Wednesday, May 26, 2010
So when Jarrett from Evanston Public Library asked if we could link to an interview with her, how could we refuse?! Read his interview entitled, "Airlifted by Poetry." You'll be glad you did!
Monday, May 24, 2010
Wells also loads his character John with either a destiny or a huge set of uncomfortable coincidences. His full name is John Wayne Cleaver. Depending on your frame of reference he’s either named after a cowboy or a serial killer (John Wayne Gacy). His last name is Cleaver, which can make a convenient murder weapon. His father’s name is Sam, so he is also literally the Son of Sam. The scene in which he goes over this with his therapist is sort of hilarious.
I’m not sure how I feel about this one. On the one hand, I couldn’t put it down. I found John to be a compelling character and his voice to be chilling while at the same time pretty humorous in his ability to pinpoint his disconnect with normal. I liked how the arrival of a serial killer in his town is the catalyst that puts John’s rules for living to the test. I also really liked John’s relationships with his therapist and his mother.
However, there were some plot points that threw me for a loop. Scroll over to see spoilers ->The ding dang serial that comes to town is a freakin’ demon! I’m just not sure how I feel about this melding of fantasy and gritty reality. I mean, I did appreciate how the demon turns out to be more human than John, but come on, a demon? And the way it is introduced. He just tells you things like, “but that was before we knew it was a demon.” I kept thinking he was speaking metaphorically or something. Turns out he wasn’t. It was strange and did odd things to the suspense for me. <- end of spoilers.
There was a lot to like and the issues I had, were more to do with genre bending and so might not be an issue to other readers. I also don’t like gore and this verged on too much gore for me. I am extremely curious as to where the story will go in its next installment. Does he run into another serial killer? Does he take up killing himself? So many possibilities.
So we have cute little stuffed vamp kitties that want to eat slayer ovaries, a giant spider, Harmony getting her own MTV reality TV. show (hilariously titled “Harmony Bites), Faith fighting a fear demon, and Dawn getting turned into a porcelain doll with a creepy Geppetto type character.
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
So, yeah…Fray. In a word: awesome. I loved that two very separate worlds collided in a kick butt storyline. What happens is present day Willow gets a magical tip that there is going to be some sort of a temporal shift in NYC and that her and the Buffster need to be there. As always, things aren’t as they seem and Buffy gets sucked into the future and into a fight with Fray – who takes a few minutes to recognize that Buffy is a fellow slayer from the past. There is one scene where Buffy asks Fray how many slayers she’s got on her side and Fray’s like just me girl (oh and my evil twin brother who’s a vamp – he’s got my memories and he wants to kill me). So obviously, the slayer army ™ does not survive. Hip Hip Hooray! I wonder what happens to them? Maybe they’re just de-slayerfied. It’s got to be wrapped up in Buffy’s special Scythe, since they all but spelled out how that is the source of the slayer army’s ™ power. And just for you FYI, Fray is two centuries in the future. Only two centuries until flying cars, y’all! Oh and Willow is in the future. (*spoiler alert*) And she’s EVIIIIIIIIIL! She’s behind the temporal shift that present day Willow heard about. Trippy, huh? I had to read this twice, but I’m fairly certain that she pulled Buffy into the future so that Buffy could kill her and set some wrong right. To me, it seemed as though Willow was making up for some wrong she did Buffy. Possibly kill/de-slayerify the slayer army ™? I can’t wait to find out! (end of spoilers).
Anyhow, all this is wrapped up in Twilight’s plot to take away Buffy’s moral standing. He thinks that if she doesn’t have a strong moral certainty that she is on the right side that he can defeat her and get rid of all the magic. And Riley is part of Twilight’s crew. Or possibly a double agent. Riley has always annoyed me. That Initiative storyline was just lame. I hope he doesn’t figure too prominently in the future episodes.
The Long Way Home
No Future For You
Wolves at the Gate
Book Source: Library Copy
Monday, May 17, 2010
I understand about the allure of a love triangle and I understand rooting for the character you like the best. I especially understand this in a book that is a romance like the Twilight series. I guess my problem is that I don’t find the Hunger Games to be books that are dominated by Katniss’ romantic possibilities. I see them more of a journey for survival. I see them as commentary on society: the ugliness of humanity as well as the strength and beauty of it.
And frankly, I see the focus on romance decisions as an insidious thing that reduces the power and importance of Katniss. Some sort of thing where since she is a girl, she might accomplish great things, but when it comes down do it, darn it, she just wants to be loved. So, yeah yeah, she has to fight for her survival, sure sure she becomes a symbol of resistance and change, but let’s get to the important part…which boy is she going to pick? And it drives me crazy. Because Katniss is so much more than that.
Yes I am aware there is romance in the novels. Yes, she is torn between two friends. But is that the most important element of her story? I emphatically say no. I think it is more of a side-story (and I certainly don’t mind the side-story since romance really does makes everything better) but, to me, the undercurrents of the resistance – the political structure of the capital, what the heck is going on in district 13, and what goes on in the arena are all way more interesting and compelling. I want to learn more about those things rather than focus on who Katniss is going to get it on with.
End of rant. With full acknowledgment that I may be over-reacting and taking all the fun out of life.
The setup for this book just plain freaked me out. It is such a major source of fear for me. I never leave keys in the ignition and I lock all the doors when I’m sitting in a car. Heck, I lock the doors when I’m driving a car. When I was a kid, one of my cousin’s schoolmates was left in the car by his mom. It was winter and the car was running. Someone stole the car and he tried to escape and was run over. It was shocking and terrible and made a big impact on me.
So yeah, scary situation. Add to that the fact that Cheyenne is blind and you just ratchet up the fear-o-meter. It turns out that Cheyenne has been accidentally kidnapped. Griffin, the teenager that steals the car, was tempted by the keys in the ignition. He saw an easy score. Once he’s driven away he’s unsure of what to do with Cheyenne and keeps on driving. He sort of decides to keep her by default – he’ll let his dad figure it all out. And his dad? Not such a nice guy.
Griffin is also a victim of circumstance – he’s been badly abused by his father. He dropped out of school and works for his father as a petty thief as well as his chop shop. He’s partly seduced by the life and partly disgusted by it. He’s beat down and insecure and caught up in a situation that has spiraled out of control.
This is a very suspenseful novel. I really got caught up in the tension and the what-is-going-to-happen-next. There are people who get involved that would very much like to hurt Cheyenne. She is never sure she is going to make it out of this situation alive. And as a reader, I wasn’t too sure either – I saw her as a resourceful character, but dang. The odds were stacked against her. Not only is she blind, but she is also suffering from pneumonia. Luckily homegirl brings it.
Book Source: ARC sent for review by publisher
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
This was a very funny episode considering all the serious things that happen. First we have a guest appearance by Dracula (thus with the funny). Luckily Xander resists any urges to eat bugs. Much of the story is set in Japan and there is a really nice riff on Japanese Monster movies. Very, Very funny.
Although Twilight shows up for a brief cameo where he kicks Buffy’s ass, this episode is very much centered around a group of Japanese vampires who have created a spell driven machine thing (truthfully I have no idea what it is) that along with Buffy’s special Scythe can steal the slayer right out of a girl. Yes, they’ve invented a de-slayerifying machine. Heaven help me, I just might faint...from delight! Obviously the slayer army is not that popular with others – or am I just projecting again? Surprisingly, I wasn’t sure I wanted it to work. There are some slayers that are growing on me. Maybe it was just the actors that I hated? I’m sure I’ll beat this subject to death in my next Buffy post too, no worries!
The serious stuff was really…serious. I won’t tell you who dies, but if you’re reading along or just a Buffy T.V. fan you know that they don’t shy away from killing main or semi-main characters. All I’ll say is Mr. Whedon really does not like his characters to be happy. It’s all about building the love up and then having someone die or betray you. I definitely understand it on one level – it is the anticipation that is so wonderful to read or watch. Once someone is together it is almost anti-climatic. But dang. It has got to be hard being these people.
One note on the art: I love that they get Buffy’s wonky nose right. I also love that Sarah Michelle Geller never had a nose job. I love it when people don’t look like waxy imitations of people.
Book Source: Library Copy
Years later and Uncle Lester has gone blind, a symptom of his worsening diabetes. Alton is now in high school and his mother has just signed him up to be the cardturner for his uncle so that he can continue playing competitive bridge. Alton is seduced by this complicated card game. He starts to practice on his own, he starts to practice with Toni Uncle Lester's "sort of" niece. He discovers that Uncle Lester really is his favorite uncle, for reasons that have nothing to do with how rich he is.
I have to say, I really loved this story. What I could have done without was all the bridge strategy talk. Luckily I am the type of reader that can just skim through all the business and get to the fun. Even luckier is the fact that Sachar realized that all the bridge talk might make reader's eyes glaze over and so implemented a system where he put a whale (ala Moby Dick - you'll understand when you read the book) at the beginning of those sections so that you could just skip those parts. He definitely got me interested in bridge, but I think it might be one of those things that is easier to learn as you play. Like Crib. A favorite game in my household growing up. Although crib is nowhere near as complicated as bridge.
Alton is a really sweet character and is sort of shy and retiring. He's got a problem with a best friend that goes after his girlfriends. He is a really good brother to his younger sister Leslie who's a sparky little chick, I liked her a lot. He's also been fed crazy amounts of misinformation about his Uncle Lester from his parents, who I did not like at all. In fact, I would go so far to say that I found them sickening and distasteful. They are money grubbers of the worst kind and when they finally do get an inheritance (*skip this part if you don't want spoilers*) they are completely ungrateful. Oh no, a free start where all their debt is paid off and college education for both of their children paid for no matter where or how expensive was not good enough for them. They complained that if they had known they would have bought more things on credit so that they could have more for free. I felt rage. I did! I thought that was about the most thoughtful bequest ever. Who wouldn't be grateful that they no longer had any debt? The mother also viciously maligned Toni and her family. Maybe she didn't know the real circumstances, but she certainly made no effort to find out. Ugh. (*end of spoilers*)
It'll be interesting to see how teens react to this story. I know lots will pick it up based on their love of Holes. I think the story is very strong, although it does vear off a little strangely at the end. I hope they stick with it. The ending is rewarding and sweet and Alton is a lovely character to spend some hours with.
Faith has always been one of my favorite Buffy characters. You know, because she’s tough and mean and always seems to make bad decisions. Her storylines are always complex and interesting, which makes her super fun to watch or read about. From the first moment she was introduced on the show, I preferred her to Buffy. Which does not mean I didn’t cheer loudly when she got her comeuppance (comeuppances?). I certainly enjoyed her getting put in her place. It’s just that she’s such a survivor. I knew she’d be back.
This one starts off when Robin (the old Sunnydale HS principle and Faith’s ex) calls her and lets her know that they are taking out a nest, but that one of the vamps had kids. He apologizes for calling her and says, “I never would have bothered you if I thought any of these girls could take care of them, but…” And so begins another story where Faith again gets the worst assignment. She misunderstands what Robin means by “take care of. ” Poor Faith. Faith is tough, mentally and physically, but she always does get the short end of the stick. Some might say she deserves it, but I can’t help but feel like they use and abuse her. Anyhow, she’s infinitely more interesting than Buffy.
All that doesn’t mean I dislike Buffy – just that she tends to get a bit holier than thou. Lots of things are about her, but not everything. You know? She displays this lack of insight during this storyline (every storyline?).
We get more info on the big bad of season 8 - Twilight. Not much, but we see him, albeit a masked him. And we discover that he has a master plot, which surprise surprise (*ahem* not) seems to include killing Buffy and to put an end to all magic. I did a stupid thing then – I got too interested and wanted to read more about him since I’m waiting on volume 3. Big mistake. I stumbled right on a major spoiler (want to be spoiled too?). Dang. I knew that was going to happen. My fault for looking though.
I’m still not entirely feeling the slayer army, but luckily in this installment they don’t feature into the story all that much. Still, there was plenty of ass-kicking including one awesome scene between Buffy and Faith. We also find out why Dawn is a giant. Ah Dawn, why did you think you’d be any luckier in love?
We end with some uncomfortable truths coming out between Willow and Buffy and what looks like an estrangement. Can’t wait until Vol. 3 gets here!
Book Source: Library Copy
Thursday, May 6, 2010
She can also sense dead animals. She can barely stand to be around her cat (which, to me, begs the question, why does she keep it?!) I must say I had something of a problem with this, only because I don’t think that animals hunting and killing other animals ever constitutes murder (in my notes I went on at length, be thankful I spared you). So anyway, I decided to go with Violet being able to sense violent endings. Ahhh, yes. Much better.
Enter a serial killer, who is killing young ladies in her town. Girls she’s known and grown up with. Violet feels compelled to seek him out using her special skill set. When is this ever a good idea? Oh, that’s right – never! Violet soon finds herself in increasing danger.
There was some really great suspense in this book. Interspersed with Violet’s narrative are chapters written from the killer’s point of view and they are flat out creepy. We see how he picks his victims, how he traps them, but thankfully not what happens after – which would have been too much. Leaving that to the imagination makes it even creepier in my mind. There were some great plot twists in here too that were unexpected.
All in all though, this book was not for me. Violet has a special power, but still needs to be rescued by the various males in her life. Part of this I understand, yes, she has a special power, but she hasn’t really explored it and this whole serial killer situation thing is totally new. So it isn’t like she’s a super hero or anything. But still, Jay was a little too protective for my taste. I found him stifling. I wanted to tell him to back off. And there was that little matter of a sexual assault that happened on a date Violet has with a school friend. It wasn’t spoken of in those terms and that is exactly the problem I had with it. Or I could be overreacting. It just seemed like it was a serious thing.
Do killers really ever burst into a detailed explanations, doing everything but tapping their fingers together like Mr. Burns and letting off evil laughter (muahahahahaha) before they are going to kill you? Do they? I mean, I guess it’s possible. It just doesn’t seem realistic. It seems like a way for an author to info-dump on the reader. I would have preferred Violet to learn of the ins-and-outs of the methods from her uncle after the fact. Oh and the fact that he dressed up in camo complete with camo face paint to chase her through the woods was just too much for me. I kept thinking of the episode of Arrested development when Tobias followed Lindsay on her date with the homeless dude dressed up in blue-man makeup all the while blending into walls and vending machines. I do not blame this on the author in any way – this is the type of thing my brain just does. It makes it hard for me to take things seriously. I had a similar problem when reading The Road when they were eating babies. So, yes, very much a personal problem.
***end of spoilers***
So my conclusion? The romance is steamy and the suspense will keep you turning the pages. I think teen girls will like it.
Book Source: Library Copy
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
You’re surprised at all the blood.
He looks over at you, eyes wide, mouth dropping open, his face almost as white as his shirt.
He’s surprised too.
Yowzer. Now that is an opening line. In fact that entire opening segment is pretty much a Holy Sh*t what is going on, this is crazy type of thing. What I like is that the reader thinks they know what they are getting into – after all, didn’t the book open up with an obvious violent incident? You may not know exactly who was involved, or where it happened, or what exactly happened, but I’m willing to bet you think you know. And I also am willing to bet that you’re wrong.
I’ll be honest, I’m not quite sure what to make of You. One the one hand, I think it was spectacular. The use of suspense alone was wonderful. The story arc was interesting and the conclusion was surprising while also being somewhat inevitable. On the other hand, it was written entirely in second person and that made for a really…strange…reading experience. People obviously love it, the arc has pages upon pages of blurbs from big name authors such as Crutcher, McCormick, Peck, Gantos, Lynch, and more.
This is one of the books that we’re considering for our Mock Printz and I’ll be honest, I could see myself loving it. The more I think about it the more I feel in awe of the story, I could see myself getting rabid about it. This is also one of those books that I could see being divisive with people either loving it or hating it. Especially with that second person narration. Regardless, it would be an excellent conversation.
The story features Kyle. He is undoubtedly depressed although no one, maybe not even himself realizes this. He’s a reliable narrator that has more than a touch of the unreliable about him (if you get my drift which you probably don’t because that doesn’t really make too much sense, but trust me on it). And as a character I bought everything about Kyle. He was achingly real.
The only thing that gave me pause was Zack. He’s the new kid in school. He’s sort of an evil genius that appears somewhat benign at first and then slowly becomes meaner and meaner. I loved him until the final chapter and then I thought maybe he was a bit too much.
And I don’t even think I gave you a plot summary. Oh well. Guess you’ll have to read it yourself now!
Book Source = ARC borrowed from colleague
The Knife of Never Letting Go
The Ask and the Answer
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
The Hole We’re In is an adult book, published by Black Cat. When I searched for reviews, I was a little shocked that it was reviewed in Oprah’s magazine. With a discussion guide! Well well well. Good for Gabrielle Z.
At the end of the first chapter Roger Pomeroy admits he is looking at the hole in the stocking of his professor who playfully bats back, “How can you look at a hole?” Well, we have 283 pages of hole scrutinizing ahead. Some characters realize they are in a hole and try to get out, others just create giant holes and are clueless, and then there are those who just ignore the holes. Finances, school, marriage, children, friendships, religion, work – all holes. The small ones just as hurtful as the giant gaping ones with big signs that say THIS IS EFFED UP! (To quote Patsy.)
The book is split into 4 parts and spans several decades, ending up in 2022. We follow the Pomeroys, taking turns with dad Roger (Pastor Dad, a self-centered I have an opera in me! tool, mom George (an unbalanced, disconnected sad sack), Vinny (went to Yale and thus excommunicated from church and family), Helen (bored speech therapist, unremarkable), and Patsy (youngest by 10 years, Iraq War Vet, petite shoulders bear the weight of her family’s dysfunction).
We spend most of our time with Roger, George, and Patsy and the hell they make of each other’s lives. Zevin packs so much into this novel. I felt overwhelmed not only by the stories, but by the sadness. These characters wreck lives and it’s hard to go there with them. Roger is unlikeable in his self-delusion that he is doing God’s work. George isn’t any better and an even worse decision maker. Her betrayal of Patsy so enraged me that I could not come around when redemption was sought at the end. (It was brilliant writing, though. Kudos to Zevin on that one.) Vinny is really only around to provide a flipside of normalcy. Helen is boring and has the scary potential to become like her parents (deluded, careless). Patsy is the gamechanger. She challenges the “circumstances of her birth” and does realize the crap that has been dealt to her. Add to that a helping of PTSD from her time in the service. Good luck, Patsy!
As frustrated as I was reading it, I did recognize the great writing of Gabrielle Zevin. She takes a sharp look at social classes, family, and religion; really hitting hard at the hypocrisy of ultra-conservative religion. It is also dark and very funny which is signature Zevin. I love how Britney Spears is a major theme in the novel. How crazy is that? Crazy good. More funny parts: The Christmas play characters wore Halloween costumes (Gandalf=god, Princess Leia = Mary, Frodo = Joseph), Sabbath Day Adventists are vegetarians and own the 5th largest snack cake company in the USA, Big Rock in the novel is Round Rock, TX!, an image of Jesus appears on the ceiling of a Wal-Mart-type store over the contraceptive aisle.
The novel lumbered along, but was still a quick read. As hard as it was sometimes, the stories kept my curiosity. What next? Or, what can the author do to these people now? Good heavens!
Source: checked out from my library
Monday, May 3, 2010
The book begins in 1937, three brothers are headed in different directions. Andras, to Paris to study Architecture. Tibor, to Italy to become a medical doctor. And Mátyás, still at school in Hungary and a less serious student than his brothers. Andras, a scholarship recipient is practically penniless and alone in Paris. His story is lovely at first, yes he misses his family. But Paris! School! Love! Everything a young man could dream of. Of course Germany and the Nazi party overshadow some of this. Anti-Semitism becomes more visible, Andras and his friends suffer from this while at school. Then, Germany starts circling closer and closer as we knew it would. Andras is deported to Hungary.
The situation for Jews in Hungary was different than in most of Europe. Discrimination existed, but Jews were allowed many of the same human rights as the rest of the citizenry. They could move unmolested, they could own shops, they could work, they were not imprisoned in ghettos or camps. This is not to say things were rosy in Hungary, but at the time, it was better than the Jews in other parts of Europe were faring, especially when one considers that Hungary was an ally of Germany.
Andras and his brothers are conscripted into the Labor Service, the support workers for the Hungarian Army. The work was non-voluntary and their work terms could be changed at any time. Their treatment varied widely and was almost entirely dependent on the officer in charge of the camp. I should state that they are treated badly at best, working on starvation rations, with inadequate shelter and clothing. But there are also people in the Hungarian army who are disgusted by the ill-treatment of the Jewish workers. They do their best to help. Despite this, by 1944 Hungary was invaded by Germany and the Jewish citizens were quickly stripped of their human rights, rounded up , ghettoized, and then shipped en mass to camps such as Auschwitz.
If I had to pick one word to describe this book I think it would be epic. It is an epic journey of survival. Not everyone makes it to the end of the book, which is what one expects, although that doesn’t make it any less horrifying. What makes this story even more moving, at least for me, is that the author based this story on her family’s history. Andras is based on her grandfather. And while I am well aware of what people experienced in general, it is powerful to read a fictionalized account of true events knowing that what he and his family went through in the novel was based on what they experienced in real life.
Book Source = ARC snagged from Staff area