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Thursday, March 22, 2007

American Born Chinese, by Gene Luen Yang

Alright, I'm rather anti-graphic novel. I have nothing against them really. I just personally don't like them. But let me say...WOW.

I really, really, REALLY enjoyed this one. What a great story line (all 3 really). I loved how it all came together and how the message was one that isn't specific to one culture in the least.

From the publisher's blurb...

All Jin Wang wants is to fit in...

When his family moves to a new neighborhood, he suddenly finds that he’s the only Chinese-American student at his school. Jocks and bullies pick on him constantly, and he has hardly any friends. Then, to make matters worse, he falls in love with an all-American girl...

Born to rule over all the monkeys in the world, the story of the Monkey King is one of the oldest and greatest Chinese fables. Adored by his subjects, master of the arts of kung-fu, he is the most powerful monkey on earth. But the Monkey King doesn’t want to be a monkey. He wants to be hailed as a god...

Chin-Kee is the ultimate negative Chinese stereotype, and he’s ruining his cousin Danny’s life. Danny’s a basketball player, a popular kid at school, but every year Chin-Kee comes to visit, and every year Danny has to transfer to a new school to escape the shame. This year, though, things quickly go from bad to worse...

These three apparently unrelated tales come together with an unexpected twist, in a modern fable that is hilarious, poignant, and action-packed. American Born Chinese is an amazing ride, all the way up to the astonishing climax - and confirms what a growing number of readers already know: Gene Yang is a major talent.

You, Maybe: The Profound Asymmetry of Love by Rachel Vail

Alright, I can't help it. As an adult reading as an adult...this book bothers me. I'm not naive, but I sure don't like the idea of teenagers being this sexual. At all.

As an adult reading like a teenager, I don't know. She seems so defeatist. Yes, I know some student somewhere will relate spot on with Josie. But so much of it seems a little far-fetched.

From the publisher's blurb...

Careful what you love

Josie is independent, fierce, and does not care what anyone thinks about her, especially where guys are concerned. She may flirt with them, and even kiss them, but it doesn't mean anything, not even with Michael. He's more like a friend-with-benefits.

So who can explain what happens when Carson Gold decides he's interested in her? Carson Gold, the hottest senior, the one everyone secretly watches. At first Josie treats him the same way she treats everybody else. But something about him gets to her. Maybe it's the same thing that causes everyone to watch him. Maybe it's something between them, something just he and Josie share.

Can you blame her for what happens? Could you resist? Neither can Josie -- not for lack of trying, and despite her better sense. It's too much, that first time love finds you and sucks you under. It's too much, even for Josie.

Love is a brat.

Sins of the Fathers, by Chris Lynch

Overall, this is a good book. You really get the concept of a "tribe" and how it's, somehow, more than just a family.

But, the sins of the fathers (as in priests) are altogether to vague. I mean, one's pretty clear. But he's the only priest who's a well-developed character. I can actually hear some of my students wondering what's going on.

From the publisher's blurb...

It's your team or your family or your neighborhood or your church, or maybe just yourself and two other guys. But you have to be able to count on each other, or you can't count on anything at all.

My guys are Skitz Fitzsimmons, who's daffy as a box of frogs, and Hector Fossas, who could pass for Jesus' stronger, tougher, holier brother. I'd stack my guys against anybody's.

The tribe that runs everything in my parish is the Franchise: Fathers Blarney, Mullarkey, and Shenanigan. One's an old blowhard, one's a nasty piece of work, and one's the coolest priest on wheels. Except as soon as you think you know all that, you find out you don't know anything.

They're in charge of right and wrong, but it seems like they make it up as they go along.

They want to break us apart, because of what we see and what we say. So I guess the question is, can the rest of the tribe wait when one guy's falling behind?

Monday, March 19, 2007

Harlem Hustle, by Janet McDonald

Okay, this one redeemed itself. I don't much enjoy 'gangsta rap' (or whatever we call it now) and the culture that seems to go with it. But, this one was okay. I actually found "Hustle" likable and the message worked. Is it terribly believable, um, probably not. But it's a quick read.

From the publisher's blurb...

Hustle's personal Harlem was sorely in need of a renaissance. For him, it was the place where a scared kid named Eric Samson had been ditched by druggy parents and dismissed by frustrated teachers.

Abandoned to the streets to raise himself, Eric Samson knows life won't be easy, beginning with the choices he must make. The fast cash of the streets still tempts him, but the threat of getting locked up - again - is daunting. Maybe Eric's way out is as Harlem Hustle, the rapper he dreams of being. At his side is Manley "Ride" Freeman, surrogate brother and best friend. And Jeannette Simpson, the college-bound "round-the-way" girl he hopes will be more than a friend. But does Eric have the strength to leave the familiar street life behind and the courage to reach for his dream?

In her companion to Brother Hood, Janet McDonald once again captures the rhythms of Harlem in this fast, funny story of a restless teenager who uses the power of words to rise above it all.

Notes from the Midnight Driver, by Jordan Sonnenblick

You know, I was worried about this one. Not in the since that I was concerned about content in general, but I was judging the cover. It's goofy, and totally (to me) doesn't do the story justice.

But then, I liked the story. I even cried at the end. I think this one's important, in a way.

From the publisher's blurb...

16-year-old Alex decides to get even. His parents are separated, his father is dating his former third-grade teacher, and being 16 isn't easy, especially when it comes to girls. Instead of revenge though, Alex ends up in trouble with the law and is ordered to do community service at a senior center where he is assigned to Solomon Lewis, a "difficult" senior with a lot of gusto, advice for Alex, and a puzzling (yet colorful) Yiddish vocabulary. Eventually, the pair learn to deal with their past and each other in ways that are humorous, entertaining, and life changing.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Ricochet, by Sandra Brown

We all have our own "trash" books, right? I don't read paperback romance novels because I just can't let my mind vegetate on those (I spend too much time in mocking analysis.).

My trash books are stories like this one. Fairly quick reads, predictable characters you can care about without getting involved. It's fair, as they go. I'm not jumping up and down about it and can't think of anyone I think has to read this book. Would YAs like it? Eh, probably. It does fit right in with crime dramas so popular on TV these days.

From the publisher's blurb...


When Detective Sergeant Duncan Hatcher is summoned to the home of Judge Cato Laird in the middle of the night to investigate a fatal shooting, he knows that discretion and kid-glove treatment are the keys to staying in the judge's good graces and keeping his job.

At first glance, the case appears open-and-shut: Elise, the judge's trophy wife, interrupted a burglary in progress and killed the intruder in self-defense. But Duncan is immediately suspicious of Elise's innocent act. His gut feeling is that her account of the shooting is only partially true -- and it's the parts she's leaving out that bother him.

Determined to learn the dead man's connection to the Lairds and get at the truth, Duncan investigates further and quickly finds his career, as well as his integrity, in jeopardy -- because he can't deny his increasing attraction to Elise Laird, even if she is a married woman, a proven liar, and a murder suspect.

When Elise seeks Duncan out privately and makes an incredible allegation, he initially dismisses it as the manipulative lie of a guilty woman. But what if she's telling the truth? Then that single fatal gunshot at her home takes on even more sinister significance, possibly involving Duncan's nemesis, the brutal crime lord Robert Savich.

And then Elise goes missing . . .

Ricochet's plot twists -- as only Sandra Brown can write them -- and palpable suspense combine to create this grippingthriller, in which a decent cop's worst enemy may be his own conscience, and trusting the wrong person could mean the difference between life and death.

The Weight of the Sky, by Lisa Ann Sandell

Again, I'm all about form sometimes. This is one of those "prose-poetry" books. I enjoyed the story, though I think the form didn't really add to it. I just don't think you should use that particular form just because you can, it needs to add something to the story.

I like this one. Sarah's believable, though it's a little odd to small-town me to imagine a 17-year-old jetting off to live on a kibbutz in Israel, but okay. Despite the obvious differences (Israel, being Jewish, etc.), teenagers will identify with her. She's struggling to figure out who she is, in a world she doesn't fit into. What teenager isn't feeling that?

From the publisher's blurb..

Sarah, like every college-bound junior, deals with constant pressure from teachers, friends, and parents. Besides that, she’s a marching band geek and the only Jew in her class. So when she gets a chance to spend the summer on a kibbutz in Israel, Sarah jumps at the opportunity to escape her world. But living in Israel brings new complications, and when the idyllic world Sarah creates suddenly shatters, she finds herself longing for the home she thought she’d outgrown.

This lyrical novel beautifully captures the experience of leaving behind a life that’s too small, and the freedom of searching for a place with a perfect fit.

Monster Blood Tatoo: Foundling, vol. 1, by D.M. Cornish

Okay, I don't usually like fantasy stories with a historical bend to them. Really don't. Okay, mostly I just don't like fantasy much (I admit it, I have neither read nor watched the The Lord of the Rings trilogy.). But I LIKE THIS ONE. I really can't wait for the rest of the series..dang it..wonder when that will be.

My only complaint was that this really left me hanging too much. Unlike, say, Harry Potter books--the book is in itself a story. It's nice to know the backstory, but you don't have to. This one leaves me feeling like something's not finished.

From the publisher's blurb...

Set in the world of the Half-Continent-a land of tri-corner hats and flintlock pistols-the Monster Blood Tattoo trilogy is a world of predatory monsters, chemical potions and surgically altered people. Foundling begins the journey of Rossamund, a boy with a girl's name, who is just about to begin a dangerous life in the service of the Emperor. What starts as a simple journey is threatened by encounters with monsters-and people, who may be worse. Learning who to trust and who to fear is neither easy nor without its perils, and Rossamund must choose his path carefully.

Complete with appendices, maps, illustrations, and a glossary, Monster Blood Tattoo grabs readers from the first sentence and immerses them in an entirely original fantasy world with its own language and lore.

The Night My Sister Went Missing, by Carol Plum-Ucci

I don't care. I don't care about these characters, I don't care about the story line. (Okay, that's a little abrupt.)

This didn't even feel realistic to me. In talking with some students about it (yes, a book talk) and they didn't think it sounded believable.

On the upside, it's a quick-quick read (I think it took me a little more than an hour, but I am a speed reader) and it's a Hi-Lo book.

From the publisher's blurb...

A tiny pistol, passed from friend to friend at a party on an abandoned pier, suddenly fires, and Casey Carmody falls into the water below. Kurt, Casey's older brother, endures a seemingly endless night at the police station while the coast guard searches for his sister and his friends are questioned, one by one. Who was foolish enough to pull the trigger? Was the gunfire accidental or deliberate? Or was the whole drama one of Casey's practical jokes? And where is Casey--or her body--now? Dark secrets are revealed and petty jealousies rear their ugly heads as each eyewitness comes to the questioning room with his or her own version of "the truth."

Set in Stone, by Linda Newbery

Hm..a weird kinda Victorian romancey feel when you first get started. Then there's scandal right out of a soap opera. It's an engaging read, though I have to admit that I wish the change in voices was more apparent. I got confused a couple of times.

I didn't like the cover when I picked up the ARC for this book. But, having read it and internalized it, the cover works.

From the publisher's blurb...

When Samuel Godwin, a young and naive art tutor, accepts a job with the Farrow family at their majestic home, little does he expect to come across a place containing such secrets and lies. His two tutees are as different as can be--younger sister Marianne, full of flightiness and nervous imagination, and Juliana, sensible and controlled. Helped by their governess, Charlotte Agnew, Samuel begins to uncover slowly why Marianne is so emotionally fragile, and in doing so uncovers a web of intrigue. But his discoveries lead to revenge and betrayal--and lives all around are turned upside down.

Linda Newbery has written a novel in diary style, combining different voices and a different century with her usual brilliance and ease. These are characters full of the same passions as our own today, while living in an unfamiliar and fascinating time.

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