Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Adios, Nirvana by Conrad Wesselhoeft

Usually, poets have a grasp on the darker side of life. And 16-year-old poet Jonathan's definitely on the dark side: his twin is dead, he's flunking out of school, he can't sleep,and jumping off a bridge seems like a great solution.

Jonathan's offered an ultimatum - to pass this year's classes and become a senior, he'll have to perform some custom-tailored tasks. His "thicks" are there to help, and along the way he makes new friends in unlikely places.

It's a pretty fast read, and dark in a good way. As a poet, Jonathan explains his musical expression well enough that, even though I don't play, I understood the emotion (guitarists will love this book). His agony over Telly's death is very real, and as the story goes on his new friendships reveal as much as the life-long "thicks." Eventually, learning old stories helps Jonathan move on to new, fresh ones.

I can't say enough good things about this book, and I'd love to see it as a teen discussion title. Themes of friendship, artistic pain, drug abuse (although mild, and legal - maybe more "misuse"), grief, and music could make for a phenomenal conversation.

Monday, January 30, 2012

It's So Easy (And Other Lies) by Duff McKagan

This is one of the best rock memoirs I've read, seriously. Duff tells it like it was, he owns it (good and bad), and he's found a way to be funny and eloquent about his own debauched life.

There's no reason he shouldn't be dead: his pancreas exploded from alcohol abuse, and tons of his friends died from addictions and AIDS. But somehow Duff McKagan skirted the edge of the abyss and lived to tell.

If you like Guns n' Roses, you'll enjoy the story. But it's actually his writing about post-pancreatitis recovery and his family that make this story such a gem. Additionally, it's amazing how many now-famous people Duff grew up with in Seattle and became friends with in Los Angeles; but he doesn't resort to name-dropping - he really just tells his own story, but with this amazing cast of characters and cameos.

(I'm putting this one near the top of my favorite rock books list - just behind Nikki Sixx's "The Heroin Diaries" and "I Am Ozzy" by Ozzy Osbourne)

Monday, January 23, 2012

Love in a nutshell

by Janet Evanovich and Dorien Kelly

Evanovich lovers who are looking for a Plum-like twist, move on. Romance lovers, settle in. Kate Appleton's life has pretty much fallen apart. Similarly, so has the family cottage which she now wants to renovate into a B&B. Fortunately, she is able to strong arm the owner of the local brewery into giving her a job, mostly because she blames him for the loss of her old one.
Matt Culhane agrees to her proposal but with the caveat that he really needs her to be the company spy. Someone is sabotaging his business.
It's dripping with sappy sweetness, and that's why I liked it. Kate and Matt find themselves on an adventure that is too chaotic to be believable.

In Search of the Rose Notes by Emily Arsenault

I'm not even sure what to say, other than I wasted a lot of my life lately with this book. I didn't like it, but I kept reading because I wanted to know who killed the damn babysitter.

I should have skipped ahead.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Fault In Our Stars by John Green

First love can be true love - and this is one of those books. It's really a book about two teens who are too wise and philosophical for their age. Perhaps, that's because they're terminally ill. Perhaps, it's because they're John Green characters (who are all too smart and philosophical, but in the BEST POSSIBLE WAY). Perhaps, people like this really exist.

It's a funny book about a girl with cancer. Or it's a book about teens who despise the Kids With Cancer cliche and make jokes about the misuse of the word literally. No - it's a hilarious and heartbreaking book about the self-proclaimed King of Cancervania who is too gorgeous to exist.

How can I sell you on a book about cancer?

Just read it.

Siren Song by Cat Adams

This second book in the Blood Singer series picks up where "Blood Song" left off in the story of newly transformed vampire/human/siren professional bodyguard Celia Graves. If you haven't read book one, this is not a good entry point.

But ... having read book one, I thoroughly enjoyed this one. These are great, light books with fast-moving plots and a different take on what could be an over-done genre. Celia's coming to terms with her new body - but she's slightly different than anyone before her: she wasn't completely "turned" by her vampire sire, and it brought out the latent siren blood in her family line.

I did get a little tired of the fact she's always having to stop to "eat" something (actually drink) so she doesn't go bonkers ... yah, yah, we get it! And having not one but two ghosts at her bidding makes it tooooo easy to get out of nearly any scrape.

But, like I said: entertaining escapism.

Monday, January 16, 2012

I'm fast

by Jim and Kate McMullan

The creators of the story time hit, I stink, are back with another title sure to be crowd pleasing. Magnificent rhythm flows from the page as a train and speedy car race cross country. Who could resist chanting the engaging "Chooka, chooka, chooka" of the locomotive? Settle in with your favorite train loving toddler for this adventure that personifies Route 66 on rails.

Friday, January 13, 2012

22 Britannia Road by Amanda Hodgkinson

In the aftermath of World War II, everyone had something they wanted to forget, and it was especially true for many immigrants displaced by war - including the family portrayed in this book.

Six years after he left them as a soldier, Polish immigrant Janusz Novak is reunited with his wife and six-year-old son in Ipswich, England. They work to make a new home together, but each has secrets from the war years that haunt them still.

Chapters shift between the voice of each family member, and bounce back-and-forth through time. While I thought I understood some of the secrets from early-on, more information is revealed throughout the book that may surprise the reader - it did, for me.

I really enjoyed the book, although I considered quitting part way through. I'm glad I stayed on - the story trajectory changed more than I thought they would, and I was very curious about the end.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Lola and the boy next door

by Stephanie Perkins

Lola is not your average teenager. She has flair beyond most anyone's wildest imagination. That often makes her stand out in a crowd. Some might think it's a bad thing. Her boyfriend seems to like it, but does he really? Her parents don't trust him; he is much older than her. He endures time with her family.
On top of that, a moving truck arrives next door. Much to Lola's dismay, it is not another renter, but the family that owns the house. The Bell twins hold a special place of disdain in her heart. Calliope is bad enough, but the other one is so much worse. She is now forced to come to terms with a lifetime of friendship and the shattered ending from two years before.
Although much of the plot is heavy on the foreshadowing, this book will be gripping for young romantics.

Monday, January 9, 2012

There's a (Slight) Chance I Might Be Going to Hell by Laurie Notaro

Maye is having trouble meeting people since she and her husband moved to Washington. He works at the local college and has a built-in way to meet new friends, but without kids and with a stay-at-home consulting job Maye's short on new friend opportunities. Her bumbling attempts to meet people culminate in the decision to compete in the town's version of a talent show: the Sewer Pipe Queen Pageant.

It's a goofy story filled with comic mishaps and a mild mystery. The book's certainly not high art but it's also not the standard chick-lit: Maye is middle-aged, overweight and more than a little socially challenged.

It took until about page 20 to realize I'd already read this book. It's not the kind of book I would have re-read on purpose, but I was bored and I couldn't remember the end. So I read it again.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

12 Things to Do Before You Crash and Burn by James Proimos

"Hercules" Martino gets put on a kind of timeout - his mom sends him to Uncle Anthony in Baltimore for two weeks  - after he got up at his dad's funeral and says "He was an ass. My father was a complete and total ass."

Uncle Anthony's not real big on supervision or fun sightseeing activities, but he does give Herc an odd list of missions to accomplish. And while he in no way embraces the project, eventually the list provides Hercules with some insight along with a bit of adventure.

Clocking in at 121 pages (many only partially filled), this review is almost longer than the book. This is a super-short book, and it's good.

Herc bumbles his way into as many of the tasks as those he actually sets out to achieve, giving the mission a bit of a "destined" feel. Funny things happen, we learn bit-by-bit about the father-son relationship, and you're sad to see the story end so soon.