The Sin-Eater’s Confession by Ilsa J. Bick

sin eaters confessionAfter Del died in a car accident, Ben started helping out on Del’s family’s farm.  While working on the farm, Ben started to look out for and became friends with Del’s younger brother, Jimmy, in a capacity much like an older brother.  After Jimmy was murdered, Ben felt guilty and escaped his home town by enlisting in the armed forces and heading to Afghanistan.  This story is told from Ben’s perspective, in a diary-style letter to someone back home, as he reflects back over the series of events that lead to Jimmy’s death and explains why he feels responsible.  The graphic description of Jimmy’s violent death definitely makes this a book for more mature readers, and I am sure some people would ultimately like to see this book banned.  I think, nevertheless, that this suspense-filled story is a great way to draw in readers who might not otherwise think they’d enjoy a story that explores such heavy themes as homophobia and hate crimes.  A definite departure from the apocalyptic world of Ashes, but equally well written.

Happy Banned Books Week!

Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick

leonard peacockAlthough I read this book back in January, I never remembered to post a review.  Maybe it’s because I typically read more books per month than I review and some titles just slip through the cracks… but I prefer to think my subconscious was just saving this review for Banned Books Week!

I think this book is a likely target for would-be censors for a couple of reasons.  Not only are there the typical objectionable language and sexual situations that many people cite when challenging a book, but there is also the fact that the entire story revolves around Leonard Peacock’s plans to carry out a murder-suicide.  I understand that some people worry about teens being impressionable and mimicking the behavior of a character in a book, but I take umbrage with that reasoning.  After all, studies have shown that fiction can actually teach kids empathy.

While I agree, in theory, that it would be nice to be able to shield children from all of the terrible things that exist in our world, I recognize that it’s impossible.  Instead, I feel that it’s important to be open and honest so that my kids and the kids/teens I work with at my library feel comfortable enough to come to me if and when they find themselves in a troubling situation.  Rather than keeping this book out of the hands of teens for fear that a troubled teen who reads this book will decide to plan his/her own murder-suicide, I believe it is extremely important to make this book available.  Why?  Because I believe in the power of biliotherapy and think it is much more likely that teens who are struggling will learn from Leonard’s various mistakes, including his mistaken belief that he should end his life rather than seeking help.  Readers who enjoyed 13 Reasons Why should definitely check this one out.

Happy Banned Books Week!

Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Reality Shock!

Reality_ShockI find it rather amusing that my 9-year-old son can’t handle seeing tiny hairballs on the floor from his beloved pet cat but that he was completely enthralled by the FOUR POUND tiger hairball (picture on pg. 9) that was the size of a basketball!  Looking through these books with my son, I always alternate between fascination and disgust.  And even though my own disgust sometimes outweighs my fascination, there’s something magical about bringing home a book that makes your child jump up and down with excitement and beg for just a few more pages before he has to go to bed.

Some of the most fascinating items in this issue were:

  • the skateboarding mice who can even jump through a ring of fire (pp. 14-15)
  • a woman named Barbie Thomas who, despite losing both of her arms at 2 years of age, has gone on to compete in fitness contests (pg. 97)
  • the man who took a picture of himself every single day for 12 years — a total of 4,514 photos! (pg. 152)
  • the Canadian base jumper who, after becoming paralyzed in a 2004 BASE-jumping accident, now jumps in his wheelchair (pg. 175)
  • the pumpkin artists (pp. 208-209) who are capable of turning pumpkins into sculptures of ghouls, goblins, and monsters

And some of the more disgusting items were:

  • the bedside table made from an actual, stuffed sheep (pg. 29)
  • the Sufi holy man who used a sharp stick to practically gouge out his own eye during the Urs religious festival in Ajmer, India (pg. 41)
  • the short-horned lizards that quirt blood from their eyes as a defense mechanism to scare of predators (pg. 90)
  • the “snot shots” (pg. 201) from artist Ulf Lundin’s Bless You project, in which people sneezed at a camera without covering their mouth/nose… ack!

If you’re looking for a conversation-starting/engrossing book to share with a tween, the Ripley’s books are a pretty sure bet.

Happy Reading!

The Iron Trial: Book One of The Magisterium by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

Iron TrialMy son and I both love fantasy fiction, and we’re both suckers for ARCs from beloved authors…  So, when I heard that Holly Black and Cassandra Clare were writing a middle-grade fantasy series together, I just knew I had to get my hands on a copy of this ARC.  (The good news for anyone reading this review is that the book came out September 9th and you can read it without scheming to find an ARC!)

And do you know what was even better than opening a random, unexpected package to find a copy of this ARC?  When it arrived in the mail on the very day that we were ready to start a new book.  Awesomesauce!  I knew these authors were awesome and that a collaboration between them was likely to be epic, but I also kinda expected that this book would be somewhat formulaic and predictable, like many of the other middle-grade fantasies I’ve read.  Thankfully, I was wrong.  Although there were some parallels to other books we’ve read, the story was fresh and there were a couple of plot twists that blew our minds!

Callum’s father has always taught him that magic is bad and that the Magisterium, a school that teaches adolescents how to hone their magical abilities, is evil.  So, when Callum had to go in to test his magical acuity at the Magisterium, he did his best to fail.  For some reason, nevertheless, Master Rufus chose Callum to be one of his apprentices.  Even though neither he nor his father wanted him to attend, being selected meant that Callum had to go to the Magisterium…  As soon as he started to learn how to use his magic and began to make friends, though, Callum started to wonder if maybe his dad was wrong after all…

Happy Reading!

Love, Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

Love StargirlThanks to this audiobook, I now know that September 8th is the anniversary of the day that Stargirl (aka Susan Caraway) first laid eyes on Leo Borlock.  As she strolled through the Mica High cafeteria with her ukelele and sang Happy Birthday to some other unsuspecting stranger, she saw the fear in Leo’s eyes as he worried that she might come and sing to him.  Of all the stuff that happened in this story, Stargirl’s remembrance of that day was a pretty small thing, but it really stuck with me.  Why?  Because *MY* birthday is September 8th!  Though I seriously doubt Jerry Spinelli wrote that into his book for me, I wonder if he’s friends with Jon Scieszka and used that reference as a shout out to him.  (Yeah.  I share a birthday with Jon Scieszka — and Jo Knowles – how awesome is that?!?)

Anyhow…  I like the fact that this book was written as a letter from Stargirl to Leo in diary form.  It was cool to see things from her perspective this time.  I mean, it was easy enough to see from Leo’s narration (in Stargirl) that she was a free spirit, but it was kinda cool to see exactly how her thought process worked.  I am most definitely a “Type A” personality, so it took a lot for me to get into her head and to understand where she was coming from, but it made a little more sense as she explained herself.  Living without clocks, for example, seems kinda cool — but I think I would go batty after only a day or two.

Happy Reading!

Landline by Rainbow Rowell

landlineThis book is kinda hard to categorize by my usual standards.  First of all, it’s technically a book for adults, which I don’t usually read (let alone review on here).  BUT, Rainbow Rowell is a popular YA author and I think some older teens might check this one out after finishing Fangirl or Eleanor and Park.  I mean, if she got *me* to read a book for grown ups, anything is possible!  ;-)  But, I digress…  The main reason this book is hard to categorize is because it’s mostly realistic/contemporary fiction, but there’s a small science fiction/fantasy element wherein Georgie (the main character) is able to use the landline at her mother’s house to call her husband, Neal, back when he was still in college and hadn’t yet proposed.

I think this book resonated so much with me because I have been having a crazy time trying to find a good work/family balance in my life and Georgie’s life is my worst nightmare.  She’s in over her head with work, her kids don’t really seem to miss her when she’s not around, her husband is resentful that she often puts work first, and she isn’t even sure if it’s possible to turn things around enough to save her marriage.  As I read this book, I kept thinking about my own recent choices in which I put work first and wondered whether I had started straining my own marriage.  I must have asked my husband at least 15 times over the course of 4 days whether he was OK with how things are going, so I’m pretty sure he’s happy that I am done with this book and will stop projecting Georgie’s problems into my life!  I think my inability to separate the story from real life, nevertheless, is simply proof that Rainbow Rowell is a great author who knows how to write relatable and believable characters.  If I had had the energy to stay up all night reading, I definitely would have finished this book in one big gulp.

Happy Reading!

The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith

Geography of You and MeWith her parents off traveling all the time and her brothers away at school, Lucy has learned to enjoy being alone much of the time.  Since she doesn’t really have a lot of friends, let alone a boyfriend, and rarely leaves her apartment except for school, her parent’s aren’t even worried to leave her alone in the apartment as they travel the world.  They figure, apparently, that she can’t get into too much trouble on her own.  Lucy’s whole world gets flipped upside down, though, the day she gets stuck in an elevator with Owen during a massive blackout.  Lucy had been heading up to her family’s 24th floor apartment and Owen was heading up to the roof to escape his basement apartment (he lives there because his father recently became the building superintendent).  After getting rescued, the two wander the dark streets of NYC and enjoy the fantastic world in which ice cream vendors give away their melting wares and stars are actually visible above the city that never sleeps.  When the power comes back on, nevertheless, they are jarred back into their very different realities.  Lucy is soon whisked away to live with her family in Europe, because her dad got a major promotion, and Owen ends up heading west with his father, after he finds himself jobless again.  Based on a conversation they had about cheesy postcards (during the blackout), they end up staying in touch via postcards instead of the standard text messages and emails most teens now use.  Fans of Sarah Dessen-style romances should definitely read this book.

Happy Reading!