Monday, January 28, 2008

Sight by Vrettos

This is on the Best Books of 2007 for Young Adults. I guess I read this distracted and didn't catch the foreshadowing, impending doom stuff til about 2/3rd's of the way through the book. That's too long for me for a book to start building steam. Looking back their were clues, but all I was really aware of was a town's, a new girl's and Dylan's obsession with the death of a boy classmate when Dylan was in kindergarten. He was of course the first time she saw the death of a child. At that age it would have been very horrifying. A person would tend to obsess over it, especially since there were aspects the 5-year-old didn't understand but would eventually. New girl Cate, chirpy and determined to befriend Dylan and become her confident reminds Dylan of someone else, but she can't quite remember who. Dylan succumbs to Cate's overtures and confides in her that she sees the last minutes of the lives of murdered children and helps the local police solve the mysteries of their disappearances. This is something even her best friend Pilar doesn't know. But then Pilar has secrets from Dylan as we find out. There is reason to believe that a man known only as the drifter is back in the area. Evidence indicates that he is responsible for both the boy's death long ago and the most recent murder of a ten-year-old girl on the mountain. Everyone is terrified, especially Pilar whose little sister disappears at the climax of this story. Who Cate is turns out to be quite a surprise. There is a side story about this rural, close knit mountain village being developed against the wishes of many residents and about a group of boys from Dylan's class who have been vandalising work sites. And, another about Dylan's aunts who she doesn't know but who are definitely strange. I can't tell you much about Dylan, who she is, who she might become or her friends. Its the mystery thats important, I guess though there are a couple of things that aren't explained well. I like stories better when the characters are more complex jdw 2/1/08

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Dirty Work by Julia Bell

This is another book told through two different narrators and this time it wasn't as bad as the last time (see Dream Factory). The narrators, Oksana and Hope, come from two different backgrounds and their stories don't overlap as much as before. This novel tells the story of two young girls who end up working in a brothel. Oksana is on her way to London, already a part of the brothel business and, in attempts to escape, brings Hope into her troubled life. Hope, who tries to help Oksana, ends up being kidnapped and an unwilling participant in the situation. Lucky for her, her father is a businessman and she knows people will actually come to look for her. Oksana, on the other hand, is poor and more or less meaningless to the people around her. Most of the story is told by Oksana and most of the novel is focused on how she got sucked into that world. The gist of her story is that she was drawn into the illusion of a wealthy man who promised her a job but ended up tricking her. She's admitted defeat but Hope won't give up without a fight.

The novel wasn't as powerful as it could have been. In fact, I almost felt as though it's just a watered down version of a more compellig story. Part of the reason I picked up the book in the first place is I read a book (Vanish by Tess Gerritsen) that has a brothel being a part of a bigger story. Even though that's an adult novel, the approach got to me emotionally involved. It made me angry and sad and I really felt for the characters. I could feel their pain. Yes, at times it was explicit but it did the story justice. I didn't walk away for this story as emotionally invested as the previous one. The harsh reality of the story wasn't that bad. Aside from being kidnapped and forced to live in a small room, nothing terrible happened to Hope. She got off easy, which irritated me just a little bit. And what Oksana was forced to endure was overlooked except for one scene that was somewhat vague. The recommendation from Kevin Brooks on the front claims this book is "Shocking and blunt" but I didn't feel that way. I'm not saying I wanted to read the dirty details (I don't mean to be morbid), but there needed to be more pain to have the emotional impact I think the book wants to accomplish. At the same time, I felt as though there was too much on Oksana's past and, in a way, it slowed the story.

In my opinion this novel wasn't as strong as it could have been. Maybe I'm a little jaded and morbid from a different novel with a similar subject, but this novel didn't affect me as much as I was before. The characters were captivating (Oksana more so than Hope because she received more face time) and you did feel for them. The book itself was good but I wouldn't call it the best.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Dream Factory by Brad Barkley and Heather Hepler

As a big Disney fan, I looked forward to reading this book but ended up being a little disappointed in it. The two narrators, which making the format a little interesting, ended up making the novel needlessly longer than it should have been.

In the novel, all of the actors at Walt Disney World have gone on strike and teenagers have been shipped in to fill the parts (the use of teenagers might be a little questionable, but that's a teeny tiny nit-picky detail). At the center of the saga are Ella (cast as Cinderella) and Luke (a.k.a. Dale as in Chip and Dale). Both of them have relationships with their costars (Ella with Prince Charming Mark - true Disney fanatic - and Luke with Cassie who plays Chip). Despite their current relationships, both are in love with each other but obviously can't be together due to their aforementioned attachments. In order to foster a stronger respect for the actors' jobs, management threw together a scavenger hunt in the park. Cassie, desperate to win, hooks up with Mark, therefore allowing Luke and Ella to work together. Thrown into the mix is Bernard, the longest working fur character who offers the characters a new perspective on their dreams. Ella is also dealing with the death of her brother and abandonment of her parents while Luke has to fight with the fact that his family has his future planned out and not to his liking. Will these character live happily ever after? Will all of their dreams come true? Hmm...I wonder.

The story was cute and fluffy. I loved the Disney references and even the Star Wars moments (I can't explain that because it'll give away a big secret). The novel fluidly combined two of my favorite things in the world so that was exciting. There were a few moments of character movement within the setting that bothered me logistically, but again, that's just nit-picky on my part. One thing that really irked me was the alternating perspectives, not because it was hard to switch but because I felt like I was reading the same story. The front flap proclaims "two perfectly matched voices" and I felt they were perfectly matched because they were the same voice. I didn't feel as though there was any difference. The male voice sounded just as whiny as the female voice only character names were different. I felt as though most of the novel was about the two characters longing for each other and not doing anything about it. Yes each character was complex in their own way, but there was too much pining over each other.

This book has its quirks and its flaws. The story is cute but with the two narrators there's too much of the same. Not bad, but not great. If you're a Disney fan, go for it. At the very least it was fun picking up all of those little Disney tidbits and picturing myself at the park.

The Night Tourist - Katherine Marsh

Jack Perdu lives with his father on the campus of Yale University. He is very smart and is reading a book almost all of the time. One night Jack gets hit by a car and then he starts seeing ghosts. His father sends him to a paranormal doctor in New York City. While he is waiting for his train he sees a girl named Euri. The thing that Jack doesn't know yet is that Euri is a ghost who haunts Grand Central Station. She takes him on a tour of the underground of the station, which turns out to be where the spirits of people who died in New York City go. Once Jack realizes where he is he sets out to find his mother who died 8 years ago. The thing is Jack only has 3 days to find her otherwise he will die. He and Euri follow leads and in the end find his mother, but she reveals to Jack why she can't return to the human world. Jack returns to the human world in the nick of time and tries to bring Euri back with him. When his father finds him it is just Jack and no Euri. Jack is sad that Euri didn't make it, but in some way he feels her watching over him.

A good book very similar to Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin. I liked the way the author used the underground to symbolize the afterlife, since most of us are buried into the ground when we die. I also liked the search for a lost soul part of the story, since most of us have either a family member or friend who has passed away, and would like to have them back in our lives even if it is only for a short period of time.

T.B. 1/22/08

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Ask Me No Questions By: Marina Budhos

This novel interested me because of the title. As you read more pages, it dawned on me that it was a novel about a family who was living with illegal status from Bangladesh. The family had lived in New York City with expired visas. The Dad Abba was a hard worker, and had many jobs. After 9/11 in New York Muslims were suspects for terroist. The daughter Alisha, and Nadira thought up the idea of driving, and crossing the border into Canada, and claiming refugee status. The daughters, the Mother, and the Dad were turned down. In fact, the Dad was detained in jail for being illegal, and having expired visas. The Dad had to wait in jail for his court hearing. The daughters didnot have enough funds to pay the fine.

Next we find, that the girl's Uncle is apprehended for his expired Visa. Uncle is detained in the Manhattan jail.

Alisha and Nadira live a life of fear daily. The girls are bright in High School, and one daughter will be Valvictorian at her graduation ceremony.

I do not want to tell many details because it will give away the events, and life of the family.

Towards the end of the noovel the family's wish comes true. Read this novel, and you will find out what happens.
LRD 1/15/08

Monday, January 14, 2008

Keeping Corner By: Rasmira Sheth

This is a novel about growing up in a traditional Indian family in India. It's interesting to note that arranged marriages are still done. The parent's plan whom the daughter's husband will be at a young age. Throughout the novel we learn about clothing, and colors of Sarais worn at different times. Women also use bangles, or bracelets daily. This will indicate the wealth of a person by how many gold bangles are worn.

In India one of the instruments is called "tampura", which is a one string instrument that looks a bit like a ukeleli. A widow in India has many traditions to follow . The ninth day of mourning is the most important day after a person dies. Neighbors come, and mourn, and actually cry at the widow's house.

Indian people have their own literature to read. One of the books is a famous Epic story of the struggle between cousins. Leela is the woman who lost her love, and had to cut her long hair. In fact, tradition has children cut their hair at 18 months for religious reasons. Leela could not wear black, it meant bad luck. Leela wore a new white sari with a blue border when she left for the cremation ceremony.

Finally, Leela's parent's let her have a school teacher at home to continue her schooling. Now I know why the novel is called "Keeping Corner." That is a term in India used for widows who do not leave their house in any circumstances for one year after death of husband.

Leela had a brother called Kambhai, who was her friend, and companion who took the time to walk her to School to take her exams. The brother is very close to Leela; but lives in a different town. Leela had to wait for her results from her school exams. When Leela received her results from School exams she received a scholarship to continue her studies.

Many Indians use mango pulp to make many things "Roti" is a sweet, or a dessert that is yummy. Throughout the novel there is a lot of political turmoil that coninues. It was basically,Indians against the British rule.

The day Leela leaves her village to further her Education, her brother Kamubhai goes with her sister on a train to a larger city, This is a big step for Leela leaving family, and friends.

This novel is a good read for teens who face changes, and goals in life.

1/14/08 LD

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Wicked Dead: Lurker by Stefan Petrucha and Thomas Pendleton

This book is the first in a new series about one story a "ghost girl" tells her three "ghost" friends in "a nightly ritual." I put that in italics because you don't even realize that the girls are ghost until the very end and, even then, the revelation isn't even that exciting. I didn't feel as if these ghost girls added anything to the story. In fact, I might even venture to say they killed the ending. The Prologue and the Epilogue could have been removed from the story and nothing would have been lost.

The story being told was about a teenager named Mandy dealing with a break up around the time a classmate is murdered. Soon after the girl's murder, Mandy starts to receive IMs from a boy named Kyle. She quickly develops a friendship with him, reassured that he's not a creep because he sent her a personalized picture (although the picture does seem to pull a Dorian Gray). Her boyfriend that she just broke up with tries to win her back and right after that happens, her Internet buddy starts to get creepy.

The above summary didn't sound that scary because the novel was a big disappointment. Sure Mandy was nervous walking around the neighborhood at dark - some girl was just brutally murdered, anyone would be scared. Yes she got two eerie text messages, but as a reader it wasn't enough to give me nightmares. The ending of the story (before the epilogue) was the only truly "scary" part and the was only a few pages. There is a bit of a subliminal message about the risks of teens dependency on technology which was interesting but I wouldn't call this novel worthwhile. The vast majority of the book was just about a girl's pursuit of a boy. The scares were too few with too far apart, therefore killing it's mojo.

After reading this first book, I don't have any interest in continuing this series. The ghost girls telling stories had no pull and the story told wasn't even that scary. I picked up the book looking for a thrill and came out deadly disappointed.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Saints of Augustine - P.E. Ryan

Sam and Charlie two best friends who suddenly stopped being friends. They have avoided each other at school and in the mall. Each of their lives has changed over the last year. Charlie has been smoking pot and is going out with Kate. He lost his mom to leukemia and his father has become a depressed drunk. Sam on the other hand has had his parents split up and his dad move to London on business with his partner David. He is also trying to figure out if he's gay. As the story progresses Sam meets Justin, who is gay, and they click almost instantly. They go out on a "date" and when Justin drops him off he kisses Sam, and his mother sees them. Charlie on the other hand has his dealer comming to collect $500 for the pot, and has his girlfriend break up with him because of him smoking pot. The dealer and one of his associates come and bust Charlies car up. Everything comes to a head when Sam runs over to Charlies house and they hide away in the house Charlie is renovating. It is there that they start to mend their friendship. They each tell each other whats been going on the last year and Charlie finally finds out why Sam and him stopped being friends.

Overall I really did enjoy this book. I really hadn't read any book recently with a gay character in it, and you really don't know one of the characters is gay until you are about a quarter to half way into the book.

T.B. 1/11/08

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

someday this pain will be useful to you by Peter Cameron

James is 18 and spending the summer before college working in his mother's art gallery which is not busy, leaving plenty of time to use the Internet and to chat with a fellow employee. His very dysfunctional family consisting of mom, recently returned from her third failed marriage (didn't even last the honeymoon), his older sister who is dating a married man a father that seems to show up when there is trouble, a grandmother to whom James frequently runs when the world gets too big for him. No one is very fleshed out, really not even James who is a loner and wants to be, doesn't want to go to college, wants to use the money to buy a small house in the midwest (he lives in New York City) what he would do for food and utility bills not addressed, what he would do other than sit in the house alone, not addressed. He was initially in therapy because of a disastrous field trip in high school but that seems to stop abruptly, not ended, not finished, just disappears from the story. James's need to be away from people, confusing relationships (something he thought of as an innocent joke is labeled sexual harassment for instance), lame people who misuse language, his pitiful mother and sister with whom he has a middle school style sibling rivalry is easy to relate to. Many of us can even find ourselves in this story to but ultimate something is missing and the story just ends! It doesn't really finish. just like the disappearing therapy sessions suddenly James is ok with going to college, his grandma has died but he shows no emotion, his sister has moved on from her relationship the end. I felt the same way about Its Kind of a Funny Story by Vizzini which lacks the edgy quality one would expect from a story of a suicidal teen.
JDW 1/9/08