Thursday, February 28, 2013

The round house

The round house/Louise Erdrich 321 pgs.

Joe is a young Native American living on the reservation in North Dakota when a horrible attack on his mother changes his life.  Well, to be fair, it changes the whole family dynamic.  Who could have done such a horrible think?  What happens to your thinking when you are 13 and such a life changing event occurs?  What does it mean to have friends and to be a friend?  Erdrich answers these and so many more questions in this beautifully written book that will make you think about your own youth and your beliefs.

I listened to the audio version of this book and would recommend it.

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Secret Saturdays

Secret Saturdays by Torrey Maldonado, 195 pages

Justin and Sean are best friends and sixth graders growing up in the Red Hook projects in Brooklyn. It's a tough place to live, with plenty of gang violence and drug use, but few fathers present. Sean's a tough kid, dissing everyone that disses him, fighting with his words, not his hands. But after he starts mysteriously disappearing with his mother early on Saturday mornings, his attitude toward Justin, school, and life in general starts to change. What's he doing on those secret Saturdays?

This book offers a good look at what kids growing up in the inner city have to deal with, and offers them some options in managing the tough situations.


Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, 197 pages

In the summer before her freshman year of high school, Melinda went through an unnamed trauma that caused her to call the cops at a party. Now she's in high school and is completely ostracized by her peers, her grades are slipping, and her parents are frustrated with her behavior. Over time, she becomes a selective mute, as she tries to deal with her feelings and the ire of her classmates. Thank goodness Melinda has art and a poster of Maya Angelou to see her through... This is a fantastic book.

The Final Four by Paul Volponi 244 pages 978-0-670-01264-0

What says March for young male athletes like the Final Four college basketball competition? Indeed, basketball fans will find plenty of action in this young adult novel. Volponi obviously knows his way around the court. He pits the favored Michigan State Spartans against the underdog Trojans from the much smaller Troy University.  This is an “epic” battle on more than one level. The star Spartan, Malcolm McBride is a conceited, selfish and brash freshman who cuts classes and is only putting in the time so he can ascend to the NBA. He is not a team player and accuses Michigan State of unfairly profiting off its college athletes. On the other side of the court is a team that plays well together. Its star players are Roko Bacic, an √©migr√© from Crotia and Crispin Rice, a senior with romance problems. Roko left his country after his favorite uncle, a reporter was gunned down because of his political beliefs. Malcolm also has a close connection to death by gun. His older sister was the accidental victim in a drive-by shooting. Crispin after making an impossible shot and winning a previous play-off proposes marriage to his cheerleader girlfriend on camera in front of the world. The proposal might have been a bit premature since he doesn’t have a job or means to support a wife much less buy an engagement ring. Obviously, a lot more is going on than just basketball. Readers will get caught up in the personalities and the drama. The ending is a bit of a letdown, but believable nonetheless.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Archie's Pal Kevin Keller

Archie's Pal Kevin Keller by Dan Parent  160 pp.

I haven't read Archie comics since I was a kid when I used to have a lot of them. This book is a collection of the six issues featuring Kevin Keller, a new kid at Riverdale High who just happens to be gay. Kevin was introduced to the Archie crew in 2010. The great thing about these comics is the portrayal of Kevin as just a typical teenager dealing with every day teen issues. But he also has to deal with the stereotypes, bullying, and other problems faced by gay kids everywhere.

Monday, February 25, 2013

The 13th target

The 13th Target by Mark de Castrique 298 pgs.

Rusty Mullins retired from the Secret Service but now he is a personal guard for a high ranking official in the Federal Reserve.  When his charge dies suddenly in a setup suicide, Rusty is on the trail of a bigger conspiracy that involves a kidnapped family, and 13 possible terrorist targets.  More problematic is who to trust when there is a frame-up in progress and you see this goes much deeper than you originally thought.  Rusty's team consists of a friend from the Treasury dept., a local cop who is one step from retirement, and an overweight journalist who was fired from his legit job and now writes a blog pandering to the "crazies" online.

De Castrique seems to do a lot of research for his books and this one is no exception.  I listened to the audio version and enjoyed the pacing and the reader.

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Heads in Beds

Heads in beds: a reckless memoir of hotels, hustles and so-called hospitality by Jacob Tomsky  247 pgs.

If you've been wondering about the "hospitality" industry and how much they love fulfilling your every desire when you stay with them, you need to read this book.  If you actually want better service, there are some good suggestions on how to get it. People who work with the public will nod knowingly at many of these stories.  I found it very entertaining and think Tomsky has a great way with words.  See, that philosophy degree CAN pay off!

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Sunday, February 24, 2013

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling, 759 pages. Read by Jim Dale.

We listened to the last book in the Harry Potter series over most of this month. Listening to a long book at home, while everyone is coming and going involves a lot of playing parts of the book over and over again, so that everyone is on the same page, so to speak.
This was another story where we had watched the movies so frequently over the last couple of years that we had forgotten how much better the book was. Harry is a better person, Dumbledore is a better person. Questions are answered and everything (well not everything) is tied up neatly.
We have every conceivable format of all the HP books, including Chinese, and Spanish.

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Code Name Verity

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein, 343 pages

Oh, how do you talk about this book without giving it all away??? This is a book about two girls during World War II. They're British and one of them, Maddie, is a pilot. The other is somewhat more of a mystery, even through all the twists and turns of this superbly written novel. Maddie's friend has been captured by the Gestapo and is writing on random scraps of paper, telling us the story of their friendship and the friend's capture from Maddie's point of view. Beyond that, I can't say any more. I feel I've already said too much. It's just an awesome book. I remember being half way through the novel and having no clue where the story might be going. I loved every second of it, and I'm still trying to sort out the road map. This will definitely be on my reread pile, whenever the holds list gets shorter.

The Last Exit to Normal

The Last Exit to Normal by Michael Harmon, 275 pages

Ben, his dad and his stepdad move to a podunk town in eastern Montana to live with the stepdad’s sassy elderly mother. The move is ostensibly because Ben has been spiraling into drugs, alcohol and just bad behavior for the past three years, since his dad came out and his mom left. Ben is forced to deal with the cultural shock, as well as coming to terms with his own feelings regarding his dad’s sexual orientation.

It was definitely good to see this angle on homosexuality, as there are tons of kids who have to deal with what Ben’s dealing with. It could have been written a bit more elegantly though. The first chapter gives almost the entire backstory for Ben's situation, when I felt that should have been sprinkled throughout the book. Also, the town and a lot of the people in it come across very stereotyped (there’s got to be SOMEONE in this town who doesn’t listen to country music and I refuse to believe that Ben’s the only teenager that wears baggy shorts there), though not when it comes to accepting the gay couple that moves in. I didn’t think I’d enjoy the story much based on the beginning, though I stuck with it and I ended up liking it better than I thought I would. All in all, it was OK.

The Mockingbirds

The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney, 339 pages

At the beginning of Alex’s second semester of her junior year at hoity-toity boarding school Themis Academy, she is date-raped by a guy that she hardly knows. Uncomfortable with the idea of going to the authorities and well aware that the administration finds the idea of someone being raped at their school unthinkable, Alex turns to the Mockingbirds, a student group formed to exact their own version of justice upon one another.

This is a great book, and handles a difficult subject really well. Some people may be uncomfortable reading it because it does have some fairly graphic descriptions of Alex’s rape as she remembers it in flashbacks. That said, I don’t doubt that it’s very realistic; the afterword mentions that the author was date-raped in college. I feel like this would be a great book for teenage girls to read, though I could totally see why some parents might not be too keen on that idea. Eh, they should read it anyway.