25 May 2011

Wither: The Chemical Garden Trilogy

Wither: The Chemical Garden Trilogy
Lauren DeStefano
young adult/adult science fiction/romance

Sixteen year old Rhine lives in a society after a great catastrophe. Scientists had figured out how to engineer embryos to live long lives and be perfect human beings, but something went dreadfully wrong and now women only live to be 20 and men only live to be 25. In addition, the world's land has been wiped out except for the U.S.A.
Rhine is living a meager existence with her brother when she is kidnapped and forced to marry a rich architect. Will Rhine resign herself to a life of relative luxury, but with a lack of freedom or will she try to escape?
This story is well told and suspenseful, but the science behind it is definitely lacking. There is some kind of mention of a virus causing people to die, but this doesn't make sense. Is it genetic or a virus? Also, it doesn't make sense that the world except the U. S. A. would be underwater. Elevations of land vary greatly across the globe. As far as I know North America is not the highest continent above sea level.
If we suspend the science part, this is a good tragic romance, teen angst tale. I am waiting for the 2nd and 3rd books to come out since a lot of things are left unresolved at the end of book 1.
The cover and interior design are clever - alluding to genetic tables with the headers, footers, and chapter marks.
The title of the series isn't very appealing. Who came up with "Chemical Garden Trilogy"?

Crystal the Snow Fairy

Crystal the Snow Fairy
Rainbow Magic
The Weather Fairies
Daisy Meadows and Georgie Ripper
children's fiction, about a 2nd grade reading level

This is the second series of books about the Rainbow Magic Fairies from Scholastic.
In this series Rachel and Kirsty, human girls, must help fairies get some magical feathers back from Jack Frost who is using the magic in the feathers to wreak havoc with the weather.
These are quick and easy reads for girls. Most readers will want to read the whole series, which reminds me to get on hold for the next one in this series - Abigail the Breeze Fairy. Public and school librarians should make sure to buy the whole series. They come as a boxed set, so this is not a problem.

20 May 2011

Garden Spells

Garden Spells
Sarah Addison Allen
Romance fiction

I read a glowing review of a different Sarah Addison Allen book, but I thought I would go back and read her first book to see what she had to offer.
This book features sisters who grew up in North Carolina. One embraced her family's home and traditions, while the other couldn't wait to "get out of Dodge". Now the prodigal sister has returned, running from her abusive spouse. The sisters both need to break out of their routines and learn to fully live again. One needs to settle down some and one needs to be shaken up some.
The book features some "light" mysticism/mythology about herb lore in a way reminiscent of Sharyn Crumb or Phyllis Whitney.
This is a nice, warm, comfortable book which would be excellent for summer reading - preferably while sitting on a bench in a shady herb garden under an apple tree.

Here are some other books that the author recommends:

Clifford's Class Trip

Clifford's Class Trip
Norman Bridwell

Clifford the Big Red Dog and Emily Elizabeth and her class are taking a field trip to the aquarium and the outdoor science museum. The plot is the same as every other Clifford book: being a really, really big dog causes some trouble and being a really, really big dog offers some unconventional solutions to problems.

Oh, that Clifford! We all love him!

Girl in Translation

Girl in Translation
Jean Kwok
YA or adult fiction
and the book on CD Narrated by Grayce Wey

Kim and her mother immigrate from Hong Kong some time before it reverts to Chinese control (probably 1965-1980). They are sponsored by her mother’s sister who sets them up in a horrible, condemned apartment and gets Kim’s mother a job in a clothing sweat shop in Chinatown, New York. The mother deals with very long work days and Kim has to help her mother at the factory and at home whenever she is not in school. Kim struggles with cultural assimilation and extreme poverty.
The most memorable character is the "evil aunt". Kim's aunt does the minimal amount to help Kim and her mother to save face and show family loyalty, but really she treats them like dirt.
The book on CD features a narrator with a strong Chinese accent. I guess this makes sense. In the printed version, the main character hears some words wrong and the author puts them down in italics as Kim heard them wrong.

Topics for discussion:
Plight of Chinese immigrants;
Plight of immigrants;
Sweat shops;
Poverty in America

Book Thief

Book Thief
Markus Zusak
Young Adult/Adult Historical Fiction

I wasn't thrilled to read yet another World War II book (Yawn, aren't there enough of these already)? This was a pretty good book, however.
A girl is in a foster home in Nazi Germany. Her father is unknown and her mother has been accused of being a Communist. Times are tough with food shortages and poverty abounding. Liesel witnesses the deportation of Jews and experiences bombings on her village. She encounters a number of memorable characters as she grows up and becomes part of the Bund Deutscher M├Ądel, or League of German Girls. Along the way she and her friends take to stealing apples and other things we today take for granted, like books. There are some great book burning scenes, but I won't ruin them for you by telling you too much.
Highly reviewed by many, many sources. Winner of many awards.
It was hard to figure out this book at first and I almost gave up on it a number of times during the first 30 pages, but then it got less confusing. The unusual point of view of the book is first person from the view of a personification of Death. Death tells the story about how Liesel eludes him at many turns where others are taken into his grasp.

Every Man in this Village Is a Liar

Every Man in this Village Is a Liar
Megan Stack
adult nonfiction
This book was written by a L. A. Times Middle East Correspondent telling about her experiences interviewing people and living in the Middle East for the last 10 years. This book is very timely and informative about how screwed up Middle Eastern politics is. It is hard to know who to trust and who is telling the truth to a female foreign correspondent. If we choose this book, we may have some strong opinions being expressed by the patrons about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and a number of other places that are currently in the news: wars in Israel, Syria, Lebanon, the role of women in Saudia Arabia and other Muslim countries, etc. This acronym kept coming to mind: SNAFU.
Most of our readers will be familiar with some, but not all of the places she discusses. I didn't know all of the words she used. Sometimes she explained them (like "mujahideen") and sometimes she didn't. It really made me think about all the things that are going on over there and how our government and our troops are involved or not involved.
Very timely. Very relevant today. Should appeal to both men and women as it is a war book, but by a woman author.

Dry Grass of August

Dry Grass of August
Anna Jean Mayhew
Young Adult or Adult Historical Fiction

Jubie is a Southern 13 year old in 1954. Her family travels through the South on summer vacation with their "girl" the "mammy", Mary. All kinds of awkward situations arise with segregated hotels, beaches, restaurants, gas stations, etc.
I think the publisher probably saw the popularity of "The Help" and tried to find a book that would appeal to the same population.
I was reading this and a 7 year old girl became fascinated with the cover: It has butterflies coming out of a jar. The cover drew her in and made her ask about it.
Not as substantial as similar books, but the ending gets pretty serious.
Overall it was a pretty good read for teen and adult females.

17 May 2011

New Art from Old Books


Atlanta artist Brian Dettmer creates memorable works of art by slicing, whittling and tearing into books. Mark Strassmann reports on Dettmer's vision for a vanishing form of art.