Aug. 8th, 2011 09:30 pm
checkers65477: (Books Cats Sweet)
I haven't blogged about a book in ages, but this one was so good I feel compelled to mention it.

Pathfinder by Orson Scott Card )
checkers65477: (Books Cats Sweet)
I haven't written a book post in ages, but Chime by Franny Billingsley is so good that it deserves one.  Here is the review from Booklist:

*Starred Review* Since her stepmother's recent death, 17-year-old Briony Larkin knows that if she can keep two secrets--that she is a witch and that she is responsible for the accident that left Rose, her identical twin, mentally compromised--and remember to hate herself always, no other harm will befall her family in their Swampsea parsonage at the beginning of the twentieth century. The arrival of Mr. Clayborne, a city engineer, and his university-dropout son, Eldric, makes Briony's task difficult. Clayborne's plan to drain the swamp has made the Old Ones unhappy, particularly the Boggy Mun, who has plagued the village's children with swamp cough in retaliation. When Rose's lingering illness turns into a cough, Briony knows that she must do whatever it takes, even revealing her secrets, to save her sister. While thwarting the advances of an arsenic-addicted suitor, Briony must also deny her feelings for Eldric, even as he helps her solve the puzzle that has become her life. Exploring the powers of guilt and redemption, Billingsley (The Folk Keeper, 1999) has crafted a dark, chilling yet stunning world. Briony's many mysteries and occasional sardonic wit make her a force to be reckoned with. Exquisite to the final word. Grades 8-12. --Angela Leeper

Such lovely writing!  So much humor. 

" 'Us mixes wine an' bread, Mister Eldric, an' puts it round by the door an' by the windows so them Old Ones doesn't come creeping in.'
...Wine and bread.  This has always seemed rather ghoulish to me, as though one were smearing the threshold with Puree of Christ."

" 'I'm awfully tired,' I said.  'Can you be quick about it?'  Poor Cecil, consumed by a grande passion, only to be told to compress his love manifesto into a haiku.' "

"My mask was one great rumple.  It would need hours of smoothing."

Gosh.  Nice.

Creepy, suspenseful, satisfying, clever, complex.  I loved it.
checkers65477: (Books Cats Sweet)
Nothing like 20 hours in a car to force a person to finally crack open all those graphic novels sitting there.  
On to the graphic novels... )
checkers65477: (Default)
I've neglected listing the books I've read lately but wanted to tell about one that I just finished.  And loved.  Operation Yes, by Sara Lewis Holmes. 

Operation Yes )

It's definitely a lower-level book and PERFECT for sixth graders.  Oh, and it has a very cool librarian who, instead of swearing, says, "Green Eggs and Ham!" or "Frog and Toad!" or "Tuck Everlasting!"  :)

checkers65477: (Default)
I've had a lot of time for reading lately.  Nice.
Books! )
checkers65477: (Books Cats Sweet)
I have [ profile] tiegirl  to thank for several of my favorite books of the year.  Neither series is new, but both are ones I'll read again and again.  So good!

Psion, Catspaw and Dreamfall by Joan D. Vinge
The Truth Trap, Aren't You the One Who..., Losers and Winners and Cutting Loose by Frances A. Miller

[ profile] aged_crone  recommended the Miller books to me, too.  Thanks, ladies!  Unfortunately, some of them can be difficult to find, but my new best friend,, usually comes through for me.

Other favorites this year:

The Last Child - John Hart
The 9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation - Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colon
Fearless Fourteen - Janet Evanovich
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
To Say Nothing of the Dog - Connie Willis
Dairy Queen and The Off Season by Catherine Gilbert Murdock (reading the third book now)
Dragon Bones - Patricia Briggs
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks - E. Lockhart
The True Meaning of Smekday - Adam Rex
Stitches: A Memoir - David Small
Sand Chronicles v. 1 - Hinako Ashihara
Bad Moon on the Rise - Katy Munger
The Glass Castle - Jeannette Walls
A Conspiracy of Kings (arc) - Megan Whalen Turner

Most of these I reviewed in my LJ at some point.  Sixty-six books read, that's about average for me.  I used to read more before the shiny!internet addiction interfered.
checkers65477: (Thief by Avian)
I got hold of A Conspiracy of Kings.  I've read it--twice. 

All I'll say is that I loved it, and you will love it, too.

checkers65477: (Books Cats Sweet)
A few more quick reviews.

blah blah blah )
checkers65477: (Books Cats Sweet)
Few more quick book write-ups.  Two novels, two graphic novels.

Books, cats, sweet. )

checkers65477: (Default)
The GNs... )

Gah.  Mostly nonfiction left to read.  *procrastinates*

More Books

Oct. 17th, 2009 01:56 pm
checkers65477: (Books Cats Sweet)
I'm grateful to [ profile] emmaco for her review of Adam Rex's The True Meaning of Smekday, because it reminded me that I'd wanted to read it.  I loved every page of it and will enthusiastically recommend it to every kid I see.  I think I'll get it for my 13-year-old niece for Christmas, too.

This review from the NY Times is much better than anything I could write, but I'll add that I laughed my way through the entire book.  It's crazy and hilarious, and one that I'll want to reread from time to time.

I finally got my hands on Dragon Blood by Patricia Briggs, the sequel to Dragon Bones.  MWT recommended these, and they're very good.  I liked the first book better than the second, but both were a lot of fun, with characters you come to love, a cool fantasy world, and thoroughly evil antagonists.

checkers65477: (Default)
Stitches: a memoir by David Small deserves the National Book Award nomination it received this week.  When I first read the blurb on the back of the book:

One day David Small awoke from a supposedly harmless operation to discover that he had been transformed into a virtual mute. A vocal cord removed, his throat slashed and stitched together like a bloody boot, the fourteen-year-old boy had not been told that he had throat cancer and was expected to die. Small, a prize-winning children’s author, re-creates a life story that might have been imagined by Kafka. Readers will be riveted by his journey from speechless victim, subjected to X-rays by his radiologist father and scolded by his withholding and tormented mother, to his decision to flee his home at sixteen with nothing more than dreams of becoming an artist.

...I thought Yeesh, don't wanna read this don't wanna.  But it's less grim and more pragmatic than you would think, as things from a child's perspective often are.  So well done and not overly emotional.  It doesn't hit you over the head with the horribleness or unfairness--most of that is conveyed subtly in the illustrations, not in the text.  The story alternates between anger and pain and a child's longing.  The illustrations are almost abstract in places but always identifiable.  Fabulous 50s tone to it all.  David's face is often a taut mask--wary, apprehensive and filled with defensive anger.  Perfect.  But his pain is obvious.  One page, at a critical part in the story, has a shadow that caught me--is it a Rorschach inkblot?  One of those optical illusions that change perspective as you look at it differently?  Nothing is emotionalized, but the story is raw and bizarre.  That's one whacked-out family.  Highly recommend this one for HS and adult.

Cairo: a graphic novel by G. Willow Wilson and M. K. Perker--I'm not sure yet how I feel about this one.  I'll need to think about it for awhile.  It has a complex story that includes several sets of characters and story lines that overlap--characters who include a drug-smuggler, a would-be suicide bomber, a clueless, spoiled American, an Israeli soldier, and a jinn who lives in a hookah. 

The details of Cairo and the politics, history and religion of the area are well done--you are immersed in the setting.  The story is part fantasy, part current event and this mix works.  It's action-packed and thought-provoking.  The art is great--black and white, realistically done.  It reminded me a little of the Raiders of the Lost Ark movies and would appeal to teens who like adventure stories.  The book has quite a lot of swearing and violence.  Definitely HS. 

Ack, tired.  More tomorrow.


Aug. 6th, 2009 05:13 pm
checkers65477: (Books Cats Sweet)
A short book post, to get caught up.  So short I'm not going to bother with a cut.  Sorry, f-list.

A few weeks ago I read Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock and found it delightful. D. J. Schwenk is an unlikely main character heroine.  She lives on a dairy farm in Wisconsin and--almost single-handedly--keeps the farm going after her father hurts his hip.  Her two older brothers, both HS football stars, are at college, her mom is a school principal, and her younger brother helps when he's not busy with sports of his own.  D.J is a solitary, silent girl but we're in her head so we hear her thoughts about life and family.  Her older brothers had a falling-out with her parents and she misses them terribly, she's a big girl who considers herself unattractive, she's secretly resentful of the never-ending work on a dairy farm, and she has a crush on Brian--the star quarterback of the rival high school.  Her dad hires Brian to help out on the farm, and soon D.J. finds herself in a pact to help Brian in his conditioning and training to prepare for the upcoming football season.  And why not?  She helped her brothers all those years and is a decent football player herself.

I wouldn't have thought I'd be interested in a book with a lot of cow-milking and football.  But the characters reeled me in and I rooted for D. J. all the way.  She made Brian into a better person than he was before, and took the first steps towards communicating with her family and finding her place in the world.  I've heard the second book, The Off Season, is even better than the first and I'll be reading it as soon as I can.

On my trip I read A Compact History of Ireland by Sarah Healy because it didn't take me long to realize how ignorant I was about the country.  It's sort of the Cliff Notes of Irish history and though it's written in a very scholarly way, it was interesting enough and gave me a quick, basic understanding of the country's ancient history, the relationship between the Irish and British, and the Catholics and Protestants.

I slogged through Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner but it wasn't the book for me.  Enough said.

Carry on, Jeeves was a reread but I enjoyed it as much as the first time.  Arrow Books has reissued P.G. Wodehouse's books in the UK, in paperback with perfect new covers.  I laughed at every silly story and each clever sentence. 

I'm so sorry I put off reading Connie Willis's To Say Nothing of the Dog all these years.  I'd looked for it half-heartedly in libraries and used bookstores but if you haven't read it go RIGHT NOW to a bookstore or Amazon and get it.  Quickly.  It's hard to describe--it involves time travel, Oxford University, WW ll, and the Victorian Age, which all sounds like a bizarre combination, but it works and is hilarious.  I haven't had so much fun reading a book in ages.


Jun. 23rd, 2009 09:08 pm
checkers65477: (Books Cats Sweet)
Yes, another YA graphic novel.  The 9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation by Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colon.  I'd been putting off reading this one, but now that I have...


I put it off because it's nonfiction, and based on the actual >500 pg. report, and it deals with a topic that still makes me sad and mad.  But I read it in a day, hardly putting it down until I finished.  The first 25 pages suck you in with a timeline of the four planes and the drama as they take off and are seized by the hijackers.  This section ends with all four planes crashing. 

The rest of the book goes through the 9/11 report:  who the terrorists were, how they accomplished what they did, who was behind them and why, mistakes that were made, the bravery of the rescuers, how the government reacted, etc.  Key players are described and the politics behind all aspects are explained in an easy-to-understand, fascinating way. 

The art is clear and realistic; it melds perfectly with the non-emotional text.  Drawings of the people involved are almost photo-like.

Sometimes nonfiction is just as chilling as any horror story you might find in the fiction section.

Edited to add two pages of the sequential art.
The art )


Jun. 22nd, 2009 11:49 pm
checkers65477: (Beach)
The latest YA graphic novel I've read is Beowulf by Gareth Hinds.

A lush, dark and violent adaptation of the poem, Beowulf comes across like an ancient  superhero, which, I suppose, he was.  The story is easy to understand while it keeps the tone and feel of the original.  The illustrations really are works of art and capture all the battle scenes in wordless panels that tell the story without a need for narration.

From the author's website:
The three sections of Beowulf are done in different materials. Part 1 is drawn with ink using a dip pen and brush, then colored digitally.

Part 2 is drawn and painted on wood panels using technical pen, watercolor, acrylic, and color pencil.

Part 3 is drawn like part 1, but colored using Dr. Martin's dye and white charcoal.

This would be a great introduction to the poem for high school students who will be reading it, or an easier version for lower-level students who might not be able to handle the original work.  It's bloody enough that it's not meant for younger kids but I have a copy in my MS library for anyone who might feel ready to take on an entertaining version of the epic poem.

checkers65477: (Books Cats Sweet)
Third YA graphic novel.

Pedro and Me: Friendship, Loss, and What I Learned by cartoonist Judd Winick is a true story of Winick's stint on the MTV show Real World and his friendship with AIDS activist Pedro Zamora.  The two young men were roommates on the show and the book describes how the author became close friends with Pedro, who was HIV positive and becoming ill with AIDS.  It's written in a chatty, story-telling way; including everything from descriptions of the two characters's childhoods, to innane small talk as they got to know one another, to valuable factual information on HIV that's woven seamlessly into the story.  It's deeply personal and the author doesn't pull any punches about his ignorance and fear, or about what Pedro went through in his last year or so.  It's all told in a matter-of-fact way, with cartoon-looking people in a realistic, beautifully detailed setting.  Winick doesn't make Pedro a saint or a demon--just a dear friend who could have done anything with the rest of his life but chose to educate people about AIDS, who had a huge impact on his life, and died far too young.  At 22, in fact.

"He left this world a better place than he found it.  That's the greatest accomplishment a person could have in this life."

This book should be in every high school library.  I read it in just a couple of hours, but it'll stay with me for awhile.

checkers65477: (Books Cats Sweet)
Number two of the YA graphic novels I'm reading is Castle Waiting by Linda Medley.   It's a compilation of shorter comics into a hefty, 457-pg book that appears to be a novel until you open it.  It even has a bookmark ribbon and lovely, old fashioned endpapers.  Castle Waiting is a fairy tale with lots of modern twists.  

What do you suppose happened after Sleeping Beauty woke up?  In this story she waves goodbye to family and friends and takes off with her handsome prince.  After many years, the castle she left behind is a run-down sanctuary for those in trouble or with no place else to go.  People like Jain, who is pregnant and fleeing an abusive husband, Henry, whose son has died, Peace, the nun of the strange Solicitine Order, and others who run the castle and welcome all those who need it.  The book is a delightful, funny, fantasy fairy tale with intricate, straightforward graphics.  It's obvious the book is made up of lots of shorter stories added together and my only complaint is that it focused so much on Peace and the nuns that I never discovered everyone else's story.  If there are lots more volumes in store, then I'll look forward to them and finding out the details of every character's past, as well as what happens in the here and now at Castle Waiting.

Although there 's nothing objectionable in the book, it will appeal to older girls who want a story with grrrl power.  Very few kids at the middle school would sit still for it, so I'd recommend it for HS and up.

checkers65477: (Books Cats Sweet)
I'm reading YA graphic novels, something new for me.

The graphic novel Skim by cousins Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki tells the story of 16 year old Kim, a pudgy, quiet, half-Asian girl who attends an all-girl school in Canada.

Several story lines are included--Kim's home life with bitter, divorced parents, the cliquish "popular" students at school, Kim's goth/wiccan interests, and an inappropriate relationship with her eccentric English teacher that leaves Kim feeling depressed.  Kim eventually develops a friendship with another fragile classmate whose boyfriend has killed himself because he was gay. Yeah, it's a dark book that had me saying "yeesh" at first. As I read I became more and more attached to Kim, who seems unaffected and wooden to those around her, but whose diary reveals to the reader what she's really feeling. She's a smart, strong girl who knows deep down that her friend Lisa is a rat, the popular kids are insecure, the wiccans she meets with are frauds, and that her teacher has crossed lines that she shouldn't. By the end of the book I liked it very much.

I was bothered a bit by the language and some of the content--it's definitely for older teens.  Yet I wonder how teens would feel about it--it seems like a book that might appeal more to adults who remember the awful days of high school.

The illustrations are brilliant. Everything is contemporary yet resembles ancient Japanese illustrations. Nothing about the art is "beautiful" yet it's powerful.  Skim is everything sequential art should be--the text and art meld perfectly and are more than the sum of its parts.
checkers65477: (Books Cats Sweet)
I just finished The Last Child by John Hart and practically ran to the computer to blog about it.  I liked it that much.

Read more... )

Author John Hart calls himself a "recovering attorney" and he's been compared to John Grisham and Scott Turow.  This book reminded me of The Client.  But I liked this better.  The book debuted at number 10 on the NY Times bestseller list this week.  Hart's first book was nominated for an Edgar for best new author and his second, Down River, won an Edgar for best mystery.

checkers65477: (English)
I had the pleasure of meeting author David Lubar a while back and was the lucky recipient of an advance copy of his new book My Rotten Life, the first in a new series called Nathan Abercrombie, Accidental Zombie.   I'm a huge fan of Sleeping Freshman Never Lie and this new book is sort of like Sleeping Freshman for the elementary group, which means it's funny and it cleverly pokes fun at kids's quest for popularity.  And the main character becomes a zombie!  What's not to like?

Nathan has had a bad day.  His crush made a point of telling him he's not invited to her Halloween party, he didn't get picked for any of the teams in gym class, and he tanked at the popular video game, making him a Loser.  He doesn't think his day can get any worse, but boy is he wrong.  In a science experiment gone wrong, Nathan is soaked with a chemical that kills off parts of him in a zombie-like way.  Doncha hate it when that happens?

He has to hide his new abilities from his parents (he doesn't have a heartbeat, or need to eat, sleep or breathe) and work with his friends to concoct an antidote before he's completely changed forever.  Amongst all the fun, Nathan and his friends (and even some of his enemies) learn to be kinder and less obsessed with their social standing.  There are lots of clever little jokes--the gym teachers are Mr. Lomux and Ms. Gristle, the art teacher is Mr. Dorian, they go to Belgosi Upper Elementary (Bela Legosi, anyone?) and another school is Borloff Lower (hello-Boris Karloff?).   At the end of the book Nathan has to make a choice and things are resolved for now--not exactly in the way he expected--but the setup is there for the next book in the series.

Nathan's descriptions of the quirks of the other kids and his parents made me laugh throughout the book, and it's just gross enough that my 9 year old nephew will love it.  It will appeal to older kids, too--though the characters are in 5th grade, the kids seemed older to me and I can see 6-7 graders liking it, too. 

I got to hear Mr. Lubar read some of his short stories and his delivery was amazing and hilarious.  As I read My Rotten Life I kept hearing him telling the story, and that added to the fun.  I expect this book will be a big hit with the kids at my school--as are most all of his other books.

This book will be available in August.


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