Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Sucker Punch By David Hernandez

This novel I liked, because it was written very honestly, and leaving no doubts in the reader's mind. The novel portrayed a family of two teen boys with their Mother living in Southern California. The Father walks out on on the boys & Mom and goes his own way.The 17 year old Marcus, an the 16 year old brother Enrique were glad that the Father left home. The Father was abusive with both son's, & had a terrible temper.
One day, when the boy's Mother was at work, the teens brother's found mail that depicted, and gave clearly their Father's address in Monterry. Both teens were in School, but this did
not stop them from taking a car trip to find their Father. There were two friends who went along for the adventure. Little did Enrique & Marcus know that their Father sent a monthly check to the Mother to help with expenses. In fact, the Father was receiving professional help to deal with his anger, and abusive ways. The four teens, who went on the car trip to find Marcus and Enrique's Father had to overnight in a Motel. Of course there were two extra people, & the two brothers jammed in one room. That was an experience of course. I will not go into details. The teens carried a pistol in their glove compartment in the car. Many times, it got them in trouble.
The two teens, and their friends find their Father after two tries of ringing his doorbell of his Apartment. They go in the house, and find their Dad has changed for the good.
This book is good for teens who might have an abusive Father. The reader might learn how they can handle the problem. This is a good read.
LRD 3/31/09

Monday, March 30, 2009

A Great Terrible Beauty BY: Libba Bray

The main character Gemma Doyle is taken to an elegant boarding school, or finishing school in England. The School is very strict & really, Gemma had to go to this School because her two brothers could not take care of her any more. Gemma's parents died when she was young.Gemma arrived in a carriage being this was the Victorian Era where girls wore corsets . Gemma had a specific schedule to do: She took French, Drawing, & Music. She had to attend Chapel for prayers daily at 6pm. Dinner is at 7pm. at the dinning hall together. Lights out at 10pm for all. The Headmistress/Principal was Ms. NightWing who was very authoritarian. Gemma was invited to be in a secret club, but in order to be accepted, she had to take something from the Chapel , which Gemma took the Communion wine. . Gemma, Felicity, & Pippa, & Ann are members of the Secret Club. Whenever the group is together they read the diary of Mary Dowd. Just to make it clear, teen girls wore corsets(tied up in back, & usually had to have help by someone else to untie corset. One night after bed check, the girls from the secret group went skinny dipping in a lake near school. They took off their corsets , but unfortunately the 4 girl's in the secret goup are caught, when they rush home wet, & they lie about why they are wet. They make up a story that they were in rowboat that tipped over, & they had to swim to shore. The Art Teacher Ms. Moore took her class one day to some Caves near the School which had primitive drawings on the walls that had crescent eyes. Gemma had a necklace with the same object. The caves were used by the Secret Club meetings. Ms.
Moore the Art Teacher was dismissed by the Headmistress for not getting permission.
There are many activities that happen at the Academy. As a reader, I find Gemma intriguing with her ability to attract the supernatural powers. I do not want to give away with what Gemma discovers her Mother is in a group called The Order.
This novel is slow at the beginning, but latter has a climatic affect on the reader. It is a novel that is meant for 11 & 12 graders. I finally got into the novel after 100pages, & it was fascinating
LRD 3/30/09

Monday, March 23, 2009

Dead is a State of Mind by Marlene Perez

This is yet another novel that plays off of the vampire/werewolf craze without going too terribly overboard. It combines paranormal with mystery and a little bit of teen angst for a relatively enjoyable, not fantastic but enjoyable, read.

Daisy, a junior in Nightshade, has some telekinetic/mind reading abilities and lives in a town with shape shifters, werewolves and other paranormal people. Two new people suddenly arrive in town, a gorgeous boy named Duke Sherrad who claims to be a fortune teller and an exotic girl named Elise Wilder who seems to be spending an awful amount of time with Daisy's boyfriend Ryan who seems to be hiding something from Daisy. As she worries about her relationship with Ryan, especially since prom is around the corner and he hasn't invited her, her teacher, Mr. Davis, ends up dead under some mysterious circumstances. In a family of wannabe detectives, Daisy tries to find the killer while still leading a teen life and getting ready for prom.

First, this novel is the second in a series and the novel did a decent job setting up the characters if you hadn't read the first novel. That is always a good thing. One bad thing about the novel, though, is that it's just a little predictable. Ryan's big secret is a little obvious, as is the killer of Mr. Davis, especially after one character has a slip of the tongue. Also, the whole Ryan secret thing and his "relationship" with Elise was maybe just a little too teen angsty for my taste. Why didn't she ever respond with something about him trusting her if he loved her or how does he expect her to trust him if he doesn't trust her with his secrets? But, then again, what do you expect from a teen novel? In the meantime, the novel is very limited in terms of mystery. Not much detective work actually goes on and when clues do appear, they're not investigated. One good thing is that this novel isn't too obnoxious with the whole paranormal aspect. It's not shoved down your throat because it's just accepted in this world rather than being some new discovery in a reality based world.

Overall, this novel is decent. It could have done a better job with suspense and twists, but it's not terrible. You won't drag your feet to get to the end which is always a good thing when reading.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

Lovely Bones, when it first came out seven years ago, was raved about, but I fail to see what was so special about the novel. Maybe it's just my reading preferences and desire for a fluid plot sequence that makes it impossible for me to enjoy stream of consciousness, but I struggled to understand why people saw this book as so great.

The novel is basically about Susie Salmon, a fourteen year old girl that was raped and murdered. Her body was never recovered and so she spends her time in heaven watching her family and friends dealing with her death. Her father becomes obsessed with a man named Paul Harvey who he believes killed Susie (he did but there's no evidence until the point that Harvey runs away). Susie watches her murder and discovers the gruesome truth that she's not his only victim. In the meantime, her mother, unable to handle things, has a brief affair with the detective investigating the case and eventually leaves her family. Susie grows up through her sister Lindsey and watches after brother Buckley as he tries to fill in the gaps left by Susie's death. She also follows around Ruth who feels like she can "talk" to the dead and Ray who was Susie's first kiss/love. The novel shows snapshots of all of these people as they grow and deal with her death.

To me the novel did not have an actual plot flow with a rising action and culminating conflict and then resolution. Sure there's the conflict of Susie's death and the resolution of them finally accepting it, but if that's the case, the whole novel was the falling action and it dragged. It could have used a little more conflict and maybe a bit more of a roller coaster ride, but it didn't. I think that I just failed to make a connection with the characters or their struggles, and, overall, I found myself not really caring about the situations Susie showed me.

I don't know how to explain it, but I didn't enjoy this novel. If you don't mind snapshots of character's life mingled with flashbacks, try this novel. I don't particularly like this style of writing and could not get into the novel. I couldn't even get into the emotional struggle of losing a loved one that the characters were dealing with. All of that accumulated into a disappointing experience with this novel that so many people saw as wonderful. Maybe you'll see things different and, if so, please tell me why you like it.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Ultimate Gift by Jim Stovall

It's on a rare occasion that you'll hear the movie was better than the book, but this is one of those situations. I saw the movie and was so touched by it, that I decided to read the book, expecting it to be even more wonderful but ended up so disappointed, I almost didn't finish the book.

The premise of the story is that Jason Stevens will receive the "ultimate gift" from his billionaire uncle if he completes a series of twelve tasks, one per month. If he successfully completes these tasks, he'll get the gifts. If, for some reason, he fails to learn the lesson his uncle has for him, he'll be denied the gift. All of these tasks are gifts in and of themselves, such as the gift of work, love, giving, etc. They are all meant to help Jason appreciate life and to grow into a better person. He starts off a spoiled snob who has had life handed to him and fails to see the beauty in the simple things and takes most things in life for granted. As the story progresses, Jason grows into a person his uncle would be proud of.

Okay, here's the problem: I didn't see Jason turn into a better person. Yes, the transformation does take place, but I didn't see it happen. This book is a great example of telling versus showing. The novel is written in a first person narration. One would think that if the main character is Jason, the novel would be written from his point of view, right? WRONG! This novel is written from the eyes of the lawyer who is making sure Jason completes these tasks. So each chapter starts off the the introduction of the task and a moving explanation of why the uncle wants him to learn this. Then a month passes and we hear Jason's report of what happened. We do not see what happened, we just hear about it. To me it felt like it was just Jason saying all of the right words to complete the task. Let me give you one example: The first task if the learn value of work. Jason is sent to work on a farm building a fence. His trip starts with a rude awakening when he's told to schlep his own bags and sit in the back of the truck. Then he's woken begrudgingly before the sun is up and left to work, placing fence posts until he's told to stop. Next thing you know, four weeks have past and he's the best worker there is, but you have no idea how he became that way. This is also a great example of how the movie does a better job. It's the same situation where he has to build a fence. The first time around, he does a half job, no effort, just to get it done. The owner comes by and Jason watches as the fence falls apart. Once he's told to do it again, he learns that if you put a little time and effort into a task, then your hard work could last a lifetime. In the movie, shown through Jason's eyes, you went on the journey with him and transformed right along with him, seeing every struggle and setback. In the book, I wasn't convinced that the disrespecting privileged snob that he started as would suddenly do the acts and become the man at the end of the book. He was the type of person to play someone to get what he wanted but the book would like to convince me that he had changed. Also, he seems to change after the very first task with only faint reminders of the old Jason. It's like a miraculous transformation while the movie showed the old Jason holding on and repeatedly resurfacing, which seems more realistic. The book just handed you the end result which did nothing to move or convince me.

This book has a great message but it falls flat on the delivery. If it just showed Jason transforming, rather than just having him reiterate what happened, it would be a marvelously moving book. All I can say after reading this book is skip it and rent the movie, you'll walk away with so much more.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Wherever Nina Lies by Lynn Weingarten

This novel starts off as a simple journey to find one's missing sister and turns into a something so mind-blowing, I couldn't put the book down. The twist is so profound I didn't see it coming, yet when you think about it, all of the signs or at least some pretty important ones, were there.

Even though Ellie's sister Nina disappeared two years ago, she never gave up hope that they'd be together again. When she discovers a drawing of Nina's in a box of junk, she knows she's found her first clue. That clue leads to a dead end, but when she meets an attractive boy at a party in her search for Nina and he understands the fact that she can't give up hope, she knows things will work out. Soon she and this boy, Sean, are driving across country following the clues and always getting one step closer, not only to finding Nina, but also to each other.

At first I wasn't too terribly impressed with the novel. It was a good read, don't get me wrong, but it didn't send me over the moon. The story was relatively formulaic with the ups and downs of finding clues, although it did bother me slightly that Sean and Ellie could up and leave so easily to go on this trip but the author does a pretty decent job of coming up with reasonable explanations. Some of the clues seemed too easy, but that's okay, it made for a good story. Then, though, comes the twist which I'm not going to expand on because oh my gosh, my jaw dropped when I read it and I don't think I'm exaggerating. I couldn't put the book down at that point. I didn't want it to be true but yet, there it was and the more I read, the truer it became. I think back and there were plenty of clues but yet, just like Ellie, I ignored the clues because I was too caught up in the other things happening. That twist sold me on the book and took it from "pretty good" to "awesome!"

Even before the giant twist comes around, this novel is an enjoyable read. Ellie and Sean are extremely good characters that you want to see succeed. They each have their problems and they compliment each other's recovery. You are on this journey with them, hoping for the positive result and when everything changes, you'll find you can't wait to find out what happens next. Definitely try this book.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

The Comet's Curse - Dom Testa

A comet misses Earth, but the atmosphere is swiped by the tail of the comet. Little did the people of Earth know that the particles from the comet's tail would infect most of the adult population and kill them. Nine months after the comet has come and gone Dr. Zimmer proposes that Earth build a starship, select 251 teenagers, and send them off to Eos to restart humanity. The plan is approved and it will take the next two years to complete and to train the 251 teenagers that will be the crew. During those two years there is opposition lead by Tyler Scofield, who used to be a friend of Dr. Zimmer. The ship launches on schedule and the crew settles into their routine. After a few days Peter has an encounter with someone in the storage area, which leaves him and everyone else one edge. The next day Gap and Channy find a wall vandalized with the words "This is a death ship!" Council members Trina, Gap, Bon Lita, and Channy try to keep everyone calm, and figure out who this mysterious stranger is on board. When the ship's computer fails to respond to query's it will take all of the council members to take back the ship from the saboteur, who wants the ship not to reach Eos.

A quick read and a nice start to what should be an interesting series about the survial of humanity. I did like how the book flashed back to when Galahad was being built, and the selection process of the 251 teenagers for the ship. It's a part of the story and it helped bring the pieces together at the end.

T.B. 3/3/09

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Torn to Pieces By: Margot Mcdonnel

This novel is a great mystery that keeps you wondering til the last chapters of what's happening, and who did what. The main personality of the book is a 17 year old teen names Anne. She lives with her Mother, who seems to be unusual. The mother takes fequent trips out-of-town that has to do with her job. Anne does not question her Mother about the trips. Anne has a pet, which is called "Zorro." It is a black cat that lives freely in the home. By the way, Anne and her Mother live outside a town called Centerville. Anne has an older couple she calls Gramps and Grandma who really arenot her family. She feels closest to them, and when she needs help the couple will hel;p her immediately.

Anne is left by herself in her Mother's house for two weeks without knowing the situation the Mother is involved. One night the house is robbed while Anne is sleeping. The robbers beat up Anne , and she is scared. Her Mother now has disappeared, and could be dead. Mother has left no trace . A lawyer visits Anne, and informs her the Mother is not dead, but now has a new identity. The plot thickens, and I do not have the liberty to tell you. Read the novel, and you will find out the details. If you like mysteries the novel is excellent. LRD 3/1/09

The Life of Hillary Rodham Clinton By Carl Bernstein

This is a novel about the life of Hillary Clinton. Hillary grew up in Park Ridge, Il., & then went to Wesllesley College for undergrad, & eventually she met her husband at Yale & married Bill in Arkansas. Bill Clinton became Governor of Arkansas, from their Bill ran for President of the United States. Hillary supported Bill at whatever he did. The Clinton's were involved in Arkansas a scandal called Watergate which was buying land, & developing for homes. This project eventually went belly up. I wanted to read this book because Hillary was appointed by Pres. Obama to be Chief -of- State. She is very qualified to do this position. Once Hillary & Bill were in the Whitehouse as President, & First Lady, the Press claims Hillary was involved in Vince Forster's death. He was a lawyer that Hillary had worked with way back in Arkansas.It was a law firm called Rose Law Firm. Hillary had personal threats in major newspapers. The treats in the journals were very demeaning. For example, the journal said she had an affair with Vince Forster. They were good friends, & worked together. Hilary is a bold woman, and actually has stood up for her beliefs throughout her many heartaches.Bill her husband,who became the President of the United States had a problem with women. Hillary tolerated many times until Monica Lewinsky event took place. This incident put Hillary in a state of depression. Fortunately, their only child Chelsea at this time was attending Stanford University. Before President Bill Clinton ran for his second term, Hillary & Bill went to marriage counselling for many months. Life for the President & First Lady became better. At the end of Bill's second term as President, Hillary began running for Senator of New York.
This novel is very informative, and interesting at the same time. Great for readers in 11 & 12 grade.