Thursday, December 17, 2009

Charles and Emma: The Darwins' Leap of Faith

Charles and Emma: The Darwins' Leap of Faith

Deborah Heiligman

Beginning with Darwin's notorious chart listing reasons to wed and not to wed, Heiligman has created a unique, flowing, and meticulously researched picture of the controversial scientist and the effect of his marriage on his life and work. Using the couple's letters, diaries, and notebooks as well as documents and memoirs of their relatives, friends, and critics, the author lets her subjects speak for themselves while rounding out the story of their relationship with information about their time and place. She shows how Darwin's love for his intelligent, steadfast, and deeply religious cousin was an important factor in his scientific work—pushing him to document his theory of natural selection for decades before publishing it with great trepidation. Just as the pair embodied a marriage of science and religion, this book weaves together the chronicle of the development of a major scientific theory with a story of true love. School Library Journal

Science and romance...hand in hand!--J. Asmus

Reality Check

by Peter Abrhams

Set in Little Bend, CO, and North Dover, VT, Abrahams's novel follows Cody, 16, who sustains a serious knee injury that leaves him on the bench during the most important recruiting year in his high school career. With no college scholarship in sight, he drops out of school. When his rich girlfriend, Clea, is reported missing from her Vermont boarding school, he drives East to find her and endangers himself in the process. That Cody is a country boy and a dropout both complicate and inform his detective persona; the realization that "with the exception of football" he was wasting his time in school sends him "some message about a whole different way for him to look at things, to live." It is this "whole different way" that allows Cody—a fish out of water among wealthy Dover Academy students—to solve the mystery, though not before a red herring is revealed and a surprise villain is unmasked.--School Library Journal
J.Asmus--This book is a page-turner!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Raven by Allison Van Diepen

I just finished this book, and tried a new Web 2.0 app--xtranormal. It was easy to use, but the results seem a bit clunky.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

What a wonderful second book in an exciting series. This book grabbed me and wouldn't let go until I was finished. I can hardly wait for the third installment.

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

Another supernatural love story, Twilight-esque, but with werewolves.

Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

This book was terrific! What perfect timing for this optimistic, uplifting debut novel set during the civil rights movement in Jackson, Miss., where black women were trusted to raise white children but not to polish the household silver. Eugenia Skeeter Phelan is just home from college in 1962, and, anxious to become a writer, is advised to hone her chops by writing about what disturbs you. The budding social activist begins to collect the stories of the black women on whom the country club sets relies and mistrusts enlisting the help of Aibileen, a maid who's raised 17 children, and Aibileen's best friend Minny, who's found herself unemployed more than a few times after mouthing off to her white employers. The book Skeeter puts together based on their stories is scathing and shocking, bringing pride and hope to the black community, while giving Skeeter the courage to break down her personal boundaries and pursue her dreams.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Because I am furniture

Because I am Furniture by Thalia Chaltas

Written in prose, this novel tells the disturbing story of Anke and her family. Anke's father is abusive to her brother and sister, the whole family lives in fear of his rages. Anke is grateful that her father seems to ignore her, but she is conflicted, she feels like furniture--no voice, no one caring for her, giving her any attention. Against her father's wishes, she joins the volleyball team and begins to have a voice. She relies on this voice and inner power when she finds her father abusing her friend and she acts to stop him. A read a like to this book would be Such a Pretty Girl by Laura Weiss.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Luxe by Anna Godbersen

2010 Lincoln Award Winner Nominee

Edith Wharton meets The Gossip Girls in this intriguing novel about five teens of different social classes in Manhattan during the late 19th century. Despite the strict rules of society and the best-laid plans of parents and others, they lead dangerously scandalous lives. - Ms. Monegato

A big, sumptuous tale of catty girls, dark secrets and windswept romance unfurls in this compulsively readable novel of late-19th-century New York City socialites. Godbersen weaves a tenuous web of deceit, backstabbing and pretense that follows four teens: Elizabeth Holland, a prim and proper lady of old-money society, is betrothed to one man, though furtively loves another; Henry Schoonmaker, a debauched playboy who must marry Elizabeth or be disinherited; Diana Holland, Elizabeth’s younger sister who is in love with her fiancé; and Penelope Hayes, a member of the nouveau riche who will stop at nothing to win Henry’s affections. As Elizabeth and Henry’s wedding approaches, the spectacle unfolds in a wondrously grandiose scene, making for a fun, though not entirely unexpected dénouement. A delicious new twist along the Gossip Girl vein, readers will clamor for this sharp, smart drama of friends, lovers, lies and betrayal. - from Kirkus Reviews

Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr

2010 Lincoln Award Winne Nominee.

If you enjoy Fairy Fiction, you will like this book. It is reminiscent of the novels by Holly Black. Aislinn is an engaging main character, a teen that has the power to see fairies, but she must keep it a secret from them. The Summer King is in hot pursuit of her, to make her his Queen. That's all I'm giving away - you have to read it! It's a hip, romantic tale about urban fairies! - Ms. Monegato
Melissa Marr adds elegantly to the sub-genre of Urban Faery with this enticing, well-researched fantasy for teens. Wicked Lovely takes place in modern-day Huntsdale, a small city south of Pittsburgh whose name evokes the Wild Hunt of mythology. High school junior Aislinn and her grandmother have followed strict rules all their lives to hide their ability to see faeries because faeries don't like it when mortals can see them, and faeries can be very cruel. Only the strongest faeries can withstand iron, however, so Aislinn prefers the city with its steel girders and bridges. She takes refuge with Seth, her would-be lover, who lives in a set of old train carriages.

But now Aislinn is being stalked by two of the faeries who are able to take on human form and are not deterred by steel. What do they want from her?

One is Keenan, the Summer King, who has been looking for his Queen for nine centuries, bound by the rules and rituals that govern his quest. The other is Donia, a victim of those rules, consigned to the role of Winter Girl when she failed Keenan's test, yet still in love with him. Certain that Aislinn is the woman he must marry, Keenan shows up as a charismatic new student at her high school, unaware that she sees his true form. He's determined to court her and is puzzled by her rebuffs. Suddenly, none of the rules that have kept Aislinn safe is working anymore, but things aren't going as Keenan expects either. Both will have to change, make startling compromises and enlist surprising allies if they want to break free from the wicked game that has ensnared them.

Their greatest challenge will be to avoid the fatal traps laid by Keenan's mother, the Winter Queen. She will lose her power if Keenan finds his mate, and she will do anything to stop this. Unfortunately, she's a little too over the top to be totally threatening, a campy version of Hans Christian Andersen's Snow Queen -- part Disney witch, part Endora in "Bewitched." But this didn't stop me from devouring the book.

Marr creates a fully realized world that conveys the details and the politics of faery life. The suspense remains taut, as the point of view shifts between Aislinn, Keenan and Donia, allowing the reader to develop sympathy for all of them. Marr's lyrical language and sensual imagery capture both the confused emotions and the physicality of adolescence.-The Washington Post

The Haunting of Alaizabel Cray by Chris Wooding

2010 Lincoln Award Winner Nominee

A phenomenally scary body of work - read this with the lights on!
I couldn't put it down! A very sophisticated story for this genre; very well-researched. The plot moves quickly and with many surprises. Mr. Wooding's powers of description are impressive. - Ms. Monegato
Jack the Ripper meets the supernatural in this Bosch-like horror tale set in an alternate Victorian London where supernatural "wych-kin" lurk around every corner waiting to prey on humans. Hot on the trail of a vampirelike "Cradlejack," 17-year-old wych-hunter Thaniel stumbles upon beautiful Alaizabel Cray, who unknowingly has been possessed by an "old wych" named Thatch. Determined to rescue Alaizabel from Thatch and the sinister cult responsible for depositing the evil spirit in Alaizabel's body, the innately chivalrous Thaniel slashes and burns his way through a nightmarish city crawling with enough ghastly human and supernatural villains to stock a wax museum. Eerie and exhilarating, this book marks a thematic and stylistic departure from Wooding's earlier, more contemporary teen novels of partying, drug addiction, and pyromania. Instead, he fuses together his best storytelling skills–plotting, atmosphere, shock value–to create a fabulously horrific and ultimately timeless underworld where heroes battle menacing foes to save the world from demonic overthrow. -From School Library Journal

Monday, August 31, 2009

A Great and Terrible Beauty

A Great and Terrible Beauty (First in the Gemma Doyle Trilogy) by Libba Bray
High school students who enjoy fantacy fiction will delight in the way the girls escape their ordinary lives in Victorian London, for the majical, and occassionalyy dangerous world of the "realms". A Great and Terrible Beauty will especially appeal to teenage girls who are stuggling to create an identity that lets them be comfortable in their own skin. whenyellowleaves
School Library Journal An interesting combination of fantasy, light horror, and historical fiction, with a dash of romance thrown in for good measure. On her 16th birthday, Gemma Doyle fights with her mother. She wants to leave India where her family is living, runs off when her mother refuses to send her to London to school, has a dreadful vision and witnesses her mother's death. Two months later, Gemma is enrolled in London's Spence School, still troubled by visions, and unable to share her grief and guilt over her loss. She gradually learns to control her vision and enter the "realms" where magical powers can make anything happen and where her mother waits to instruct her. Gradually she and her new friends learn about the Order, an ancient group of women who maintained the realms and regulated their power, and how two students unleashed an evil creature from the realms by killing a Gypsy girl. Gemma uncovers her mother's connection to those events and learns what she now must do. The fantasy element is obvious, and the boarding-school setting gives a glimpse into a time when girls were taught gentility and the importance of appearances. The author also makes a point about the position of women in Victorian society. Bray's characters are types--Felicity, clever and powerful; Ann, plain and timid; Pippa, beautiful and occasionally thoughtless; Gemma, spirited and chafing under society's rules. --Lisa Prolman, Greenfield Public Library, MA Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Rebel Angels

Rebel Angels (The Gemma Doyle Trilogy Book #2)
by Libba Bray
Even if fantacy fiction isn't your genre, you'll enjoy this story about young girls who dare to venture into the unknown for a cuase larger than themselves.
From School Library Journal– At the end of A Great and Terrible Beauty (Delacorte, 2003), Gemma Doyle was determined to rebuild the Order and find and destroy Circe. Now the teen finds that she must do one more thing–find the Temple and bind the magic she released into the realms when she destroyed the runes. Her task will not be easy; Kartik and the Rakshana have their own plans, which threaten her; a mysterious new teacher may be Circe; and Christmas in London challenges the careful facades that Gemma and her friends Ann and Felicity have built. Dark things are stirring within the realms, including a possibly corrupted Pippa, and the only guides are Gemma's horrifying visions of three girls and the gibberish of a girl confined to Bedlam. Like the first volume, this is a remarkable fantasy steeped in Victorian sensibility; even as the girls fight to bind the magic, they are seduced by London society and the temptation to be proper young ladies. Gemma and her friends are pitch perfect as young women in a world poised for change, uncertain of their places. In many ways, this volume surpasses the first. The writing never falters, and the revelations (such as Felicity's childhood of abuse, discreetly revealed) only strengthen the characters. Clever foreshadowing abounds, and clues to the mystery of Circe may have readers thinking they have figured everything out; they will still be surprised. This volume does not stand alone; however, any collection that doesn't already have the first should just get both volumes.–Karyn N. Silverman, Elizabeth Irwin High School, New York City Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Three Cups of Tea

Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace . . . One School at a Time
by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin
Three Cups of Tea makes you want to leap out of your chair and discover how you can change the world. It begins slowly but ends with a very enthusiastic...YES! Everyone who cares about this earth should read this book.

From BooklistOn a 1993 expedition to climb K2 in honor of his sister Christa, who had died of epilepsy at 23, Mortenson stumbled upon a remote mountain village in Pakistan. Out of gratitude for the villagers' assistance when he was lost and near death, he vowed to build a school for the children who were scratching lessons in the dirt. Raised by his missionary parents in Tanzania, Mortenson was used to dealing with exotic cultures and developing nations. Still, he faced daunting challenges of raising funds, death threats from enraged mullahs, separation from his family, and a kidnapping to eventually build 55 schools in Taliban territory. Award-winning journalist Relin recounts the slow and arduous task Mortenson set for himself, a one-man mission aimed particularly at bringing education to young girls in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Readers interested in a fresh perspective on the cultures and development efforts of Central Asia will love this incredible story of a humanitarian endeavor. Vanessa BushCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


An inspiring chronicle . . . this is one protagonist who clearly deserves to be called a hero. -- People Magazine Greg Mortenson’s dangerous and difficult quest . . . is not only a thrilling read, it’s proof that one ordinary person, with the right combination of character and determination, really can change the world. -- Tom Brokaw Mortenson’s mission is admirable, his conviction unassailable, his territory exotic. -- The Washington Post

Monday, August 24, 2009

No Choirboy by Susan Kuklin

No Choirboy: Murder, Violence and Teenagers on Death Row Book Trailer

by Susan Kuklin

Leaving Paradise by Simone Elkeles

Leaving Paradise by Simone Elkeles

Caleb Becker just got released from Juvenile Detention, after doing time for driving drunk, hitting a pedestrian and leaving the scene of a crime. He's hoping to return to his life and be a normal teen. Maggie Armstrong is trying to leave Paradise, after being maimed by Caleb and spending a year in rehab. She would like to be anonymous and pretend that she is normal. They are thrust together in a strange turn of events. Told in alternating chapters, can these two get back some level of normal or will they need to leave Paradise?
An Abraham Lincoln Nominee 2010.

The Heretic's Daugther-by Kathleen Kent

I thought this book was a nice companion piece to The Scarlet Letter. It was interesting and paints a vivid picture of Salem, Mass. in 1692.--J.Asmus

School Library Journal
Adult/High School-Told from the point of view of young Sarah, the daughter of one of the first women to be accused, tried, and hanged as a witch in Salem, this novel paints a vivid and disturbing picture of Puritan New England life. Based on fact and the author's family history, the story portrays Martha, Sarah's mother, as a strong-willed nonconformist who knows she is a target of the zealots who pit family members against one another with their false accusations. All but one of the siblings end up imprisoned with their mother, and much of the story is told from the inhumane and corruptly run jail. When Martha is finally executed, her husband "would stand for all of us so that when she closed her eyes for the last time, there would be a counterweight of love against the overflowing presence of vengeance and fear." History is brought to life as readers learn of the strength of Martha's convictions and the value she places on her conscience. They will also appreciate the themes of family love, repression, intolerance, and persecution in this beautifully written and compelling first novel.-Jane Ritter, Mill Valley School District, CA

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Leaving Paradise
By Simone Elkeles

"Please sit down Caleb," orders a woman wearing glasses and a stern look on her face..."I swear the scene is out of a bad movie. Seven people sitting behind six foot long tables in front of one lone metal chair. "Meeting with is parole officer Damon, he is instructed to not contact his victim. Wasn't he a victim too? Of course he bumps into Maggie, now "crippled" by the hit and run accident where he was found guilty of driving under the influence, hand-cuffed and incarcerated as a juvie for one year.
From Maggie's perspective, since the accident she has a limp, she no longer is an athlete and loses a scholarship to go to Spain where she wanted to "get away" from Paradise. She used to eat lunch with the popular girls and now she is a loner. She no longer is friends with Leah, Caleb's sister, who has turned Goth since the accident. She and Leah used to be friends. They used to see each other every day. But Leah is Caleb's sister---Caleb who hit her, Caleb who was once her secret crush is now the one she hates!
Everything has changed since the accident and now the tension of Caleb being released from jail after only one year is mounting in her and in the community of Paradise. Will things get back to normal?
Can Maggie and can Caleb every hope for things to get back to normal in Paradise? Will he have to leave Paradise? Will she? How can it when he is forbidden to contact her but circumstances by chance bring these two together despite their efforts to avoid one another? When Caleb's community service and Maggie's after-school "job" happen to bring them together under Mrs. Richards roof they begin a journed to heal through Mrs. Richards guidance. She has a different outlook from others. A book about forgiveness and its ability to help individuals restore their lives and hope.

Something extra: Want to chat about the book? Go to the author's website--its awesome! Go to the "Official Simone Elkeles Discussion Group", create a log in and participate in a discussion with the author----couldn't be better!

Genre: Fiction-Realistic Fiction, Romance-Fiction, Alcohol-Fiction, Handicap-Fiction, High School-Fiction, Self-esteem-fiction, even includes some sports, elderly characters and family relationships.
The Boy Who Dared:A Novel Based on a True Story
By Susan Campbel Bartoletti

"Bartoletti included a portrait of Helmuth Hübener, a German teenager executed for his resistance to the Nazis. In this fictionalized biography, she imagines his story as he sits in prison awaiting execution in 1942 and remembers his childhood in Hamburg during Hitler’s rise to power. Beaten and tortured to name his friends, he remembers how he started off an ardent Nazi follower and then began to question his patriotism, secretly listened to BBC radio broadcasts, and finally dared to write and distribute pamphlets calling for resistance. The teen’s perspective makes this a particularly gripping way to personalize the history, and even those unfamiliar with the background Bartoletti weaves in–the German bitterness after World War I, the burning of the books, the raging anti-Semitism––will be enthralled by the story of one boy’s heroic resistance in the worst of times. A lengthy author’s note distinguishes fact from fiction, and Bartoletti provides a detailed chronology, a bibliography, and many black-and-white photos of Helmuth with friends, family, and members of his Mormon church. This is an important title for the Holocaust curriculum. See the Booklist interview with Bartoletti, in which she discusses how this teen’s story moved her." (A review by Hazel Rochman in Booklist)

Main Character: Helmuth
Setting: Germany during World War II era Pages: 202 pgs (Hardcover version)

Reading List: Read for a Lifetime 2009-2010
Sources:Book cover: "The Boy Who Dared". Junior Library Guild.

The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak

2010 Lincoln Award Winner Nominee

This darkly humorous, compassionate story is set in World War II during the horrors of the Holocaust. Death himself narrates the tale of young Liesel Meminger. Death has come to claim her younger brother, and he watches as Liesel steals her first book, a gravedigger's manual, though she does not yet know how to read. Despite himself, Death becomes somewhat enamored of the young girl and follows her life. Liesel becomes obsessed with words - and stealing books as she begins a new life when she is placed in a foster home in Molching, Germany. It's her love of words, reading and writing that sustain her throughout her experiences in Nazi Germany. As Death follows Liesel's obsession with words, he ponders their power. He surmises that Hitler's rise was attributed partly to the power of his words. A senstive, beautifully crafted novel that would appeal to a sophisticated reader.
By Dave Eggers

"When Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, Abdulrahman Zeitoun, a prosperous Syrian-American and father of four, chose to stay through the storm to protect his house and contracting business. In the days after the storm, he traveled the flooded streets in a secondhand canoe, passing on supplies and helping those he could. A week later, on September 6, 2005, Zeitoun abruptly disappeared. Eggers’s riveting nonfiction book, three years in the making, explores Zeitoun’s roots in Syria, his marriage to Kathy — an American who converted to Islam — and their children, and the surreal atmosphere (in New Orleans and the United States generally) in which what happened to Abdulrahman Zeitoun was possible. Like What Is the What , Zeitoun was written in close collaboration with its subjects and involved vast research — in this case, in the United States, Spain, and Syria." (Shelfari Review)

I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You by Ally Carter

2010 Abraham Lincoln Award Winner Nominee

Cammie Morgan, 15, is a student at the Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women. Everyone thinks it's a snooty school for wealthy, smart girls - but it's really a school for spies! Cammie speaks 14 languages fluently, is educated in covert operations, has martial arts instead of P.E., and chemical warfare in place of traditional science class. She can kill a man seven different ways with her bare hands. Her mom, a retired CIA operative, is even the headmistress. It might sound like an exciting life until she meets Josh, while on a class surveillance mission. Josh is a normal boy and Cammie pretends to be a normal girl. That's when the real fun begins! You will enjoy the antics of Cammie and the rest of the Gallagher girls as they try to pull one over on both Josh and their teachers.
Aftershock by Kelly Easton
A story of survival, grief and loss and recovering memory.

Adam survives an automobile accident that claims the life of both of his parents on a return trip from West Coast activist rally they had attended. There were no witnesses to rescue them on a deserted road and Adam is thrown to the side of the road trying to gain enough strength to get help. Homeless, wounded and with loss of memory and speech he stumbles upon a Wicca gathering in the woods thinking he is seeing angels. One of the members, Stacy, takes him home like a lost puppy to care and nurse him to health. Through flashbacks he remembers his parents but cannot recall phone numbers or names. As he recovers he begins to work in Stacy's restaurant for awhile. Overstaying his welcome he begins his homeless, wandering treak in search self, home and memories while surving being beat up, working among migrants and taking any odd jobs he can get. Unable to speak he finally recalls a number and dials, the voice on the other end recognizes him! He remembers her, an aunt, an autistic cousin, he begins to remember a bookstore--more about his parents and with that he begins his journey home, clue by clue, back to Rhode Island, restoring memories of his peace loving parents---back to their bookstore, his aunt, and his old girlfriend---back home!

"People don't die. That isn't how it happens. They float inside you. Like leaves on water. They drift away sometimes, pulled under by the current, tugged toward the shore. But then they resurface, defining you as much by their absence as they did when they were there. (Aftershock 165)

Friday, August 21, 2009

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A Long Way Gone

A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah

2010 Abraham Lincoln Award Nominee

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp

I thought this book was well written and one a sophisticated teen would enjoy.--J. Asmus

Booklist (November 15, 2008)
Grades 8-12. All the seniors in Sutter Keely’s high school are planning for the future, except for him. The Sutterman is the original party boy, with a perpetual 7-Up and whiskey in his hand and a story to entertain all who will listen. He is a ladies’ man, but he loses interest when the ladies demand that he pay attention to them, instead of himself, or make other unreasonable requests, such as remember dates or call when he promises. But it is Aimee, a social outsider, who gets under his skin and loves him in spite of his flaws. Tharp offers a poignant, funny book about a teen who sees his life as livable only when his senses are dulled by drink and only as fodder for the next joke or story. Lulled into believing he is happy in spite of his father’s abandonment and his mother’s emotional neglect, Sutter is an authentic character, and his unsteady sense of himself, as well as his relationships with his friends, will strike a chord with teen readers.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Wednesday Wars by Gary Schmidt

This was the best book I read this summer! I really enjoyed it. ~J. Asmus

Entering seventh grade, Holling Hoodhood knows all about teachers. They're "born behind their desks, fully grown, with a red pen in their hand and ready to grade." And the worst of them hate your guts, which is precisely the way he believes Mrs. Baker feels about him. Every Wednesday afternoon, when the rest of his class leaves early to attend Hebrew school or catechism class, Holling, the lone Presbyterian, stays behind with Mrs. Baker. As Holling sees it, she uses the extra time for special torture, ranging from cleaning out rat cages to diagramming impossibly convoluted sentences to reading Shakespeare. That the two will grow to respect each other is a predictable trope, but the alliance nevertheless becomes convincing and winning. Insistently in the background is the Vietnam War: Mrs. Baker's husband is missing in action at Khesanh; the school's cook loses her husband in the conflict; the presence of a Vietnamese refugee in the class triggers hatred and bigotry. At home, Holling's sister supports the peace movement and women's rights; his father puts his architectural business above all; and his mother passively acquiesces to Mr. Hoodhood. Ultimately, Mrs. Baker steps out from behind her desk as a multilayered individual who helps Holling (often through their discussions of Shakespeare's plays) to dare to choose his own ending rather than follow the dictates of others. Schmidt rises above the novel's conventions to create memorable and believable characters. --Horn Book

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Book Trailer for Biography of Mark Twain

Read this book because it's interesting and fun.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Middle Place by Kelly Corrigan

I loved this book! This is a great book that speaks to a variety of audiences.--J. Asmus

A cancer survivor's memoir with a welcome twist: a laughter-filled celebration of family. Newspaper columnist Corrigan was 36 when she discovered a lump in her left breast. Happily married and the mother of two young daughters, she was also still very much the adoring daughter of demonstrative, exuberant George Corrigan. Being upbeat and funny was de rigueur with her optimistic father, so the author's reaction to her breast-cancer diagnosis was to send an e-mail to about 100 people inviting them to a party one year hence to celebrate her recovery. But when George was diagnosed with bladder cancer and seemed too casual about his treatment, she became exasperated. Living in the Bay Area, she hounded his East Coast doctors by e-mail and took over the central role of information gatherer and advice dispenser. Only her own upcoming surgery kept her from heading to Philadelphia to take charge. At the same time that she was coping with her own cancer and trying to micromanage her father's, she was busy mothering two little girls too young to understand what was happening. Tender scenes with her daughters and some frustrating ones with her strong-willed mother give context to Corrigan's account of two battles against cancer. She also tosses into the mix funny, often self-deprecating tales of growing up in a boisterous Irish Catholic family, her adventures abroad in her 20s and her marriage to the comparatively subdued Edward. The author is, in her words, living in 'the middle place--that sliver of time when childhood and parenthood overlap.' Attachments to both the family she grew up in and the family she created remain strong, but as her husband reminds her, their daughters, not her parents, are the future. Warm, funny and a touch bittersweet."

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga

This book was terrific! A great pick for a cultural lit. project.--J. Asmus

"This first novel by Indian writer Adiga depicts the awakening of a low-caste Indian man to the degradation of servitude. While the early tone of the book calls to mind the heartbreaking inequities of Rohinton Mistry's A Fine Balance, a better comparison is to Frederick Douglass's narrative about how he broke out of slavery. The protagonist, Balram Halwai, is initially delighted at the opportunity to become the driver for a wealthy man. But Balram grows increasingly angry at the ways he is excluded from society and looked down upon by the rich, and he murders his employer. He reveals this murder from the start, so the mystery is not what he did but why he would kill such a kind man. The climactic murder scene is wonderfully tense, and Balram's evolution from likable village boy to cold-blooded killer is fascinating and believable. Even more surprising is how well the narrative works in the way it's written as a letter to the Chinese premier, who's set to visit Bangalore, India. Recommended for all libraries.-Evelyn Beck, Piedmont Technical Coll., Greenwood, SC Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information."

Friday, June 19, 2009

look me in the eye by John Elder Robison

This is an Abe Lincoln book.... It was good, but not great.--Janine

From Booklist*Starred Review* If one looked at only Robison's impish sense of humor (he once ordered a blow-up sex doll to be delivered to his junior-high-school teacher—at school), or his success as a classic-car restorer, it might be impossible to believe he has the high-functioning form of autism spectrum disorder called Asperger's syndrome. Clues abound, however, in his account of a youth encompassing serious inability to make and keep friends; early genius at pyrotechnics, electronics, and math; and pet names such as Poodle for his dog and Snort and Varmint for his baby brother. Much later, he calls his wife Unit Two. It is easy to recognize these telltale traits today, but Robison went undiagnosed until he was 40. In the 1960s, he was variously labeled lazy, weird, and, worse, sociopathic. Consequently, his childhood memories too often read like a kid's worst nightmares. Not only did his parents fail to understand the root of his socialization problems but they were also virtually as dysfunctional as the pair Augusten Burroughs portrays in Running with Scissors (2002). 'Nough said? Not nearly. Robison's memoir is must reading for its unblinking (as only an Aspergian can) glimpse into the life of a person who had to wait decades for the medical community to catch up with him. Chavez, Donna

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Happens Every Day by Isabel Gillies

This book was a quick read... nice pick for faculty!--J. Asmus

Isabel Gillies had a wonderful life -- a handsome, intelligent, loving husband; two glorious toddlers; a beautiful house; the time and place to express all her ebullience and affection and optimism. Suddenly, that life was over. Her husband, Josiah, announced that he was leaving her and their two young sons.
When Josiah took a teaching job at a Midwestern college, Isabel and their sons moved with him from New York City to Ohio, where Isabel taught acting, threw herself into the college community, and delighted in the less-scheduled lives of toddlers raised away from the city. But within a few months, the marriage was over. The life Isabel had made crumbled. "Happens every day," said a friend.
Far from a self-pitying diatribe, Happens Every Day reads like an intimate conversation between friends. Gillies has written a dizzyingly candid, compulsively readable, ultimately redemptive story about love, marriage, family, heartbreak, and the unexpected turns of a life. On the one hand, reading this book is like watching a train wreck. On the other hand, as Gillies herself says, it is about trying to light a candle instead of cursing the darkness, and loving your life even if it has slipped away. Hers is a remarkable new voice -- instinctive, funny, and irresistible.
I thought it was a good read--Janine

A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb

Another book in an increasingly popular format - books that are narrated by the dead, this story is told by Helen, who has been dead for 130 years, but whose spirit is sustained by attaching herself to a human host, as of late, an English teacher named Mr. Brown. Helen becomes suddenly aware of James, the disembodied spirit of a young man who has died years earlier. He too has attached himself to a human host, Billy, a teenage boy. James and Helen fall in love. So Helen searches for a more appropriate host that will enable James and Helen to continue their romance. A compelling novel with a twist at the end.

Fat Kid Rules the World by K. L. Going

I loved this book for its honesty and a plot twist that blew me away....the fattest kid in school and the coolest kid in school become friends and form...a band! Troy is 300 pounds of sweaty, unhappy insecurity who is contemplating suicide in the NYC subway station. Curt is a charismatic, punk rocker/dropout/homeless kid who stops him, befriends him, and somehow sees beneath the layers of Troy's fat the future drummer of his new rock band. Don't miss the part when Troy takes the stage for the first time!

Audrey, Wait! by Robin Benway

Within a few weeks after their breakup, Audrey’s boyfriend, Evan, writes and performs a rock song about their split that catches the attention of a music executive and catapults Evan and his band to stardom. Because she is the song’s subject, Audrey suddenly becomes a celebrity, too, and over the course of a school year, she finds herself dodging paparazzi, rock stars in search of a muse, and star-crazed classmates. Audrey is a very likable character that exhibits quite a bit of integrity considering the sudden advantages available to her. Audrey surprises everyone when she goes live on MTV! A very humorous and grounded look at fame and teen romance.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowd

The London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowd

Ted and his big sister Kat, take his cousin Salim to the London Eye(a HUGE ferris wheel). Salim boards the capsule and seemingly disapears into thin air. Ted and Kat try to solve the mystery and find their cousin. Ted is very intelligent, but has a "funny brain", (Aspbergers maybe?)--between his brains and Kat's sneakiness they investigate the disappearance--did Salim get on the Eye? Did he disguise himself? Was he kidnapped? Did he run away? This book reminded me of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time--a mystery solved by a boy whose brain works differently and views the world differently than "normal" people. This is a good mystery, there is suspense, humor, cross dressing--a very entertaining read.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Bad girls don't die by Katie Allender

Bad girls don't die by Katie Allender

Alexis, the high school bad girl, outsider, challenger, rebel, thinks her life is pretty normal. Then, her doll obsessed little sister Kasey, starts acting strange, using old fashioned words, stealing homework, and her eye color keeps changing. Alexis is also experiencing strange things in her house, doors slamming, lights flickering, cold spots, and appliances turning on and off on their own. Is her sister possessed? Is she going crazy? Can a Buffy-like cheerleader help her? Will she get a boyfriend? Can she perform an exorcism? This is an appropriately creepy story, that might have some appeal for Twilight fans, but more geared toward readers of Repossessed, or readers looking for a creepy occult story.

The Last Olympian by Rick Riordan

The Last Olympian by Rick Riordan
This is the last installment to the Percy Jackson series. This is a fabulous adventure that takes classic Greek mythology and puts it in the modern world (Mount Olympus is on the top of the Empire State building). Percy Jackson,15 year-old, son of Neptune, is a demigod and hero, who thinks he is fated to sacrifice himself on his 16th birthday to save the world from Titan control. Epic battles, soul searching, love triangles and incredible monsters make this a wild and satisfying read--it is also really humorous! Get students started with The Lightning Thief, the first book in the series. This is a good book for adventure readers, Harry Potter fans, fantasy readers and students looking for a laugh.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Undiscoverd Country by Lin Enger

I really enjoyed this book. Teaching this book side by side with Hamlet would be the way to go. It appeals to teens and adults. --J. Asmus

"School Library Journal (February 1, 2009)
Adult/High School-In his most famous soliloquy, Hamlet speaks of that dread of something after death, 'the undiscover'd country, from whose bourn no traveler returns,' and this dread is realized beautifully in Enger's debut novel. While hunting deer in the northern Minnesota woods on a cold November afternoon, Harold Matson dies of a single grisly gunshot wound to the head. The local officials deem the death a suicide, but 17-year-old Jesse is convinced that his Uncle Clay is responsible for his father's death. The teen is visited by his father's ghost, has a girlfriend whose personal torment could give Ophelia a run for her money, and a bumbling/developmentally delayed relative (Clay's brother-in-law) who knows the truth about two murders for which Clay was responsible. But the elegantly written novel amounts to much more than just its allusions: Enger has taken a classic tale of betrayal, murder, justice, confusion, and forgiveness and created a story that will appeal to any teen who has experienced love and loss or grappled with dark family secrets. Readers might be left wondering what Hamlet would have been like had he survived. Less tragic perhaps, but he would have had an abundance of material for a career as a writer.-Jennifer Waters, Red Deer Public Library, Alberta, Canada Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information."

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Rules of Survival by Nancy Werlin

Living with an viscious, manipulative, and violent mother has taught Matthew how to survive and shelter his younger sisters from their mother's abuse. And then one day, a ray of hope:

"For me, it all started when I saw Murdoch stare down an angry father twice his size who was about to start pounding on his son. I heard him tell the little boy that no one had the right to hurt him, no one, not even his father. I'd never heard anyone say that before. I was thirteen years old, and what I thought I knew was that no one could be trusted. Especially the people who said they loved you.

"I was about to learn that I was right. And that I was wrong." 

This book is about a group of people, ordinary in their lives and demeaner, who, when confronted by evil have the courage to stare it down. As Murdock explains to Matthew, quoting the great bard himself, "Some are born great, some achieve geatness and some have greatness thrust upon them." Mathew and Murdock were not looking for greatness, nor were their family and friends, but each achieve it in their own way, in the the nick of time.