Monday, April 29, 2013

The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls by Anton Disclafani

Posted for staff member Holly:

The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls was a compelling read set in the south during the 1930's. The story flip flops back and forth between the remote Blue Ridge Mountain equestrian boarding school and Florida, the childhood home of the protagonist. Each flashback to Florida slowly reveals the scandalous actions which lead to Thea to being sent away, while the Great Depression looms and pops it's ugly head around the corners of this upper class girls' hide away.

I felt that this coming of age book masterfully captured the inner workings of Thea's teenage mind, reminding us all of the overwhelmingly vivid emotions of youth which can so easily cloud judgment.

If there is a way to have the feeling of an 'easy read' while building a quietly complex protagonist and family drama this author pulls it off.

-Holly - Library Staff

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Z - A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler

Well, let me start off by saying that I LOVED this book. The author did some serious homework before writing this novel, and after reading it I feel like I "know" who Zelda Fitzgerald was. This book was so interesting to me that I am now reading everything I can get my hands on about Zelda. The story begins in 1918 in Montgomery, Alabama, and we are introduced to an 18-year old Zelda Sayer and her family. Even at this young age it is obvious that she is a handful of a girl, and WAY too big for Montgomery! The story unfolds and follows her in such a way that you feel you are growing up right along with her. The author paints a full picture of what life was like back then, and she used letters that both Zelda and F. Scott wrote to each other and to other family members during that time to piece together an amazing story. There was so much more to Zelda than people know, and I for one am thrilled that I got to "meet" her! If you like historical novels, biographical novels or just plain fascinating novels then this is the book for you! Read On!

Kiss Me First by Lottie Moggach

Don't be fooled by the murder-mystery type cover and jacket description.  Kiss Me First is not "brilliantly frightening about the lies we tell" it is an emotionally honest portrayal of people who act upon their philosophical arguments to ends which cannot be allowed in a functioning society.  Leila, a girl who seems to be but who is not stated to be a high-functioning person with Asperger's syndrome, joins a website about philosophical debate.  She is then approached by the founder of the website to assist a woman named Tess in her suicide by taking on her online identity.  Lottie Moggach is incredibly talented.  She both plots well, has realistic characterization, and layers philosophical and literary theory underneath the text.  I would recommend this book to anyone.  However, I would warn the reader to understand that you are not necessarily supposed to like Leila or agree with her philosophy or choices.

Dr. Bird's Advice for Sad Poets by Evan Roskos

I very much enjoyed Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets. It’s a coming of age story about a teenager, James Whitman, who is depressed and a huge Walt Whitman fan. His sister has been expelled from school and kicked out of the house by their parents.

James wants therapy for his anxiety and depression but his father does not believe in it. So James talks to his imaginary therapist, Dr. Bird, a pigeon who responds by cooing, bobbing her head, and preening her feathers.

In addition to his unsettled home life, James deals with the usual issues at school – fitting in, the girl he has a crush on, homework. He has a best friend he does not always get along with. Serious issues like suicide and cutting surface in the book, but there is plenty of humor as well. His boss at the pizza joint, the girl he has a crush on, and his parents are all believable characters.

There are many references to Walt Whitman’s poetry, but don’t let that put you off. I’m not particularly a Whitman fan, and the references told me something about James without any familiarity on my part. I found one circumstance in the book unbelievable. James and his sister are physically abused by their parents but no one seems to have alerted the authorities. However, James has a very credible voice overall, and the narrative pulled me in.

If you like coming of age novels or realistic fiction set today, I recommend Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets. It reminded me in good ways of The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Loyalty by Ingrid Thoft

Loyalty is well plotted and the storyline is interesting.  However, Thoft attempts to fit a 1000 page plot into 400 pages.  This is done at the expense of character development and world building.  The scenes are too short for the reader to become truly invested in them.  The secondary characters are given one or two lines of description, and remain two-dimensional.
Thoft has made an attempt to create a strong female protagonist, but she comes off flat.  Her characterization is very much like a generic male action hero who also likes lipstick and shoe shopping.  She does not seem to have any emotional conflicts, even in moments when she should be conflicted.  There is no character arc or growth. 
Thoft thought up a good story but failed in the telling of it. If you are a reader only interested in plot, read this book.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Movement of Stars by Amy Brill

The cover of this first novel by Amy Brill enticed me to read it. It is a fictionalized account of the life of America's first professional female astronomer, Maria Mitchell who lived from 1818-1889. The book sounded like it might be an interesting one about someone I had never read.

Amy Brill has based her novel on Miss Mitchell but has changed her main character's name to Hannah Gardner Price. I wondered why. The cover had said Hannah was patterned after Miss Mitchell. After reading about fifty pages, I looked at the author's notes at the end of the book. There I read that the author had not only changed the name of the intrepid astronomer from Nantucket, she had changed and adjusted quite a few other things. Some characters in the story are based on real people. Others are purely made up. Well, in fiction, I thought that's OK. But, Ms. Brill has added a significant friendship/love interest which never occurred in Mitchell's life, a twin brother, who also did not exist, a relatively short career at the local library, which actually lasted eighteen years. Each of these added pieces of fiction play a significant role in the story. Some of these facts I learned from further background reading. Brill also changed the dates of a few things by one or two years, but predated a happening by ten!

Having learned all this, I found it hard to appreciate the rest of the book. For me, Ms. Brill has taken far more liberty than I can tolerate for an historical novel. Reading about the real astronomer's life, it seemed that there was plenty of interesting material for a novel without straying too far from reality. Miss Mitchell did indeed discover a comet, named after her, as in the story. She was also supportive of the right to vote for women, petitioned for and won equal pay as a professor at Vassar and knew quite a few notable people of her times.

It was interesting to learn a little about the history and people of Nantucket from the book. Hopefully, that is accurate. Some readers on Amazon have expressed their like of Ms. Brill's character development. Others have found them a little thin. I would probably lean to the thin opinion.

The book is scheduled to come out on April 18. Readers might enjoy the story. As such, it is probably above average, but its historical flaws and injected romance, while heart-tugging and addressing social justice, take away from the life of a real woman of substance and interest.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

One Came Home by Amy Timberlake

One Came Home by Amy Timberlake is a charming coming-of-age story set in 1871 Wisconsin. The narrator, Georgie Burkhardt, is 13. Her beloved older sister ran away; one week later, the Sheriff brought back an unidentifiable body wearing her sister’s dress. Georgie, a crack sharpshooter, is certain that her sister is alive and is determined to prove it. Woven in to the plot is information about the large flocks of passenger pigeons that existed before they were hunted to extinction and details about town life in 1871.

There is nothing particularly new here, but I enjoyed the author’s writing. For example, Georgie arranges to rent a horse for her trip to find her sister. She waits for the horse to be delivered.

“Billy was late, but all I could think was My horse! My heart pattered like it was Christmas. I do not highly regard girls who get lathered up over horses: Oooooh, cinnamon! I love a cinnamon-colored horse! When an admired boy is riding atop an admired horse, it is a scene of such ridiculousness that it scarcely bears commenting upon. Yet here I was with sugarplum horses prancing in my head." (p. 42)

Georgie has a believable voice. Parts of the plot are implausible, and the ending did not surprise me. Still, it’s a sweet tale that is likely to be enjoyed by the intended audience of grade schoolers and by many adults as well. 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Fellowship for Alien Detection by Kevin Emerson

Submitted by Ashtin, teen reviewer:

In The Fellowship for Alien Detection by Kevin Emerson, Haley Ritchards, who lives in Greenhaven, Connecticut, is searching for more information about some missing time frames. Along the way she has to meet up with the other Fellowship for Alien Detection (FAD) winner Dodger, who lives in Portsalmon, Washington. They meet up together with the help of the Alto. The fate of the world lies in their hands when aliens one and two come down to Earth to abduct Haley and Dodger.

This book did not really interest me. I would give it a 4.5 to 5 out of 10.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Son by Lois Lowry

Submitted by Carli, teen reviewer:

Have you ever wondered what your life would be like if you lived in a dystopian society, where you were forced to have a job that someone else chose for you, and if you wanted children you would get a stranger’s child?  This is the reality for the main character in Lois Lowry’s book Son, Claire.  At the age of twelve, Claire was chosen to be one of her community’s Birthmothers, women whose sole purpose was to have all the babies for the community.  However, after having her first child she finds that she has become attached to the baby, now in the hands of strangers at a child care facility.  Then disaster strikes, Claire’s baby is slated for “release”, and she ends up on a fishing boat headed towards an unknown continent.  Although all hope seems lost, Claire is determined to find her son and embarks on a grueling adventure in search of him.  This sequel of Lois Lowry’s award-winning book The Giver is a thrilling tale of the determination and strength of a mother’s love.