Monday, October 30, 2006

A Brief Chapter in My Impossible Life

Book: A Brief Chapter in My Impossible Life
Author: Dana Reinhardt
Published: 2006

Simone has always known that she’s adopted. It’s kind of hard to miss. But it’s not something she dwells on. Her parents are great, and even her brother isn’t that annoying. She bumps along just fine until the day her parents announce at the dinner table that Rivka called, and wants her to call back.

Rivka is her birth mother, who wants to meet her daughter before she dies.

In spite of her doubts and hesitation, Simone finally agrees to call Rivka back. Over a period of months (and in between other life events) she cautiously gets to know her birth mother. In the process, she starts to learn how her mother’s faith as a Jewish woman informs her life, and begins to work out how she herself, raised by atheists, might feel about God.

This has to be the gentlest adoptive mother renunion story I’ve ever read. The parents are great. The birth mom is great. Heck, except for some initial internal conflict, even sixteen-year-old Simone is great. There’s none of the angst and drama of many other adoption/reunion stories, where there are horrible scenes of whyyyyyyyy did you give me up, and you’re not my real mother and if I love you I betray my real parents. Reinhardt takes a different path. There's not even the drawn-out hideous angst of a mother dying of cancer. Sure, it's sad (I definitely cried at the end), but Reinhardt instead chooses to show the quiet bravery and acceptance with which Rivka faces her coming death, and how Simone absorbs some of that strength.

The real question of this book is not, will Simone ever come to accept her birth mother? She does. She has. It’s, will Simone ever work out how God is going to fit into her life? And nothing distracts from that. Wonderful, thoughtful, sad, lovely.

Monday, October 23, 2006

I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You

Book: I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You
Author: Ally Carter
Published: 2006

Cammie Morgan’s got a pretty normal life. She lives with her mom and attends the Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women, and she’s got good friends. Except that she speaks fourteen languages, can kill a man in seven different ways (three of which involve uncooked spaghetti), and the Gallagher Academy is a training school for future superspies. Sooooo . . . normal is a pretty relative term here.

At the start of her sophomore year, on a completely routine mission--um, assignment--for Covert Ops class, Cammie meets Josh. Like most other townies, Josh has never met a Gallagher girl and hasn’t the foggiest notion that they consider Mata Hari an amateur. He thinks she’s a normal teenage girl. She knows from the start that she has to let him go on thinking that. For Cammie, this may be the most dangerous undercover mission she’ll ever undertake. Because national security isn’t the only thing on the line here . . . so is her heart.

This is a lovely bit of fluff, a book to make you smile on a rainy Thursday. It’s kind of like James Bond on estrogen and Cover Girl. Sweet, warm, and very, very funny, Carter’s writing makes you feel for this future superspy who’s as lost as any normal teenage girl when it comes to boys. One of Carter’s real gifts is dropping in off-handed one-liners that are both laugh-out-loud hilarious and highlight how truly strange Cammie’s life is.

With its open-ended epilogue, Carter leaves the door wide open for sequels (the first of which is in the works). Word is, she’s also signed a deal with Disney for a TV movie. Here’s hoping they don’t mess up this great book.

Sunday, October 22, 2006


It was really only a matter of time before the kidlit bloggers banded together to create their own awards for the stuff they read and blog about.

The Cybils

The 2006 Children's and YA Bloggers' Literary Awards

The rules, quoted from the Cybils blog:
1. The book must be published in 2006 in English. Translations and bilingual books are okay too.

2. You can be anybody. You don't have to be a blogger to nominate a book. You can even be the author, the editor, the publicist, the next-door neighbor or best friend or just a random Googler.

3. If a book you love has already been nominated by someone else, you don't need to second it. We're pretty smart. We'll see it. Promise.

4. Please, pretty please, only nominate one book per category.

For me, the hardest part is gonna be the whole nominating just one book per category. Gaaaaaah! There's so . . . many . . . good ones!! *falls over*

Anyway, didja see that part 'bout how anyone can nominate? Didja? Whatcha waitin' fer???

P.S. Yes, I am extremely hopped up on caffeine and being back home again. Did read some good books on my travels, so if you're very lucky I may do a double post tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Back soon!

Just wanted to let you all know that I'm at a training this week across the country. Of course, this doesn't mean that I've stopped reading, but it does mean I have less time to actually blog. Seriously, though, next Monday I'll be back. I may be really really jet lagged, but I'll be back!

Monday, October 09, 2006

Fly on the Wall

You people are sooooooo lucky I had yesterday off and read all those books. Instead of turning this blog into another silly-links record (today's would have been Flight of the Hamster, in case you're interested), I have something bloggable! I make no promises for next week, though . . .

Book: Fly on the Wall
Author: E. Lockhart
Published: 2006

Gretchen Yee's got it rough these days. Her parents are getting a divorce, her best friend never has time to hang out, her drawing teacher thinks she's a derivitive hack, and the boy she adores doesn't seem to know she exists. (Do they ever?) All she's got are her Spidey comics and her fantasies of being someone who can change the world. Unfortunately, she's just boring ol' Gretchen, invisible in spite of her dyed red hair. Frustrated with trying to understand any members of the human race (including herself), she focuses on the most mysterious segment and wishes to be a fly on the wall of the boys' locker room.

Now she's about to find out why "Be careful what you wish for" is such a cliche.

This extremely fast little read is written in a mix of first-person and stream-of-consciousness that somehow makes it perfectly logical that a sixteen-year-old girl would turn into a fly (or if not logical, at least acceptable). Lockhart never attempts to explain the transformation and that's good, because she can concentrate on Gretchen's discoveries about the boys in the locker room. Some are obvious for the situation (she makes a hilariously frank and impartial catalogue of male attributes), and others are less so. As the no-longer-proverbial fly on the wall, Gretchen stands silent witness to the petty cruelties, raging insecurities, and terribly human flaws that drive the boys in her school.

Like the artwork that features near the end, Lockhart draws a merciless, warts-and-all portrait of teenage boys that turns out strangely beautiful. Armed with the knowledge that the Teenage Boy is no mysterious creature, but as human as herself, Gretchen is able to return to her own body with the courage to reach out across chasms she never would have braved before.

The debt to Kafka's Metamorphosis is obvious--Lockhart even makes a point of having Gretchen read it in lit class. Having never read it myself, I can't make a comparison. But don't worry about that--Gretchen's and Lockhart's story stands on its own.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Seven Daughters and Seven Sons

Okay, I'm down to almost the last of my backlog. Unbelievable as it seems, I'm running out of really fabulous books. I've read a lot of good ones, but there's not many that have that special spark that make me want to talk them up to the world (or at least, as much of it as reads this blog).

Any suggestions? Leave them in the comments!

Fortunately, I do have this one. . .

Book: Seven Sons and Seven Daughters
Author: Barbara Cohen and Bahaji Lovejoy
Published: 1982

Malik, known as Abu al-Banat because he has no sons, does have seven daughters. In the city of Baghdad, this is a terrible misfortune, made worse because he has no money to give them dowries. To make things worse, Malik’s brother (who has the massive fortune of seven sons and a thriving business), refuses to help out by either providing dowries or allowing his sons to marry their cousins, and mocks Malik’s misfortune. It looks as if the seven sisters are doomed to a life of poverty and/or unhappy marriages. Unwilling to accept this fate, the fourth daughter, Buran, comes up with a plan that might save them all. But to do it, she has to leave home, travel as a boy, and make her way as a merchant in eleventh-century Iraq.

On her journey, Buran discovers a real head for business and a flair for making money. She also meets and befriends Mahmud, the prince of Tyre. But when he finds his feelings deepening into more than friendship, he begins to put poor Buran through a series of tests to see if she is a man or woman, and even he’s not sure which outcome he wants. Is happily-ever-after in the cards?

This book sucked me in right from the start. It retains enough of the storyteller’s flavor about it (it claims to be based on an Iraqi folktale) to make it feel like a fairy tale, but I found myself caring very much for clever, pragmatic Buran, her beleaugered family, and even the spoiled prince Mahmud, who shows promise under the influence of Buran. Divided into three parts, each with its own distinct storyline, it still follows a nice narrative line. Check out the final part for the most glee-inducing (and fairy-taleish) elements, when Buran gets her revenge on the seven male cousins who rejected herself and her sisters at the very beginning. It also shines a light on a culture very little understood in the west. I found this at the library, but I've just gotta get my own copy of this great tale of a girl who makes her own happy ending. Where’s the fairy godmother? Who knows? Who cares?