Thursday, May 31, 2007

Saving Grace - Katherine Spencer

Grace lost her brother in a car accident over the summer and since his death her father has taken refuge in his study and her mother is either at church or sitting in front of the TV. As the school year begins Grace dreads going to school because everyone will be talking about the accident that killed her brother. Her friends try not to mention him, and they give her a drawing book and pencils in hopes that she will start drawing again. On the way out of the cafeteria Grace runs into the new girl Philomena right near the popular table. After the confrontation Dana, one of the poplar kids, asks Grace to join her and her friends after school at Dana's house. While she is there Grace has her first taste of alcohol and she makes out with Dana's brother Dylan. As the weeks progress Grace stops hanging out with Rebecca, Sara, and Andy and hangs out with Dana, Dylan and the rest of the popular crowd. She also starts skipping class and skipping out on her teachers who have approached her about extra help with her grades. Also, each time Grace is out with her new friends she runs in to Philomena, who in a way is like Grace's conscience. One night Grace and her friends are at the store where Matt was heading when he had his accient and Grace has a nervous breakdown and trashes the store. She runs out onto the turnpike and is asking God to take her because she can't deal with the pain of not having her brother is to much for her to bear. Then Philomena is driving on the turnpike and stops to get Grace and take her home. With Philomena's help Grace will start to recover and mend the broken fences with Rebecca, Sara, and Andy.
T.B. 5/31/07

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Drawing the Ocean by MacCullough

Sadie and her parents move from California to the East Coast where Sadie must find all new friends and learn to fit in. The first person she meets is Ryan, biggest freak in the class since middle school. They share a common interest in the arts, drawing, painting, poetry. When she meets Lila, actress to be and more popular by far than the outcast Ryan, its easy to like her, fit in with her group and even aquire a popular athelete as a boyfriend and ignore Ryan. But, the group is interested in partying and more serious Ryan is more to Sadie's liking. So, they keep meeting, quietly, Sadie trying not to be noticed. Things come to a head when boyfriend's athlete friends steal Ryan's car and cover it in shaving cream. Sadie has to decide whether her new friends are really worth it or not...the ending has a nice twist that readers are sure to like. The title comes from the fact of Sadie drawing the ocean every day in rememberance of her dead brother who drowned in the ocean many years ago, but who still appears to Sadie and helps her think through her decisions.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Dreamhunter and Dreamquake by Elizabeth Knox

A nice change from many volume long fantasy series, this has just the two titles. Dreamhunters can go into THE PLACE and capture dreams. Then come back into the real world and sleep to share their dreams with others. These dreams can calm anxiety, be used to make imprisoned persons obey, make people so happy they don't care about anything, heal the sick. Some in the government disapprove of their use. There is a plot to stop dreamhunters using some of their own and create a dictatorship like government. The opponents, discover this plot and work to stop it. Opponents are the church of this world and powerful dreamhunters not already in the control of the plotters. It falls to Laura Hame to stop the plotters. Laura's father first discovered the plot but has become disabled. Laura's fiance falls into the hands of the plotters. Nown, an entity that is hard to explain but which is part future and part present is under Laura's command, even though she tried to free him. In this story several realities and times, past, future, present can exist at the same time just like many scientists really believe. This one is for readers of Phillip Pullman's GOLDEN COMPASS. There's a lot of action and a lot to think about. It kept my attention which Harry Potter books don't. With just two books you won't lose interest before your through.
jdw 5.25.07

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Confessions by Kate Brian

Confessions is the fourth novel in Kate Brian's Private series. In this one, Reed Brennan struggles to find out who killed her boyfriend Thomas. The novel begins with her new love, Josh, being arrested for the murder. Reed is certain he's innocent, so she finds his alibi and proves he's not the killer. In the meantime, she finds herself drifting farther apart from her Billings friends who have Josh convicted and just want Reed to get over herself and have a little fun. Once Josh is freed, she still struggles to fit in as it seems her whole world is turned upside down, especially once the true killer is revealed.

This a a good novel, although it would have been helpful to read the first three Private novels. Without knowing that this is a part of a series, it feels like there are too many characters that all blend together and the background of Thomas' murder is left out. I'm sure, though, that all of that is sorted out in the previous novel, which just goes to prove that some series need to be read in order. The missing pieces, though, weren't enough to prevent this novel from being enjoyable. The main characters separated themselves from the pack with their distinct personalities and it was easy to relate to Reed and sympathize with her struggle to find her niche. My only real problem with this novel is the affect it might have on impressionable young girls. These are high society who thrive on drinking (getting drunk), being promiscuous, and having life handed to them on a silver platter. While I understand that girls in private board schools do live that way, I do not feel that it should be flaunted in literature. I was grateful, though that this book had a little bit more substance to it than the lifestyle of the rich and fabulous. The murder mystery made this novel into more than a snap shot of these over-privileged girls, and, therefore, made it more interesting. While I was unhappy about the drinking in the novel, the girls' sex lives were not really explored, which was a little reassuring. Sex and alcohol might have pushed it over the edge. This novel has peaked my interest in the other Private novels and I just hope the others have as much substance as this one.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Runaway by Van Draanen

Holly doesn't remember her father. He died in a tractor accident when she was very young. Her mother struggled to provide a home for the two until finally descending into the world of drugs, overdosing dieing. At the time Holly was too young to make it on her own and was put into foster care. Most foster homes are good homes with good people, I was a foster mom. But, there a few people who go into foster care for all the wrong reasons. Her first home was one such situation. She ran for the first time and had to come back when she couldn't survive on her own. By the time she reaches her final home, another bad one and you'll see why, she runs and is determined to stay gone. She lives in a world of homeless predators, filth, fear, hunger, running anytime trouble seems to loom. Just when she believes she has found a home in a secluded place, a refrigerator box covered in hefty bags, a double whammy of rain and another homeless predator leaves her without a plan yet again and near hopelessness. She dreams of becoming a veterinarian with little evidence there is any chance of that. I am not going to give away the ending. This is a heart wrenching story. It is also, all too plausible, possible. Van Draanen writes the fast and fun Sammy Keyes Mysteries. This is a very different kind of story.
jdw 5/17/07

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The Invisible by Mats Wahl

As a big fan of books that inspire movies, I was excited to read The Invisible, which came to theaters last month. Reading the book, though, made me wonder what was so great that they wanted to make a movie.

Hilmer Ericksson finds out that no one can see him. Supposedly he disappeared two days ago and no one knows what happened. Harald Fors comes in and starts investigating Hilmer's disappearance and learns that a group of Nazi supports might be responsible for the boy's disappearance. Hilmer is soon found, the Nazi supporters are arrested, and the book is over. It is really that simple and really that disappointing.

The novel focuses on the investigation where the invisible Hilmer rarely receives any consideration. I thought that he would have had a huge part, especially since that's the attention grabber. This kid is present but unseen. Maybe that's the irony of it. Not only is he invisible in the story, but his whole character is invisible to the reader and in the novel. The snipits we do get are intriguing, but you're left wanting more.

There is also very little character development and Harald, the investigator, goes from one point to the next without motivation. I pictured him trudging along, doing his job without any really investment in the endeavor. He came, did his interviews, left, moved to the next spot and did it again. Not much was revealed in the interviews and I had no understanding of why he was going to each place when he did. I also had a small problem with "talking heads" - a problem in writing where it's back and forth conversation, and just that. There is no action, there are no speaker tags. Just conversation. I wanted to know what was happening. How were the characters reacting? Were they appauled? Did they pace when they talked? Normally I wouldn't care so much about the writing style, but there was something about this novel that just irked me. It might have to do with Harald and his passiveness. The author didn't make him seem to care enough or have enough motivation behind his actions.

This novel is originally written in Swedish and, for that matter, takes place in Sweden. That might be the main problem with the novel. The Nazi characters seem to make a political comment, more than just hate, but it's not developed enough, or maybe it is, but since I'm not aware of what's going on in Sweden, I feel as though something's missing. This barrier is a just explanation for some failings on the novel's part.

Seeing as this novel was just made into a movie, I expected something spectacular and came up massively disappointed. There wasn't enough to it. The investigation was dull and uneventful. The whole lure was empty. I had hopes for a surprise ending, maybe they had the wrong killer, but there was no shocker in the end. I can only hope that the movie diverges from the book, because if it sticks to the story, it'll be a waste of money and time.

Friday, May 11, 2007

How to Ruin a Summer Vacation by Simone Elkeles

Elkeles is a new Illinois Author. This is her first book.

Amy admits she is cynical, uncooperative and generally obnoxious but determined to maintain her attitude. I've read several teen books lately where the teens admit they are being intentionally unreasonable then proceed as usual. Her father, who she barely knows is taking her to Israel to meet an ailing grandmother she didn't know she had and the rest of her father's family. He is Jewish and she never knew. She finds herself rooming with a cousin of about the same way. Since she is being snotty, the cousin treats her the same way. Its a summer of discovery for Amy. She attachs to her wonderful grandmother. She learns something of the Jewish history and of the war between the Israeli's and Palestinian's and of the heartbreak of the conflict. She falls in love but with several nearly disastrous bad moves first. She shears sheep, goes kayaking as well as other adventures. And begins to lose that loser attitude...
This book is ok, not exceptional, but ok. The setting in Israel and the look at the conflict adds interest. JDW 5/10/07

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Traitor By: Gudrun Pausewang

This is a very exciting novel that could very likely happen. This is a story that could of taken during the Russian invasion in Germany. There were many underlying events happening in the small town of Stiemitz, Germany. This story evolves around a family who is well connected. The Mother's brother Uncle Franz was the mayor of Stiemitz.

Anna is the daughter, and main character of this story. Anna loved to write poetry whenever she could. Anna had a brother Seff, who was a soldier in the German military. Anna was the person who found the Russian soldier hiding in the barn next to their home.

Anna had another brother who lived at home, but worked. The brother's name was Felix. Anna's Mother owned an Inn in the town of Stiegnitz, Germany. Anna all night thought of the Russian soldier, and where he would hide. Anna thought of the bunker, where no one ever visited. She had to think of all what this emplied with harboring a Russian soldier. Anna suppliedthe soldier with clothes, and food.

In the end, the War was over, and the Russian soldier survived the cold, damp bunker, and no one knew about the Russian soldier secluded in the bunker. Anna's worries were over.

I definitely reccomend this book with all the adventures Anna went through.

LRD 5/9/07

London Calling - Edward Bloor

Have you ever thought you could travel back in time through a radio? Well Martin Conway doesn't think so until he actually does. A few days after school ends his Nana passes away and her will stated that he get her Philco 20 Delux radio that she's had since 1940. After he brings it home he plugs it in and falls asleep. He is the transported back to 1940 where he meets an 8 year old kid named Jimmy. Jimmy takes him to the American Embassy where Martin sees General Hank "Holleren" Lowery in the flesh. After Martin wakes up he writes down names and places he sees, so he can check to make sure they are real. Shortly before the school year starts up again there is a disiplinary hearing at All Souls Prep for the altercation between Martin, Pinak, Manetti and Hennry Lowry, great grandson of General Lowry, that damaged a statue base on the last day of school in May. As a result of this hearing Manetti is expelled, Pinak can stay at All Souls Prep, and Martin decides to do independent study so he doesn't have to go back. He continues to time travel to 1940 and one night he's in the middle of the London Blitz on December 29, 1940. Jimmy ends up dying and that leads Martin on a fact finding mission about everything he's seen, and the truth about General Lowry. It helps that his sister works for an encyclopedia company so he can verify names, places, and dates easily. Shortly after New Years he calls his dad and asks him to come to London with him so he can check out the places he's seen. Martin also has another misson, find Jimmy's father and tell his father that Jimmy should have listened to him and not gone out the night of the Blitz, as a promise he made to Jimmy before he passed away in the London Blitz.
I really enjoyed this book. I haven't read much historical fiction, but for some reason this one grabbed my attention and it held on till the end.
T.B. 5/9/07

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Can't Stop The Shine By: Joyce E. Davis

This is an Urban Literature book that I find a worthwhile read. This is a story of two sisters who are close to each other, even in competition. One sister is called Kalia, and the other sister is Mariama. Throughout the book we see fights between them, and how they cope with different situations they encounter. As you read along, one thinks it is the end of the world.

Of course their are boyfriend issues for both sisters. We also learn about the sisters' Mom and Dad having marital problems. We note that because the Dad is sleeping in the guest room

This is a novel about problems, and concerns of black teens, but also can be the same issues of white anglo saxon teens. The book is written with realism, and wit. I feel it is a must read for any teen of any race.

LRD May 8/07

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Ophelia by Lisa Klein

This novel is an adaptation of Shakespeare's Hamlet told from Ophelia's point of view. While my comprehension of Hamlet is a bit rusty, I was disappointed in this novel because of the liberties it took with the play. The author's note said she wanted to create a stronger character - which she did - but Ophelia in the play always just seemed like a weak, love sick girl, unable to handle Hamlet's "madness." The novel details the courtship between Hamlet and Ophelia, very much done in secret, as well as their secret marriage right before Hamlet sees the ghost of his father. Their newlywed bliss is then shattered as he becomes obsessed with seeking revenge. His obsession and subsequent "madness" leads him to turn against her and destroy her happiness. Ophelia is very calculating and feels that if her marriage to Hamlet is discovered that she'll be in grave danger and fakes her death in order to disappear. That's more or less where the connections with the play end. After her "death" the story continues where she ends up in a convent seeking sanctuary. At the convent she learns of Hamlet's death but stays there particularly because she's pregnant. With her formed friendships and desire to help the Sisters with her knowledge of potions and herbs, Ophelia stays at the convent until she meets again with Horatio (Hamlet's friend and her co-conspirator) and has her "happily ever after."

I wasn't extremely happy with this book because of the liberties it took with the original play. I thought that this would just give explanation to why she killed herself, but Ophelia was too strong of a character and has too much insider information. True her sudden knowledge (like the discovery of proof the Claudius killed the king) might have been meant to connect back with the play since Ophelia was a secondary character, but it became too picture perfect. At the same time, the secret marriage of Ophelia and Hamlet, not to mention her pregnancy, made her story too much of a fairy tale to satisfy Shakespeare. I really felt as if the fake death threw it over the edge. It was too much and unrealistic. It didn't feel right to change the story that much. Once she escaped from Denmark, I felt the story had reached its end, but then there was the convent saga which did not hold my interest. It was a whole new set of characters I had to connect with and after the disappointment with the play interpretation, I found the last 100 pages a struggle to finish. The author wanted Ophelia to be a character that, unfortunately, she wasn't if you hold to Shakespeare's presentation. Maybe I'm just too loyal to the original, but this novel's interpretation seemed too perfect to be seen as a good interpretation.