Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Devil's Footsteps by E.E. Richardson

I picked up this book because I enjoyed E.E. Richardson's other book - The Intruders. This book didn't disappoint in its chill factor and really reminded me of Stephen King's It. One might argue that if it was similar, I should be upset about reading an unoriginal novel, but I don't find King's novels very accessible to most reader due to size, language, description, etc. This novel, while similar in some ideas, is accessible, even to hesitant readers.

Bryan lives in a small, creepy town where people turn a blind eye to the mysterious disappearances of children. He, however, knows the haunting truth, and it all relates to a children's rhyme about the Devil's footsteps - the thirteen steps to the Dark Man's door. Rumor has it, if you find his footsteps and say the rhyme, he'll come for you. Bryan, though, knows that it's not a rumor since his brother and he found the steps and his brother did the rhyme. Now Bryan's brother is gone and he is haunted by the memory of his taking, although no one else believes him. Five years later, another boy claims to have seen the Dark Man and worries his sister is next. With the help of a third boy who is investigating the strange disappearance in town, the boys go in search of the Dark Man, ready to confront their fears and make the terror stop.

The Dark Man feeds off of the children's fears (much like the clown did in Stephen King's It - if my memory serves me right). This novel did a nice job of making those fears real and exploring the debilitating nature of our fears and the power we can possess if we face them. The novel had a steady flow of scariness and kept me interested without going too over the top and throwing in every scary tactic known to man. It stuck with one concept - people's individual fears - and threw in mind tricks to pull off a chilling novel. I would definitely add this author to a list of creepy writers and would recommend this book.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Angry Management by Chris Crutcher

Crutcher brings us up to date on a few of his characters from past books - Staying Fat For Sara Byrnes, Athletic Shorts, Whale Talk to name a few. Sara Byrnes has met up with another fat kid who possibly will help her to finally come to terms with her horrible past. Matt Miller tries to help another of Crutcher's past characters with devastating results. With each character we see how anger by the character or acted upon towards the character caused so many terrible things to happen. This quick read showing the power of angry emotions offers no solutions and little hope. Not my favorite Crutcher book. JDW 9/28/09

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Panama By Shelby Hiatt

The novel I read is a Historical love story that takes place in the Republic of Panama during the construction of the Panama Canal 1910's- 1913's. The William Hailey's of Ohio traveled by train, and then an ocean liner to get to Panama. Mr. Hailey is an expert on railroad management . The Hailey's had one teen daughter, who was the principal player of the novel.
The Panama Canal was considered one of the seven wonders of the World once completed. It was an Isthmus with the Eastern side of the Canal having access to the Atlantic Ocean. On the Western side of the Canal was the peaceful Pacific Ocean as people commented. One positive reason for building the Panama Canal their were no earthquakes to disrupt the flow of the Canal.
Throughout the novel, one learns the different hardships of building the Canal.
The novel introduces the reader to Col. Goethals, who was the Engineer with many insights into construction of the Panama Canal. We learn about Dr. Gorgas, and his knowledge about malaria, and yellow fever. These diseases diseases killed many workers during construction time of the canal.
In comes the teen daughter of the Father who works for the Canal, and the wife who are trying to be adjusted into a new environment , and the daughter into a brand new high school. She at first becomes acquainted with Harry as a friend. He is in charge of the workers, and had been a policeman. Through Harry, she becomes acquainted with local workers, and how they live. The teen girl falls head over heals over a Spaniard who is a worker at the Canal called Federico. He was educated, and read Freud, and other classical books.One day the teen girl goes to Federico's cabin, and finds he is hospitalized at Gorgas Hospital. He has malaria, and has to stay put. The teen girl is a Senior in High School , and almost finished. She is accepted to Oberlin College, so she may never see Federico again.
I could go on about this novel, but it might be boring the reader. I lived, and was raised on the Isthmus for thirty years. This novel is worthwhile.


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Scrambled Eggs at Midnight By: Brad Barkley & Heather Hepler

The main character of the novel Eliot was a teen male, who was raised in a dysfunctional family. Eliot's Dad owned a business that was a Christian Camp that was suppose to help teens amongst other things to loose weight. Some people would call the place a fat farm. Eliot's Mother studied in College Engineering. She was the maintenance individual at the Camp.
The other main character was a female named Cal, who was a teen, and worked at the fair grounds. She got to meet Eliot at her job, and they became friends. They got to be a couple after time. The two teens went through experiences, and events that made them closer to each other. Some were dangerous to each of them, and to others.

The ending of the novel was unexpected, and unusual. I guess it had to be that way. The novel is good for those who enjoy excitement, and intrigue.

LRD 9/16/09

Catching Fire - Suzanne Collins

After winning the Hunger Games, and having done the Victory Tour of all of the districts Katniss and Peeta have returned home to District 12. While on the Victory Tour, Katniss over hears a broadcast about an uprising in District 8. After she's home President Snow comes and visits her, and tells her that he will do anything to quell the uprising in District 8 and any other district that decides to revolt. Katniss decides to try and start an uprising in District 12, but Haymitch doesn't think it's the right time to cause another uprising, since half the districts have tried to rebel against the Capitol. Later on President Snow makes an announcement that the tributes for the seventy-fifth Hunger Games will be reaped from the surviving victors of the Hunger Games from each district. For Katniss that means a return to the area, along with Peeta who takes Haymitch's place on the day the reaping is done. Katniss and Peeta study videos of past Hunger Games to learn about the other tributes. They then try to make allies with the other tributes as they train for the games. Once everyone is in the arena uneasy alliances are formed and old alliances fall. Can Katniss and Peeta survive another Hunger Games or will one sacrifice the other to win the seventy-fifth Hunger Games?

Both Hunger Games and Catching Fire were enjoyable to read. The action and trying to figure out what will happen next keeps both books moving along. I couldn't put either book down, and after I was done with Catching Fire I wanted more. I can't wait until the third book comes out, which Suzanne Collins is working on now.

T.B. 9/16/09

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Funny How Things Change by Wyatt

This is one of the many unremarkable - okay teens books being published in a rapidly growing market looking for stuff. Lisa and Remy have been in love since forever. The High School sweethearts now plan to marry, and move out of their beautiful but dying West Virginia mountain community. Lisa will get to go to college and Remy will work. His dream is to be a full time auto mechanic with certification. Lisa's dream is really just to escape the mountains. Remy discovers she doesn't really care about his dreams. He discovers he doesn't really know what Lisa expects to do after college. Remy still has strong feelings for her but is confused about things. Enter an artist with a summer internship who is painting the history of the area on water towers. Dana has a mature appreciation for the area and for Remy. Through her he comes to a strong understanding of how his dreams and Lisa's do not mesh and he makes decisions that are in his own best interest. Dana is a friend and not a girl friend. Though there is a hint that this could change in the future. The theme of leaving a small community with seemingly nothing left to offer has been done before as has "to thine own self be true". This is just my view.
JDW 9/9/09

Call Me Henri by Lorraine Lopez

Enrique speaks English only as a second language but he is pretty good and would like to take French classes rather than English. Its a beautiful language. His counselor says that won't be allowed but he is sent to the French teacher to join the after school French Club. This teacher also directs the school play every year. It is always West Side Story. Enrique can join French Club if he also acts in the play. That's school life. Home life, he lives in a tough neighborhood with his mother, abusive step father and triplet brothers who he adores and takes good care of. He is also friends with a neighborhood boy who has had a hard time in school and so gets in trouble and suspended frequently. This boy gets involved with a gang while out of school and never looks back. Still he has been a good friend to Enrique. So members of a rival gang catch the boy on their territory and shoot him. Enrique witnesses this and now is in danger himself. And his stepfather starts drinking and beats him up. His mom tries to protect him by taking him to a relative to stay. Teachers at school understand all that is happening to this likable, smart, hard working kid and hatch a plan to send him to Canada to as an exchange student to study French and get away for long enough for things to settle down. There's a side plot about a beloved mutt as well. This story is easy to read, It is idealistic with a very happy ending that most kids in Enrique's situation would never believe and isn't likely to happen in real life in any case. I enjoyed but I do not know who I would recommend it to. JDW 9/9/09

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

The Truth about Truman School By:Dori Butler

This novel is fiction, but very interesting about what went on in a Middle School newspaper. I was curious about the novel unravels, and pleasantly happy. The ending of the book was good too.
The problem became focused on the student Amr, who began an underground newspaper online. Anyone who attended Truman could post any subject their little heart desired. The online newspaper got out of control, and a cyberbulley began using the site to harass a popular girl from School called Lilly. The harassment on the web site affected her emotionally. She had been a cheerleader, and popular, and out going at School. She faked her illness, so she would not have to attend School for three days. Finally, she realized , and felt she could not cope with her own situation. She decided to run away from home, and she was missing from School, and home. Before she left home, she grabbed some food supplies, and water bottles. Police, adults in the community were searching for her.
Lastly, Zebby, and Amr went looking for Lilly at night. They had the idea of looking for her in the old tree house they went to in their younger days. They both had a flashlight , and sure enough they found Lilly hiding in the tree house. She was alright, but scared.
This novel is easy reading for anyone who likes an adventure, and activities at School that turn out for the best. LRD 9/9

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

You've got Blackmail by Rachel Wright

I hesitantly picked up this book because the plot seemed sketchy. Hoping for the best, I was let down because it took about 100 pages to get semi-interesting and I really didn't care about any of the characters.

This story basically has two plots: Lauren (Loz) fearing for her life because Tonya wants to beat her up and Lauren trying to figure out who is trying to blackmail her teacher (this plot doesn't really begin until page 111 and this is really the only interesting part). In the midst of avoiding Tonya, Lauren suspects her mother might be dating her teacher (the one who ends up being blackmailed), a fact she isn't too keen on because she doesn't like said teacher. The Tonya story at first is a bit overdone, but then I can see how it's used to set up key suspects in the bigger story. The only funny part comes at the end of the novel in a form of payback (but I can't help but wonder how Tonya is going to react when the truth comes out, with or without the blackmail video...). And then there's this whole plot line about how she likes a fellow student and hates her sister, but that just seems to be in the story to make Lauren seem like a normal teenager.

This book did not hold my attention until the actual blackmail plot began, and then it felt like it was over too fast. All of the pieces fell into place and it was just a matter of time before he got caught. As for the Tonya story, while - I like said it created a "red herring" for a case of burglary - it was extremely overdone. I didn't care and part of me almost wanted Lauren to get beat up just so that the story could move on. I didn't care for any of the character. Lauren had too many friends and, while it's nice to see she's popular, the only friend who was developed was Dex, so Ems, Tasha and whoever else there was didn't really matter (see, I can't even remember her name). They weren't developed and just melted into each other and the other names that were thrown around. At the same time, one reason I though it was hard to connect to this novel was because it takes place in England, with plenty of English culture references. I have no idea who Hercule Poirot and the constant exclamations to Nora (not a character in the novel) were somewhat annoying.

I forced myself to finish the book and not give up on it - partly because I feel bad about not finishing novels, I keep hoping it will improve. While it did get better, I don't know that it was a big enough payoff to recommend the book.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

A Simple Gift by Steven Herrick

This is a novel in verse. Its very short and simple and touching. I do not generally care for these books as they seem so shallow but somehow this one works and I look forward to reading Herrick's other Novels in verse.

Billy is 16 and fed up with 6 years of living in the same house but avoiding his alcoholic abusive father. He just packs up and leaves one day. Leaves everything behind, rides the rails. Maybe this part is a little incredible as this is very difficult to pull off these days. He meets a couple of caring people along the way. He's known such people before and he knows how to appreciate them. He begins living in a train car that has been side railed for a long time and eventually discovers a "hobo" living next door. He is noticed stealing leftover food at McDonald's by a girl who is intrigued rather than scared. The rest of this story is about his growing relationships with the old hobo and the girl. Its about the boy recognizing the man's hurts and respecting him, its about the man helping the boy in turn and about a growing romance. Nice. JDW 9/4/09

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Blood and Chocolate By: Annette Curtis Klause

The School Library Journal sums up the book well in three words: "well-drawn, powerful, and seductive." Blood and Chocolate has a hand grasping plot that no one can resist. From page one to the end on the book , there was not a moment were I was not in suspense. It is one of those " I cant put it down" books. If you love fantasy stories about vampires, werewolves, or other fantasy creatures who are in danger for falling in love with mortals, then Blood and Chocolate is a must read!

The story is about a sixteen year old girl named Vivian who is a "beautiful loup-garou (ware wolf). Her father was the leader of the loup-garou until he was killed in a fire accident at the hotel that they used to own in West Virginia. Now, she is left with her mother the woman leader, and the rest of her pack. Esme, as well as those in the pack, yearn to find a new leader to protect their herd. The loup-garou live amongst humans in the city and try to keep a low profile but seem to have some throughout the pack that are rebels. Meanwhile, Vivian tries to find her true self. After her fathers death she does not know who she is or where she belongs. Is she a human or beast? Determined to find her inner self, Vivian draws a mural for her art class. The mural consists of a pack of wolves running in the wilderness, but they themselves seem lost. Under her mural, a boy named Aiden writes a poem that seems to fit picture perfect with the mural. Stunned, Vivian tries to figure out why she is so obsessed with this boy. Is it his scent? His curiosity in werewolves? Or is it his appearance? Aiden and Vivian begin to see each other and within their relationship Vivian makes new friends and learns more and more about her self. Unfortunately, Vivian has to try and hide Aiden from her family, they do not accept anyone from the pack to get involved with a human. Vivian's love for Aiden sends her to through different obstacles between her and her pack. From trying to ignore the loup-garou that want her as her mate, to the picking of a new leader, Vivian finds herself inter wined and seduced with one thing only: Aiden. Will the love between Aiden and Vivian be strong enough to survive these obstacles? Will she tell Aiden her secret, or will death take its toll?

Blood and Chocolate is a great novel if you are looking to read a book where the suspense, seduction, and lies never end. Although I personally was upset by the ending, many of you might find it quite surprising. GV