Sunday, November 30, 2008

DREAMRIDER by Barry Jonsberg

Michael Terny is a fat kid who has been bullied most of his life at school and by his father who expects him to don boxing shorts and gloves and fend off this grown man's jabs. Michael's behavior at school is so bizarre that he has been multiple schools in his 7th grade school year. In addition to being bullied constantly Michael witnessed the death of his mother in a car accident involving a drunk driver. Michael believes he is a lucid dreamer. When a person dreams lucidly he consciously enters his dreams ant alters the direction and outcome. It is considered a sleep disorder. What Michael is doing far surpasses lucid dreaming. It is not astral projection either though it has a feel common to the book/film called the Jumper in which a bullied kids jumps out of his body to a safe place when things get to be too much. Michael has a whole imaginary world developed complete with girlfriend, step mom, heroic abilities. Even readers don't know for sure what is real and what is not which makes this story rather creepy. At Michael's latest school a couple of compassionate and wise teachers connect with Michael and his world begins to crumble completely. Readers don't know at the end of the story what the future holds for this very disturbed kid. It would be interesting to see kids write alternative endings to this story. Its a glimpse at just how toxic/traumatic parental and peer abuse can be. JDW 12/1/08

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Moby Clique - Cara Lockwood

Bard Academy, on the outside it looks like any other private school, but on the inside it holds a secret only few students know. The teachers there are ghosts of famous writers like Sylvia Plath, Earnest Hemingway, Virgina Woolf and many more. Bard Academy is also purgatory for these writers, who have unfinished business before they move on. Miranda Tate is getting ready to go back for her Junior year at Bard Academy, but she's not going there alone. Her sister Lindsay is joining her after she drove through the window of her step-mothers store. Once they get to Bard it seems that Lindsay is still trying to wreck Miranda's life. First she's seen talking and flirting with Ryan, Miranda's ex-boyfriend. Then she becomes a follower of Parker, who is the snotty, popular, rich girl who hates Miranda and her friends. When pirates are seen around the school and a few students turn up missing including Lindsay, Miranda and her friends along with Parker and Ryan head to Whale Cove. Along the way they avoid the guards and dogs from Bard, but end up getting captured by the pirates. Miranda and everyone else then learns that Mrs. P, Sylvia Plath, is using Lindsay's power to bring the characters of Moby Dick to life because she wants to see her children again and end her time in purgatory.

The third book in the Bard Academy series, and it was just as enjoyable as the first two. I did like that Miranda's sister was brought into the mix. She was a minor character in the first two books, but she is more of a main character in this one. I also liked how Lindsay starts hanging out with the same people who Miranda wants to avoid. People want what's best for their siblings, but it's up to them do figure out how bad or good someone is, even if you tell them what you think they may not listen right away.

T.B. 11/26/08

Monday, November 24, 2008

headlong by kathe koja

Koja usually writes edgy short novella's about troubled kids. This book however could be called chick lit. It isn't her best work.
Lily Noble is daughter of a Vaughn Private School graduate and will probably be a Vaughn graduate as well. Her mother would just die if she wasn't. She has always been isolated from kids other than wealthy private school kids with all the social rules, knowing just what is expected of them. Sophomore year would be different however. Vaughn is known for its fine education of very bright kids. There are scholarship kids here. Orphan kids, kids from poor countries with good school records. Hazel, whose parents died when she was very young and has been raised by her artistic brother and his partner is one such student. Hazel has always been a public school kid with freedom to decide her own path to adulthood. The way she eats, the way she dresses, even the way she excels academically are all very different from a traditional Vaughn girl. She and Lily connect surprisingly and Lily begins to see a fascinating world she has never noticed before. Formerly friends only with girls socially like herself, she discovers other friends among other scholarship students when her friends abandon her for being friends with Hazel. I guess the girls change each other's lives forever. But in the end it seems like Hazel who is headed back to public school is just going back to her former life and Lily knows she will be staying at Vaughn and follow in her mother's footsteps so what really changed? Being chick lit there are references aplenty to trendy tote bags, clothing and so on. A disappointing read by someone who has done much better work. JDW 11/26/08

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Hunger Games by Collins

America has fallen. In its place is Pandem 12 districts kept socially, culturally and economically separate by a very controlling government. Once there were 13 districts but one was destroyed as an example, a warning to the others. Each year the Capitol demands a tribute from each district in the form of a reality show survival game involving one teen girl and one teen boy from each districts. The 24 tributes are put in an arena where they must fight until only one survives. The arena is huge filled with whatever those in charge choose, trees, fields, desert etc.
the entire game is broadcast live to all the districts - for them to watch kids killing kids, a blood bath. If things move too slowly then the arena can be manipulated. Fires can rage, droughts can occur, nights can become freezing and the days scorching, wild animal attacks can suddenly occur and so on. Bets can be placed on the players and small gifts can be sent them to help them survive if how they act pleases those watching. No one wants to care about anyone as they may eventually have to try to kill each other. Still alliances are made - and broken. And so it is that the audience is caught up in an apparent romance between the two tributes from District 12. Katniss, already a hunter and survivor is well equipped to win except for the careers. these are huge well trained individuals raised for a chance at the games who volunteer for their districts. Peeta, the bakers son has long had a crush on Katniss. We don't know how much of their romance is for the crowd and how much is real. Usually careers win. But Katniss and Peeta have a chance especially when the rules are changed. To win is to be wealthy forever and to mentor future tributes from your home districts. When the capitol announces that the rules have changed yet again and the final survivors Katniss and Peeta must fight til only one remains, when the two defy the government, we don't know how much danger they are in - they don't know how the government will get even for this affront. But both do understand that it will try. As the two arrive back home and join their waiting families and friends we still don't know it Katniss's love of Peeta was real or just a survival tactic and if she loves her long time hunting partner more or just what comes next for the two temporary heroes. I think there is a sequel coming. I hope so. As hard as it was to get into this book with this horrible government and the killing of kids its a riveting novel, I couldn't set it down. Think The Giver for older teens. Or, maybe kids who liked Patterson's Maximum ride series would go for this. Definitely recommended. JDW 11/20

Monday, November 17, 2008

Imaginary Enemy by Julie Gonzalez

Sometimes you go in a book expecting one thing and finding something else. You might feel misled and disappointing or you might be pleasantly surprised at the change. I felt all of that while reading Imaginary Enemy and can't decide how I feel about this book nominated for ALA's best book.

Jane White is a slacker and defines herself as that. She hates being called normal, but yet, she wants to fit in. This novel details the growth and maturity of Jane as she deals with figuring out her role in school, in her family and with her off the wall neighbors that she grew up with and then apart from. Amidst the ups and downs of Jane's life, she created Bubba, her imaginary enemy that she writes to in moments of frustration. She blames him for things and hopes that he can solve her problems with invisibility cream. Things for Jane start to change, though, in high school when she realizes just how cool her neighbors are. Then Bubba writes back to her, which can't possibly happen, right?

I felt a little misled by the emphasis the book title makes on her imaginary enemy. Her letters to Bubba are few and far between. At the same time, Bubba doesn't write back until the last 45 pages. So I felt a little disappointed expecting more of that intrigue, but it fell flat. The novel is also very choppy. It details Jane's life from second grade all the way to eleventh (that's a long time) and so you get snips of her experiences. I've always preferred more of a fluid, continuous story, so that detracted from my interest in the novel. However, the stories that were shared, were fun. Jane has a great personality. She's witty, sarcastic, and full of life. She really is an interesting character to follow. The other people who enter her life are also intriguing from her neighbors obsessed with sound, her gossiping sister, and, of course, the gothosaurs. Jane also tends to get in some insane scenarios, like a certain incident with bubbles, which makes her all the more lovable.

I leave reading this book a little hum-drum. I like Jane, the main focus of the novel, a lot, but I feel a little betrayed by my expectations and the format. I don't feel as though that's enough to tell people to steer clear, so I'll leave it up to the readers to decide what they think of Imaginary Enemy. Just be forewarned that this novel is more about Jane than the title character.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

You Know Where to Find Me by Rachel Cohn

Miles and Laura, first cousins, have been best friends, sisters since they were small. Over the years Laura, the extrovert, the pretty one became involved in school, had a wide circle of friends while Miles never really fit in. She was bookish, fat, abusing prescription drugs she obtained any way she could and stayed on the fringes of Laura's group. No one knew that Laura was deeply, painfully depressed except her father until her suicide, then it was too late. Miles, Bex and Jamal along with Laura's and Mile's fathers struggle with the deep pain of their loss. Each struggles in their own way. Miles sinks more and more often into the dream world pills allow her to escape into. The others watch helplessly at the same time trying to get on with their own lives, until Miles seeking the dream one more time overdoses. All of Cohn's main characters are disaffected teens, angry misfits and this book is no different. But, It is easier to understand and care about Miles and her pain than to understand the main character of Gingerbread talked about earlier. The hurt left by the suicide is painfully felt. The interrelationships among the characters were hard for me to understand but perhaps others will understand better than I did. I just think this story lacks depth that I would have appreciated. I think Cohn wraps things up to quickly. But teens who like reads short and fast may like this book. JDW11/20

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

El Hombre Que Calculaba By: Malba Tahan

This novel in Spanish is about Beremiz Samin, the Calculist man, who calculated every aspect of his life when solving a problem. His personality was usually happy, and had an ability to the max, or gift in solving numbers. Beremiz had a method in counting camels. He counted the feet, and the ears, and added one. We might say, Beremiz was a genius.

Malba Tahan was from Bagdad. He traveled to many countries visiting royal palaces of king's , or Sultan's. Sometimes Beremiz had trouble with the solution of his problems he solved. But in the end, Beremiz had resolved the problem that none managed to figure out. For instance, Beremiz the solver, most difficult problem to figure out, was life, and love.

One big problem for Beremiz was how he would be married, and with who. He wanted to marry one of the Governor"s daughters of Iran. The only big problem was that Beremiz had to guess the color of eyes of five slaves of the governor. The eyes were bandaged . Three slaves had blue eyes, and constantly lied. Beremitz did a good job job, and was able to get a wife.

Este libro es interesante para gente que le gusta Historia, y Matematica. Al principio del libro es un poco lento, pero despues al rato, el libro es informativo. El libro es para alumnos de secundaria.

LRD - 11/11/08

Impossible - Nancy Werlin

When Lucy Scarborough is seven she finds old letters in her room. Little did she know that those letters were from her mother, and would one day ten years later help her solve a curse that has plagued the women in her family for generations. Flash forward ten years and Lucy is in high school and getting ready for prom in a few days. She finds out that her next door neighbor Zack will be living with them over the summer, and that her crazy mother is hanging around school and her house. On prom night Lucy's mother starts throwing glass and plastic bottles at the house and Gray drives off. Zack takes her to prom and she meets back up with Gray. As they leave Lucy is raped by the entity possessing Gray. In a few weeks Lucy realizes that she is pregnant and also receives her mother's diary. She reads it and discovers that the Scarborough women get pregnant and go crazy by their 18th birthday. The clues to beating this curse are found in the ballad "Scarborough Fair". Lucy has to make a shirt without any seams or needlework, find an acre of land between the salt water and the sea strand, and plow the acre with a goat horn and one grain of corn. Lucy, Zack, Leo and Soledad, her foster parents, figure out how to make the seamless shirt easily. As the weeks go by it seems like the second and third tasks won't get completed, and Lucy will go crazy after she's given birth.

Love conquers all is the theme that seems to resonate with Impossible. Lucy has Leo, Soledad, and Zack to help her out with the clues, while everyone else in the Scarborough line really didn't have anyone to help figure out the clues in the ballad. We turn to family when we are in our darkest hour, and it is their strength and support that helps us through everything. Even if we think we can handel the situation by ourselves there will always be that one person there who will help no matter what.

T.B. 11/11/08

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Rogelia's House of Magic By Jaime Martinez Wood

This is a typical novel in Latin America. It happens so frequently in Hispanic household, where the grandma resides with the family. Many cases the grandmother still has beliefs of old fashion ideas, and remedies. For example many older folks believe in magic, and practice it. Some collect herbs & plants, & give them all to the Virgin of Guadalupe to see if their wishes come true. They also make wishes on tombs of their loved ones who have died.
Rogelia was the person who was a"curando" or spiritual leader, who taught the three girls one summer enough magic that they can handle. The three girls had different personalities, but were eager to learn magic. Xochitl was a quiet girl who stayed by herself. The death of her sister Graciela, affected her being that they were close friends. Fern on the other hand, was outgoing, & had a crush on Tristan, who was an American Indian, who worked in a store. Marina was a girl who took care of how she looked, & very loving with her family. She especially loved her Grand dad, who was her elder, & respected. The 3 teens could see auras on certain people. The auras were different colors depending on what person it was. This novel is a good read for middle school possibly for tenth graders, who enjoy magic, & what it all entails. The novel is worthwhile. LRD 11/09/08

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Skinned - Robin Wasserman

Lia Khan was in a terrible accident, her car got hit head on by a semi truck. Her body was badly damaged and wasn't going to live. Her parents decide to keep her alive in an artificial body and her mind is scanned and inputted into where the brain would be. When she is ready to go home her parents welcome the new Lia with open arms, her sister Zo doesn't. When Lia goes back to school she finds out the her friends are now her sister's friends, and they start turning on Lia saying that she isn't the Lia the used to know. Even her boyfriend leaves her and she is alone. She finds a friend in a boy named Auden who wants to be like her, a human inside a machine. She also goes to this group that is all people who are now inside artificial bodies. Lia decides she doesn't want to be like them and "walks away" from who and what she really is. After a few months she meets up with other mech heads, and they try to teach what it means to be mech. They can jump off cliffs into water and not get hurt, the can get shot and not die, they can go into places undetected by the bio-sensors. One day Auden falls into the river and is badly hurt. When she visits him he tells her that he can't be put into a new body because of a predisposition for mental disorder and/or decay in his brain. She then realizes that she can't go on living as a human in a machine, she is a machine with human memories.

An interesting look at what it means to be human and what humans think of machines acting like humans. A question to ask yourself is would you want to keep on living in a body that won't grow old? If you do would you want to make the decision or have your family make it for you, or would you rather die and live in the memories of your family and friends.

T.B. 11/4/08

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott

Once she was Kyla, 10-year-old beloved daughter of parents living on Daisy Lane. Then she was kidnapped by Ray. He named her Alice as he had the first and dressed her in pink and white lacy clothing kept her from eating much besides yogurt to keep her small, flat chested, under 100 lbs, his little girl. He used her as he wished and punished her as his mother had punished him. Once she had tried to escape but the parents on Daisy Lane didn't deserve to die and he promised they would if she disobeyed. Who would she go to anyway, who would believe her? The time came when the little girl became too tall, that was when she was fifteen as it had with the first Alice. Unlike the first Alice who was found floating face down near the place she was kidnapped, he promised to keep her. She must pick a pretty little girl to replace her however, a little girl to dress in pink and white lace, for him to use as he wished. He picked a park where children play for Alice to pick his next prey. He did not count on there being Jason, living dead boy, broken inside, drug user, pusher. Jason watched over his little sister, chosen prey. Jason was determined to love Alice and be loved by her and protect her and he did though the end did not come as readers will want it to come. This story is written from Kyla/Alice's view point. She reruns and reruns in her mind what her life has been like since Ray took her much as a grieving child reruns his/her loss when someone close passes. With each rerun the reader learns a little more about her brutal life. This is not an easy story to read both because of the repetitions and because of the subject matter. Perhaps something this horrific could be happening right now to a child who vanished from quiet street, some good home. This is a very short fast read for anyone willing to live through Kyla/Alice's experience. JDW 11/2/08