Sunday, April 20, 2008
They met late one night on the subway. They exchanged glances and shy smiles, and finally they began to talk.
Seventeen year old Sebastian sneaks out at night. His domineering father home-schools him, makes decisions for him, and keeps an eye on him every minute of every day. Sebastian knows that only the nights are his after his father takes his sleeping pill.
Maria is a young mother of two, living with an abusive boyfriend. She is riding the subway because she is too afraid to admit to Carl that she has lost her job. She knows it can't go on forever, but once she meets Sebastian it becomes impossible to imagine life without him.
Once Sebastian begins to see the real world, he begins to question how his father has raised him. His only friend, an old woman living in a neighboring apartment, gives him the love his father never shows. With her encouragement he makes a plan to escape from his father and take Maria with him. He contacts the maternal grandmother he barely remembers and learns his father has not just sheltered him, but also lied to him. His mother didn't die. She is alive and well in the Mojave Desert where he is welcome anytime.
Author Catherine Ryan Hyde tells the story of Sebastian and Maria in altering chapters. The fear and pain of their loveless lives scream from the pages. I found myself feeling the absence of one when the chapter I was reading focused on the other. Even though CHASING WINDMILLS somewhat parallels several famous love stories of the past, it has its own unique voice and interpretation. It will most certainly touch your heart.
Sunday, April 13, 2008
Life has changed dramatically for Dylan Fontaine. His artist mother recently left to pursue her art and possibly an artist lover. His doctor father spends most of his time at the hospital delivering babies and taking care of other families. Randy, Dylan's older brother, is too busy getting high and hanging with his band to give Dylan a second thought. Although, everyone does sit up and take notice when Dylan is arrested for shoplifting underwear and having marijuana in his pocket.
No one really takes Dylan's arrest very seriously. After all, Dylan gets good grades and is a talented basketball player, musician, and artist. How could this All-American, boy-next-door type be considered a serious criminal? Dylan soon finds himself back in his usual routine of cooking and cleaning for his father and brother. In addition to trying to hold the family together, Dylan is facing major issues in his love life. He really likes his best friend Angie, and since her break up with her boyfriend, Dylan is wondering what would happen if he made his move. After all she is making him the subject of the movie she is making for her film class. Then there is also Chloe, a new member in his brother's band. She is gorgeous and seems to like spending time with him. Might he have a chance with her, too?
Dylan Fontaine is a fascinating character. His life is in turmoil, and author April Lurie writes about it in a way that will have readers flipping pages to see how things turn out. The mix of down-to-earth, wholesome Dylan and his brother's fast, risk-taking lifestyle make THE LATENT POWERS OF DYLAN FONTAINE a book with something for everyone.
Wednesday, April 9, 2008
I’ve always been a fan of author Catherine Clark, so I was anxious to read WISH YOU WERE HERE. I’m happy to report that I believe it is her best yet.
Ariel Flack (no, she is not named after the little mermaid) is about to set off on a road trip with her recently divorced mother and her younger sister. She is not looking forward to the trip, but she doesn’t really have a choice. Forced to leave behind her new boyfriend and her beloved cat, Ariel is prepared for the worst. Little does she know that the worst is about to get even worse.
The three travelers begin their journey, but Ariel’s mother has not been entirely truthful about the type of trip they will be taking. Ariel and her sister soon find out that the trip is not just a road trip in their aging Jetta, but will also include a bus tour with the Leisure-Lee tour company. Their fellow tourists are mostly senior citizens, and the tour highlights are scenic places like Mount Rushmore and a visit to the see a giant ball of knitting yarn.
Only one thing saves the trip, and his name is Andre. Tricked into the same bus tour by his controlling mother, Andre becomes the seatmate of Ariel. Together they find ways to deal with their situation. At times they both consider escaping from the tour and heading off on their own, but in the end, the experience does offer more than they anticipated.
Catherine Clark uses her trademark humor and imaginative characters to entertain her readers. Ariel’s gambling addicted father, her self-help expert mother, and an eccentric mailman uncle who was once attacked by a family of rabid squirrels join up with a husband and wife tour guide team, cute Andre, his fashionably dressed mother, and a stowaway Chihuahua to make reading WISH YOU WERE HERE terrific fun.
Sunday, April 6, 2008
Some readers may recognize author James Lincoln Collier from one of his previous works titled MY BROTHER SAM IS DEAD. This new offering titled THE DREADFUL REVENGE OF ERNEST GALLEN will not disappoint his fans. If you are looking for a mystery/ghost story, this one is for you.
Gene Richards lives in Magnolia with his mother and his grandfather. He never really knew his father, although he wishes he did. Life is pretty normal for Gene until one day while walking home from a baseball game, he feels a tightness in his chest and a wiggling senstion in his middle. Then the weirdest thing happens - he hears a voice speaking to him for somewhere inside.
This mysterious voice tells Gene some shocking news. Gene's beloved grandfather may have committed some terrible crime. It was back before Gene was old enough to remember, and it involved some "get rich quick" scheme that caused many of the townspeople to lose their hard-earned money. The voice insists that Gene needs to investigate and seek revenge.
At the same time Gene hears the mysterious voice, his friend Sonny's dad dies in a freak accident and his friend Sam's father is injured in an equally strange car accident. The three share their stories and begin to investigate by reading back issues of the local newspaper. They soon learn that their fathers and Gene's grandfather were indeed involved in some questionable activities, and the voice Gene hears is most likely the ghost a young man found lynched in an abandoned farmhouse.
Readers will be entertained from start to finish as they follow the detective work of Gene and his friends. Each chapter undercovers another layer of the plot and brings up new questions and new adventures. THE DREADFUL REVENGE OF ERNEST GALLEN is an excellent addition to any middle grade collection.
Saturday, April 5, 2008
Run, do not walk, to your nearest library or bookstore to get your hands on a copy of UNWIND! You will not be disappointed! Sci-fi is not my favorite genre, but this book grabbed my attention and didn't let go.
The world of UNWIND is a scary one, especially if you are a teen. Innovations in medical research and transplants havw taken a terrifying turn. Instead of waiting for organs or other body parts to be available through the tragic or untimely death of a healthy individual, young people are being selected or volunteered as donors. The process is called "unwinding." It is the law that at age 13, a parent can decide to send a child to be unwound. The law also states that all parts must be kept alive, so those sent to be unwound are cheerfully told that they will simply be living a new, yet separated life.
Connor is a problem teen. He has gotten himself in trouble too much, and his family has made the decision to unwind him. Connor knows that if he can somehow survive until his 18th birthday, the law says he can't be unwound. The problem now is to escape.
Risa is an orphan. Raised in an overcrowded orphanage, she has always known her fate. Having some special talent would allow Risa to remain at the orphanage, but her talent as a musician is not enough to save her. She finds herself boarding a bus that will take her to a harvest camp and the beginning of her "new" life. But when the bus crashes, Risa finds herself with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to escape.
Then there is Lev. His entire 13 years of living has been preparing him for the harvest camp. He is known as a tithe. When he was born, his family's religious beliefs encouraged them to give him willing to be unwound. There was a special party in his honor, and now Lev is being escorted to his assigned harvest camp. He is excited but also a bit nervous about what awaits him when he arrives.
The action and suspense of UNWIND begins on the first page and doesn't let up until the end. Shusterman creates a future world that for some offers hope and extended life, while for others there is fear and a gruesome end. UNWIND is an adventure with great plot twists and turns, but it will also have readers thinking about the future, advances in medicine and science, and the ultimate value of human life.