Sunday, June 10, 2007

Challenge Book Commentaries

Dream Factory: How could I resist this tale of imperfection beneath the shiny motto of "the Happiest Place on Earth"? Sure, it was a "summer romance between unlikely souls" tale, but with the added snark of revealing an underbelly of a dream. In the end, though, it is a tale for true believers and lovers of fairy tales....
Exploits of a Reluctant... : I admit to having more trouble reading this one - set as it is in a slang and time not my own. Also was not much in the mood for a novel told in scattered paragraphs. But did admire the growth of the hero and his realization that one person can make a difference - if only in the life of one other person.
Bad Tickets: Oy. Why did all of us believe as 15-year-old women that we were invincible? Why was everything so new. So fraught with possibility that we never saw the dangers? This tale of two friends testing those new avenues for self-expression and independence brought back a lot of bittersweet memories....
Inexcusable: Raw and disjointed, this is a disturbing tale whose hero believes himself not to be a villain - despite all indications to the contrary. The pain of family dynamics and self-doubt twist a young man's soul - and self-perceptions - leaving his true self uncertain for himself and the reader.
Beauty Shop For Rent: A feel-good tale on the order of Fried Green Tomatoes or Steel Magnolias. Our young heroine finds herself and her future in a blend of old friends' love and new friends' dreams. Happy, tear-jerky, satisfying.
Hold-Up: Told in a style I often find maddening - the tiny mini-chapters told from every character's individual point of view - this tale of a fast-food robbery gone bad was not a favorite from the reading pile this weekend. The voice of the the "mastermind" was particularly annoying - a sort of Hannibal Lecterish highbrow tone. Ish.
Far From Normal: A family of free spirits is caught in the ugly grip of corporate greed after speaking too freely and not paying their taxes. An interesting look at consumerism and the strength of a family that pulls together to save themselves.
Peaches: A book in the tradition of the Pants books, this follows the summer of three very dissimilar girls whose lives intertwine at a downtrodden peach orchard. Fights, boy trouble, betrayal, heartbreak, true love and undying friendship -- it's totally classic chick lit.
Alphabet of Dreams: This is why I read. A book takes me to ancient Persia to travel with a young girl and her dream-oracle brother and the Magi on their quest to follow the Star of Christ. A wondrous book full of amazing images and ideas.
Sammy Keyes & the Wild Things: If you ever read my blog, you know my childhood love of Nancy Drew is now fed by my favorite girl detective, Sammy Keyes. I love her spunk, her brains, he honesty and her ever-deepening relationship with Casey. (Who is much cooler than Ned ever was.) Condors, taxidermy, boar-hunters.... another great ride.
Getting It: At first, I was afraid this was going to be a one-note book hung on the thin thread of mimicking an episode of Queer Eye. I'm happy to report that it deepened into something better - a real look at friendship, hooking up, relationships, friendship, sex, and honoring a promise.
Come Juneteenth: Never knew the history of Juneteenth. Did not know that it was a Texas thing. Surely did not know that slaves in the Lone Star state had no idea they were freed by the Emancipation Proclamation for more than two years. A hard story of war, tradition, lies and consequences. I cannot begin to say how completely I hated the end of the story -- (I'll say no more specifically in case others may it read, too) -- but learned some things I did not know.
Rat Life: Well. Tedd Arnold. You have written an amazing, memorable book. And not a goofy, bug-eyed child or critter anywhere. I was stunned by this tale of family, unusual friendship and the birth of a writer. Find a copy. Discovery it for yourself.
Dragon's Keep: Irresistible cover. Merlin. Dragons. A young girl destined to fulfill a 600-year-old prophecy. An evil mother. True love. Oh, and the small problem of being part dragon herself as the result of a pact her mother made with an evil sorceress. It rips along to a very satisfying conclusion and has a very strong girl protagonist - always a plus for me.
Beige: I kept waiting for the characters from Gordon Korman's Born to Rock to show up in the crowds in this book. The set-up of a non-musical kid being thrust into the punk rock lifestyle of their long-absent fathers was just too similar not to. Don't get me wrong, I still enjoyed the book, but I felt like I had read it before. (Plus, I really liked the Korman book a lot.)
Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes: I hung in till the end of this quest, but had a lot of trouble with it. This girl was 17? Taking off with no phone, money or guidebooks? Forbidden to contact anyone at home? Did she have parents? I found the whole thing a challenge to to my willing suspension of disbelief. Plus, I never got the sense that the character grew much. Not a fave.
Vote For Larry: I always wondered about the sequel to the first Larry novel - which was the all-time favorite of my teen book club back in Library Land. And, I have to say, I liked it just as much. A great book to get into the hands of teens now that we are revving up for a new election.
Waves: A spooky sort of murder mystery with mind messages sent between a brother and his coma-suffering sister, this has odd twists into incest, abuse, care of family, tradition, surfing... I was happy when the end came - both to get some plot closure and to be done with the twists.
Secret Order of the .... This was a wild ride into the Oz stories via four young girls from Sherbet. Yep, just as strange as it sounds, but also fun. Ancient piano teachers, talking potatoes, ruby slippers -- not to mention jealousy, friendship and personal bravery. Tween girls unite.
Tanglewreck: My favorite book of the challenge. A young girl thrust into a prophecy as old as time itself, this is well-written, full of intriguing imagery and characters, and shot through with a million interesting theories about the meaning and measure of time. A great read.

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