Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Brutal by Michael Harmon

Before I begin, I just want to say that Michael Harmon is one of those great writers who always produces something that I will purchase. In the three different novels I have read, I have been impressed in three completely different ways.

Brutal is powerful.
Poe is a character who can change your life as a reader if you let her. She has the ability to teach you.
The story that Harmon weaves is compelling from start to finish.

Poe moves in with her father, a father she has never met. When Poe arrives at her new school, she takes in the injustices that she sees there and she decides to work to change those things. However, Poe's methodology challenges the norm and isn't well received. She will have to rely on advice from a father she doesn't know all that well, and she will have to change herself in order to change the future.

The title is apt. Brutal IS brutal. It stakes a good claim in your consciousness, if you let it. It will make you think, no matter what your position in life. Really, isn't that what a GOOD book is about?

Go pick this one up.
I know that I say that about a bunch of titles of different ilk that I have enjoyed.
For this book, I can only say that it Poe isn't always likable, but her overall motivation will move you.
Thank you, Michael Harmon, for writing this.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

This powerful novel begins with Cassie's death. Cassie was Lia's BFF until events (unknown to the reader) pulled them apart. Cassie was bulimic and Lia was anorexic. They weren't a good influence on each other, and things finally fell apart their senior year.

On the night that she died, Cassie called Lia 33 times. Lia didn't answer the phone and when she finally listened to the messages, Cassie's pleading voice implored her for help.
Lia is constantly battling her own mind to get down to 85lbs and as she nears her mark, she begins seeing Cassie's ghost calling her over to the other side, to death.
Will Lia be able to continue to fight and find the will to keep going? Will she be able to battle
the voice in her head and make peace with the ghosts that haunt her?
As Lia deals with the implications of cutting and starving herself, explaining how she sees herself when she looks in the mirror, the reader is drawn into the complex emotional cage in which Lia lives.
Laurie Halse Anderson's afterword is just as important to read as the story itself, and while this book is hard to read because of the intense hardships that Lia faces, it will open your eyes to some experiences that you might not normally be familiar with...

Check out the booktrailer from YouTube by clicking here!

And if this book appeals to you, you might try Rachel Cohn's novel, You Know Where to Find Me.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Response by Volponi

Paul Volponi is an excellent writer, and I think he has distinct appeal to male audiences. I haven't read everything that he has written. I first read Hurricane Song, a horribly compelling story about Hurricane Katrina. It made me think about some things I hadn't previously considered. In all the stories that I heard during that time, the Superdome stories weren't stories that came onto my register. The stories I heard were from family members who had gone to New Orleans to help with their medical skills and those stories were horrible enough.
So to read Hurricane Song, I was introduced to a whole new perspective.

Volponi's newest piece of fiction, Response, is a series of events that could take place anywhere in the United States. Three best friends leave their side of town in order to boost a Lexus. While there, they change their minds and end up having pizza at an Italian joint. While inside the restaurant, they run into some white kids of Italian heritage and some racial slurs and threats are made.

While walking home that evening, the white kids pull up in a Landrover and get out with a R-E-S-P-O-N-S-E bat. The black kids take off, but one of them trips and falls. He is repeatedly beaten with the bat, cracking his skull and breaking bones. When the ambulance and police arrive, they rush him to the hospital where metal plates are put into his head. The police quickly find the perps, the white kids, and arrest them. This starts a black vs. white racial war that will turn the town on it's ear.

The main character, Noah, has much to live for, including his new baby daughter. His role in this whole thing, as survivor, is to be a model for others. How can he, though, when he is repeatedly forced into adverse situations that he doesn't know how to handle?

With help from his parents and his grandmother, Noah is able to keep to the right path and learn about what it means to be a man. Throughout the trial, he learns how to channel his anger and make himself productive rather than destroyed by hate.

Volponi does a great job of setting up scenario after scenario that require the reader to think and analyze their own reaction to hate crimes. The formatting changes from chapter to chapter, creating an interesting visual environment for the reader. You can't lose with this title!!

To view a digital book review from teacherlibrarian, click here!!

Happy Reading!!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Season by Sarah MacLean

This book came to me last week, courtesy of Scholastic. I was immediately intrigued because....well...check out the cover, read the jacket...and you will see.

But things at work got hectic and things at home got hectic and I didn't get to slip into the story as easily as I had hoped.

However, today was the day for reading. I am completely in love with this book.
Sarah MacLean wrote an excellent, excellent part romance/part mystery...all delicious!! tale set in England around 1814. Our main character, Alex, is someone that you would have loved to been friends with (if you were rich, lived in that time period, and weren't intimated by having such a foxy best friend). Luckily, her friends weren't put out by those factors...seeing as how they were all fabulously good looking and wealthy as well!! This is Alex's year to come out to society. She and her friends have been prepared for this introductory event for years...they are all in the market for husbands. Kind of. This season will definitely be unlike any others. But you'll be surprised at what events transpire. Past that, I don't want to ruin this great story.

I just want you to go out and get a copy.
Curl up on the couch, and find yourself in another time and place, a place filled with fancy ball gowns and courting and best friends that would do anything for you!!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


Ode to Laurie Halse Anderson:

Everything you write turns to gold.
I am so glad that you chose writing as your profession.
When I read your books, I wish that I knew the characters personally.
And the best part is that I feel like I do!
Please don't stop writing.

Chains was required reading this week.
I have to admit that it wasn't something that I was looking forward to...I was dragging my feet on the issue. I know the LHA is a fantastic writer, and it wasn't that I expected to be disappointed....I just wasn't ready to tackle the issue of slavery + the American Revolution. They are kind of heavy topics.

I should have known better.
LHA draws you in, setting an amazing stage of New York City. Isabel has been granted freedom by her mistress, who has recently passed. Isabel and her younger sister, Ruth, however, are not freed. Instead, they are passed on to another family member, their servitude continues.

The new family is made up of a harsh mistress with a hard knot of a heart. And her husband...he is a Red Coat sympathizer. In order to gain freedom, Isabel finds herself drawn into the position of a Patriot spy. She believes that this will ultimately free Isabel and Ruth. But things don't go according to plan. As the battle at home in the colonies begins, Isabel struggles with where her true alliance lies.

Every chapter begins with a quote from the time period. This quote, aside from being a fabulous primary source document, steeps the reader in the complexities of the issues of the time. Isabel's situation is prefaced by the quote, setting the stage for events that are to come.

The best praise I can give this book: when Isabel is branded, I gasped aloud. Jason, who was watching TV in bed next to me asked me what was wrong. I was that much a part of Isabel's story!!

Check out Simon & Schuster's author's page to learn more about this great author and her other titles. And be on the look out. Her newest book, Wintergirls, is due out March 19th! Can't wait!!

The Chosen One

We will begin with the cover, which is sure to draw readers in: a partially undone braid. I think this image is startling and is a powerful image when paired with author Carol Lynch Williams' moving tale.

Kyra is a good girl, steeped in the teachings of the church. Her parents are polygamists and she lives on a compound. Her fellow compound members are known as The Chosen and they are all ruled by the dictates of The Prophet.

Kyra is thirteen. The tradition in her family, the richness that her brothers and sisters and mothers add to her life is something that she has never questioned. She doesn't regret that she lives on the compound or that her life is different. It is all done in order to keep Satan out.

However, when Kyra is chosen to marry her uncle who is fifty plus years older than she is, her whole life changes. She cannot go along with this plan. She isn't ready to be separated from her family. She is in love with someone else - someone who is going to ask for her hand very soon.
As events escalate and Kyra's wedding day quickly approaches, she begins to question the things that she has been a part of her whole life and how/if she can escape them.

From start to finish, I was committed to this fast-paced page turner. I couldn't put it down. I wanted to see Kyra through to the dramatic end. When it was all over, I finally could relax. . I feel that Williams really gets behind the psychology of the issues and makes you understand Kyra's conflict. This book is amazing! I highly recommend getting a copy.