August 25, 2011

History - BTT

Booking through Thursday asks "When is the last time you read a history book? Historical biography? You know, something that took place in the past but was REAL."

The most vivid recent historical read was The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. It was the runner up in the non-fiction category of last year's Indie Lit awards.  Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.

Speaking of the Indie Lit, next week you can nominate your favorite 2011 books. I'm eager to see what will be nominated. For more info, see Independent Literary Awards

August 23, 2011

Double - review

British cover

by Jenny Valentine
Hyperion Teen
To be published February 2012
tentative American cover

Chap, a homeless nobody, is shown a MISSING poster of a boy who looks exactly like him. Nothing to lose by pretending to be him. "Okay" he lied.

Now called Cassiel, Chap is taken to Cassiel's home in an English village. He isn't the only one with secrets. There are many hidden secrets. Danger lurks.

Double is not a paranormal book and does not have mystical characters, but it reads with the refreshing atmosphere of a fairy tale.

Ahhhhh, a thoroughly satisfying read when all the puzzling questions are tied up at the end.

A favorite passage: Grandad took Chap to the back room of a charity thrift store.
        I thought we were looking for clothes or something, I thought maybe he was going to buy me a suit like his, but all he showed me was a cardboard box full of glasses. Reading glasses, bifocals, lenses thick as bottle tops and thin as ice, big blue frames, little silver ones.
      "Think of all the reading they've done," he said. "Think of all the things those glasses have seen.
       It was like a box full of dead old people.  We were standing in a room full of their clothes. 
       "What are we doing here, Grandad?" I said.
        It was a history lesson. "It's what you do," he said. "It's what you think and see, not what you have."

No wonder Valentine has received four Carnegie Medal nominations.

Note: quotes are from an advance proof.

August 22, 2011

Don't Stop Now - review

Don't Stop Now
Julie Halpern
published by Feiwel and Friends, Macmillan

One sentence summary: Penny fakes her kidnapping; Lil (who views Penny as a charity case) and Josh go on a Road Trip.

It is interesting how different people perceive the same book in different ways.  Most other reviewers gushed over the witty dialogue between Lil and Josh.   It took me awhile to see the humor, I'm slow that way.  Some re-reading helped.

Unrequited love:   Lil loves her BFF Josh,  his scent (odor) when he hasn't showered.  Pheeeeew, I could almost smell his armpits while reading. 

Lil and Josh's Road Trip is interspersed with excerpts from Penny's diary. The diary was a much more interesting read:  how Penny views Lil and the other teenagers.

August 20, 2011

Never Knowing - review

Never Knowing
Chevy Stevens
publisher: St. Martins Press, July 2011
source:  Goodreads giveaway

Summary from Goodreads:  All her life, Sara Gallagher, adopted as an infant, has wondered about her birth parents.  Finally, she is ready to take steps and find closure.
But some questions are better left unanswered.
After months of research, Sara locates her birth mother—only to be met with horror and rejection. Then she discovers the devastating truth.

The truth:  Sara's biological father is a serial killer.    How will Sara deal with this?  Even worse, what if he finds out about her?

This is a wonderful thriller that kept me turning the pages to find out what happens next.  Sara is engaged and has a six-year-old daughter.   The psychological implications are intriguing.  Sara has anger issues, so does her daughter, a manipulative little girl.   How much of this could be genetic?

Each chapter is supposed to be a session with Sara's psychiatrist -- I didn't care for this kind of story-telling because the language and terminology used was more for a narrative book rather than a talk with a live person.

We learn a lot about Sara's adoptive family, the two sisters and parents.  I did wish to know more about the father of her child.   There seemed to be a gap.

In sum,  an enjoyable book!  My daughter also read Stevens' first book Still Missing and tells me this one is even better.   What delight to anticipate another juicy read!

August 18, 2011

Fluff read

Booking Through Thursday

This week's question sets up a scenario many of us go through:  You’ve just had a long, hard, exhausting day, and all you want to do is curl up with something light, fun, easy, fluffy, distracting, and entertaining. What book do you pick up?

What I pick up depends on how tired I am,  I don't always pick up a book.   It might be  the current book I'm reading,  or an unread book on my TBR shelves.  I used to read magazines which are better for a shorter attention span, but have stopped most of my magazine subscriptions.    Sometimes I prefer to simply watch  something that is already recorded on TiVo.

August 15, 2011

Enthralled - review

editors: Melissa Marr & Kelley Armstrong
source:  Around the World ARC Tours

Come take a journey.  Go on a diversion.  Travel the paranormal way.   That is the theme of Enthralled, an anthology of stories by sixteen paranormal authors.

As a teacher, I've gone on hundreds of field trips.  One high school student threw an orange from a fire tower in Gettysburg.   On another trip, we searched for a student who ran ahead of us and then disappeared in the parking garage at University of Tennessee.  I texted the school, we searched the garage.  Finally the school texted me that he was back on campus.   Turned out he rode with another teacher.   I was furious, because neither of them had told me he would ride a different school van.

Therefore, that's why my very favorite story was "Giovanni's Farewell" by Claudia Gray.  Twins, Cairo and Ravenna, are on a field trip in Rome.   sidenote: Gray provides intriguing details such as  Cairo and Ravenna are named for the cities where their parents met and honeymooned.   When the story ended, I was so disappointed -- wanted more!

Some of the stories are set in the worlds the authors have created in their full-size books.   That made it difficult to follow what was going on.  But it is a great way to meet their characters and be introduced into their worlds.

August 11, 2011

Blood Wounds - review

Blood Wounds
Author: Susan Beth Pfeffer
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children's
Publication date: September 12, 2011
Source: Around the World ARC Tours

It is rare for me to finish a book the day I receive it. Blood Wounds is one of these books.

Pfeffer does a great job setting up the background in the first two chapters. Willa and her family sit down at supper; her stepfather makes a comment about happy families and unhappy families. We learn more about Willa's step-sisters. At the end of chapter two, we learn a secret that Willa has. Uh-oh.

The next day, Willa's Mother's best friend leaves a series of frantic phone messages that make absolutely no sense to Willa. "There's an Amber Alert for one of the twins."   Twins? Next phone message, "Sounds like Budge is in a lot of trouble."  Who is Budge?

Then the doorbell rang. Uh oh.

I was hooked! I liked the way Pfeffer goes on to explain why Willa's personality is the way it is,  ramifications from a simple little fight between Willa and step-sister when they were preschoolers.    The family members finally tell each other how they feel about the others.

Highly recommended.

August 5, 2011

Divergent - work

author: Veronica Roth
source: bought for myself

About you: Society in this dystopian novel is divided into five Factions. Each one emphasizes a characteristic: honest, selfless, brave, peaceful, intelligent. Which characteristic would fit YOU at age 16? Want to take a test to find out?

About me: Because of my job in the Career Center of my school as a Transition Assessment Coordinator, I fell in love with Divergent. I gave many many aptitude, interest, and achievement tests, then wrote up transition plans for all the high school students after interviewing them. Reading about the assessments in Divergent hit close to home (correction: close to work)!

Back to the novel: When a person in this futuristic society becomes 16, he or she takes a series of tests to see which Faction he/she belongs in. At a formal ceremony, the sixteen-year-olds declare whether or not they will stay where they were raised with their families, or move into another faction. Then comes a series of initiation trials.

My perspectives:  I would have loved to read more about the assessment tests. The rest of the novel, however, was enjoyable. At first I had to write down a list of characters and which faction he/she came from ... soon that wasn't needed because Roth did a great job of describing her characters.

This is book one of a triology; I'm hoping her other books will describe how the other factions conduct their initiation trials.  I declare this one of the best books I read this summer.

August 4, 2011

Turn of Mind - review

Turn of Mind
author Alice La Plante
available July 5, 2011
source: NetGalley

Some personal reflections first:  My mother lived alone until the month before she turned 95.  At that time, I knew she needed to move into assisted living.  Her regular physician suggested I take her to a geriatric specialist.  After some tests, the specialist told me Mother had early, early Alzheimer's.  The geriatrist emphasized early.   When I asked her prognosis, the doctor said because of Mother's age, the chances were that she would die of a different cause before her Alzheimer's  or dementia became really serious.  The doctor was right.

So when I heard about Turn of Mind, a mystery "written" from the viewpoint of a character with Alzheimer's, this was a must-read for me. Dr. Jennifer White is an orthopedic surgeon specializing in hands. Her best friend has been found murdered, with fingers skillfully amputated. The police repeatedly question Jennifer, or as she huffily says, "Call me Dr. White." Because of her dementia, she cannot adequately answer the questions --- or is she using her dementia as an excuse to avoid answering?

There are flashbacks to the past. Jennifer has a caretaker living with her. A journal is used to help Jennifer keep in touch with what is going on and who has visited. As the novel progresses, Jennifer's memory becomes dimmer and dimmer. She gets confused ... the reader in turn becomes confused. I thought this confusion was cleverly handled.

Whodunnit and why is a minor portion of the novel; I was able to figure it out before the end.

Another reviewer pointed out how the voice (first person tense, second, and third) changed throughout the novel. It makes me want to pick it up and re-read it again! Even though I don't often re-read books, I'm sure I will this one.