Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Book Review: #murdertrending

The young adult novel, "#murdertrending," by Gretchen McNeil, is the goriest book I've ever read. There are so many murders, I lost track and may have gotten desensitized to the horror of it. By the end, I started to anticipate them, even look forward to how the next one was going to go down, because most of them were pretty imaginative.

In spite of the grisly nature, "#murdertrending" was a fresh, fun read that I didn't want to set down. The pace is quick, the story happens in 3 days, and a lot happens. The clues are scattered effectively and I genuinely liked the main character, the damaged 17-year-old Dee Guerrera.

Set in the future at a prison that gets spikes on social media by televising the murders of inmates, there is plenty that seems unbelievable, and even inconsistent within the story, but those are easily forgiven for the sheer fun of reading a quick plot-driven novel with a fresh voice.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Book Review: Whatshisface

I was attracted to the premise of "Whatshisface" by Gordon Korman, because who doesn't root for the underdog who doesn't get noticed?

Cooper Vega is used to being unnoticed. His family moves pretty often, so he is always the new kid. His parents buy him a state-of-the-art smart phone, the GX-4000, in an effort to soften the blow of another move.

It turns out to be his best friend, or the home of his best friend.  Because Cooper Vega's cell phone is haunted by a ghost from the 16th century.

Korman is great with funny, middle grade stories with a heart. This one doesn't fail, as long as you can suspend your beliefs of what is true and possible and allow a good story to unfold.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Book Club Discussion Questions: The Upside of Falling Down

I chose the young adult novel, "The Upside to Falling Down" by Rebekah Crane because I needed a light, entertaining read. It did deliver a colorful tale about a girl who wakes up in an Irish hospital with amnesia....and the sole survivor of a plane crash. She sets out to discover who she is in Ireland, before she is forced back into a life she doesn't remember in Cleveland, OH.  She also must dodge the media hungry for the story.

This book may be a bit adult for younger teen readers, as the main character is 18 years old and partakes in some adult activities (sex and drinking).

Discussion Questions

1. Clementine wakes up in a hospital in a foreign country knowing nothing about herself other than what she reads off a chart and what nurses tell her. What do you think that would be like? What is she feeling?

2. What are your thoughts on nurse Stephen? How does he help Clementine? Do you think he makes any mistakes?

3. What are your thoughts on Clementine? Is she a likable character? Do you think you would act and think the same or different if you were in her (lack of) shoes?

4. Clementine makes an effort not to watch media reports about the plane crash or her own life. Do you think this was wise? What other ways could she have utilized to put together the mystery of her past?

5. Do you think there was a reason she didn't want to remember?

6. What are your thoughts on Kieran? Do you think he was sincere? Did your thoughts on him change as his truth was revealed?

7. What are your thoughts on Siobhan's character? Why does Clementine want to be friends with her? Did your thoughts on her change when her truth was revealed?

8. What about Clive? What role did his character play in the story?

9. This book is set in Ireland. Did you learn anything about Ireland? Would you like to visit there? Is there something in the book you'd like to see? 

10. Kieran tells Clementine that people see what they want to see. What do you think that means? How does it play out in the story?

11. Overcoming fear is another recurring theme in the book. Do you think Kieran gives good advice when he says what lies on the other side of fear is freedom? Why or why not?

12. The book ends with many of Clementine's new life tying into her old life. Can you give three examples?

13. Do you think the title fits the book? How?

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Book Review: The Librarian of Auschwitz

"The Librarian of Auschwitz," by Antonio Iturbe is a young adult novel about Dita, a young girl who miraculously survives the Holocaust, in spite of doing the very dangerous job of serving as the librarian in camp. 

This library consists of only eight books, and each of them are precious. Books are forbidden in the camps, so she has to keep them hidden, having special pockets sewn into her clothes to carry the books. She also gets supplies to repair them as best she can. Dita is an inventive girl who also employs some prisoners to be "living" books, because they can tell the stories well enough to make them real, and includes these people in her library. 

This story is not pleasant, but shows the reality of the horrible conditions people endured, when death was sometimes a blessing, and how the inhumanities were hidden from the outside world. Dita is not the only character, there are sympathetic Nazis you may want to root for, some you don't then change your mind, and other prisoners. This book pulls at your heart strings, and makes you angry that this happened to so many people, children, elders, families torn apart, or murdered together, starting with the child.

This book is based on a true story. While it is not pleasant, it is important. As a bonus, there is a cameo appearance of Anne Frank, who authored the notebook that inspired "The Diary of Anne Frank." 

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Book Review: Where the Watermelons Grow

I can't stop the song loop in my head while reading this book. You know the one, the children's diddly, "Down By the Bay."

In spite of the earworm associated with the title, this book, "Where the Watermelons Grow," written by debut author Cindy Baldwin, is a solid middle grade read. Della is someone kids can associate with, because of her worries, her faults, and her actions. She wants to fix her mama, who has schizophrenia. She tries everything in her 11-year-old kid powers to help, which make no impact whatsoever.

This story tugs at the heartstrings, and makes you feel the heat of summer in the south. And reminds you of the powerlessness of youth, in spite of how hard you try. In the end, Della learns what she can do, and how to cope with a family that doesn't look as perfect as those around her. The author does a beautiful job tying up loose ends and giving a satisfactory ending.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Book Review: Stolen: A Letter to My Captor

"Stolen: A Letter to my Captor" by Lucy Christopher is a young adult novel written in the elusive and difficult-to-pull-off second person. It does involve some suspension of belief that a kidnapped teenager would remember this much detail about her experience. But the details are everything for driving the narrative and understanding Stockholm Syndrome.  I am an adult with a mostly rational mind, yet felt sympathy, compassion, even hope for a better ending for the man who kidnapped this child and held her captive in a remote desert in Australia. Also, it takes place mostly in Australia, and I learned a lot about the desert there, which added to my wanderlust.

This one is definitely worth a read.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Book Review: You're Welcome, Universe

Books with greetings to the universe are getting attention from the folks at the American Library Association. "You're Welcome, Universe," by Whitney Gardner is the 2018 Schneider Family Book Award winner in the teen category. The Schneider Family Book Awards honor an author or illustrator for a book that embodies an artistic expression of the disability experience for child and adolescent audiences.

In "You're Welcome, Universe," Julia is attending a new high school after being kicked out of her previous school for the deaf.  She is dealing with a fall out with her best friend, Jordyn, who is now dating Donovan, the boy Julia likes. Worse yet, she has to work with both of them at McDonald's, and see Donovan whisper in Jordyn's ear, now able to hear after getting a cochlear implant.

Julia is Deaf, and proud of it. She is also a graphic artist who loves the thrill of bombing a space. Her story brings color to the world of graffiti art and exposes realities of being Deaf among the hearing.