Friday, July 30, 2010

Ninth Ward

Having parents who have lived & worked just outside the French Quarter of New Orleans for over 11 years, I had to read this book by Jewell Parker Rhodes. It is a blending of fiction and spirituality based on true events.

Lanesha is mostly alone in her life. She doesn't have any friends to speak of. She's teased by kids in her neighborhood and at her school because of her yellow-green eyes. They call her spooky and a witch. Her only family is Mama Ya-Ya, the midwife who couldn't save Lanesha's mother when she gave birth to her. Unwanted by her mother's Uptown relatives, Lanesha and Mama Ya-Ya live contentedly in the Ninth Ward, a mostly poor and predominately black section of New Orleans. Mama Ya-Ya can see things and people coming before others know they are there - that is her gift.

As the story opens, Lanesha is celebrating her 12th birthday on Sunday, August 20, 2005. A few days later Mama Ya-Ya seems agitated like Lanesha has never seen...something is coming, something dangerous. They soon learn that this danger has a name: Katrina. Lanesha has always thought that it was Mama Ya-Ya that was the strength in their relationship but when Katrina hits, screaming like a wild animal, and the levees fail, Lanesha must be the strong one and fight for survival in their flooded city.

The story moves at a decent clip and is beautifully written. However, I don't think that this will be a book that kids pick up on their own. If asked to read it, they won't find themselves suffering through though. Lanesha is a strong character and children will be able to identify with her spirit.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Conspiracy 365: January

The cover of this book would suggest that I would be blown away. Something certainly looks like it exploded anyway. Although, I can't say that I was thrilled, Australian crime novelist Gabrielle Lord has certainly created a high/low thriller for late middle/early high school boys. Set in Australia, fifteen-year-old Callum Ormond gets a warning from a crazed man on New Year's Eve - his father wasn't killed by some mysterious illness, he was murdered, and someone or a group of people are after him and he must disappear for the next 365 days. Cal is a bit startled by the warning but proceeds with life as usual. However, that night Cal almost drowns in a boating "accident." Not long after, his house is broken into, he's kidnapped, and framed for attempted murder. Cal decides that for his safety and the safety of his family he must take to a life on the run. At the same time, he must solve a mystery his father left him that has a connection with the people who are after him.

The first book in the installment, January takes a while to get going, but promises much more to come with a new book for every month being released consecutively this year.

To keep with Cal and all the Conspiracy books visit the author's website.

Friday, July 16, 2010


Here I am, with a brand new blog with a name (and description) that probably over-emphasizes my dislike of vampire books, and along comes Adam Rex with a new book called Fat Vampire that I'm going to have to read. Rex wrote one of my personal favorite books from the last few years called The True Meaning of Smeckday, which made me laugh so hard sometimes I cried and couldn't breathe. (The only other thing in recent memory to do that to me was the "Hamburger/Accent Lessons" scene from the first Steve Martin "Pink Panther" movie.) So congratulations Mr. Rex, you've ruined me!

I also find the cover hilarious.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Grey Griffins, The Clockwork Chronicles, Book 1, The Brimstone Key

Authors Derek Benz and J.S. Lewis pair up for a second series of their Grey Griffins characters. Friends Max, Harley, Natalia, and Ernie are staring their first year in the "local" Knights Templar training school, Iron Bridge Academy. But what would a school year be for the Griffins if not a threat to the known world? An brilliantly evil man from the past, Otto Von Strife, also known as the Clockwork King, has returned after most thought him defeated for good. Von Strife's previous plan was to steal the souls of changelings - humans who have been infused or affected by faerie blood giving them special powers - and put them into his clockwork army. There many changelings at Iron Bridge and Ernie is one of them. As changelings start to disappear from Iron Bridge it can only mean that Von Strife has started his work again. The Griffins, with help from Max's bodyguard Logan, friend and fellow Templar techie Monti, and a smattering of other interestingly named characters (Throckmorton the gargoyle is my favorite) must stop the Clockwork King before he rebuilds his army and opens the gate to the Shadowlands - where the most evil of creatures are bound.

While the pacing can be jarring and the writing questionable at times, the adventure is still fun. I have read another review that complains about the constantly shifting perspective. I, however, find it refreshing that the storyline is not bound to the perspective of the natural hero - Max. Rather it gives others in the Griffins a chance to flesh out their emotional characters. Particularly, I enjoyed seeing things from the most timid of the group, Ernie, who eventually sheds his fear to lead fellow changelings to hunt down Von the next book.

Bits and pieces of sci-fi technology make appearances in the book, like EMPs (Matrix anyone?) and hovercraft/blimp type ships (Star Wars). Obvious from the previous series is an about face towards steam punk (how many times will I read the word "corset" in a book with 3 male lead characters?). All of this can be a bit obnoxious to a grown up, but as the intended age of this book is late elementary to early middle school, I don't think this will make a bit of difference. I think this will appeal to boys who like comic book heros, sci-fi movies, adventure, and danger.

Here We Go.....

Before I publish my first book review I thought I would note a couple of things. First, you'll notice that I have book covers in my reviews - they are linked directly to information about the book from Barnes & Noble. The State Library has an affiliate contract with them to use their covers as long as we link the cover to their website. As this blog is a part of my paid professional State Library time, I will be using that contract.

Second, these are my opinions about a book. Sometimes I like a book because it appealed to me, and sometimes I like a book because I think it will appeal to its intended readership. I will do my best to note why it is that I like the book (or don't like it). You are free to disagree because we are all different people with different values and feelings.

All that said, I hope you enjoy my blog!