Tuesday, December 24, 2013

On my "to read over Christmas break" list

So excited to have two weeks off with NO book reviews due on the immediate horizon-- so these next two weeks are devoted to the books that I've been wanting to savor.  Here are a few titles, in no particular order:
* This Song Will Save Your Life, by Leila Sales
* Fangirl, by Rainbow Rowell
* How the Light Gets In, by Louise Penny
* Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, by April Genevieve Tucholke
* Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman

Not sure if I'll make it through all five or not, since savoring is the goal... but I sure am looking forward to lots of hours in a comfy chair in front of the Christmas tree or upstairs in the reading room!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Hey! I'm a guest on Eugenia Sozzi's blog!

I have been woefully remiss in getting book reviews posted here for the past month or so, but with two glorious weeks of vacation, hope to get that rectified.  But, hey-- if I can't keep my own blog up-to-date, at least I can pop in on someone else's blog as a guest!  Check it out:

Monday, October 14, 2013

One of my favorites over the past couple of months

If you don't feel like waiting till April when Far From You comes out, The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson is out now, and it is fabulous.  Dystopian books are a dime a dozen these days, but Johnson's is original and beautiful and very much its own story.  Here's my Goodreads review:

The country that used to be Brazil is the setting for this lushly-imagined, futuristic story that blends art and technology and love in its many iterations. June Costa has grown up in Palmeres Tres, a vast pyramid city in which the wealthy live on the upper tiers and the poor live in the Verde, the green and stinking lower level whose algae produces the needed oxygen for the city. 400 years ago, the actions of men led to the Y plague, which destroyed a large percentage of humanity. Palmeres Tres was established largely as a matriarchal society, given that men had gotten the world into the mess. The queen rules with a group of Aunties, or advisors, with a Summer King and a Winter King alternately elected every five years, but sacrificed at the end of the first year. June and her best friend Gil get swept up in the latest election and are ecstatic when Enki, the beautiful boy from the Verde, is declared the new king. Enki is not the settled, discreet king that the Queen and the Aunties might have wished for: he and Gil quickly enter a passionate relationship, and when he learns that June is an artist, the two of them develop a close friendship. June manages to convince herself that she and Enki are only about the art, but as time goes on and the countdown to his sacrificial dealth draws closer, the triangle between her and Enki and Gil grows more complex. Alaya Dawn Johnson adds to a sparse field of wonderfully-written science fiction featuring people of color.
Completely original and luminous and just can't-even-think-of-putting-it-down amazing.

Far From You, due out April 2014

I'm starting to review more and more books via NetGalley, and really appreciate the ease of the electronic format for ARCs.  My latest read courtesy of NG is Far From You, by Tess Sharpe, due out in April 2014.  Here's my review from Goodreads.

Prepare to be grabbed in the opening paragraphs, when the narrator, Sophie, relates that the first time that she almost died was when she was 14 and in a car driven by her best friend's brother. Trev and Mina walked away with minor injuries; Sophie almost didn't make it, and her many injuries led to a pain killer addiction. The second time she almost died is when she was 17. Mina wants to make a detour on the way to a party. On a lonely stretch of road, the two girls are attacked by a gunman who knocks Sophie unconscious and shoots and kills Mina. But what looks like a random shooting, or a drug deal gone bad, isn't. Because even though Sophie has been clean for several months when this happens, the police find a bottle of Oxy in her jacket pocket. And Sophie knows that she heard the killer say "I warned you" before he shoots Mina. The police don't believe Sophie with her history of addiction, so she knows it's up to her to find out who wanted Mina dead. Chapters alternate between the present and flashbacks over the past three years, slowly revealing more and more about Sophie's and Mina's relationship, and how Trev and their other friends factor into the equation. As layers are peeled away, the action ramps up, and readers won't be able to stop turning the pages until they get to the end of this utterly compelling, character-driven whodunit.

Electronic ARC provided courtesy of NetGalley.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Edge-of-your-seat suspense with The Girl Who Was Supposed to Die

On Friday, we finally got the first batch of books that we had ordered before school got out.  They're usually delivered to us over the summer and waiting when we get back to school that last week of August.  A little later this year, but no less like Christmas opening up the boxes and seeing all the possibility in those piles of books.  We'll process them and get them into circulation and watch some of the kids light up-- because there are always those kids who love the idea of unexplored "new" books as much as their librarians do!  I brought several home to read.  Tore through this one... it's edge-of-your-seat suspense.  Here's my review of The Girl Who Was Supposed to Die from Goodreads:

She regains consciousness on a hard wood floor.
A tooth is loose and the inside of her mouth tastes like blood.
Her left hand is in severe pain and she soon realizes that two of her fingers are missing fingernails.
The voices of two men argue about whether to kill her.
She has no idea who she is or why she's there.

So begins this roller coaster of a story. One of the men leaves, and the nameless narrator manages to draw on self-defense skills she didn't know she had, overpower the other man, and steal his car and his gun, driving for her life. But her one attempt to go to the police backfires when the officer gets a report that she's escaped from a nearby mental hospital after killing an orderly there. Has she? Is her memory really that fragmented? Who can she trust? Who is going to such effort to draw a net tighter and tighter until they can recapture her?

Over the roughly 36 hours that she is on the run, bits and pieces start falling into place, but can even knowing more about why all of this is happening save her if she can't find someone who will believe her bizarre story?

Chris Crutcher's Whale Talk

Every time I booktalk this one, a student snatches it up afterward, and I always feel like he or she is in for such a treat if they haven't come across Chris Crutcher before.  His books are edgy, humorous, and pertinent.  He's used to being on banned book lists and to irritating adults.  He doesn't back off of tough subjects because he knows that we all need to have the realities of this world acknowledged and our own small worlds stretched.  Here's my review of Whale Talk from Goodreads:

TJ is a third white, a third black, a third Japanese in a very white community in Washington state. He's an athletic guy, but as much as the football coach and the basketball coach hound him about his duty to the school, TJ shies away from organized sports... he's never liked the air of entitlement and superiority that he sees among some of the Cutter High coaches and athletes. But when a teacher he respects asks him to take the lead in starting a swim team, TJ agrees... and goes on to assemble the oddest assortment of misfits one could imagine. But these misfits have a lot to teach the folks of Cutter High about sportsmanship and heroism and truly playing as a team. There's a lot going on in the book other than the sports: child abuse, marital abuse, prejudice, bullying. But Crutcher is at his best when he's directing his sharp, intelligent humor at tough issues that adults don't always want to admit that kids face.

That gray area between biography and incredibly accurate historical fiction

Struggling to understand primary sources and how you can track them down for your research papers?  Want to read a book that bills itself as a "documentary novel" (and so, fiction on some level) and puts you right in the middle of Jim Crow and the Civil Rights movement from varying perspectives?  Look no further than Vaunda Micheaux Nelson's No Crystal Stair.  Here's my Goodreads review:

Fascinating. Vaunda Micheaux Nelson did extensive research on the life of her great uncle, Lewis Michaux, "the Professor" of Harlem. From his childhood in Newport News, Virginia, through his later life in New York, she uses a multitude of voices to give a somewhat fictionalized account of his life. But the amount of digging she did is impressive, and the fictional text brims with primary source material. I've marked this both as biography and historical fiction, because while Nelson takes some liberties, she's making very educated guesses about conversations and relationships based on the wide variety of sources she was able to track down. Readers are introduced to many of the leading black figures of the early and mid 20th century as they come into Lewis's orbit at his famous National Memorial African Bookstore. In the process, they get a great example of world-class researching and story telling. A powerful narrative of an unconventional man who left his mark deeply.