Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Hunt for the Bamboo Rat by Graham Salisbury


I put off reading this because I’m tired of WWII stories, at least Holocaust ones; I’ve read a ton of those. But this is not one of those. Bamboo Rat is about an American born Japanese boy from Hawaii. It was a bit of a slow start but quickly picks up after Zenji is employed by the Army to translate for them. He goes to Manila to spy on Japanese businessmen living at the hotel where he stays, and is there when Pearl Harbor is bombed. Then he leaves with the army as they retreat to other islands, goes through some of the fighting, is captured by Japanese soldiers and tortured, survives, and so much more. I stayed up late to finish this one, reading it in just one day. The author’s note tells me the story was inspired by a real person, making it even more impressive to me. I’ve given it to one of our history teachers to read, I love getting coaches to read books.  

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

If you love Phantom of the Opera...

Of Metal and Wishes has the tropes from Phantom of the Opera: a scarred boy, a handsome boy, a beautiful girl, prejudice, creativity, and the desire to protect the ones we love.  I have a little group of Phantom lovers, including my daughter, who will love this book.  There is a lot of drama in this story,; it’s full of romance, carnage, political rebellion, prejudice, violence, illness and predators, but no music.  

Wen works with her father, a doctor, at the slaughter house, ever since the death of her mother. He’s a compassionate man, who has debt because he is unwilling for his patients to go without the medicine they need.  But he and Wen are more like strangers, both lonely. The workers pray and leave offerings to the Ghost, someone who was killed at the slaughter house years go. After Wen challenges Ghost to prove he exists, a rude new worker is badly injured in an accident, leaving Wen struggling with her feelings of guilt and responsibility. As she seeks to undo, or alleviate, the effects of her wish, she falls in love with another new worker, who is not of her own culture, risking her reputation along the way.  


Devastated by the death of her Shakespearean-actor father, Esti Legard moves to a tropical island for her senior year in high school, where she finds herself torn between a mysterious, masked mentor and a seductive island boy, as she tries to escape the overpowering shadow of her famous father.

I often get frustrated at love triangles in YA books; two hot guys pining after a girl who doesn’t believe she’s pretty or worthy.  This triangle has one hot guy, a guy swathed in black and masks, and a girl who can act and has some confidence in her abilities.  This felt like a modern version of Phantom of the Opera without the singing, set in the Caribbean.  I truly understood the attraction to both guys, knew which one I wanted Esti to chose, but understood the dilemma.  I even teared up a bit at the end over her choice.  That hasn’t happened in a long time for me.  

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Signed Skye Harper by Carol Lynch Williams

Signed Skye Harper by Carol Lynch Williams

Winston has lived with Nanny, her grandmother, since she was four, when her mother lefter to try to become a star. Ten years have gone by and now Momma is ready to come home.  To get her, Winton’s grandmother “borrows” the neighbor’s RV, unfortunately the neighbor’s teenage son is sleeping in it when they leave for Vegas.

This book is set in the early seventies during the summer Olympics. There are references to Elvis, Mark Spitz, Black September, and the Munich massacre. They color the story and set the timeline without confusing the reader who might feel like this was ancient history. Winston is funny, but hesitant to forgive her mother for leaving all those years ago. Stevie seems older than his years with his attitude, behavior and maturity. If you like stories about wayward mothers and learning to live without them you might also like Beauty Shop for Rent by Laura Bowers.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Overcoming family ties

Does everyone have a family skeleton? Clare’s is visible, at least to her.  He’s been a part of her life since she was six.  She doesn’t like to think about him, and there are a few places he won’t show up, but he’s with her most of the time. Clare learning to live with, and from, a family skeleton, forms the bones of this book. She learns to be strong, make decisions for herself, separate from her family, and advocate for herself. I really like this as a strong coming of age novel. Close reading is needed as the books switches between the past and the present, but it’s labeled in the chapter headings. 

As for the plot, some of it is a mystery, such as why Luke, her oldest brother, isn’t home most of the time.  Clare loves him, writes to him, and saves the letters he writes back.  She knows most of the town’s people don’t like him, and her other brother, Peter, is afraid of him, but when Luke is around, he takes care of her. All she knows is “He was in the wrong place at the wrong time,” according to her mother.  But how can that happen so often? And why does it feel like Mother will choose Luke over her other children? 

Joy is living with her aunt and uncle after being rescued from her abusive mother.  This is the story of Joy’s journey of self discovery, finding a new normal, and learning to live with less fear.
She’ll move forward and slide back, but it’s about hope and finding a future.  

I have an audience for this book in my library.  I’m pretty sure I have bought a new copy of A Child Called It almost every year I’ve been a librarian.  I think it’s a case of living vicariously through fiction.  No matter how bad you think your life it, reading about someone’s whose is life is worse is freeing, somehow.  Learning that they have lived through it gives hope.