Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Anya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol

If it’s published by :01 I just know I’m in for something interesting. And more importantly: This is the 3rd novel I’ve read just this summer with a Russian-American female protagonist. Shut up! The Borrower by Rebecca Makkai (I didn’t care for this so much) and All These Things I’ve Done by Gabrielle Zevin (I need to blog this soon as Patti and I have some differences with this one). ATTID also has a lead named ANYA. 2011 TREND ALERT!

Anya, a former Russian immigrant who spent years in ESL losing her accent and trying to be normal, falls down a well in spectacular loser fashion and meets a ghost. Anya is rescued and she in turns rescues Emily, the ghost of a murdered teen from 90 years ago. Anya’s not sure about Emily, but soon she learns it’s kind of nice to have a ghost who helps you cheat on tests and learn about the hot guy who suddenly noticed you. Emily is so nice to do all these things for Anya the least Anya can do is solve Emily’s murder. Right? Oh goody! Here’s where it becomes more like a ghost story!

I fully expect Anya’s Ghost on lots of GN Best Of lists this year and I eagerly await what else Vera Brosgol brings to the GN world. Every high school library should have it.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Blood Red Road by Moira Young

Ohmyfreakingawd! This book was so good.

We’re in the future – there has been severe ecological damage somehow, we’re never privy to what happened, which is fine since it is way outside the scope of this story. Saba, her twin brother Lugh and younger sister live alone in a dried up lake. There is no one else around except some dude their dad tells them to stay away from. Then one day in a sudden devastating sand storm a posse of horseman ride into town. They kidnap Saba’s brother and kill her father. Saba vows to find him and thus begins her epic journey.

Saba was to my mind, very close in feeling to Temple from The Reapers are the Angels. Partly it was the spare, rough, phonetically spelled dialogue, partly it was that both books eschewed quotation marks, partly it was that both had a western feel to them, and partly it was because they both kicked ass like nobody’s business.

So, yeah, Saba is one tough cookie. She is sold into gladiator slavery where she earns the nickname the Angel of Death. She is unflinchingly violent and willing to do anything to survive. Luckily, her growth as a character is as uncomfortable for her as it is believable to the reader.

My critique of the book is mainly that there is an awful lot packed in here. Maybe the author could have cut some of it out, but, you know, I found I didn’t really mind because the action was break-neck and I couldn’t put the book down. The characters, the dialogue, the descriptions, they really propelled the story along. There are a few stray “ya’lls” that pop up late in the book that were a little incongruous with the rest of the dialogue and then were never used again. Perhaps the love story was a bit clich├ęd, but damn, it was hot, so I give it a wide pass on that one.

There is even a small homage to Tremors, Kevin Bacon’s greatest (greatest!!!) film.

I loved this book! So much fun.

Book Source = Tayshas Review Copy

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Happy Birthday, Sloppy Firsts!

Ten years ago next week (8/28) Megan McCafferty unleashed the irresistible Jessica Darling into the literary world. And the world became a better place.

Please, take a moment and reflect on its awesomeness.

 And if you haven't read it, now is the perfect time. While I love Patti for many, many things, she nagged me for at least 3 years to read it. Thanks, Patti.

Reflect with Megan & other fans on twitter : #sloppyfirsts10th

See Bumped, Kerry's Marcus PostPerfect Fifths and Fourth Comings,

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley

Wow. I loved this book.

A fairly complicated novel of a teenager whose brother goes missing, an extinct woodpecker who makes a surprise appearance, and a Christian Missionary. What makes this book so complicated, at least to me, is that it switches from 1st to 3rd person narrators, it switches between narrators, it incorporates fantasy into the narrative, it has some narrators that aren’t necessarily 100% on top of their game, and it has a bit of religious theology that for the layperson (me) could be (totally was) confusing

This is, of course, part of what makes this book so extraordinary. There is a point where the different storylines begin to converge that is just so well done it made me want to scream. The author also plays around a bit with the timeline which gave me a jolt when I was nearing the end of the book. Good work author!

So what is this book about? Well, I’ve been sitting here thinking for about 10 minutes and I’m having a hard time making a summary that makes any kind of sense. What it boils down to is that it is really the story of Cullen, a boy prone to day dreams and idealism, a boy who writes the titles of the novels he is going to write into a notebook (instead of the actual novels), a boy whose brother Gabriel goes missing.

The characters were so distinct and lovely that I wished I knew them in real life. The love between family members, the love between friends, even between community members (even when it came in the form of free hamburgers, named hilariously after the extinct bird "its just a #3 without cheese!" That killed me every time), it made the whole story bittersweet and touching in a way that it wouldn’t have been otherwise.

Even the title played into the narrative quite a bit. Lily, is a town (according to Cullen our main narrator), where people leave full of hope and then come back when they don’t make it, it is a town where an extinct woodpecker may have come back to, where hopefully Gabriel, Cullen’s missing brother will come back.

This is probably my favorite YA novel so far this year.

Book Source = Tayshas Review Copy

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Night Season by Chelsea Cain

The fourth installment in this series deviates immediately from the previous three. We are mercifully saved from reading more about Archie, our detective hero, and Gretchen's perverse (and pervy) relationship.

Instead we've got a new serial killer on the loose in a Portland that is under siege from storm water. Portland is flooding and people are drowning. Quelle suprise, right? Except that these drownings are becoming more and more suspicious since all of the victims have few itsy bitsy teeny weeny things in common. That's all I can say without spoilers.

Our new serial killer friend is totally creepy, but like Gretchen, he is a little over the top in his methods. Which, to my mind, makes this a fun and easy read despite the fact that people keep being murdered (always kind of a downer).

Susan, our intrepid reporter, is an excellent character and I really enjoy how she complements and balances out Archie the detective. If you haven't read any of these, I strongly suggest that you try them out. I always read them within a 24 hour period because I can't put them down.

Evil at Heart

Book Source: Library Copy

Thursday, August 11, 2011

White Crow by Marcus Sedgwick

So, White Crow… Where do I start?

Well, I spent the majority of my time confused while reading this book. This is despite there being some really compelling storytelling going on. Basically we’ve got an old English town that is, quite literally, crumbling into the sea. Entire sections are gone, including the houses, churches, and businesses that were located there. Talk about atmosphere! It had it to spare.

We’ve also got some really compelling characters. Or rather, character. Ferelith, the weird girl who I was never really sure of. I couldn’t ever tell (until the end) whether or not she was really real, if she had some sort of dark communion going on, or if she was just lonely and isolated. And I found that lack of ability to pin-point her really fantastic. I loved the uncertainty of her character and how unreliable that made her.

What didn’t work for me so well were the chapters from the late 1700s from a Rector living in the same town. There are some nice parallels between his story and present day. A stranger comes to town in both of them. Quests for knowledge also span the two stories. However, it took too long for me to figure out how this story from the past fit into the present day story. And the religious verbiage, while I’m sure was accurate, made me feel like I was wearing a hair-shirt at times. And he was a self-pitying fool, the like of which I always want to smack. Now, having said that, when you find out what is really going on, there is a great payoff – I just wish there had been more clues along the way to keep me interested.

Book Source = Tayshas Copy

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

What We're Reading at Our House - 4

As summer vacation closes shop, my 8 year old also winds up his summer reading. His school sent home a goal of 30 books (at least 100 pages each or 2 books to combine for 100 pages) for incoming 3rd graders. My guy is almost there. School starts August 22.

Fred and Anthony's Horrible, Hideous Back-to-School Thriller
by Elise Arevamirp with Elise Primaver (Hyperion Paperbacks for Children 2008)
A new favorite. The title is irresistible this time of year and it has lots of fun illustrations. It seems like it is out of print so look for it at a library.

Max Disaster #3: Alien Eraser Reveals the Secrets of Evolution
by Marissa Moss (Candlewick Press, 2009)
Another comic-like story. I love all the Amelia books so I was happy to see that she has a series for boys. Two thumbs up for sticking science in there as well.

There's a Boy in the Girl's Bathroom
by Louis Sachar
Reaching back to old school. The outdated cover almost turned him off completely. My son loves Sideways Stories so I selected this one for him. He enjoyed it quite a bit. I heard lots of laughs and that's a solid seal of approval.

Star Wars Character Encyclopedia
DK Publishing, 2011
It's about Star Wars. Instant must-have in our house. We checked it out last week and he's probably read it 6 times already.

Tom Sawyer
by Mark Twain
Dad is reading this aloud for the 2nd year in a row. They still laugh and laugh.

In Zanesville: a novel
by Jo Ann Beard (Little, Brown and Company 2011)
Yay! I liked this one very much. My friend Martha reviewed it on Goodreads and her good words were more than enough to get me to check it out. At times it was hard for me to keep track of the who's who of the teen girls, but I think that's supposed to happen. Our narrator takes us along with her for her 9th grade year in the 1970s and she doesn't explain much. I thought this storytelling fit really well with our teen protagonist because she is a teenager. I don't really want her to have deep thoughts and wisdom beyond her years. She and her BFF Felicia are figuring things out. They're definitely weird, but is that okay? She leaves quite a bit out so we have to do some work to piece together what is happening outside of what she is immediately doing and thinking. Another possible contender for the Alex Awards.

Just Kids
by Patti Smith (Ecco 2010)
On my to read list for ages. Once upon a time a woman at a work training I attended asked to take my picture because she thought I looked just like Patti Smith. I took it as a compliment. And maybe I should brush my hair. I haven't finished this book yet, but all I have to say is that I was a total sloth as a 21-22 year old. Holy cow. The people she met and worked with is pretty much EVERYONE. And she knew it then, too. She knew to learn from the people around her. Just really amazing. She wrote this book with a lot of love and you can feel it in every paragraph. (oh, and a sequel!)

Monday, August 8, 2011

Weetzie Prequel!

I want I want I want. I read Weetzie Bat as a freshman in college after reading a blurb about it in Sassy Magazine. I went to the local bookstore and bought it with my meager college freshman funds. It was love from the first sentence. Witch Baby was my girl.

In 2003 she came out with the grown-up Weetize novel Necklace of Kisses which, now as a married woman myself, I also loved.

This morning Twitter had a little nugget of awesome by way of Francesca's tweet mentioning gallies of a prequel. A young teen Weetzie in Pink Smog.

AND IT GETS BETTER. According to Harper Teen, the book comes out ON MY BIRTHDAY. Just like Meg Rosoff's  There is No Dog.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

You Against Me by Jenny Downham

I seem to be incapable of doing much lately. Maybe it is the record breaking heatwave that Austin is having. It was 107 yesterday people! Insanity! My energy levels seem to be particularly low probably because my body is smart and is trying to keep me from collapsing and withering away in 2.1 seconds.

Anyhoo! All this heat does give a girl some time to hide inside and read.

Joanna reviewed Before I Die way back when. It was such a tear jerker and I quite frankly, loved it. So I've been looking forward to her next book pretty much ever since. You Against Me was worth the wait. This book deals with a rape and its consequences on the two families involved: the victim's and the perpetrator's. In fact, the central storyline is very much more concerned with the people around the crime rather than those who were involved. Early on the brother of the victim (Mikey) crashes a party and meets the sister of the accused (Ellie). There are false pretenses, secret plots, and general emotional confusion as the two teens get to know each other.

I have to say that I really liked how the author approached this story and took it beyond the story of how a victim moves past and heals. Because how exactly does the family of the accused deal with the fact that the son/brother/cousin they know and love is not the person they thought he was? How far would a family go to protect someone who most likely is guilty? I imagine it could be almost as world-shattering as having someone you love attacked. Ellie and her parents react to the situation very differently and you can see how it strains and tears at the fabric of their family.

A serious book that deals with family, forgiveness, and healing, and two teens who learn what it really means to love. Not a tear jerker like Before I Die, but I bet you'll shed a tear or two as you read. Great book.


Book Source = ALA Exhibit Hall

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

It's a Special Day...

Because today is Patti's birthday!

Oh blog-o-sphere, join me in wishing Our Dear Patti a truly spectacular day! Happy birthday, kid. I'm so thankful to have wonderful you in my life. You have many great friend qualities, but here on our reading blog I must admit, what would I read without you?

No Jasper Fforde, no Garth Nix, NO MEGAN MCCAFFERTY, no Megan Whelan Turner, no Patrick Ness, no Philip Reeve, no Kathleen Duey and pretty much every non-contemporary girl fic that I pick up. You went to ALA this year and mailed me books. You are so thoughtful! It's so much fun to read when I know that I can talk about it with you.

Happy birthday, Patti! Enjoy your day!