Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Girl With Borrowed Wings


The Girl with Borrowed Wings  by Rinsai Rossetti
Everything Frenenqer Paje does is controlled by her father.  He has rules for how she must dress, speak, move.  She must never slam doors, or read too much, or allow milk to drip from a spoon.  She must do whatever her father thinks she must do, always.

One day, in an unprecedented act of independence, Frenenqer rescues a sickly cat from the Animal Souk...and the cat turns out to be much more than a cat.  Sangris is a Free Person, living completely without rules.  He's not even stuck in the shape of a cat--he can take the shape of a person, or a dragon, or an animal that nobody has ever imagined before.  And Sangris loves Frenenqer.

Unfortunately, "love" is against the rules made by Frenenqer's father.

Imaginative, lush, and intriguing, this unique story is not a quick read.  It will not be quick to forget, either.

No cussing, some kissing.  

The Martian



The Martian  by Andy Weir
audiobook ready by  R.C. Bray

Everybody figured that Mark Watney was dead.  The Martian astronaut's space suit was pierced by a flying piece of equipment during a sandstorm.  The suit erroneously reported that his vital signs were flat, and nobody could figure out where his body had fallen.  So the crew of Aries III left the Red Planet without him.

But Mark isn't dead.  Not yet.  He might die of starvation, or of carbon dioxide poisoning.  He might get lost on the surface with no way to find his way back to the equipment that will help him survive.  He might even die of loneliness or despair.

But he isn't dead yet.  

Apollo 13 meets MacGyver meets Robinson Crusoe in a fast-paced and believable survival story.  The audiobook read by R.C. Bray skillfully portrays the voices of a widely diverse cast of character--not just Mark Watney on Mars, but also the Aries III crew, the politicians at home in Washington, the team leaders at NASA, the orbital science geeks at JPL, and more.

Be aware that the narrative contains a sh*tload of cussing. If you were stranded alone on Mars, you'd probably cuss too.  

Highly recommended.  This book is not written for teen readers but will have lots of teen appeal, especially when the film starring Matt Damon is released in October 2015.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Falling From Horses


Falling From Horses  by Molly Gloss

In 1938, 19-year-old Bud Frazer leaves behind his parents and the Oregon ranch life he has always known, climbs on a southbound Greyhound bus bound for Hollywood, and meets Lily Shaw, who will be his friend for life.

Bud is determined to be movie stunt rider, and quickly learns that horses and stunt riders are considered cheap and disposable by movie folks.  There are always more horses that can be chased off a cliff or tripped up by wires, or ridden to exhaustion, and there are always more movie-cowboy-wannabees dumb enough to carry out the deeds for a few bucks and a chance to be seen on the silver screen.

Meanwhile, Lily experiences another side of the Hollywood scene:  the seedy side of screen writing.  Lily is determined to write, and write well...and for many reasons, she doesn't fit in with the mostly-male writers of the time.

Bud's narrative voice is strong, calm, and believable.  His account of his year in Hollywood--and the time before that, back in Oregon--reads like a memoir.  Although the story is fiction, the characters and situations are carefully researched.  The accounts of horrific abuse of horses for the amusement of moviegoers are based on true events, and these abuses continued until 1940.

Bud, however, leaves the action much sooner.

The story is quietly told, despite the hair-raising stunts performed by human and animal actors.  Bud's grief (which precedes the first page, and is revealed in flashback chapters) carries the narrative without dragging it down.  Bud's naive encounters with women add flashes of humor, but it is his fondness for Lily that keeps the sometimes-grim story from becoming overwhelmingly dismal.

Falling From Horses is the 2015 "Everyone READS" choice for Shoreline, Richmond Beach, and Lake Forest Park WA.  The book lends itself to discussion, and is recommended for teen and adult readers.

Monday, June 22, 2015

All Our Yesterdays


All Our Yesterdays  by Cristin Terrill

Em awakens (again) in a prison cell, and can't stop thinking about the tiny drain in the floor.  She makes a tool from a stolen spoon, and pries up the drain cover...and finds, hidden inside, a list of fourteen items.  Thirteen have already been crossed off.  At the bottom, in her own handwriting, Em reads the final line:  You have to kill him.

In another place, in another time, Marina is quietly in love with her next-door-neighbor, James.  James is gorgeous, brilliant...and about to make a discovery that will change everything.  And everything is just about to become much, much worse.

All the loops and potential paradoxes of time travel, plus suspenseful chasing around in the dark, romance, betrayal, torture, and a very thin hope for redemption.  This fast-moving narrative kept me up way past my bedtime.

Recommended for ages 12 to adult.  

Monday, May 11, 2015

Poisoned Apples


Poisoned Apples : poems for you, my pretty  by Christine Heppermann

After the kiss and the trip to the castle, Sleeping Beauty's day consists of showering, shaving, shampooing, conditioning....and so much more.  Little Miss Muffet signs up for a drastic diet to try to assuage decades of dairy-fed weight.  A "house of bricks" girl gradually starves herself down to mere straw.

In this poetry collection, Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, the Miller's Daughter, and many other folkloric ladies are besieged by modern body image issues including eating disorders, social pressure, verbal and physical abuse, and sexual situations.  

This collection is uneven and repetitive.  Some poems are deftly created, merging a traditional tale with modern sensibilities, offering insight to both.

Other pieces clunk when they roll, with messages about fat girls, mean boys, and relentless striving to conquer societal expectations, delivered via a merciless hammer fist and no reference to any external story.

Teachers and lovers of poetry will find useful bits of brilliance here, but the verses may be best enjoyed in small tastes, rather than large gulps.










Friday, May 8, 2015

The Night Thief

 
 
The Night Thief  by Barbara Fradkin
 
Local oddball Cedric "Ricky" O'Toole wants to know who is stealing vegetables from his garden.  A raccoon?  A bear?
 
Then the thief steals some horse blankets from the barn.
 
Not a bear, then.  A kid.
 
A little kid, 10 years old, who is living nearly feral in a cave in the backwoods of Ricky's farm.  Ricky does what most folks would do:  takes the kid home, feeds him, gives him a bed and some clean clothes.
 
But because Ricky has some baggage with Children's Services, he doesn't call the authorities. 
 
Then, Ricky finds the girl:  older than the boy, and with a bullet hole in her shoulder.
 
Now what?
 
A quick-moving narrative with a fast resolution, and better-than-usual quality writing for a 550-lexile book, but the author has Several. Points. To. Make. and isn't Subtle. About. Making. Them. 
 
An adult protagonist is not a natural main character for the intended audience, but Ricky may be enough of an outsider to adult society that teen readers will accept him.
 
No cussing, no kissing. The blood is old, and the dead body (when they find it) is mostly taken apart by carrion feeders. Referrals to incest and child abuse, but nothing on the page. 


Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Eleanor and Park


Eleanor and Park  by Rainbow Rowell

Eleanor is "that kid" -- the girl with the weird clothes, the weird hair, the weird family.  She will never, ever fit it to the crowd at her 1986 Nebraska high school.

The first day on the bus, the only seat available is next to Park--the only "Asian kid" she's ever known.  And he won't talk to her.

Inevitably, perhaps, the two fall in love.  Deeply, beautifully, and star-crossedly in love.

John Green, author of Fault in Our Stars​ gave the book a dazzling review.  A few parents in the Anoka-Hennepin district (Minnesota) called it dangerously obscene.  

Read it for yourself.  It's not a fast-moving, explosive, car chasing love story.  

It's the other kind.

I hope you like it as much as I did.