Hi, I'm Mrs. F-B!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Seriously, this needs to change.  Argh!  Thanks to Ms.Yingling for sharing the picture and for FirstBook.org for the original post. Our kids need to read books about kids who look like them and share their cultures.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

The Day My Brain Exploded, Ashok Rajamani

From the Publisher: After a full-throttle brain bleed at the age of twenty-five, Ashok Rajamani, a first-generation Indian American, had to relearn everything: how to eat, how to walk and to speak, even things as basic as his sexual orientation. With humor and insight, he describes the events of that day (his brain exploded just before his brother's wedding!), as well as the long, difficult recovery period. In the process, he introduces readers to his family—his principal support group, as well as a constant source of frustration and amazement. Irreverent, coruscating, angry, at times shocking, but always revelatory, his memoir takes the reader into unfamiliar territory, much like the experience Alice had when she fell down the rabbit hole. That he lived to tell the story is miraculous; that he tells it with such aplomb is simply remarkable.

More than a decade later he has finally reestablished a productive artistic life for himself, still dealing with the effects of his injury—life-long half-blindness and epilepsy— but forging ahead as a survivor dedicated to helping others who have suffered a similar catastrophe.

Strengths: This was a pretty fascinating story of a man who had a massive brain bleed at a very young age (25). The effect of the harrowing events that began on the day of his brother's wedding continue today, a decade later. Hearing what happened to him as a result of the bleed and how he dealt with them was quite interesting.  Many, many people have catastrophic brain injuries which because they can't be seen, get a different treatment in our culture than more visible injuries.  Rajamani addresses some of those issues, which will serve to heighten awareness of the issues at hand for those unaware.  Rajamani also has a good sense of humor about many of the things that happened to him.

Weaknesses:  The story does not seem very cohesive in many places, jumping from one idea/event to the next with little transition.  This, however, may just highlight what's still happening in Rajamani's brain.

A good addition to high school libraries looking for more literary nonfiction.

Available from Multnomah County Library as an e-book.

The Rosie Project, Graeme Simsion

This is the best adult book I have read this year!

From the Publisher: An international sensation, this hilarious, feel-good novel is narrated by an oddly charming and socially challenged genetics professor on an unusual quest: to find out if he is capable of true love. Don Tillman, professor of genetics, has never been on a second date. He is a man who can count all his friends on the fingers of one hand, whose lifelong difficulty with social rituals has convinced him that he is simply not wired for romance. So when an acquaintance informs him that he would make a wonderful husband, his first reaction is shock. Yet he must concede to the statistical probability that there is someone for everyone, and he embarks upon The Wife Project. In the orderly, evidence-based manner with which he approaches all things, Don sets out to find the perfect partner. She will be punctual and logical-most definitely not a barmaid, a smoker, a drinker, or a late-arriver. Yet Rosie Jarman is all these things. She is also beguiling, fiery, intelligent-and on a quest of her own. She is looking for her biological father, a search that a certain DNA expert might be able to help her with. Don's Wife Project takes a back burner to the Father Project and an unlikely relationship blooms, forcing the scientifically minded geneticist to confront the spontaneous whirlwind that is Rosie-and the realization that love is not always what looks good on paper. The Rosie Project is a moving and hilarious novel for anyone who has ever tenaciously gone after life or love in the face of overwhelming challenges.

Strengths: This book is laugh out loud funny as well as sweet and charming.  I love how Don realizes he's socially inept and tries to take steps to work on it, even if his steps are disastrous.  I love how Rosie just hangs with it. I love how dense Don is about the obvious, and how tenacious he is about trying to get things perfect. I love the detail that's brought out in the book that brings Don's character to life. I could visualize everything in this book, and I will be shocked if it is not optioned for a movie. 

This is a completely typical boy meets girl story that is completely atypical due to the main character's quirky personality.  I finally had to have my husband read this book at the same time I was, or else I would have read most of it out loud to him.

Weaknesses: None.  loved this book!

I received an electronic galley of this book from the publisher. The book is due out in he US in October of 2013. Do not miss this book!

The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place : The Mysterious Howling

I got this book from Audiosync's FREE summer downloads.  Still not doing that?  GET ON IT!  This week is Carter Finally Gets It and She Stoops to Conquer. Such a great opportunity.  And you can keep the files as long as you like so it's not as if you have to listen to both books in one week.  Although I did actually listen to two books in one week a few back.  Too much time in the car!  But I digress...

From the Publisher:
Found running wild in the forest of Ashton Place, the Incorrigibles are no ordinary children: Alexander, age ten or thereabouts, keeps his siblings in line with gentle nips; Cassiopeia, perhaps four or five, has a bark that is (usually) worse than her bite; and Beowulf, age somewhere-in-the-middle, is alarmingly adept at chasing squirrels.
Luckily, Miss Penelope Lumley is no ordinary governess. Only fifteen years old and a recent graduate of the Swanburne Academy for Poor Bright Females, Penelope embraces the challenge of her new position. Though she is eager to instruct the children in Latin verbs and the proper use of globes, first she must help them overcome their canine tendencies.
But mysteries abound at Ashton Place: Who are these three wild creatures, and how did they come to live in the vast forests of the estate? Why does Old Timothy, the coachman, lurk around every corner? Will Penelope be able to teach the Incorrigibles table manners and socially useful phrases in time for Lady Constance's holiday ball? And what on earth is a schottische?

Strengths:  I thought that the mystery of this story - who are these children, actually? Why were they living in the woods raised by wolves? What is the mysterious howling? etc., was great.  I liked the personalities of Miss Lumley and of the children.  I didn't like Lady Constance, but that was the point of her character, to be sure.  It was a fun read because it was just a little bit different, what with the old-fashioned way of speaking, the way the children talked, and the strange nature of their behavior.

Weaknesses: I think it might be just a little too different to appeal to most middle school readers. I listened to it on audio, which was excellent, but I think that perhaps reading some of the story - particularly the childrens' speech patterns, might be very challenging.  Some of the vocabulary, although occasionally defined within the course of the story, would also be too challenging for most readers and turn readers off from the story, which is too bad.

Return to Me, Justina Chen

From the Publisher: Nothing is going as planned for Rebecca Muir. She's weeks away from starting college--at a school chosen specifically to put a few thousand miles of freedom between Reb and her parents. But her dad's last-minute job opportunity has her entire family moving all those miles with her! And then there's the matter of her unexpected, amazing boyfriend, Jackson, who is staying behind on the exact opposite coast. And if that isn't enough to deal with, mere days after moving cross-country, Reb's dad drops shocking, life-changing news. With her mother and brother overwhelmed and confused, Reb is left alone to pick up the pieces of her former life. But how can she do that when everything can change in an instant? How can she trust her "perfect" boyfriend when her own dad let her down? Reb started the year knowing exactly what her future would hold, but now that her world has turned upside down, will she discover what she really wants? Justina Chen, the acclaimed author of North of Beautiful , has created a moving and powerful novel about the struggles that arise from betrayal, the uncertainty of life after high school, and the joy that ultimately comes from discovering what's truly in your heart.

Strengths: The story of betrayal told in this novel will ring true for many children with a parent who decides to leave his or her family.  The shock and overwhelming topsy-turviness of that situation can be crushing and leave the family members reeling. People in such situations sometimes make self-destructive decisions.  Watching Rebecca go through this terrible scenario will be comforting to other young people in a similar situation and also might prevent them from making some of the same choices as Reb which she realizes, in the end, were the wrong choices.

Weaknesses: I thought that although the characters talked about and described the deep pain they were going through, they also seemed to recover from it and forgive more quickly than was realistic. Reb also seemed wise beyond her years in many ways. Not that a girl like her couldn't exist, and certainly she was far from perfect, but she was just a little too insightful in many ways, and it didn't quite ring true.

Overall I think this book will be well received by middle and high school students.

Maya's Notebook - Isabelle Allende

Oh, this was a magnificent book.  From the beautiful cover through the last page, I loved it.

From the Publisher:
Neglected by her parents, nineteen-year-old Maya Nidal has grown up in a rambling old house in Berkeley with her grandparents. Her grandmother Nidia, affectionately known as Nini, is a force of nature—willful and outspoken, unconventionally wise with a mystical streak, and fiercely protective—a woman whose formidable strength helped her build a new life after emigrating from Chile in 1973. Popo, Maya's grandfather, is an African American astronomer and professor—a gentle man whose solid, comforting presence helps calm the turbulence of Maya's adolescence.
When Popo dies of cancer, Maya goes completely off the rails. With her girlfriends—a tight circle known as the Vampires—she turns to drugs, alcohol, and petty crime, a downward spiral that eventually bottoms out in Las Vegas. Lost in a dangerous underworld, she is caught in the crosshairs of warring forces—a gang of assassins, the police, the FBI, and Interpol. Her one chance for survival is Nini, who helps her escape to a remote island off the coast of Chile. Here Maya tries to make sense of the past, unravels mysterious truths about life and about her family, and embarks on her greatest adventure: the journey into her own soul.

Strengths: The character development in this book was excellent. Maya's flaws were not glossed over nor were her more excellent character traits exalted. Other characters in the novel were highly developed as well. The mystery of Maya's past was woven in slowly but not too slowly. The tension was high enough to keep readers interested but not so high that I felt stressed out from reading.  I lke to be right on the edge of that plane!

Weaknesses: Some readers might not like the back and forth of much of this novel, moving from Maya's present to her past and back again.  although I sometimes do not like that style myself, I thought it was vey well done in this book. 

This book will be an excellent high school/adult crossover book and I am hoping it gets some recognition from the alex Awards committee.