Monday, June 28, 2010

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Happy Monday!  Last week was a good one for me for reading and blogging-got lots of things accomplished!

Books I finished last week-











 




Up this week-

Little Be-Bop, by Francesca Lia Block

Rainbow Boys, by Alex Sanchez

The God Box, by Alex Sanchez

Speak, by Laurie Halse Andersen

Luna, by Julie Ann Peters

The Perks of Being A Wallflower, by Stephen Chobsky

Most of the above books will be reviewed on my new blog, Second Childhood Reviews, which I started as a special site for the children's and young adult books I read.  Besides the book reviews, I'll try to have parent and teacher resources about the books as well.  Come check it out!

Happy reading this week!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Why Have One When You Can Have Two?

Any faithful reader of my blog knows that I have been working on master's degree in reading-no, that's not a degree for sitting on your couch with a book (if only!), but a degree that will qualify me to be a reading specialist in a school setting.  As a result, I have rediscovered my love for young adult literature.

This summer is my children's literature course, and one of the assignments is to read six books from a list of options and write reviews for them.  Well, clearly I could write the reviews in my sleep, having had lots of practice over the last year or so.  I am so excited about this class-when it's all said and done I will have read over 20 young adult titles in the next month or so.

I am so excited about those young adult books that I have decided they need their own blog.  So, I've started Second Childhood Reviews.  Like Book Addict Reviews, this site will be where I review all of the YA books I read.  In addition, there will be resources for parents and teachers about how to use the books with their children or in their classroom.  So, if you want to check out what I've done so far, come on over.  I look forward to seeing you there!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Darling Jim, by Christian Moerk

I've read a lot of serial killer themed mysteries-I mean, A LOT!  For a while there it felt like all I ever read was mysteries and thrillers, so my serial killer quotient was pretty high.  But I have never come across a mystery quite like Christian Moerk's Darling Jim.

Darling Jim a multi-layered story of deception, obsession, and madness. Two sisters and their aunt are found dead in a house in rural Ireland.  The townspeople are shocked to discover that the aunt had been holding her nieces prisoner, slowly poisoning them.  In a final showdown, it appeared that the sisters had managed to kill their aunt before succumbing themselves. There was evidence that a third girl was also held hostage, but she was nowhere to be found when the bodies were discovered.  A few weeks later, a postal worker, Niall, finds a diary in the post, written by one of the two slain sisters.  It details the extraordinary events that led up to her death.  Between the pages of her journal lies the tale of Darling Jim, a traveling storyteller who enchants the villagers in each town with macabre tales of love, obsession, and death-stories that eerily resemble real life crimes that happen in each place he stops.  How the sisters get tangled in Jim's web becomes tragically apparent as Niall reads.  As he is drawn into their story, Niall searches for the truth about Jim-and the elusive third sister-in a quest that brings him closer to danger than he ever expected.

This book was mesmerizing.  Jim is beguiling, and ruthless.  The sisters are strong and fiercely loyal to each other, but they are not immune to Jim's power to enchant.  The whole novel is tied together by the macabre story that Jim tells as he travels across Ireland-a tale of betrayal, lust, and madness.  As the story progresses it becomes more and more sinister, until the true face of Jim is shown, savage and deadly.  The narrators-Fiona and Roisin-are deeply flawed, but honest in their account of their part in the events that led to their deaths.  A modern Gothic novel, this book is a great read for anyone who prefers their mysteries on the sinister side.

Monster, by Walter Dean Myers

I heard a disturbing statistic today-the United States has the fastest growing prison population in the world.  Not just in the western world, but the world-period!  That means that totalitarian governments like North Korea and Iran put fewer people in jail than we do.  Much of this can be traced back to mandatory sentencing for drug crimes-and while I have many opinions on that, it doesn't have much to do with the review I am about to write.  What does is another disturbing trend-more and more states are allowing youth as young as 15 to be tried as adults for violent or drug-related crimes. 

Walter Dean Myers takes this issue on in his book, MonsterMonster is the story of Steve Harmon, a 16 year-old black teenager living in Harlem.  At the opening of the book Steve is incarcerated, about to stand trial for felony murder, a charge that could carry the death penalty.  We quickly learn a few things about Steve-he's smart, he's creative, and he's terrified.  The only way he can deal with the emotions brought on by his incarceration and trial are to treat them as a screenplay.  This budding film maker may or may not have been involved in a drugstore robbery, a robbery that went horribly wrong when the store owner was shot and killed.  Steve's supposed part in the robbery-look out.  The book follows his trial, and the effect that it has on him and his family.

Most of Myers' books take on issues of race, racism, and growing up black and male in our society.  One of his strengths is that he does not make excuses for poor choices.  What he does is paint a pretty stark picture of what it can be like to grow up black, male, and poor in America.  You may not always like his characters, but you can understand their lives and their choices based on the circumstances in which they live.  Monster is no different.  It would be easy to make this story about racist police and racist judges sending another black boy to prison, but the story is more nuanced than that.  Not that there aren't elements of race and racism woven into the narrative-it is impossible to separate that strand of American culture from the rest when talking about issues of poverty, crime, and justice in America's urban centers.  But the book is not about racism, per se.  It is about one boy, coming to terms with what it would mean if he spent the rest of this life behind bars.

To me, that is the real issue that this book raises.  How can we, as a society, support sending teenagers as young as 15 and 16 to jail for the rest of their lives?  We must believe that teenagers have not yet reached the age of responsibility, seeing as we don't let children that young vote, drink alcohol, smoke tobacco, or make their own medical decisions.  How then can we expect them to pay for the rest of their lives for a decision made before rationality, reason, and responsibility have truly taken hold of their minds?   I don't have the answer for how to rehabilitate young offenders, so I won't pretend that I do, but it seems to me that before we start locking children up for what could amount to 60 or 70 years (provided the violence in prison doesn't kill them sooner, but that is another post for another blog), we should at least make sure that we have exhausted every other possibility. 

Rules, by Cynthia Lord

One of the joys of being a teacher is having an excuse to keep up with the latest in children's and young adult literature.  In my quest to become a reading specialist, I even get to take a class where all we do is read children's and young adult literature!  The fact that this class happens to correspond with my summer vacation means I get to spend the next few weeks ensconced on my couch with a stack of books, reading to me heart's content!

The first book I read for my class is called Rules, by Cynthia Lord.  I must admit that I was given a copy of this book at school by some very smart ladies who told me I should read it to my class, but after skimming it I put it away in favor of other things.  Had I only listened to these very smart ladies I would have discovered this moving story of family and friendship that much sooner (sorry Gail and Rachel!).  The book is about a 12 year-old girl named Catherine.  Her younger brother, David, has autism.  All Catherine wants is a normal life, for once!  What she doesn't want is to spend the summer making up new rules ("No toys in the fish tank.", "A boy takes off his shirt to swim, but not his shorts.") for David about how to be "normal".  When a new girl moves in next door, she is hopeful that this can be the friendship that she's dreamed of-if only she can leave David and his problems behind.

This novel gives an honest portrayal of people with special needs.  For the most part people with disabilities in our society are ignored, unless their story is especially "inspirational" or their disability is unusual and therefore ripe for exploitation by the media.  This novel, suitable for ages 9-12, shows people with disabilities exactly as they are-very much like the rest of us, strong in some ways, weak in others, needing to feel loved, valued, and cared for.  As Catherine goes through the ups and downs of being a pre-teen, she has reason to question exactly what "being normal" means.  Her journey helps us see that the way that David's autism impacted her life said more about her than about him.  In the end she learns that some rules are meant to be broken.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Dark Summer, by Iris Johansen

Iris Johansen and I have a love/hate relationship.  If you're not familiar with her, she writes thrillers with paranormal elements.  Normally, I like both of those things.  About half of the time, when I pick up one of her books, I get a day or two of brain candy out of it.  Sometimes, however, I pick up a Johansen book only to put it down in disgust 50 pages in.  Not disgust like "Ewww, this is gory!", but disgust like "How can she think I'm dumb enough to believe that?!?" It's the brain candy that makes me keep trying (that, and the fact that my mother reads her so I get her books for free!)

Luckily for me, Dark Summer (2008) is like a giant Hershey kiss!  Devon Brady is a devoted veterinarian, working a search and rescue mission after and earthquake on an island in the Caribbean (eerie coincidence!) with her dog, Gracie, when a mysterious stranger arrives carrying a wounded dog.  Marrok, the stranger, leaves the dog in Devon's care, and disappears.  Devon is forced to take the dog back to the states with her (a dog who is healing at a suspiciously rapid rate!).  Before Marrok can come and get his dog, Devon's quiet small-town life is shattered when gunmen kill two of her friends, and force he to go on the run with Marrok and his dog.  The secrets that Devon learns about the dogs, and Marrok, will change her life forever.

The novel is suspenseful, and the action well-paced.  Devon as a character is pretty believable, and the Marrok character is one of those brooding men "with a past" that so many women seem to find intriguing in fiction.  What makes the book, though, is the author's obvious love for dogs.  The book is full of dogs-beautiful, smart, loyal, special dogs.  Very quickly I found myself willing to do very nasty things to anyone who wanted to hurt the dogs-and yes, I knew they were fictional.  But I didn't want them to be, which is perhaps one of the greatest compliments that a reader can give an author.  Anyone who knows and loves dogs can completely believe the "superpower" that Johansen gives them could be real, which brought an authenticity to the story that you ordinarily don't get out of fantasy/science fiction, which is sort of what this book is.  There is the inevitable romance between Devon and Marrok, which I sometimes find distracts from the story, but it fit here.  This is a good summer read!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Undone, by Karin Slaughter

OK, despite my great love for thrillers and mysteries of all kinds I will admit that like any genre fiction, eventually they become pretty predictable.  There's a bad guy or two, some kind of police officer/private detective/innocent bystander who is investigating and/or gets sucked into some kind of crime, or has a stalker, or is on the run from an abusive ex, or the mob...Enjoyable, but not earth shattering.

Karin Slaughter's book, Undone, is a thriller.  In fact, it's a serial-killer thriller, which should be a sub-genre if it isn't already.  But it's a thriller with a difference.  The story opens on an elderly couple driving through the woods when they run into a naked woman running out of the trees.  The woman is rushed to the ER in Dr. Sara Linton's hospital.  Sarah is still mourning the death of her husband, a police officer, in the line of duty.  For three years she has cared about very little other than trying to make it through the day, but this woman catches her interest.  The woman has been tortured, and is unable to speak. Also at the hospital is Special Agent Faith Mitchell of the Georgia Bureau of Investigations being treated for a fainting spell.  Once she senses that a big case is brewing, she send her partner out to investigate. Once at the scene of the accident, Special Agent Will Trent, Faith's partner, uncovers a hole where the woman was kept-and she was not the only one.   What starts as a bizarre car accident quickly becomes something much more sinister.

What makes this novel different from the many others with similar themes is, like in all of Slaughter's books, the characters.  We've met Sarah, Faith, and Will before-though in different series.  In this novel Slaughter merges her Grant County series with her Will Trent series to create the Georgia series.  Despite this, reading these characters in their new configuration made them feel fresh to me.  I was especially intrigued by Will Trent in this book.  Slaughter did a great job making his pain, confusion, and despair real.  Faith's medical struggles and Sarah's continued grief were relate-able and well-written, but it was Will's character that made me feel like this story was more than just a formula thriller.  If you are a Karin Slaughter fan, you should enjoy this latest installment.  If not, I'd suggest going back to read her earlier works, since they give you some background, though it is not strictly necessary for you to read the other series to get into this one.

Friday, June 18, 2010

It's the Friday Book Blog Hop!



Welcome to Book Addict Reviews, Blog Hoppers!  Take a look around, I hope you like what you see!

Didn't have much time for hopping myself this week, but I did find time to finally learn how to make a blog button (and I am inordinately proud of myself as a result!).  So, if you like what you see, grab it and spread the word.  Thanks!



ABOUT THE HOP: (HOSTED BY CRAZY-FOR-BOOKS.COM)

In the spirit of the Twitter Friday Follow, the Book Blogger Hop is a place just for book bloggers and readers to connect and find new book-related blogs that we may be missing out on!  This weekly BOOK PARTY is an awesome opportunity for book bloggers to connect with other book lovers, make new friends, support each other, and generally just share our love of books!  It will also give blog readers a chance to find other book blogs that they may not know existed!  So, grab the logo, post about the Hop on your blog, and start HOPPING through the list of blogs that are posted in the Linky list below!!

The Hop lasts Friday-Monday every week, so if you don't have time to Hop today, come back later and join the fun!  This is a weekly event!  And stop back throughout the weekend to see all the new blogs that are added!  We get nearly 200 links every week!!

Your blog should have content related to books, including, but not limited to book reviews.

If you start following someone through the Hop, leave a comment on their blog to let them know!  Stop back during the week to see other blogs that are added!  And, most importantly, the idea is to HAVE FUN!!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Way Things Look to Me, Roopa Farooki

Based on the number of made-for-tv movies and specials on the topic, Americans are in love (or at least in fascination) with all things autistic.  There is something engrossing in watching people with autism and trying to figure out how their minds work, because clearly their neurons are producing in ways that a typical person's brain is not.  As a special educator, I've had more than my fair share of experience with children with autism.  Ranging from non-verbal, stereotypical autism to high-functioning Aspergers Syndrome, I've pretty much seen it all.

It should therefore be taken as a great compliment when I say that Yasmin, the main character in Roopa Farooki's The Way Things Look to Me felt so authentic that I started comparing her to students I've worked with as though she was a real person.  The novel revolves around three siblings-Yasmin, who has been diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome, and her older brother and sister, Asif and Kalila (Lila for short)-all in their late teens, early 20s. Asif drops out of university to take care of Yasmin when their mother dies unexpectedly when he is 18.  Lila, younger by a year, flees home as soon as she can-and goes down a path of self-destruction that she lays squarely at the feet of Yasmin.  Yasmin herself is just finishing her A levels, prior to going off to university.  High functioning, verbal, extremely intelligent, Yasmin is poised to make the difficult transition from the sheltered world of her elite private school to real life.

The book examines the many ways that being a typical sibling of an exceptional child can be challenging, frustrating, and difficult.  Both Asif and Lila felt that they had to fight for their mother's attention-Asif by always being the "good boy", and Lila by being loud and argumentative and difficult.  The novel revolves around Asif and Lila's attempts to find happiness despite the baggage they carry about their childhood, and despite knowing that now that their mother is gone, they will not be able to escape Yasmin.

At the beginning, the most sympathetic character is Yasmin herself, which is saying something for Farooki's ability to write characters.  Given that many people with Aspergers Syndrome do not feel or show emotion in typical ways, they can sometimes be seen as cold or unfeeling.   When Farooki writes from Yasmin's point of view, it is clear that despite her limitations she is much more self-aware than her siblings.  As the story develops, and flashbacks of their childhood are given, a clearer picture emerges of what made Asif and Lila the way they are.  Farooki does not attempt to make us feel sorry for Yasmin, nor does she demonize Asif and Lila.  What you get in this novel is an honest, warts-and-all account of living with autism.

Monday, June 14, 2010

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Happy Monday Morning, faithful followers and fellow bloggers!  I hope that you all had a successful reading week...

...as I did not.  The start of summer break coincided with a language development class that is kicking my patootie, to put it politely.  I did manage to get two books completed this week.  The first, The Bodies Left Behind by Jeffery Deaver, is reviewed here.  The other, The Way Things Look to Me, by Roopa Farooki, I just finished last night-review to come soon.

There are so many things in my TBR pile that I am excited to get to, but I've started to feel a little guilty about the books that have been on my shelves for (literally) years that I still haven't read, so I went with one of those, a Karin Slaughter book I got from my mom about a year or so ago, called Undone.  What I really should do is rearrange my bookshelves-the oldest books are in the back behind all of the new ones I get.  That sounds like an excellent project for a rainy day like today...oh.wait...I have two more papers and a chapter to read before next week...stupid too-much-work-for-a-four-week-class class!  Ah well, my next class is Children's Literature-surely I'll get to read lots of great YA stuff for that class that can actually count towards my 100+ goal!  Have a great reading week everyone!

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Bodies Left Behind, Jeffrey Deaver

I've decided that every child in the US should have to take a survival course-you know, one of those courses that teach you how to make fires from rubbing two sticks together or hunt small game with a penknife and a straw (for the blowgun, of course!).  Because if the literary (and horror movie) world is any indication, we are all, one day, going to be running for our lives through the wilderness, being chased by crazy, homicidal maniacs.

Deaver trots out that literary device again in his novel The Bodies Left Behind.  It's the stand-alone story of Brynn McKenzie, sheriff's deputy and domestic abuse survivor.  She is sent out into the woods to a vacation home to check out a 911 call.  She discovers the bodies of two people-Emma and Steven Feldman.  She also discovers the killers, still there, still deadly.  What ensues is a chase through the woods that often stretched the imagination, but provides a pretty decent romp.

I don't think that this book is one of Deaver's best, though I suppose it was enjoyable enough.  Starting with a tired plot device is not a good sign of things to come, and Deaver does not manage to make it fresh.  One of the things that I like about Deaver's Lincoln Rhyme series is the interplay between the characters, and the depth with which they are written.  It is all too easy in a successful series to just turn the characters into one-dimensional representations, but Deaver's characters don't usually feel flat to me.  Well, except in this novel.  I got Brynn the most-she was relate-able to me as a single parent who was trying to let another adult into the parenting scheme.  But even so I felt a certain amount of detachment from all of the characters, and in the end didn't really care too much about any of them.

The story was interesting, though, and there were a few twists that I didn't see coming.  If it wasn't at least mostly entertaining I wouldn't have finished it, after all.  This goes on my "eh" list-if you're a Deaver fan, you should probably read it (if you haven't already, it's a couple years old).  If you've never read Deaver before and want to try his thrillers, start with The Bone Collector-and stick with the Rhyme novels.

Weekly Geeks-The Wishlist

I only recently discovered Weekly Geeks, an interactive blogging community with a different blogger challenge each week (hence the name...sorry, I'm mistress of the obvious right now, huh?)

Here's this week's theme (taken directly from their site)

"Is your wishlist as big as your TBR pile? What books are topping your list? Are there any new releases that you are counting down the days for? Share a handful of titles and be sure to share why you want to get your hands on these books! And if another blogger is responsible for that book being on your wishlist, consider sharing a link to their review!"

And here's my list...

The Dark is Rising Sequence-Susan Cooper-I read this series as a child, and loved everything about it.  It's already made my list of favorite young adult books for another meme, and writing that post made me want to read the whole series again.  I'm anxiously waiting on someone, anyone, to post the first book on GoodReads bookswap, but I may have to break down and buy it soon.

The Book Thief-Markus Zusak-Apparently I am the last book lover on the planet to read this book, which sounds so much like something I would love I can only guess that the genre threw me off. I haven't read much young adult fiction in years, but I've started to pick it up again lately.


My Fair Lazy-Jen Lancaster-Jen Lancaster and I should definitely be friends...she is hilarious, fiercely smart, strong, and independent (dare I say, just like me?).  I find myself reading her books and her blog (linked up there) and saying the same damn thing in my head a second before I read that she also said it.  I can even forgive her membership in the republican party (though that was almost a dealbreaker!)  My Fair Lazy is her newest book, and I can't wait to get my hands on it!

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies-Seth Grahame Smith
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, same author-Again, I am apparently late to the party on these two books.  The premise sounds fascinating, and I can't wait to see how the stories are woven together.  I know that some bloggers have felt that these books are overrated, but really, I'm more interested in the writing challenge than the overall story, if that makes sense.

Hmmmm...shorter list that I expected.  Here's the thing-I don't usually choose what to read based on a list.  I have about 400 books in the house that I haven't read yet, so I generally just pick whatever strikes my fancy at the moment.  GoodReads bookswap is spoiling me, though.  It doesn't feel so much like "Why are you spending money on another book when you have a room full of unread ones at home?" when all you're doing is paying for postage!

Hop Hop Hoppity Hop

Welcome Friday Hoppers to my little corner of the blogosphere.  Didn't do the hop last week due to Blogger having some sort of demonic possesion, but I did rediscover these wonderful blogs...

The Reading Ape-This blog is hosted by that rare bird, a male book blogger...in fact, there's a discussion of gender and blogging on his blog.
Reading Without Restraint-Not only does Julie write darn good reviews, but her layout is so pleasing I just like to sit and look at the page (I've been having some blog envy lately...)

Speaking of blog envy, this seems like a good time to ask people where they got their custom made buttons...it's time for Book Addict Reviews to have one, but I certainly don't write html...help?



ABOUT THE HOP:

In the spirit of the Twitter Friday Follow, the Book Blogger Hop is a place just for book bloggers and readers to connect and find new book-related blogs that we may be missing out on!  This weekly BOOK PARTY is an awesome opportunity for book bloggers to connect with other book lovers, make new friends, support each other, and generally just share our love of books!  It will also give blog readers a chance to find other book blogs that they may not know existed!  So, grab the logo, post about the Hop on your blog, and start HOPPING through the list of blogs that are posted in the Linky list below!!

The Hop lasts Friday-Monday every week, so if you don't have time to Hop today, come back later and join the fun!  This is a weekly event!  And stop back throughout the weekend to see all the new blogs that are added!  We get nearly 200 links every week!!

Your blog should have content related to books, including, but not limited to book reviews.

If you start following someone through the Hop, leave a comment on their blog to let them know!  Stop back during the week to see other blogs that are added!  And, most importantly, the idea is to HAVE FUN!!

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Team Quinn, Anyone?

OK, I think that I have now gotten the need to immerse myself in the world of Bon Temps, Louisiana out of my system for the time being.  You may remember I reviewed Dead as a Doornail by Charlaine Harris earlier this week.  At the time I was asking Ms. Harris to stop it with the new suitors for Sookie, already!  Seriously, how many men should one telepathic barmaid have to fend off?  Come to think of it, I suppose that barmaids of all stripes probably fend off more than their fair share of men, but I digress...

Well, now that I've read Definitely Dead, book #6 in the Sookie Stackhouse series, I think that Charlaine has finally created the perfect man for Sookie.  As the novel opens, Sookie is called to New Orleans by the Queen of Louisiana.  While there, she decides to finally clean out her cousin Hadley's apartment.  Hadley, formerly human, finally vampire, lover to the Queen in both incarnations, was rendered definitely dead some months back by another vampire.  Even though she and Hadley had not been particularly close in recent years, Hadley had left everything she owned to Sookie.  Like most things in Harris' universe, nothing was really as it seemed.  New Orleans, being the center of supernatural culture in the southest, provided plenty of danger and drama for small-town Sookie.

As usual, the story is fun and action-packed, and Sookie as narrator is funny and engaging.  What made this one for me was her newest love interest, Quinn.  I mean, really, what could be sexier than a weretiger?  Strong, sleek, dangerously exciting, sexy...not to mention kind, gentlemanly, and supportive without being overwhelming.  I have no idea what becomes of this "relationship"  in the next couple of books, but I can't wait to find out!

Friday, June 04, 2010

It's the Friday Book Blog Hop!


 Welcome hopper!  Glad you stopped by!

Crazy-for-Books  hosts this weekly meme.

ABOUT THE HOP:
In the spirit of the Friday Follow, the Book Blogger Hop is a place just for book bloggers and readers to connect and find new blogs that we may be missing out on!  This weekly BOOK PARTY is an awesome opportunity for book bloggers to connect with other book lovers, make new friends, support each other, and generally just share our love of books!  It will also give blog readers a chance to find other book blogs that they may not know existed!  So, grab the logo, post about the Hop on your blog, and start HOPPING through the list of blogs that are posted in the Linky list below!!

The Hop lasts Friday-Monday every week, so if you don't have time to Hop today, come back later and join the fun!  This is a weekly event!

Your blog should have content related to books, including, but not limited to book reviews.

If you start following someone through the Hop, leave a comment on their blog to let them know!  Stop back during the week to see other blogs that are added!  And, most importantly, the idea is to HAVE FUN!!