Wednesday, November 10, 2010

it's the end of the world

So after my run on fairy/pixie fantasy stories, I seem to have entered the realm of charming armageddon type teen books. It started with Gone, then I read Birthmarked, Mockingjay, and The Forest of Hands and Teeth. Waiting on my bookshelf are The Line and Watersmeet, also similarly plotted with teens facing the apocalypse. Surprisingly, because of the action and the often romantic subplot to these books, they aren't terribly bleak (as Cormac McCarthy's The Road, for instance). But the best so far would have to be Mockingjay. The others start out with an interesting and engaging "hook," but like a hamster on a wheel, they keep spinning the same stuff and going nowhere. If I had to read one more time about the "Unconsecrated" reaching out in The Forest of Hands and Teeth, I think I might have hurled the book across the room.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

just some thoughts

Voting for a politician who doesn't believe in government (or claims that little or no government is the best government) is kinda like voting for a Pastor who doesn't believe in God.

I can't imagine people flocking to a church to hear a Sunday message filled with rants against faith and God, so I am amazed that people are so fond of politicians who just rant against the very government they want to be a part of.

Futhermore, what is the incentive for that politician to do a good job?! Seems to me it's a self-fulfilling prophecy: I will do a cruddy job in my govt. position and therefore show you that government is bad. And if someone on the other side (Democrat or Republican) is actually trying to do something productive and build consensus, I will just say no, no, no, no...because being a cranky obstructionist seems to work out pretty well. Plus, if the government actually does something good, whoa, there goes my whole re-election campaign message. Oh, and I will get paid for this, too.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

if you love the card game of bridge...

have I got a great book for you! It's called The Cardturner by Louis Sachar (Yes, THAT Louis Sachar, of the book Holes). I, myself, have never played bridge nor do I have any interest, even after reading this book. That being said, it was a really good book even with the rather long meanderings into the nitty-gritty of the card game. I love that Sachar has these little "whale icons" in the book that warn you whenever he is going off on the card game details, so you know when to skip. He takes the whale thing from Moby Dick, and how that book went off on boring whaling descriptions. Sachar always makes me laugh out loud, and he has a nice way of tying things together plot-wise. This would be a good choice for an older teen or adult.

The writing style of The Cardturner reminded me very much of something I read by Neal Shusterman called The Schwa Was Here. Again poignant storytelling with quirky, interesting characters and hilarious situations.

And other books of note that I've read lately: Evermore (Immortals series), The Summer I Turned Pretty, Linger (sequel to Shiver), The Perks of Being a Wallflower (which I reread after, oh..about 10 years, and really appreciated and liked the second time). I'm also currently reading the 4th Percy Jackson, and the first in the Gone series.

Monday, July 19, 2010

and the cure is.....fairies

Needed to cleanse the palate from all that dark, realistic young adult fiction and guess what came to the rescue? Fantasy, of course, and fairies. Fairies are the new vampires. Got a new favorite series: Need, by Carrie Jones, with Captivate the second in the saga. And I just finished Wicked Lovely and really enjoyed it as well. Other lighter fare: If I told you I loved you, then I'd have to Kill You. It's a Gallagher Girls mystery/spy book and came highly recommended by my daughter. I'm reading the second one, Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

43 and counting...

that's 43 books read so far this year. If I can keep on track maybe I can crack 100?! nah, doubt it. But I've been in a big reading mood lately. They've been so dark, though! Ugh. I have the not-so-startling realization that much YA fiction is abysmally depressing. Issues and crises and such angst. I really need a light read to cleanse the palate. And I've just started Orange Houses and with it's allusions to a "hanging" in a matter of days I don't think this is going to do it for me. Sadly.

Okey-dokey, I have read quite a few since last post. I think my favorites have been: Hate List, Sunshine, Pretty Dead, Shiver, Wish You Were Dead, and Once. Even from those titles, you can see there's very little uplifting here! But they were all page-turningly good! I also finished the first two books in the Skinjacker trilogy (Everlost and Everwild) and think it has good potential. It'd make good booktalk/recommendation material for both boys and girls. And it was more upbeat than Nothing which I just finished today. I was expecting something more ethereal with that book, and it was jarringly brutal and dark. As a metaphor or symbolic book, I could stomach what those 7th graders did, but on a literal level it just about ripped my heart out. Well written, though, and a good discussion book; but I would find it hard to recommend to middle schoolers.

Still looking for that one standout book that I love....

Friday, April 2, 2010

she's a superfreak

Okay, my latest reads haven't been as stellar. The best of the bunch would definitely be Very LeFreak by Rachel Cohn. It's the first book of hers I have read, and it was quite good. Compelling subject matter: super social college freshman addicted to technology who has to go to rehab (ESCAPE). I liked the idea, and amazingly, liked all the main characters, even when they were making choices I disagreed with. But at times the writing style was a little too trendy; when I read books like this I can't help but wonder how they will hold up in 10 years? I would recommend to older high school students.

The Broken Bike Boy and Queen of 33rd Street by Sharon Flake gets a thumbs up. Quick, easy read and one I'd recommend to elem. kids. I just finished Solace of the Road, by Dowd, and wouldn't readily recommend it to anyone. Just didn't go anywhere fast enough, though it had a good twist at the end. Some books grab me, some don't. This just didn't.

Re-read Schooled by Gordan Korman. Love this book!! More fun to read the second go-around because I knew how it would end and I wasn't as tortured by his temporary setbacks.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

half broke horses and other fine books

I've had another nice run of good books. Just raced through Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls for my adult bookgroup. Worth the effort! This is the same author of The Glass Castle, but instead of a personal memoir, it is a somewhat embellished account of her grandmother's life growing up in the dusty plains in the early 1900s. A spitfire and character she was! So many memorable stories and quotes and for me, far more enjoyable (and lighthearted) than The Glass Castle.

I am nearing the end of The Extraordinary Adventures of Ordinary Boy, a kids' book we're using for Battle of the Books. Clever and probably will be liked by kids (esp. boys) who like funny stories with comic book overtones. Thumbs up for Closed for the Season, another satisfactory mystery by Mary Downing Hahn. Finally, I read the first in the Chronicles of Vladimir Tod, called Eighth Grade Bites. It's about an 8th grade boy who is half-vampire, who was orphaned 3 years earlier, and is currently living with his aunt. Conveniently, she works as a nurse and can sneak out almost-expired blood bags, which he handily drinks like a typical juice box. ugh! The delivery of details like this was a bit distracting, as it sort of took away the vampirish mystique for me. But it got better as it went on, and I'd be interested in reading the next one in the series before deciding against it entirely.

Next up on the bookshelf: Leviathan, The Broken Bike Boy and the Queen of 33rd Street, and Very LeFreak. I also need to finish The Treasure Map of Boys and Solace of the Road, both of which I've just dipped my big toe into, but would venture in to the deep end to finish.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Now onto Hitler Youth

Wow! What a powerful book!! I am only a few chapters into this non-fiction book about the German children and teens in Hitler's Nazi youth groups. Never even knew most of this stuff. Scary the parallels to today and the various groups around, and the way politicians try to harness the power of children, whether in Islamic training camps or in Facebook groups. Pair this book with the beautiful, amazing _The Book Thief_ for a brilliant combination.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

going, going...

going bovine, the Printz Award winner for best young adult book, is going nowhere fast. I want to like it, I really do...but after about 100 pages I could easily put it down and grab the half-dozen other books clamoring for my attention on the bookshelf.

Today, I shall force myself to plow ahead and get this one under my belt so I can move on!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

on global warming

So hey, I'm getting a little perplexed by the nastiness of those who refuse to believe in global warming. I have often said that it would be easier to believe that Mother Nature and God would take care of everything, and to believe global warming was some sort of hoax cooked up by those pesky smart people with letters after their name, using "science" to take over our lives by Big Brother government. God calls us to be good stewards of His planet, and science and religion are not in conflict here.

To me, this is simply a case whereby people who have already arrived at their conclusions twist the facts around to fit those predetermined ideas. Soooo...if you're someone who distrusts govt., likes big business, and is suspicious of intellectuals, then you're going to believe there is no such thing as global warming. If you're someone who believes government can look out for the common good (and in fact we need it to do so because capitalistic greed just isn't going to), needs to hold big business in check, and believes in the scientific method, then you're going to believe that global warming is happening. We may not know the exact specifics, but it's happening. Although it is harder to accept that fact, hiding our heads in the sand is not going to save the planet for future generations or the vulnerable who share the planet with us (animals, plants). God calls upon us to take care of His planet, to be good stewards, and care for the less fortunate among us.

Furthermore, blizzards like the ones we've seen this past week actually help to confirm the fact that our planet is heating up. Warmer air means more moisture and more precipitation. These weather extremes have been cited for decades as evidence of our planet being out of balance. I've been reading this literature since college (my apologies to the people out there who distrust universities....there I go again) and it has been consistent. We will have extremes: droughts in summer, blizzards in winter. hurricanes and flooding in between.

From the New York Times on 2/11/10:

"A federal government report issued last year, intended to be the authoritative statement of known climate trends in the United States, pointed to the likelihood of more frequent snowstorms in the Northeast and less frequent snow in the South and Southeast as a result of long-term temperature and precipitation patterns. The Climate Impacts report, from the multiagency United States Global Change Research Program, also projected more intense drought in the Southwest and more powerful Gulf Coast hurricanes because of warming.

In other words, if the government scientists are correct, look for more snow."

Saturday, February 6, 2010


or snowpocalypse. Whatever name you give it, this is an epic snowstorm, the likes of which I haven't seen since my freshman year at Wisconsin attempting to walk to class in a blizzard! There is something surreal about the white softness that surrounds us and the forced peace of that snow upon upon upon snow. Work closed this Saturday; we're all home safe, with electricity, food, gas, water and an amazing awe of nature.

Snowed in with some good books: Crazy Beautiful, a retelling of the Beauty and the Beast; and Gateway, another YA book that I just started at lunch yesterday. It has begun well, and is in the time travel/fantasy/romance vein. Still halfway through Vive La Paris, which is quite good and has a funny narrative voice, but still makes me a little sad because it is about bullying.

Jacob just commented, as he put down his unfinished breakfast: "I've lost my appetite...with all this excitement!" Yes, snowpocalypse indeed! Let's grab that shovel.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

It's snowing books

This happens to be one of my favorite times of year to read and read and read. Days are shorter and there's something relaxing about curling up with a good book, cuppa something, and not feel pulled to be outside (as I so often am at other times of the year). Like any addiction, the more you turn to it, the more you crave it. So with already 7 books under my belt this year, I wanted to share some quick thoughts before I forget the things that made them so memorable. Outliers, The Anybodies, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, The Mysterious Benedict Society, Alabama Moon, The Cupcake Queen, A Reliable Wife.

Alabama Moon was surprisingly good--great book to recommend to boys who like Gary Paulsen or Holes. I read it and could envision it as a movie, did a quick internet search and found that it has already been made into a film w/John Goodman, but maybe hasn't been released yet! Cupcake Queen I read in a flash last night. It reminded me a bit of Sarah Dessen's books--but lighter and for younger girls. Loved all the bakery bits--my ideal job would be to run a bookstore/bakery. The Anybodies took me a bit to get into, but I really liked its quirkiness and the house made out of books. Loved that I could figure out almost every book she wove into the story. Guernsey and A Reliable Wife were both for my book group and they were great. Totally different from one another, but very enjoyable. Guernsey was unique in that it's all told in letters, and was a lighter read. A Reliable Wife really got under my skin and was disturbing and the rare example of a book where my dislike of the characters' actions didn't make me dislike the book or even the characters themselves. Finally, Outliers was the sole non-fiction selection and was excellent! I really found it engrossing and as a parent, I could apply some of the examples. More on that later...

Next on the bookshelf: Going Bovine (Printz award-winner for 2010), Half-Broke Horses, I am the Messenger, Vive la Paris.

Monday, January 11, 2010

2010 marches on

New year, new blog posting, loooooong overdue! How did I manage to go months without blogging here? I am big on beginnings, fresh starts, clean breaks and other such things that one reflects upon at the advent of a New Year. I am usually full of resolutions, most of which I fail to keep. Some are pedestrian fare (lose weight/exercise more) and others are simple: get outside for at least 15 minutes everyday. (in Pittsburgh with its very rainy weather this is sometimes easier said than done). But this year, I have decided to tackle something doable that will also hopefully make our family's life easier. The kids already tease me about it, but at least they're cognizant of it and, in their way, helping me keep to the commitment. I no longer want to go rushing around from place to place, feeling like we're going to be late. (And annoyingly, half the time that I rush around thinking we're going to be late, we arrive early and I feel I've wasted my energy!). So for the punctuality freak in me, I just want to stop that mad rush so we are easily on time to all the random appointments/rehearsals/lessons/services. Hmm..what do you think? It's working so far. Yeah, only 11 days in, but still that's better than I've done with some past resolutions.