Friday, September 22, 2017

The Night Wanderer by Drew Haden Taylor

A vampire returns to his homeland, seeking something. His path crosses with a teenage girl struggling with high school and family drama, who is looking for her own way out.

This one was on a recommended list for its fair, honest depiction of native people. There's a multi-generational family, racial prejudice, and discussion of ancestral beliefs. There's also the first native vampire.

Beyond that, it's a fairly common story of a teen struggling to become. She's trying (unsuccessfully) to balance friends and a boy. She's not doing well in school but doesn't really care. She's at odds with her parents, and she isn't sure where to turn.

It's a good story, but feels like it should be part of a larger tale. It's incomplete in itself. I wanted more. Hopefully, they'll continue it in a series.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The Boy in the Black Suit by Jason Reynolds

In a rough patch after his mom dies, 17-year-old Matt gets hired (and mentored) by his single, successful across-the-street neighbor, who owns the funeral home.

The job keeps him out of trouble, offers a little pocket money, and allows him to spectate on other people's grief in a reflection of his own. He also meets a girl whose grandmother has just passed away - a girl who challenges him in interesting, confusing ways.

Reynold's a shining star in the teen lit world, and for good reason. The book is sad without being maudlin, and it's realistic in the way modern kids deal with emotion. It's a fantastic urban book about a black neighborhood and the residents who occupy it.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

The Reason You're Alive by Matthew Quick

David Granger wakes up from brain surgery muttering a name - but not Hank (his son), Ella (his beloved granddaughter), or even Laura (his deceased wife). No, it's the name of an arch enemy from his Vietnam War days, and the time has come for him to make things right.

Hank doesn't understand David, but their living together during David's convalescence will be good for them all (if nobody dies). Soon Hank learns you have to go deeper than David's words to find out who he really is.

I adore everything Matthew Quick writes, and this is no exception. It's a tough book sometimes - David is a crabby old bastard - but like Hank we see there's much more going on that first glance suggests.

David's friends are a diverse and interesting bunch, and he loves them as if they were blood. They're a fun bunch to meet, and they keep the story moving as they aid and support David's quest. The book's title is a bit of a surprise: a story from Laura that's not fully explained until the very end.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Moo by Sharon Creech

Reena's not sure what to expect when her family packs up and moves to Maine, but somehow she hadn't even considered befriending a cow.

Zora the cow comes with an elderly lady, Mrs. Falala, who owns her. Reena's parents volunteer their kids to "help out" at the neighbors, which is a learning experience for all involved.

The book is mainly told in prose, with some well-placed poetic pieces and graphic presentation. Reena's 12 years old, but I think the book could be read younger, too. It's sweet and funny, a little sad and very, very good.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

In a near-distant future, life on earth sucks. So everybody lives full, rich lives inside "the OASIS" - a virtual reality computer world; you can live, love, work, and play all in the OASIS, only rarely venturing to reality for food or other personal needs.

When the guy who invented the OASIS dies, he reveals he's left an "easter egg" inside, and the first to find it and solve its puzzles will be his heir. Everybody loses their minds, looking for it.

We follow from the perspective of one teen, scraping by and mostly homeless in the real world, and also searching for the egg and attending high school in the virtual world.

I loved, loved, loved this book and I can't stop talking about it! Everybody in the future is obsessed with the 1980s, so the book is futuristic and sci-fi while also reveling in John Hughes movies, electro pop music, and Atari games. There are these parallels of future and past, while also the parallels of real and virtual. It's a lot to keep sorted, and it's done sooo well.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Gulp: Adventures On the Alimentary Canal by Mary Roach

A humorous, informative book about the science and false beliefs about the internal system that runs from your mouth through your stomach and out your butt.

Roach has become famous for her snarky, hilarious approach to often icky nonfiction subjects. This one's got a lot of ick in it - spit, farts, poop, digestion, and more - but she makes it worth the time by dispelling falsehoods, researching history, and interviewing scientists on the cutting edge.

I picked this for book discussion and we circulated a LOT of copies, so I'll be interested to see if anybody shows up to talk about it. For me, the chapter on Elvis made the whole book worthwhile.

Incidentally, I listened to the audiobook, read by Emily Woo Zeller, which was awesome. She helped convey the tongue-in-cheek way the book is written and the glee with which Roach often imparts her research.