Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Rash

This book is perfect for next year's summer reading list! There is an excellent review of it on this lit blog, but my own brief thoughts are this:

This book is a look at a future that could happen. It is full of anger and football and I laughed out loud a bunch of times. There are teenagers being chased by polar bears and McDonalds rules the world. If you mixed Aldous Huxley, Kurt Vonnegut and Chris Crutcher's DNA together, you would get Rash.

I wouldn't be surprised if this became a classroom book - of course that would wreck it because then you would have to read it. So read it quick before some English teacher wrecks it! (I am kidding of course, I adore English teachers. Really!)

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Born to Rock!

I just finished BORN TO ROCK by Gordon Korman and I really liked it. I always feel bad for people named Gordon because they have no good nickname. They are either called Gor (which brings to mind zombie carnage) or Gordy which makes them sound like a Scottish youth pastor. But I digress.

This here book is about a young Republican who finds out that his birth father is the angriest man in punk rock. Through a series of people acting completely unlike they do in real life - he ends up on tour with his birth-dad's band. It is a funny book that keeps your interest. Some of the characters (okay, all of them) are "types". You know how sometimes a writer will say "she was a goth girl" and tell you really nothing about her personality. Or "he was an excellent student" and you think, "Okay, that tells me one little bit about them - but who are they really?" Those kind of questions go unanswered. That being said - it's a fun ride of a book.

My favorite punk rock book has always been and will always be AND I DON'T WANT TO LIVE THIS LIFE by Deborah Spungen. Leave it to me to find a punk book by somebody's mom... But this tells the fascinating (and heartbreaking) story of Nancy Spungen, Sid Vicious' girlfriend who he stabbed to death at the Chelsea Hotel in 1978. Not the feel-good book of the year, but really interesting. I was also, in my youth, slightly obsessed with I'M WITH THE BAND by Pamela Des Barres which was recently reprinted. It is the story of a good natured groupie and was considered extremely filthy when it first came out. But apparently, not so much any more. I hope that by mentioning it, I don't encourage groupie-ism and bad behavior. Realistically, I think that, for the way Des Barres paints her life as adventerous, she also presents a clear-eyed view of the pitfalls of the "decadent rock lifestyle" particularly in the story of the sad story of Gram Parsons. However you slice it, it is a picture of a time when rock and roll was a completely different animal than it is today!

Friday, August 24, 2007

Some Brief Reviews

Here are some brief reviews. I am way behind in writing and since I am never ever going to catch up, I have decided instead to steal Melody's format. I am also stealing her cute little frog picture. I may steal her haircut next.

Possibilities for summer reading are up first:

Killing Yourself to Live by Chuck Klosterman - Boy, he loves the sound of his own thoughts. Good thing they are pretty interesting. Here the Sex,Drugs and Cocoa Puffs author travels across America to the sites of great rock and roll tragedies while meditating on his relationships with women, music and the meaning of life in a completely self-involved and hilarious way. 9/10

How to Ruin a Summer Vacation by Simone Elkeles - Amy, a spoiled girl who has been raised by her single mom, spends the summer in Israel with the birth father she never knew. She is irritating, but she gets better and the story is fun and interesting. 6/10

Into the Wild
by Jon Krakauer - "A young man from a will-to-do family hitchhiked to Alaska and walked alone into the wilderness...Four months later his decomposed body was found by a moose hunter..." Find out what happens before, after and in between those two sentences. Absolutely gripping - and I can barely stand nature! 10/10

Teen Idol by Meg Cabot - Okay, Meg Cabot writes a book about as often as I wash my kitchen floor (every other month whether it needs it or not) - but she is still awfully good at it. In this one a nice, responsible girl finds herself in charge of the hottest movie star in America who is attending her high school in disguise to prepare for a movie role. 7/10

Mindless Eating by Brian Wansink, Ph.D. - When someone has to put their degree on the cover of their book I wonder about their motives. Wansink does it to highlight the fact that he is a researcher, not a medical doctor. This fascinating book is all about the research on the hidden cues that determine how people eat. The silly illustrations are the only reason it isn't getting a 10, but a person has to have standards. 9/10

Lost and Found by Carolyn Parkhurst - After The Dogs of Babel (one of the best books ever!) I thought I would be disappointed - but not to worry. Parkhurst is still amazing. This is the story of a mother and daughter with a shocking secret who are taking part in a round-the-world reality show. The relationship between them is painfully true and the stories of the secondary characters are just as gripping. 10/10

And now books I read for fun:

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase
by Joan Aiken - I first read this in elementary school and I loved it! I volunteered to read it for the Briscoe summer reading and reading it again, I realize that it is a lot more sophisticated than I remember. It is the age-old story of little girls vs. evil governesses. Simply brilliant. 10/10

Water for Elephants
by Sara Gruen - An elderly man remembers his years as a circus vet during the depression, complete with unrequited love, doomed carnies and a paranoid schizophrenic boss. 9/10

Evening by Susan Minot - This beautiful and moving depiction of the end of life was HARD! I loved it, though. Ann is dying of cancer. Her memories become more vivid than her reality and she is continually drawn to a weekend in Maine where she threw herself into love in a way she never could again. 9/10

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Three New Reviews


No pictures for these because frankly, they aren't interesting enough. Well, maybe THEY CAME FROM BELOW. I liked that one and it might be a summer reading pick for next year. Okay, I will post a picture. But not the other two. If you want to see them, come to the library and take them out. I wrote these reviews for the NMRLS book review blog so they are a little more detailed than I usually write here. Which is to say still significantly less detailed than a real book review!



THEY CAME FROM BELOW by Blake Nelson:
Emma and Reese are two teenage girls summering on Cape Cod. They are interested in tanning, partying and meeting guys. They meet two somewhat odd language students who are not at all what they seem to be. Add some cute Australians, an undersea nuclear explosion, a not-very-mad scientist dad and some gung-ho intelligence agents and you have a fun summer read that gives you something to think about.

The book starts out with a news report about a nuclear accident and quickly jumps into a standard bored-girl-looking-for-summer-romance style story. Just when it seems like the main characters couldn't get any more clich├ęd, in come Steve and Dave, the strange foreign young men, to save the day. They are movie star handsome and can speak every language they hear. They need to be taught to eat and they seem to be able to bring people back from the dead. But surely that doesn't make them dangerous?

There is fun and excitement to be had in THEY CAME FROM BELOW and a feel of 1950's sci-fi paranoia mixed with 21st century environmental awareness.


THE EVERY BOY by Dana Adam Shapiro
:

If Amy Sedaris and Tom Perrotta are willing to write jacket blurbs for a book, it had better be good. THE EVERY BOY started out disappointing. Described as "Salingeresque" it seemed, at first to embody the worst of navel-gazing teen-boy sensitivity. The story seems too quirky and Shapiro tries too hard to make the reader aware that Henry Every is anything but normal. But after awhile the book (and Henry's voice) becomes more palatable. Eventually, you even begin to care.

The book revolves around Henry's parents dealing with his death with the help of his journal. Knowing that Henry dies at the end may leave the reader not wanting to get too attached. Fifty pages from the end, you may find yourself hoping that there will be a twisty "it was all a dream" ending because Henry does grow on you.

This is a dark little book where girls are untrustworthy at best and boys had better get their affairs in order because they are not long for this world. But the details in the descriptions of secondary characters and the charm of Henry keep it buoyant to the end.


BLACK AND WHITE AIRMEN by John Fleischman
:

Two boys from Miss Pitchell's third grade class in 1928 Cincinatti, Ohio grew up to be World War II pilots. John Leahr was one of the famed "Tuskegee Airmen" African-American pilots who flew for the United States even as they were being systematically oppressed. Herb Heilbrun flew bombers over Europe completing 35 successful missions. The parallel stories of these two men are told in BLACK AND WHITE AIRMEN: THEIR TRUE HISTORY.

Full of photographs and primary sources, this book is a fascinating look at the different wartime experiences of military men in the segregated armed services. Leahr and Heilbrun became friends later in life and currently speak to students about their experiences. Fleischman details their childhoods, education, service records and their lives after the war. The narrative is exciting with many details that will keep any reader with the slightest interest in flying, history or wartime interested.