Wednesday, March 21, 2007


I just finished Waves, by Sharon Dogar. This is a heartbreaking, sensuous novel. Set on a beach in England during the summer, we follow Hal, a 15 year old boy, as he slowly joins the group of youth who endlessly hang out on the beach, meets a beautiful charming girl named Jackie, gets annoyed by his little sister Sarz, and all the other things a teen at the beach for the summer might do. On the other hand, his home life is dark and lonely; his older sister Charley, who he used to be so close to, isn't here this year. Instead, she is left behind at the hospital, still in a coma from a mysterious accident that occurred while they were all at the beach last summer. Her presence is everywhere; he thinks he hears her voice, and he is starting to remember things about what happened last summer. He remembers a shadowy presence and wonders who it was. He finds he is driven to find out what happened to Charley.

This novel starts out strong, and ends with a grand finale, but somewhere in the middle it seems to circle around itself, almost relentlessly. This could be interpreted as another manifestation of the ocean metaphor that is used throughout the book, but it did get to be a little much for me. It was intense, and and found myself wanting to get on with the plot a bit faster. However, it was an effective device. I found the descriptions of first love to be accurate and touching. This book would be suitable for young adults of either gender aged 13 and up.

One other interesting tidbit: this book is "endorsed" by Philip Pullman, a successful author whose works I completely love. I'm not really sure what the "endorsed" term means in this context. He says it's good? The Pullman Seal of Approval? I mean, I'm glad Pullman liked the book, and I admit that seeing a quote from him on the cover made me more interested in the book, but I'm a little annoyed by the whole idea of endorsement. Does he read and endorse lots of books? Are they neighbors and somehow she got him to read her book? Are they secret lovers? Who knows!

Sharon Dogar
Published by Chicken House, April 2007
ISBN13: 978-0-439-87180-8
344 pages
Ages 13+
Young Adult, Family relationships, sexuality, mystery

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

I can't finish non-fiction/Origin

Apparently I'm incapable of finishing non-fiction books. I was reading Kitchen Confidential, which I mentioned a few days ago, and then I suddenly lost interest. I have like 50 pages to go, and I just ... don't care. I've read 1.5 other novels since I put it down.

I finished "An Abundance of Katherines" and now I'm halfway through "Origin", one of my free books from the ALA midwinter conference that I got. Man, those free books are some excellent books, I have to say. I think the publishers picked the cream of the crop to give away; as a marketing move it's pretty brilliant. This one is a mystery, written in the first person by a woman who is a fingerprint specialist at the police, but she's not all quite stable mentally...
some of her observations in the book are very intense. She focuses on odd details, smells, the move of a person's finger, the direction of the wind. It's very unusual and quite captivating. I'm almost unconcerned about the mystery of the plot because the character solving it is so ... mysterious. I'm sure it's done on purpose. Very well done so far.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

An Abundance of Katherines

An Abundance of Katherines
By John Green
Published by Dutton Juvenile, September 21, 2006
Reality Fiction, Mathematics, Relationships
215 pages plus appendix
ISBN13: 978-0525476887
Grades 9 and up

Freshly heartbroken from getting dumped by the nineteenth Katherine in a row, former child-prodigy Colin (“not a prodigy, not yet a genius”) Singleton and his best friend Hassan decide to take a road trip. Without a clear destination in mind, they drive off in Colin’s hearse in hopes of finding something, anything, to distract themselves. Colin compulsively makes anagrams of words and finds connections between seemingly random things, and Hassan makes jokes out of everything. The two boys -- Colin a fresh high school graduate and Hassan a little more than a year into his “taking a year off before college” phase -- find themselves in Gutshot, Tennessee, the final resting place of Franz Ferdinand, the former Archduke of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Also in this town lives an intriguing girl who is not, for once, named Katherine. Through a series of incidents, Colin is inspired to derive a mathematical formula that can model and predict all romantic relationships, which, if successful, can finally mark Colin’s passage from prodigy to genius.

John Green has created an assembly of characters likeable, believable, and identifiable. Their interactions with each other feel real, with creative, funny, and sometimes completely unexpected dialog. Although Colin is filled with facts, languages, and anagram talents, he can’t quite seem to figure out human relationships or himself. Hassan, filled with humor and likeability, can’t seem to motivate himself to get on with his life or take anything seriously. The road trip and the town they land in serve to knock some sense into both of them, and hopefully bring some to the reader as well. With its humor and clever feel, this book would appeal to teens and adults, but some swearing and sexual scenes might keep this from being ideal for younger teens.

Finally, it should be noted that the math used throughout the book does not have to be understood to enjoy the story, but it is real math and those with some math skills should enjoy the way it augments the plot. (For those who need some math touch up, there is an appendix at the end which further explains the math used in the book.)

Monday, March 5, 2007

Kitchen Confidential

I'm reading Kitchen Confidential right now; it's a memoir that serves simultaneously as a kind of expose on the restaurant industry. It's pretty funny and quite explicit. All sorts of sex, drugs, and
violence that one might expect from a hip-hop crew rather than from a bunch of cooks at a three star restaurant.

I've started feeling a little suspicious about my restaurant food since I've been reading this. The author says to never eat fish on Mondays, due to the fish being a little old by then, and the cook is doing his darnedist to just get it out of the kitchen ... so when I suddenly realized I was eating the all-you-can-eat fish and chips special at the local bar and grill on Monday night, I was almost put out of my appetite. But then, I realized, fish and chips are pretty disgusting to begin with, and I love them. So who cares if its a little old or whatever. I eat it for the grease! The ketchup! Then I thought of something else the author said, don't be afraid of your food. Just eat what you want. Cheers!