boy books

My reading challenge update…

The year is halfway gone so I wanted to evaluate progress on my 100 books in a year challenge.

On my ever helpful Goodreads page I have tagged 64 books as “2009.”  Of those, 20 are adult books, 37 youth (kid and YA), 8 graphic novels, 2 did not finish and 5 that I am currently reading.  Yes that does not equal 64, I cross tag certain books. 

I am continuely suprised that I don’t finish books as fast as I think I do.  True I read some books faster, like Nora Roberts or Meg Cabot because its delightful yet mindless drivel.  And I have a habit of retiring books if I can’t get into them *cough* Ghostgirl *cough*.  I wonder if the challenge is taking a toll on my reading habits.  I pressure myself to finish so I can move on to the next book, get that next notch. 

I need to read 36 more before December 31.  Things should start picking up now I read all the Printz books I wanted to and am moving on to the Caudill nominees for this year.  I started with Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life which was amazing.  I have two more that came in this week so I might get to them this weekend.  But first I have to get my Matt Cruse fix.  Kenneth Oppel and his Airborn series might be my new favorite Potter replacement.  Adventure, mystery, like our world but not quite.  And it has this Steampunk vibe that is very cool.  Probably stay up tonight and finish it, my last nod to summer break.

Wouldn’t Colin Morgan from Merlin make a great Matt Cruse?  Sure he’s bit old but he plays the skinny and awkward, yet smart and sensitive so well. 

colin morgan

The Abandoners…

Abandoned School

I hate to abandon books.  There is nothing that leaves me with a greater sense of lost and utter despondency.  Well, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration.  I do feel like I’m betraying the author by not giving the books a fair chance.

Mostly these are books I want to like too.  Eithere the title, or the cover or the subject interest me on some level.  But then I start getting into the books and lose steam.  Or the book doesn’t get going fast enough.  Or it’s not what I expected.  Or the worse, I stop and never start caring about the characters.

I’m trying to finish the Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Gothgirlby Barry Lyga.  Great title right?  I’m slowly getting into comics and this is about a comic Fanboy.  Solid YA premise.  But it’s going nowhere, for me.  Maybe that’s part of the issue, the book’s not for me.  Maybe I really need to be a 15 year old male comic fan and not just empathise with one.  And there is nothing bad or offensive about it, it’s just kinda, blah. 

I have a decision to make, drop it and move on or muscle though.  Either way my life won’t be drastically changed, no one will die.  But it is disappointing.

Oh wow…

So I just glanced at my syllabus for YA Mats to see where I left off in my reviews.  And found new and exciting proof that I am in fact extremely lazy.  Well not so much lazy, I just don’t think I manage my time very well.  Especially at work.  At 8am 4:30pm is so far away.  My final is coming up so it might be a handy exercise to do a one line review with a yah or nah vote for the title.  And hopefully we’ll get back into some serious reading, like the new Percy Jackson.

Genre Fiction

The Supernaturalist by Eoin Colfer – Fun, futuristic, interesting adventure story.  Loved the characters, the action and the humor.  Colfer strikes again, Awesome.

Sabriel by Garth Nix – Sorry to say, I just couldn’t get into it.  Too slow, too boring, I didn’t finish. Just didn’t float my boat.  Whatevs.

Peeps by Scott Westerfield – Set in NYC which was fun.  A different take on “vampires” which was fun too.  Sharp writing and great scenes.  Awesome.

Multimedia…uh, I didn’t read any of the books and I’ve already read Potter 7 so hearing it was nice, Jim Dale rules but nothing much to report.  My committment to not reading Gossip Girl stands. 

Nonfiction

Hitler Youth by Susan Bartoletti – I enjoyed that besides getting general information, Bartoletti decided to follow 6 or 7 teens living in Nazi Germany and went into detail about their lives.  Lots of great resources, pictures and well researches.  Awesome

Fields of Fury: The American Civil War by James McPherson – Although the Civil War is not my favorite war, this book was very well made with tons of good features for kids.  Although not as specific as Hitler Youth, it still had some good stuff.  Cool.

Tree of Life by Peter Sis – A book that looks cooler than it actually is.  Although it gives the basics of Darwin and his work, the art work used in the book is a the real draw, yet not used as efectively as it could be.  Still Cool.

Adult Books for YAs

A Child Called It by Dave Pelzer – A powerful story about an abused child.  So terrible I couldn’t bring myself to read it again.  But would still recommend. Awesome.

Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold – Liked the writing, like the perspective, but very depressing story about death and families.  Would recommend but was hard going trying to read on an airplane when there’s a strom out your window.  Cool.

Coldest Winter Ever by Sister Souljah – I would have appriciated it more if I didn’t feel the author’s point breathing down my neck so much.  A cautionary tale about drug life, it was sometimes hard to care about the characters. Whatevs.

And finally Mock Printz Award Night

The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume One: The Pox Party by MT Anderson – I liked it, alot.  Very interesting design, story, writing style.  It was made to look like an 18th century book which was fun.  Would have to make sure to give it to the right kid though.  Not an easy read, writing or story.  Awesome.

Whale Talk by Chris Crutcher – I heart Crutcher.  As much as I want to be mad at him for his flat, secondary female characters I still love his work.  Whale Talk is one of his best and it holds up considering I read it over 5 years ago and still loved it.  Awesome.

Burned by Ellen Hopkins – I was trying very hard in class to descirbe why I disliked this book.  It wasn’t the sad ending, I don’t mind when things don’t end happily ever after.  I mind though when an author spends over 200 pages setting up a character only to destroy that growth and progress in less than 4 pages.  Why?  I feel betrayed as a reader when I feel lead around only to be punched in the face, and not in a good way.  I really felt the ending was added for total shock value.  Totally unecessary.  Lame.

Monster by Walter Dean Myers – Another book I read 5 years ago that still holds up well.  Told in screenplay format the story is a common one of youth crime but it is so unique when told from Steven’s perspective.  Leaves the reader thinking too, not frustrated and wanting to set fire to the thing.  Awesome.

Woo, so not so hard as I thought.  But we’ll get around to more good things soon.  Like Breaking Dawn.

Wednesday Madness…

At my job?  Yeah right.  But it is once again time for the weekly YA round-up.  This week is poetry and short stories and is probably the 1st week I hadn’t previously read anything.  So here’s a look

Bronx Masquerade by Nikki Grimes

Mr. Ward, new English teacher, begins holding Friday Poetry readings for class.  Through the book each class member “presents.”  I really like the mix of prose with poetry.  The book is set up very similar to Canterbury Tales, each character gets a prose prologue and then their poem and reaction from the class bard Tyronne.  Grimes handles all the different voices wonderfully each one separate and unique.  I hear the audiobook is done using a different teen for each character.  Might be cool to check it out.  Very Awesome.

Red Hot Salsa ed. by Lori Marie Carlson

This is your more traditional collection of poetry written by Latino authors.  The poems are bilingual meaning they have both English and Spanish versions of all the poems.  There is also a helpful glossary for those less skilled Spanish speakers.  Although the collection is targeted to YAers most of the poems are written by established adult authors.  Which is fantastic but…yes the but, it would have been great to see some teen poems mixed it too.  But maybe that another book.  There is also an awesome cover with some cool art work but none on the inside?  There are very small nit-picks.  The poetry is good, maybe not as powerful to me as to someone else but I enjoyed it still.  Gets a Cool

Guys Write for Guys Readed. by Jon Scieszka

A collection of stories, artwork and comics from all the biggest guy writers in YA and kids and beyond.  Maybe the reason I wanted to see art work in Red Hot Salsa was because every other profile in Guyshad a picture or a cartoon or something.  It was really fun to see some of the illistrators’ art work from when they were younger.  Each author also had a Born, Live, Random Fact and Selected Biography which I thought was great too.  I would recognize the name and then put the book to author when I got to the end.  My favorite was Mo Willems cartoon about when he was younger he sent a letter to the Peanuts writer.  So funny, so fun, so Awesome.

The Best American Nonrequired Reading2007 ed. by Dave Eggers.

Interestingly we were told not to read all of this title, only the forward.  Well this edition didn’t have a forward, just a clever little Q&A that did answer the question I think we’ll be about tonight.  That is the Nonrequired Reading series is chosen by a committee high school kids in the San Fransico area.  So that’s cool.  I also picked this year’s because it included a set of funny lists at the beginning and a commencment speech from Conan O’Brien.  So we’ll see what we do with it in class.  So far, so Awesome.

Returns of the Day…

It feels like forever ago that I last updated.  Part of the reason was we had a week off from class because of BookExpo (jealous I couldn’t go).  So I also took a break and read some non-class required reading, AKA 2 romance novels and the new Skulduggery Pleasant.  And yes, I took off the jacket and the feelings of annoyance and aggravation disappeared.  But it is once more Wednesday and here are this week’s LIS 722 picks.

Bluford High: The Bully by Paul Langan

Bluford High is a series of books based around an urban California high school.  For class we had to pick one, there’s around 13 so I grabbed The Bully.  The theme for this week’s books seemed to be boy outcasts so I thought The Bully would fit better then some of the others about love and relationships.  Also I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that deals this directly with bullying.  So it kills a few birds with one stone which always help when recommending something.  Darrell moves to California with his single mother and starts at Bluford High.  He is a small, shy boy who gets targeted by Tyray, the school bully.  By making new friends, reading Hatchet and joining wrestling, Darrell learns how to change his situation.  Nothing too graphic and some very positive messages about confidence and standing up for oneself.  The story and the characters are simple, meaning there are no deep surprises.  Everyone does what you would expect them too and everything ends up the way you thought it would.  But this book and others in the series rate high on the relatablity and interest scale.  A friend that teaches at an urban school can’t keep these books in her library.  I give it a Cool, even for it’s literary shortcomings.  It’s no Langston Hughes, but it gets the job done.

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

Another classic.  What can I say, this is my 4th time reading it.  West Side story, just without the Romeo/Juliet storyline.  Including knife fights.  I still think this book is relevant now as when it was originally published which is why it’s still around.  Young men are still living and dying “violent and young and desperate.”  It is beginning to show its age though with some of the references (even though Paul Newman is still hot).  So much that you couldn’t hand this to any kid and say, “you’ll love it.”  This would probably require some front-loading to help a reader get into it.  Plus some schools use this in instruction, which tends to take some of the pleasure out of it.  I’ll say it again, you can’t rate a classic.

The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier

I read I Am the Cheese also by Cromier first.  Maybe I wouldn’t have judged this one so harshly if I hadn’t because when I first read it I was a little disappointed.  Not because the book is bad, totally the opposite.  Mostly I was disappointed because it wasn’t as good as I Am the CheeseCheese blew my mind, Chocolate War just made me sad.  Jerry is tagged by a secret society at his all boy Catholic high school to not participate in the school’s chocolate sale.  When the society turns around and tells him to start selling Jerry continues to refuse and defy the society.  What depth was missing in The Bully is more than made up in this books, alienation, societal good v. person will, mob mentality, abuse of authority, resistance is futile (that last one is from X-Files, sorry, couldn’t stop myself).  There’s a lot of ground that Cormier covers so reader beware, this will not be an easy ride.  The book though is showing it’s age but again, the story is strong so it still could work.  Gets a Cool, even though it is a borderline classic.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

See earlier review.  But just to recap, love this book!  Awesome!

And I saved it for last because it’s my favorite in the bunch…

Looking for Alaska by John Green

I just read this book last year so I wasn’t going to re-read the whole thing, skim through and reacquaint myself but that was all.  And the damn thing wouldn’t let me.  This one of those books you fall into.  It wraps you up and doesn’t let go until it’s done with you or you have to off the el.  Great characters, man I love Green’s characters.  Miles Halter, soon to be Pudge leaves Florida to go find “the Great Perhaps” at a boarding school in Alabama.  There he meets the Colonel, his roommate and Alaska, the gorgeous girl down the hall and select other friends.  The first half is about Pudge’s growth in a place that he finally fits in. The second half is the rest of journey he takes to find who he really is.  So moving, so beautiful, so terrible and so great.  I want to write like Green; setting, characters, mood, exceptionally brilliant insights that shame Hallmark and sap everywhere. “That which came together will fall apart imperceptibly slowly and I will forget.”  Man, makes me cry and I don’t cry.  I cried at Titanic and Extreme Home Makeover that that’s it.  But unlike Chocolate Wars where I’m left just feeling sad, after Looking for Alaska I feel healed as well.  And that is powerful.  Just Awesome.

Next week Poetry and Required Nonrequired reading.