Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Anyone But You

"Anyone But You"  

Fiction, Paperback, 283 pages

I like this author, but my favorite book by her is still the first one I read, "Bet Me."

"Anyone But You" is fun light reading (chick lit) which I picked up and read on my anniversary get-a-way. A newly divorced 40 year old woman is settling quite happily into her new single life. By way of her new roommate, Fred, an "overweight, middle-aged, a bit smelly and obviously depressed" basset beagle mix, she meets her downstairs neighbor, Alex. Despite their 10 year age difference, she being the elder, they fight their instant attraction to each other and so the story goes….

As with most chic-lit the ending is obvious at the beginning. It offers the usual cast of quirky characters, adds the laughs and twists and allows a few hours break from the real world.

I recommend this for a good relaxing, bubble bath or hot tub read.

The Sledding Hill

"The Sledding Hill" 

Teen Fiction, Paperback, 230 pages

I am so overwhelmed by books I want to read at work. I can't exactly explain how this one popped up as 'next in line' because it wasn't on my "must read" list.

The author, Chris Crutcher is apparently better known for his work being banned from schools than the work itself. He deals with issues that are relevant to today's youth using language that much of our kids also use, whether within earshot or not. This book, however, deals more with the issue of banned books than social issues. The language is clean and controversial topics are barely touched on.

The story is presented by a character who is tragically killed in the first chapter. It is the story of his best friend, Eddie, who is dealing with the death of his father, three weeks earlier, as well as that of his friend. Eddie was the first to find each body.

Billy, the dead kid, decides to stay around for a while after his death to be sure his friend is okay, although he realizes his friend's life is a minute blip in time. With what Billy now understands and knows about the universe, this really isn't plausible, but without it, there would be no story. I find it kind of interesting how much of my reading lately, has to do with death and "life" after… Which makes me think about "The Laws of Attraction" which I will be reading soon, but I digress.

Only Billy and a few other people realize that Eddie is a very bright kid who apparently is ADHD. Through my own child development classes of the past I realize that people learn in different ways, some through sight, some through sound, some through writing, and some through motion. Eddie learns through motion. When he is moving is the only time his brain seems to be able to stay focused. When he is 'still' his mind bounces from one subject to another. It appears this bouncing is also what allows Billy the opportunity to present himself to Eddie, which of course makes Eddie believe he is crazy. 

When school starts in the fall Eddie's class is assigned a book by Chris Crutcher. A top student, athlete and head of the Youth for Christ club objects to the book and begins the process of getting it banned. The remainder of the book is the fight for and against banning the book and the final outcome, with the book being pulled from the school, along with many other authors' works written for youth. 

I started off really liking this book. The deaths and the afterlife and Billy's connection with his friend kept my attention and anticipation high. Where it lost me was at the point the book was introduced to the students.

Why? Because at this point the author made himself the center point of attention. As far as I can ascertain, the book itself ("Warren Peece") is fictional, but supposedly written by the author of the book I am reading. I cannot say exactly why that put me off, but it did. 

I finished the book, eventually getting beyond this annoyance. The ending was weak but overall the message of the book, censorship in our schools, was an important one. The author included three appendixes at the end of the book dealing with his experience of the issue. 

I have to believe that exposing our children to all the diversity and issues in the world, with our own parental loving guidance, will only strengthen them as adults. Sheltering them from the real world leaves them unprepared to deal with real issues. Like a vaccination, a little controlled bit of the disease makes us strong. I'd rather give my kids exposure to foul language, teen sex, drugs, diseases, etc. through books than through experience.

The Unusual Suspect

"The Unusual Suspect" 

Hardcover, 281 pages
 Pages read: 102
Yes, this book is by Steve Baldwin of the famous Baldwin brothers. It is his account of finding God, Christ and creation of his Christian ministry. The title is of course, a take off of the title of one of his more famous movies.
I hate to start books and not finish them. This sometimes causes me to quit reading for months, because if I don't finish what I am reading I can't start another book and therefore come to a reading stalemate. In the case of this book, since starting it I've read two other books and cannot seem to force myself to pick it back up again and finish it.
I've heard good reviews on this book and I do commend Mr. Baldwin for his enthusiasm and giving his life to God, but I found reading about it tedious. The book is too full of Stephen Baldwin who is too full of himself. He constantly reminds the reader that we should be so amazed that someone like "little Stevie B" has found God and a purpose in life. 

I'm happy for you Mr. Baldwin, but perhaps this book wasn't one of your better ventures.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The Ultimate Gift

The Ultimate Gift 
Hard cover, 154 (easy) pages.
As with much of what I am reading now days, this book came to my attention when a customer called and asked me to set aside three copies for her.  I later picked up a copy myself and began reading it on my breaks.  Although it's a short, quick read, I became frustrated wanting to finish it faster than my breaks would allow and finally bought it and finished it that evening at home. I had put aside the other book I was reading in favor of this one.  
The Ultimate Gift is quite simply about our values, morals and ethics and the disservice we do our children when we protect them from the issues that allow them to learn and develop these things.  The book is written in story form and involves a spoiled rich kid.  I have to say it was never lost on me, however, that you don't have to be rich to be "protected" from life's lessons.  I saw so much of myself and my family in each chapter.  
In my bookstore this book is found in the Religious Fiction section which bothers me just a little.  Although a belief in God is established in the story, the story is far from Religious.  It applies to any and all religions or even none at all.  I categorize the story as inspirational.  
The story follows a young adult through the year following his Great Uncle's death as he prepares to 'earn' the ultimate gift his Great Uncle has left him in his will.  He experiences a new gift each month, never knowing what the final, ultimate gift will be.  At the beginning he is sullen and disappointed at not receiving an immediate inheritance as did the rest of the heirs. His growth over the year as a result of his monthly "gifts" from his uncle transforms him into the adult his uncle saw the potential of him becoming.  
I very much enjoyed the way the book was written and 'gifts' presented to the main character.  It would be hard to overlook, in my opinion, that these gifts are also being suggested to the reader. It could take less than the year involved in the story for the reader to obtain the ultimate gift, or it could take more.  Either way, I believe the reader will come away from the story inspired to reach the ultimate gift for him/herself. 
The Ultimate Gift is on my recommended reading list.

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

The Giver

Lois Lowy

MM paper back. 180 pages.

This is a Newbery Award winning book that has been calling me since I began working in the book store. I picked it up with a few other books by Lois Lowry that caught my attention.

Written for young adults and juveniles I found the story and characters a little underdeveloped for adult readers, although probably just right for younger readers. I mention this because I have had people of all ages looking for it.

The story takes place in the future and follows a twelve year old child into the first year of training for his "assignment," the job he will perform for his community for the rest of his life. His assignment is to become the Receiver of all ancient memories. There is only ever one Receiver until he/she becomes old and near release, and then a new one is trained. The assignment is a very honored one, but causes isolation and pain to the Receiver. The title, The Giver, comes from the boy, now the new Receiver, questioning what he should call his mentor, the old Receiver. The old Receiver instructs him to call him the Giver.

In this futuristic world "sameness" is what is important. The Receiver has the memories of the past which support the value of "sameness." However, both the old and new Receiver can see that "sameness" means a myriad of things not experienced. Sameness equals safe, no conflict. Different equals choice which may not be a good thing.

The end of the story was very ambiguous to me. If I were a middle school reader I might have thought it was a happy ending. As an adult with the knowledge and experience of age, I am not sure if the ending was happy or sad. Although it came very close to wrapping it up, it stops just short of spelling out the truth of it.

I was left to ponder what purpose a world of sameness could have. But ultimately that took me full circle to wonder what purpose the world as it exists today has. Does anything we do have any real affect on anything? Can we say that our purpose/existence will matter in a thousand years? Perhaps, if sameness is all you know then it's purpose is as meaningful as any other existence. 

The Giver is an interesting look at a potential future. Possibly as scary in it's own way as George Orwell's 1984. 

If you clicked on The Giver link and went to the Lois Lowry website featuring this book you will see mention of the cover design.  This book is in several sections of our store, Kids, Teens, and I think it may be in the Adult Fiction or Science Fiction &Fantasy area as well.  I purposefully picked up a copy with a different cover because the old man pictured on the cover really creeped me out.  I thought it was interesting that others thought so highly of it.  Oh well.