Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Mission Telemark - Amanda Mitchison

Based on actual events in World War Two Mission Telemark is set in December of 1942 when four teens, who have Special Ops training, are chosen. Their mission to head into Nazi occupied Norway to blow up a water facility, otherwise the Nazis would overtake Europe. Ase, Freddie, and Jakob, arrive at Drumincraig House and are greeted by Colonel Armstrong. Their training begins almost immediately with the three of them hunting for their own food for dinner that night. Their training continues in explosives, climbing, combat, first aid, and extreme conditions. The fourth member of their group Lars, arrives a few days later. They are subjected to a mock interrogation, which they think is real. All four of them train in a replica of the water facility they are going to blow up. After a week and a half of training they are dropped off in Norway, and start to make their way to the water facility. Their journey is not a safe one. They loose most of the food when Jakob falls through the ice, and they get trapped in a hut by snow storm for several days. When all hope seems lost they find reindeer to kill for food, and they forge on to the water facility to complete their mission.

I really enjoyed this book. I liked the journal format of the book. It gives insight into the minds of the characters, and how they see each other. The action kept the plot moving along, and I felt like I was right there with them. I enjoyed the ending as well. I won't give it away, but it reminded me that no matter what you go through in life, or what you think you know, there are still lessons to be learned.

T.B. 1/26/10

Monday, January 25, 2010

Orange Houses by Paul Griffin

This is a quick read in which illegal immigration, gangs, PTSD. hearing impairment collide.
The characters are Mik aka Tamika who is hard of hearing and objects to wearing hearing aids because the world is too loud with them, Shanelle, gang leader with a posse of box cutter girls,
Jimmi who went to war and came back damaged, he could not stop the horrific killing, Fatima, illegal refugee from Africa with hopes of becoming legal. The action takes place in the projects (orange houses), neighborhood high school, Jimmi's wilderness. Tamika, Jimmi, Mik, outsiders in the tough world of gangs, drugs and Feds searching for illegals, become fast friends. Tamika introduces Mik to volunteering and the art of paper folding, Mik teaches Tamika sign languages and helps with Tamika's classes for children of veterans at the VA hospital. Jimmi knew Mik and her family before going to the desert war. Mik knew him as a long time friend, visited his caves, cared about him and he respected her, cared about her. When Shanelle accuses Mik of stealing her boyfriend and getting her expelled and attacks with her posse, Tamika and Jimmi try to protect their friend. For all of them, things change forever. This is a fast high interest read. Its worth reading, I think. Its an interesting look at the meaning of friendship and at what PTSD, Hearing Loss, Illegal Status can do to a person. JDW 1/25/10

Sentences by M.F. Grimm

Grimm was a talented hip-hop artist on the way to the top when he chose to involve himself in gangs and drugs with the all too common dreadful results. He lived. He is coming back.
His memoir is in graphic novel form and very easy to read as well as very powerful.
Its in our library's musicians biography section. Find it, read it. Its worth it.
JDW 1/25/10

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Absolute boyfriend

Do you sometimes wished that you could buy a boyfriend the way you want? Well in this story, Riiko a high school girl discovered a website that actually sell boyfriends! Thinking to be some kind of blind date site, Riiko filled out the survey for a free thirty day trail thinking that she'll get to go out with the boy of her dreams for the period of the trial. What she didn't count on was a handsome man delivered to her house in a box. At the surprise, Riiko discovered the 'boy' was actually a cyborg, who wishes to please her in all the ways she wants, what Riiko didn't count either is the huge debt she got herself into by buying herself a boyfriend and suspicions of her best friend and neighbor.

This is a must read graphic novel that will not only make you laugh, but too to think about the difference between true love and friendship, personally I not only liked the plot of the story, I liked the excellent artwork it was put into, the series consist of 6 volumes which have already been translated and publish in English, this story will have you thinking of how do you really want to pursuit love.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Story Sisters by Alice Hoffman

If Jodi Picoult's stories seem incomplete to you as they do to me, if Laurie Anderson's award winning book Speak is just too shallow then give this one a try.
As young girls the Story sisters were close, so close they had their own private language and their own private fairy land. They loved tomatoes, Paris where their grandmother lived, Ice Cream their ama's chestnut tree, their hawthorn tree. Elizabeth known as Elv, the eldest, told wondrous stories about the land until one fateful day. Elv was a teenager, the younger girls not quite when she rescued the youngest and suffered for it. Elv blamed herself, she was no good. Claire blamed herself, it was her fault, she had run. Elv became dark and mysterious, her stories became horror stories. She escaped down the hawthorn tree late at night, drank, did drugs, was put in a school for delinquent teens to be reformed, met her soul mate and escaped. Her life continued out of control. Claire and Meg avoided her. They grew interested in horses, music, reading and forgot the magical world. There is another tragedy in which Claire again blames herself and becomes silent. And, still more tragedy. Resilient girls struggle with the wise help of those who love them and there is hope. This is a lyrical, redeeming story of sisters' love for each other, mothers' love for their children, love between man and woman and, grandmother for grandchildren. JDW 1/10

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Gentlemen by Michael Northrop

There are four underachieving students at a high school, three really just don't care about school. The fourth may not really be all that bright. Teachers seem to relentlessly give them a bad time. One teacher picks on one of the kids especially, a kid with a lisp and a secret that comes out later. On this particular day at school the picked on kid flips his desk, is sent to the Principal's office and simply disappears. He has disappeared before, but this time something feels different. He is gone longer, he took no belongings with him. In the class after the kid leaves, a teacher has decided to try engaging his disinterested students with an unusual ploy. They will be studying Crime and Punishment. Crime and Punishment questions when a crime is a crime and when punishment is punishment. The teacher has a barrel with something hidden inside and asks whats in it. Guesses are wrong. The boys carry the barrel to the teacher's car and load the contents into the trunk. They still do not know what it is, but now have begun to believe that it is the body of their missing friend and that the English teacher has killed the kid. As the days go by the boys become more and more certain that they are right and eventually confront the teacher with devastating results. Weaving together the study of Crime and Punishment with the story of a missing kid is a clever idea. It may have gotten me interested in reading that weighty tome. But, its rather a thin book, there is a lot of I remember sort of chatter that I guess should advance our understanding of the boys but it didn't do that too well and didn't advance the story either. I finally skimmed lightly through a couple of chapters without missing anything as far as I could tell. Its not terrible, its just not all that great. Mystery readers should like it all the same. JDW 1/12/10

Same Difference By: Vivian Siobhan

This is the author's first novel. It was written about, the different aspects of teens' friendships. This is a novel about a sixteen year old teen that has a great opportunity to leave her routine life in a town called Cherry Grove. Emily is accepted for an Art Program in Philadelphia Art College,where she excels. Emily is at an awkward stage in her life , where she is trying to figure out who she really is.

We find Emily is making friends with Yates, who is the Professor's Assistant at the Art College for the summer. Other students think Emily and Yates had a close relationship. Is that true, or not?
Art is not my bag, so I myself read every word of the novel. The novel talks about techniques in Art, that the Art students learn like lighting, shadows in their art work. Teens in the novel did not live on campus, but went home by train.

I have to admit, I did not enjoy the complete novel. But I like the way friendships are emphasized , and important. Emily had a friend Fiona, and the two of them had fights, but usually made up. Their final spat was too much. Emily was trying to make up with Fiona.

Read the novel to wet your interest. This is a good novel.
LRD 1/12/10

Saturday, January 09, 2010

The Best Bad Luck I Ever Had By: Kristin Levine

This is a novel that is detailed, but set in the 1900's in Alabama. When teens that were white, went to separate schools from black children . It was unheard of mixed race relationship, or friendships. Life was full of pressure to socialize only with one's own race. This was true until the new postmaster, arrived at the Railroad Station, and it was a black family. Emma a 12 year old girl who was black, and very outgoing was accustomed to Boston where color was not as much an issue. Emma became good friends of Dit,who was white, but his Mother brought up her children to be friends of all nationalities, and races. So Dit has no problem with the friendship of a black kid, but isn't sure about friendship with a girl who doesn't know how to fish or throw a baseball. Emma isn't at all sure at first about a boy who doesn't read.

Tensions erupt in the small town when Emma is invited to take part in the play at the white school and the biased drunk lawman in town disapproves. Emma and later Doc, the black barber take a stand against Big Foot the lawman with terrible results.

Emma, and Dit get involved with the barber that has escaped and hiding in town , he is a black who is accused of a crime he did not commit. The two teens Emma & Dit plan to help the barber out. Meanwhile, the barber is in jail. They get the key, and let Doc(barber) free. They make the jail cell look like the Doc hung himself. The two teens Emma and Dit kill a rabbit, and smear the blood inside the casket that is meant for the barber. The barber has one son who wants to see his Dad one last time. It's getting to be a big problem the death of the barber.

Read the novel to find out details of the novel. This is a good read.

Friday, January 08, 2010

The Flowers by Dagoberto Gilb

Gilb gives an authentic voice to the young Chicano teen narrator. I would liken this to that which Sherman Alexie did for Native American Teen boys in his book Absolutely Diary of a Part-Time Indian. Sonny is a likable, compassionate kid who lives in the Flowers Apartments with his mother and stepfather. He experiences the comings and goings of many of the residents as he does chores around the building of which he has many. He has his first sexual experiences and his first romance (not at all the same thing). He is witness to prejudice and other not so legal activities in the run down neighborhood. So many, many of the books for Chicano kids revolve around gang activity this is a refreshing book filled with colorful imperfect characters worth getting to know.
I read this because folks were questioning its appropriateness for teen readers. I think its exactly right on. I'm happy to have it in the teen collection for teens to find. JDW 1/8/10

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Finding Nouf.By: Zoe Ferraris

This novel is a mystery that takes place in the Middle East. The main character of course is Nouf, who disappears one day. Her family believes she is kidnapped, but they have hope she is alive. After weeks of searching the family hires a dessert guide to look efficiently for Nouf. The family knows a camel is missing in their barn. so the searching is in the dessert. They find her body in a "wadi" something like a ravine in the dessert. There had been a rain storm , so the investigators thought she drowned. The forensic doctors believed, and found out she was pregnant. Now, there was a new dilemma brewing. Who was the Father of Nouf's child? Was the Dad of her child the killer of Nouf ?
Nouf was planning to get married soon, so it was tragic for her, and family to know about Nouf. Nouf was a girl about 16 or 17 that had her whole life ahead of her. She had dreamed, and planned on moving, and establishing herself in New York. To me it was interesting, and intriguing the way the Arabs treated their women in their society. Women were normally second classs citizens. They did not encourage much Education for females. Woman had to walk behind their male spouse.
I enjoyed this novel very much . Women in the Saudi culture wore "bourga"s, which is a veil, so noone can see the female's face. All you see is the female's eyes. Reading this novel , you soon learn different aspects of a foreign culture called Saudi Arabian. American culture has many freedoms that the Saudi culture will never obtain.
The author of this novel married a Saudi - Palestinian . The husband was from a beduion family. The author went to live their to be close to her husband.
The novel is a mystery, but at the same time interesting to learn about Saudi Arabian culture.

Strange Angels - Lili St. Crow

Dru and her dad have moved around quite a bit. The reason for this is that her dad hunts monsters (zombie, vampire, and various otherworldlies). Dru also has this ability where she can sense danger coming. One day her dad leaves on a mission, and after a few days he comes back, but he's a zombie. She kills him and then goes on the run. Dru hides out in the mall with her friend Graves. They come under attack by werewulfs and Graves is bitten by one. Dru decides to head back to the house to try and figure out what is behind her dad being turned into a zombie and the attack on her and Graves. As she's going through her dad's things she finds a phone number of someone who might have answers. She calls and meets him, and it turns out the guy is a djamphir, a half-human, half-vampire. She also finds her dad's wallet and locket along with his truck. Christophe comes to the house and tells her she's in danger from the thing her dad was hunting and she needs to leave immediately.

This was a good opening book to this series. I liked how Lili St. Crow lays out the groundwork and the characters for the series. As I was reading this book, I kept seeing similarities to Buffy The Vampire Slayer, which is probably why I enjoyed it. The character of Dru is similar to the character of Buffy. They are both strong and independent and know what they have to do in any situation, even if it means sacrificing someone they love for the greater good. I'm looking forward to reading the next book, which is called Betrayals, and out in bookstores now.

T.B. 1/7/10

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Cut by Patricia McCormick

This a a frequently requested novel and I decided to see why it was so popular. A lot of times I don't quite get why people like the popular books (Twilight did nothing for me) but I really enjoyed this book. It was wonderfully written and a powerful story. I can see why teens request it.

Callie is staying at Sea Pines or Sick Minds as the patients call it, because she is a cutter. For the first part of the book she is resistant to treatment. She's not violently resistant, but she just goes through the motions and refuses to talk - therapy sessions are going nowhere. In the meantime, she pays attention to the other patients. Most are on the road to recovery, but some, including Callie, can't kick the habit. One night, after Callie cuts herself and realizes it doesn't have the same affect, she turns to her therapist and finally accepts help. The next part of the novel explores the deeper aspect of Callie's family life and how her mother is focused on her sick brother and her absent father and how that possibly led her to cut. This section also includes the blossoming connections between the patients and their roles in each other's lives, especially when one patient takes a downward spiral. In the end, Callie has to face what it means to honestly get help for herself.

One thing I found interesting about this novel is you can hear Callie telling this story to you. She refers to the therapist in the second person - you - and you (the reader) really feels like she's talking to you. This writing technique really draws in the reader because you've become a part of the story. I didn't exactly like the therapist, however. Maybe she didn't fit my image of a therapist because I didn't really feel like she understood simple things about what Callie was saying. It was almost like she played dumb, but yet it didn't look like she was playing. It might all just be a strategy to allow Callie to do the talking, but I felt that some meaningful advice or interpretation was left out. I wish the father was developed a little bit more. I'm a little lost on his relationship/role in the family. I think I know, but I wish it was clearer. Beyond that, the novel was fantastic. I really became involved with the characters - even though at first it seemed like there were too many people to keep track. I wanted to see them - Callie especially - succeed and get better. And then, of course, it has the hopeful ending that should ideally inspire others in similar situations.

I don't know why teens ask for this book. Maybe they relate to Callie or have just heard it's a good book. Either way, I definitely think it's one that's worth reading.

Monday, January 04, 2010

After by Amy Efaw

A newborn baby is found in a dumpster behind an apartment building. Police canvass the area and discover a teenage girl bleeding out on a sofa in her home. There is other evidence, proof that the baby was hers. The girl first hospitalized near death, then imprisoned facing hearings and trials, has not acknowledged that she was ever pregnant, that the screaming IT in the bathroom sink was a baby she birthed. She, in fact, has disassociated. She remembers nothing of what the lawyers, the doctors are saying is true. Readers learn the horrifying truth as the girl remembers, comes to terms with what she did. Those around her, best friend, coach, teachers never questioned the change in her appearance, her behavior, went along with her denial. They are to blame for what happened as well. Why did she not use safe haven for the baby? Why did everyone go along with her denial, not reach out to help her? The author of this book looks in to such questions, goes a long way to explain dumpster baby syndrome. The story won't stop girls like Devon from dumping their newborns but maybe it we know a girl in trouble we will not hesitate to reach out to her and if we fail to do so maybe we will be compassionate and understanding towards her in the aftermath. This is a powerful story, well written, worth reading. By the way, dumping newborn babies is not limited to teens. Recently a 30 something mother in our area left her newborn outside under some bushes in frigid weather. The baby in this story survived. Not all of them do. JDW 1/5/10