Hi, I'm Mrs. F-B!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Extras - Scott Westerfeld

Special thanks to Lauren W. for loaning me her copy of the book so I could have a chance to read it because we haven't gotten it here yet. We will, though, never fear.

This is the EXTRA book in the series by Scott Westerfeld that was meant to be a trilogy, but fans clamored so loudly (or the publishers saw such a good chance to make a huge profit?) that he wrote a fourth book. It's set farther into the future and has a brand new character, Aya, which some fans will enjoy and others won't (aka Mrs. Van der Meer). Gaining social status is the big thing in this book, and people are so fickle you can basically be wildly popular one day and drop off the face of the planet the next. Aya is decidedly low in the popularity rankings, and she is determined to change that. The Sly-Girls clique is her road to fame.

In the process of "kicking" the story of the Sly Girls and their Mag-Lev flying, yep, lots of strange new words and gizmos in this book just like the other three, Aya discovers there may be more to life than just getting famous, but just in case there's not, she decides to go with the fame thing and turns the whole world upside down. Unfortunately, there are some other people (??) who aren't too happy with this choice of hers....

It's a suspenseful story with lots of action and excitement, even a visit from Tally Youngblood. If you liked the rest of the series, you should definitely read this, but I thought some of the language (sense-missing and the like) got a little annoying. For sure it's no Uglies.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Cures for Heartbreak - Margo Rabb

This was a box of kleenex type of book, but really well done. The novel centers around 9th grade girl Mia whose mother was diagnosed with cancer and died just twelve days later. (It's somewhat autobiographical, as the author had a similar experience with her own mother.) This is, of course, heartbreaking and world re-defining, and just as Mia, her sister and her father are beginning to find their way through this new landscape, Mia's father has a heart attack and has to undergo triple bypass surgery. You can imagine how frightening this must be - to have just lost one parent and now to be in danger of losing the other. Poor Mia. Yet this book doesn't make you pity Mia and her sister, you just feel sympathetic. I think this is an important distinction.

Throughout the story Mia is trying to find someone with whom she can share her thoughts and experiences. The things that seem to matter to other girls her age just don't seem to fit, and it is only when she befriends a cancer survivor, who is "kind of cute... despite the baldness and pale skin," that she begins to have someone with whom she truly feels she connects.

This is a sadly sweet story. Lurlene McDaniels fans might branch out here.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Duchessina : A Novel of Catherine De'Medici - Carolyn Meyer

Carolyn Meyer has written another of her great YA historical fiction pieces, this one focusing on Catherine De'Medici. I have to say that while it was well done, it didn't have the appeal for me of Mary, Bloody Mary or Beware, Princess Elizabeth. Set in the 16th century, this story takes us through the young life and marriage of Catherine. It tells the story of the political turmoil of the time which forced Catherine to go from being a pampered duchess to having to live in a convent where not everyone was nice to her and times were certainly difficult. I thought the most interesting parts of this story dealt with Catherine and her cousins, one of whom was her first true love, quashed, of course, by the Pope who had political and famly ambitions, not love, in mind. A well done piece of historical fiction for fans of the genre.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Adult mysteries - Seventh Sacrament & Heartsick

Recently I read two adult mysteries, a new one from a great series I've been reading, and the other for my book club.

The Seventh Sacrament by David Hewson. This novel is part of the Nic Costa series that I got hooked on a few years ago. They're all set in Italy, which I love, and the plots are sufficiently detailed and complicated to keep adult readers engaged. This wasn't actually my favorite of the series, however. There was too much flashback for my taste. It seemed like they were really catering to people who hadn't read the previous book because this was a follow-up to it. I had read the previous book, and I really didn't want to re-read it. That might have just been the time I was reading it though. My dad was in the hospital and so I was a bit distracted.

Heart Sick by Chelsea Cain. This is my book club pick for the month, and it is quite a story. For sure an adults only story because it's a serial killer mystery. It is not horribly graphic, but enough that it's not for kids. This was written by a local author who I'll get to meet this week and it's set in Portland which is fun! Well, it's kinda fun, but now I'm kinda creeped out driving by some of the places she talks about...Apparently she did a lot of research before writing this book, so I'm very interested to hear about that process. She got a contract for three books in this series, so I'm eager to hear about the plans for the future as well. If you like a suspenseful read and you're a grown up, I'd recommend this title.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Lush - Natasha Friend

I thought this was a really good book, but it deals with the difficult topic of an alcoholic parent, so it's not for every reader.

Sam's father is a good guy...when he's sober. But when he's not, it's no fun, and 13 year-old Sam has to deal with him. She's getting pretty desperate to talk to someone, but she doesn't really want to share this part of her life with her friends, so she reaches out to an older girl by leaving notes for her in a library book where she's sure the girl will find them. This begins an interesting exchange back and forth of letters between the two, with a bit of a surprise when the author of the letters comes clean.

Sam's family is forced to make changes when her father's drinking leads to a dangerous situation at home, and Sam needs to figure out how to deal with her anger, both towards her father and towards her mother, who was in heavy denial about the problems her dad's drinking was causing.

Luckily, I was never in Sam's shoes, but I know some people who were, and growing up in an alcoholic family can be very difficult. I think Natasha Friend does an admirable job of presenting the issues sensitively but accurately and will open some great discussions.

The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt.

This book is by the same author as Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy which if you haven't read, you really must.

Anyway, I really, really loved this book. I think I liked it more than some other people will because I used to be an English teacher before I became a librarian and there are many funny references to English teachers in there. There are really so many funny things in this book, and the English teacher jokes are just one part. You've got to figure that if the main character is named Holling Hoodhood, the author has some kind of sense of humor.

This is poor Holling's story, who since he's not Catholic and not Jewish, like EVERY OTHER kid in his class, has to stay at school on Wednesdays when everyone else goes to Catechism or Hebrew school. And if that's not enough, he has to stay with Mrs. Baker who he assumes hates him. He's actually really quie sure of it when she makes him start reading Shakespeare, but it turns out Shakespeare isn't half bad, actually. In fact, when it comes right down to it, Shakespeare's pretty cool. Imagine! Playing a part in a play where he has to wear yellow tights with feathers on his bum, however, not so cool.

This book also has a serious side, as it's set during the Vietnam war and deals with a variety of war-related issues.

This is one of the top books I've read in a while! We'll be getting this title soon.

Does My Head Look Big in This? by Randa Abdel-Fattah.

I liked this book a lot. It's a book about an Australian-Palestinian-Muslim girl who decides, at age 16, that she wants to wear the traditional hijab, the Muslim headdress, as a symbol of her faith. This may have some serious repercussions for her in the form of prejudice, and Amal, who's very concerned with all the typical teenage issues, is worried. It's a serious book on the one hand, because Amal is making a big decision, but it's also pretty funny a lot of the time.

It's not often you find a young adult book where the main character is talking about his or her faith, and I liked finding a book about something new. It also provided some good background understanding of Islam, which I don't know too much about. I always think it's good to learn more about other religions and cultures because it helps to promote understanding.

I highly recommend this book and will be buying it for our library soon. Right now it's available at Multnomah County libraries.

What my Girlfriend Doesn't Know by Sonya Sones.

This was a quick read because it's written in poetry form! It's a sequel to Sonya Sones's What My Mother Doesn't Know. Sonya Sones is really great at getting inside the head of an adolescent, and she does it pretty well here, too.

The narrator of this novel is Robin Murphy, social outcast and boyfriend of the beautiful Sophie. As a grown-up, I found this novel to be sort of sad. I felt really bad for Robin and for Sophie because they are treated really badly by pretty much everyone. But there were many, many funny things, and many sweet things in the novel as well. I loved that Robin had a whole different persona at his art class where his reputation didn't precede him, and that he could see beyond his present situation.

If you liked Sonya Sones' other books, this one will not disappoint.

The Off Season by Catherine Gilbert Murdock.

This book is the sequel to the very fun Dairy Queen which I read last year. DJ Schwenk is, if you can believe it, a girl on her high school football team! And she's really good, too. I would so have loved to play football in high school. It's one of my favorite sports. Anyway, she's got a lot to deal with, as you can imagine, being a girl on the football team and all. And not only that, but her boyfriend is the star quarterback of the rival high school's team, so that's another big problem. Well, in some ways it's a problem, and in some ways it's the best thing ever.

DJ also lives on a farm and has to help her father out with the farm a lot. Farm life is difficult and non-stop, so there's always something that needs doing, and her father's health isn't the greatest, so DJ's had to pick up a lot of the slack. And then the world sort of comes crashing down when DJ gets hurt on the football field jeopardizing her chance at a basketball scholarship - something her parents say she's really going to need if she wants to have any chance of going to college - and her brother gets hurt really badly playing college football and DJ's the only one who can really go take care of him.

It's a book with a lot of heartbreak in it, but a lot of hilarity and love in it as well. As usual, not as good as the first in the series, but well worth the read.

Some grown up books

I've been interspersing my kid books with some grown up books, and here are a couple I read recently.

The Kabul Beauty School : an American woman goes behind the veil by Deborah Rodr is a non-fiction work that chronicles the story of a woman who went to Afghanistan to do some aid work and ended up opening a beauty school to help Afghani women gain some independence through a career. It's a fascinating story of life from a view Americans rarely see. Highly recommended.

Cane River by Lalita Tademy is a historical fiction work that examines the lives of five generations of women of African heritage from their days as slaves through the Civil War and into the period when they were (supposedly) free. It's quite interesting. I can't even imagine how those women could go on some days. The fear and despair must have been incredible. Either that or they were just so numb they couldn't even (or didn't even) allow themselves to feel. It was also an excellent read that historical fiction fans would enjoy.

Accidentally Engaged by Mary Carter. This was a fluffy grown-up book. I wasn't looking for something deep, just something I didn't have to think much about when I was reading, and this one fit the bill. I can't say it was all that good, but it did have some very funny parts in it and at the end I wasn't sure which way the main character was going to go, so that's a good thing.
This book was an ok read, but I don't really recommend it.

The Undomestic Goddess by Sophie Kinsella. This was a total bubble gum book that I picked up in the airport when my plane was delayed recently and I just wasn't into the other book I brought with me. I have to say I was a little nervous about it because I really didn't like the one Shopaholic book I read of hers. This one was typically predictable, but a perfect airplane read. If you just want a funny, quick read, this is a decent choice.