Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Everyone knows of the atrocities committed by the Nazis, but not so much those committed in the name of Joseph Stalin. Millions of people were killed or "disappeared" during his reign of terror. Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia were absorbed into the Soviet Union at the end of the 1930's by deporting the citizens of those nations and working or starving them to death in gulags across Siberia. In many cases, individuals remained in Siberia for 10-15 years - if they survived.
This is the story of the Vilkas family as they are arrested, separated, deported, imprisoned and forced to endure the tortures of the NKVD. Though not a factual account of an actual family, the research has been done well and the descriptions of the conditions and actions are accurate. A must read for any fan of historical fiction.

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Thursday, July 21, 2016

An Infinite Number of Parallel Universes:In Real Life you Need Real Friends by Randy Ribay

So a black kid, a white kid and a nerdy kid walk into a park. No that's not a joke but it is one of the turning points of this great new novel by Randy Ribay in which he brings together a diverse group of friends who are entering senior year in high school and life chooses just this moment to throw some curve balls at them all.

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Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

The Name of the Wind is the best fantasy novel I've read in a very long time. It is a story within a story within a story that never goes stale.

It begins in a small village where we are introduce to an innkeeper named Kote. Kote is unassuming on the surface, but when a spider-demon creature from my nightmares called the Chandrian appear in the town, Kote is unveiled as Kvothe, a mythical hero from a bygone era.

Chronicler, a man who appears at the inn to, well, chronicle things, asks Kvothe to reveal his past life. Kvothe reluctantly agrees, all the while trying to maintain his persona as mild mannered innkeeper.

What follows is a blistering account of Kvothe's life with traveling actors, his struggles in gaining access to a university that focuses on arcane subjects and his desire to enact revenge on those that murdered his family.

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Monday, July 11, 2016

Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley

Sometimes the world is too much with us and we seek nothing more than the solace of home. For Solomon Reed, the world has always been too much with him, in the form of extreme anxiety and panic attacks. When one of these panic attacks ends with him in his underwear in a fountain at school, Solomon turns home into a permanent sanctuary. His computer affords him all the contact with the outside world he needs, and Solomon has no plans to return to “normal life.” It’s just easier at home.

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Wednesday, July 6, 2016

THIS WAY HOME by Wes Moore with Shawn Goodman

This Way Home 

Being recruited to play basketball at the college level is the only way out of a bad situation for Elijah Thomas. His father bailed on his mother when Elijah was only two years old. Since then his mother has worked two jobs to make ends meet.

Junior year has ended and Elijah and his two best friends are planning to compete in a local adult basketball tournament. Winning could earn them $3,000. Elijah and Dylan are thrilled when Michael shows up with three shoeboxes. Three awesome pairs of Jordan's that should have them running circles around their opponents. A few days later, Michael appears with three incredible jerseys. Well, they are incredible until Elijah eyes the small but highly noticeable patch that represents the Blood Street Nation gang.
When Elijah and Dylan question Michael, he assures them it is no big deal. There's a guy named Money who simply wants to make sure they are lookin' good when they win the tournament and the big money. Although, wearing the gang's colors seems dangerous, the three teammates push aside their concerns and prepare to play.

Shortly before the big tourney begins, a local boy is shot. The neighborhood is on edge, especially Elijah's mom, and when she overhears a kid talking about the patch on the new jerseys, she is furious. Elijah has always managed to stay out of trouble on the street, but hooking up with Blood Street Nation in any way can only end in disaster.

Authors Wes Moore and Shawn Goodman weave a story about the threat of gang involvement for young men trying to find their way out of the poverty of inner city life. THIS WAY HOME offers enough basketball action for sports fans and enough drama for other readers. Short chapters keep the story moving and crisp action will capture and hold the attention of even reluctant readers.
Previously posted at

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Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Summer Road Trip, Anyone?

Happy day after Independence Day, USA! It's July 5th and time to talk about road trips or road trip novels anyway. Road trip novels are, after all, about as American as French Fries which is to say that there is a distinctly American road trip novel, but that road trip stories go way way back, way before novels, way Europeans came to America, way back to the origins of literature itself.

100 Sideways Miles by Andrew Smith culminates in a distinctly American road trip. The book centers around Finn Easton's Junior year and his preparations for an end-of-year road trip with his best friend Cade Hernandez--a larger than life prankster, genius and major-league-quality pitcher, who can't stop talking about his "boners"--to check out a potential university in Oklahoma. Finn has never left his home state of California, partly because he's an epileptic who passes out unpredictably while experiencing mind-expanding visions of reality, including ghosts.

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Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Just. One. Book.

Margaret at the blog Throwing Chanclas recently shared the plight of a school in her neighborhood:

The local junior/senior high school has not been able to purchase new books since the 90s. Some of the "check outs" for old books are in the 1980s. There are no books by people of color in the library. Hardly any books by women are in the few book cases except your standard Austen and Lee. It's an uninviting place. There hasn't been a librarian for nearly a decade. And volunteers weren't allowed. The last eight years students couldn't even check out books.

But all that is changing now.

Margaret is now collecting books for the library. Let's help out! You can donate books via their Amazon wishlist or by sending books directly to the address below. For more informaion, please email Margaret and visit her blog.

Greenville High School/Indian Valley Academy
Library Project Attn: Margaret Garcia
117 Grand Street
Greenville, CA 95947

If sending during the month of July, when school is closed, please send to:

Library Project/Margaret Garcia
PO Box 585
Greenville, CA 95947

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Monday, June 27, 2016

Boys Among Men: How the Prep-To-Pro Generation Redefined the NBA and Sparked a Basketball Revolution by Jonathan Abrams

"Moses Malone’s leap from high school did not immediately change professional basketball’s landscape. In a hierarchy of natural progression, players starred in high school and made their names in college before graduating to the pros. Darryl Dawkins and Bill Willoughby jumped to the NBA from high school a year after Malone’s decision. Malone joined the NBA in 1976, when the league absorbed much of the ABA, and carved out a Hall of Fame career. But Dawkins and Willoughby provided cautionary tales for different reasons as to why teenagers, both physically and mentally, were not prepared for the NBA’s rigors.

"That thought persisted until a lanky teenager named Kevin Garnett reopened the dormant door in 1995. The game had been transformed by the time of Garnett’s arrival. Players commanded millions in salary, a large jump from $130,000—the average salary of an NBA player in 1976. Malone’s decision ultimately birthed the route into the NBA for one of the game’s greatest group of players, from Garnett to Kobe Bryant, Tracy McGrady, LeBron James, and Dwight Howard. They grew into stardom, while quickly advancing from their proms to playing against grown men whose paychecks accounted for how they fed their families."

Over the past two decades, some of these players succeeded. Others who chose this path managed to carve out lengthy but not especially noteworthy careers, while a few became synonymous with the word bust. Jonathan Abrams' Boys Among Men: How the Prep-To-Pro Generation Redefined the NBA and Sparked a Basketball Revolution takes a close look at the sometimes triumphant, sometimes sketchy, and sometimes tragic stories of players and their varying experiences. Based on interviews with players, coaches, agents, scouts, front office personnel, and others close the the game, Abrams gives fans a close up look at the prep-to-pro players and the behind the scenes maneuvering that surrounded them during the decade-plus, 1995 to 2006, that changed the NBA.

As someone who is not much of a basketball fan and is picky about the sports books I read, I have to say, this book was fascinating. Abrams, who previously wrote for newspapers and the late, great Grantland--a stint that also gave us the definitive oral history of the Malice at the Palace--here profiles a group of phenomenal athletes. But he never loses sight of the fact that in spite of their abilities, these young men were still all too human.

Book Info
Boys Among Men: How the Prep-To-Pro Generation Redefined the NBA and Sparked a Basketball Revolution by Jonathan Abrams
Adult Nonfiction
Published 2016 by Random House
Hardcover ISBN: 9780804139250

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Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Nest by Kenneth Oppel

Steve knows that there is something wrong with the baby. The baby is sick. Really sick. Deep down sick. They don't know if he is going to make it sick. His parents don't want to talk about it with him, but he sees the trips to the hospital, hears bits and pieces from his parents conversations, and most of all - the haggard look of his parents. Steve's concern starts to grow, especially as he has dreams about the wasps building their nest outside the baby's window. The Queen claims to be able to help, but at what cost?

Oppel has written a wonderful and thoughtful book with terrific illustrations by Jon Klassen. I highly recommend for those who enjoy slightly dark and disturbing tales.

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Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Battlesaurus: Rampage at Waterloo by Brian Falkner

How would dinosaurs have affected the course of history assuming they had managed to survive and coexist with man? This is the premise of this great new YA novel by Brian Falkner set in early nineteenth century Europe.

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