Thursday, January 30, 2014


It's been a busy's what I got done

Danforth's book is all about being gay....not just being gay; but being gay in a small town.......and Cameron Post has the added "fun" of having lost her parents in a car accident the same night she was experimenting by kissing a girl...and she forever attributes her experiment to the death of her parents; thus she endures a crushing guilt....a guilt that is expanded upon by her guardianship by her uber-Christian and Evangelical leaning aunt.......who eventually sends her to a camp to be cured.   I appreciate the language of this book; I appreciate the thought that went into the character development and the plot........but I just couldn't like this book.   It's probably my own fault; since bringing evangelical and/or pentacostal "super" Christians is bound to hit my "hot button".....based on my background and leanings which earns any book that hits that button an instant "ugh" from me......we all have our buttons, I'm aware of mine, so I'm trying not to judge this book unfairly from my own prejudices.....but it's hard.......the whole "I'm gay and angsty and everything bad that happens to me is because I'm gay and god hates me" thing just rubs me the wrong way......but hey, I'm also the person who still refuses to read Fault in Our Stars by John Green because I don't feel like being depressed; so if you are a fan of literature and deep thoughts and analysis of American Society and all that in a novel; this one is for you.....if not; maybe skip it.

Now it's time to balance things out.....THIS book isn't about being gay (even though it sorta is)'s more about life...and acceptance and honesty.  The basic story is about two 15 year old boys who meet at the community pool and become best friends....and all the parts of being a friend that go with that......there are so many amazing moments in this book and Ari's interior dialogue on why he is such a bad friend or a terrible person just ring so true for someone who is coming to terms with SO many huge why is his brother in prison.....why doesn't his dad talk about the war....and then boils down to favorite point of all...."why would he be ashamed of loving Dante"......and the fact that the parents are SO supportive and loving and real just as much as the teens are make this one of my favorite books of the year......I avoided it because of all the awards; but this one.....THIS one, I agree maybe there's hope for me......I CAN love "real" literature......=)

Further proof of that?   I actually really enjoyed In Darkness; the Printz Winner for 2013...that I put off reading and put off....and now that we're talking about it for the Garden State Book Award Nominee process; and now that they announced 2014 winners I was just embarrassed to admit I hadn't read last year's I did....and I really, really was surprised at how good it was.  The biggest problem is a terrible cover (the one to the left is for the paperback; which is better than the hardcover by a mile); and then the subject of intertwining the stories of a boy buried in a hospital following the earthquake in Haiti and the historical story of Toussanint l'Ouverture; Haitian slave turned revolutionary leader in the 1800s....well putting those together just sounded awful and educational and "Literary"......but I dove in.....and what I found was a story of hope in a hopeless situation......a story of how being made to feel like nothing can make you yearn to be something in a way that nothing else can.......I learned a bit more of L'Ouverture; and will probably now read a biography to get the factual stuff straight from the fictional elements......It is truly hard to explain this book; but the two stories ARE interwoven and yet separated....and I really loved both....

Sadly, Trinity is simply a rather boring subject put into a rather boring graphic novel's the scientific (VERY) story of the first atomic bomb.....all of it.....honestly, science is not my first love and reading about protons and neutrons and elements.....just. made. me. very. sleepy.   So, if you love science; you'll love this....if not; you'll be dreadfully bored.....

My Friend Dahmer is one that I spotted on a list somewhere; Garden State maybe...or maybe somewhere else......and it really is a graphic novel looking at Jeffrey Dahmer through the eyes of someone who went to school with him; and all of the facts that he could find so that readers could try and get a sense of how something like this happens.....fascinating book; and even though it's about a serial killer; you don't really see a lot of violence "on screen"......definitely an interesting read

Throne of Glass is one that I had been wanting to read forever; and now that it was assigned; perfect excuse to cut loose and enjoy myself....and I did.  Celaena (which I pronounced Saleena in my head) is an assassin.....she was caught and sentenced and then given a chance to get her life back; except she first has to beat every other killer type person in a battle royale for the title Royal Champion....and then she has to promise to kill whomever she is told to kill for four years; and being indebted to the very person who sentenced you; and who just might have been responsible for the death of everyone you love isn't something to take lightly......but Celeaena has decided to do it; and then finds herself not only in a physical battle; but in a mental and magical one as well because someone or someTHING is killing off champions and she might be on the menu.  
Maas does a great job of making Celeana a believable multi-layered person....yes, she's good at killing; but she's not a monster.....and her backstory is alluded to but never defined completely; leaving a mystery for the sequel to solve...which I shall dive into as soon as I'm allowed to read my own choices again......This is a GREAT book; intrigue, romance, magic, and lots of fight scenes......SOLD!  

Now THIS book is my answer to everyone who loved to death the John Green "Fault in Our Stars" book.......this is also a book with a girl with cancer....but this one is full of humor and love and's got moments Greg is truly lost for words in the face of Rachel's illness; which happens.  It's also truly thoughtful and angry and sad and all of the things you are when someone is dying and you can't do anything about it.  But, and here's the important part, the author acknowledges that all of it sucks...that there is no deep reason; no soliloquy from the "cancer girl" tragic love story....just an acknowledgement that sometimes people die and it SUCKS......Speaking as someone who has been on both sides of that story (having had cancer and lost people to it as well) it just works better......and feels pandering, no thought provoking literary themes; just reality .....sometimes you cry and laugh and sometimes you just fall apart......I really loved reading this book; and I was afraid of it; but I'm glad I read it; give it a might like it too.....

A Game for Swallows is the story of a family living in Lebanon during the civil is simply told; with simple pictures (much in the style of Marjane Satrapi) and a powerful story of how; in the end; we're all human......and sometimes wars and politics don't care about humanity as much as they care about winning.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014


Vacation disrupted things a bit....illness disrupted it even more......but here is the ginormous list.....(it's actually not that big, I was *gasp* catching up on tv & movies on vacation and didn't read as much as I could've)

This collection edited by Mitali Perkins is exactly what it says....being a very short collection (only 10)...but the authors are amazing and the stories are very good.  If you are looking for a discussion starter, or a look at diversity selections; or even a really fast read; this is it  =)

The Iron Traitor is the latest Kagawa title; and the second featuring Ethan Chase (The Call of the Forgotten series).  Kagawa once again weaves an entrancing tale of suspense mixed with teen romance and angst.....Ethan is still struggling to deal with his girlfriend's health issues, and now his nephew has disappeared and he needs to find him before he does something awful......I can't say too much more without giving away major plot points; but if you love stories of the Fae; you'll love this and all the others in the series.

This is a WWII title (which is kind of obvious by the cover)...and written by author well known for suspenseful stories.  Sniper delivers....firstly by giving us a story of a young teen girl who becomes a sniper in order to fight back the Germans....secondly by setting it in Russia (not a place heavily discussed in war fiction) and mostly just because having the girl be the main character in a war drama; not hiding who she is or pretending to be a man; but genuinely roped into the war machine through circumstance....makes it seem like it could happen to any of us.   In fact, the author doesn't even tell us right away the gender of the sniper....because the majority of people would say "girls can't do that"....but they did....=)    This is a well told tale based in facts but not heavily laden down with them.  I highly recommend it for anyone looking for historical fiction that isn't so.....dreadfully boring......

Now, as a contrast; there is Shadow on the Mountain....which also recounts a part of the war not often discussed..Norway, and it's underground resistance.....but sadly this one was just a bit more.....historical.....and predictable.  It's a fine story, with plenty of suspense; especially as Espen ramps up his involvement as a part of the Resistance....but I wasn't as excited....even with the chase across the mountain....but maybe I am a hard sell; as historical fiction is not my favorite so it takes an extraordinary title to make me forget that it is; after all, historical fiction.

I promptly read a fantasy novel to cleanse my palate of all the war stories.....weirdly enough; this is still kind of a war story....but in this one, it's a sort of secret war.  This is the 4th volume of the Heir Chronicles; and shows the reader pretty quickly that all has not been resolved with wizards, sorcerers and what-all.  This one features brand new characters:  Jonah has been warped by a poison attack on a commune he lived in as a's always been very mysterious what caused the mass deaths there and he is determined to find out.  Along the way he meets Emma; who knows nothing of the Guilds or the magical world; but belongs nonetheless.....the question is; is Jonah on the side of right or wrong.....and can Emma figure out what's going on before it's too late?
A good continuation of the series....and a quick read too.

Sons of the 613 was a great story.  Ostensibly it is a simple tale of a young man being "schooled" by his older brother in the ways of being a man before his bar mitzvah.   The reality is deeper than that.....there is a real rivalry between these brother because Josh is the rough and tumble type of guy that everyone is supposed to be; good at sports, savage in a fight; and even cognizant of all the Jewish laws and rituals....while Isaac is more intellectual, not physical at all and scared of everything...including his brother.  Will Josh turn Isaac into a "real man"?  Exactly what is that anyway?
I love this very intimate family drama....and I really love the examination of exactly what defines a well as how, as siblings, you will always feel in competition and have to work on a better resolution to these conflicts as you grow up.  I highly recommend this book....but beware; Isaac encounters some seedy and adult scenarios while on his Quest so be prepared.

Amal Unbound Book Review by: Raheem Ahmad

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