February 22, 2013

Strong Deaf - review

Strong Deaf
author Lynn McElfresh
publisher Namelos
source NetGalley

Combine sibling rivalry within a "strong Deaf" family that includes a hearing daughter leads the reader to understand a bit about Deaf culture.    Jade is twelve,  her sister Marla fourteen.   Marla attends a residential school for the deaf and comes home for the summer and weekends.   Neither girl likes it when Marla is home, and the rivalry becomes intense.  Their parents and one set of grandparents are Strong Deaf, more about that below.

The story is told from both girls' perspectives.  Jade's narrative is in perfect English.  Marla's is typed as if signed in ASL.  The casual reader may find reading ASL a bit off-putting.  Even though I know ASL, I had a hard time reading it at first.  Consider Marla's narrative as a dialect told through the hands, instead of voicing.

The author does a great job showing unspoken motives behind the characters' actions.   One example:
that summer Dad decides he doesn't want to have to drive to two different softball practices and games.  He, therefore,  convinces the softball league organizer that Jade should be on Marla's team, even though she isn't actually old enough.  His excuse is for Jade to act as an interpreter.   Interpreter?  No way!  This only adds fuel to the fire of sibling rivalry.

The parents are so Strong Deaf that they drive to Gallaudet University when there is an uprising about hiring a new president.   They leave the girls behind with Grandma H (the hearing grandmother).

Lynn McElfresh, the author, herself  had a deaf sister.  She  "was a high-demand babysitter for families with deaf children. As a teenager, Lynn volunteered for Summer School for the Deaf and a deaf Girl Scout troop. Those experiences allowed her to observe a variety of interesting family dynamics between hearing and deaf cultures."

February 21, 2013

New Kids on the Block - review

New Kids on the Block
subtitle:  Five Brothers and a Million Sisters
author:  Nikki Van Noy
published:  October 2012
publisher:  Simon and Schuster - Touchstone
source:  publisher

Ahhh,  every generation of tweens and teens have their idols! squeeeeeal!   For my older cousin, it was Elvis.  For me, the Beatles!  For my middle school students in the early 1990s, it was New Kids on the Block (NKOTB).

Five boys from the Boston area rose from nothing and became the first organic band of young boys from the same area.  Other bands that followed were different because they brought together band members from various locations through talent search.

We follow DannyWood, Donnie Wahlberg, Joe McIntyre,  Jon and Jordan Knight through their childhood and school years.   Busing was mandatory in Boston, so some of the boys met each other in elementary school.   We learn about the band years beginning with Nynuk, the transition effect away from NKOTB in 1994, and finally their reunion.  

In 2008, they played at Madison Square Garden.  In 2011, NKOTB was second on Time's list of Best Comebacks for the year and they became the first pop band ever to play Fenway Park.   Some of the squealing fans, now older women,  are interviewed about their memories.  

As always, it is interesting to see how kids and teens of the past are now adults of the present.

February 19, 2013

Glow - review

publisher Penguin
paperback version to be published February 26
source:  author

 When I opened Glow, I was delighted to see the family tree at the very beginning.  I adore genealogy  and tracing the generations back and forth. 

Ella McGee was born in 1930, and lived in Washington, DC.   Her father is black,  her mother a mixture of Cherokee and Scotch-Irish.   At age 11, her mother sent her back home on a bus to a small town in the Georgia mountains.

Ella disappeared.   There comes a magical meeting with Willie Mae and Mary-Mary who find her.  Are they ghosts?  I don't think this word adequately describes them.

In the course of the book, we meet Riddle Young who was born in 1818.  His mother died in childbirth when he was twelve.  His dad makes him promise to take care of the baby, Emmeline.

What a special weave of stories!  Glow is a mixture of people and the influence their heritage has upon them.   

February 16, 2013

Gods of Mischief - review

Gods of Mischief 
by George Rowe
published February 2013
publisher Touchstone, Simon & Schuster
source:  publisher

I lead such a sheltered life.    Thousands of motorcyclists come to this part of the country for the Honda Hoot or the Gold Wing gathering.   These are friendly gatherings.  We wave to the riders when we see them heading towards the mountains.

The Gods of Mischief are definitely not the same!   They bring terror to communities in California:  barroom brawls, gangs, drugs, murder, especially when they feel they are not "respected".   The federal government wants to bring down the "Green Nation", the Vagos outlaw motorcycle gang.

George Rowe was a "bad boy" who grew up with a very rough childhood.  We learn about Rowe's childhood, including being taken out of school for four years of fishing with his dad.  We learn why he reformed.   We learn how and why he agreed to let the feds convince George to go undercover and infiltrate the Vagos.

Most of the book is written in R-rated language, bordering on X-rated.   This rough language emphasizes the way George, his girlfriend, and the Vagos talk. 

The best part of the book was the details of how Rowe and his family went into the witness protection program.  I sense that Rowe had assistance in writing the book, as he himself said he could barely read and write.  My guess is that the "ghost author" cannot be identified due to the security.

Again, I lead such a sheltered life and am glad to get a glimpse of this type of terror through the printed word, rather than in real life.

February 14, 2013

Gifts of the Crow - review

Gifts of the Crow
authors John Marzluff and Tony Angell
published January 2013
publisher Atria Paperback
source publisher

I grew up in middle Georgia where there were many pine trees with birds and squirrels living in these trees.   My daddy kept a bag of pecans in the trunk of his car.   Every day, he came home from work, whistled, and the birds and squirrels came flying and scampering to him for a free dinner.   Some took food from his hands.

One bird my dad did not like was the blue jay.  If he saw them eating in the back yard, he would bang on the window trying to scare them off.   I wish he was living now, he would enjoy reading Gifts of the Crow.  He then would appreciate these jays more, because of their sophisticated intelligence.

The subtitle of the book "how perception, emotion, and thought allow smart birds to behave like humans" lets us know we will read details of how the crows and other relatives in the corvid family have seven key human characteristics, such as delinquency, frolic, passion and wrath.    Author John Marzluff says, "To fully exploit us, as crows have done, requires a quick brain that associates risk with reward, adjusts to failure, and tempered first responses with emotion."    Marzluff has watched birds for three decades, and still sees them do something new.

There are many anecdotes about crows, magpies, and other corvids.   I thoroughly enjoyed reading about them, however I skipped the pages and brain-maps that told about their neurology systems -- too scientific for me!  I would have preferred to see photos of some of the birds.

Marzluff says he hopes that people will learn "that to call someone a "birdbrain" is a compliment, not an insult."  It is great to share our backyards with these crows and jays.