Sunday, September 30, 2012

Sources of Light by Margaret McMullan

All you have to know now it that a camera is like your eye. To focus, keep one eye closed while you're looking with the other. It brings everything closer....You can hide behind a camera.
It's 1962 and the heat of Jackson, Mississippi, holds more than a potential romance with the wrong kind of boy for fourteen-year-old Sam. There's also the hand-me-down dresses and bobby socks from cousin Tine. There's the gift from her mother's new friend, Perry--a black Asahi Pentax camera. There's their stoic maid, Willa Mae. There are lunch counter sit-ins and black voter registration drives that turn violent.
In a world that sees only in black and white, this is the year Sam learns to use her camera to look for the shades of gray.
I don't usually read historical fiction, but I'm so glad I took this exception. It was short and, maybe sweet's not the word, but it was impacting anyway. It was set in that struggling, agonizing limbo when times are trying to change and people aren't. The themes made it really compelling and let you get completely immersed in the sad truth of the time. I liked the characters--they weren't especially charismatic at first, but they really started to grow on me and by the end of the book I was rooting for them. The book isn't one of those ones where everybody ends up happy-go-lucky in the end and skips into the sunset, but it was achingly realistic and very eye-opening and well-written. It's really worth it to read it; I definitely recommend. It's at Kettleson, you should really try it out.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Wherever Nina Lies by Lynn Weingarten

Nina was beautiful, artistic, wild...and adored by her younger sister, Ellie. But one day, without any warning, Nina disappeared.
Two years later, Ellie can't stop thinking about her sister. Although everyone else has given up hope that Nina will return, Ellie just knows her sister is out there, somewhere. If only Ellie had a clue where to look.
And then she gets one, in the form of a mysterious drawing tucked into the pages of a book. Determined to find her sister, Ellie takes off on a crazy, sexy, cross-country road trip with the only person who believes she's got a chance--her hot, adventurous new crush.
Along the way, Ellie finds a few things she wasn't planning on. Like love. Mysteries. Lies. And something far more shocking...the truth.
This was an unexpectedly good book. When I picked it up I wasn't quite sure what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised the whole way through, because it was actually really good. It was full of twists and turns, and I'll give great props to the author for keeping me in suspense and for plot twists that I didn't see coming. The characters were funny at times and interesting and complex and magnetic. I could easily find myself reading this again (after I've forgotten the twists, that is). It was a perfect mix of a suspenseful mystery and one of those road trip novels. I highly recommend. You can find it at Kettleson. Warning: high school maturity level or above.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

You can't stop the future. 
You can't rewind the past. 
The only way to learn the to press play.
Clay Jensen doesn't want anything to do with the tapes Hannah Baker made. Hannah is dead. Her secrets should be buried with her. 
Then Hannah's voice tells Clay that his name is on her tapes--and that he is, in some way, responsible for her death. 
All through the night, Clay keeps listening. He follows Hannah's recorded words throughout his small town...
....and what he discovers changes his life forever.

So, I read this book ages ago and it was absolutely amazing. It was just as good the second time around. It wasn't a suspense novel per se, but there was this gripping quality that it had that made it impossible to put down. The entire book was absolutely beautiful and heartbreaking. The story's kind of told through two perspectives, seeing as how Hannah's story is being told about half the time and it also switches back to Clay's reactions. I think that's what made it different from any other suicide-type book. The characters were incredibly dimensional and imperfect (as all we humans are). The settings were detail-oriented, without being overly explanatory.The author managed to create a stellar image of each place--without describing it word-for-word, which left your mind to fill in exactly what it needed to. The themes centered very much around action and reaction, about how easily the things we do and say can have an effect on another person. It was very introspective, and I have a really hard time believing this is a first novel because it was written so well. I could easily see this becoming a classic, the kind of book that everyone would need to read. It's over at Kettleson, and also comes in audio form. Y'know, if you're too lazy to turn the pages. :)

Saturday, September 8, 2012

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

The monster showed up after midnight. As they do.
But it isn't the monster Conor's been expecting. He's been expecting the one from his nightmare, the one he's had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming...
This monster is something different, though. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor.
It wants the truth.

So, I read this book in the space of one evening, and it was amazing. This book was  really beautiful. It was kind of unconventional, but at the same time, very classic. I liked that it was originally an idea by Siobhan Dowd, which was then picked up by Patrick Ness after her untimely death from cancer. Both wonderful authors. The story was heartbreaking while also managing to weave a little dark humor here and there. Still, I swear it got me near/in tears about three times--and I don't cry easily. I have tear ducts of steel. Anyway, this book managed to disregard that. Just the wording and handling of the issue of cancer was unlike any other book I've read. And the book wasn't just about that, either. There were so many nuances and underlying issues and things to think about. I was kind of shell-shocked by the time I actually finished it. The story, paired with haunting images scattered throughout the book, made for a truly incredible book. I recommend this to anybody and think you're severely missing out if you don't check it out. It's at Kettleson and Mt. Edgecumbe.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Monument 14 by Emmy Laybourne

Your mother hollers that you’re going to miss the bus. She can see it coming down the street. You don’t stop and hug her and tell her you love her. You don’t thank her for being a good, kind, patient mother. Of course not—you launch yourself down the stairs and make a run for the corner.
Only, if it’s the last time you’ll ever see your mother, you sort of start to wish you’d stopped and did those things. Maybe even missed the bus.
But the bus was barreling down our street, so I ran.
Fourteen kids. One superstore. A million things that go wrong. 
In Emmy Laybourne’s action-packed debut novel, six high school kids (some popular, some not), two eighth graders (one a tech genius), and six little kids trapped together in a chain superstore build a refuge for themselves inside. While outside, a series of escalating disasters, beginning with a monster hailstorm and ending with a chemical weapons spill, seems to be tearing the world—as they know it—apart.

This was a fair first novel, I think. It didn't have the huge success of Thirteen Reasons Why, but I quite enjoyed it all the same. While the general premise (apocalypse-type disasters, et cetera) was nothing new, I've never seen it told from this specific point of view (think like a more civilized Lord of the Flies). Also, even though the book spent the majority of the time in one setting, it never really got boring. There were always new issues or events. A post-apocalyptic soap opera, ish. The main character wasn't super three-dimensional, nor were most of the characters, but I liked the events and plotlines enough to still be satisfied with the book. It had an interesting mix of events; some parts were mature, some parts were sweet, some parts were weird, and some parts were suspenseful. Like I said: soap opera. All in all, it was a good book that I would probably read again if I come across it in the distant future. So: if you like dramas and/or post-apocalypse stories, give this one a try. It might just surprise you. Anyway, it's on order at Kettleson, so keep an eye out for it.
P.S. (I'm really sorry this is late. My life's a cross between a marathon and a chinese fire drill right now).