Dec 24, 2004

Rock Star Superstar, Blake Nelson

Find this book in the Hawley Library

What I like so much about this book is that it is straight up. It is able to portray how meaningful and emotionally satisfying it is to really be into music, and at the same time skirt on the edge of becoming the kids becoming major musicians without blowing it out of the water. I like it because it isn't fake - everything isn't easy, nothing is handed to them, and in the end it doesn't totally work out for them. But it isn't a total bust either. It's a lot more realistic that books that have these insane tragedies that people miraculously recover from in the end, and the characters are able to grow and change and realize their mistakes and realize what they couldn't control but could learn something from in the end.
Peter is just an average kind of kid, who goes through the same stuff everyone does in high school, and for a while it seems like he's gonna make it. But when he doesn't, he doesn't fall apart. He's learned a lot from his meetings with industry professionals and doing gigs all over the place and becoming locally famous. He also has a lot going on in his life but nothing is overblown. Like sometimes you'll read a book and the main character will have an alcoholic father who doesn't really act like a grown-up and a dead mother and a complicated girlfriend and that will be so much for them that that's what the whole book is about. But we all know people who have problems like that, even worse problems, and they get on with their lives and somehow make it work. Not that it isn't hard, but as Peter says, "You have to deal with it. You have to keep going." So I like that the book keeps those things in proportion and allows Peter to have this great and wonderful thing going on with his band.

Dec 22, 2004

Back When We Were Grownups, Anne Tyler

I read this book because I was curious about the title, and the premise seemed cool. A woman re-examines her life after realizing she turned into the "wrong person." Ultimately, I was impressed with the writing and the characterizations of her family members, but I was frustrated and disappointed in the results of Rebecca's "re-examination." It just seemed like she entertained certain notions from her past, and then didn't follow through with anything or really truly change anything, realizing that she had been happy all along. A little too Hallmark for my taste, and neatly tied up at then end. I like to feel a little off at the end of a book, and this book just tried to slap some tape on and pass it off to the reader. Although, the tied up ends surround an empty package. I don't feel like she really delved into herself as a person enough to even figure out that she had turned into the wrong one. The source of the most frustration for me in this book, though, is the way her family treats her. They don't respect her, they don't seem to care about anyone but themselves, they are totally self-absorbed, and they are adults! Rebecca just seems resigned to the fact that this is how it is, even though she is trying to figure out who she is and what her place is. It's like she's saying, "They are my family, take it or leave it," and she will just put up with their insensitive and abrasive comments. The whole re-examination of self just doesn't seem to come to fruition. She gets just far enough that it might become difficult for her to confront certain people or things that have happened, and she backs off and "realizes" that she was happy after all. I'm curious to see what others may have to say, especially if they think she really was successful in her re-examination. I did love Poppy, though. He was the most sensible character at 99 years old...

Dec 11, 2004

Speak, Laurie Halse Anderson

So many people have told me to read this book, and now that I finally have, I realize why. Maybe it is a different reason for everyone, but this book is very strong, very meaningful. When Melinda writes on the bathroom wall, "Boys to stay away from" with Andy Evans name, and then there are dozens and dozens of comments that agree, it just made me think: how many other girls did this one guy harm? And what might have happened if Melinda had been able to speak sooner - the way at the end everyone thanks her, supports her and what she finally was able to do. It also made me think about how so many people around us have these horrible things inside that they keep to themselves because they don't know what to do or how to do it. They just sort of sink inside themselves, and hopefully somewhere find something that they can build from again, start new. For Melinda I think it when she sees her friend in danger and realizes that she has the knowledge and the power to protect her friend Rachel, even if it is possibly the hardest thing. There are so many people we know that have gone into this state - not so silent or bad that people really take notice, maybe a couple meetings with parents, but nothing that really tries to help them. I guess what I'm saying is that it is not shocking, although still sad, that someone can sort of shut down and the world will make its assumptions about that person and move on - maybe try to nudge them back in the right direction, but not really try to help or intervene - all Melinda's parents wanted was school attendance and decent grades, no trouble. Although they cared about her, they didn't delve deep enough to do anything about it. And I think one of the reasons this book is so popular is that that situation is so familiar to so many people.

Dec 8, 2004

On The Bright Side, I'm Now the Girlfriend of a Sex God, Louise Rennison

This is another book about Georgia Nicolsen, a British teen - this is the first one I've read, and it is pure fun. Total fluff, but fun fluff. Usually I like books that have a little more substance, but the way she talks is just so funny! She makes up words at the drop of a hat, and the words somehow relate much more meaning than the proper word would. I don't really have much to say about this book - it isn't heavy on plot, but there is a new one coming out - the title is something about a camel - and I wanted to read one to see what they are all about. Very fun.

Dec 2, 2004

Heart's Delight, Per Nilsson

This is the first novel translated into English from a man in Sweden. A movie playing in the mind of a young man who is trying to destroy every trace of a relationship he felt was fake. He had met a girl on the long bus ride through the city to school. When she sits next to him one day and they talk, she accidentally forgets her German book, so, of course he has to return it to her. When he arrives at Ann-Katrin's apartment he finds that the fresh, lemon-y smell that follows her everywhere is from the many plants of lemon balm, or heart's delight, that she keeps on her windowsill. After this their friendship flowers and he finds himself falling hopelessly in love with her.
When he leaves to go to a summer in America all he can think of is Ann-Katrin, or as he has started calling her, Heart's Delight. He fills notebooks with thoughts of her, and writes about 14 letters to her in a month. When he gets back the first thing he does after dropping off his luggage is go to her apartment to see her again, and give her a gift. What he finds when he gets there is another thing...

On the night of her return from a vacation with her father he struggles with the ultimate decision -- is life worth-it if he can't have her? He destroys all remenants of their relationship and is preparing to say good-bye to the world, but will he be able to do it?

Nov 29, 2004

The curious incident of the dog in the night-time

Christopher is an autistic teenager who is mathematically gifted. His family is a mess, partly because raising a challenging child put strains on a marriage. When the dog across the street is murdered, Christopher tries to figure out the murderer, even though his father does not approve. Christopher's reasoning and mathematical skills sometimes complicate his search and sometimes prove successful.

When Christopher's father lies to him, Christopher feels he has to find a new place to live. How can he trust again? Who can he trust?

From reading this book, I learned about the difficulties of being autistic from Christopher's perspective and from his partents' perspective. From another series of books about Joey Pigza by Jack Gantos, I learned about the feelings of a person with hyperactive syndrome. From both books I learned that loving fathers can do wrong things for their children.

Nov 23, 2004

The Perfect Family by: Jerrie Oughton

Jerrie Oughton did a wonderful job writting a novel on a young girl who gets preganat. Welcome had fell in love with a wonderful man and had the best summer ever until school started up.Her love went to college and she had still been in high school but still talked to him as much as she could
and saw him on that note as well. Her loves name was Nicholas Canton and he was everything a girl could ever want in a guy until he tried to seduce her. Of course Welcome had enough will power to over come him. In october Welcome went to a college football game( the same team Nicholas plays for) with a high school friend of hers Randy. When the football game was over Randy took Welcome to the top of a hill and was able to do what Nicholas had tried to do and the only reason that is, is becasue Welcome let her feelings for Nicholas come over her.
Welcome had realized weeks later that she was preganat with Randy child but couldn't tell him, not after she used him in a way. Her being preganat opened a new chapter to her life she just wasnt ready for. She moved with her Aunt Lacey where she went through every stage of her life from there on out. Once the baby was born she had to come up with what she wanted to do. At first she kept the child but she realized what she had to do.

Nov 19, 2004

Boy Meets Boy, David Levithan

Paul is openly gay and has been since he learned what the word was in kindergarten. His parents are great with it, and so is his community. In fact, his community is full of people who are out in every way - the high school quarterback is also homecoming queen! So this book takes on a really light tone that other books about gay teens don't have. At first. Because later on, we realize that everyone doesn't have it so great. Paul's friend Tony's parents aren't ok at all about Tony's sexuality. Although there are many sub-plots to the book, and Tony's relationship with his parents isn't perhaps the most important one, it is the one I found most interesting. Tony has a unique way of trying to deal with the conflict between himself and his parents, one that is rare and really mature - he talks to them. He is honest, he respects that they do what they do because they love him and that although it would be really easy to just block them out and count down the days till college, he understands that he really loves his parents, too, and he wants a real relationship with them.

Nov 17, 2004

Angels and Demons

I recently read Angels and Demons by: Dan Brown and I loved it. I couldn't put the book down, every page left me wanting more. Robert Langdon's crazy trip around Italy was amazing. Dan Brown did an amazing job adding unexpected twists throughout the story. This story is about Robert Langdon and Vittoria Vetra, the pope has past away and the four cardinals who are most likely to be elected pope have been kidnapped and their lives are in danger. Vittoria and her recently deceased father created a substance called "anti-matter" which is highly explosive when it touches anything made of matter (which means everything including air) it has been stolen from their lab and will annihilate at midnight exactly. Langdon and Vittoria travel on an ancient trail across Rome to the secret Church of Illuminati, who are the suspected kidnappers. Will Langdon and Vittoria find the cardinals in time? Who's behind the kidnappings? Will everyone get out of Rome tonight alive?

Nov 11, 2004

The Secret Life of Bees, Sue Monk Kidd

This is my second time through with this book, and I am glad I re-read it. The first time through, the story itself kept me busy - what had Lily done? And where would she end up? And what would happen to the Calendar sisters and everone else? Everyone's fate seemed so up in the air, there were so many people to worry about. The second time through, I was able to really get into the emotion and spirituality of the book. There is an earnestness in this writing, honest embellishments that lay open the story. What does it do to a person, to have killed the very thing you yearn for your whole life? To know that, if it hadn't been for you and your actions and your mistakes, the happiness you think of with every breath might have been yours? I cannot wrap my mind around it, how one can somehow come to a place where they can live with themselves and the knowledge that they killed their mother. Of course it is August, and August's faith that helps Lily there, but still. I wonder if Lily can be ok with it because her mother had left her. Because for the moment, as she is finding all this out, she is so angry and sad at the thought of having been left. She never quite brings it home in the end, never quite faces up to it (although I suppose she faced up to it for much of the novel, a large part of her sadness and flight). In the end, when Lily asks T. Ray if she really did kill her mother, standing there in the driveway as he is ready to say goodbye forever, T. Ray tells her honestly that she did: "Maybe he was telling me the truth, but you could never know a hundred percent with T. Ray" (299). So she is still hanging on to that little bit of possibility, and I guess maybe that's how someone could survive emotionally intact.

Nov 7, 2004

A Private State, stories by Charlotte Bacon

I am a blubbering idiot in the face of this woman's writing. I am reduced to gasping in awe, to quoting huge passages verbatim, or quick small lines. These stories are amazing. Simply amazing. More character in three lines than in a whole Dan Brown, ie: "But Mrs. Prichard can't remember the last time she turned down a chance to get mad: she's a woman who writes letters to congressmen. A woman who picks up trash on the street and puts it in bins . . ." (from Mrs. Pritchard and Mr. Watson) or "Last fall, her husband Frank Marten, a veterinarian who hunts, began renting across town." (from Live Free or Die). A veterinarian who hunts - what succinct description of this man! And place, and small detail, and human emotion. She never puts a beautiful face on the ugly, never pretends there is an easy clean answer. Almost every story ends abrubtly, but as it is meant to do. There are no neat packages here. We understand these characters have been there before we arrived, and will go on, in their bumbling stumbling way, after we've gone. And we're left holding our breath, that reaction to supreme beauty, that waiting for the ordinary so we remember to breath.

Nov 3, 2004

Sammy & Juliana in Hollywood, Benjamin Alire Saenz

Just finished the book of the above title (available in WHS library). Set in a really really small town in New Mexico, back in the late 60s, very Hispanic. I was worried it was going to be dated, but it wasn't at all. The mix of English and Spanish was ok most of the time (I'm not really up on my Spanish slang), occassionally I got a bit lost but I just let it roll. For a while I wasn't really into this book - sooo depressing - but toward the end I ate it up. I really appreciated the characters, the complexities, how certain situations didn't resolve themselves - just like real life. For example, when Sammy and his friend stop the gay guys from getting killed, but then the friend isn't sure he did the right thing. How crazy, in my view, but how reflective of how inflexible and complicated things can be.

In the beginning . ..

This is the beginning of a great experiment - a book club online! This is a space to talk about books we have read, ask questions, bring up issues, and in other ways share our love of reading.