22 June 2010

A Dog's Purpose - W. Bruce Cameron

First of all, I'd like to thank Di Herald and the kids who keep the Bistro Book Club in Grand Junction going throughout the summer.

For those of you who are not librarians or deeply involved in the world of books and publication, there are these AWESOME things called Advanced Reading Copies ( ARCs)  or Advanced Reading Editions (AREs).  Often times publishers will send out ARCs to booksellers, reviewers, etc.  That's how those great reviews like "Thrilling!" end up on the jackets.  Anyway, because our local book club is under the umbrella that allows students to vote on the Teen's Top Ten finalists, we get lots and lots of ARCs.  And it's because of all these ARCs that the treasure that is A Dog's Purpose ended up in my hands.

A Dog's Purpose is the story that follows one dog throughout his lives.  Yes, that's right, lives.  After his first life is cut short, he comes back again as another puppy.  And throughout the story, he tries very hard to figure out what his purpose is.  As he lives his various lives, he strives to be a 'good dog', and he also realizes that his purpose is much more complex than he thought.  The book is laugh-out-loud funny and a complete tear-jerker.  I will never look at a dog the same, and even today, when I was walking my cute doggies at the park, I couldn't help but wonder, "is that W. Bruce Cameron on to something?"

The themes in the book are seamlessly interwoven with the simple yet engaging and intriguing storyline.  I got so caught up in Bailey's thoughts and experiences I couldn't stop reading.  While reading the book, I'd stop every 45 minutes or so and just get down on the floor and play with my dogs.  I had no idea it would end the way it did (don't worry, no spoiler alert here), and I am so glad it did.

To say that I highly recommend this book is an understatement.  I adored this book and recommend it to anyone who has ever loved a dog.

It will be available for purchase on July 6th.  You can buy advanced copies, and on the website A Dog's Purpose, there is an opportunity to donate 10% of the cover price to animal charities all over the country.

And just because I can and they're cute:  here are my doggies ready for a hike:

21 June 2010

Artemis Fowl - Eoin Colfer

The only reason I chose to read this book is because the library where I am now employed had like 7 copies.  That must mean a book is good, right?
In this case, absolutely.

I really enjoyed this book and I can promise you, if it had been written when I was 13, I would have begged my parents for a pair of mirrored sunglasses and a bodyguard.

This is the story of Artemis Fowl, the son of an Irish crime lord who has disappeared.  Artemis is now in charge of the family at the young age of 12.  He is more than capable of the task of running a successful business, but his father's disappearance has left the Fowl family low on funds.  So Artemis devises a scheme to catch a leprechaun, or to be more politically correct, a LEPrecon officer.  This first book is about his capture of officer Holly Short and his bid for her ransom gold.

I enjoyed the fact that the author, Eoin (pronounced Owen), has an awesome and fresh take on something we all grew up knowing about - Leprechauns and their gold.  I also very much enjoyed the fact that the main character, Artemis, fluctuates between protagonist and antagonist throughout the entire story.  You want him to win, but he's supposed to be the bad guy.  In any case, this book is a great young adult (eh, more teen than anything) read.

So here's a little extra information about your blogger:  humor gets you everywhere with me.  Thus, two of my favorite authors are Jennifer Lancaster and Christopher Moore, both of whom understand that part of the joy of reading is a good laugh/snort/chortle out loud moment.  While creating this review, I visited Eoin Colfer's website and he made me laugh...hard.  So now I'm going to have to read all the Artemis Fowl books and probably add him to my favorite author list.  That, and he's Irish, so it's probably ok for me (a woman of legal age) to enjoy a pint of Magner's (my favorite ale) while reading his books.

Note:  if you are not 21 years or older, it is completely inappropriate for you to enjoy a pint of anything stronger than milk while reading this book.  You can, however, enjoy some lucky charms.  They're magically delicious!

Once Upon a Cool Motorcycle Dude - Kevin O'Malley

Once Upon a Cool Motorcycle Dude

I will say that I don't make it a habit of reading many children's books.  Mostly...because I don't have any kids.  Alright, alright, I'll admit that I think I have kids.  But they are four-legged, furry and don't care much for my reading voice.  However, for my masters program, I'm taking a class on chidren's literature (it's called Children's Literature.  Shocking, I know) and thus I've started reading lots of kids books.  And this book is the children's book to end all children's books.  I wish this book had been around when I was a kid.  It's fantastic.

 The premise of the book is that two kids - a boy and a girl - have to tell their favorite fairy tale as a library project.  The problem is they can't decide which story they want to tell, so they decide to write one together.  The girl wants to tell the story of a princess and her ponies and the evil giant that steals her ponies and the prince who saves the day.  The boy wants to tell the story of the awesome dude who rides up on his motorcycle and has some gnarly battles with the giant and ends up rich and awesome.  The two go back and forth and everything about the book changes depending on who is telling the story - as you can see from the cover.  When the girl tells the story, everything is very fairytale-esque.  When the boy tells the story its, well, dude-tastic.

Not only did the book keep me interested, my nephew was enthralled!  Last week, I read him The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales, and for the rest of the day he'd chant "You can't catch me, I'm the Stinky Cheese Man!"  But when it came to reading other parts of the book, he was too busy jumping up and down and running around hoping to be caught by someone.  

However this book...wow.  He would not put it down.  He's 4, so he can't read yet, but by the end of the day I had read the book at least five times and he had re-told the story to me as many times.  He kept flipping to the different pages and telling me what was happening, and he'd also let me know who - the boy or the girl - was doing the narrating.

I'm hoping (hoping!) that this is the kind of excitement I have in store for me as a librarian.  I'm not sure, but I think watching a kid be excited about a book might just be one of the greatest things in life. I'm still young though, I'm sure I'll find other wonderful things.  For now, watching a little boy light up about a book is, as the German say vom Feinsten.

The Piano Tuner - Daniel Mason

The Piano Tuner
Daniel Mason

Once again, my book club has chosen a book that many of us will not finish and fewer of us will enjoy.  I know that I'm in the camp that finished the book, but the jury is still out as to whether I'll be on team "I enjoyed it" or not.  Admittedly, the book has an amazing premise:  A middle aged English piano tuner is summoned to Burma during the 1880's to tune a piano for an eccentric army commander.

I will say that his adventure is quite adventurous.  I did enjoy the descriptions of his travel.  It was interesting to watch as Edgar Drake tried his hardest to step out of his shy little world and experience the wonders of the Orient.  And when I consider the book from a literary stand point, I really appreciated his character.  Maybe the thing holding me back from jumping into camp "AwesomeBook" is the fact that I've read so much teen lit lately that my brain has rewired itself to only enjoy page turners that either include vampires, death matches or fairies.

And if I'm honest, in the end, Edgar really did step out of his little world and go all out for what he loved and believed in.  As for the ending?  I will say that it left me wanting more.  However, I think Edgar's entire existence left me wanting more, and that might be part of the conflict in this novel.  Edgar's passion sends him off on amazing adventures.  Is it better to follow your passion, or be safe and secure in life?

16 June 2010

Non-Book Blog: Awesome Copyright Video - A Fair(y) Use Tale

Alright, so I know that this is supposed to be a book blog. But...since I'm the queen of this here domain, I've decided to take a few liberties and add some other stuff.

Yep, that's right. As of right now, this blog will continue to be a meat & potatoes blog about books and my review of them. However, from time to time, I'm going to add a side dish of book/library related stuff. Like this Awesome video about copyright.

I don't know a ton about copyright and fair use, but I will admit that I'm learning so much so quickly in grad school. A fellow librarian here in Grand Junction was actually charged with (accused of? I don't know the proper terminology, but whatevs) copyright infringement a few years ago.  Because of that, we're all a bit more aware of copyright laws and making sure our kids live within them.  Ok...so some of us (read: I) try to be more aware, but most of the time I feel like I'm swimming up-river with lead in my pockets.  I do think this video explains copyright laws and fair use practices pretty well, and it's durn creative!

10 June 2010

House of Night Series - P.C. Cast & Kristin Cast

House of Night Series
P.C. Cast & Kristin Cast

Alright, I'll admit it.  I'm a teen lit freak.  One of the best parts of my new job as a middle school librarian is that I get to read all kinds of teen lit in the name of "professional research".  The truth is that I love teen lit!  Since these books are written for teenagers, the reading level is easy enough for me to fly through the book, but the interest level is high enough to keep me reading until both legs have fallen asleep under me and the dogs are begging to go outside.

Having said that...here are my thoughts on the House of Night books I've read so far:

I could not put this book down.  I think this book will have (and already has had) the same effect on teenage girls as the Twilight series.  Marked is the story of Zoey Redbird and her "adventures" of becoming a vampyre.  In Zoey's world, vampyres share the world with humans, and you don't become a vampyre by drinking vampyre blood or being bitten - you're marked.  Zoey is not a typical fledgling (vampyre in training) - and it's her special gifts plus her very cool Native American heritage that propel her to great things in the first book.  It's like Twilight meets Harry Potter (I guarantee I'm not the first person to make that comparison, so please don't give me any originality credit), and I loved both Twilight (there will be a life-sized Edward cutout in my library this fall...you wait, it's coming) and HP.  If I'm honest, though, I'd pick both Twilight and HP over Marked.  Why?  Because Marked, in my opinion, is a bit too racy for teens (especially middle school - which is the world I live in now).  If you take the time to boil down the lessons in the book, they actually are great for teens - doing the right thing, being yourself no matter what, choosing friends based on their positive traits not their popularity, etc.  However, it's kind of difficult to see these lessons clearly amidst the general teenager backstabbing and gossip and rampant fledgling sex-drive. Holy cow are these young vamps all freakin' boy- and girlcrazy!
So students - read wisely and remember:  kissing and any further physical contact should be saved for marriage.
Parents:  if these books are the books that get your kids interested in books, let them read.  Just remember to remind them that kissing makes babies.

This book was also a page turner - it was definitely more suspenseful than Marked.  However, I'm worried about that Zoey Redbird.  She has boys falling all over her, and she's only been a fledgling for like two months!  Don't they have vampyre health classes where they teach their fledglings to keep their hands to themselves?  I will not lie, I don't know any girl who had to juggle three boys at once during high school.  This could be because I was a complete dork in my teen years, but still.  The amount of hormones in this book is shocking.  The storyline is excellent, so I do suggest reading it.  If you enjoyed Marked, I doubt you'll be able to avoid reading Betrayed.  However, I can honestly say that I'm a little nervous to continue the series with Chosen

09 June 2010

Diary of a Wimpy Kid - Jeff Kinney

Diary of a Wimpy Kid
Jeff Kinney

If you are a wimp or a kid, you should read this book.  Greg Heffley is an average kid who has visions of grandeur.  His mom buys him a journal (which he REFUSES to call a diary - diaries are for girls) and encourages him to write down his feelings and thoughts.  The result is half graphic novel, half  fictional memoir of the trials of life in middle school.
I'll openly admit it, this is the first teen lit book I've ever read that made me laugh out loud.  Not only are the illustrations hysterical, Greg's honest voice is compelling to both teens and adults.  Teenagers will be able to completely identify with Greg, even laugh with him and adults will reminisce and think "I remember when...".

I can honestly say I understand teenage boys a little better now!

The Namesake - Jhumpa Lahiri

The Namesake
Jhumpa Lahiri

This book was a very interesting read for many reasons.  First - it's written by a Pulitzer Prize winning author.  After my experiences with The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, I am a little leery of Pulitzer Prize winners (call me a literary whimp...I like things to move fast and words to be a) in English and b) comprehensible).  But The Namesake was a great read.
 Though was slow at times, I think Jhumpa Lahiri did an excellent job of unraveling the difficulties that face immigrants and their children.  I don't know much about the Bengali culture, but I do know what it's like to live in a foreign culture and miss your home culture.  Though my travels are always voluntary, I could sympathize with Ashima's frustrations and sorrows - especially at the beginning of the book when she is attempting to replicate the snack she missed from home (I used to ply American soliders with homemade dinner so they would take me to the Commisary on the base so that I could buy Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and real ranch dressing) and the fears associated with medical care in a foreign country.
I don't know much about arranged marriages, but I think - and feel free to disagree with me - that part of Moushumi and Gogol's relationship woes came from their cultural background.  From what I do know about arranged marriages, the family is very involved, and when you're close with your family, they're more than likely to pick an excellent spouse.  The familial roles were clearly defined by tradition, so moving into a marriage and family life was not necessarily easy, but maybe more instinctual for Ashima and Ashoke.  But Gogol and Moushumi were not as close to their parents, and their tradition was completely upended in that they lived in America and had to mold two cultures into their own.  Therefore an arranged marriage would have been difficult (possibly disasterous).  On the other hand, their parents had no experience in dating and building relationships, and could not give them any advice/help.

In any case, I would recommend this book with the caveat that it can be slow at times, but Jhumpa Lahiri does a wonderful job of shedding a little light on what it's like to be an immigrant.

01 June 2010

If I am Missing or Dead - Janine Latus

If I am Missing or Dead
Janine Latus

This was one of those books I bought while on a book binge at Barnes and Noble. I see those tables that advertise books for under $5 and it's like crack cocaine (I learned today that these books are called 'remainders' from my library Guru, Di Herald). I'll buy anything sitting on the table! I won't lie, most of the time the books I buy from the cheap table aren't that great, but this one was pretty darn good.

It is Janine's memoir, and it is the story of her life and struggles with abusive relationships, and the story of the abusive relationship that ultimately took her sister Amy's life. What I truly enjoyed about the book is that Janine does not shy away from all sides of abuse, and I'm not sure if I can clearly explain how she did this. I never felt like Janine was painting a picture of herself as the victim, but she definitely suffered from verbal and physical abuse from her former spouse. She wrote in such a way as to cause the reader to think "why did she put up with that crap", maybe because she now sees that she shouldn't have. If you visit her page, you'll see that she is an advocate for victims of domestic abuse and has done quite a bit of work for this cause.

My life has been pretty awesome - I've had very few terrible events happen in my life. It's books like these that help me remember to be thankful for my blessings and remember to keep those who are in terrible situations in my prayers.