Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Storyteller by Antonia Michaelis

You know when you start the book that it is not a story where the fairy tale ends happily, but you are compelled to finish it, reading it to the bitter end.  This is a thriller, a novel of first love, and a fairy tale.  It begins the day Anna finds a child's doll on the floor of the student lounge, and is surprised to have it claimed by Tannatek, otherwise known as "the Polish Peddler" - the school drug dealer that has  mysterious ice blue eyes.  She follows him to a University cafeteria and discovers that he cares for his six year old sister, Micha, a little girl with blonde braids in a pink jacket.  During dinner, she sits close by and listens to Abel spin Micha a fairy tale, telling a fantastic story of a little island queen with a diamond heart struggling to reach the mainland through a maze of enemies and danger, aided in her journey by a sea lion and a rose girl.  Anna, the daughter of two doctors, living a safe, comfortable, life becomes enamoured with Abel Tannatek, and his quest to keep his sister in his custody, and continues to seek him out despite the warnings she receives from friends, teachers, and her own reasonable self. She becomes more and more involved in the fairy tale, and the lives of Micha and Abel, until the lines of the distinction between the fairy tale and reality become one.  This is a book for mature teens or adults, and although not my typical read, it was darkly riveting.  The book does have violent scenes and sexual content.  One of my favorites reads so far in 2012.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Where Things Come Back

I had such high expectations for this book!  To have earned both the Printz Award (best Young Adult book for readers age 12-18), and the Morris Award (best debut fiction), is a pretty impressive literary feat.  Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley brings to life a small, but dull town in Arkansas, where Cullen Witter is about to begin his senior year of High School.  The book opens with Cullen identifying his dead cousin's body in the morgue, and it gets progressively stranger from there!  We are introduced to a cast of characters that reside within the town of Lily, Arkansas, including a girl who manages to kill her boyfriends (not directly - they die after dating her), a reappearance of the "Lazarus" woodpecker, and the people who "flock" to discover it, and a teenage missionary from Atlanta named Benton Sage.  The book spins two separate tales, that converge in a bizarre climax.  It is a very unusual book, and contains a lot of  mature themes, including sexual content and language. I still am not quite sure what to make of it, and I can't say that is a good thing!  I don't want to say too much about the plot to spoil it for anyone about to read it.  It was not my cup of tea, but a lot of people loved this book.  Read it, and see what you think!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Hunger Games - Book versus Movie

OK - I could not wait to go see The Hunger Games movie and see how it fared versus the book.  I really enjoyed reading the books, and was hoping that the movie lived up to all the hype.  Overall, I liked the movie, but would not call it "great".  In my opinion, the book develops the characters so much better.  Some of the relationships between the major characters - Peeta and Katniss, in particular, fell a little "flat" for me.  Also, the way Katniss gets the mockingjay pin in the film is totally different in the movie, and it bugged me.  The costumes, settings, and most characters were on target.  Woody Harrelson did a great job with Haymitch.  For me, the ideal book made into a movie was the Harry Potter series.  I loved the books, and felt like the movies really captured the characters and the setting the way I pictured the story in my own mind.  If you saw the Hunger Games movie, and read the books, what did you think?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Three Teen Books I Can't Wait to Read!

1.  Final Four by Paul Volponi

What timing!  A novel about march madness basketball, and the players who star in the drama.  Malcolm wants to get to the NBA ASAP. Roko wants to be the pride of his native Croatia. Crispin wants the girl of his dreams. M.J. just wants a chance. The heavily favored Michigan Spartans and the underdog Troy Trojans meet in the first game in the semifinals, and it's there that the fates of Malcolm, Roko, Crispin, and M.J. intertwine. Which team will leave the Superdome victorious?

2.  Mercy:  The Last New England Vampire by Sarah L. Thompson

Fourteen-year-old Haley is struggling to cope with her stepmom and baby brother, with her beloved cousin's terminal illness, and with dropping grades at school. When she digs deep into her family history for a school project, she uncovers a disturbing New England tradition and a ghostly past. Haley must overcome her doubts and confront a vampire in order to save herself and her family. Inspired by a true New England story!

3.  The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten.
495 five star reviews on  Enough said.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday - Sponsored by the Broke and the Bookish.  Today's Theme:  My Top Ten Historical Fiction Novels!

1.  Time and Again by Jack Finney.  A time travel classic about New York in the late 1800's.  One of my favorite books of all time.
2.  The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd.  I've read this book twice, and loved it both times.  I made my daughters read it, too - a classic.
3.  The Help by Kathryn Stockett.  I am definately partial to Southern Fiction, and this one was unforgetable.  I will definately read this one again, too.
4.  The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak.  Truly one of the most memorable books I've ever read, and the only one narrated by "Death".  A German foster child, Leisel, Germany, the Holocaust, first love, and a hidden Jewish man in the basement - memorable characters, a love of books - unforgettable.
5.  I Was Jane Austen's Best Friend by Cora Harrison.  Based on the true story of Jane's cousin visiting Jane and finding a suitor - charming and wonderful for Austen addicts like me!
6.  Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys.   A very powerful story about a 15 year old Lithuanian girl, Lina, who is deported to Siberia by Stalin's forces in 1941. 
7.  Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick.  Two stories, one set in the 1970's, the other in the 1920's, that magically weave together.  Selznick's detailed pencil drawings tell the stories of Rose, and words tell the story of Ben.
8.  Distant Waves:  A Novel of the Titanic by Suzanne Weyn.  This was a fun read that involved 5 sisters, and their mother, a famous clairvoyant who lived in Spirit Vale, New York.  Tesla, the Titanic, and the paranormal. Who could ask for more?
9.  The Little House Series by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  My favorite historical fiction series during my childhood.
10.  And Ladies of the Club by Helen Hooven Santmyer.  An Epic work of over 1,100 pages that took Santmyer over  50 years to finish!  All about the town of Waynesboro, Ohio, from post Civil War to the beginning of the Depression, the book follows a woman's book group for most of their lives.  I cried at the end of this book, and felt like I lost a friend when I finished. 

Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres.  I hope something on my list inspires you!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Middle School Monday Review:  Saint Louis Armstrong Beach by Brenda Woods

Saint Louis Armstrong Beach is not a place, he's a person.  Twelve year old Saint is learning to cope with the pains of first love, a stray dog, his family, and his love of music - all within the time period of Hurricane Katrina.  Author Brenda Woods takes us right into the heart of New Orleans, and it's people.  You can feel the music, food, and soul of the people of the city reading this book.  You will be cheering Saint on as he tries to rescue his dog, and his neighbor when the hurricane finally hits.  4 stars!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Penelope "Lo" Marin has always loved to collect beautiful things.  But in the year since her brother's death, Lo's hoarding has blossomed into a full blown obsession.  When she discovers a beautiful antique butterfly figurine and recognizes it as having been stolen from the home of a recently murdered girl known only as Sapphire, Lo becomes fixated.  As she attempts to piece together the mysterious "Butterfly Clues", with the unlikely help of a street artist named Flynt, Lo quickly finds herself caught up in a seedy, violent underworld-a world much closer to home than she ever imagined.  According to Charles Benoit, author, Kate Ellsion's debut is "A clever mystery, an unlikely romance, an edge-of-your-seat one of the most wonderful books I've read.  Here's the only clue you need--read this book and be amazed."

Monday, March 5, 2012

Middle School Monday - The Chronicles of Harris Burdick by 14 amazing authors.  The Chronicles of Harris Burkick is a really unusual book.  The book features 14 illustrations from the mythical Harris Burdick, the man who supposedly marched into a publisher's office with fourteen original pieces of artwork, accompanied by only one sentence each.  He was supposed to return the next day with the complete story for each picture, but never did.  Authors like Stephen Kind, Walter Dean Myers, Kate Dicamillo, and others, each chose one picture, and wrote an original story around it.  This book is kind of like a  creative writing project for stellar authors! Check out the amazing illustrations, and see if the creations of some of the best authors in literature today mesh with what you imagine in your own mind...To learn more about the mysteries of Harris Burdick, go