28 June 2011

Hold Me Closer, Necromancer by Lish McBride

Hold Me Closer Necromancer

Sherman Alexie (on of my favs) is quoted on the cover of this book saying “This is a SCARY funny book OR a FUNNY scary book.  In either case, it is a GREAT book.”  Dude totally nailed it.  I could not put this book down, which, honestly doesn’t say much because I rarely put books down.  In fact, in the future, just know that if I could put the book down, it probably wasn’t that great.

Sam (Samhain) is your typical floundering young man – I think he’s about 20 – working at the local grease pit.  He finds out through a series of extremely confusing events, including being man-handled by a werewolf and having one of his good friends murdered and her head reincarnated (how can a book be bad with a talking un-dead best friend head?), he finds out that he is a Necromancer, or a magical person able to control the dead.  Unfortunately, the head Necromancer in town, Douglas Montgomery, is not a fan of competition.  He kidnaps Sam and forces him to become his apprentice.  Sam has to figure out how to escape and how to help the super hot were-girl Douglas is also keeping captive in his basement.  I could give you more of the storyline (there’s WAY more), but not knowing will make it just as fun to read.  In fact, I picked the book up having been given a completely different description.

This book is perfect for just about anyone – those of us who love fantasy but are really tired of vampire books, anyone who likes scary/paranormal books, or a high school student who likes a laugh-out loud page turner.  Unfortunately for this middle school librarian, it is not appropriate for middle grade students (my favourite line – “So you’re the guy who did the no-no cha-cha with my baby sister”).  So if you are over 15 years old and enjoy books, you should put this book on your reading list!

14 June 2011

The Reader (Der Vorleser) by Bernhard Schlink

The Reader

Yes, I am fully aware that I’m about ten years late on reading this book.  But I assure you I have a good reason.  Ok, so I don’t really have a good reason, but I have a reason.  See, I have tried to read this book two other times, but couldn’t get through it.  Not because of the writing – it is exquisite.  I couldn’t get through it because of my language barrier.  Somewhere along the line (probably around 2001) I decided that I needed to read books written by German authors in German (I also decided I needed to read cheesy romance novels and YA lit like Harry Potter in German so that I wouldn’t be so “embarrassed” by reading them.  Well, I got over that about six years ago).  So I’ve tried to read the original version of The Reader (Der Vorleser) on two other occasions.  I could get through the first few chapters, but then I was confronted with words and concepts that I didn’t understand – especially when Michael is in law school and discusses abstract concepts.  Anyway, I finally decided that I really wanted to read the book and I “wussed out” and read it in English.

I’m so glad I did.  What a beautiful novel about life, hardships and how our perceptions of people can be completely wrong for the silliest/craziest reasons!  This book reminds me quite a bit of the movie Crash because it takes difficult situations and looks at them deeply and honestly.  Anna’s reasons for working at Kraków had nothing to do with her political leanings or beliefs, but people were (and can still be) so blinded by the atrocities of WWII they couldn’t see the truth.  Not that I think what happened to the millions of people persecuted during the Holocaust is in anyway acceptable.  What bothers me the most in many cases is that when we look back on history, we blanket what happened and blame haphazardly – much like Michael found himself doing in the book.  He wanted to blame his parents for not doing more, and he wanted to find Anna guilty.  And in many ways, he can and did.  But he realized, as I hope we can continue to realize as we examine history honestly, that their guilt is not as simple as it seems.  Fear, hunger and oppression were not hardships faced only by the prisoners of those camps.  Fear, hunger and oppression don’t make any of the events of WWII acceptable, but trying to understand what daily life was like for Germans during that time helps us understand how they could allow such things to happen.  And if nothing, understanding the why of the every day person during that time will help us identify the possibility of it happening again in the future.  Hopefully, we can see that when a people are hungry, jobless and scared, leadership can come in and take advantage of that weakness, and disaster can ensue if we aren’t careful.

Ok, so back to the book.  Michael is a young man who, early in life, has an affair with a much older woman.  As their relationship progresses Anna has Michael read to her – something that Michael perceives as romantic and loving.  Later in life, Anna is put on trial for crimes she committed as a guard at the Kraków work camp near Auschwitz.  Michael, a young law student, attends her trial and tries to reconcile this new Anna with the old Anna.  He realizes, during her trial, that she is covering up a secret that is much deeper and darker than he could have imagined, but her shame in both her actions as an officer and her secret confuse him and he is at a loss for what to do for her.

The ironic part of my experience reading this book is the fact that I shied away from it because of my “reading barrier”.  I could have experience this book in all it’s splendor years ago but I didn’t because of my stupid bilingual pride.  And now that I’ve finished the book, I’m left with the question – am I really that different from Anna?  Granted, I didn’t work at Kraków, and I’d like to think I have enough humanity to save people from atrocities.  But reading and good literature are such a huge part of my life, yet I’ve kept myself from so much great literature with my stupid rule.  Now I’m moved to try to find other areas of my life where I’ve unknowingly created barriers for myself.  And I totally plan to read the original version now so I can look at his writing style!

Any thoughts?

09 June 2011

Swim the Fly by Don Calame

Swim the Fly

Here are the two short reviews I heard about this book.  First: this book is a must read for all teenage boys.  They love it! Second: I seriously almost wet myself laughing.  Since I find that most realistic fiction isn’t geared toward young male readers, and since I quite enjoy laughing myself silly (all urination aside), when I saw Swim the Fly on the shelf at Central High School, I immediately grabbed it and asked to check it out (much to the chagrin of Shar, their library secretary.  Guess it was on her reading list too).

Swim the Fly has actually nothing to do with flies.  I was a little confused by the title until I realized that “the fly” is a swimming term…I know, I’m not very smart. Matt Gratton is, well, a wimp, but he is a dedicated member of his local swim team, and when he sees an opportunity to impress the über-hot Kelly, he volunteers to swim the 100m butterfly (should that be capitalized?  See, I know nothing of swimming).  The beginning of Matt’s problems is the fact that he really can’t swim the fly.  At all.  The good thing about this book is it really isn’t about swimming “the fly”, it’s about the summer adventures (and embarrassments) of a teenage boy who has two really great friends, uncontrollable hormones, and not the slightest clue about girls.

I loved this book.  It was hilarious.  Some of the situations Matt finds himself in are painfully funny – for example, drinking an extra dose of protein shake that turns out to be fiber laxative (totally not a spoiler, you kinda see it coming).  My tummy actually hurt thinking about it.  The best part is every crazy situation Matt gets himself into, I can totally imagine one or more of my former “super smart” students getting into.  It’s almost like the time I went to see SuperBad with some of my co-workers and we spent the entire movie laughing, not because it was funny (though it was) but because we kept naming students we could see trying to pull those kinds of pranks.

However, I will say that I’m not completely sold that this book is a “guy read”.  I actually think it’s more of a chick read about how guys think.  But I’m not sure – I don’t know any guys who have read it.  It won’t ever be in the collection at GMMS because it’s not middle school appropriate, so I’m not sure I’ll be able to find a guy to read it.  I thought about asking my dad, who loves to read, but I’m pretty sure it’s not his cup of tea.  He’d think it was funny, but anyone who loves Motherless Brooklyn  by Jonathan Lethem is kind of on a different level.

Regardless, I’d recommend this book to anyone looking for a light, fun summer read.  And if you happen to be a teenage boy (wow, this sentence TOTALLY started out creepy) let me know what you think!