Thursday, June 28, 2007

Going Nowhere Faster - Sean Beaudoin

Stan works in a video store, and is really smart. He can do math in his head, and can tell people movies a celebrity has been in by ABC order or the year it was made. He is also seeing a shrink because he lit a bullys locker on fire. He also likes Ellen, who barely knows he's alive. Miles and Stan go to a party and Stan has a bit to much to drink. The next night Ellen comes into the video store and Stan asks her out, even though its just to come along with him and his sister to feed the ducks. They have a good time and then Stan's mom comes and picks them up. She basically embarrasses him in front of Ellen in the car. A few days later Miles calls and says there is a double date with Miles, Cari, Ellen and Stan. They go to dinner at a German restaurant and as they are leaving Stan sees Miles and Ellen kissing by the bathrooms. He gets angry and also feels betrayed by his best friend that he goes home and doesn't get out of bed for a few days. When he decides to get out of bed and go to work, he finds out that the video store has been broken into and everything trashed. Keith, the owner of the video store thinks that Stan has played some cruel joke on him and fires Stan. The police arrested someone for the breakin, but Stan knows it wasn't him. So who did break into the video store? Can Stan get Ellen back? Will Stan forgive Miles for kissing Ellen? I guess you'll have to read to find out.
T.B. 6/28/07

Monday, June 25, 2007

Holdup by Terri Fields

This book tells the story of a Burger Heaven robbery. It is told through the different points of views of each person involved. That includes the employees, the robbers, innocent bystanders, the police, and a tv reporter. Before the robbery even occurs, the story introduces the characters, showing a bit of their personality and their motivation in life. Each character gets a chapter or two of introduction. Once the robbery occurs, the story shifts between characters in paragraphs, detailing thoughts as the event happens. After the robbery, the story jumps to a year in the future, exploring the aftermath of the robbery. Each main character has a chapter and some are even written in different formats like one character is interviewed and two characters are emailing each other.

The novel has an interesting concept, especially exploring so many different points of view, but for the most part it wasn't spectacular. The author did a good job creating different voices for each character but I didn't leave the story feeling wowed. It was also disappointing to see how little the characters changed from the event. Overall, not bad, but not great.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Kiss & Blog by Alyson Noel

Winter and Sloane have been best friends since about the third grade and for most of their lives they have been nobodies in school. The summer before their sophomore year they make a pact to change that. They do makeovers and study everything they need to know to be popular. When school starts and it's time to put everything they learned to practice, Winter is just a little bit more hesitant, feeling that it all seems just a little too fake. Sloane, though, fits right in and soon she ditches Winter to win a spot on the cheerleading squad. Betrayed by her one and only friend, Winter runs away to New York to stay with her dad and soon realizes that it's better to be herself, an individual, than a fake clone. In New York she also gets introduced to Blogs and the power to express her opinion online. When she returns home she meets Rey, a new boy in her life who helps her find real friends, and starts a blog where she exposes all of Sloane's secrets. While Winter struggles with her growing feelings for Rey, she also deals with the pain of discovering Sloane's true, disloyal character.

This was a nice read. Winter was a genuine character that you could relate to, especially Sloane's betrayal. Noel did a good job exposing the true pain that can come from losing one's only friend and subsequent lifeline in the rough world of high school. Revenge online is a bit genius, especially how Winter never reveals names. I found the sudden popularity of her website a little unbelievable. There is so much out there that for it to take flight, to the point that she's offered a book deal, seems just a little too good to be true. But what do you expect from a work of fiction. I was also disappointed in the lack of repercussions in Winter's offense. What she did was big, but not much punishment came from what she did, let alone much remorse. Then again, maybe that's just a comment being made about the characters and Sloane's inability to be original. Either way, this was an enjoyable book.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Confessions of a Teen Nanny by Victoria Ashton

This novel is the first of a new series. It introduces two friends, Adrienne and Liz, who both work as nannies for wealthy families. Most of the novel follows Adrienne and her time with the Warners. She’s hired to watch Emma, an eight year old genius, who the back of the books calls evil, but she seemed really nice. I kept picturing Dakota Fanning in Uptown Girls without the bratty attitude. Adrienne’s main problem comes with Emma’s half-sister, Cameron who invites Adrienne into her Paris Hilton type lifestyle. She gives Adrienne a makeover and expensive clothes and begins to turn her into a society figure, which doesn’t go over too well with Adrienne’s public school friends. Cameron also isn’t as friendly as she leads Adrienne to believe. It turns out the she’s after Adrienne’s boyfriend. The novel also has a sub-plot with Liz and her budding relationship with Parker, one of Cameron’s rich friends and he doesn’t seem to be the most genuine of guys.

Not much is resolved in the novel, which must mean this is one of those series that you can’t read out of order. It’s a light read with enjoyable characters. You can truly relate and feel for Adrienne who gets sucked into this lifestyle and its deception. Cameron is a stereotypical character and the premise might not be the most genuine, but it’s cute. There is alcohol and drug-use, which doesn’t paint the best picture of impressionable teens, but what’s to be expected when portraying the young and rich. This novel is an airy read that has promise for being and intriguing series.


Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Accidents of Nature by Harriet McBryde Johnson

The main characters are Jean who is spastic cerebral palsy and Sara who is Muscular Dystrophy. The story takes place at Camp Courage. This is a camp for kids, teens and young adults with a wide range of disabilities and abilities. Jean has been raised mainstreamed where she has received much recognition for her courage in facing her challenges. She has taken all her certificates, awards with her to camp. Sara has never gone to normal school, she has gone to crip school but was not a residential placement. Sara believes strongly she should be able to enjoy every day of her life in her own way. This is something kids striving to appear normal when they are not do not have the opportunity to do. Jean is sort of a pet or mascot for the students in normal school. Before she met Sara, she had never thought of living her own way rather than the way normals dictate. The normals that run the camp and telethons, which Sara abhorres, characterize the campers as showing spirit just by being alive, not curling up and dying, determination by doing ordinary things and courage in showing their faces in public (p.207) Sara wants camp to be the crip's camp that choices made for activities should be crip's choices. An example of this was the movie night committee choosing a Marx Brother's comedy as their choice to watch which was nixed by the norms in favor of the "uplifting" Pollyana. I think the differing views are quite interesting but I think at times they overwhelm the story. Jean's discovery of a new way of seeing herself is especially good. Those who run telethon's to get money to fund medical research could learn something here, as could many norms.
jdw 6/13/07

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Rain of Gold By: Victor VillaSenor

This is a novel that has you sitting on the seat of your pants. It deals with lots of adventure, love, and tragedies, murder, and triumph over cultural barriers.

It deals with race, and culture. It has to do with Mexican survival.

This book in my opinion should be required reading in High School, and College level in History courses.
The novel is written in a smooth, and easy style that keeps the plot advancing.

The characters are very real, but always based in reality. The personalities are drawn, or felt like a family member.
The author weaves the parallel story of two families, and two countries, United States and Mexico. Men and women in whose lives are real, and the fantastical exist side by side; and whose hearts the spirit to survive is fueled by a family's love.
Colonel Maytorena is the main character of the novel. He plays the major role in a smal Mexian viallage.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Converting Kate - Beckie Weinheimer

Kate grew up in Phoenix, AZ and was raised by the Church of the Holy Devine. Her mother was also involved in the church, and her father wasn't no matter how hard Kate's mother tried to get him to attend/be involved. Her dad always spent time with her and was always at her track meets. Her mother always had some excuse for not going. Then her dad dies of a heart attack and a few days later her mom picks up and moves them to an Bed and Breakfast in Maine run by her Aunt Katherine. She starts school there and signs up for cross-country and makes friends with the rest of the team. When Sunday rolls around after the first week of school Kate tells her mother that she is going with Aunt Katherine to church, a traditonal Christian church. While there she meets Pastor Browning, the new pastor there and he encourages some of the youth to start up a youth group. Kate's mother doesn't want her to go, but she goes anyway. Kate starts rebelling against her mother after 15 years of being brought up in a strict environment. Her mother takes away her fathers books, which as her mom says are a bad influence on Kate, and basically makes her life a living hell. After a few months pass by Kate's mom begins to realize that she can't controll everything in her life. Kate's rebellion is her way of saying that she can start taking care of herself and doesn't need all of these restrictions placed on her by her mother or which church she belongs to.

T.B. 6/7/07

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Endgame by Nancy Garden

Endgame is yet another school shooting book. This one deals with the events leading up to Gray Wilton opening fire on his school. As the novel begins, Gray is already arrested for the shooting and the novel is him explaining everything to his lawyer. He starts with his move to Greenford and his transition into a new school. His family moved partly because he got suspended twice at his previous school for violence and weapon possession, although that was related to bullying. He details his problems at Greenford with a jock named Zorro who is a constant bully, harassing him in the locker room and even getting physical with him. Outside of the bullying, Gray needs to deal with a father who's constantly disappointed in him, particularly because he hasn't lived up to his brother's greatness. His father also doesn't understand Gray's passion for drumming, believing Gray needs to get into something like sports. Drumming, his dog Barker, and his friend Ross are all Gray has going for him, and eventually all those get taken away. He hides his troubles but they keep escalating to the point he can't take it anymore and brings a gun to school. The novel ends with his sentencing.

One interesting thing about the novel was how the events were actually told to you. There is an interplay between the events as they happened and Gray's conversations with the lawyer. While you get a sense of seeing the events unfold, you also see it through the lawyer's eyes, discovering the complexities of his client. It gave the story more depth rather than just seeing the events happen. There are also occasional chapters where you see Gray's battle with what he's done. You see him sitting in the Juvenile detention center, reflecting on what these events have made him. I also liked the ended where Gray is sitting in the sentencing realizing what he's done, the harsh reality of it, especially when he doesn't get the sentence he hoped for. This was a good book, especially in how it made you empathize with the character.