Dec 6, 2005

NH Flume Award - Nominate your favorite book!

Nomination deadline is December 15th

The winning nominations will be next year's summer reading list.

Nov 26, 2005

Donorboy, Brendan Halpin

Book Find this book in the Hawley Library

We meet Rosalind just after she has lost her moms in a freak accident and has moved in with her sperm-donor father. She didn’t know her father before this, never hung out, he wasn’t involved in her upbringing. This isn’t the story of what its like to have grown up with lesbian parents and no dad, this is the story of what its like to lose two parents but then suddenly have a new one thrust into your life.

The story is told through a lot of emails from Sean, the donor dad, and a lot of journal writing from Rosalind, girl with no moms. Some text messaging, IMs, other written or recorded forms of communication are thrown in, but not so much as to be too annoying (and it can be really annoying to read pages and pages of IMing back and forth). Instead, the voices of the main characters really come through and I really became quite attached to these well-developed whole and round characters. By which I mean that they seem like real people. They have problems, they aren’t perfect, but they aren’t awful either and they grow and learn and are generally interesting.

Basically, Rosalind has to deal with both losing her moms and all the grief that that entails and she screws up in school and goes to some parties and is generally a teenager (and not even a crazy one at that). And Sean needs to learn to be a dad to a 15-year-old after having no practice whatsoever.

It’s a really touching story without being schmaltzy, and realistic and fairly original. Overall, one of the better books I’ve read recently.

Nov 15, 2005

Geography Club, Brent Hartinger

Russell thinks he's the only gay kid in his school. Even his best friends don't know about him being gay, and as a result, he feels incredibly lonely. When he gets on an internet chatroom for gay teens, he finds that there is another gay kid at his school, and then he comes out to his other best friend, who turns out to be a lesbian!

Ok, so now there are 5 kids in the school and they know each other is gay. The school is really repressive. Like the opposite of Boy Meets Boy. They want to hang out together, but still be secret, so they form a fake club, geography club, hoping that no one will figure out what the real story is.

That works out ok, but meanwhile Russell got another friend that is manipulating him, and everyone is on edge because, as I said above, the school environment is really oppressive - kids are just really really mean to each other.

I won't give away all what happens, but will just add that it's a really good book, and really short. I like good, quick books.

Nov 8, 2005

Autobiography of My Dead Brother, Walter Dean Myers

Find this book in the Hawley Library.

This is the latest from Walter Dean Myers, who I think is a brilliant writer. This one incorporates graphic novel type illustrations, making it a bit of a hybrid – something else I love. So why aren’t I head over heels in love with this book?

Mostly because the subject of the book is same ‘ol same ‘ol for Walter Dean Myers – inner city kids, suddenly and they aren’t quite sure how, get mixed up in gang stuff and drug dealing and then somebody or somebodies die by gun violence. It’s an important story, but Myers has done it, and done it well. The book is great, I will recommend it, but I was a bit disappointed just because the theme is somewhat overdone, at least by this author.

Nov 5, 2005

Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy, Gary Schmidt

Book Find this book in the Hawley Library

From the description of this book, I didn’t really think I was going to like it. I read it because it got some literary awards. So once again, I should say that I learned my lesson not to judge a book by its (back) cover. Though of course, I haven’t really learned that lesson yet.

So the story is set back in the day in a rural Maine community. Turner, son of a preacher man, is the main character. He’s just moved from Boston, where people are more liberal and there are more people in general so he doesn’t feel so much like the entire town is watching him to make sure he never slips up. (Of course he does, and there are some side plots about that.) Lizzie is his friend, a really good friend (but not a special friend, at least it doesn’t seem like it goes that far.) but she is black, a member of a community founded by ex-slaves. Some of the townspeople hate having the black people there, and convince Turner’s dad to help oust them.

Things happen – houses burn, people die – you know. What I most recommend this book on is its solid writing, believable and deep characters, and fluid plot-line. Really good.

Oct 2, 2005

Somebody's Daughter, Marie Myung Ok Lee

I read this book mostly because it has personal appeal to me: it is about a girl who is Korean but adopted to a white family in America. My sister is Korean and grew up here with us, her totally white family. The plot centers around when she is about 18, goes off to college but ends up leaving school (much to her adoptive parents horror) and going to Korea to try to figure out who she is.

I’m having a hard time saying whether I liked this book or not because I had so many personal expectations going in. And this girl’s story and my sister’s just don’t overlap very much at all, so the book didn’t meet my expectations.

Anyway, the girl in the story, Sarah Thorson, goes to Korea and enrolls in a school to learn Korean. Although she appears Korean, she really is pretty much an outsider there because she can’t speak the language at all and doesn’t understand the first thing about the culture. Her white family had told her her parents had died in a car crash, which she finds out was a total lie – she was found abandoned at a fire station and no one has any idea who her parents are.

The book switches back and forth between Sarah’s story and the story of her birth mother. So we as readers know who she is and what her life was like. The book is interesting in that it takes a good look at a portion of the US population that seems under-represented (from my biased point of view) – there are so many Korean adoptees in our country. On the other hand, the story is so specific that it is hard to take a larger lesson. The author does hit on one point that seems more universal, at least from conversations with my sister and some other Korean adoptees we’ve known: it is bizarre to walk around looking Korean on the outside, but being acculturated as white because of who you grow up with and the larger environment. Especially then when you go out into the world as an adult and people don’t know your family so they don’t know you didn’t grow up within a certain culture. When my sister went to college, other Asian students were trying to talk with her about certain cultural things and she had to explain herself. The book does a good job explaining that aspect of being adopted.

Sep 18, 2005

Flying Leap, Judy Budnitz

This book was recommended to me by one of the other bloggers on here - ray.

I had been reading a string of fairly boring and totally not recommendable books, thus the lack of posts for a while, and this one finally broke that god-awful streak.

I love short stories, which this is a collection of. I love them 'cuz they cut to the chase, they mix it up, they are a bit raw - there's no time or space for slowly getting the reader acclimated to a character or a situation, it's sink or swim.

And what I love about this particular collection of short stories is that the author makes use of a style you see often with south and central american authors but not so much elsewhere. Fantastical realism. This is not to say fantasy, not at all. It's just that things happen that don't really happen in real life to sort of push people and expose their emotions and who they are through how they react. Like in the second story, the character's mother is dying and his aunts pressure him to donate his heart. The doctor pressures him, too, as does his girlfriend. And through that action we see what kind of crazy things people think and do.

I don't think I'm explaining this particularly well, which is sad because I really really loved most of these stories (I think some at the end of the book are a little dull). In fact, that story I was referring to earlier I actually recognized - it had been read on my all time favorite radio program ever - This American Life. (It's episode 256, Living Without, in case you want to hear it.)

Sep 8, 2005

Summer Reading Books Clubs - easy extra credit!

The dates and times for the summer reading 'book clubs' have been announced. Attend one and receive a homework/extra credit pass. Meet in the library.

September 12, 6:30-7:30pm
Please talk to the librarians if you plan on attending this evening discussion.

September 20, 2:30 - 3:30pm


Born Confused


Boy Meets Boy


September 21, 2:30 - 3:30pm

The curious incident of the dog in the night-time


Vampire High

First Meetings in the Ender's Universe

The House of the Scorpion


The DaVinci Code

Ask in the library if you have any questions!

Jul 11, 2005

When I Was a Soldier: a memoir, Valerie Zenatti

soldier Find this book in the Hawley Library

First, a confession: I don’t know anything about history starting immediately following World War II. Especially international history. It seems all my history classes never managed to get past WWII, thus never learning about Vietnam, the Korean War, etc. It also means I never officially learned anything about the establishment of Israel and the who what why and where of why everyone in the Middle East hates us and why people are willing to blow themselves up over the whole thing.

This used to not matter to me. But now I care a great deal about why people blow themselves up and how that affects our lives – because it does, and it directly relates to why terrorists hate us so much.

So when I read a little review of this book I went out of my way to find it. This is the non-fiction account of Valerie Zenatti’s two years of mandatory service in the Israeli army, written from her teen perspective, making is very readable and clear and understandable. And enjoyable!

In Israel, everyone, both girls and boys, are required to serve in the military starting at age 18. Girls serve two years, boys serve three. Valerie not only shares the nitty gritty details of what this is like--to know your whole life you are going to serve in the potentially deadly military when you are still very young, and the details of her military service—but also what it is like to live in the country of Isreal, and how many people have such mixed feelings about the whole thing. Valerie is able to convey the many sides of the confusing issues for Israel and Palestine, without being confusing. I know it’s not a history book (which is why I liked it so much), so that the views are not unbiased, and that it is very partial and really only a starting point of understanding that conflict. But I definitely learned a lot.

It’s a fairly short book, and also in it Valerie is also typical teenager with friends and loves and complicated and simple relationships, just wanting to have some fun, just trying to figure out her place in the world. She is smart and witty, and has written a good book that spoke to me – not over my head, but not speaking down to me, either.

Jun 30, 2005

Vanishing Acts, Jodi Picoult


This is the latest from Jodi Picoult, and it is pretty much what we’ve come to expect from this author. A little bit of a mystery, a bit of romance, a court room crime drama situation that manages not to derail the book, and so on. I really like her stuff, but I’ll have to be honest, this one comes apart at the seams a bit. They are all good page-turning beach reads, but some of Picoult’s books are definitely better than others.

Our main girl Delia is a semi-single mom (maybe in her late 20s?) whose relationship with her baby-daddy, Eric, has been rocky because of his alcoholism. She has a very close relationship with her own father, who solely raised her because her mom died when she was very young, or so she’s been told. Turns out, her mom is not dead, her dad kidnapped her from Arizona when she was really young, changed their names, moved them to New Hampshire, and has been living the suburban life of a fugitive ever since. He did this, he insists, because her mother was a terrible mother, being an extreme alcoholic.

So Delia’s father is arrested, she is having a real true identity crisis, Eric is a lawyer so he’s trying to represent Delia’s dad, Delia meets her mom, this other best friend of theirs is actually in love with Delia and gets all up in the mess, Delia has an experience with this Native American spiritualist, and on and on. I could list about fifty more plot elements without giving anything away, and therein lies my point: there is just too much thrown in here for a cohesive novel to emerge. It’s an ok book, but most of her other books are way better, especially My Sister’s Keeper.

Jun 16, 2005

I read the Bourne Identity, by Robert Ludlum. This is a thriller about a man named Jason Bourne who is found washed up on a beach with no memory. He has no idea who he is and his only clue is a microfilm implanted in his hip. Little does he know, this microfilm will lead him to a bank in Zurich, where he will start on a race for his life against unknown forces, the whole time trying to piece together his fragmented past. He is told by one source that he is one of the most feared assassins in the world, only topped by the mysterious assassin Carlos. Bourne is actually a trap for Carlos, a tool being used by the US government. He meets a woman named Marie St. Jacques, who tries to convince him he's not an assassin, and she eventually succeeds, but that's for the sequel.

I recommend this book to people who are not looking for a quick read. Sometimes the details used make it a slow read, but it's exciting and worth the time investment. You also have to like action and thrills if you read this book. Just in case you can't put it down, make sure you have some time on your hands.

Jun 8, 2005

Your personal favorites

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Yet again, I must start a post in bibliotalk with "I don't know if this is allowed".

I think that one can learn a lot about one's taste in books by reading reviews, but even more by reading a list of a blogger's personal favorite books. I'm sure that we have all filled out the 'books' section in our profiles, so why not simply copy and paste our selections into comments on this entry? Reading through these lists may give us all some background information on the reviewer's taste in literature. This might be helpful while considering reviews on bibliotalk, don't you agree? I'll start:

Cut, Wasted: The Memoir of an Anorexic and Bulimic, The Great Gatsby, Of Mice and Men, Stargirl, The Picture of Dorian Gray, Dangerous Angels: The Weetzie Bat Books, Violet and Claire, The Belljar, The Feed, Burgerwuss, Thirsty, Branded: The Buying and Selling of Teens, Born Confused, Hard Love, The Gospel Acording to Larry, Jinx, Buddhism Without Beliefs, Born Confused, the Gossip Girl books, the Harry Potter books, A Chamber of Horrors, Wuthering Heights, Romeo and Juliet, This Lullaby, Elvis by the Presleys, Taming of the Shrew, Modern Feminisms

Jun 7, 2005

The Burn Journals, Brent Runyon


Wow. This is a totally amazing book. I kept having to remind myself that Runyon didn’t write this weeks after all this happened but years, because the way he puts everything down, the language he uses and the tense and everything just make it all feel so real and immediate. Of course it is real, but sometimes when you are reading non-fiction and there is dialogue, or there are parts where the author is telling what they were thinking at the time, it is so unbelievable. And you know the author just forgot what it felt like, or what somebody said, and just had to make it up to fill in the blanks. Not this book. Maybe Runyon did have to do that, but you never get that feeling at all. Everything he is thinking, the thoughts he has about why he set himself on fire and what he was like before and after, it’s just so authentic, not cheesy or moralistic or anything. It just really amazes me that he was able to get back into his fifteen-year-old brain and think in that same way again. Really well done. I wish this guy would write more YA, because he definitely has a great style for it, but he hasn’t written anything else at all.

Jun 5, 2005

A Mango-Shaped Space, Wendy Mass

Find this book in the Hawley Library


I just really love this book. Normally I am extraordinarily critical, and pick apart this and that. This is not to say this is a life-altering, amazingly perfect book. But there is a sweet and gentle story, wrapped up in some real stuff that’s not overly dramatized.

Mia has synesthia – a condition where she sees colors in association with words, numbers, sounds, etc. In third grade she is called a freak and she understands no one else can see colors, so she hides it from her family and friends until her problems at school become overwhelming and she happens to meet a kid who appears to have the same deal she does. In other story lines, her grandpa has just died and she sort of transfers her grief into love of a new cat, the Mango of the title.

I don’t really want to give more away, just say that her condition is real, not many people at all have it but it is really interesting. Wendy Mass does a good job creating a story around it, with real and lovable characters.

May 31, 2005

Swollen, Melissa Lion

Find this book in the Hawley Library


Although this book is told from Samantha’s, the main character’s, point of view, she is so good at not really thinking about the things in her life that are affecting her, that it takes a long time for us to get the full picture. Samantha has slept around some, and doesn’t feel great about it, though she hasn’t slept around as much as people credit her with, and she definitely didn’t sleep with the super popular boy who dies right at the beginning of the book, though he leads people to believe she did. She struggles with her self-image and therefore the image others have of her: she’s an athlete, she’s a slut, she’s a girl who wants to love somebody and have somebody love her. At the core her relationship (and lack thereof) with each of her parents has a lot to do with what is happening with her. This book isn’t heavy on the plot, and in that way and many others maintains a lot of honesty. She meets a boy, thinks he could be the one, and then discovers . . .

May 30, 2005

Annie On My Mind

Find this book in the Hawley Library


I finally read this book after years of having it recommended to me – gblt ya is one of my favorite genres, and this book is a classic. Having now read it, I understand why so many people were trying to push it one me, and why it has earned its place as a classic. This is, at its core, a sweet story about first love. That it happens to be about two girls discovering something essential about themselves and the way they love enhances it. But Nancy Garden manages to keep the story about emotion, about that amazing feeling of pure, sweet, and somewhat innocent love. Sure, there is drama-–no good love story is without its trials. But more than most ya romance, this one maintains a good balance and doesn’t tend toward the melodramatic. Garden is respectful of her characters feelings, and portrays them (both the characters and the feelings) as having enormous depth and complexity.

Apr 28, 2005

America, E.R. Frank

Find this book in the Hawley Library


I should've written this post weeks ago when I actually finished this book, because I've forgotten a lot of what I wanted to say. So I briefly considered not writing a post at all, but the book was so good (that I do remember), that I at least wanted to recommend it.

The story follows a kid, named America, that basically gets lost in the foster care system over and over again. Some horrible things happen to him, and he is shuffled around to different group housing situations. If this were all it would be a pretty average book, but it is really raw and genuine emotionally. The author is very skilled at relating America's emotional state, and how sometimes the least little things can set a person off, and how counseling takes forever and three days to actually work, and what happens to a person's soul when they can't trust anybody at all, because no one sticks around long enough. It's just a really authentic, not at all corny, book.

Apr 2, 2005

Can't Get There From Here, Todd Strasser

Find this book in the Hawley Library


This is a pretty good book, I guess especially if you are interested in teen homelessness. The author does a really good job of being honest about what it is like to be homeless, without vilifying or glorifying the topic. I appreciate the dirty grimy details of life on the streets, but it was clear that however bad it was, for those kids it was better than what they had been dealing with at home. And it definitely wasn't all about drugs, although that was part of it for a lot of the characters in this book. It was interesting comparing this fictional book to Living at the Edge of the World: How I Survived in the Tunnels of Grand Central Station, by Jamie Pastor Bolnick, which is a non-fiction book written by a formerly homeless teen. And based on what Bolnick said, the descriptions and realities in this book are fairly right on, even to the point of teens living in "tribes" and the extent of totally slimy creepy people who are looking to take advantage of these kids.

Mar 24, 2005

The Cassandra Compact; by Robert Ludlum


This book is about Covert-One spy Jon Smith. He is called by his spymaster, Fred Klein, at his Bethesda home. Klein tells him that Smith has to make an extraction in Italy of a Russian agent with some important information. Smith flies to Italy and meets the agent, only to watch him be brutally shot him to death. Smith gives chase to the killers, only to watch them be killed themselves.
He finds a note uncovering a conspiracy that goes to highest levels of NASA to find the Russian store of the Smallpox virus and make it instantly fatal. The head astronaut of the next flight is planning on operating on the virus in zero gravity, where it will grow quicker. He gets to the touchdown point in time to get inside the shuttle and make sure the virus is killed.

I thought this was a very exciting thriller. Just like all the other books written by Robert Ludlum, they leave you on the edge of your seat, wondering what's going to happen next. I recommend this book for anyone who likes suspense like this and isn't looking for a book about unicorns and magic.

Mar 17, 2005

There is Room For You: Charlotte Bacon

Find this book in the Hawley Library


This book tells the story of a mother and daughter who have never understood each other. The mother, Rose, had a unique childhood growing up British in Northern India. The local Indian children shunned her because she was white; the British children shunned her because her mannerisms were too Indian. After being sent to school in England and then working and marrying in the US, Rose has never felt that she belongs anywhere, except the place she least expects to find comfort.
Anna, Rose's daughter, grew up with a distant mother who had a mysterious past in a foreign place which was never spoken of. After Anna's trying divorce she decides to go to India for a while and disassociate herself from the life she is leaving behind. She has many adventures from 'adopting' and helping a beggar child, to dealing with a tragedy concerning a friendly English university student, to falling in love with a Israeli military man.
This is a story with as many twists and turns as a train ride up to Darjeeling, tea country. Everyone could relate or find interest in some part of this book.

When I went to India I took this book with me thinking that I would have plenty of time to read. I was wrong, but out of all of the books I have read on India this gave the most true-to-life impression of what it is like to be a tourist in India. Bacon accurately describes the rush of auto-rickshaws zooming down the road, not being able to understand the chatter of local people who sometimes make a point not to speak in English, and the wonderful hospitality of the Indian people.

Mar 16, 2005

Feed, M.T. Anderson

Find this book in the Hawley Library


So this book is a futuristic/dystopia kind of thing, really accessible story, a good read overall. What strikes me, though, is that although it is supposed to be a dystopia, I walked around for a couple weeks wishing I had the 'feed' in my head. How annoying to walk to the computer to look something up, like the definition of a word, or what time a movie is playing, after reading this book, I wanted to be able to just look it up in my head by thinking about it. Imagine how much more satisfying life would be, if you are an uber-curious person like me, to have the answers to all your questions coming to you in your thoughts.

I didn't really like that tv shows and movies were all through the feed, nor did I think I would like talking to people through the feed, chat style. I like alone time, and it seemed like talking through the feed all the time would eliminate all privacy - which I guess is much of the dystopian point.

The book is totally right on, though, if we had that technology, it would be immediately hi-jacked by corporate interests trying to make us buy their crap.

Mar 12, 2005

Bound, Donna Jo Napoli

Find this book in the Hawley Library


A really interesting Chinese cinderella tale, especially if you are into historic Chinese culture, especially foot binding. Especially if you have a strong stomache and can handle things like toes being eaten off by a raccoon because they are so stank-nasty from being bound. Bleck! But interesting, in that traffic accident can't turn away kind of way.

The highlight for me is when Xing Xing gives the prince an interrogation before going off with him. Granted, it's short, but she's pretty much guaranteed at least a better life than she has. But I like that she's really up front about who she is and what she needs from this person she's going to marry, and that she at least makes sure of those things before the happy ever after. It makes the whole thing way more real and firms up my total respect for her as a character.

Mar 4, 2005

Double Helix, Nancy Werlin

Find this book in the Hawley Library

I pretty much liked this book, but had two basic problems with it.

1. Way too much foreshadowing. From page one, you know something is up, but don't know what it is. Every single page re-inforces that foreshadowing, and it goes on through the whole book. You don't find out what the big secret is until there are only twenty pages to go. By that time, I was tired of the whole deal, and had really high expectations about what this big deal secret could be. Of course it couldn't live up to that, so the whole thing was dissapointing.

2. This book touches on all sorts of biotechnology ethics issues, but comes to its conclusions too fast. So Eli and Kayla are chimeras. And immediately they freak out and are mad (Kayla I can understand a little more, with the HD diagnosis and all that). Of course I don't think it's ethical to make experimental people, I don't even think it's ethical to make experimental rabbits! But there are a lot of good questions here, and the answers are much more complicated than the book allows them to be.

For example, there is that one part in the book, where Eli's professor is at the conference, and the man with Downs Syndrome gets up and asks why the scientists want to kill them. Suddenly, everyone is assuming an egg and some sperm is a human being, which is such a huge controversial issue. And with that assumption, all the ethical controversies are too neatly wrapped up. I guess what I'm saying is that I definately don't have the answers, but I like to think about it and weigh the different sides against each other, even if I never come up with an answer for myself. This book seems not really to think about it, but to leap to the ending. It could have left it a bit more open and messy in the end, I think.

Feb 18, 2005

Candy and Me: A Love Story, by Hilary Liftin

It's vacation time again, and that means tractoring through at least three books in a week. I started off with a real gem- Candy and Me: A Love Story, by Hilary Liftin. So, with vh1's 40 Most Awesomely Bad Songs...Ever playing in the background, I write my first book review for bibliotalk.

This memoir, with chapters named after Liftin's favorite sweets, will please anyone with an innocent little obsession. Her tastes change as she experiences intellectual, spiritual and sexual growth, but my favorite aspect of this book was her long and faithful relationship with sugar. This book is quirky, with chapters on her religious youth and her purposelesness as a college student mixed in with one-sentence chapters devoted to Trix.

While this book is a easy to breeze through in a day, it is by no means forgettable. Young adults can relate to Hilary's experiences on a somewhat deep level, and the novelty of the book is overshadowed by the well-written stories and aching honesty.

So, what obsession of yours do you wish someone would write a book about?

Feb 15, 2005

"Selling Out"

This is not about a particular book- I'll delete it straight away if it is not wanted because of this!

A lot of people have opinions on artists and "selling out", or (roughly) recieving money for mainstream media that is not within the artists' expertise . What is your opinion on authors selling out?

I was recently crushed to discover that Francesca Lia Block, my favorite author alive today, was developing a series for MTV and a cinema version of Weetzie Bat. Perhaps that is because Meg Cabot (author of my former guilty pleasure, The Princess Diaries series) made two movies that beared no resemblance to the books that they were based on, then started churning out books that would appeal to the masses and not the loyal readers that she had before the movie contract.

Or is it because deep down, we all wish that popular books were really our own? Anyone who's read Siddalee's library experience in Little Altars Everywhere understands what I'm talking about! Perhaps I'm just being elitist. I know what kinds of shows are on MTV, and I don't want people tuning in to watch Direct Effect just to half-heartedly enjoy the stories that I've loved so much.

But enough with all of my opinions! I want to know what you guys think.

Feb 3, 2005

How I Live Now, Meg Rosoff

how i live now

Well, this is probably the best lesson I've ever had on not judging a book by its cover, or even by its summary!

I kept reading all these reviews about how great this book was, but all the summaries were saying things like, "Daisy goes off and lives in the countryside of England with her cousins to escape the war." Which I jumped to the conclusion that it was WWII, making this historical fiction, which is generally not my bag. Anyway, I was wrong about that and when the book won the Michael J. Printz award, I decided to check it out.

Turns out that it is about a modern fictional war, and the way it handles the war and the way the war plays out and is part of the book is really particularly interesting, given the way the nature of war has changed but we really haven't been first hand witnesses to that in any long drawn out sense.

Of course, a big thing in this book is Daisy and Edmond being in love. In a lot of cultures, it is actually a desirable thing for cousins to marry because they want to keep the wealth or land of a family together. It is really only in western society that it is such a taboo. Having said that, it definitely skeeved me out, just like it skeeved them out. But then they go through so much. Seeing people's faces blown off, surviving starvation, becoming un-anorexic, being afraid for so long. I think it just puts everything in perspective. Like, is being in love with your cousin really that bad in comparison to everything else you have seen and survived, and everything else that continues to go on in a war-stricken world? I don't know the answer to that, I guess, but I do know that by the end of the book I was no longer upset by it, in fact I was really happy when Daisy and Edmond could get back together.

So it's a real question, are our values and morals only relative? Like, under certain circumstances, is anything ok?

Jan 27, 2005

Children of the Mind; by Orson Scott Card

Find this book in the Hawley Library


I read Children of the Mind, by Orson Scott Card. This is a very good author of science fiction, because he does not blow your mind with concepts of time travel and other things that are impossible to grasp. It is science fiction only in the fact that that it is set in the future. It also has some slight philosophical concepts.

This book is about a man named Ender Wiggin the Xenocide, or the Speaker. Three-thousand years ago he was trained in Battle School to fight a war against an alien adversary called the Formics, or the Buggers. He destroyed their home planet, but was not allowed to return to Earth. A book written by Ender himself convinced the population of Earth that he destruction of the Buggers was a bad thing; they weren't the enemy, they just couldn't communicate with humankind. He in turn was given the title of Xenocide, killer of a species, and no one would speak his name. With his sister he used relative travel to go among the stars and stay young. Three thousand years later, he came to the colony planet of Lusitania.

On this planet, he found a famil wrought with tragedy and despair. Their father was not really their father. He had a tragic disease that ate away at him, piece by piece, rendering him barren. So the mother, Novinha, reproduced with another man. Both men died, and she was widowed with seven children. Ender took this family under his wing.

Now for this book. This is at the end of his saga. He has been cloned by an effect of faster than light travel. He has a computer entity friend, nicknamed Jane, who found a way to take a ship out of space and time, and put them back in wherever they wanted. But anything that you think about strongly is created in this outside area. Ender's brother and sister, as they were when teenagers, are created with Ender's memories. Anything else said will give away the ending.

I liked this book because this is just a really good author. He knows how to weave all kinds of fiction together into one really good book. It's not too romantic, or too science-y, or too philosophical. It is a book anyone can read, and most will enjoy. I highly recommend it.

Jan 22, 2005

The House of the Scorpion, Nancy Farmer

I think this book is so great because so many times when you read sci-fi it is too far removed, too different, compared to real life today, and this book is not that way at all. What I mean is, the elements that make this a sci-fi book don't take over the whole book and become more important than the plot itself. And the plot in this book is really great. There are clones, there are zombies, there is an entirely new country carved out between the US and Mexico, but it is all too believable (read: frightening). All the people act how people generally act: some are evil, some are wonderful, many try really hard to be good but are scared or lack the courage to stand up to people. You really grow into these complicated characters.

My only problem with this book is when Matt finally escapes Opium. Even though I could tell something else was going to happen (there were a lot of pages left to read), I was not ready for him to be kidnapped into an orphanage that worked kids and beat them,etc. By that time everything had been so terrible I was really just ready for him to be united with Maria, the end everyone lives happily ever after. Although I can see that by going through that experience, Matt grows up. He really was somewhat selfish and poor me (although you can hardly blame him) before he inspired the other orphans and everyone works together to break out. So it was needed as a story point, but I was tired of being anxious about what was going to happen next by that time.

Jan 21, 2005

Kingdom of the Golden Dragon, Isabelle Allende

I am so disappointed in this book! First, I should say this is the sequel to City of the Beasts, but I've never read that book and it really didn't matter to my understanding of this book. Isabel Allende is one of my favorite authors. She has written The house of the spirits and Daughter of fortune : a novel, just to name two. She is originally from Peru and Chile and writes in the common South American style using magical realism. To sum that up and oversimplify, that means things that normally don't/can't happen in our straight up white America do, and nobody bats an eye. Not fantasy, different. In this book, Kingdom of the Golden Dragon, Allende over-explains every potential instance of magical realism and takes all the magic out of it. The story line is ok - I find explorations of other cultures and religions, especially non Judeo-Christian ones, to be fascinating. If this story was infused with the same spot on writing style that Allende normally shows, I'd be jumping up and down and shoving this book in the face of everyone I met. But, like many authors who normally write for adult audiences unfortunately do, Allende has dumbed this one down too far.

Jan 20, 2005

What do you guys think?

You may have noticed that book covers have appeared on some of the posts. What do you guys think? Good idea? It doesn't take much to do, and as long as y'all agree, we'll start putting the covers on all the new posts from here on out.

Life Expectancy by Dean Koontz

I thought that i would finally check in and make a post. This is going to be short and i apologize ahead of time.

After reading Life Expectancy by Dean Koontz, i have to say that i am disappointed. I read Koontz's work for the plots and the suspense the he fills his stories with. Life Expectancy was lacking in the suspense section. I felt as though all of Mr. Tock's trials and tribulations are somewhat played out. Also the story seems to jump ahead in time without giving the readers enough information to fill a proper timeline.

Well that's all i have for now.

Jan 15, 2005

Big Mouth & Ugly Girl, Joyce Carol Oates

I was really excited to see that Joyce Carol Oates had written a YA book, and it is also up for some awards. I like how this book examines what happens when we falsely accuse people and how that changes them, even if/when they have been exonerated. In this case, it really forces Matt to grow up. Before the stupid twins accused him of wanting to blow up the school, he was constantly making stupid jokes and really just playing the clown for his friends. In fact, he did say he wanted to blow up the school, which in general is just not that funny. So when he is arrested, and then none of his friends stand up for him, it really forces him to examine why he was making those jokes, if none of his friends think it is worth it to talk to him.

After he is released because the police realize he wasn't at all serious, he is basically a social outcast. Everyone goes from thinking he's a funny guy to not ever talking to him. Even though he didn't do anything wrong. It makes me think about how we change our minds about people, and about the justice system. How when we see celebrities accused of things, we immediately think they are guilty and change our opinions of them, even if later it is found they are innocent. And public opinion of them can make or break their careers. Matt didn't do anything wrong, but instead of welcoming him back, everyone is upset with him and keeps their distance. Then because everyone is keeping their distance and making him miserable, he agrees to go along with his parents plan to sue, making everything worse. It's as if his high school "career" is over.

I also really liked the transformation of Ursula. Sometimes these books can have really lame endings, like Ursula cleans up her act and becomes super pretty and popular. I guess I think this is way more realistic and allows her to grow without falling into any stereotypes about what makes people happy. Ursula learns she can be part of the team, not the sole star. And she learns she can have relationships - friendships, a boyfriend - without losing her sense of self. She doesn't have to change that much, she just had to learn that she was making really wrong assumptions about how people felt about her. In Matt's case, he assumed people liked him more than they did, he assumed his friendships were stronger and more genuine than they were. In Ursula's case, she assumed people hated her all the time, and she assumed her relationships were much weaker than they were.

Jan 10, 2005

The Time Traveler's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger

Wow, wow, wow...blown away. I may grapple for words during this post because it is hard to find words to fit the feelings I have about this book, but I'll give it a shot. Many times I feel as though I am too critical of books, and that may be the reason for my frequent disappointment. It seems that it is a rare find for me these days when I stumble across a book that totally and completely blows me away, and leaves me thinking about it for days on end. "The Time Traveler's Wife" is such a book. I came to understand that this book is not about time traveling or science fiction or genetics, but about a love that so encapsulates what it means to endure that I found myself weeping for their love at the end. Books don't make me cry, generally. The theme of time is obviously important to the book, but it is what Henry and Clare do with that time that is the core of this story. Their lives intertwine and wrap around each other, and they just KNOW each other. They are conscious of every second they have together, and remain fully aware and present in those seconds, minutes, hours, or days. I see so many people go through the motions of life, without actually experiencing it. The contrast to Henry and Clare that shows those motions of life is Gomez and Charisse. They are with each other by default, and they enter married life, have children, and live comfortably. What does any of that matter when one of them is in love with someone else and the other is content being second choice? Henry and Clare are flawed, but they are real, and their love is one of the most real and raw I have ever seen depicted in fiction. Clare and Henry take turns anchoring the other, they understand that life isn't perfect, but the perfect lies in what they make of the imperfection. I don't think I've really done my feelings justice with this post, but I am still, even now, thinking about this book and its implications for my own life. Savoring moments, anchoring, it, it's good. If you've read it, please post!