Wednesday, April 29, 2015

A couple of "boy" books by Goeff Herbst

Originally titled Fat Boy vs. the Cheerleaders, Gabe Johnson Takes Over is an okay novel of a group of high school students trying to have a say in their school programs over the adults who have different agendas.  Gabe is the fat kid, who's not going to take it anymore.  I know, it's a cliche, but this book is kind of filled with them.  It's not bad, and the resolution leaves you feeling pretty good, but I think it could have been so much more.  Stupid Fast is so much better.  

In one year Felton grows seven inches and gains 43 pounds.  He’s suddenly BIG, not fat, BIG, as in the coaches are looking at him; the jocks are looking at him; his mom is looking at him.  Felton is funny.  He is dealing with the growth spurt.  (Eat! Hair! Eat!)  His mom freaks out on him because he suddenly looks like his dead dad.  His best friend, Gus, moves for the summer to Venezuela.  A beautiful girl moves into Gus’s house.  The jocks are now his friends.  No wonder Felton is funny:  funny--ha, ha, funny—weird, funny—crazy.  He’s a regular kid with some serious issues going on in his life.  I loved this book; it made me laugh, snicker, and whimper.  I should buy another copy; I will, I promise.  I did!  

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Nil by Lynne Matson

I used to watch Survivor, then I got tired of the sameness. Nil reminds me a bit of Survivor, but instead of being voted off the island, the characters have a year to catch a gate, or they die. There is no camera crew, or host, to intervene when someone gets hurt to take them to the hospital. The stakes are definitely higher on Nil, even if it is beautiful.

I thought this was fast paced and an easy read. The world building flowed into the story rather than being an info dump. You do need to watch the chapter headings as Charley and Thad take turns telling the story. If you hate insta-love, you’ll be annoyed, but maybe you’ll be pacified by the whole intensity of the one year left to live dynamic. I got a bit panicked, toward the ending, because I’d looked online and noticed there was a sequel. Thankfully this one does not have a cliffhanger ending.  I hope the second book is a companion, and gives more info on Nil and some of the other characters.  

I’m glad this one is in my library, and I will happily buy the next one.  

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Vigilante Poets & Dirt Bikes

Good boy books are hard to find, it seems.  Especially for those boys who don’t want to read high fantasy, or have read all the Gary Paulsen books in existence and now are ready for  something more.  Within the last few weeks I’ve read a couple of great books.  

Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy by Kate Hattemer turned out to be very witty, and erudite. (Hey--I can use that word, because of Divergent! Thanks Veronica Roth.) By page 24, I had already laughed out loud three times.  I learned a couple of new grammar terms, also. Ethan references other works of fiction, and pop culture icons as he observes his surroundings and friends. His English class is studying long form poetry and that plays into the plot of the book quite cleverly.  He is a typical teenager in that he only sees the surface masks other people present, not realizing that others are just as confused as he is.  His growth as a person feels natural, as he gains and loses ground during the school year.  I gave this to a teacher friend of mine and she thought the same thing I did--it would be a great classroom novel.  

Summary from my card catalog:  
Witty, sarcastic Ethan and his three best friends are students at Selwyn Arts Academy, which has been hijacked by For Art's Sake , a sleazy reality-television show. In the tradition of Ezra Pound, the foursome secretly writes and distributes a long poem to protest the show. They're thrilled to have started a budding rebellion. But the forces behind the show are craftier than they seem. The web of betrayal stretches farther than Ethan could have ever imagined, and it's up to him, his friends, and a heroic gerbil named Baconnaise to save Selwyn.

Dirt Bikes, Drones, and other ways to Fly by Conrad Wesselhoeft had it’s funny moments, but really struck me as more poignant.  Arlo is as observant as Ethan, but his musings are colored by the death of his mother, and his sister’s Huntington's disease. Arlo’s personal growth is tied to his risk taking behavior, something he shared with his mother, and now he uses to feel “the zone” that place where everything becomes calm and clear.  

Summary from my card catalog:
Seventeen year-old dirt-bike-riding daredevil Arlo Santiago catches the eye of the U.S. military with his first-place ranking on a video game featuring drone warfare, and must reconcile the work they want him to do with the emotional scars he has suffered following a violent death in his family. Adios, Nirvana author Conrad Wesselhoeft, takes readers from the skies over war-torn Pakistan to the dusty arroyos of New Mexico's outback in this young adult novel about daring to live in the wake of unbearable loss.
I’m walking away, but I’m also walking toward.
Few people understand this concept. They walk away from something, but they don’t walk toward something else. They don’t feel their destination. They don’t shed a world as they walk away and gain a world as they walk toward.

I do.  (page 24)

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Fire and Flood by Victoria Scott

What would you do to get a cure for a family member who was dying? You’d  be willing to compete in a race, probably, knowing only one person could win, right? But what if that race could kill you? What if you saw other contenders die? What if other contenders turned on you?  Would you still want to do race?  It’s going to take three months; you’ll travel over four different ecosystems, and you’ll have a Pandora.  What’s a Pandora?  That’s just one of the questions, you’ll have, that will be answered later, maybe.

This was a wild ride of a book.  I’m hooked and ready to read the next one, immediately.  Good thing it’s out already.  There were times that I giggled at Tella’s comments, and times I rolled my eyes at her, but overall I really enjoyed this one.

Some will want to compare Fire and Flood to The Hunger Games. Yes, the competition aspect is like that, but the motivation is different to me.  Tell wants to win so her brother can be cured of his disease. Katniss took her sister’s place, but Prim could live without her, well, she would have…. Tella is much more compassionate than Katniss.  She cares about the other contender’s stories, and Pandoras. And I’ll be really mad if that turns out to be her downfall rather than her salvation.  

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The Chapel Wars by Lindsey Leavitt

This was just an okay book for me.  It’s a romance with a Romeo and Juliet theme, which is even acknowledged by the characters, Dax and Holly.  If Ms. Leavitt had really run with that, I feel like this could have been so much more.  There are a lot of characters, most of whom are given just a bit of page time.  Some of them could have been cut to allow for more character development.  Older sister Lenore, is just there to show how dysfunctional the family is, and to provide a car ride; she could have been sacrificed to give more info about Camille, the girlfriend of Sam, Holly’s best friend.  Holly has three other guy friends, Mike, Grant, and Porter., who are kind of interchangeable.  I wanted more info on Victor, the competition, and James, Holly’s younger brother.  Perhaps I am being too picky, but I wanted this to be one of the ones that would fall into the better than it looks category.