Hi, I'm Mrs. F-B!

Monday, February 26, 2007

Rules of Survival - Nancy Werlin

This was an excellent book but a difficult one to read because it deals with children who are being abused by their mother. For those of you who are Dave Pelzer fans, this would be a good fiction choice.

This is Matt's story which he is writing down as a letter (one that's the length of a book, but anyway...) to his youngest sister trying to explain to her what happened when she was little, why he did some of the things he did, what kind of person their mother was (probably manic depressive and definitely dangerous), etc.

It's a story in which the main character really delves into himself to try and answer some tough questions. On the one hand, he's not sure he did the right things for himself, for his sisters, for his mother, for anyone. On the other hand, he knows he did the best he could, which is all anyone can ask of anyone else, really, but sometimes it just doesn't seem to be enough.

This book was sad to read because I know there are kids out there, probably kids I even know, who are going through really traumatic, difficult situations just like Matt and his sisters. They struggle every day to try and get through. They dream of just one day when things are normal and hope every night that tomorrow will be better. The insights to these children captured by Werlin are hauntingly realistic.

This book has very short chapters, lots of action, and harrowing suspense. This 2006 National Book Award finalist is definitely another fine piece of writing by Nancy Werlin, and I would recommend it to mature readers 7th grade and up because of the nature of the content.

Charlie Bone and the Hidden King - Jenny Nimmo

So I thought this was the last of the Charlie Bone books, but then a student said they thought there were more coming, so I looked on the Internet (how did we ever survive without it I often wonder), and what do you know, there IS another one coming out this summer. It's called Cahrlie Bone and the Beast. So now you know.

I listened to this book on tape in my car; as you might know if you've read some of the other entries I've done, it's the only way I can stand driving. Anyway, it was a great book to listen to, but it was a hard one to listen to because you have to stop listening when the car stops, and there were MANY times when I wanted to keep going. It's a VERY suspenseful story. Well, I guess I could have sat in my car and listened more, but probably someone might have thought that was a little strange, so I didn't.

The Flames, the three cats who have appeared in other Charlie Bone books, and who are really swell kitties, appear early on in this book and warn Charlie to be watchful because something ancient has awoken. This cannot be good news he knows, but what has awoken, and who and where should he watch? And then all the animals disappear, including Benjamin's beloved Runner Bean. And Charlie's mother seems to have forgotten who his father was and even takes off her wedding rings which she's NEVER done before even though his father has been missing so long. And then there's Grandma Maisie who's frozen solid as a rock and dripping on the carpet. What to do, what to do? It's non-stop action and suspense.

Needless to say, Charlie ends up in some very dangerous spots. Will the help of his uncle, several very good friends and an ancient spell be enough to find the hidden king and perhaps even his ever elusive father? Read this page-turner and find out.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

An Abundance of Katherines - John Green

John Green won the Printz for his previous book Looking For Alaska which I liked a lot but which is pretty much a downer all the way. He has done a bit of an about face in many respects with this next novel, and I loved it. This one won a Printz Honor. Pretty impressive for such a young author to have won the award AND an Honor! It's one of the kind of books I kept reading parts out loud to my husband and one I was often laughing out loud while reading. This book is hilarious and if you are into math, even just a little, this book is even better. This book is definitely a book for more intellectual readers, though.

Child prodigy Colin Singleton (perhaps better named SingleONE) has had nineteen girlfriends, and ALL of them have been named Katherine. How weird is that? Colin is bereft after the last one, Katherine XIX, dumps him and his best friend Hassan decides that the only way to cure it is to take a road trip. Since he has no better ideas, Colin goes, and when he sees a sign saying that the Archduke Franz Ferdinand is buried in Gutshot, TN, he HAS to go there. See Colin has a LOT of information in his brain, and things he thinks other people will see as interesting, frankly, to most people, just aren't. Which Hassan is repeatedly telling him. Which Hassan tells him in this case, but Colin insists. In Gutshot, they're hired by the wacky Hollis, mother of the beautiful Lindsey, girlfriend of TOC, the other Colin, to do an oral history project. Got all that?

While he's there, Colin decides that he's going to find the mathematical formula that underlies all these relationships with Katherines. He figures there has to be a logical answer. Because logic defines pretty much everything for Colin. This happens to really smart people I guess. I wouldn't know. I'm plenty smart, but I was no child prodigy. And get this, one of the other things this child prodigy can do is anagram pretty much anything. Anagramming means to mix up the letters in a word or phrase to make other words/phrases. Like for example, Erin Fitzpatrick Bjorn can be anagrammed to A BRR INJECT FORK TIN ZIP (and, surprisingly, a WHOLE bunch of other anagrams - try wordsmith.org/anagram to see what your name can be made into). As I write this, this book sounds kind of kooky, but it really works!

Anyway, what Colin wants most in life is to matter, and this book takes him on a journey of self-exploration to try and figure out how he can do that, why he wants it so badly, what does it even mean, and, in the end, is that really what he wants? The trip to Gutshot takes Hassan on a similar journey, and Lindsey, who they meet there, ends up on one as well.

This is an incredibly tightly written novel which I adored, but I don't think most readers will appreciate it until they're at least in high school if not later.

Dairy Queen - Catherine Gilbert Murdock

I believe I checked this book out of the public library because it was listed in Booklist as one of the best first novels for young adults of the year, and I would agree. It is funny, thought provoking, will appeal to girls and boys (really, title aside, it WILL appeal to boys - it's all about football!), and is set in Wisconsin. Who could ask for more? I'm going to suggest it to Mr. Arn since he's a cheesehead.

This is the story of JD Schwenk (tough last name, don't you think?) who is a pretty incredible girl. She basically singlehandedly runs her family's dairy farm AND goes to school. Unfortunately, she doesn't have much of a life outside of school because of it, but she's ok with that.

Brian Nelson is the star quarterback from the next town over and he comes to supposedly help out on the farm - basically because his coach is making him. He doesn't last long, at least at first. He's lazy and working on a farm is not easy. Ask anyone who's done it. So he bails. But he actually comes back and with DJ's training help becomes a decently hard working guy who can really throw a football.

See DJ has helped her older brothers practice football since she can remember, so it's a pretty natural fit for her to help out Brian. But she discovers a lot about herself along the way, and one of the things she discovers is that SHE wants to play football for her high school's team this year. You can imagine that this causes some hubbub, not the least of which is with Brian who she sort of doesn't tell about it until after it's a done deal. Not her best move, but her people skills really aren't the best. She's really good with cows, though!

I enjoyed reading this book a lot. There were lots of laughs and the characterization is quite excellent. I'm very impressed that this is Catherine Gilbert Murdock's first novel and I look forward to reading more from her in the future.

The True Darcy Spirit - Elizabeth Aston

Anyone know what book I have on my READ poster at school? Pride and Prejudice (along with Keira Knightly!). This book is written by Elizabeth Aston and is a sort of copycat book of Jane Austen's style. It's quite remarkable how well she does imitate the style. Clearly she has read all of Jane Austen's works QUITE closely. It's pretty cool that someone can do that. I wonder if Jane would be flattered or freaked out that someone was doing this.

Anyway, you really have to love Pride and Prejudice to enjoy this book, but if you did like it, I'd highly recommend this story set in 1819 (Pride and Prejudice was set in the late 170os) and focuses on one of the daughters of Anne de Bourgh (Lady Catherine REALLY wanted Mr. Darcy to marry Anne in P&P, remember?), Cassandra Darcy.

It's a fun, romantic mystery that's pretty predictable, but still pure pleasure for fans of the genre.