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.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Washington Library Association conference 2015: here's your booklist!

SITL cover
click the image to buy the book!

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Mary Jo Heller       Maryjo.heller@gmail.com
Aarene Storms       astorms@kcls.org 

Alexander, Shannon
Love and Other Unknown Variables

Alexie, Sherman
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian

Anderson, Laurie Halse

Armentrout, Jennifer
Don’t Look Back 

Beam, Cris
I am J

Berry, Julie
All The Truth That’s In Me 

Black, Holly
Coldest Girl in Coldtown

Blume, Judy

Bray, Libba
Beauty Queens

Burgess, Melvin
Doing It

Calame, Don
Swim the Fly (series)

Chbosky, Stephen
The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Coley, Liz
Pretty Girl 13

Connor, Leslie
The Things You Kiss Goodbye

Cross, Julie
Whatever Life Throws at You

Federle, Tim
Better Nate Than Ever

Fitzpatrick, Huntley
My Life Next Door

Gaiman, Neil
Ocean at the End of the Lane

Green, John & 
Levithan, David
Will Grayson, Will Grayson

Green, John
The Fault in Our Stars

Halpern, Julie
The F* It List

Han, Jenny
To All the Boys I've Loved Before

Harkness, Deborah
All Souls (series)

Higgins, Wendy
Sweet Evil (series)

Hodge, Rosamund
Cruel Beauty

Johnston, E.K.
The Story of Owen, Dragon Slayer of Trondheim    (series)

Keanneally, Miranda
Breathe, Annie, Breathe   

Lewis, R.C.
Stitching Snow

McBride, Lish
Hold Me Closer, Necromancer

McCormick, Patricia

McGovern, Cammie
Say What You Will

Mathiew, Jennifer
The Truth about Alice
Mesrobian, Carrie
Sex & Violence

Meyer, L.A.
Bloody Jack (series)

Meyer, Marissa
Cinder (series)

Myracle, Lauren
The Infinite Moment of Us

Neal, Bethany
My Last Kiss

Nelson, Jandy
I’ll Give You the Sun

Niven, Jennifer
All the Bright Places

Novgorodoff, Danica
The Undertaking of Lily Chen

Nix, Garth
A Confusion of Princes

Oliver, Lauren
Before I Fall

Preston, Natasha
The Cellar (series)

Quinn, Kate Karyus
Another Little Piece

Racculia, Kate
Bellweather Rhapsody

Rosoff, Meg
How I Live Now

Roth, Veronica

Rowell, Rainbow

Seamon, Hollis
Somebody Up There Hates You

Shusterman, Neal
Unwind (series)

Sandler, Karen
Tankborn (series)

St. John Mandel, Emily
Station Eleven

Sones, Sonja
To Be Perfectly Honest

Steifvater, Maggie
Raven Boys (series)

Taylor, Laini
Daughter of Smoke and Bone (series)

Tintera, Amy

Trumble, J.H.
Just Between Us

Valentine, Genevieve
The Girls at the Kingfisher Club
Wein, Elizabeth
Code Name Verity

Westerfeld, Scott

Westerfeld, Scott

Bell, Ruth
Changing Bodies, Changing Lives

Corinna, Heather
S.E.X. : the All-You-Need-to-Know Progressive Sexuality Guide to Get You Through High School and College

Drill, Esther
Deal With It

Kuklin, Susan
Beyond Majenta: transgender teens speak out

Rodriguez, Gabby
The Pregnancy Project

Savage, Dan
It Gets Better

Sex in the Library: a guide to sexual content in Teen Literature  by Mary Jo Heller  and Aarene Storms ISBN: 978-1617510281

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Prairie Fire

Prairie Fire  by E.K. Johnston

​Listen!  For the Song of Owen has a second--and final--verse.

Owen Thorskard ​, Dragonslayer of Trondheim and his bard Siobhen barely survived the extermination of the dragon hatchery, and Siobhen's hands were severely damaged in the fire.  She still hears music in the world around her, but she can no longer play most of her instruments, and she can't even write the music down anymore.

And yet, she and Owen have officially joined the Oil Watch. 

Instead of being posted in a new and exotic locale, the team falls victim to political corruption and in-fighting, and are stationed in Alberta.  However, it turns out that in Alberta there are dragons everywhere.  Really nasty dragons.

A solid companion to The Story of Owen, this book does not stand alone easily.  Romances are kindled, and some go a bit further than that, but all intimacy beyond flirtation is taken tactfully off-page.  However, the dragon-killing action (and evisceration for disposal after) sweats, slashes, oozes, stinks and explodes right on the page.  Especially in the final chapters...

Recommended for readers ages 14 and up.  
I really wish somebody would produce an audiobook edition of this, it would be fabulous.