Saturday, May 26, 2012

Divergent (Book 1 of Divergent Trilogy)

Author: Veronica Roth
Paperback: 576 pages
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books (February 2012)
Genre: YA dystopian fantasy
Rating: 5 out of 5

In short:  from book description
In Beatrice Prior’s dystopian Chicago world, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can’t have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

My thoughts:
Beatrice, or Tris as she's known once she makes her choice is actually a Divergent, someone who shows an affinity for several different factions, which for some reason makes her dangerous to all factions and must be hidden for as long as possible.

Like Katniss, this is another strong teen protagonist who is small but mighty, able to kick butt while learning a lot about themselves. As usual in YA books now, the adults are not to be trusted. Trust yourself only. Although it fits the formula of many other YA books, this is still a good ride.

2nd book: Insurgent 

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Head Off & Split: Nikky Finney

Genre: Poety Author: Nikky Finney
Paperback: 80 pages
Publisher: Triquarterly (February 2011)

In short:

The poems in this 2011 National Book Award for poetry winning collection span the historical with the personal. She is an African American poet writing about African American issues, but she is really writing  universal, colorless, humane themes that span space and time.

My thoughts:
This is not a YA read, but it is a powerful read. Finney's control of love and rage, her musicality with language, her passion ~ good writing is ageless.

Hope you enjoyed her acceptance speech.

Friday, May 4, 2012

King Dork

Author: Frank Portman
Audiobook: Read by Lincoln Hoppe (12 hours, 10 minutes)
Publisher of audiobook: Listening Library Audiobook
Rating: 3 out of 5

From the author:
Tom Henderson (a.k.a. King Dork, Chi-mo, Hender-fag, and Sheepie) is a typical American high school loser until he discovers the book, The Catcher in the Rye, that will change the world as he knows it. When Tom discovers his deceased father’s copy of the Salinger classic, he finds himself in the middle of several interlocking conspiracies and at least half a dozen mysteries involving dead people, naked people, fake people, ESP, blood, a secret code, guitars, monks, witchcraft, the Bible, girls, the Crusades, a devil head, and rock and roll. And it all looks like it’s just the tip of a very odd iceberg of clues that may very well unravel the puzzle of his father’s death and–oddly–reveal the secret to attracting semihot girls.
Being in a band could possibly be the secret to the girl thing–but good luck finding a drummer who can count to four. 
My thoughts:
Portman, aka Dr. Frank, is a singer/songwriter/guitarist of the East Bay punk band the Mr. T. Experience, so it's appropriate that in his first novel, his protagonist is a young musician and awkward teen. Tom (Chi-mo) reminded me of Arnold Spirit from Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, only not as funny or endearing.

I'm not sure why I didn't like Tom. He definitely is not as off putting to me as Holden Caulfield, but I didn't feel myself rooting for him at all and I was a little irritated that after 12 hours of listening, the whole mystery aspect didn't quite end in a neat little package. 12 hours and there are pieces dangling. Ugh.

The perk and the best part of the audiobook is Portman's original songs that follow the reading. It's one thing to talk about songs that the protagonist is writing, but to actually have the author create those songs and perform them - way cool! The songs on the audiobook are: King Dork - I Wanna Ramone You - Thinking of Suicide - I'm Still Not Done Loving You, Mama- Gooey Glasses.

Manga Friday: Baby's In Black

Title: Baby's in Black: Astrid Kirchherr, Stuart Sutcliffe, and the Beatles
Author: Arne Bellstorf
Hardcover: 208 pages
Publisher: First Second (May 8, 2012)

In short:
 The story of the Beatles in the early years as they were putting in their 10,000 hours in Hamburg, Germany. Before they were "The Beatles," there was Stuart Sutcliffe, their "fifth Beatle," who fell in love and was engaged to Astrid Kirchherr, a young photographer in Hamburg. This is her story.

My thoughts:
Mood factor - this graphic novel in black and white sets a wonderful tone. The simplicity of the lines makes it feel rich; not overdone.

Plot - I love graphic novel memoirs because the author/illustrator is constricted by the genre and must synthesize the messy parts of anyone's life into the absolute essentials. At its most essential, this is Astrid's story of love and loss and hope.

Art - There is something comforting about the elements that weave throughout this book: Astrid's cigarette smoke that chain smokes its way through the pages; the winter trees and black scarf that begin and end the book, and the lyrics from "Love me Tender" blowing on the breeze.


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