July 31, 2012

What did I just read?

The quick answer is that I just read Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley. The longer answer is that I have no idea what this story was really about. I thought at first that it was simply a straightforward story about a young boy in a small town in Arkansas. This assumption was quickly destroyed when a parallel story line was introduced which focused on God and the Book of Enoch. From that point (which was fairly early on in the novel), I had pretty much no clue what was the real focus of the story. I don't like feeling like this after reading a book. I like some kind of resolution or conclusion at the end of a book. It's understandable if there's a sequel and there's a cliffhanger but there was no cliffhanger and there is no sequel (to my knowledge at any rate). There is only bafflement at a book which made no sense. If someone else has read this and would like to discuss it with me, I'm interested to hear your take on it. I can't delve into the details here because that would be spoiling it for anyone who's brave enough to try it. Drop a reply here and we can discuss it further through email.

I'm not sure what's next on the agenda. I have an annotated bibliography that is coming up and I have to pick up some books from the library tomorrow for that. One of those will be the next lucky book on the list. Until then, keep reading!!

July 27, 2012

Well, I'm sure you've all heard of the book I just finished up: Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney.  It's written exactly like a journal of a young boy complete with cute cartoons.  It was an extremely quick read.  I read it in about an hour and a half today.  If you're looking for something light and funny, this book would definitely deliver.

I volunteer at the American Museum of Natural History and today I dropped by to get a look at the new Spiders Alive! exhibit which I'm going to be working in on Saturdays.  I picked up some label copy to familiarize myself with all of the spiders inside.  I read that on the train back home and if I could put that into a book for you all to read I would.  It was THAT good, ya'll.

Now onto the next delightfully named young adult book: Cut by Patricia McCormick.  Yep I'm pretty sure it's exactly what it sounds like.  I'll be sure to let you know for sure though!

Edit: I finished up Cut and I liked it.  Well, as much as you can like a book that is so painful.  However, it's good for young adults because these are definitely issues that they're facing.  It helps to read a realistic piece that doesn't hold back on sensitive topics.  It makes the reader (if they're going through the same things) feel as if they're not alone.  Well-written and a quick read.  I'd recommend it!

July 24, 2012

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman was excellent!  An interesting mix of fantasy and realistic fiction, The Graveyard Book, draws you into the story of Nobody Owens and his life in a graveyard among ghosts, ghouls, and a mysterious guardian.  From the first pages, the book is full of action and intrigue.  There's more to this story than just fantasy, however, as the protagonist grows and matures with every page turn propelling the reader on a journey of self discovery.  And the illustrations!!  (I should also mention the illustrations for M is for Magic were also magnificent.)  I urge you to go out and read this book ASAP.

Next on the agenda is a term paper on Gaiman and these works so I'll update later when I know which book I'm reading next.

July 22, 2012

Neil Gaiman, my hero

Neil Gaiman has cracked my top five favorite authors.  Congratulations, sir!  I've just finished up M is for Magic and it was pure delight all the way through.  Each story was unique, enticing, imaginative, and enthralling.  I found myself wishing that I could just sit and write short stories all the day long...and I suppose I could do if I chose that as a career.  Heck, I do still plan on writing that memoir that I've been threatening everyone with for years (it's tentatively titled Pants Are Overrated).  But back to the book...I loved it and I'm excited to crack open the next which is The Graveyard Book.  My plan is to make it through that book today so that I can finish up my oral presentation and start my paper.  Whew!

July 21, 2012

I've finished up Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan and the only problem that I have is that it's entirely unrealistic.  I think there was a lot of potential for this book to be really magnificent.  The writing was really superb and the characters were interesting but the world that they were placed in was entirely fictional.  The main character, Paul, has known since kindergarten that he was gay when a teacher wrote in a report "Paul is definitely gay."  Let's think about this for a sec, people.  Would a teacher ever write something like that?  Umm NO.  Also, would a child of that age a) know what the words on the page were and/or b) understand what they meant?  Umm NO.  These are just a few of the utterly fantastic (I mean this like extraordinary) scenarios from this book.  It was a light read that read as an entirely fictitious work when I thought it was going to be fraught with a lot more meaning and vulnerability.  Meh.

Going a little ways from my usual style I'm going to list the next 3 books that I'm going to read because they're interrelated.  I'm writing a report on Neil Gaiman and themes which occur in his YA works.  Alright, it's just one theme and I have no idea what that theme is at present.  BUT that's why I'm reading these 3 books.  The first is hopefully going to give me further insight into his life: Neil Gaiman on his work and career.  By a glance at the pages within, it appears to be an interview told through several chapters. The next is M is for Magic and is a book of eleven short stories about both realistic and fantastic events.  The third book is The Graveyard Book and has been recommended to me by several friends.  It's the story of a young orphan who grows up in a graveyard among ghosts and witches.  The other book that I'm using for my  paper is Stardust which I read a few months ago.  Did I mention that my oral presentation is Tuesday and the paper is due Thursday?  I'd better get cracking!!

July 18, 2012

Will wonders never cease!

The First Part Last was a change from what I imagine is the typical "teenage pregnancy" novel.  The book is told from the point-of-view of the father. It goes back and forth between the past (when they discovered they were having a baby) to the present (the baby has been born). There's a twist to the story that I thought I had figured out but then surprised me at the end. I enjoyed it because it was well-written and defied what I felt was the "formula" for the usual teen fiction. I think it's well worth giving a whirl.

Next on the list is Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan. I was intrigued by this book as soon as I saw it on my reading list. As a library student, we are taught that it is vitally important to stock the shelves so that every member of the public can fulfill their information needs. Young adults are at that point in their lives where they are questioning the very definition of themselves. Who are their friends? What do they like? Are they weird? A book which explores a budding homosexual romance between two boys is a perfect example of how to insure that this information is properly fulfilled. I'm interested to see how this particular book deals with this sensitive issue.

I was busy today!!

Well, I've finally discovered a YA book that I like. Speak woke up something inside of me. It was heart wrenching and soul shattering. It was deep and disturbing. It was the story of a girl who was afraid to speak out and to face something that no one should ever have to face.  It was beautifully written and I am better for having read it. I don't think I'm doing it justice. If you have the stomach to handle extremely sensitive issues then you should read this. Go now.

Thankfully, I have a kind friend who lent me a copy of God Went to Beauty School by Cynthia Rylant because I was still on the hold list from weeks ago. I am having a difficult time forming an opinion about this (write that down because that's a first!). The book is written in verse and focuses on God as if he's a mortal man doing normal things such as opening up a nail salon. I'm torn between thinking that it's quite cleverly written and thinking that it's blasphemous. The whole time I was reading it, I kept thinking about how my best friend's father would view it and I really don't think he'd appreciate some of the humor. I don't know. Maybe you should give it a read and let me know what you think (I've asked that friend to read it and let me know her opinion).

Next on the list for Thursday's class is The First Part Last by Angela Johnson. Based on the part of the back cover that isn't covered by a barcode, the book is about teenage pregnancy. My friend from class mentioned that she thoroughly enjoyed this book so I'm interested to see where the story leads. Teenage pregnancy isn't a topic that I've read much about so my mind is wide open and ready to receive.

What a jam packed day of literature!!

July 15, 2012

I'm afraid for teenage girls everywhere

Someone just told me that "Pretty Little Liars is officially the teenage girl Bible."  I think I just felt the earth move beneath my feet...and not in a cool way.  This book disgusted me on an elemental level.  These girls are portrayed completely unrealistically and their attitudes about themselves and life in general are so disturbing that I am literally afraid for teenage girls everywhere.  The plot centers around four girls who share a dark secret.  This much I mentioned in the last post.  What I didn't know then is that these four girls (who are very difficult to keep separate) wouldn't make one decent person if they were all melded together.  There are no morals.  There is, however, teenage drinking, drugs, sex with teachers, shoplifting, entirely too much focus on brand name clothing, and an unhealthy focus on body image (which apparently equals self worth).  The message that this book sends to young ladies is abhorrent.  I am pretty much seething in anger right now. Ugh.

I have to move on quickly so I can get this bad taste out of my mouth.  The next book is Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson and it looks like it might just be the best way of accomplishing that goal.  The book's protagonist is Melinda Sordino, a high school student who stands up and speaks out (ah I see what you did there) when she calls the cops about a party (that must have been some rager).  The book sounds a lot like the premise of The Chocolate War in that it's the individual vs the community (in this case a high school).  I'm holding out some optimism that the message of this book is a bit more positive about resisting conformity and following your heart.  I'll report back here to let you know my thoughts.

July 14, 2012


I must admit that I'm somewhat confused over the hoopla surrounding The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier. It was very violent and frightening to look into the hearts and minds of these adolescents who seemed to work without a conscience (and the adults were sometimes worse).  The main character, Jerry Renault, stood for independence and going against the grain but the message at the end seemed to be that going against the tide only results in misery.  In fact, the entire tone of the book seemed to be that if you don't do what you're told, misfortune will certainly befall you.  Perhaps a secondary message is that the world is cruel and unfair and bad things happen.  However, I read books to get away from the sad realities of life (and I don't think the world is all that bad anyway).  This isn't to say that I don't enjoy "darker" books but there's usually some ray of light at the end.  I will say that it was very well-written (excepting some typos which may have been the fault of the printer) and a page-turner.  If you're prepared for an agonizing tale of woe and despair, this book will not disappoint.

I have no idea what to expect from the next title on the list: Pretty Little Liars by Sara Shepard.  From what I've gathered from the back of the book (and the commercials for the tv show), this book focuses on four girls who have a very dark secret.  There's cattiness, lewd behavior, mystery, and probably lingerie.  The copy that I'm reading from looks like someone washed it, ran over it with their car, and then bent every single page.  I'm taking this to mean that it's a popular book so maybe it will really knock my socks off.  I'll let you know just as soon as I'm done!

July 11, 2012

The race is on!

Just in the nick of time for class tomorrow, I've finished up The Notorious Benedict Arnold: A true story of adventure, heroism & treachery by Steve Sheinkin.  I love a good nonfiction especially on a person or topic of which I am almost wholly unfamiliar.  I went into this book with only a vague recollection of Arnold being a traitor.  When I mentioned the name to a history major his response was, "That traitor!  Wasn't he hanged?"  I think this is everyone's first thoughts on hearing this most infamous name but what I discovered through reading this book is that there was so much more to Benedict Arnold.  He created America's first naval fleet, he was an extremely brave soldier, and General Washington respected him as a friend and compatriot.  Also, he wasn't hanged.  If I've intrigued you even marginally about the life of a well-known yet almost completely unknown iconic figure from American history, check out this book.  My only caution to you is that at times the prose is slightly over-blown which I think mostly comes from the author's excitement over the book's subject.

Now that I have the syllabus for my course (this is the end!) I now know that I must scurry quickly to stay ahead.  The next book I'm tackling is The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier.  I have heard of this book for many years and I know that it is very popular among both teenagers and teachers.  The only thing that I know about this book is that a seemingly innocuous act by a boy causes such an hullabaloo among members of his school that war is declared.  My dear friend (and fellow avid reader), Krystle, told me that this book affords a glimpse inside the minds of boys.  I'm at once intrigued and absolutely terrified but I will sally forth!

I hope you're all taking advantage of the hot weather to sit somewhere cool and read to your heart's content!!

July 9, 2012

Crikey, that's a lot of cricket!

Well, as you might have guessed by the new post, I've finished up Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey.  I suppose if I'd have looked at the author's biography, I could have guessed at the backdrop of this story.  However, I never like to look too much ahead and therefore I was completely at a loss until page 74 when it was explicitly stated that the story was unfolding in Australia.  That explains all of the cricket talk.  I mean there was a lot of talk about cricket. The game not the insect, of course.  I wouldn't have minded except that it was always discussed in great detail and in terms I had no way of being able to follow which I found detracted from the real meat of the story.  I have to say that while I didn't necessarily dislike the book, it is most definitely not going to top my list of favorites.  There were many twists and turns to the story which were quite thrilling but instead of thrumming up the anticipation of the main event (I don't want to give it all away), the author kept focusing on other things...like cricket.  So all in all it wasn't exactly my cup of tea.

The next book to be conquered is The Notorious Benedict Arnold: A true story of adventure, heroism & treachery by Steve Sheinkin.  This book has been awarded the YALSA-ALA Excellence in Young Adult Nonfiction seal.  Also, the edges of the pages have been made to look ragged and therefore ancient (I have a weakness for old books and this has already endeared me I'm afraid).  I'm pretty excited because over the last months I've come to love nonfiction books and I don't know much about Benedict Arnold other than that he's a traitor.  I'm hoping this might delve a little deeper (oh look I'm branching out into humor now).  The back cover has quotes from several different men, included George Washington, which range from lauds to censure on his character.  I can't wait to get started on it!!

July 2, 2012

I'm on a roll!!

I've finished Monster by Walter Dean Myers and despite my initial misgivings about formatting I really enjoyed it!  Once you get used to the way the text is delivered, the book moves on at a remarkable clip.  The story is told from the point of view of Steve Harmon, the young man on trial for felony murder.  He decides to treat the entire incident as if it's a movie and so it goes from script to diary like entries.  I found it gripping, well-written, and I couldn't wait to keep turning the pages to find out what happened next.  I highly recommend for those who enjoy a quick criminal novel along the likes of John Grisham (as this focuses on the trial aspect quite heavily at times).

The next on the list is Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey.  From what I read on the dust jacket, the book is about a young boy named Charlie who learns a terrible secret from his friend, Jasper Jones, that threatens to change everything in his life and in the lives of the town in which he lives.  From a cursory glance, it appears to be a spine-tingling mystery (of which I'm a huge fan) so I'm quite excited to get started on it.  If all goes well, I'll hopefully be finished with it quickly so I can give all of you a review. :-)

In the mean time, keep on reading!!

July 1, 2012

I just finished up The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern and I quite liked it.  I was rather surprised by how racy it got at certain points considering that it's young adult fiction (Note: I've actually been informed it's an adult work that was seen as a crossover for young adults.).  Of course, I am not naive enough to believe that young adults read things which are all sunshine and kittens but it's always a shock (I remember VC Andrews as a child and I swear that stuff scarred me) to the system.  However, the majority of the book was full of mystery, magic (although the characters sneered at this particular word choice), romance, and drama.  The only things that made it somewhat confusing were the jumps in time and narrative voice.  If that's cool with you, then I think this might be a good match for you.

The next book from the reading list is Monster by Walter Dean Myers and it focuses on a young black man who is in prison.  I've flipped through the pages and I'm not crazy about the style that the book uses to tell its story.  It's a mixture of diary entries and script.  I confess I am dubious about it but I am forging forth nonetheless.  I have to light a fire under myself as class begins next week and I'm only done with the first book! :o/

Wish me luck, readers!!