Tuesday, May 26, 2009

a plethora of choices

I'm in the middle of a reading bounty and I'm loving every minute of it!

On Sunday, I finished The smile by Donna Jo Napoli, a novel about Mona Lisa. People have been speculating on the woman in da Vinci's painting, wondering who she is and why she smiles so mysteriously. In the book, Elisabetta is the daughter of a silk merchant, a girl of immense practicality and a head full of dreams at the same time. She is of the age to be married but the unexpected death of her mother and the remarriage of her father put a kink in those plans. Elisabetta falls in love with Giulano, the youngest son of the powerful de Medici family. He calls her "Monna Lisa" (the equivalent of Miss Lisa) and is enamored of her beautiful smile. The fall of the de Medici family, thanks to the mad priest Savonarola, drives the young lovers apart. Elisabetta ends up marrying another man and raising a family before she poses for da Vinci. Is her failed romance the reason for the Mona Lisa's enigmatic smile?

Thanks to MC, who was number one on a long waiting list and didn't cancel her request even though she had already bought and read the book, I ended up checking out Tamora Pierce's Bloodhound, the second volume in the Beka Cooper series. Wow! Beka is a second year Dog (aka police officer), working with an incompetent partner who soon asks to part ways with her. She is then reassigned to work with a veteran pair of Dogs until a new partner can be found. She is soon involved with an investigation into coin counterfeiting. I'm about 200 pages into the book and resent any time that is not spent reading!

MC also told me that Patricia C. Wrede has a new book out--The Thirteenth child--how did I ever miss a book from her? As it happened, the Wentworth copy was sitting on the Book Besotted Librarian's desk awaiting check in so, thanks to a quickly placed request, I got to take that one home, too! It is my bedside book (Bloodhound is my in-the-purse book). I just started it last night and it is off to a great start...and is very different from Bloodhound so confusion should not be a problem! Eff is the thirteenth child of a seventh son of a seventh son and the twin of the seventh son of a seventh son. Her position in the world is very unlucky since the thirteenth child often goes bad...something that Eff is reminded of at every opportunity by her relatives. I'm looking forward to learning more about her!

I love having so many wonderful choices, don't you?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

let's hear it for the boy!

Normally, I intensely dislike teenage angst-y books about dating, clothes, looks, friends and all the other anguish-inducing facts of teenage life. But, periodically, I read another one, hoping this one will be different. I finally found one that is different and I really, truly, madly enjoyed it.

Brent Crawford is a first-time novelist and he really got it right with Carter finally gets it.

Will Carter is 14 years old and getting ready to start his first year of high school. He is friendly, funny and has a big circle of friends which includes lifelong pal EJ and a pack of other guys, including Bag (short for Scumbag) and Hormone (remember, he is 14). Carter (never call him Will) has an older sister, Lynn, who is worried that his arrival at the high school will sully her reputation and ruin her popularity. Why is she concerned? Carter has ADD and doesn't always have good control over what comes out of his mouth and how he reacts to stressful situations.
Carter is most concerned about losing his virginity as soon as possible, preferably with Amber Lee, the girl he fell in love with at the beginning of sixth grade.

The book takes Carter through his freshman year: playing football, first date, first teenage party with beer, shaving, being bullied by older students and more. Carter gets himself into some truly painful situations because of his ADD and his general cluelessness. He is a most endearing hero and I was cheering for him at every turn, even when I wanted to shake his shoulders and say, "What in the world were you thinking?" I laughed, got teary-eyed and completely enjoyed every page of this book and I can't wait to see what young Mr. Crawford comes up with next. I hope it is very soon!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

eating crow

I spoke too soon about The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. Over the weekend I had some extended reading time and I spent it devouring the book. I raced home last night, plopped down in my rocking chair and did not move until I had finished the book. It was wonderful! I cannot wait to recommend it to some of my devoted readers. A big thumbs up. The Newbery Committee chose very well this year.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

weighing in on the Newbery winner

Now that everyone on the waiting list has read Neil Gaiman's The graveyard book, it is my turn. I was pleased that Gaiman won the Newbery Medal but a scary/eerie story is not my sort, at all. But I like Gaiman (I absolutely love Neverwhere which is partially set in the tubes of London) so I decided to check it out.
I started the book and am enjoying it but I am not consumed with the desire to read (the sign of a really good book)--if the book had to be returned tomorrow, I could leave it unfinished and be perfectly happy.
The book starts with a murder (or two or three) which leaves a toddler homeless and parentless. A long-dead couple, buried in the local cemetery but now in ghostly form, agree to raise the child. They name him Nobody, which is shortened to Bod. Bod grows, thanks to the help of a semihuman being who can leave the cemetery to get food for him, and makes friends, goes on adventures, is educated by various spectral figures buried in the cemetery. There is a lot of adventure, a bit of humor, interesting characters of the otherworldly sort--all positive things but the book just isn't grabbing me. (I hope to have a block of time this weekend to stretch out on the daybed and read, read, read so that may change...I hope.)
I haven't been thrilled by the last several Newbery winners so I am disappointed that a book by an author I like is inspiring the same blah feeling in me. It is so hard to sell a book to a reader when you feel wishy-washy about it yourself. Oh, well, maybe next year.