Wednesday, August 25, 2004

The Double-Digit Club by Marion Dane Bauer brought up some interesting issues relating to cliques and true friendship. Paige and Sarah have been best friends since they were babies. Now they are approaching that milestome birthday where they turn ten years old. One of their classmates, the snobby, bossy and mean Valerie started a club earlier in the year that girls are invited to join when they turn ten. After they turn ten and join the club they are no longer allowed to associate with the 9-year-olds. Sarah and Paige are the last in the class to turn 10 and Paige goes first. Since they both dislike Valerie and think her club is dumb, they create a scheme to put Valerie in her place and refuse to join her Double-Digit Club. But, it's really Sarah's plan. As are the names she and Paige give to all their dolls and the games they usually play together. Sarah has a bit of a bossy streak in her. And even though she and Paige are so close, Paige grows kind of tired of this bossiness. She ignores the plan they made together and joins the Double-Digit Club leaving Sarah on her own. Then there's this whole part with a doll that I found really annoying...and then Sarah and Paige have it out. Paige has the courage to tell Sarah how she really feels about the Double-Digit Club and that Sarah and Valerie, arch enemies, probably hate each other because they are so much alike. The book has an uncertain and therefore, realistic, ending predicting that the girls will probably remain friends, but their friendship will be different. Great book except for the doll bit in the middle--ugh!

Sunday, August 22, 2004

What I read (and listened to) on my Summer Vacation by April M
Fair Weather (audio) by Richard Peck … finally got around to this, loved A Year Down Yonder and A Long Way from Chicago but this one is my favorite by far. The narration is excellent, complementing the story perfectly, which has the perfect mix of history, humor and heartfeltness (new word!) … I admit to getting choked up at the end as I sat and listened to the last three minutes in the parking lot at work. Can’t understand why this is not a multiple award winner. It’s the kind of story that stays with you long after you have finished the book and for me it sparked in interest in the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. I’m also really looking forward to Peck’s upcoming book, The Teacher’s Funeral: A Comedy in Three Parts.
People of Sparks by Jeanne DuPrau … sequel to one of my favorite books last year, The City of Ember. I was a little nervous at first because I just loved the way City of Ember ended, enough to keep you satisfied but open enough to let you use your imagination about the future of that story. One of our pages who also loved City of Ember read the sequel and convinced me to give it a try and I definitely liked it. It’s a page-turner all the way, fantastic writing with a moral that our world could really learn from right now. The threat of famine plays a large role in the People of Sparks as it does in
Among the Hidden (audio) by Margaret Peterson Haddix … it would be interesting to discuss these two books in a book group…both deal with a future that is concerned with famine but Haddix’s novel follows a more dystopian, sci-fi plot while the people in DuPrau’s world are rebuilding what has been destroyed … a more earthy and organic story. What I like about Haddix’s style is the real science and technology bent as opposed to some sci-fi that is more along the Star Wars/Star Trek line (Try Turnabout sometime). In Among the Hidden the future is void of robots and flying cars, yet it is a future none of us would want to live in. The government is totalitarian and among many other crazy laws, enforces a rule that families cannot have more than 2 children. The Hidden are the third children who must hide from the rest of the world for their entire lives. I don’t want to give the story away but it is a very well written story, very suspenseful, a bit scary and sad, and also hopeful. The narration was a little stale ... I might end up reading the rest of the series.
Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett is being called the DaVinci Code for kids. Well, I have not read The DaVinci Code but I loved Chasing Vermeer. It is a mystery, comedy, and art lesson all rolled into one, with a splash of fantasy. I am a fan of Helquist’s illustrations and apparently there is a puzzle hidden in the book…I’ll wait and let the kidlings tell me what it means! I really loved the characters in this story and like how they aren't fast friends at first. Their relationship develops naturally and progresses as they try and solve this mystery they are both tied into.
Catalyst by Laurie Halse Anderson … I am sure you have all heard about Anderson’s new book…I stayed up until 330 one morning binge reading this book. It was worth it…completely different from these other books on my list but it drew me in until I just couldn’t put it down. It deals with Kate, a young woman crippled by a million pressures around her who has to disentangle herself when someone else’s tragedy becomes her own. Though this other person is impossible to like you can see that through this experience Kate finally is growing and learning more about herself than she probably ever wanted to know.
The Game of Sunken Places by MT Anderson … well, technically I am in the middle of this book. I would like to discuss with anyone who is also reading or has read this book. I became a big MT Anderson fan after Feed but this book is starting to disappoint me. The first chapter was actually the best so far and I could see it really hooking a kid, very intriguing and spooky…but now, halfway through I am feeling like I need to be thrown a bone… it’s too mysterious, too weird … I need a little something … a couple of answers or explanations to motivate me to finish the book. I can see suspense being used to keep the story going but I think us simple humans also need a balance to that to become invested. Sadly, there are no characters I like, I have started skimming, and this morning as I picked it up I thought, "If this doesn’t get better I am skipping to the end." I ended up falling asleep and dreaming about Asiago bagels but there is still plenty of time left in the day ….

Friday, August 20, 2004

The Revealers by Doug Wilhelm is another look at the issue of bullying. It seems like writing about bullying is a recent trend. Is it because it is more common in schools these days or because it has always been there and people are finally paying attention? In this chapter book, Elliot, Russell and Catalina are all singled out by bullies at Parkland Middle School. They are cruelly teased, both verbally and physically. The three misfits join forces and start to talk about what's going on. Then Catalina writes a short biography to let others know who she really is in an effort to defeat the stupid lies than mean Bethany DeMere is spreading all over school. The three kids publish her story on their in-school email network called "Schoolstream." When others read Catalina's story, they start writing their own stories of bullying and victimization. Elliott, Russell and Catalina start publishing these stories regularly under the title "The Darkland Revealer." For the most part, the stories are well received by the students and teachers and there is a definite change in attitude at Parkland Middle School. There are also those who are not so happy about the bully revelations -- the bullies themselves!

Thursday, August 19, 2004

My last two weeks of reading have included:

PS, I love you by Cecelia Ahern
This was a fun chick lit novel. Through the whole book I thought I had the ending all figured out and then Wham--it was not what I expected. Pretty impressive for this kind of book.

The glass cafe, or, The stripper and the state : how my mother started a war with the system that made us kind of rich and a little bit famous by Gary Paulsen
Thanks for recommending this, April, I loved it! The first person narration is addictive, as is Tony's unusual outlook on the world.

Shopgirl by Steve Martin
Mirabelle is in her late twenties, is a talented artist and works in the outdated glove department at Nieman's in Beverly Hills. Ray Porter is her older lover/sugar daddy. And Jeremy, he starts out as a hook-up and then disappears, but then reappears as much more. Steve Martin has a talent for character description and development. He is a keen observer of those things that exist on the exterior of each person and then uses x-ray vision to look closer at the things that live and grow in the interior of his characters' hearts and minds.
great great great story!

Monday, August 09, 2004

I read 3 books this weekend. I finished Olivia Joules and the Overactive Imagination by Helen Fielding. This is her latest and I like it much better than Bridget Jones - she was too whiny! This Olivia is much more self-sufficient and capable. She is a journalist that ends up spying for the CIA and tracking down an al-Quaeda ring. She gets cool James Bond toys for girls including a bra with some lethal underwires. I think I like her better than Bridget because she doesn't define herself by her marital status.

I also read Spanish Holiday by Kate Cann, which I also really liked. It is about 3 English girls (Laura, Yaz, and Ruth) who want to spend part of their gap year living and working in Spain. Before they leave, Ruth lands herself an insufferable boyfriend who insists on coming along and almost ruins the trip for all of them. And Laura and Yaz compete over extremely Spanish, and extremely hot Juan. I wish I had gotten to do something like this if I'd had a gap year. But I think I was a bit too immature at 18!

The third book I read was Dreamland by Sarah Dessen. This one was good, but it was much more dark than the only other I have read by her: Keeping the Moon. It is about Caitlin, whose seemingly perfect older sister runs away with her boyfriend just weeks before starting Yale to escape their uber-control-freak mother. Caitlin tries to fill the hole left by her sister, and ends up in a very bad relationship with a guy who beats her regularly. There was hope and healing at the end. I like Dessen because her stories don't have neat and tidy endings, but there is always a bit of hope that things will turn out all right.

Up next for me this week: The Garden by Aidinoff.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

I haven't been able to focus much on my books lately. Maybe it's because it is the summer, maybe I'm just distracted, I don't know. But, I finally found a good one and finished it between last night and this afternoon. Elizabeth Fama's Overboard is about Emily Slake. Her parents are both doctors who travel the world. Emily is fourteen-years-old and has spent more time in foreign hospitals in her life than anywhere else. Her parents are often so distracted and absorbed in their work that they don't pay too much attention to their daughter. The Slake's are stationed in Indonesia as the story begins and Emily is really feeling neglected by her parents. When a young girl at the hospital dies, Emily feel responsible and decides to run away. Without telling anyone, she jumps on a ferry headed to another island where her Uncle is stopping by. After hours at the dock, the ferry finally departs. An hour later, the ferry tilts to a really odd angle and then begins to sink. The passengers panic, life jackets are thrown about and before Emily knows it, she is tossed into a storage bin and locked in. As the water level in the bin rises she kicks and kicks at the door, trying to escape and barely able to breathe. That is only the first of the dangers she encounters in this suspens novel.

I also just read Morality for Beautiful Girls, the third novel in the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series by Alexander McCall Smith. I love these books!