Saturday, October 24, 2009

And Finally - The A-C-T-s!

Today was the last of my read-a-pa-loo-za test proctoring days. I had ten books and read a few chapters of all of them. Only one really annoyed me and most of them were wonderful.

THE COMPOUND by S. A Bodeen - This was interesting. Most of the family of a billionaire escapes death (so far) in an underground shelter during a nuclear war. But then Mama feeds Dadddy some BAD bread. I don't know for sure, but I think mold spores start to eat his brain. This is an interesting story, well written and paranoid.

JUMPED by Rita Williams-Garcia - This is a quick read about three girls one of whom is gearing up to beat down another one, who is unaware of the plan. The third knows what is going to happen, but doesn't want to get involved. The characters jump off the page and the build up is really nice. I look forward to finishing it!

VAST FIELDS OF ORDINARY by Nick Burd is a funny coming of age book about a gay teen who is hooking up with a "popular boy" who is deeply in the closet. The cover looks all dreamy and kind of lame (sorry cover designer) but the book is HYSTERICAL and strangely moving. I am loving it.

FOOD, GIRLS, AND OTHER THINGS I CAN'T HAVE by Allen Sadoff. Fantastic title - pretty good book. I love a fat kid book, and this hits all the right notes. But I had high expectations that so far haven't been met. It really rings true, though and I will probably stick it out at some point.

THE ORANGE HOUSES by Paul Griffin - I put this in my stack because I felt obligated. A hearing impaired girl in the projects, a young odd discharged soldier/street poet and a recent immigrant all come together for what looks to be something that ends very badly. The writing is great and I am desperate to find out what happens. Griffin does a huge amount with very few words.

RAPTURE OF THE DEEP by L.A. Meyer - Oh how I love Jackie Faber! I only read a few pages because I realized that it would be cheating if I didn't read MY BONNY LIGHT HORSEMAN first. So I shall.

LEVIATHAN by Scott Westerfeld - World War One is starting. The Darwinists and the Clankers are going at it big time! Oh yeah - England and France are Darwinists - they live in a society where hybrid animals are the newest in technology, Octopi become hot air balloons, whales become airships and man-made Kraaken are extremely handy in naval battles. They are battling the giant machines of Germany and Austria-Hungary. It is totally cool when the son of Archduke Ferdinand meets up with Deryn/Dylan a girl disguised as a boy in the British Air Service. Tremendous fun from Westerfeld, who rarely disappoints when he creates a new world.

THE REAL REAL by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus - This book is like a bag of chips - little if any nutrition and yet I find myself wanting to curl up and devour the whole thing! A MTV-like entity decides to film a reality show in the glamorous Hamptons and the no B.S. daughter of a cleaning lady and a restaurant manager gets cast along with the rich and entitled. So much naughty, delicious fun!

OVER THE END LINE by Alfred C. Martino - This started promisingly enough. A soccer star witnesses a rape and is to drunk to stop it. He then watches the aftermath which involves his best friend and the girl he is interested in. The sports writing was great and the main character was suitably tortured. But the ending was out of control. I skipped to the end to see how it turned out, because I wasn't in love with it enough to ever finish it. I was relieved that I didn't put the time in. However, kids who like action and revenge and are not as jaded as I am will love it!

AFTER by Amy Efaw - I really didn't want to like this book at all. It is the story of a girl who denies that she is pregnant and then gives birth and puts her baby in the garbage. It could have been a train-wreck, but so far, Efaw has barely missed a step. It is sad and scary without being over the top. And Devon feels so much like a real girl. Only her mother is a caricature, and I am curious to see how she is portrayed later in the book.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The PSATs!

Once again I glutted on books as I was proctoring. Since the PSATs are disappointingly short, I didn't have time to read as much as I liked, but there were a few standouts -

GHOSTS OF WAR by Ryan Smithson - This is the true story of a 19 year old GI who enlisted as a result of 9/11. He was planning on being a writer before he signed up and it shows. A great read so far and practically a shoe-in for summer reading. Thanks, Ms Woznick for the recommendation!

AS YOU WISH by Jackson Pierce - A girl breaks up with her boyfriend under slightly humiliating circumstances and is given three wishes by a Jinn, sent to help her rebuild her life. Funny and sweet with a serious undertone. I feel hopeful for summer reading.

NIGHTS OF THE HILL COUNTRY by Tim Tharp - A kid plays football, his homelife is a drag and his best friend is a jerk-face. There is nothing in this book that I should particularly like, but the main character is so appealing that I want to keep reading.

LIPS TOUCH: THREE TIMES by Laini Taylor - This was just nominated for the National Book Award and I had never heard of it! It is three supernatural stories all centered around the idea of a kiss. The first story was great and I will be keeping this one in mind for next year.

SISTERS OF MISERY by Megan Kelley Hall - This is set locally in a fictional town described as being next to Salem, but probably based on Marblehead. The story annoyed my with it's new-agey-ness (as I am sure I annoy by making up words like new-agey-ness) but it wasn't bad. You can meet the writer at Cornerstone Books tonight if you are so inclinded. Probably not going to make the cut for me.

Four out of five isn't bad and now I am off to do some work!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The SATs!

I love the SATs! I know that any seventeen-year-old who is reading this has a strange urge to chase me with a torch and pitchfork after reading this, but they are my favorite way to spend a Saturday morning.

Did I mention that I don't actually take the test? Oh, that would be a blood bath! I can barely read the math problems, much less solve them. But the verbal parts are fun. (Put down those torches, children! Someone could get hurt!) I proctor. And as a proctor I get to wander around the room and keep an eye on people. I also get the chance to preview books. I bring a stack of 9 0r 10 books and peruse them as I watch the room and see if I have an interest in buying them for the library, reading them for myself and putting them on the preliminary summer reading list. I am surprised at how few I write off completely and how quickly I can tell if I like them.

So here is a quick rundown of yesterday's books.

THE HATE LIST - Jennifer Brown - This book is spectacular. The girlfriend of a school shooter deals with the guilt of knowing that her boyfriend used her "Hate List" to choose his victims. I hate putting it down. [93.2% likely to be on summer reading]

ANDROMEDA KLEIN - Frank Portman - This was such a disappointment. I found it to be virtually unreadable. I adored KING DORK, Portman's first book and was predisposed to like this. And I just couldn't stand it. Too much Juno-esque invented teen-speak, too much of Andromeda's thoughts and not enough of the world around her. I was 8 pages in and done, I flipped ahead and read pages at random to see if there was any kind of hook for me and there was nothing. [Sadly, I already bought it for the library on his reputation]

SOVAY - Celia Reese - This is a very readable Robin Hood type of story about a girl in pre-regency England who is forced to clear her father's name when he is accused of sedition. It was fast moving, but not grippy. [I'll probably buy it for the library]

MARCELO AND THE REAL WORLD - Francisco Stork - I only read a few pages, but I was intrigued and impressed. I will finish this eventually and enjoy it, I am sure. [I already bought it and it looks like a good shot for SR.]

INTERTWINED - Gina Showalter - I love BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER and Zombies as much as the next middle aged librarian (okay, perhaps more) but I just couldn't get into this story about a teenager who is not only posessed by 4 souls, or beings or what have you, but can also unintentionally raise the dead and is then responsible for fighting them off. It was too much hacking for me, but I imagine that that will appeal to some as well as the drawn-to-each-other-like-moths-to-a-flame love story. [Look for it in the library, but not on the list.]

GOING BOVINE - Libba Bray - Holy smokes! I loved Libba Bray's GREAT AND TERRIBLE BEAUTY and the two follow-ups. I liked her style and her use of place and her fast paced story telling. I had NO IDEA that she is screamingly funny. This book had me snorting coffee out of my nose. And it is the story of a kid dying of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (mad cow disease). If you can make that funny, you are doing God's work. I love this book! [Here is the rub, I really want this on SR, but he smokes a lot of pot and so far, nothing bad has happened. Well, he is dying, but nothing that the put caused. I am only a third of the way through, so if he finds out that some bad weed caused his disease, that would be good. Or if he at some point blames the drugs for something bad, I can probably justify it. But I probably can't promote a book on SR that gives the impression that pot is fun (regardless of what some high schooler's opinion may be). But I am certainly buying it for the library!

SARAH'S KEY - Tatiana de Rosnay - There is a little boy locked in a cabinet in an apartment in Nazi-occupied Paris and his parents and sister were just taken away buy the police for deportation! I don't know what is going to happen to the little guy, and I am kind of afraid to find out! [This was recomended by a couple teachers and it is teriffic, practically a no-brainer for SR.]

GIRL OVERBOARD - Justina Chen Headley - I love a good poor-little-rich-girl story and this one, so far, is lovely. Syrah (named after a WINE, poor thing...) just wants to snow board, and her family wants her to be their perfect little princess. She is also obviously in love with her best friend, and she was in an accident that has made her knee a real problem. I can't wait to find out how this whole thing ends up! [Bought it, certainly putting it on the preliminary list.]

LET SLEEPING DOG'S LIE - Mirjam Pressler - I wanted to love this. It was originally published in Germany and is the story of a girl who finds out that her Grandpa was a Nazi and stole the family business from two Jewish families who were trying to escape. It isn't bad, but I thought it would be much better. The heroine is kind of wooden. It could be the translation, but I just didn't get sucked in. [I already bought it, and will promote it to FACING HISTORY kids when they come in for their book reports, but it won't be on SR.]

And that, as they say, is that! See you next week for the PSATs!