Friday, January 31, 2014

Sure Signs of Crazy by Karen Harrington


(Cover art by Gray 318)

Sarah Nelson's best friend is a plant, she keeps two diaries and she writes letters to Atticus Finch. This would make her quirky in the eyes of many, except for Sarah it's a daily struggle to try and remain sane while dealing with the typical troubles of a tween (first kiss attempts and crushes) and an emotionally absent father who turns to bourbon to cope. What is it that Sarah Nelson and her father have to cope with? Sarah's mother went crazy one day and attempted to drown Sarah and her twin brother when they were two years old while their father was at work. Once her brother was buried and her mother sent away to an institution, her father was tried for failing to protect the children. Now, ten years later, Sarah and her father have moved 4 times and fear a time someone recognizes them from those awful events yet again, but overall try an lead an normal life. Newly 12 years old, Sarah has problems both her own and unexpected to deal over the summer with while keeping watch for signs of going crazy like her mother.    


This is such a charming book!  Sarah has a pretty mature and sarcastic voice, which is believable since is mixed in with some thoughts that are very much naive and belong to a 12 year old. What really is nice to see is that Sarah holds a sense of humor about things, especially when she talks to her plant. Overall, I think this would be a great book who kids and teens who have an absent parent or don't have a strong bond with either parent or feel bad traits or behavior of a parent is eventually to be inherited. What I love about this book in particular, is that Sarah is dealing with typical problems for a girl her age yet at the same time learning how to deal with some of the more heavy issues from her past and relationship with her father, and that to me is much more realistic of life. One doesn't get the privilege of dealing with just one major problem at a time in life, like some novels setup for their main character.  Sarah's story is a message about having more courage and learning to lean on your own self and that's always a good lesson to read. 


Saturday, January 18, 2014

The Waking Dark by Robin Wasserman

                                                           (Book cover by Ian Sanderson, Getty Images)

Oleander, Kansas, where life is as compelling as the scenery, is shook up after five of it's residents go on separate killing sprees. 
Daniel is lonely boy who is trying to be the best father figure to his younger brother Milo, since their own father is a drunk street preacher ranting about the end of times since their mother passed. 
Jule is a "Prevette", the last name synonymous with the trailer trash, meth producing family that live near the swamps but she does her best to stay out of trouble and out of sight. 
Cass is a girl dreaming of the day she leaves for college and for good, because as she believes she is better than Oleander and most of the people living there. Despite having a mild dislike for children, she babysits to earn money to one day make her escape.
Jeremiah West is a handsome football player, trying to keep his relationship with Nick completely under wraps, because if the people of Oleander knew, it would destroy his family.
Ellie is a born again Christian, doing her best to reject old temptations and spread the Word, which takes on an entire new level when she believes to hear God speaking to her directly. 

These five survivors of the killings are haunted about what could have caused some of Oleander's residents to kill, more so once a destructive tornado plows through, leaving the town to rebuild. This seemingly disparate group of teens find themselves facing the darkness that is responsible for the town deteriorating while fighting for answers and for their lives. 

 I recommend this book to anyone that loves thrilling, horror & mystery novels or even loves shows like The Walking Dead. It's written from each one of the characters perspective which it keeps it moving at a good pace, as I was half way through it before I even noticed. Jule was my favorite character, simply because she gets underdog status given her family and living situation, and I always root for the underdog. Each character has shining moments though, and anyone can find themselves relating to one or all. The book certainly does deal with killing and other dark topics, so it is very raw and intense so be warned if that is not your cup of tea. Despite all the intensity, overall this book is really hopeful and full of characters with a fighting spirit.  There's so much more to the mystery that I can't mention  without spoiling it for anyone, but it is certainly worth reading to find out.


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Lenore, The cute little dead girl. By Roman Dirge

Lenore, Wedgies. Tells the misadventures of cute little 10-year-old Lenore (which has been 10 for more than 100 years!).  With her group of even weirder companions, she will go through as much as catching the tooth fairy, collectin gnomes and getting rid of he admirer Mr. Gosh.

Story and art by Roman Dirge, this comic is dark fun, really good read for those who love the macabre and Gothic.

Fun and cute art, well as cute as it can get.

OCD, The Dude and Me by Lauren Vaughn

Danielle is obsessive compulsive, probably adhd and an outcast, at least in her view.  She is in counseling, yoga for relaxation, social skills therapy and is a senior in high school.  Early on the reader knows something precipitated all this but until Danielle is ready to share we do not know exactly what or how traumatic it was.  She describes all her compulsions and her obsession with hats. One such is her crush on a guy, Jacob, who treats her rather badly. She actually spends a lot of time doing this in the story.  Here is the cast of characters that see her through what looks like a terrible senior year but turns out perhaps not to be so much so.  Aunt Joyce is incredible in her wisdom and ability to see the better side of things.  She makes costumes for Lebowski Fest.  She tells Danielle she will be just fine on the Senior trip to England and insists that Danielle go, for instance.  Marv, the school counselor who is willing to let Danielle to do therapy through notes back and forth.  He is fairly wise in this.  Justine, a very elderly tour guide that Danielle meets on her Senior class trip. Ms.  Harrison, English teacher who assigns many essays and gives wise criticism.  Many of the essays, which are part of the story, have references to Shakespeare plays but not done in a way that requires one to have read and understood them.  Daniel, the boy she meets and become friends with from socials skills.  The story is told in letters to Aunt Joyce, Justine and missives to Marv.  It is told in her essays for Ms. Harrison and her journal writings.  That makes this an episodic plot with focus on problems not characters so this isn't my favorite kind of book.  But it reads quickly and Danielle comes to appreciate herself and move forward from the trauma that so affected her.  Teens who enjoy realistic fiction dealing with serious problems would undoubtedly enjoy it.

Saturday, January 04, 2014

He Said, She Said by Kwame Alexander

This novel is told through alternating narrators. The first narrator is Omar "T-Diddy" Smalls. He's the football MVP - all around hot stuff playa with the ego to match. The second narrator is Claudia Clarke who is headed for Harvard and not the least bit interested in someone like Omar. When he sees her at a party "looking like Beyonce" he gets it in his head that he has to have her. After everyone tells him she won't give him the time of day, he makes a bet that he'll walk away with her panties. Of course she wants nothing to do with him, not when she has far more important things to deal with, like the fact that teen pregnancy is running the school and the school board is laying off teachers, closing the school library, and cutting their arts fund. T-Diddy gets it in his head that he can woo Claudia by picking up her cause and leads the school in a silent protest against that school board's actions. With him leading, the whole school gets involved and Claudia begins to think he might not be as bad as she thought. At the same time, T-Diddy starts to fall for her in ways he's never felt for girls before. However, when his past starts to catch up with him, his relationship with Claudia is put to the test.

This novel is told through African-American characters, so at times the dialect takes getting used to (I'm not entirely sure what "ish" means or "woadie," but it doesn't detract from the story). For the vast majority of the novel I did not like Omar "T-Diddy." Even when he started to change and lose the ego, his attitude and motivation rubbed me the wrong way. Even Claudia seemed to easily swayed by his ways for being such a smart woman. Maybe, though, it was just a cultural thing that I couldn't connect with. Despite my dislike for the characters, this is a powerful story about standing up for what you think is right and using the civil rights history to change the world today. It is about changing your ways, and how one person can make you a better person. This book has the power to be inspirational.

Bad Houses by Sara Ryan

Bad Houses is a graphic novel about six people and the way their lives intersect. The first two are Catherine and Lewis - a mother and son team who put together estate sales. Then Anne enters the picture, a young woman who visits the estate sale and hits it off with Lewis. Another visitor to the estate sales is Fred who goes around finding things to resell in his store. The last two people in the story are Danica - Anne's mother - and A.J. who meets Danica when he drops his mother off at an assisted living home. Anne struggles throughout this graphic novel with the appeal of estate sales and seeing people's memories and her own mother's inability to let go of material goods. Danica is basically a hoarder, forcing Anne to live that lifestyle. When A.J. enters Danica's life, she seems to clean up her act, but really just shifts the mess into Anne's space. Anne learns from Lewis the the homes of hoarders are considered to people running estate sales as "Bad Houses," which leaves her wondering what that says about her family. In the meantime, A.J. is just trying to make it through life, and a past connection between Catherine and Fred is revealed. This graphic novel explores our connection to things - both emotional and physical - and the way we both hold onto things or choose to let go.