Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins

I have been threatened that if I did not read these books SOON, I would no longer be sheltered from spoilers. So as my end-of-vacation and holiday-weekends converged, I consumed all three books. I'm going to blog them together but discuss each a bit individually too.

Overall, I loved this series - obviously, I read them all, and fast. Although I had moments of despair, I forced myself to remember that one of my favorite 12-year-old boys told me to plod on ... it gets better. So if he could endure the "which-boy-should-I-choose" dithering, so should I.

• "The Hunger Games" was my favorite of the three - fast-moving drama, unexpected twists. Several times I shouted out loud to myself as I was surprised by the direction of the story. "Romeo and Juliet!" I exclaimed at one point. Nice!

• About halfway through "Catching Fire" I got frustrated. It had deteriorated into Bella Swan territory with the helpless fretting on which boy I should love. Yuck. (Even though I did love the Twilight books) But once the Games began, I was again captivated. I loved the new characters and learning their histories and motivations.

• "Mockingjay" threatened to be just like every other dystopian future fiction: establishing a new colony, reinventing government, chafing at uniformity, etc. And again, once the action began I was swept away. I didn't know what would happen in the end, yet was satisfied by both the events and their conclusion.

Collins does a phenomenal job with the characters in this series. The victors stories were amazing, and kept getting better the more you knew. Even characters that had been present from the start continued to evolve in the third book. You could never just assume you knew anybody. And I thought that was brilliant.

I'll recommend these books - but will add the disclaimer I was given: Keep going. Whatever drags the narrative down will eventually pick up again. It gets better!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Under the mesquite

by Guadalupe Garcia McCall

McCall's first book is a novel in verse.  It's always kind of fun to see an author who manages to tell a complex story within the confines of poetry. 
Lupita is a high school student with aspirations toward drama and performing.  She's the oldest of eight children in a family that now lives in Texas, but once lived just south of the border.  The family travels freely and frequently back to visit relatives, until Mami gets cancer.  Lupita shows a level of strength that few teenagers in America find themselves needing.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Girlchild by Tupelo Hassman

Life for Rory Hendrix isn't easy - her family's history and poverty don't portend a happy future, either - but she's found a guide to help her navigate: the Girl Scout Handbook. Rory doesn't have a troop and has never met another girl scout, but she's sure the information and advice dispensed by the book are her key to survival.

Short chapters (almost independent short stories) make up the body of the novel. Some chapters are as short as a few paragraphs and none more than a few pages. There's a loose, almost journal or diary feel to the book: some chapters are government reports, others prayers to St. [whoever], a few Girl Scout badge requirements, and others are more traditional prose.

The book covers Rory's story from about ages 4 to 15. She's an early, precocious reader - against form and all genetics. She lives most of her life with her nose in a book - as well you might too, if you lived on the Calle (hers is a trailer park of the worst kind). And against all odds, it's a book I absolutely loved. While it's a dark and scary world Rory lives in, the girl is a bright shining star at its center. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Fifty shades of Grey

by E.L. James

Here we go.  Yes, this book is in our collection, and yes, I read it.  This is written as well as any other romance novel you might pluck from the paperback shelves.  The main difference being that readers of those books get to know something about both main characters. 
Perhaps Christian Grey seems flat to me because there are two more books in the series which can build upon his personality.  Ana Steele on the other hand, begins the book as a well-rounded character.  She has varied interests, and a willingness to take on life.  It's that last part that makes her likeable when she chooses to become Mr. Grey's newest plaything.  If she truly were mousy and submissive, I would never have been able to tolerate this story. 
This novel is in the range of average romance fiction regarding readability. It is sorely lacking in character development.  There is enough plot to keep the reader's interest because without it, the sex gets a bit pestiferous.

Tales for very picky eaters

by Josh Schneider

This book is technically an early reader.  However, I don't know if kids should be allowed to know the secrets held within its pages.  It might be better as a true guidebook for parents.  OK, not really.  This is a funny account of a father trying to get his boy to eat.  The dad concocts wild stories about the food that is being snubbed until the boy decides the only choice is to at least give it a try. 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon

Looking for inspiration? The advice and approval that will push you forward in writing, art, quilting, music, etc? The subhead on this book is "10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative" and while it's oriented toward the arts, I think many of Kleon's creative ideas can carry over into more mundane aspects of life, work, and leadership, too.

Kleon says the book began life as a series of ideas and doodles on index cards, and it's a small, loosely designed book with to-the-point examples so you can easily pick it up, grab some inspiration, and set it down again. It's full of sentiments you probably know (don't dwell on negative criticism, seek out positive inspiration) but it's refreshing to hear them again. Ever notice how some things ring especially true and loud JUST when you need to hear it?

I read this book in about 15 minutes, and found tons of cool things to read aloud to Kristine because I couldn't keep it to myself. I'm going to add a copy of this book to my studio bookshelf; it's a great set of ideas, and presented well.