Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Necessary Non-Fiction

Normally I am not into non-fiction. There is too much reality all day long, and I like my reading to be a form of escapism. When I read these two novels, I was very excited to find that non-fiction can offer something more than what I was expecting.
I know...judging a book by it's cover and all of that...I should be past it.

I would like to lead with the amazing story put forth by Cylin Busby and John Busby, entitled The Year We Disappeared. This father/daughter duo tell the tale of the fateful night John, a cop, was shot by a hitman. The detail that remains with me even now is the horror that occurs when John looks over onto the seat and sees teeth and hair...that belonged to him at one point. All he can focus on, though, is what happened, how to get the info to the cops, and worry over his family's safety.
Cylin tells the story of going over to her aunt and uncles house to swim after the accident, not knowing what really happened. Then visiting her dad in the hospital..and realizing that the bottom half of his face is missing.
The story alternates between John narrating about the surgeries, his paranoia, and the events that lead to packing up and leaving town.
Clyin focuses on the social aspects. Friends are no longer friends. Girls aren't allowed over to her house for safety reasons. Her brothers get into fights at school.
This story is amazing and it is even more compelling because it is all true.

For a great piece of media that reviews the story, click here!

The second piece I enjoyed was Ashley Rhodes-Courter's novel: Three Little Words. Fans of "A Child Called It" will appreciate Ashley's unflinching tale.

When she is little, Ashley and her brother are taken from her unfit mother by the state. Ashley is then bounced around to the tune of 19 foster families, each foster family housing a totally different set of rules, a different hidden horror, and young Ashley must learn to navigate them all.
When the Courter's enter her life, she feels the fledgling seeds of hope start to take root. Because of her own background, Ashley can't help but feel that she is going to mess things up. She even takes pre-emptive steps to wreck things. When she realize that the Courter's are going to stick, she lets her guard down to work on beocming part of their family. With the help of her new adoptive mother, Ashley is able to meet up with her birth mother and discern what is reality and what is a child's wish.
This story is, above all, about hope. And while the nitty gritty details of foster homes are interesting and help propel the plot, I think that readers will connect with Ashley's emotions and find this novel quite satisfying.

Here is the really exciting thing about finding these non-fiction titles: if things like this exist out there in the publishing arena...a whole new world has just been dropped on my doorstep. ;) Enjoy!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Need by Carrie Jones

What do you do when your stepfather suddenly dies of a heart attack...your mom sends you to live with your grandmother in Maine...you find out that you are a Princess...and that you are in love with a werewolf...that your grandmother is really a weretiger...and that your real father wants to trap you in order to lure your mother, the queen, to his glamoured abode???

Author Carrie Jones helps us figure out what to do in her novel Need.
When Zara moves in with her grandmother, she finally becomes un-numb...the first time since her father's death. Zara meets new friends at school...and new arch-enemies. Zara even falls in love with Nick, who is absolutely perfect (except for his wolfish tendencies).
But when her real father comes knocking at her door, Zara must figure out a way to keep everyone she loves safe.

Quick moving and tense, give this book to readers who miss "Twilight".
They won't be disappointed.
Also---for scary-ish books, don't forget Simon Holt's novel: The Devouring.

Happy Scary Reading!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Black Box

I just finished reading Black Box and I thought it was one of the best fiction pieces I have read in recent times, which is really saying a lot because I am a little reading machine.

When I began, I thought it would be similar to Sonya Sones' novel Stop Pretending (also a stellar work of fiction). However, this book was so much more emotional and touching.

Though I have not personally ever dealt with anyone who was depressed, knowingly, there was so much content to connect with from other parts of living daily life.

Schumacher did such an excellent job with the characters. I have a sister and I would feel exactly the same way if we were going through those things; everything felt very authentic. I could identify very easily with the characters.

This book is very, very sad. It made me grateful that I have dodged the depression bullet in my life. It made me hope that the student who needs this book will be able to find it.

I am touched by this novel.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Bite of the Mango

This is the story of twelve year old Mariatu Kamara. Mariatu grew up in Sierra Leone. She was raised by a village of people, always knew the comfort of friends and family, the value of hard work, and the importance of traditions.

There is upset in Sierra Leone, however, and the rumbling of rebel troops has Mariatu's family hiding in the brush...something that she and her cousins view as a game. When walking to the village one afternoon to deliver palm tree oil, Mariatu and her cousin are caught by some rebel troops. These "soldiers" are young...some the same age as Mariatu herself. They force her to watch horrible atrocities. Then they tell her that she can go.

But first she must pick her punishment. In the end, they cut off both of her hands and tell her that now she will never be able to vote for her President.

This is a truly amazing story. It is horrific to read because it is all true.
It is hard to put down because it is all true.

High school libraries every where should have this book so that students who are interested can read it and know more about it from a primary source. Give this to a mature kid who is ready to explore the world a little bit more fully.

Mariatu, after suffering so many other set-backs, finally made it to Canada. She was able to attend school, get an education, and tell her story to all of the readers out there who are willing to hear it. While her story is incredibly sad, it is also a story of overwhelming hope.


The Bite of the Mango
by Mariatu Kamara
and Susan McClellan

Sunday, January 4, 2009

My Christmas List

This is what I read over the break...it is not a lot...Santa Jason had me pretty busy!! However, there were lots of things on My Christmas Reading List...here is what I accomplished.

What I Saw and How I Lied
by Judy Bundell

It is a sad day when you find out that everyone you love is a big liar and backstabber, including your mother, your father, and your love interest (who also is having an affair with your mom). This post-world war 2 novel examines what that period in history looked like. There are some really big issues examined: sexuality and gender roles, racism and discrimination, murder...just to name a few. Blundell set a wonderful trap, engrossing the reader until the very end. Evie is an innocent when we get started and by the end, she has blown the lid off of things. Very interesting.
As a side note, Blundell won a National Book Award with this novel. Check out her acceptance speech here!

by Kristin Cashore

Some people in this imagined kingdom (a la Tolkien) are graced with cooking or singing, or forecasting weather or mind reading. Katsa has the grace of killing. She is now the king's assassin and she does his bidding as needed.
However, when she meets a prince from one of the neighboring countries, she is forced to examine her roll in the kingdom and, even more importantly, what she would like to do with her future. This sets her out on a journey that ends up having such far reaching tentacles, Katsa could have never imagined.
What I loved about this book: female empowerment! Katsa is a great, strong, independent character that immediately drew me in and kept me interested. I look forward to seeing what Cashore pens next!
Read more and watch the book trailer at the Houghton Mifflin Books site...click here!

School for Dangerous Girls
by Eliot Schrefer

Girls who are so bad that their parents simply give up on them are sent to Hidden Oaks...a School for Dangerous Girls. They are plied with rules, they visit with a shrink, they learn mind games and social games...but most of all, they learn that this school isn't quite what it seems to be.
Schrefer writes a compelling character with Angela, a girl who is just a little bad and uses her powers for good. Another strong and flawed character who has to overcome her self-involvement for the greater good.

by Christopher Krovatin

This is one that Dr. Teri Lesesne had recommended back in October...which I just got around to reading... Our main character, Locke, has what we now call, anger management issues. When he gets angry, someone gets a beating. Learning to control "the beast" isn't possible for him and it has driven away almost everyone he has ever cared about. Locke can get the help he needs....but he has to want it bad enough. Will he?
Paired with a comic book alter ego (complete with pictures), Krovatin (who also wrote: Heavy Metal and You)...concocted a book stew of every tasty element you can imagine.

I also read D Magazine and tried out the new O.C. restaurant - Bolsa. Highly recommend that place. Fedora is another place we recently tried...owned by Gina Campisi of the Campisi Italian dynasty. This is another one you don't want to miss! These menus make for GREAT reading!

Enjoy the new year...there is so much in store!