Friday, May 30, 2008

All We Know of Heaven by Jacquelyn Mitchard

16-year-olds Bridget and Maureen have been friends since elementary school. Nicknamed the Dyno Mytes, both girls are blonde with green eyes and are exactly the same height. Both are cheerleaders, and on the way home from practice one snowy night, the car veers over the yellow line and into the path of an oncoming big rig. The car is mangled, "the hood was smashed sideways, the wheels up off the ground." It "looked as if it had been wrung out like a wet towel." Both girls were unrecognizable, but it was Maureen's car, so they determined the identities based on driver and passenger. Though the paramedics worked furiously on both girls, and surgeons tried their best to stabilize them, Maureen didn't make it. Bridget was in a coma and her ultimate outcome was still unknown. It wasn't until after Maureen's funeral that the dental surgeon came around to check Bridget out. They would have to put in a permanent bridge to replace the teeth knocked out in the accident. But the teeth in the girl's mouth didn't match the Bridget's dental records. At all.

This is one of the most touching novels I have ever read. A tragic case of mistaken identity. Severe disability combined with a stubborn refusal to give up. The reawakening of life at the edge of death. This is, ultimately, an uplifting story of hope and faith.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Girlwood by Claire Dean

"The first and last kiss Polly received from her
sister was as contrary as Bree herself. Lightweight by intense, a kiss
that was supposed to impart some deep meaning but offer zero affection,
a kiss that was retracted nearly before it began. It was past midnight,
and Polly was not only too tired to open her eyes, she was so sick of
her stoned, skeletal, sixteen-year-old sister that she didn't even
acknowledge Bree was there." The next day it is discovered that Bree
has run away, and Polly isn't sure if her midnight memory is true or
only a dream. She also vaguely remembers Bree saying "I'll be somewhere
in the woods. Our
woods." When she mentions this to the police and her
mother, they smiled at her "the way adults often did, like she was
darling and ridiculous." But Polly knows what she saw and heard, and
knows that it's up to her to keep Bree alive through the coming winter.
Together with her friends, she uses the woods knowledge learned from
her grandmother to build a shelter and bring wild, edible plants to a
magical clearing. The woods are in danger, though. A developer has
obtained permission to clear cut and build on acres of the overgrown
landscape. Polly has to hope that enough will be left to sustain her
sister and keep their secrets.

This eloquent tale is rich and
evocative. Several plot lines twist and wind around each other like
vines, interweaving yet remaining separate. Class bullies, abuse,
addiction and growing up are all part of the story, yet none overpowers
the other. The story flows easily, and I became so caught up in the
story and the language that it was difficult to stop. I highly
recommend this book.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Boys That Bite, Stake That!, and Girls That Growl by Mari Mancusi

Sunshine and Rayne are twins but could not be more different. Sunny prefers flips, tanks and jeans while Rayne uses white makeup, black fingernail polish and owns only one non-black item of clothing (a pink tee sporting the slogan "Bite Me"). Rayne is moody and a social outcast. Sunny is popular and, well, sunny. So when Rayne asks Sunny to go to a Goth club, it's Sunny's idea of the worst possible evening. But she loves her sister, so she puts on the Bite Me t-shirt and prepares for a boring night. Then Magnus comes along, sweeps her off her feet, and bites accident. It's a case of mistaken identity - Magnus mistook Sunny for her darker twin. Now Sunny is the one turning into a vampire and Rayne will have to go back on the waiting list to find a new sponsor. Unless...could they can find a cure in time to prevent the transformation?

In book two, Stake That!, Rayne's plans to vamp out again take a turn for the worst as she's taken aside by the drama teacher and told that she's "the chosen one," the new Slayer (seems the current slayer, Bertha, is having a cholesterol and high blood pressure problem and must retire). There's something funny going on at a vamp club downtown and Rayne must investigate. Fortunately, thanks to Sunny, Rayne has some friends on the inside to help out. One, Jareth, is Rayne's idea of perfection: dark, moody, emo, built, etc. Too bad he hates her...

In book three, Girls That Growl, Rayne must go a cheerleader! The squad has been heard growling lately, and there's a football player missing...

These three books are fun and light, perfect for pool or seaside (or hotel room, if sunlight isn't your thing).

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Julia Child by Laura Shapiro

This account about Julia Child is enjoyable and interesting from the first page of the preface to the last page of the book. What we saw of her on television was the animation of a woman of may facets. Her life began in California where she grew into a society girl-fun loving and carefree. Her college days were spent at Smith where she continued enjoying friends and parties. During World War II she realized that she had better start getting serious about life. So she made the leap from society girl to working for the Office of Strategic Services. She began as a file clerk at the stateside office and then went to India and Ceylon where she set up the filing system used by the China-Burma-India theater which tracked intelligence gathering. It was during her days with the OSS that she met people who stretched her mind and made her think about deeper things than getting invited to parties or the seating arrangement at a fancy dinner. One of the people she met was Paul Child. He was a very talented OSS worker in the visual presentation unit responsible for maps, displays and photography. One of his great loves was for good food. Through him Julia began an interest in food and cooking. She later trained at the Cordon Bleu in France. While living and training there she made friends who would be life long associates and confidants. Two of them dreamed with Julia to write a cookbook for Americans to learn the art of French cooking. The three collaborated on the project for years. During this time Julia was determined that each recipe, each piece of advice in their book must be tested repeatedly before making it into the manuscript and print. She was tireless in the pursuit of excellence. Along the way she was also a society hostess for Paul during the years of civil service abroad. The Julia we saw on television came later to further interest in French cooking. She had a natural television presence and made people comfortable with cooking. And of course her voice was unique -people still imitate her and the bubbly excitement she had for fresh ingredients. Part of her I was unaware of was her crusading influence about food production. She was opinionated about many things and these opinions changed with time. In her last years she was without Paul which hurt terribly but always she was interested in cooking.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Streams of Babel by Carol Plum-Ucci

Half a world away a 16-year-old boy sits in an Internet cafe near Karachi, Pakistan. A brilliant computer programmer, Shahzad works as a v-spy for the United States government. He's picked up some Internet chatter about a substance called Red Vinegar: "Waters will run red in Colony One...Waters will run red three hours from Home Base in December...They will drink in December and die like mangy dogs in April."

It's March in Trinity Falls, New Jersey. On the same day, on the same street, two women die of brain aneurysms. One a lawyer who gives more than she takes. The other a morphine-addicted ex-photojournalist. Both leave behind teenagers who are exhibiting flu-like symptoms. Coincidence? Or could this be Colony One?

Paramedic Scott Eberman just lost his mother. His brother, Owen, and Owen's classmates and neighbors, Rain and Cora, are all exhibiting flu-like symptoms similar to those of Mrs. Eberman before she died of an aneurysm. Scott is frantically searching for answers, but can he find them before it's too late? Meanwhile, the U.S. Intelligence Coalition (USIC) is also involved, trying to discover if these are the first cases of Red Vinegar. And in Pakistan, Shahzad desperately tries to obtain the recipe and plans for Red Vinegar by v-spying on the bioterrorists.

This plot is ripped from our nightmares. What if bioterrorists concentrated their efforts on poisoning our water supply with something our doctors, scientists and government had never encountered? Who would be targeted? How long would it take to identify? How many would die before a cure was found? This complex novel delves deep into our fears and tells the story from five points of view, each with a unique perspective. Surprisingly, this doesn't get confusing, but instead adds to the overall tension and intrigue of the plot. If you enjoy thrillers, this book is for you.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

The Swan Kingdom by Zoe Marriott

I really enjoyed this poetic retelling of the Six Swans fairy tale. Alexandra, youngest child of the king, is an ugly little thing, but useful. She can use the enaid, the power of the land, to do little things like healing and talking to the beasts and creatures of the land. Her mother's ability to wield the enaid is greater and soaks through the kingdom, bringing lush growth and bountiful crops. Alexandra's three brothers, David, Hugh and Robin, posses little of the gift, but have their own strengths and are devoted to their sister. Though she does not have her father's love, Alexandra is content with her life. Her small world is uprooted when her mother is attacked by a terrifying beast and dies. Her father goes mad with grief, hunting daily for the creature that killed his wife. One day he brings home a prize. Not the beast, but a strange and beautiful woman who bewitches the king and his kingdom, banishes the princes and sends Alexandra to her Aunt's home in Midland. There Alexandra gathers strength and courage and begins to make plans and decisions of her own rather than float along obeying the rules set for her. When her dreams become urgent and prophetic, Alexandra decides she must free her kingdom from the evil creature that has bespelled it and save her people and her brothers, even if she dies in the process.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson

16-year-old Scarlett Martin and her family own, live in, and run an old hotel in New York City. Unfortunately, it's a shabby, unpopular, run down hotel that takes so much money to operate that they've had to let go of most of the full-time staff. Scarlett, her brother Spencer, and her sisters, Lola and Marlene, work along with their parents to clean the rooms, man the desk, and provide the most tip top customer service possible. When Mrs. Amberson arrives and books the Empire Suite, the most expensive suite in the hotel, for the entire summer, Scarlett's parents assign her as Mrs. Amberson's personal staff person. Scarlett was upset that all of her friends were off doing exciting things for the summer while she was stuck in the hot and humid city. But now, with Mrs. Amberson's arrival, it looks like things are going to get a lot more interesting!

Scarlett is a fascinating character. Her development over the course of the novel is very subtle and realistic. The characters of her brother and sisters are also very fleshed out - so much so that you are disappointed to leave them at the end of the novel. The repartee between Scarlett and her brother Spencer is witty, quirky and fun, expressing the true bond some sibilings have. Over all, this book is several steps above the usual chicklit fare, and I can't wait to read more of Maureen Johnson's novels.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Hiding In Plain Sight: The Secret Life of Raymond Burr

by Michael Seth Starr

I enjoyed the book. Being a Raymond Burr fan, I found it unsettling. The criticism was slighted a bit. Whether he was gay or not should not have been the definition of his character. The book places emphasis on his sexuality rather than his accomplishments. It does mention the Raymond Burr Vineyards and how the idea originated between friends.

Reviewed by B-Smile (Bridget Turner)
HPL Adult Services Department

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Frontiers: Flower of Seattle by Colleen L. Reece

Brian O'Rourke had a good life from infancy in Ireland until the famine hit so many people. His stomach was always empty and people were mean to one another. Finally he decided to sneak aboard a ship bound for America. He was found after they were out to sea and was taken to the captain. Captain Haines became for Brian a second father and so Brian learned from him during the next part of his life on the sea.
When Brian decided to settle near Seattle he became a logger and made a new life with work and friends. Harry Templeton became like a brother to Brian and together they fixed up a cabin in preparation for the arrival of Harry's fiance.
Meanwhile, Heather Templeton endured life with her father and stepmother, Adelaide. Harry had previously been sent away by his stepmother and Heather was left to Adelaide's deceitfulness. Though mean to Heather when they were alone, when Mr. Templeton was in the room Adelaide was all sweetness so he was unaware of his wife's true personality and wickedness. Heather's best friend, Alice, visited often and the girls shared jokes and secrets in Heather's room. It was there that they planned an escape to Seattle. But the outcome was uncertain. It was most daring of them to even consider. Women in the mid 1800s didn't do these things. But plan they did and even involved the help of some of the household servants. Heather would miss her father and risk losing her inheritance but another day with Adelaide was not an option, either.

Vampire Kisses by Ellen Schreiber

Outcast Goth girl Raven is bored, bored, bored with living in Dullsville. She spends her time exploring the local cemetary, painting her nails black and dreaming of her ideal Prince Charming (a vampire, natch). Her favorite house in town is the old Sterling mansion, which has been abandoned for years and is rumored to be haunted. But one day a new family moves in, and Raven is in Goth heaven. She immediately takes steps to try and find out if the family is a vampire coven. When she finally meets the son, Alexander, she drops hints to try and get him to confide his undead status. Finally, she figures the best way to find to get bitten!

Raven is a fun character. Attired in black with black combat boots, lipstick and nail polish, she totally does not fit in with the Abercrombie & Fitch teens who populate Dullsville. When she meets Alexander, she thinks she's finally found her soulmate - someone with whom she can explore cemetaries and watch old horror movies. But what if Alexander really is a vampire? Is Raven really ready to join the ranks of the undead?

Monday, May 12, 2008

Free Kickoff Event - Teen Summer Reading!

Free Kickoff Concert & Movie!
Friday, May 30th starting @ 6 pm
Homewood Park
Heavenly Days @ 6 pm
Free Friday Flick @ Dusk
Sign up for Summer Reading
Prizes from CW21 and the library!

Friday, May 9, 2008

Icecore by Matt Whyman

17-year-old Carl Hobbes has just pulled off the impossible: He's hacked into Fort Knox and opened the vault doors from his home computer. Unfortunately, the government has tracked him down. They make him a deal: if he tells them how he did it, and swears to secrecy, he'll get off the hook. Otherwise, he's looking at a public trial and a very, very long prison sentence. Carl agrees to tell the United States government everything. For his debriefing, they fly him to an undisclosed, sub-zero facility known as the Guantanmo of the North. The freezing barren wasteland doesn't bode well, and Carl gets even more nervous when he's manhandled into a cage alongside some of the world's worst terrorists. Carl tries to keep calm, knowing that he's only there till he can be debriefed. By the end of the weekend he'll be back home and it will all over. That is, if he lives that long.

Despite the author's efforts, it's hard to feel much sympathy for Carl, despite his youth and relative innocence. The majority of the time he's either being arrogant, too naive, or downright whiney. It's only toward the middle of the book that the real story begins to come out - explaining the disdain the guards feel toward Carl and the reason he's been flown to the Arctic Circle containment camp. At that point, both Carl and the plot start to get more interesting. And once it gets REALLY gets going. Gunfights, explosions, mercenary plots and double identites keep the adrenaline rushing till the fiery, freezing finale!

Fax Me a Bagel by Sharon Kahn

Ruby Rothman's rabbi husband was killed by a hit and run driver one and one half years ago. But the people of Temple Rita still expect her to bear responsibilities of the rabbi's wife. Essie Sue continues involving Ruby in her events, planned down to the words Ruby should use, what she should wear, where she should sit and with whom. The Temple search committee is in the home stretch to find a new rabbi as each member is campaigning for a different applicant. Essie Sue, self appointed director of protocol and all things proper for the Temple, promotes her candidate as being exactly what they need in a charismatic leader who is also in need of a mate. Ruby is enlisted to for Essie Sue's next event which is still on even though Marla died suddenly at the Hot Bagel. Essie Sue continued her match making efforts and Ruby pursued finding Marla's killer so Milt wouldn't be convicted of a crime he didn't commit. When Ruby is almost killed she figured maybe she was on the right track. Who killed Marla, why and in the Hot Bagel? Ruby will find out and then all will be well. Maybe she can come out of this without be matched with the new rabbi.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Flavor of the Week by Tucker Shaw

Overweight high school senior Cyril has two secret loves: Cooking and Rose. Of the two, he considers cooking the only attainable goal. Rose - beautiful, vegetarian, perfect Rose - will never see him as anything but a friend. So Cyril concentrates on his cooking, perfecting recipe after recipe to prepare for his AICA (American Institute of Culinary Arts) entrance exam. Meanwhile, an old friend, Nick, moves back into town. At first Cyril is ecstatic, since he and Nick were once inseperable friends. But then Nick gets interested in Rose. And even worse, Rose becomes interested in the supermodel gorgeous Nick. And when Nick asks for his friend Cyril's help in winning Rose over with a homecooked meal, Cyril reluctantly agrees. Thus begins a subterfuge involving food, lies and good intentions.

Cyril is a definite underdog, and readers will find themselves falling in love with him and his cooking. The characters are all well-developed for such a short story, and the plot moves quickly. The book is also filled with recipes, the names of which act as titles for the chapters (I can't wait to try the Kitchen-Sink Cookies!). If you think it's a bit predictable, you're right. It's a retelling of the play Cyrano de Bergerac by Rostand.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Steel Trapp: The Challenge by Ridley Pearson

Revenge of the Nerds meets Indiana Jones? No, that's not quite right. Hmmm...McGuyver meets Bill Gates? Whatever comparison is made, it still won't adequately describe this action-packed novel full of science geeks and terrorist plots. Steven "Steel" Trapp (so nicknamed for his photographic memory) is an out and out science geek, and he totally owns it. He's on his way by Amtrak train to Washington D.C. with his mother and his dog, Cairo, to compete in the National Science Challenge. At the station he notices a young woman disembarking without her briefcase, so Steel runs after her to return it. She vehemently denies ownership, and Steel turns the bag over to the conductor instead. But the thing is, Steel knows it was her briefcase. And now he's curious. The case is strangely light, with the sound of a few sheets of paper wisping around. Steel wants to know what's in that case, and he wants to know so badly that he can't think of anything else. So he cons his way into the baggage car, finds the briefcase and tries to figure out how to get into the case without damaging it. What he glimpses inside turns his blood cold and makes his mind spin. He can't forget it. He has to do something about it. And with the help of a U.S. Marshall, his science project, Cairo, and a new friend, he just might live through the experience. This book is a mystery, and adventure, and an all-around fun read for teens.