Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Everything You Want

What would you do with $17 million?  Would it change you?  Would you change what you do?  Or would you be the exact same person just with more stuff and no bills?

College freshman at Indiana University (go Hoosiers!), Emma is stuck.  She can't get herself out of this place where everything that happens loops back to the fact that her best friend, Josh, dumped her and decked her during their senior year of high school.  Emma remembers being happy as a child but can't figure out how to get there as an adult.  When her parents show up at her dorm room one day telling her they've won LOTTO CASH, it seems like happiness should be easily obtained because they can do anything they want to.  Cars, clothes, vacations...you name it, they can pay for it immediately.

Emma tries everything she can think of to make her happy again.  She visits all the places she loved as a child, places she remembers being happy.  She throws out all her old clothes and tries to simplify her life by only wearing black and white.  However, none of this makes her happy because she has always compared her happiness to what makes her family happy.  Emma must figure out what makes her happy.

Soooooo, I liked the book just fine.  It's set in my birth state and it prominently features a goose in the beginning (I have a weakness for geese - it's a long story).  It's also fun to think about how I would spend that much money!  But (you knew it was coming, didn't you?).....Emma feels less like a 18 year old trying to figure out where she fits in the world and more like someone going through a mid-life crisis.  The randomness of emotions may be very similar between the two types of freak-outs, but the outward results are typically very different.  Or maybe Emma's just an old soul and I'm too critical.  Either way, that's my opinion and at least I'm honest.

Oh and it really bugs the living daylights out of me that the covers picture a domesticated duck and not a goose!!!!!!  

And there's a lot of language.  Don't say you weren't warned.

Note: This book was read for possible inclusion on the 2011/2012 YARP list.    

The Blending Time


The world has changed.  Wars and climate changes have ravaged the planet.  In the year 2069 anyone turning 17 will be assigned to a job that will best benefit the world.  Jaym, Reya, and D'Shay are all assigned to be SUN blenders in Africa, which was hit particularly hard by a solar flare several years back.  They think they will be re-building infrastructure.  (cue the ominous music here)  But in reality they are going to help preserve the African people by "blending" in a very different way...the solar flare exposed those people to radiation and they cannot have children with anyone else exposed.  They also think they are wanted in Africa.  (cue some sort of dramatic drum roll)

The three unlikely friends form a bond during their SUN blender training but are split up once they are "in-country."  Facing angry and armed rebels, brutally hot weather, and unfamiliar customs they must find a way to survive.

Oh, Michael Kinch - you wrote a good book, but darn it all if it doesn't live up to the thrill of The Hunger Games.  Suzanne Collins may have ruined me for life with her dystopian trilogy.  The plot, settings, storylines, and character development are good.  But those names - GAH!  Seriously...Jaym?  I have yet to figure out to say this name out loud.  Is it like "jam" or "Jay-um?"  And don't get me started on how stereotypical the name "D'Shay" feels.

However, with two male lead characters and lots of action this should be a great recommendation for guys.  Plus, it's only available in paperback, so it's cheap!   

Note: This book was read for possible inclusion on the 2011/2012 YARP list.

Monday, December 20, 2010

I Am a Genius of Unspeakable Evil and I Want To Be Your Class President


Anyone remember middle school? Remember the politics of popularity that dominated your every waking moment? Remember how you could never peg your jeans as good as Sarah Brown could and you couldn't get your bangs to curl like Libby could? (Okay, maybe that was just me.)

Oliver Watson sure has the middle school hierarchy figured out, but oddly he has no desire to be the most popular boy in school.  It doesn't matter because he's actually the third richest person on earth (he made a good investment early on...really, really early on).  So even though everyone thinks he's a total moron he really has a network of body guards and operatives to wreak havoc upon anyone who dares insult him or to secretly record anyone he wants dirt on.  Oliver even has a full-time public face to run all of his businesses (a recovering alcoholic no less).

Oliver is content to keep up his fa├žade until the elections for class president come up.  When someone nominates him as a joke and he relates the story to his parents at dinner that evening, he realizes this is the way to win his father's approval...er, I mean, prove to his father that he isn't a pathetic loser.  So Oliver goes about trying to win the election in any way possible.

Author Josh Lieb, who is also a writer for Jon Stewart's The Daily Show, writes exactly as I expected him to: with biting humor and a dash of crass.  Just what every middle schooler would salivate over, right?  The book is billed as YA, but only the wittiest teenagers will be able to laugh at this.  Yes, it is an incredibly accurate portrayal of how middle school feels but most high schoolers aren't much better.  It's possible I should have read the book with a willing suspension of disbelief but I think Lieb actually wanted the story to be so far-fetched that it's obvious that Oliver has created this little dream world where he is a billionaire and not a loser, which is actually a better gimmick.

Is it a "must-read?"  Eh.  Will you regret reading it?  Probably not.  Hands down though, the best quote from the book: "BUREAUCRAT (n): Someone who sits behind a desk and tells you that you can't do something."  (p.86)

Note: This book was read for possible inclusion on the 2011/2012 YARP list.
And I don't know why the font is smaller...blogger seems to be having some issues.  Maybe it needs a tissue.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Remembering and Forgetting - a ramblesome musing about favorites

Just to shake things up a bit, I thought I would post something reading-related but not a book review.  I hope the thoughts in my head make sense once typed out.

There are a few books, in the scope of the many I have read over the years, that I love to read again and again.  You would think that because I have read them so many times I would remember some of the details that are my favorites.  Yet I find myself re-reading a book because I am excited to get to a part that I'm remembering and then all of a sudden I come across a part that I had forgotten about but love just as much.  I also find myself tensing up in the scary parts or thinking "Oh my gosh - I hope everything turns out okay" even though I know good and well how the story turns out.  Does this happen to anyone else? 

And in case anyone was wondering what books I tend to re-read the list includes the following (mostly series books): the Harry Potter series - usually the 3rd through 7th, the Abhorsen trilogy by Garth Nix, the Artemis Fowl books by Eoin Colfer - but mostly just the first two, Airman also by Eoin Colfer, and Harris and Me by Gary Paulsen.  I have some new favorites that I think I will be re-reading in the near future: the Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins (but maybe not Mockingjay) and the Leviathan series by Scott Westerfeld.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Behemoth

"Barking spiders!"

Borrowing the most-used phrase of one of the two main protagonists seems to be the most appropriate thing to do here.  Book two of Scott Westerfeld's steampunk adventure picks up right where Leviathan left off.  Midshipman Dylan Sharp's true identity, as the female Deryn, is still a secret to the British military, and possibly more importantly still a secret to Alek.  His true identity - Prince Aleksander of Austro-Hungary - is about to be revealed to more people than he had originally hoped. 

The war between the Clankers and the Darwinists is growing and at the heart of it is the Ottoman Empire.  Strong Clanker influence in Istanbul threatens to cut off the supplies to Darwinist Russia.  Set mostly in and around this exotic city, the continuing story of Alek and Deryn unfolds.  There are battles, new Darwinist "beasties" and Clanker machines, secret missions, and new characters. 

Barking spiders, I loved this book!  Westerfeld writes such a convincing story and Keith Thompson's illustrations are so beautiful, I feel like I've totally done a Mary Poppins and jumped right through the pages into the story.  Even with all the stuff that Westerfeld makes up, it feels that real

I do offer my apologies for the extremely short summary, but I didn't want to give anything away!  (I'm not kidding - I had three paragraphs of summary typed out and deleted them all.)  The size (485 pages, hardback) may seem daunting but the story moves at break-neck speed...I read it in about 8 hours total (spread out over three days, but still).  Seriously, if you have not read either of these books yet set yourself a goal for your Christmas break, or at the very least make it your New Year's resolution.  Seriously, I'm not kidding.  Do it!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

My Life As a Rhombus

Rhonda is a math wiz and knows that in order to get into the college of her dreams and out of her hometown she has to concentrate on her grades.  Rhonda is focused: she's got her eyes on the prize and nothing will derail her...until she's asked to tutor a Sarah Gamble.  Sarah and Rhonda may go to the same school but Rhonda believes their lives are completely different.  Sarah is rich, beautiful, and popular.  Rhonda keeps her head down and away from the popular people.  But at their second tutoring session, Rhonda realizes Sarah is pregnant and confronts her about it.  Afraid to tell anyone she's close to, Sarah swears Rhonda to secrecy.  Rhonda agrees because she's been in the same situation. 

A somewhat unlikely friendship develops between Sarah and Rhonda.  In a way, they both need each other: Sarah needs a real friend who will support her and Rhonda needs someone to show her that she's more than a math tutor.  What Rhonda doesn't count on is being shown by Sarah's brother David just how beautiful and special she is.

As Sarah struggles to decide if she will keep the baby or not, Rhonda must come to terms with her own past and the "A" word: abortion.  While Rhonda feels like she didn't have much of a choice, Sarah must decide what she loves more - her reputation or her baby. 

I applaud Varian Johnson for writing this book.  I felt it tackled a seriously touchy issue without being preachy one way or the other.  The only thing I felt was missing from the options Sarah had to choose from was another "A" word: adoption.  And here I will end any soap box speeches.

That being said, the book seemed to be lacking something that I can't quite put my finger on.  Many writers of realistic fiction seem to write stories based on what they know or their own experiences.  I think this makes it sometimes hard to write a book that has universal appeal.  At times I felt like I was watching a Tyler Perry movie in book form.  (For those of you who don't know who Tyler Perry is, you'll just have to find out for yourself - this is a book blog, not a entertainment magazine.)  So to sum up my rambling review: decent book, but not necessary for all YA collections.

Note: This book was read for possible inclusion on the 2011/2012 YARP list.