blue_ant: (devon [fandom + work])
[personal profile] blue_ant
As [ profile] fiveforsilver did, here are some stats about the books I read in 2008.

Total Scandinavian: 11
Total YA: 80
Total Sports (fic and non-fic): 14
Total audio: 18
Total graphic novels: 24
Total non-fiction: 9
Total gay: 13
Total books (all new): 171 (80 in 2007)

Goal for 2008: 170

Next year I want to read more non-fiction, maybe reread some books, and definitely dig into my pile of non-library books. I definitely should have kept track of which books were library books and which weren't, which I'll do for next year. I think I'll set my goal back to 100, because 170 was kind of ... too high, but there you go.


Jan. 1st, 2009 11:41 am
blue_ant: (carli [reading])
[personal profile] blue_ant
168. A Really Nice Prom Mess by Brian Sloan
I really, really liked this book. I wasn't sure what to expect, except that I really liked one of Sloan's other books (Tale of Two Summers) and was curious to read more. A Really Nice Prom Mess was a lot more fun that I expected it to be. Cameron secretly dating the star football player, Shane, but obviously they can't do anything in public, so Cameron lets Shane talk him into going to prom with a girl named Virginia. Which seems kind of lame, and it is, but only because it's supposed to be. What happens on the way to prom and then later at prom is pretty hilarious. While Sloan's book is not really realistic (Russian drug dealers, a gay bar with strippers, and so on), it doesn't matter. What makes Sloan's book so good is that it's fun. It's fast paced (ala Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist or Boy Meets Boy) and the action never really stops -- which means all you can do is hang on and have fun.

169. Marly's Ghost by David Levithan
Reworkings of classics into YA books are pretty popular and usually well done. Levithan's retelling of A Christmas Carol as a Valentine's Day story is no exception. It's well written and the plot is decent enough, but the story didn't really catch me. I think part of the reason is that I've never been a big fan of the original work. I did enjoy it, but of all of Levithan's books, I think this is the one I like least. If you like the original and don't mind adaptations, give the book a go. Otherwise, give it a pass.

170. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
I read this book because a friend of mine and fellow librarian recommended it to me. She said she figured that I'd like it -- and she was completely right. Collins' book is one of those distopian novels that grabs you and doesn't let go. What's good about this book is everything, from the plot to the characters to the fact that she leaves you wanting (needing?) more. And from what I can tell, she's working on more books, which is good because I want to know what happens. The Hunger Games is a story of a world unlike our own, but used to be ours. In this world, people barely survive and children must fight to the death in 'hunger games.' Our story follows Katniss, a young woman who offers to go to the games instead of her younger sister. It is a story about love and about sacrifice, and reminds me, in some ways, of Westerfeld's Uglies series, only with a harder edge. Westerfeld was going from something completely different than Collins, and I think if you like Westerfeld's books, you'll definitely like this book. Collins is hard hitting and she doesn't give you respite, which works quite well within the context of the book. It's a strong book, with good characters and I eagerly await the next one in the series.

171. Throne of Jade by Naomi Novik
This sequel to Novik's His Majesty's Dragon is a strong second book in her ongoing series. We're once again invited to join the world of Laurence and Temeraire. In this book, the Chinese want their dragon (Temeraire) back and will do just about anything to get him back. Eventually, Temeraire and Laurence must travel to China themselves (a story in and of itself!) to sort things out. Unlike the first book, Throne of Jade plays up the differences between humans and dragons a lot more and Novik takes great pains to introduce the idea that dragons and humans should be on equal terms. It's a good book, fun to read and, as with the first book, amusing in certain places.

171 / 170 new reads. 101% read!


Jan. 1st, 2009 11:39 am
blue_ant: (reading [books and more books])
[personal profile] blue_ant
164. Let It Snow: Three Holiday Stories by John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle
I've kept saying I'm not a fan of regular YA fiction, but I think it's clear that that's not true and this book completely helped reinforce that fact. Each of these stories was loosely interconnected, with it all coming together in the last one. What results are three great stories on their own, and a rather clever book when put together. The stories are about three people who are caught out by a huge snowstorm and how their lives intertwine (with each other and other people who only pass through the stories). I liked all three of them, but every time I read John Green's stories, I like him more. I didn't have a favorite, but I did like them all.

165. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
Gaiman, as always, delivers. This novel is an expansion on a short story he'd already written. I liked how Gaiman created a history for Bod, making him more than just a boy in a short story who lived in a graveyard. While the book is a quick read, the story is strong, the plot is quite intriguing and overall, it's a really good book. If you like Gaiman, you'll definitely like this book.

166. How They Met, and other stories by David Levithan
I usually don't like short stories, but I've discovered that I'll read pretty much anything by David Levithan. His writing is strong and this book of short stories was no exception. He creates worlds withing a few short pages, that take you far away from your own. The stories alone, are quite good -- ranging from happy to melancholic, but their impact comes clear when they're put together in this book. Levithan's stories are not just about love, they are about everything else as well. They are, in many ways, very real and very realistic, while at the same time, drawing us in with the ideal that is found in so many novels. What results is a very wonderful journey through 'how they met' where 'they' is everyone.

167. The Realm of Possibility by David Levithan
I've never read a book of poetry quite like this. Each poem of Levithan's tells a story, but they are sometimes loosely connected (which you don't notice until the end -- and it's very effective). The poems are usually several pages, written in different styles, but on the whole, they are mostly quite powerful. I didn't like all the poems and obviously there were those I liked more than others. But that's the way it is with all collections. Overall, if you like Levithan's writing and don't mind poetry, this is a good book to read.

167 / 170 new reads. 98% read!


Dec. 12th, 2008 03:58 pm
blue_ant: (carli [reading])
[personal profile] blue_ant
161. 21 Proms edited by David Levithan
A series of 21 short stories about prom. Makes sense, right? I enjoyed almost all of the stories and together, they made up a nice collection of both good and bad prom stories. The collection fit nicely together and the stories flowed quite well from one to the other. I won't go into detail about all of them, but here are the ones I liked best: 'You are a prom queen, dance dance dance' by Elizabeth Craft, 'In Vodka Veritas' by Holly Black, 'Three fates' by Aimee Friedman, 'Shutter' by Will Leitch, Prom for fat girls by Rachel Cohn, 'Lost Sometimes' by David Levithan, and 'The Great American Morp' by John Green.

162. His Majesty's Dragon by Naomi Novik
I'm not big into fantasy, but my sister promised me that I'd like this book, and she was right. It's not quite historical fiction and it's not totally fantasy, instead it's a nice combination of the two. In this world, the English are battling the French -- but not just with armies and navys, they also have dragons. The English don't have nearly enough dragons as compared to the French, and this puts them at an obvious disadvantage. We follow the story with a navy man, Laurence, whose ship captures a French one, freeing them up their prize possession -- a dragon egg. Laurence is forced to figure out what to do with the dragon once it hatches and who will become it's captain. I enjoyed the story, and about halfway through the book, checked out the next two in the series. Novik does a very good job of mixing humor with the serious topics of war. The dragons themselves are fantastic characters in their own right. I am so happy my sister suggested I read this. It's got just enough mix to not be too much of a fantasy nor too much of a historical fiction. And as with Midnight Never Come by Marie Brennan, it does a fantasy/historical fiction mix quite well.

163. Are We There Yet? by David Levithan
Levithan does it again. Are We There Yet? is a brilliant and beautiful story about two brothers who don't really get a long. In a lot of ways, this reminded me of the relationship between my sister and I (though we get along much, much better than Danny and Elijah). The story, told in alternating points of view (Elijah in one chapter, Danny in the next), explores the relationship between the two brothers as seen through the eyes of both boys as well as an mildly omniscient narrator. The boys are tricked into going to Italy (together) by their parents. Levithan writes of their relationship beautifully, having each boy dissect why they believe the relationship doesn't work. Their paths intertwine as they rave from Venice to Florence and eventually Rome. Along the way, they meet and fall for Julia, a Canadian visiting Italy. But what makes this book so good is the qy Levithan describes things -- the art, architecture, the way the boys see the city, the way the boys feel. While I wasn't a big fan of Wide Awake, I think that Are We There Yet? proves that Levithan is a truly fantastic author.

163 / 170 new reads. 96% read!


Dec. 12th, 2008 03:55 pm
blue_ant: (sid [reading])
[personal profile] blue_ant
158. Funny Boy by Shyam Selvadurai
I don't know if I'm glad I read Selvadurai's Swimming in the Monsoon Sea first, because I didn't have high expectations for his novels. I enjoyed that book, but I liked Funny Boy a lot more. Perhaps if I'd read this first, I would be better able to appreciate Swimming in the Monsoon Sea, but this review isn't about that book. It's about Funny Boy, which is a heartbreaking coming of age story told with the backdrop of the beginnings of civil war in Sri Lanka.

The main character is Arjie, a young boy who isn't quite sure what he is. He enjoys playing a game called bride-bride with his sister and female cousins, where he gets to dress up in wedding clothes and make up. But when his parents find out, they set out to try to change his behavior. Of course this doesn't go according to plan, but that's what makes this novel so good. While Arjie is coming to terms with the fact that he's gay (and learning how to hide it from his family), he's also growing up far too fast. He accompanies his mother when she spends time with an old boyfriend, he spends time with the son of a friend of his father, who lets him know that he's not alone in the world, and then he's sent to school to make him a real man.

Those events make this story excellent, but when it's mixed with the horrors of violence, murders and fear, Selvadurai creates something extraordinary. As a review on the back of the copy of the book I read said, it shows us that we are not alone. And that's exactly what Selvadurai does. His writing paints pictures of what it's like to grow up in a world unlike our own, and yet like our own all the same. We learn of events -- Arjie's feelings for a boy at school, his mother's affair, what it's like being a Tamil in Sri Lanka -- through the eyes of a boy trying to find his place in the world. While the reader might understand what's happening, Arjie doesn't, and watching him grow just adds more depth to the novel.

I enjoyed this book so much, that I immediately placed a hold on Selvadurai's second book, Cinnamon Gardens.

159. The Order of the Poison Oak by Brent Hartinger
I don't have a lot to say about this book. It's a very cute read, short, sweet and not-quite to the point (which is the point, amusingly enough). Hartinger's sequel to Geography Club is the story of Russel, Gunnar and Min. It follows the three friends as they embark on one of those life-changing (or at least temporarily altering) events that teenagers have. They decide to spend the summer being camp counselors at summer camp. What ensues does include some hijinks, but like the first book, there's a serious side. Hartinger tells the story from Russel's point of view, infusing it with a mild form of introspection that is both amusing and annoying -- though not enough so that I didn't like the book. In fact, I enjoyed the story because it was exactly what I wanted -- a cute story that you knew would be happy in the end, but you weren't sure just how the characters were going to sort things out. I wish Hartinger was going to write more in this universe, but The Order of the Poison Oak seems to be a complete novel. It's both enjoyable and fun to read.

160. You Know Where to Find Me by Rachel Cohn
This is the first book I've read by Cohn that wasn't one of the two she wrote with David Levithan. I'd wanted something lighter, but had forgotten what You Know Where to Find Me was about. In the end, I didn't want to read anything other than this book. Cohn's writing is just as good as I'd hoped and her storytelling ability is as strong on her own as it was with Levithan. What makes You Know Where to Find Me so good is the main character of Miles. In many ways, this is because I identify with Miles (though not the smoking or drugs, just most everything else). She is believable, her pain is believable as is her coping. It's not that these themes can't be found in other books (see: Gail Giles), but it's the way Cohn writes that it different. We see, live and experience life the way Miles does. From the first person to the third person to the drug-induced haze of loss and love. Cohn's story is good because it's real, and it's real because her writing captures everything with a blunt honesty that can only be afforded by the fact that Miles is, to us, exactly who she is. While she might be trying to find herself, we're getting to know her. And in the end, it's worth everything because Cohn's writing is strong enough to take us on that journey and to let us know that if Miles can find her way back, we can too.

160 / 170 new reads. 94% read!


Dec. 12th, 2008 03:53 pm
blue_ant: (daniel [rock star])
[personal profile] blue_ant
156. Swimming in the Monsoon Sea by Shyam Selvadurai
Swimming in the Monsoon Sea is another partly heartbreaking story of first loves. Unlike previous young adult stories about gay young men, Selvadurai's novel is different. The story takes place in Sri Lanka, a place where (at least in the 80s, when the novel takes place) homosexuality is not something that's common or even talked about.

Amrith, a 14 year old boy, lives with his adoptive parents. His past is complicated and sad, but we don't find out the details until near the end of the novel. And in many ways, this is one of strongest coming of age novels I've read recently. In many of them, the boys have already come to terms with being gay, but Amrith doesn't even understand what's going on in his head. He doesn't even realize how he feels until his long lost cousin from Canada appears in his life.

Up until we meet Amrith's cousin, Niresh, the only things he cares about are not thinking about his mother's death and acting. He desperately wants to be in the school production of Othello -- and manages to win the part of Desdemona (a part he covets, after winning an award for his acting as Juliet in Romeo and Juliet). But the Niresh shows up, and Amrith's world is shaken up.

The world Selvadurai creates is both believable and emotionally driven. We follow Amrith as he struggles with his friendship with Niresh, slowly falling in love, and his relationships with his family (adoptive parents and sisters). Selvadurai allows us to watch as Amrith is torn apart, through his love of Niresh, mourning of his mother and love of acting and then how he must find a way to put himself back together.

As I was reading, I kept waiting for something to happen and then when it did, it was beautiful and heartbreaking. This novel is not like the majority of YA gay fiction I've read, there's no implied sex, no reciprocation of feelings. Instead, it's a story of love and loss, because when your first love with is your straight cousin, there's no way it can work out.

But don't let that stop you from reading. Swimming in the Monsoon Sea is so much more than just that storyline. Selvadurai is a brilliant story teller and I can't wait to read more of his books.

157. Fellow Travelers by Thomas Mallon
I'm not a big fan of historical fiction or really adult fiction (as opposed to J or YA), but the premise of this book was too interesting to pass up. Fellow Travelers is the story of two men, Tim Laughlin and Hawkins Fuller, and one woman, Mary Johnson during the 1950s. The story focuses on the affair between Tim and Hawkins, and how this affair impacts their lives as well as Mary's -- and the friendship between the three of them.

Thomas Mallon's book was fantastic. He writes of a love affair taking place during a period when homosexuality was equated with being a communist. What makes this even more interesting, is that the three characters are all directly involved in the United States Government. Fuller and Johnson work for the State Department, while Laughlin works for a senator. Their stories are intertwined with events surround Joseph McCarthy and his search for communists in the US government.

While the writing is pretty much perfect, it's really the story that draws you in. The writing is just what gets you there. From the first chapter to the very end, you know where the story is going. From the back, you know that Fuller and Laughlin will have an affair and you know that eventually, it will all end in tragedy. You just don't know how. All credit to Mallon for keeping us on our toes, for when that tragedy did happen, it actually made me stop reading and stare.

This book will not make me read more historical fiction, if only because the books probably wouldn't live up to the high expectations of this book. It might make me go out and read more of Mallon's writing, because this book was quite good.

157 / 170 new reads. 92% read!


Dec. 2nd, 2008 09:57 am
blue_ant: (sid [reading])
[personal profile] blue_ant
153. Coraline by Neil Gaiman
This is the graphic novel version of Neil Gaiman's book of the same title. I read it because it was the only copy of the book I could get easily and it was worth it. It's a quick read, only partly because it's a short graphic novel. The real reason is because it's quite a page turner. The pictures, in addition to the language, draw you into the story and, unlike so many graphic novels, really do seem to come alive on the page. Even thinking about it now, it's like I was watching the book happen, not reading it.

The story is strong, and is about a little girl who moves with her parents into a new home. It reminded me, in the best way, of Spirited Away. Coraline finds a door that is supposed to open into a brick wall, but instead leads her to another world. She must battle an evil woman trying to be her mother, in order to free her family and friends. Gaiman's writing, as usual, is terrific and the drawings are wonderful. I cannot wait to see the movie and read the actual novella, of course.

154. Wide Awake David Levithan
First off, I'm a big fan of David Levithan. I've read several of his books and liked them all. I liked Wide Awake too -- the premise was good, our main character, Duncan, was strong and liked his relationships with his friends and boyfriend. But I think Levithan spent too much time on the message in his book and not enough on the story.

The book is filled with scattered italicized sections of text that represent excerpts from speeches given by the president-elect of the novel -- a gay Jewish man named Abe Stein. I think, instead of enhancing the novel, there are too many and they draw the reader away from what I felt was the real story -- the idea that these teens who cannot vote were out on the front lines, as it were, trying to get people to support Stein.

Levithan's other characters are interesting, but in some ways I think this book lacks the excitement his others have. Over on Amazon, School Library Journal's review said that Duncan's boyfriend, Jimmy is 'too flat to care about,' but I partly disagree. The real problem is that Duncan and Jimmy don't have a good relationship. I think Levithan missed a chance to create a strong, independent character in Duncan. He wrapped everything up too neatly, and that, I think, is the biggest flaw of the book.

I enjoyed reading it -- I stayed up too late finishing it. But it lacked the same energy and desire that I've found in his other books. But, at the same time, I enjoyed reading it. It's a timely YA novel good for kids who aren't quite sure about politics and how to stand up for what you believe in.

155. Striking Back: The 1972 Munich Olympics Massacre and Israel's Deadly Response by Aaron J. Klein
I picked this book up because I'd come across a similar title and was reading reviews and all of them pointed to this book as the one book on the Munich Olympic massacre that people should read. I'd watched the movie Munich and a few short documentaries on the massacre, but my knowledge of the events was limited to popular culture. But after reading Aaron Klein's book, I feel as though I've discovered the truth.

Striking Back was published in 2006, so Klein is able to look at the events from a post 9/11 point of view, which I found to be extremely important. He was given unprecedented access to materials that remained hidden from public view until he asked.

What makes this book so good is not just limited to Klein's access to documents and people. It's the way he gives us an inside look at everything. We're not just talking about the athletes -- their families, the Israel Olympic Committee, the Israeli government, Mossad, the German government, as well as the terrorists themselves. But even then, Klein takes us on another journal.

It would be all too easy to write a biased book, focused on just the events of Munich, glossing over blame and Israel's response through rose colored glasses. Klein does not fall into the trap. Not only does he leave no one untouched, he explains the failings of both countries and then goes on to talk about Israel's response. While Munich takes a fictional view of realistic events, Striking Back fills in all the holes. Klein writes of the assassinations -- of the guilty, the supposed guilty and the accidental assassination of innocents.

Klein's writing is strong, he doesn't cushion the truth nor shy away from it when it's less than flattering. I found it to be a chilly story, even moreso because in some ways this feels like the beginning of something we've become used to -- non-state sponsored terrorism ending in a war that no one can win ad that is still going on.

155 / 170 new reads. 91% read!


Dec. 2nd, 2008 09:52 am
blue_ant: (carli [reading])
[personal profile] blue_ant
150. Tale of Two Summers by Brian Sloan
For some reason, even though I'd checked the book out of the library, I wasn't sure I wanted to read it. It's not that the premise wasn't good (two best friends relate their summer adventures to each other over the internet -- sexual exploits as well as the trauma of first loves, drama camp and driver's ed) nor was the way the book was written a turn off (written in the form of blog entries, written by both boys). I think I was afraid that the book wasn't going to be as self-aware as I like books written in a different format, to be. But luckily for me, Brian Sloan is a fantastic writer.

Tale of Two Summers turned out to be a really fun and engaging book. And, oh man, it was totally self-aware and in all the best ways. The story follows two boys, Charles (Chuck) and Hal, two best friends who are extremely close and are going to be apart for the first time in what seems like forever (Chuck says they haven't been separated since the 90s and the book takes place in 2006). Chuck sets up a blog before he goes to drama camp (he's really into singing and musicals) and manages to convince Hal (who has to stay in their hometown of Wheaton and takes driver's ed) to write in it. The entries are quite good, filled with detail and Sloan manages to keep the story flowing from entry to entry. Sure, we're reading blog entries, but they never felt like blog entries and I think that was essential to the book.

But Sloan also gives the book a bit of the twist. Hal recently came out to Chuck on New Year's Eve (some we learn about as the book goes on) and has a series of disastrous crushes. Both boys want relationships, or at least to get laid and that's part of what they blog about. Chuck develops crush on an exotic girl at his drama camp, while Hal meets a French boy named Henri. Both boys tell each other about their adventures in detail, but without making it seem formulaic or annoying, as diary-books often are. What I especially liked was how Sloan managed to keep us updated with things that happen when the two boys actually meet each other a few times during the summer.

Sloan also described the relationship between the two boys in a way that I haven't read before in gay literature where the best friend is a boy (who isn't also gay). I haven't read a lot, mind you, and I give Sloan a lot of credit for writing Chuck as the best friend who actually cares about Hal, without caring that he's gay. Sloan's created a strong bond between two boys, and in a way it takes a lot of guts to write a book like this -- especially considering how young the two characters are (15 and nearly 16). Some of the reviews I've read said that this wasn't quite realistic, and I totally agree with that. But, aside from that and a couple of things at the end, the book is throughly enjoyable. I applaud Sloan's effort and his book was a joy to read. So much so that I ended up staying up until 1:30 am one morning trying to finish it!

151. Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
My first thought, about halfway through, was how come I hadn't read this book earlier. This was because it was published the year before I finished college and I think I really would have appreciated it. But, as I finished the book, I realized I didn't think I would have enjoyed it as much as I did now. And, oh man, how I enjoyed it.

It's a well written story of a boy, Charlie, who is writing letters to someone -- to the reader, obviously, but not someone we know. He talks about his life, his worries, cares and basically everything. Unlike other books written in letter/diary/etc formats, this one is very detailed and self-aware unlike anything else I've read. It's as if Charlie is writing to me even though he's really writing to everyone who ever reads the book. I found this to be off-putting at first, but enchanting as the novel went on.

Chbosky's writing is strong and he guides us through Charlie's life in such a way that sometimes we feel like we are Charlie, instead of just spectators in his life. His story is complicated, like all lives of teens, but Charlie's is more than just that. He has other problems, depression, guilt, loss, things that most teens can't even begin to understand. But what Chbosky does so well is help us to understand them, through Charlie. Through his experiences, his loves and losses.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower has everything, from laughter to tears to joy to heartbreak. And Chbosky weaves these themes together through out the letters Charlie writes. They keep us turning pages, just as much as they keep Charlie going, no matter what happens to him. Chbosky is an exceptional writer and this novel is an exceptional piece of literature

152. Call Me By Your Name by André Aciman
André Aciman's novel is an exquisite work of fiction. While the book is about a seventeen year old boy (Elio), it is far from a young adult novel. That doesn't mean that young adults shouldn't read it, because they should (in fact everyone should). It's a beautiful book, mixing the angst of Elio with the beauty of Italy as well as the boy Elio falls in love with.

We follow Elio's life one summer, living with his family and their annual summer guest. This year it's a young (24, I believe) American named Oliver. Everyone likes Oliver, but Elio finds that his feelings run much deeper. Eventually the boys figure out their feelings and what we're given is a treat. Aciman captures what it means to be young, in love and running out of time. But instead of ending the novel with Oliver's return to American, Aciman gives us a glimpse of Elio's future. It's a gamble and it pays off, because the satisfaction (of a sort) that you feel at th end of the novel is worth all the, well, things that happen before.

The plot is strong, but what makes this novel so good is the writing. Aciman pulls you into the story with his writing and then keeps you there, your hopes pinned to Oliver just as Elio. the book is beautiful, heartbreakingly so and one of the best I've read this year, mostly because of the way Aciman creates and cultivates this ache inside you, the one Elio has for Oliver, as well as one that you have for Elio himself.

153 / 170 new reads. 90% read!


Nov. 24th, 2008 11:03 am
blue_ant: (daniel [rock star])
[personal profile] blue_ant
145. Something Wicked by Alan M. Gratz
Just like Gratz's previous novel, Something Wicked is loosely based on one of Shakespeare's plays. As the title implies, that play is MacBeth. Gratz has a few cliches, but when you're adapting Shakespeare, it's impossible not to. The story is not as odd as Something Rotten, though that could be because I'm not as familiar with MacBeth as I am with Hamlet. Regardless, the book is a fun read. It's the story of Horatio Wilkes, the star of Gratz's previous novel, who is on a trip to Mount Birnam for the annual Highland Festival. As per usual, he stumbles into a murder scene and uses his highly astute observational and detective skills to find out who the real killer is. Gratz kept the readers on their toes and the second murder, though necessary for the plot, totally shocked me. I think that this book was actually better than Something Rotten and I am quite excited about what Shakespearean play Gratz will adapt next.

146. Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan
It's hard to explain exactly how much I liked this book -- and why. It's a combination of a strong story and plot (Paul meets Noah, Paul thinks he could fall in love with Noah, Paul screws everything up -- it sounds lame, but it's the exact opposite) plus interesting characters with a dose of truly fantastic writing. Boy Meets Boy is, among many things, fun. But it's also slightly heart breaking, more than a little hilarious and serious in all the right places. I really enjoyed reading it and it affirmed what I already knew, that Levithan is quickly becoming a favorite author of mine. The story is from Paul's point of view and is told in much the same tense and style as the two other Levithan novels I've read (Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist and Naomi and Ely's No Kiss List). I like this style -- if I was a YA author, this is how I wish I could write.

Paul is a strong character, he has flaws and like so many of us, he just doesn't realize they're flaws. There are some extraordinary scenes (conversations with an exboyfriend of Paul's and one of his best friends) that help bring both the reader and Paul into some sort of perspective. There's also all the teen drama that YA readers are used to, but Levithan spices it up a bit -- in all the good ways. He also doesn't completely resolve one of the plot twists, and I applaud him for this. It's not every author who can leave something undone and yet still have a fully complete book that leaves the reader satisfied.

I loved Boy Meets Boy and plan to read as many of Levithan's book as possible.

147. Generation Dead by Daniel Waters
I was surprised by how good this novel was, especially based on the cover. Waters' book is an insightful look into, as cliche as this is, the teenage psyche. But instead of focusing on the 'traditional' topics of race or homosexuality, he goes down a totally different path -- zombies. The undead, differently biotic, or living impaired. While that idea seems a little, well, far fetched, Waters' novel is nothing of the sort. While there's primarily one main character, Phoebe (a smart goth girl), we're also let into the world of two other characters -- Phoebe's all but best friend, Adam (popular kid and somewhat start football player) and Pete (definitely star footballer player, popular and happens to hate 'the dead kids'). I found this style of writing a little confusing at first, but got over easily once I realized how necessarily it was to the way the book's written.

Generation Dead deals with more social issues than many books could ever dream of touching. Obviously, the difference is that it's about zombies instead of something more grounded in reality. But instead of turning the story into some sort of sci-fi farce, Waters grounds his characters and story in plot that's closer to our world than anything else. There's talk of forcing the zombie kids to go to war, there's hatred (protesters at a football game, fruit being throw, even murder -- or being killed a second time), love and everything in between.

The story revolves around Phoebe and her interest in Tommy Williams, a new kid in town who also happens to be dead. Eventually, this leads predictably to trouble, but that's the only thing predictable about the book. How the characters behave, the revelations about how some of the zombie kids died, and then at the end, there's a surprising twist that I definitely didn't see coming. The one disappointing thing about the book is that, as other reviewers have pointed out, there are too many loose ends. Luckily, Waters has written a sequel (Kiss of Life) that's set to come out in May of 2009. Which, really, is far too far in the future, but I can wait.

Overall, I enjoyed the book. It played on a lot of emotions and left me feeling a bit sad at the end. I am eager to find out where Waters is going with the storyline as well as what happens to the characters. Even if you don't like zombie stories, I recommend this book. It's much more than just a traditional zombie tale. More humor than horror, and that's only part of what makes it so good.

148. Beastly by Alex Flinn
The signs were obvious that this book was a reworking of the traditional Beauty and the Beast story and of course I managed to miss them all. Not that the title or the rose on the cover were subtle, but somehow I just didn't get it until halfway through the book. Which actually wasn't a bad thing. I enjoyed the book and found the premise (our hero, Kyle, has the traditional curse of being a beast put on him because, well, he's kind of a jerk) well done. The plot, of course, was strong, but it would be hard to screw this story up.

What I found fascinating was how Alex Flinn was able to make the beast a sympathetic character so early on in the story. Even though we knew -- could see it from Kyle's point of view -- that he was not a nice boy, you can't help feel sorry for him. But the transformation that Kyle undergoes is so through and well written, that you have no problems believing in this world that Flinn has created. She also does something that I really find smart, between section of the book are letting chat logs from IM conversations that Kyle is having with people similar to himself -- these are people from story tellers, a frog looking for a prince, a bear who is really a man, and a mermaid who wants to give up her voice to get feet. These tie-ins, while obvious, are quite clever and amusing.
Overall, this was a fun book and I'd like to read more of Flinn's work.

149. Revelations by Melissa De La Cruz
My rating is low, not because I didn't like the book -- I did. But instead, it's low because this isn't the best book out there about vampires. But, in the end, that's not important. Melissa De La Cruz doesn't need to write the next Twilight (though, personally, I think that this series is much better than Meyer's) nor does she need the high quality found in Westerfeld's Peeps or McKinley's Sunshine. It's much more of a teen book in the same way as Gossip Girl and similar titles. And, to be honest, there's nothing wrong with it and it's really quite fun.

The writing is decent, not great, but not bad either. The plot tends to be a bit odd, weighing heavily on what happens in the previous titles. De La Cruz does something I really enjoy, though, and that's her avoidance of repeating what happened previously in the first books of the series. She reminds you in subtle ways as the story progresses. She also switches points of view a few times and in Revelations she includes little transcripts of interviews and the like to give the reader some more insight into certain plot points.

The end of the book has a twist, of course, that I didn't see coming. There are a few things that are pretty shocking, all of them directly impacting our true main character, Schuyler. As this is the third book in the series, De La Cruz sets up the mood for the next in the series. I eagerly look forward to finding out what happens. Not just in the context of the events happening at the end of the book, but also to Schuyler and her friends (and enemies).

149 / 150 new reads. 99% read!


Nov. 13th, 2008 06:26 pm
blue_ant: (carli [reading])
[personal profile] blue_ant
141. Naomi and Ely's No Kiss List by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
I absolutely loved Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist, so I think my expectations were pretty high for Cohn and Levithan's second novel. Possibly too high at first, because while I found the plot interesting (Naomi loves Ely, Ely loves Naomi, but Ely loves boys more -- in brief. The book is so much more than that, though), I just couldn't get into, well, Naomi. But I progressed, mostly because I love the authors' style -- alternating points of view. Where Nick & Norah only had two points of view, Naomi and Ely had, well, lots. You have the exboyfriends, the best friends, the friends and, of course, Ely and Naomi. One of the things that kept me reading is the writing style. Cohn and Levithan do a fantastic job of integrating their styles, you don't know who is writing which part, and it doesn't matter. The book flows, just like Nick and Norah and, when all is said and done, I loved it. My problem was that I expected it to be like Nick and Norah, and it's (thankfully) not. This story is much more about hurt and love and loss (and everything in between), which is what makes it so good. You're not supposed to sympathize with Naomi (except for when you feel sorry for her -- especially since I've known people like her) and you're supposed to adore Ely. And then everything gets flipped upside down, which is perfect, too. I think what makes this novel especially good is that you get everyone's point of view, but you don't get all points of view. There's no omniscient narrator, just because you know what someone is thinking, doesn't mean that you know what everyone's thinking about that one scene. Sure, there's a lot of overlap, but it's good. Really, really good. I hope that Cohn and Levithan write more books together, because I cannot wait to read them.

142. The Blue Lawn by William Taylor
Before I explain what I liked about this book, let me get what I didn't like (well, more like that I had to overcome) first. The writing style. The book starts out in very vague tones and you don't really know whose point of view or ... much of anything. Eventually this resolves itself into the story, but it's kind of hard going at first. The reason is because this is a book written in and about New Zealand, so it uses slang that I'm not used to, but it works. In fact, it works extremely well. It's the story of David Mason and Theo Meyer, two teenagers trying to sort out their lives. David is a star rugby player, but it's sure that's what he wants to do with his life. Theo's a newcomer to the city and lives with his grandmother. It's a story about love and sex and growing up -- and then so much more. Taylor doesn't so much delve into the sex part of things, but there are a couple of extremely well written and intimate scenes between David and Theo. The story is both sweet and heartbreaking -- as well as moving. There are a couple of scenes that are extremely breathtaking. And, once you finish, you're left with a bittersweet taste, but at the same time, there's this hope that people will be able to love.

143. Hero-Type by Barry Lyga
I don't even remember why I picked this book up, except it looked intriguing, and boy was it. It's the story of Kevin. He's the town hero, he saved Leah's life, but he's also harboring a secret. That may sound a little like a cop out, but you don't know what the secret is until almost halfway through the novel. And, to be perfectly honest, I think it works just fine. What makes this book good, aside from the rather complex plot, is the fact that Lyga portrays Kevin exactly as he is -- a reluctant hero so caught up in his own shortcomings (those that his friends and family overlook) that he ends up mixed up in more than just the fame of being a hero. Kevin doesn't believe he's a hero and when we find out why, we can't help but feeling sorry for him. Lyga has Kevin redeem himself in one of the most unlikely ways, turning the book from an excellent coming of age story, into a novel that's both about coming of age but what it means to grow up and to fight for what you believe in. Maybe Kevin's a hero, maybe it's not. But, in the end, it doesn't matter.

144. Evolution, Me & Other Freaks of Nature by Robin Brande
I wasn't sure about this book -- I read the dust jacket summary, it sounded interesting, but maybe not quite what I wanted to read. And then, well, I read it. And I have to say that Robin Brande is brilliant. Brande's story follows the freshman year of Mean, a quiet unassuming girl who thrust herself into the center of attention (not on purpose) and got kicked out of her church for doing what she believes is right. Similarly to Barry Lyga's novel Hero-Type, we don't know exactly what Mean did until halfway through the novel. This is probably the one thing that kind of annoyed me, because I kept wanting to know what she did, but I understand why Brande wrote the story the way she did. In a lighthearted (in some ways) and touching novel, Brande explores exactly what it means to be Christian and confronted with things that you used to believe in, but aren't sure about anymore. She turns her novel into one of the most compelling fictional descriptions of the differences of church and state -- as well as Christianity and evolution. There's obviously much, much more to the story than this, but th idea that Brande can write a brilliant coming of age story and mix it up with these serious themes is a clear endorsement of her skills as a writer. Not only did she keep me throughly entertained, but she did it in a way that felt neither patronizing nor preachy. I highly, highly recommend this book.

144 / 150 new reads. 96% read!


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