Tuesday, May 24, 2011


Title: Leverage
Author: Joshua C. Cohen
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile (Feb 2011)
Rating:  5 out of 5

Danny, a sophomore star on the gymnastics team is one narrator and Kurt, a massive, scarred, stuttering fullback is the other voice. Through them we see the seamy side of high school, of sports, of drugs, of bullying. This is a realistic, gritty look at a group of boys who all hold different kinds of pain and humiliation, and who are swept up in a society that allows bad behavior and turns an apathetic eye on the real struggles of man/boys to survive in a sometimes horrific world.

My thoughts:
This book is so raw my heart bleeds for these boys, even the ones who I want to despise. What makes this book so realistic is the emotional ineptitude of these boys who, unlike girls, don't rely on relationships and group talk to solve their problems. They don't have that skill, and as a society, I think we perpetuate the expectation that our boys will be strong, silent men, both physically and mentally. We hold our athletes, even our high school athletes up on a pedestal as if they were somehow more heroic than the boy on the math team, or the boy who may not excel in sports, but is an avid reader, or a video game afficianado.  It breeds a social class of the haves and have nots. For boys on the outs, it's especially dangerous because we as parents don't always know how to cue in on the unsaid issues. For some of us parents, we want our child to be the sports star, the popular one. We invest time and money on private coaches. We enjoy the limelight. This book calls us on that.

I think this is a hard hitting, satisfying book for high school males, even reluctant readers should try and tackle it or even listen to it as an audiobook. Half way through the book, I told my own son that if this book did not have a satisfying ending for me, I was going to be REALLY irritated! But as I finish the book I realize that as a mother of boys/men and as an educator, I really need to look at this book as a wake up call to those of us who make our livings by working with young people. This book keeps us on our toes. Now what do we do about this?

Monday, May 9, 2011

Black Jack, Volume 2

Author: Osamu Tezuka
Softcover: 303 pages
Publisher: Vertical, Inc. (2008)
Genre: Manga
Translation: Camellia Nieh
Rating: 5 out of 5

My thoughts:
Tezuka, labeled as the "father of manga" on his website, develops a complex character in Black Jack. He is arrogant and brash, but he's also sensitive and patient. Volume 2 introduces Pinoko, a girl that he pieced together like Dr. Frankenstein and who introduces herself as his wife even though he clearly sees her as a daughter. Volume 2 also allows the reader to see a more humanistic and vulnerable side of Black Jack. I'm liking this series. It's complex and philosophical.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Black Jack, Volume 1

Author: Osamu Tezuka
Softcover: 288 pages
Genre: medical manga, series
Publisher: Vertical, Inc. (2008)
Translation: Camellia Nieh
Rating: 5 of 5

From the back cover:

From the creator of Astro Boy and Kimba comes the epochal work that has been the God of Manga's most popular series among adult readers in Japan and most anticipated stateside release in recent years. Black Jack chronicles the travails of an enigmatic surgeon-for-hire who is more good than he pretends to be. 
My thoughts:
I judge the worth of a Hawaii public library by the young adult section, so when I visited the Kaimuki public library, I was impressed by their manga collection. Manga, even softcover ones, are very pricey, and this library had a large collection. This series caught my eye because of its distinctive black and grey cover in a market where many of the manga assault the readers in color. Volume one has a simple four square panel that opens up in the middle like one of those children's paper games, but inside the opening is a drawing of an open heart in surgery. It seems like every cover will have a close up of some surgical procedure.

The story is a Robin Hoodesque story of an unlicensed surgeon who will come in and do impossible surgeries for a huge cash reward. Others balk at his fees, but when faced with the impossible, everyone seeks him out. Despite his seeming greed, he does have a heart of gold.

Although it is fiction, Tezuka, who died in 1989, actually finished his medical training but decided to concentrate on manga instead. This series was originally written in the 1970s and it is only recently being released in America, but the medical storyline has a physician's realism to it which makes this appealing to adults, kind of like House in manga form.


Sunday, May 1, 2011

On The Jellicoe Road

Author: Melina Marchetta
Audiobook: narrated by Rebecca Macauley
Listening Length: 8 hours  53 minutes
Publisher: Bolinda Publishing Pty Ltd (February 9, 2009)

Summary from Product Review:
Taylor Markham is now a senior at the Jellicoe School, and has been made leader of the boarders. She is responsible for keeping the upper hand in the territory wars with the townies, and the cadets who camp on the edge of the school's property over summer. She has to keep her students safe and the territories enforced and to deal with Jonah Griggs - the leader of the cadets and someone she'd rather forget. But what she needs to do, more than anything, is unravel the mystery of her past and find her mother - who abandoned her on the Jellicoe Road six years before. The only connection to her past, Hannah, the woman who found her, has now disappeared, too, and he only clue Taylor has about Hannah and her mother's past is a partially written manuscript about a group of five kids from the Jellicoe School, 20 years ago.
Third time's a charm for me. I tried to listen to this book a couple times before, but this is not an easy book to start and stop because the listener gets snippets of the multiple story lines. It took me two hours of uninterrupted time until I felt comfortable enough to stop the audio book and not feel like I was totally lost.

If you have patience, or a long flight, car drive, etc., once you get into this story and all the intersection and mystery, it is a very worthy read. I enjoyed the romance mixed with intrigue. It was like putting a large 1000 piece puzzle together without the sample picture of what it's supposed to look like.  

I really don't have much time to read anymore with my new teaching position and starting my doctoral work, but I'm glad I didn't give up on this book. It was worth the wait.


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