Saturday, September 27, 2008

Boy Heaven by Laura Kasischke

This book, while vague in its synopsis and recommended with such comments as " eerie sense of apprehension that the pages keep turning" (SJL) and "...a genuine shock of an ending" (Joyce Carol Oates), turned out to be extremely disappointing. In my opinion, there was very little, if any, suspense.

Kristy and her two friends sneak out from their cheerleading camp and decide to take a trip to a nearby lake that claims to be the deepest in the state. When they stop for gas, they eye a pair of boys gawking at them and Kristy, in her kind nature, smiles at them. Next thing they know, the boys are spotted following them to the lake. After changing their minds and going back to camp, the girls decide to flash the boys as they drive past them. Her one friend (a red-headed Kristi) suddenly stops eating and proclaims that she's seen the guys staring at her and talking through the screen of the cabin. Her other friend (Desiree) claims to have also seen the boys and that they watched her have sex in the woods before left her a threatening note on her cot. Kristy, though, doesn't believe any of this. After sneaking out with Desiree and her boyfriend, they stumble upon the truth about the boys, which is not what you'd expect.

This book had a lot of potential, but fell through on its delivery. The author, a poet, writes too poetically. For me there presence of similes and metaphors became overpowering and overly annoying. To be honest, the description drove me crazy! It really detracted from the story and I found myself skimming a lot of the novel (something I rarely, if EVER do!) The author also included a lot of back information about the narrator as she remembers trips with her parents or some boy's obsession with her or a chapter about the narrator's evaluations of cops and self defense. Those parts had no relevance to the story. They just dragged it out. The suspense was very sporadic and unimpressive. All of the threatening parts happened to people other than the narrator. If it's from her point of view, she should have been the one seeing the boys in the woods, not someone else. If she doesn't believe the other people, how is she going to be scared? If we're supposed to feel threatened as the readers, we're going to pick up on the emotions of the narrator and if she's not scared, how are we supposed to be terrified? That disconnect weakened the affect of the novel. I kept holding out that the "shock of an ending" would redeem the novel, but it did little for me.

This novel was a huge letdown. It wasn't scary and the description slowed everything down. For a novel that had a lot of potential, it was just so disappointing to read it.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Defect by Will Weaver

"In other words, his defect was a gift," she adds (37). Can a birth defect ever be considered a gift? This novel addresses the struggle of one teen and his acceptance of his extreme defect.

David has a hard time being accepted due to his strange smell and facial abnormalities that cause people to stare. Those faults aren't his real defect, though. David has wings. Under his arms he has extra skin that fans out into wings. After a trick he plays on some bullies where he leads them to believe he jumped off a cliff (in reality he flew off it, but they didn't see), David gets sent to an alternative school where kids who don't fit in go. This, while a hassle at first, turns out to be a good thing when he befriends a girl named Cheetah who suffers seizures. After being spotted soaring the night by two teens soaring, David feels his life fall into chaos. His secret is discovered and he faces the tough decision of whether or not to undergo an "Extreme Makeover" and become normal. In deciding, David meets a young boy who's dying last wish is to see proof of god. Could David, the "injured angel," be the answer? Could his defect actually be a gift?

This novel does a goes a decent job exploring the challenge many people face of accepting themselves. David sees his wings, at times, as a hindrance to his success in the world. He has trouble making friends and fitting in. Come the end, when he's given an easy way out, he's forced to evaluate his place in the world. Did God make him that way on purpose and, if so, what is it? There are slight religious undertones but it is very subtle. One thing teeny tiny detail that I noticed and felt slightly bothered by (because I'm overly curious and looked it up) is that the author called his defect Icthyosis vulgaris, which, when Googled, comes up as : Ichthyosis vulgaris with an extra "h." This disease is basically dry, scaly skin, not wings or extra skin. This just struck me as off because, in my opinion, it made the book lose a bit of credibility. Teens are curious and I'm sure someone else is going to look it up to see a real picture of someone with wings and be horribly disappointed.

This book was a good read. While David has an extreme case of accepting yourself, the undertones of his story are ones that many people can relate to.


Appetite for Detention by Sloane Tanen

When you think about young adult books, picture books don't often spring to mind. Appetite for Detention, though, is one hilarious picture book that teens will relate to.

Told through photographs of pipe cleaner chicks, this book details the experiences of eight birds trying to fit into high school. There's Helen, who deals with fitting in due to her weight. Then there's Joey struggling with homosexuality and his crush on Tobey who's dating Caitlin, the pink but stuck up bombshell. Marissa, Caitlin's friend, just wants to be poplar and can't stand the fact that Caitlin has all the success. Besides these five birds, there's also Annalise who dreams only of Harvard, Edgar who just wants to survive, and Andrew who wants people to show up for his Bar Mitzvah. Overall, it's just another day in high school for these little birds.

This book is hilarious. The pictures alone are enough for a good laugh. Obviously a quick read, this book should be viewed because if these little fluffy creatures can survive the scary world of high school, so can the rest of us.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Triskellion - Will Peterson

Triskellion, an ancient celtic symbol of 3 intersecting circles connected by another circle, is also the place where Rachel and Adam's mother is from. They are sent there after their parents divorce to stay with their grandmother. Upon their arrival they notice how strange the people are and the whispers behind their backs. Rachel also is having dreams of two people, a guy and a girl, from a long time ago, and the girl looks a lot like her. Only one man Jacob Honeyman, the local bee keeper, talks to them and tells them about the history of the town. He also talks about the gold Triskellion which is supposed to be hidden in 3 pieces in the town. Rachel and Adam along with Gabriel, the kid who can dissappear at a moments notice, start looking around for the pieces. Adam finds one piece beneth a yew tree in the forest, another piece is in the church, and the third piece is in a tomb which is unearthed by the telvision show Treasure Hunters. What will happen when all three pieces are put together? Whats the connection between the people found in the tomb and Rachels dreams? Why does Gabriel keep dissappearing, is there more to him than meets the eye?

T.B. 9/16/08

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Ten Mile River By Paul Griffin

The two main personalities are Jose, and Ray who live in an abandoned station house where they do not have the bear necessities . They are two teenagers always running from the Police for this or that. In fact, one of their jobs in New York City is breaking windows on luxurious cars like Cadillacs , and being paid cash from the garage owner that replaces the windows in the neighborhood . The owner of the garage is Mr. Joey . He is a father figure to the teens. The two teens are always up to mischief. They are trying to get cash for food, and clothing to exist in life . Their place of abode is dirty being that they collect stray dogs that live with them as their equals. The teens sleep with them at night one of the strays is blind, and old.

The teens go to a beauty parlor where they are treated like kings. It is close to where they live. Another adventure was the teens stole a Mercury Lincoln Navigator, and drove it to Joe's Garage, where Joe gave them money for the car. The beauty Parlor was owned by Yolie, and her cousin Trini. The younger beautician is friendly with both teens . She has a crush on Jose which leads us to be a very friendly relationship. Many times Ray and Jose have a cooked meal done by the beautician owners.

The two teen boys had to quit schooling because their presence in the public view would
would put attention on them. Police then could put them in jail for anything.

One night, there was a door knock on the front door, and Ray went in a different directions.
The Police shot at Ray seriously, and he could barley walk. Jose escaped, and kept running.
The novel is so good it is hard to put down. Read the novel & I am sure you will like.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

A Bottle in The Gaza Sea By: Valerie Zenatti

This author of the Novel is French descent, and still resides in Paris. I loved this book, because it shows how a male, who is Palestinian, and a Israeli young girl become fond of each other through a bottle thrown into the Gaza Sea with a message.

The Jewish girl called Tal, and the Palestinian man called Gazaman begin an E-mail correspondence, which Tal the Israeli or Jewish girl, sends him by way of E-mail to Gazaman. This worries the Palestinian, so Gazaman does not want to use the Internet Cafe's for security
reasons for sending his E-mails to a Jewish young girl.
Tal's Dad lends her a movie camera to photograph on the spot events happening in Jerusalem.
She actually takes a bus that was bomb, and gets hurt. She ends up in a Hospital. She turns out to be o.k., and leaves the Hospital. The Jewish girl is 17, and Tal has no clue of the Palestinian age. The Novel has many intrigues and excitements. The ending is surprising, but good. Read the novel, and find out more.
LRD 9/13/08

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Where People Like Us Live by Patricia Cumbie

Anyone who has ever tried to do the right thing and failed, anyone who did the right thing and suffered for it will appreciate this story. Libby will be starting high school in the fall. Her family has moved yet again and she tries to make friends. Her brother and sister handle starting over differently. Daddy seems to be repeating past mistakes. Life is hard. Then she meets Angie who paints a flaming horse for her and takes her to the railroad tracks to walk, talk, escape. As she gets to know Angie she also grows to understand that something is badly wrong and finally does what she believes is right. She shares her suspicions with her mother. Mom contacts the authorities and someone might go to jail for it. Angie might loose her mom to alcohol. These words from the story say it all: what Kevin was doing wasn't love. It was spoiling the idea of love. You're my friend, Angie. That means something to me. I couldn't let that keep happening to you. Libby loses her new friend over the telling of the secret but I think gains something too. This is a quiet sad story without a happy ending that some readers may find not exciting enough, not enough action. But others will appreciate the growing understand of the importance of family.
JDW 9/11/08

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Fish by T.J. Parsell

We've all heard the stories about what happens in prison, but have we ever really stopped to think about the effect it has on the prisoner, especially a teen. T.J. (Tim) Parsell doesn't hold back as he details his time spent in prison that led him to become an activist against prisoner rape.

When he was 17 years old, he got sent to prison for robbing a Fotomat with a toy gun and breaking probation in a previous incident. When he made it through classification and ended up at Riverside, he didn't think it'd be that bad, especially after being befriended by an older inmate. That, though, was all a ploy to get him drunk, drugged, and then gang-rape. After barely surviving that, Tim was handed over to an inmate known as Slide Step who won him in a coin toss. From that point on he was protected, which was good, but his protection came at a cost - he had to perform sexual favors to Slide Step whenever asked. But Slide Step was good to him, at least compared to others, so he could accept his fate, especially when he considered his questionable sexuality. Life, though, wasn't that easy and he was soon transferred to a different location where he had to find another "man" or protector and not all of them were as gentle and considerate as Slide Step. Being young, gay, and relatively attractive made Time an easy target and he was still a young fish unable to defend himself. A new inmate, though, brought Tim some hope. Paul knew of Tim from Riverside and had been in a similar position. Paul was also gay and the two bonded, fell in love. Paul taught Tim things he needed to survive, tools that would help him when the harsh reality of prison tore them apart. In the meantime, Tim worked at bettering himself. He got an education and helped set up a prison newspaper. With the help of Paul and others who honestly cared like Miss Bain, he began to learn how to beat the Man (aka the system).

This book is a harsh dose of reality. Parsell does an excellent job putting it all out there without detaching reality. You honestly feel for him and watch him struggle not just with the system, but also with himself. While he's well aware of the fact that he doesn't enjoy the rape, he's also dealing with questions of his own sexuality, something that he tries to use in his favor. He's constantly trying to convince himself that because he's gay, some of it's okay. I think part of that gives the book an interesting twist. How would the book/situations be different if he weren't gay? While you can't change who he is, that's just a thought I had while reading. Would it be harder to accept the life? At the same time, his experience happened in that 70's; how have things changes since then? It'd be interesting to see another perspective on the situation (not that I imagine it'll be much different). That thought completely aside, sex takes up a major part of the novel. There's both consensual, semi-consensual (as in between the man and his boy) and rape. With that level of exposure, this novel is definitely for maturer audiences. While the reader goes in expecting it, it still takes you by surprise. The novel is also very informative. In a morbid sense, it's almost a novel kids heading to prison should read because it details a lot about the deals of prison life, and not just the sexual aspect of it. There's a lot of "insider information."

Tim is a strong and powerful person. He discovers a lot about himself and who he can be through this novel. The memoir is written wonderfully. I'm not a big non-fiction reader, but I couldn't put the book down; I needed to see him survive. I was on this journey with him and as bumpy as the road got at times, I was happy to experience it. His story needed to be told and I don't imagine it being done better. This book is definitely worth reading, but be forewarned that it won't be easy at times. Also, be sure to watch the fish at the end of the chapters. I didn't notice it at the end and I think it's very symbolic. I wish I'd known sooner.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Airhead by Meg Cabot

In this new series by Princess Diaries author Meg Cabot, a tomboy gets transplanted into the body of a supermodel. The template isn't all that original, and, while it was a good read, I'm not sure if it will really last as a series.

Em Watts couldn't care less about the world of models or the lives of the "Walking Dead" as she calls the social, school spirit obsessed students at TAHS. All that mattered to her was her best friend Christopher and playing computer games. That all changes, though, when a hanging TV lands on her. She wakes up and everything is different because her body is now that of Nikki Taylor, the world's youngest and hottest supermodel. Now, thanks to a two million dollar contract with Stark Enterprises, Em has to live Nikki's life, upholding all of her modeling obligations and dealing with her boy troubles that include a moody boyfriend, an affair with her best friend's boyfriend, and a musician with a crush on her. None of that matters to Em, though, because her former best friend (whom she realizes she loves) thinks she's dead and won't give the new her the time of day. Will she ever make sense of this new life she's living, or will she fall flat on her picture-perfect face?

Thanks to Freaky Friday, the idea of living in someone else's body is not that new. While this scenario is a little bit more sophisticated than a spirit transfer, the dilemma facing Em isn't all that different, especially since she goes from being unnoticeable to beautiful. Part of that bothers my bitter brain because it emphasizes the belief that, as the cover of the book states, "It's what's outside that matters. No one cares what's inside." With the insecurities of teens, I don't really think this is something we need to be encouraging. Would it have been too cliche to have supermodel Nikki be transplanted into "ugly" Em's body? We don't need to prove the already known fact that the world is superficial. But, then again, this is just a teen book, so maybe I'm giving it too much credit for perpetuating the world's stereotypes. Just the same, that small point bothers me. The book, though, was enjoyable to read. Em has a great personality that contrasts with the new world she's been placed in. Lulu, Nikki's best friend, is a wonderful secondary character who proves she's more than just a ditz. The only problem is that it's the first book in a series and I don't know if it'll really last. This concept could have very easily been handled in one book. I know Cabot is trying to make it more complex with this theory that Stark Enterprises is spying on Nikki, but I think that there's a big risk that the next novel (or novels depending on how many she plans) will just become a pity party for Em who isn't getting the attention she wants from Christopher. I see the story getting old very fast. But, then again, I don't know what Cabot has in store for the sequel.

I'm sure the fans of Cabot will love this new novel. It is an enjoyable novel and does suck you into the prospect of a sequel since nothing is solved. What the sequel provides, though, simply leaves me wondering if two books is too much.


Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Death by Bikini by Linda Gerber

While the title may lead you to believe that this novel centers around a murder involving a bikini, that is not the focus, although such a murder does occur. The novel was a nice and easy little mystery, even if certain things are a bit obvious even if the author tries to lead you to think otherwise.

Aphra has a life that most people would envy, living on a secluded island that famous people use as a hideaway, yet she misses the things most people take for granted. Soon the mysterious Smith family unexpectedly arrives, turning her easy-going father into agitated nervous-wreck. When he won't tell her anything about the family and she starts bonding with the teenage son Adam, it's time for her to uncover what's so mysterious about them, which includes a fatal car accident and fake names. After a girl is killed with her bikini, Aphra realizes that the family is dangerous. Then, the threatening Mr. Watts arrives and, before long, Aphra doesn't know who to trust and she's being shot at. In a life and death struggle, Aphra tries to make sense of everything happening on her once quiet and safe island.

The novel was enjoyable in a simple thriller way. In the sense that everything that happens is connected, it's interesting to figure out where things are going. For example, why would she be talking about poisonous plants if such plants don't reappear later in the novel? In a similar fashion, with a limited number of characters and the obvious plot device of a red herring (a false lead/suspect) it was a little obvious who the ends up chasing Aphra through the jungle. This, though, didn't detract from the novel. The author does a good job of making the story flow and held my attention.

The novel definitely invites you in for the sequel and I think this one is worth the a shot if you like mysteries. Not entirely serious at all times (definitely more serious than Bad Kitty) the book was enjoyable because it meets one's needs for a thriller and a sense of seriousness while still keeping things light.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

the center of the world by steinhofel

Phil and twin sister Diann live in a big sprawling house on the edge of a small town with their single mother. They came to Germany from America when quite small. Mom provided for them by working first part-time then full time for a lawyer in a nearby big city. She also provided advice on dating and mating and herbal remedies. The combination of weird house, herbal remedies and not living in the town gets the family labeled witches. The school in town is pretty typical of every school - with bullies and cliques and so on. Diann and Phil do not fit in at all. Mom has her own life to live and is content to watch at a distance as her children learn to handle bullies, experience various friendships and hardships. She is there if they need her but stays out of their way. Since Diann is very sensitive, almost reclusive we do not get to know her well. But Phil is the narrator and it is through his experiences that we learn about the family and watch Phil grow. Mom has a series of boyfriends, some involved with the kids, some not. This serves to further alienate her from the town folks. The twins do want to know about their American father but mom isn't talking. Diann and Phil make and lose close friends - others who do not fit in well. Phil who has been a "fairy" since a small child grows to learn what being homosexual means without having to go through much of the torment many gay kids suffer. His mother knew all along and said so be it. How wonderful to be accepted by a wise parent who knew exactly who you were. Phil deftly handles school bullies, wish I had had his abilities. Phil also learns what it means to love and be loved. The pace is slow and steady. The language lovely. Teens who enjoyed James Howe's book Totally Joe will enjoy this as well. Anyone who ever thought the world revolved around them, anyone who has ever had trouble fitting in or has thought they found true love could enjoy this fine story. JDW 9/2/08