman. However, not everything is perfect in paradise.

The language is very lyrical and makes one think of Ireland. "Down to the Crescent I went, to the seals, who were all the one silver under the moon, except for the bull, the king, who lay among his wives like spilled ink, and the babies, like dark droplets thrown off him throughout the herd."

I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys stories featuring mythological creatures. 

My rating for this book: