Thursday, September 30, 2010

The End of a Series...or Is It?

The final book in The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod was released, and of course I read it immediately. It was not disappointing. And since this is a series so many of my students read, I won't even tell you that obviously it is going to continue as he goes off to college, because even that might be giving too much away. My lips are sealed!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Sharp Teeth by Toby Barlow

Knowing someone isn't coming back
doesn't mean you ever stop waiting. (210)

I have to admit
I loved this book
but I also have to admit that
I was very relieved
as I read
to know that my dogs
were not
at the foot of my bed.

It has beautiful words
At night he lies down on the benches and contemplates
the deception of starlight, long dead suns making small lights
almost bright enough to guide the way. (220)

And it has profound observations
In the car, the rap song has every other word beeped out
as if the small words themselves were a dangerous thing, and not
the ideas of violence and waste and ridiculous luxury
that the songs clutch in their rough embrace.
Everyone is always looking in the wrong direction, 
we worry about our lovers while losing our jobs
we stress out about cancer while our children run away
we ponder the stars while burning the earth.
Lark used to say the bullet we're running from 
is almost never the one that hits us. (92)

But mostly it is full of
dogs and men and
one woman per pack
and a really good story that almost makes you
forget you are reading an epic poem.

(Hide it from the children
and possibly the dogs so
they don't realize we know too much.)

Sunday, September 12, 2010

A Double Shot of Books for Grown-ups

It is so unusual for me to have time to read two books that I won't ever recommend to my students--let alone two in a row. And yet, that is what I've just done!

Friday morning, I finished Beautiful Lies by Lisa Unger. If it hadn't been the first week of school, I would have been done sooner--but I kept falling asleep as I tried to read! (This had nothing to do with the book, by the way, and everything to do with my level of sheer exhaustion as I readjusted away from my summer schedule.) It was such a compelling book--quite well-written, and it raised as many questions as it answered. Ridley Jones saves a young boy's life, and the fall-out of this heroic act is not what anyone could have predicted. A few weeks later, she receives an envelope that contains an old photo of a young family with the terrible question, "Are you my daughter?" Her adventure--at times harrowing, at times heart-breaking--begins.  I am not often one for the crime/thriller genre, but this was a wonderful departure

The hardest thing to do upon finishing a really, really good book is to find another book that doesn't disappoint. But last night I picked up Rebecca Barry's brilliant Later, at the Bar and didn't put it down--well, except to sleep--until I was done. This "novel in stories" allowed me to enjoy years with old friends while here in the comfort of my living room. Set in upstate New York (an hour or so from here, I'd guess), this collection of short stories allows the reader to see the world through the eyes of various patrons of Lucy's Tavern. We laugh, we love, and we live with them in the pages of this book, which was perhaps the best book I have read this year. It was, quite simply, real. There is no judgment in its pages, just the true story of a group of regulars. When I reread this book (which I will), I will be sure to have a glass of whisky, neat, in my other hand.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Two for the Road

One August finish, and one for September: The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod, Tenth Grade Bleeds and Eleventh Grade Burns.

Since this is a series, I won't try to summarize: it is too easy to give too much away from the earlier books. If you haven't read this series, start now! It is just a good, easy read. One of my favorite things about is that is not predictable--at least not if you're following Joseph Campbell's hero's journey archetype. This is refreshing, because too often I can predict what will happen in all sequels after reading just the first book in a series.

Now, if I can just wait until September 21 when the final book is released...