Friday, July 22, 2016

Peeled review

by Joan Bauer
Putnam Juvenile
May 2008

First line: "DATELINE: Banesville, NY, May 3rd. Bonnie Sue Bomgartner, Banesville's soon-to-be 67th Apple Blossom Queen, let loose a stream of projectile vomiting in the high school cafeteria."

Sixteen year-old Hildy Biddle dreams of being a stellar journalist. She's the star writer for her high school newspaper in the small, sleepy farming town of Banesville, NY. I must admit I very nearly put this book in my "Did Not Finish" pile in the first few pages. The book opens with a prolonged description of the Apple Valley Pageant Queen vomiting, which went on for far too long and with far too much detail. That, plus the fast-paced, noir-inspired, witty banter that Hildy uses initially felt a bit forced - she was trying too hard to sound like Sam Spade. But, I stuck with it, and things picked up from there.

Hildy reminded me a lot of Veronica Mars... bold, inquisitive and skeptical, and fairly negative on the whole idea of dating. Ever since the recent death of her father, also a reporter, she's been living with her mother and cousin and grandparents.

The local paper, The Bee, starts printing more and more outrageous stories, claiming there's a ghost haunting the old Ludlow place, creating fear and panic in the town. With the help of her experienced newsman mentor Baker Polton, she sleuths out the clues that lead to the real reason behind the hauntings. When the school shuts down the school paper, The Core, she and her friends start a rebel sheet called The Peel.

This is basically the same plot of every episode Scooby-Doo, ever:
"You mean the editor of The Bee faked all the ghost sightings to lower property values in town so he could build a new development?"
"And we would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren't for you meddling kids!"

This was a fast-paced enjoyable read, a solid pick for younger teens, and the perfect book for YA readers looking for non-fantasy realistic fiction without too much emphasis on romance. I'd actually recommend this as a great introduction to Joan Bauer. If readers like this, they'll love the much-stronger Hope Was Here.

Compare to:
Hope Was Here - Joan Bauer
Famous Last Words - Jennifer Salvato Doktorski
Inside the Shadow City (Kiki Strike #1) - Kirsten Miller

I borrowed this book from the library.

Friday, July 15, 2016

A Trio of Adult Fiction

I don't normally read very much adult fiction, but I've been trying some out lately.
Here's a group of three mini-reviews from the last couple of books I just flew through.

Life Before Death
by Abby Frucht
Scribner Book Company
July 1997

What a depressing book! Isobel discovers a lump on her breast, and in an alternate universes either recovers completely and helps her friend raise two Mexican orphans she impulsively adopts or the cancer worsens and she struggles as her health worsens and she finally succumbs to the disease. A heartbreaking look at infertility, adoption and childlessness, and the painful transitions of being born/giving birth and dying. I enjoyed My Real Children by Jo Walton much more, for it's slightly more sci-fi feel and more uplifting look at how different choices can create completely different life paths.

I borrowed this book from the library.

This Body
by Laurel Doud
Little, Brown & Co.
September 2009

I kept looking for a reason why the magic works exactly the way it did. This had more of a literary fiction feel - Katharine has a heart attack, and for reasons no one can understand, she awakes in the body of a 20-something drug addict, Thisby. She immediately sets to getting Thisby (herself?) cleaned up. Ultimately, this slow-paced book concentrated the bulk of the story on Katharine's wonderment at her situation, especially being in a new, younger, stronger body. Readers may wonder if "Katharine" is just a drug-fueled dream of Thisby's, but Katharine does hunt up her own teen children (never revealing her true identity, of course) and eventually comes to terms with the fact that she will be living out the rest of her life as someone else.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Lily and the Octopus
by Steven Rowley
Simon & Schuster
June 2016

I have a confession to make: I am not a dog person. Also, I have never been a sucker for a book where the dog dies. This book though, is a heart-breaker! Quite against my will, I found myself being utterly charmed by silly, cute, lovable Lily. Her owner Ted, is a single gay man and he lavishes all of his attention on her as if she was his own child and dorky best friend rolled into one. You know what happens! Of course, the "octopus" is a tumor threatening Lily's life, robbing her energy and her life, and yup, you'd need a heart of stone to resist crying at Lily and Ted's inevitable goodbye.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Read in June

Last month I read the following:

1. Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Start-up Bubble - Dan Lyons
2. Life Before Death - Abby Frucht
3. Lily and the Octopus - Steven Rowley
4. This Body - Laurel Dowd

picture credit:  Portrait of Lucie Reading by Jacques Emile Blanche, 1890

Friday, July 1, 2016

Happy Fourth!

Happy Fourth of July, everybody!

Friday, June 17, 2016

Anna and the French Kiss review

Anna and the French Kiss
by Stephanie Perkins
December 2010

First line: "Here is everything I know about France: Madeline and Amelie and Moulin Rouge."

I put off reading this book for so long because I was a little bit afraid that it couldn't possibly live up to the hype. But it does! It really does! This is a completely swoonworthy book. I knew the main character, Anna, a senior in high school is from Atlanta, and I had imagined that more of the book would take place in the South. That's not the case - her parents ship her off right away to a boarding school in Paris. I was prepared to immediately hate Anna for being a whiny brat about having such an awesome opportunity. That was the problem that I saw with Falling in Love with English Boys, by Melissa Jensen about a girl who has to spend a summer in London. Gee, wouldn't you love to have these girls "problems?" Happily, Anna did not seem too bratty to me. Her father is basically clueless - a less functional version of the real-life Nicholas Sparks, the famous author of badly-written, bestselling melodramatic romances.

When Anna gets to Paris, she's not on vacation - so she doesn't spend a lot of time jetting around, seeing the sights. Mostly, she's trying to get settled in her new dorm, meet friends, and figure out enough French to handle the basics, like ordering food in the cafeteria. She meets Etienne St. Clair, a total dreamboat, but of course, he has a girlfriend, and half the school is crushing on him anyway, so she knows she doesn't stand a chance. They do end up becoming good friends though, and spend the year getting to know each other, developing various in-jokes and so on. I was about 
¾ of the way through the book, and Anna hasn't even kissed anyone yet. I was beginning to get worried - maybe the titular kiss would be on the last page? Fortunately, St. Clair soon realizes that his relationship with his former girlfriend just isn't working out, and Anna 'fesses up and admits her sort-of boyfriend back home isn't in the picture either. After they become a couple, Anna helps St. Clair confront his father who has been cruelly keeping him away from his cancer-ridden mother. It sounds more melodramatic than it plays out, and while I don't think high school romances often work out, I could totally picture Anna and St. Clair moving to Berkeley together, getting married and living happily ever after. I hate to say that this is a "When Harry Met Sally" story, since I think that reference will be lost on a lot of younger people, but it is a really good comparison. They're really sweet together, completely right for each other and have a really solid foundation because they were platonic friends for so long before the rest of their relationship developed.

Compare to:
The Truth About Forever - Sarah Dessen
Meant to Be - Lauren Morrill
Audrey Wait! - Robin Benway
Just One Day - Gayle Foreman

I purchased this book.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Do you still do summer reading?

I was at a dinner party recently, and one of the guests, upon hearing that I am a librarian, innocently asked, "Oh! Yes! The library! Do you still do summer reading?"

I am still so gobsmacked by this question. I just don't even know where to begin. Yes! We are totally doing summer reading. My life is dominated by summer reading! We do summer reading for kids, and for teens, and now for adults, too. We do programs, and displays, and we offer so many prizes, and we do so much outreach to promote it. This is a monumental effort. Summer reading feels like the raison d'etre of our library lives. We literally start planning next summer's reading program as the current summer is ending. Yeah. We still do summer reading.

It really got me thinking... on one hand, this is exactly the same kind of question that falls in the category of, "Do you still use the Dewey Decimal system?" (Answer: yes) or, "Do you still use those card catalogs with the drawers?" (Answer: no) Probably people mean it as a harmless, light conversation starter. But, my number one takeaway when I hear something like this is that, this is a person who has not been to a library since they were a child. And this is the kind of person who imagines that if they are not at the library... then probably nobody is in the library. And they just don't know. They don't know how busy we are. They are nonplussed when they get to the library and they have to wait in line... not to check out a book, or get a computer, or ask a staff member a question or for anything. Because how could that dusty, quiet place be so bustling? It doesn't make sense to them. The same way that, "Do you still do summer reading?" doesn't make sense to me.

I know there's a segment of the population that we don't always reach - working adults in their 30's and 40's don't come to the library as often. They are too busy. Even when we offer evening or weekend hours they may not make it in. Our core users are retirees, stay at home moms, and economically disadvantaged. Still, it's worrying when I hear reactions like these - there's a whole universe that they are missing out on!

Friday, June 3, 2016

Read in May

Last month I read the following:

1. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Coast Trail - Cheryl Strayed
2. Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life - Henry Cloud
3. Moloka'i - Alan Brennart
4. Becoming Grandma - Lesley Stahl
5. Cruel Beauty - Rosamund Hodge

picture credit:  Mihrap by Osman Hamdi Bey, 1901


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