Thursday, December 24, 2009

How to Say Goodbye in Robot - by Natalie Standiford

WOW!!!!! This book was amazing.  I saw that Reading Rants said this was probably her favorite of the year, and I can totally see why.  It's that good. 

The Lowdown:  
Beatrice has moved around a lot.  Her dad is a biology professor, and he's always looking for a new school, new grants, new programs.  Her senior year of high school, they pack up to move from Ithaca to Baltimore.  She's used to it and doesn't really have all that many emotions about moving.  She'll do school, graduate, and move on.  She's a robot girl...nothing there.  At her new school she meets the normal girls, chipper and perky, but robot girl feels a new connection with Jonah - ghost boy.  Neither Bea nor Jonah is the happiest person in the world, but together, they click.  They  tune in to a late night radio show called Night Lights, and their friendships begins.  No one really gets them,  but that's just the great part about it...they don't care.  What they've found is friendship at its best.  But all friendships and relationships go through rough times.  Jonah tunes out sometimes.  He finds out some crazy information about his dead brother, and Bea wants to help him through.  Read to find out how this unique relationship survives, grows, and changes through their senior year. 

What I Liked:
I LOVED every moment of this book and didn't want it to end!  The characters, Bea and Jonah, as well as all the supporting characters are amazing.  The story is unique and I was pulled in immediately.  I loved the radio show.  Uplifting and heartbreaking at the same time, these characters will stay with me for a long time.  I haven't felt this attached to anyone since Octavian Nothing.

Read This If...
You want a true, unique story about love and friendship.
You've ever given of yourself to a relationship.
You've ever been loved and hurt by someone.
You want to have your world rocked by this amazing book!!!!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Love is the Higer Law - by David Levithan

The Lowdown: 
I've never been to New York city, and I will certainly never know what it must have been like to be in NY on September 11, 2001.  But David Levithan's book Love is the Higher Law shows what the experience was like for three teens there when it happened.  This book shows glimpses into the lives of three teens on and after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center on 9-11.  Claire was at school and went to get her little brother immediately after it happened.  Peter had actually skipped school that day to get the new Bob Dylan CD at Tower Records.  And Jasper actually slept through it all and didn't wake up until noon that day.  All three had very different experiences and reactions to the events.  Afterwards they have lots to deal with and think about.  As  time passes, the stories of these three intersect.  What mattered before doesn't matter now, and they rely on each other to make sense of the world as they knew it and the world as it is for them now. 

What I Liked: 
Mainly I just like that Levithan is tackling this subject.  In his afterword to the book he says that not as many books have been written about 9/11 as he would have thought.  As each year passes, the memory of the attack becomes more distant.  Today's freshmen in high school were around 6 when 9/11 happened.  This is a great book to show what it was like for teenagers experiencing the tragedy in their own backyards.  It's important to understand grief and feelings and how we are all affected by things like this.  The book shows how each kid deals with it differently and that no one way to view the tragedy or deal with it is right or wrong...they just are.  I liked that Levithan focused on the kids and their stories as opposed to the details of the day.  This book is really real and really important as we still continue to make sense of our country and its history.  The characters in the book come together to help one another.  Hopefully as they wonder, we can always do that in our world:
Wouldn't it be wonderful if we really came together, if we really found common humanity?  The hitch is that you can't find a common humanity just because you have a common enemy.  You have to find a common humanity because you believe that it's true.
I love this idea.  And even though it's been a while since 9/11, we are still living in a world that is forever changed because of it...war, fear, government power...Levithan's book helped me look forward and try to keep this positive idea in mind:  that people can be good and helpful and that maybe out of pain we can create a better world.

Read This If...
You'd like to experience life in NY.
You want to read about relationships.
You can handle taking another look at the attacks on 9/11.
You want to believe that "love is the higher law."
You want to read about friendships.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Charles and Emma by Deborah Heiligman

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The Lowdown:  When Charles Darwin got back from his voyage on the Beagle, he was in his twenties and had a very important decision to make.  Marry or Not to Marry??  He made a chart and started to think about the pros and cons of each side.  Charles and Emma by Deborah Heiligman begins here as Charles decides that having a wife would be better than a dog....and he begins his search for a "constant companion."  He decides to get to know Emma Wedgewood.  Charles has seen and learned so much over the last few years that his ideas about life and religion, in particular, have changed.  He doesn't know if he believes in the God that most others do.  He sees the world in a different way.  Will Emma be able to understand his doubts and love him anyway?  She grew up on a "free and liberal household," but will it be enough?  Charles and Emma embark on a life-long journey of love, life, loss, and learning together.  There story keeps Charles grounded as he works on his theories.  This book is just as much science as it is love...and both work together magically.

What I Liked:
Mainly, I loved this story.  I know and think about Charles Darwin only when I think of his theories, but there's so much more to the life of this man than many people know.  I love that this book exists to show young people and all readers this side of Charles.  He truly is a fascinating character.  While my husband is a science major and lover, I have been interested to learn more about Darwin from what he reads.  I hope that this book will interest young readers especially to learn more about Darwin and the fascinating life he led.

I loved the way that Deborah Heiligman wove primary sources into her story.  Cuttings from letters, papers, and journals are seamlessly woven throughout the entire story, which made her writing historically accurate and real for me.  None of the quotes got in the way of the "story" of this book either; they all served to support what was happening and make Charles and Emma even more real to me.  I loved seeing that some of the things they wrote about seemed so real and normal for people today.  Even though they lived a long time ago in a world very different from ours, their inner feelings, thoughts, and doubts are much the same as people today experience.  We can learn a lot by looking at their story.  I was also intrigued by how their journals (Emma's especially) were very "twittery" to me.  With twitter and Facebook, we record our lives in snippets of text, just like she did.  They kept track of their journey together just as we do online...the ups and downs, the celebrations, the sadness.

I also loved that this is a very honest story full of love.  Real love...not just physical attraction or "crush" love.  But real, enduring companionship.  This love story isn't a fairy tale.  There was no crazy wedding or reception.  No dramatic engagement story....just two people working it out and making a life together by respecting and supporting each other.  I think this is a very real look into what a marriage should be:  "solid land in the tumultuous seas." 

Read This If...
You like historical stories.
You like science.
You like love.
You like biographies.
You want a story of companionship.
You want to read about lifes ups and downs.
You want to see a picture of how science and love work together.
You want to know a personal side of Charles Darwin.
You want to travel to a different time and place...the England of Jane Austen and Charles Darwin.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Ophelia - by Lisa Klein

The Lowdown
Experience Hamlet in a completely new way by reading Lisa Klein's Ophelia.  Whether you know and love the Shakespeare play or not, this book is sure to please.  Beginning when Ophelia is just a young  girl, Klein shows us what it was like to grow up at court in Denmark's Elsinore.  Ophelia leaves her father and brother to tend and wait on Queen Gertrude.  While at court, she catches the eye and heart of the young, handsome, dark-haired Prince Hamlet.  They meet in secret and swear their love.  Can this love between them stay strong and keep them grounded, though, as Denmark rots all around them?  When Hamlet learns of his father's death and sees a ghost, he begins to focus on his own mind and not Ophelia.  We all think we know Ophelia.  She went made because her father died.  But that might not be the case...Read to hear this classic story finally from Ophelia's point of view. 

What I Liked
This is a real love story but it's not too overly romantic.  I loved watching the relationship between Hamlet and Ophelia develop and grow.  In the play, you don't get to focus on Ophelia too much because the character of Hamlet always takes center stage.  Here, though, the relationship blossoms before your eyes and you understand what these two characters were like together.  Ophelia is a smart girl, but she deals with many love issues just like kids today.  One night while reading with the Queen, the Queen tells Ophelia,
I think that she must be cruel if she wants to be loved....for once a lady succumbs to the man's desire, he rejects her as unworthy of it.
 Ophelia, hearing this, worries about the love she has shown her Prince.  She questions herself,
Because I showed my love to Hamlet, would his ardor diminish?  Was love like a hunger, easily satisfied by feeding?  Or did it grow by what it fed on?  Should I have withheld my kisses and thus increased his appetite for them?
 This book did a great job just showing what all the characters were going through.  Klein's story is believable and exciting.  I do know a lot about the play, so I also loved seeing lines in the book that I recognized from the play.

Read This If...
You want to hear what Ophelia has to say...finally!
You like classic love stories.
You like historical fiction.
You like making connections to the stuff you read (or have read) in English class!
You want to read a story about a kick-butt girl.

Grade:  A-

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Going Bovine by Libba Bray

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The Lowdown
Cameron Smith is a (sort of) normal teenager. He stays semi-aware of what’s going on around him and occasionally hangs out in the “smokers lounge” bathroom in his school. That is until he starts to have some crazy-mad hallucinations. When fire giants appear out of nowhere and chase you around, something is definitely wrong.

Cam’s parents think he’s on drugs, and Cameron hasn’t a clue what’s going on. All he knows is that he’s seeing some crazy stuff and he doesn’t feel too hot. The doctors finally tell him that he had Mad Cow Disease...not what your average teenager expects to hear.

From this moment on, Cameron’s life journey gets really exciting, scary, and crazy all at the same time. Unexpectedly, he teams up with Gonzo, a little person who games constantly and always thinks he’s dying. Determined not to let mad cow get the best of him, and also determined to save the world, Cameron and Gonzo start off on the mother of all road trips. They go to New Orleans to hang out with dead jazz artist, end up living for a while in a “happiness” cult, and spend spring break at the Party House!! They also learn about and contemplate human existence, string theory, and many other philosophies. Climb into Cameron’s mind and into his car to take the journey of a lifetime.

What I Liked
In the most hilarious way, Bray’s book makes us look deep at ourselves and what we do in the world. The teens at the party house are insane and just want to be on television. The kids at the happiness cult don’t want anything bad to every happen to anyone. So many of the adventures that Cameron and Gonzo go on show humans at their most interesting. For example, while the two are at the happiness cult, where everyone wants to keep his/her happiness at the max all the time, Cameron tries to check out a book...The library girl tells him, “You can turn it in at the end of the week. Or whenever, really. It’s just a formality. We find that requiring things of people and making them responsible is a big drag, and that is so not happy. Enjoy!” I found myself always laughing out loud at the sardonic wit of many of Bray’s characters and the complete and utter idiocy of others. All these people together made for a very interesting ride.

I also really loved that all of Bray’s plot lines and ideas really came together in interesting ways as I read. So much craziness is thrown about during this road trip, yet Bray kept control of it all and it, somehow, all made perfect sense when I was done...or as much sense as it could.

Read this if...
You want a fun ride.
You want to go on a road trip.
You want to meet Baldar, son of Odin, a great Norse god...and party with him!
You want to laugh at crazy people.
You want to save the world from a black hole.
You want to think about why we’re here and what this crazy life is all about.

Grade: A-

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle

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I teach Hamlet to my seniors at school, and so I had to read The Story of Edgar Sawtelle so I could see how this wonderful, celebrated book connected to one of my favorite Shakespeare plays.

This book tells the story of a young boy, Edgar, who is mute. He signs to his parents, Gar and Trudy, who live with him on their farm. They breed and train their own breed of dogs simply known as Sawtelle dogs. Gar, Edgar's father, is intrigued by dogs and is trying to create a dog that is a wonderful, attentive, and trained companion. Edgar and his mother help with the dogs and all is well on their farm...until Edgar's uncle, Claude shows up. Claude is mysterious and clearly has problems with Gar, his older brother. Edgar watches and listens, but when his father dies suddenly one night, Edgar's world is turned upside down....he suspects his uncle but doesn't know what to do.

The story that follows is about how Edgar deals with his father's death with the dogs at his side. He observes and makes his own moves.

I really loved this book. It took me a while to get through, but I also really wanted to make sure to give it all the time it deserved. While I was intrigued by the adult characters, I mostly loved being with Edgar and in his mind. I loved thinking as he thought and seeing the world through his eyes. Another perspective I also appreciated and loved was the point of view of Almondine, the Sawtelle's dog. I felt that the author clearly showed what the dog was thinking and feeling.

I think that this book can appeal to YA lovers, because at it's heart, it is a story about a boy and his dogs. It's also a classic Hamlet retelling in which a son seeks to revenge his father's death. If you know Hamlet, you will love this book and enjoy making connections between the two. I hope that some of my students will choose this book when we do our fiction project with Hamlet. We'll see!
Edgar Sawtelle

TONS OF GREAT BOOKS! My recent favs...

So....I have read so much this summer and since school started, that I have decided to just give a quick run down of my recent reads and recommendations. I usuall prefer to do a longer post about each book, but it's been a while since I read some of these. I will get back to posting regularly now that I am caught up. So here they recent picks.
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins - This is the second book in The Hunger Games trilogy. It picks up right where book one left off, and is FULL of surprises. We follow Katniss back home to District 12 where she is now a celebrity. Life should be easier now that she's won the games, but it's not. If you haven't read either of these books, you's my favorite new series since Harry Potter. I love these characters. The books are so exciting, too.
Inexcusable by Chris Lynch This book is short but really powerful. Told from the point of view of Keir Safafian, a star footbal player, Inexcusable is the story of a "good guy" who has been accused of doing a "bad thing." Keir's girlfriend is upset with him and as the story unfolds you have to see what you believe. What really happened? Keir says he would never hurt his girlfriend, Gigi, but no one really knows what happened. Read this book to see what Keir remembers and if he did, in fact, do somethin that is inexcusable.

Notes from the Dog by Gary Paulsen Gary Paulsen is one of the greatest kids' writers ever! My students love Hatchet and all the Brian books, but Paulsen's new stuff is really amazing and great too. His books are short but packed with realistic characters and powerful stories. Notes from the Dog is about 15 year Finn, who is a regular kid...not that cool, but not really that bad. He sort of thinks he's a loser, but he's a little too hard on himself, I think. Anyway, Finn lives with his dad and also another kid from his school, Matthew. Matthew is actually cool and is staying with Finn because Matt's parents got divorced and he's not ready to move yet. Dylan, the dog (named after Bob Dylan...who's mentioned in the book) is always around, too. These two guys hang out and their summer suddenly gets much more interesting when a 20-something college student named Johanna moves in. She is really nice to the boys and genuinely interested in getting to know them while she house sits next door for the summer. She also happens to be battle breast cancer. Johanna and the boys and the dog become great friends. She asks Finn to make a garden for her as a project for the summer. This story is a great one about a unique and powerful friendship. I loved every word. What makes it even better is that these people are so real. Finn is a regular kid and I loved getting to read this story about him. A really great book for all, and it deals with cancer, too...but in a good way. It might be good for kids who have experienced situations like this in their real lives.

Deadline by Chris Crutcher This story blew me away, and I learned a lot about football reading this book. Ben Wolf is ready for his senior year of high school to begin. During a routine sports physical, though, he gets some shocking news from his doctor - He is going to die. This year. Ben is 18 years old, though, and he decides then and there that he is going to live a normal senior year. He decides not to tell his parents, and his doctor honors his wishes. So Ben sets off to do everything he wants. He goes out for the football team, asks out the love of his life, and begins working on experiencing what life has to offer. Can he keep it up forever? What will happen if/when he gets sick? I loved this book. It's great for all ages, girls and guys, and Ben and his brother Cody are great guys that I loved reading about.
Little Brother by Cory Doctorow - This book is the most amazing techno-geek book ever! It follows Marcus, a smart, normal computer geeky kid around San Francisco. When terrorists attack the Bay Bridge one day while Marcus and his friends are skipping school, they get pick up by the Department of Homeland Security and aren't heard from for days. What happened while they were being held captive? Did their parents know that they were safe? What did they even do, anyway? After they are released, Marcus sees that the city he loves is not the same. No one has any privacy and DHS officers are following your every move. This book shows what Marcus and friends did to take back their city.
When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead Even though this book is more of a middle reader level, I loved it. If you read and loved A Wrinkle in Time, you should read this book. It is about a girl named Miranda and her best friend Sal. One day Sal quits talking to Miranda, and her entire life begins to change. She also finds a note that says, "I am coming to save your friend's life, and my own. I ask two favors. First you must write me a letter." Miranda has no idea what to do, but thinks and plans, and reads more of the letters. This was a fun story about friends and time.
Castration Celebration by Jake Wizner Wizner's Spanking Shakespeare is one of the funniest books ever and a personal favorite of mine. When I saw that Wizner had a new book out, I bought it immediately. It's a great battle of the sexes story involving Olivia, a girl who has sworn off guys to write a musical, and Max, the "it" guy who always gets the girl and is oh so wonderful and handsome. Olivia is upset because she caught her dad cheating on her mom with one of his college students, and so she wants to work on her musical revenge masterpiece over the summer at Yale art camp. Max is there to hone his acting skills. This book goes back and forth between Olivia's musical and the regular narration. I loved it. Not quite as funny as Spanking Shakespeare, but a really good read. The songs in her musical are hilarious.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork

Marcelo is 17 and getting ready to begin his senior year. Marcelo is different from others. He hears music during the everyday moments of his life, and he sees the world in a different way from some people. He is diagnosed as having Asperger's syndrome. He has attended a special school throughout his life and has worked in the stables at his school taking care of the horses during the summer.

Marcelo is very intelligent and his father thinks that it is time for Marcelo to stop working at his school and move out into the real world. He wants Marcelo to work in his law firm mail room for the summer so that Marcelo can see what the world is really like outside of his school. Marcelo's experience in the mailroom brings him into contact with a lovely young woman named Jasmine. Jasmine is a spunky young lady, and she shows Marcelo the ropes. During this summer at the law firm, we follow Marcelo at his job and experience the world as he experiences it. He is disturbed when he one day finds a picture of a girl whose face is destroyed on one side. He becomes determined to find out what happened to this girl and to help her if he can. His search will show him more of the real world that he even knows.

This book was GREAT. First, it's wonderful to read. I loved Marcelo's voice as a narrator. He was honest, and I knew he was reporting things to me in a truthful way. He worked out issues in his head and as the reader, you just got to follow along and see how he came to the conclusions that he came to. I felt like when I was reading Marcelo and seeing the world through his eyes, that I was seeing the world in a more pure way. He hasn't been tainted by hurt, and cruelty, and many of the sad things in the world, and I saw with fresh eyes when reading this book.

The characters in this book are all wonderfully written, too. I felt that they were all good people, even if the book showed a bad side of them. People in real life are complicated. You may trust someone and then they hurt you. It's hard to reconcile these feelings, but that's life. Life is full of contradictions, and Marcelo finds this out as he interacts with all the other characters in the book, good and bad.

I think this book is a must read for everyone, young adults and adults. It's a great story with a memorable character. We all can learn a lot from Marcelo.

Grade: A

Monday, August 3, 2009

The Luxe by Anna Godberson

So, honestly, as a grown-up, I felt a little guilty for picking up The Luxe at the bookstore, but I really loved that dress on the cover!  I was hoping for some turn of the century, gossip-girl-like drama, and that is exactly what I got with this book.

The Luxe takes place in 1899 in Manhattan, and it was really fun to be taken back to the times when people "called" upon one another and attended fabulous parties.   Not that people don't attend parties now, but back then the parties were different.

The main characters are Elizabeth and Diana Holland, two New York sisters who are very much at the center of the social scene in Manhattan.  Elizabeth has been away in Europe, and her return starts the action of the story.  She and her sister have to appear to have lots of money, when the  truth is that  they have none.  Their father died and since then their mother has had to pay off his large debts, leaving the girls with nothing but their reputations....kind of reminds me of Rose and her mother in the movie Titanic.  With this knowledge weighing on her, Elizabeth has to play her part well and try to find a good match.  The wonderful and rich Henry Schoonmaker is single and a great catch that girls would die for. The only problem is that she sort of loves someone else...

Of course there must be a bad girl to add to this mix, and that's where Elizabeth's friend Penelope comes in.  Penelope is the wild girl (reminds me of Blair on Gossip Girl) and she always makes sure things are stirred up.

So against this backdrop, the girls, the guys, and the parents all try to match each other up.

I like the writing style of this book.  It was easy to read, but unique, too, because Godberson starts each chapter off with a little "real life snippet" of something:  a letter, a newspaper article, a line from the gossip column of the paper...and then the chapter starts from there.  Each chapter is focused on one of the girls, too, so you get to see things from each girls point of view.

I really enjoyed the book.  I did sort of figure out how things would unfold before they did, but it was ok, and still a fun book to read.  I did get the sequel, Rumors, and plan to read it soon.  All in all a fun book with old school girl drama, which, really, isn't that different from the girl drama of today.  I recommend this book to readers who are interested in drama, relationships, and love.

Grade:  B

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Nothing makes me madder than when people are mean to a sweet orphaned child.  Cinderella was treated badly.  Harry Potter had to sleep in the cupboard under the stairs.  We read these stories all the time.  Jane Eyre begins just like many of them, with a young girl struggling to live in a house where no one loves her.  Her parents are dead, her aunt hates having to take care of her, and her cousins are mean bullies. 

But somehow, Jane makes it.  This story was amazing.  I will admit that I tried to read this book twice before I actually got through it, but I loved every step of the way.  It's not as easy to zip through a classics as it is to read, say, The Luxe, but it's very rewarding.  

Jane moves from her aunt's house to a school called Lowood.  Lowood is home to other orphan girls, and here Jane gets an education and actually makes a friend or two.  The reader then follows Jane on the journey of her life.  Jane moves on and finds herself eventually as a young woman traveling to Thornfield Hall to be a governess to a bubbly young girl named Adele.  

Thornfield Hall is creepy.  Old and sort of empty, Jane wonders about the people who live and work there.  She doesn't meet the master of the house, and the servants say he doesn't come around a lot.  There are strange screams and cries and laughter that Jane hears, too, which concern her a bit.  Once Jane becomes a resident at Thornfield, though, her life will never be the same.  

I definitely recommend this book.  I really loved it.  It's a gothic novel and has spooky settings and situations.  There's a little mystery, and even more, there's love.  Ghosts and love in one book is a lot of fun.  The language was great, and I really got to know and like Jane as a person. She is calm and humble, and I learned a lot by watching her deal with all kinds of people.  

Grade:  A

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Back with My Summer Reading List

Wow, I have completely neglected my book blogging this summer.  I have read a lot, though.  I am going to have many reviews of my summer books coming in the next few days.  Here's what I have read and will share:
The Luxe
Jane Eyre
The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing Volume II -  The Kingdom on the Waves
Catching Fire
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Marcelo in the Real World
I still have about two real, full weeks of summer vacation left, so I plan to read lots more before school starts, and I always read lots even during the school year.  

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Absolutely Maybe - by Lisa Yee

Absolutely Maybe was GREAT!  It is a road trip to Los Angeles and fun when you're there. 

Maybe is a young girl who has one heck of a mother.  Chessy, Maybe's mom, could have been Miss America.  She had all kinds of beauty queen titles in her past and runs a charm school in Florida where they live.  Maybe isn't one of the pageant girls, though, and wears jeans and extra large Hanes beefy tees instead of girlie clothes.  One thing that Maybe's mom also has had a lot of--husbands.  She's been married tons but not to Maybe's father.  When Chessy hurts maybe one to many times, Maybe decides she must go out on her own and find her father and herself.  Her friend Hollywood is headed to go to college at USC film school, so Maybe, Hollywood, and their crazy friend Ted hit the road and drive to LA.

Life in LA isn't that easy though.  After they tour around and see all the main attractions, Maybe and Ted realize they will need jobs if they are going to survive.  Ted strikes a great job (and starts wearing platform shoes...) but Maybe isn't so lucky.  This book tells about what these kids do in LA and how Maybe goes about trying to find her father.

This book was so funny.  The characters are all original personalities.  Maybe, Hollywood, Ted, Jess, and the rest, are all so real.  Each character is fully developed and all of their stories work well together.  What's more...this book involves a taco truck and lots in great info about tacos and taco trucks.  I absolutely loved Absolutely Maybe.

Grade: A

If I Stay - by Gayle Forman

Wow.  First, I have to say I really, really loved this book.  It's short (196 pages) but packed full of so much.  Ups and downs; funny parts, sweet parts, sad parts; goods and bads; friends and family--it's amazing.  

Mia is a 17 year old girl who is a cello genius.  She loves music and music runs in her family, although none of them are into classical music.  She has friends at school and a really talented boyfriend, Adam, who went to school with her but is away at college now.  He also tours with is band which is making it big right now.  Mia loves her family and has decisions to make:  stay with Adam, go to Julliard, etc...but no decision is bigger than the one she has to make unexpectedly one day when her family is in a devastating car accident.  A

After the accident, Mia find herself looking down at her own body watching from the outside.  As she gets flown off in a helicopter, she keeps watching and has to decided if she stays or not.  The book tells  the story of Mia and her decision.  Flashbacks and present action are woven artfully together.  In a short amount of time the reader gets to know so much about Mia, her family and friends, that you feel like you are sitting right there in the waiting room with them.  

This is a horrible situation, but somehow, the book was happy at times and funny.  I enjoyed Forman's writing style and the realistic way she portrayed family relationships and friendships. I highly recommend this book to teens and adults alike, I think you'll love it.

Grade: A

You Suck - by Christopher Moore

I loved Lamb by Christopher Moore and was excited to see what You Suck would be like.  I've of course read the Twilight books and Cirque Du Freak, but I was hoping for a funny vampire story when I started this book, and that is exactly what I got.  

You suck is about Tommy Flood who is turned into a vampire by his girlfriend, Jody.  The problem is that he didn't ask to be turned into a blood-sucking monster, and that both Tommy and Jody have captured the old vampire who turned Jody, and that old vampire wants out, AND Tommy's old friends are  trying to capture him...and the list goes on!  

Jody has been forced to leave town (San Francisco) once the cops find out that she is a vampire.  In order for Jody and Tommy to get out of town, they have to find a minion to do their bidding during the day...enter Abby Normal, a sweet freak girl who helps them out.  

Abby was what made this book for me.  Every so often the book is told from the point of view of her journal and I loved her voice.  She is really funny, but honest too.  The characters in this book were all hilarious from the Animals (Tommy's group of friends who stock groceries and go frozen turkey bowling at night) to William and his large cat (he's a homeless dude with a really big cat).  This book was a funny vampire story and not scary at all.  The only heads-up that I need to say is that there is a lot of foul language.  It's funny, but foul.  There are also a few sexual situations in the book.  So if you don't mind that and want to run around San Francisco with a bunch of vampires and vampire killers, then have at it.  I would recommend this book to older teens and upper classmen who can handle the language and suggestiveness more.  Too much for middle school. 

Grade:  B

The Dead Fathers Club - by Matt Haig

I love Shakespeare and am always interested to read new versions and reimaginings of Shakespeare's classic stories.  The Dead Father's Club is a modern day Hamlet and it was pretty good.  

The main character is a young boy named Philip Noble.  Philip's dad was killed in a single car accident.  Losing a parent is bad enough, but after his father's funeral, Philip is visited by his father's ghost.  Philip's father tells him that he was murdered by Philip's Uncle Alan, and that Philip must murder Alan in order for his father's ghost to move on and escape "the terrors."  The Dead Fathers Club is the story of what Philip decides to do about his Uncle.

One feature of this book that makes it different is the narration.  The book is narrated from Philip's point of view and has no punctuation except for periods at the ends of sentences.  The voice reminded me of The Curious Incident of the Dog at Night Time.  

I enjoyed this version of the Hamlet story, but at times, I lost interest.  I didn't get overly angry with characters or emotionally moved to feel for them much, even Philip, who is the main victim in the story.  The way he contemplates what he has to do is very different than the real Hamlet (who is in his twenties).  I just didn't get into this book that much.  I would recommend it to people who know the Hamlet story and who want to read a new version of the tale.  If you liked Curious Incident, you might also like the voice in this book.

Grade:  C

Friday, March 20, 2009

I'm excited about...

I just got these two yesterday and am very excited.  More to come as I hopefully get some time to read this weekend.  I am still working on The Dead Father's Club and will moving on to one of the many books on my to be read soon many books so little time.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Also Known As Harper - by Ann Haywood Leal

Harper Lee Morgan and her brother, Hemingway were both named after famous writers because her mother loves stories and literature so much.  Harper's mom is a hard-working woman who does her best to take care of the kids.  Times have been hard, thought, since Harper Lee's dad left.  Even though Hemingway doesn't remember everything about Daddy, Harper does, and she doesn't really even want him to come back.  Life gets even more complicated, though, when Harper returns from school one day to find all her family's belongings sitting in the front yard.  Their house is locked shut and they are kicked out.  They sleep in their car and then get a room in a motel.  Harper's life is turned upside down.  She writes her poems as she goes through all of this, but she'll probably miss her school's big poetry reading contest because she has to stay home with Hemingway while her mother looks for work.  

This was a wonderful book about family and making it through tough times.  I enjoyed Harper Lee Morgan as a narrator very much.  She lives up to her name by being as spunky and thoughtful as the real Harper Lee's Scout.  

Harper's poems are good and I enjoyed hearing how she experienced a situation twice, once through the narration and then again in the poem.  Harper is so observant and sharp; I appreciated her views.  

Not only was Harper a good narrator, but there were other colorful characters as well.  Winnie Rae Early is the mean girl that Harper fights with.  Loraine is a young girl that doesn't talk after she lost everything in a fire.  And finally, Dorothy was a kind old lad who looked like a bag lady at first, but Harper Lee learns there's a lot more to people than what you notice on your first glance.  

I liked this book because it was real.  Some books out there are all about getting messed up on drugs and the subject matter is extreme.  Those books are good and important, but this story just seemed pure.  Harper is there for her mom and brother.  Plush, we are all hearing about economy blues and how people are losing their jobs and that is just what happens here.  

Grade:  B

Because I Am Furniture - by Thalia Chaltas

Written in poems, Because I Am Furniture, tells the story of a high school girl named Anke who lives with her family whose life seems great from the outside...but in reality, there's a lot going on in Anke's home that no one knows about. 

Anke's father is abusive to everyone else in her family, but not her.  She witnesses her father's violent behavior but is never directly a recipient of it.  Anke doesn't talk to anyone about it and just goes to school and does her best.  She is silent and invisible.

Anke begins to find her voice, though, when she makes the volleyball team.  She meets some new friends and gains confidence.  But can she stand up to her father?  Can she help her sister, brother and mom realize that what's happening to them is not ok?

I enjoyed this book.  I kept turning pages because I wanted to find out what Anke did and what she experienced.  This was a fast read and I think many young adult readers would like it.  It really shows details about living in an abusive home  that might look ok from the outside.  

Grade:  B-

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Return to Sender - by Julia Alvarez

I really learned a lot about illegal immigration from this book, and Tyler and Mari are still in my head.  The book wasn't preachy at all, just a glimpse into how illegal immigration affected these characters.

Tyler is about to turn 12 when disaster strikes his family farm in Vermont.  His grandfather dies, his older brother is leaving for college, and his dad is hurt badly in a tractor accident.  With no one to work the farm, Tyler's family hires three Mexican men for help.  The only problem is that these men are illegal immigrants.  Mr. Cruz, one of the men, also has three daughters, one of whom, Mari, is in Tyler's class at school.

At first Tyler is very unsure of all these changes.  He knows that his parents should have hired these men, but he sees how much they help him and his family.  They are angels that help save the farm.  Tyler learns about them and from them and develops a very strong friendship with Mari.  

Each chapter is told from each Tyler and Mari's point of view.  It was nice to see how each of them interpreted different events. 

I liked how this book just showed a story of two families trying to make it in America.  No matter what the government says or what the news or t.v. people say, this issue affects good people and children and is important.  Some immigrants help us here and others do not.  We must hear their stories and understand as much as we can. 

Grade: B

Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart


Frankie Landau-Banks was a normal dorky freshman at Alabaster Prep, tagging along with her senior sister and trying hard just not to embarrass herself or her sister too much. 

Sophomore year, however, was very different.  Frankie got taller, filled out a bit, and was, well, a much hotter chick.  She gets noticed by the guy of her dreams, Matthew Livingston.  Matthew is great, but Frankie can't seem to really get him to understand her.  She's not like other girls.  She's way smarter and not concerned with the normal high school girl stuff.  Frankie wants power, and to be noticed, and to fit in...even with the guys.  

When Frankie finds out about a secret society at Alabaster, the Loyal Order of Bassett Hounds, she immediately wants to know more and desires to be a part.  

This book uncovers Frankie's plans to figure out the Loyal Order and to become a part of something historic at Alabaster. 

I loved Frankie.  She is a cool girl.  She's pretty and smart, but she is hard core crazy sometimes, too and knows what she wants.  She thinks about things more than most of her friends and sees opportunities for social commentary in even the smallest (and largest) of pranks.  She gets what she wants and goes after her goals with an almost psychotic passion. 

This book has some awesome pranks in it.  It also shows boarding school life, which is fun, especially if you went to normal high school.  Frankie's passion stuck with me and I felt that I wanted to do something crazy after reading this book, but it also made me remember that it's cool to be a strong woman that not every guy understands.  Girls are powerful and can be great leaders and I love that Frankie always stayed true to herself, even when she could have given in and taken the easy way out. 

I loved this book.  It is very deserving of its Printz medal and is one of my favorites now.

Grade: A

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Wesley the Owl - by Stacey O'Brien

I haven't read an animal story in a long time, and this one was amazing.  It touched my heart and taught me things about nature and animals that I didn't know before.  

Wesley the Owl is about a young woman named Stacey who is given the opportunity to take a baby barn owl home and raise him.  The biologists at CalTech where she works can't keep him, and Stacey could learn a lot about him and record he findings for them while raising him at home. She agrees and takes the baby owlet home and they live together and develop an amazing relationship for the next nineteen years.

I was blown away by the things that this bird did.  He was so cute and his antics were adorable, hilarious, weird, sweet, and a little scary every now and then.  A lot of us have dogs and cats as pets, but this owl seemed to be more like a person, like a thinking, feeling being than any dog or cat I have yet to meet.  

I usually don't read a lot of nonfiction...but I raced through this book, eager to follow Wesley's growth and watch the two become closer and closer.  You will love this book if you pick it up - no doubt about it.  It is sweet and heartwarming.  If you are bored and blah here during these last weeks of winter, pick up this book and it will warm you right up.  

Grade:  B

Dope Sick - by Walter Dean Myers

186 pages

Dope Sick tells the story of a young man named Lil J who has gotten himself into a world of trouble.  How he ended up in an abandoned, rat-infested building with a strange man named Kelly is a long story, and Myers's book shows you glimpses into Lil J's life that show us how he came to be stuck in this run-down place and how he plans to escape from the cops outside...if he escapes at all.

After a drug deal gone bad, Lil J's friend Rico ends up shooting a cop which sends Lil J on the run.  When he runs into Kelly he thinks that man is just some homeless dude, but Kelly turns out to be much more.

Kelly talks to Lil J about his life and throughout the book Kelly takes Lil J back to important moments from his past.  Lil J sees mistakes that he made and Kelly offers him a chance to look back at his life and decide what he should change. 

I liked this book.  Lil J and Kelly live in a rough world of drugs and gangs.  Myers captures the language of the street with these characters and others, but also helps readers and Lil J himself take a good objective look at the life choices Lil J made.  Kelly doesn't push Lil J at all; he just shows him how his life went, and we along with our main character can see things that Lil J did wrong that he could go back and fix.  It's tough to read about some of Lil J's drug use, but it's also good to understand why he felt driven to do such things.  Lil J isn't glad about the decisions he's made, but he alone has the power to change them.  No matter how bad things get, we always have a choice of what to do next.  Hopefully we can move away from bad choices and make better decisions.  What will Lil J do?  End it all?  Try to get better?  Keep on down the same path?  Kelly helps him see the different stories of his life and hopefully he will make the right decision.  Read to find out.

Grade:  B-

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Knife of Never Letting Go - by Patrick Ness

Todd Hewitt is a young boy about to turn thirteen, but his life is a little different from ours.  He lives on a different planet, settled years when men ventured out for new lands in search of peaceful harmony on a new Eden.  He lives in a town with no women.  He can hear the thoughts of all the men in his town.  He can hear the thoughts of animals, too...but they don't usually have too much to say.  This makes for a very Noisy life for Tood, the last boy in Prentisstown.  Strange as his life may be, Todd works on his farm with his guardians Ben and Cillian and lives his life the best he knows how.  Until one day, all that he has known is called into question.  Used to constant Noise, Todd hears something different one day when he is own in the swamp - silence.  Once he and his dog, Manchee, give this thought away, he learns that the town he has lived in his entire life isn't what he thought it was.  Ben and Cillian immediately get Todd out of town, sending him off into the swamp without an explanation, carrying only his rucksack and a book with a map, a journal written by Todd's mother years ago.  What was the silence Todd heard?  Where is he supposed to go now?  What is wrong with all the men in Prentisstown, and why doesn't he know the true history of his hometown?

The Knife of Never Letting Go follows Todd on his journey out of Prentisstown into a world that he didn't even know existed.  REad and follow him on this amazing adventure.  He has Manchee at his side, but will soon find a very unexpected friend in the swamp to be by his side as he battles the evil he finds in the New World.

I was disappointed when I finished this book.  Not because it was bad, but because I couldn't immediately begin reading book 2 of the Chaos Walking series...and believe me, you will want to begin book 2 right away.  I got wrapped up in this book from the very beginning, thanks to chapters that urge you on and exciting, quick-paced writing that takes you into the midst of the action.  Luckily, the book is divided into six sections, so when I had to make myself put it down, I read to the end of a section and waited until the next day to pick back up.  

Todd is a brave young man who is good at heart, unlike many of the "bad" guys you meet in this book.  He just wants to figure out what is going on in his world and make sense of all the Noise around him.  He hears so much and needs to find out what is true.  

This book is great for people who like action/adventure.  It also is good for people who like science does have some aliens (spackles) but the sci-fi details don't drive the story, the characters and struggles do.  So even if you aren't to keen on science fiction, I still think you could get drawn into the plot of this book.  

I was also reminded of Pullman's Dark Materials series when I read this.  The main characters here in Chaos Walking are similar to Lyra and Will in Pullman's story.  

Grade:  A

Friday, February 13, 2009


I have no idea why I deleted my other Mrs. Wood's book blog...but I did.  But I am back and going to keep up with reading and discussing all the books I am reading here on this new page.  Mostly I will be reading young adult, but I will also chime in on some of the British lit that I am reading with my seniors this year.  

So far in 2009 I have read:
The Graveyard Book - by Neil Gaiman
Coraline - Neil Gaiman
1984 - George Orwell
Frankenstein - Mary Shelley
Firmin - Sam Savage

All great!

I am working on The Knife of Never Letting Go right now, and it's really intriguing so far.  
Once I am done...back to the book blogging.  

Happy reading to all!