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!


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