Tuesday, June 23, 2015
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 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 : 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 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.
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 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
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Love and Other Unknown Variables
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian
Anderson, Laurie Halse
Don’t Look Back
I am J
All The Truth That’s In Me
Coldest Girl in Coldtown
Swim the Fly (series)
The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Pretty Girl 13
The Things You Kiss Goodbye
Whatever Life Throws at You
Better Nate Than Ever
My Life Next Door
Ocean at the End of the Lane
Green, John &
Will Grayson, Will Grayson
The Fault in Our Stars
The F* It List
To All the Boys I've Loved Before
All Souls (series)
Sweet Evil (series)
The Story of Owen, Dragon Slayer of Trondheim (series)
Breathe, Annie, Breathe
Hold Me Closer, Necromancer
Say What You Will
The Truth about Alice
Sex & Violence
Bloody Jack (series)
The Infinite Moment of Us
My Last Kiss
I’ll Give You the Sun
All the Bright Places
The Undertaking of Lily Chen
A Confusion of Princes
Before I Fall
The Cellar (series)
Quinn, Kate Karyus
Another Little Piece
How I Live Now
Somebody Up There Hates You
St. John Mandel, Emily
To Be Perfectly Honest
Raven Boys (series)
Daughter of Smoke and Bone (series)
Just Between Us
The Girls at the Kingfisher Club
Code Name Verity
Changing Bodies, Changing Lives
S.E.X. : the All-You-Need-to-Know Progressive Sexuality Guide to Get You Through High School and College
Deal With It
Beyond Majenta: transgender teens speak out
The Pregnancy Project
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 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.